• Nikki Bartlett

ITU World Long Distance Champs

France, Belfort, ITU World Long Distance Champs 2013. We decided this time to get a bit of pre race feel for the area and the course, unlike Mallorca 70.3. It was great to go out with Jack, Em, Matt and Bex who were all on a training camp, slightly envious of their training whilst I was tapering for the race, but a great week out in France. As soon as we arrived rumours had already started about a cancellation of the swim or a shortened swim due to the temp in the water (which was fine) but compared to the outside temp which was forecasted on race day; 9deg with rain and about 1 deg at the top of the mountain. I was looking forward to the 4k swim so hoped that the rumours were incorrect.

When we arrived on Monday morning it was lovely jubbly so we got on our bikeys and pedalled around the bike course (part of the course for me). Absolutely stunning, especially climbing the Ballon D’Alsace, which is part of the Tour de France route this year. The guys showed me how to descend properly after my piss poor descending in Mallorca. We later swam in the lake which was about 13 degrees, feeling absolutely fine to swim in… however later in the week we were told the swim would be cancelled altogether and change to a duathlon. NOT HAPPY! After only really learning how to swim last April, I have spent a lot of time in the pool since and although I have heaps to improve on, when you have worked that hard on something all winter, you want to use it in racing! Still not sure that this was the correct decision to be made. Yes the water temp was around 12 on race day and the outside temp was around 10 I think, so for safety reasons I can understand, but still disappointed. Nothing you could do other than to race, so slight mind set change and ready to rock and roll..

Race day:

This was my first time in the GBR vest, so I didn’t want the disappointing duathlon decision to disrupt my first international race, I know the change wouldn’t suit me, but I’ve trained my mental head over the last 5 years so time to put it into practice. The race had changed to a 9.5k run, 87k bike, 20k run (instead of a 4k swim, 120k bike, 30k run). Not the distances I would have liked. Would have preferred just a bike & run; same distances as originally planned, but hey ho life goes on.

We started in age group batches and I literally nearly missed the start of my race. Silly me, they announced that our age group was next, starting in….30seconds…so I definitely was at the start line, not! I had clothes on still and had to leg it over, hurdle a barrier that I was definitely allowed to jump over and jumped in as the gun went, brilliant start Nikki! I didn’t really know how to pace the first run, as 9.5k in distance seems like a sprint to me, but I was also aware of pre race body conditions and also the fact we had another run later in the day, oh and also that little bike. So I decided not to take too much notice of the strong runners darting off at the start and just raced within myself. Hated every second of the first run, too short, had some stomach issues so I went into T1 looking forward to the bike section. I didn’t know what to put on as it was around 1 degrees at the top of the climb. But being seriously sweaty from the run I just went out with arm & leg warmers and a wind proof thin gillet which worked well. Loved the bike course, especially the climb & chicked some guys ;-) and actually enjoyed the descent, even if it was extremely misty at the top and I was FREEEZING going down, just made me man up and get down quicker so I could get warm again!

I had to give myself a lot of self-talk during the race. I didn’t have a clue where I was position wise on the bike as I definitely was one of the slowest on the run, so it was hard to tell what position you were in coming off of the bike. Had to stop twice as my chain flew off for some reason, so lost some time there but these things happen. I had a lot of nutrition in the race, double coming off of the bike than I had in Mallorca, but during the week I had some stomach issues and reflecting on it now, I truly believe that my body wasn’t absorbing the carbs, well, later in the blog...this will explain the effects…

So out of T2 and into the run and I felt fine, legs bit like jelly but that’s standard, 3/4miles in feeling comfortable, aiming to do about 1.30 time wise for the 20k run and was just a little faster than that and felt good, took on a gel at mile 3, got to where Bex, Em, Matt and Jack were and was great to see them. Especially when they flashed me! Had some car-car fun when driving to France, a lot of bum showing haha, so made me smile and carry on happy! UNTIL, mile 5, and OMG I did not see this coming, but I hit a wall like I’ve never smashed into anything so hard in my life. My body just shut down completely and it felt like when I was ‘running’ forwards, someone was smashing a hammer into my face telling me to stop, which, for those next 7.5ish miles, I did a lot of, even nearly did a crawl going up some of the hills. My body didn’t absorb anything I was putting in and it certainly didn’t want to do anything but walk/stop. I have never in my life given myself so much self-talk, my legs completely locked up and I could hardly bend my knees, so the style I was walking and ‘running’ in wasn’t good! If you could define a shuffle, my running part of that lap would be it, I couldn’t get my feet to lift up and my head was spinning and I can remember myself biting my lip and I couldn’t even feel a thing. The guys said I was a white sheet and when I saw them with 2k to go, I literally didn’t think I was going to get to the finish line and I don’t think I would of without them and the other GBR supporters shouting for me to keep going! I didn’t want to let anyone down, so I kept the fight in my head going, Nicki Aitkin encouraged me along with about 1k to go and I managed a true ironman shuffle from her to the finish. The first lap took me 45mins and the second lap 1hour!!It’s certainly not a place I want to visit ever again, and reflecting I can see that my body didn’t absorb the carbs and electrolytes I was taking in. I collapsed at the finish, and cried with elation that I had simply got to the finish line, but then when I found out that I had come 2nd in my age group (25-29). I couldn’t believe it, even though I could hardly walk after that and shivering with cold, those last 7.5miles of pain were worth it. I have never been in a place like that before and my mental strength got me through it. The rowing days, and practicing mental strength in training (a lot!! With some redic training sessions and environments I put myself in), paid off and I stood on that podium with pride.

Very pleased with the start to the season, that’s now my 7th tri since starting out/finishing rowing and looking forward to the rest of the season indeed! Calendar involves British Champs; Big Cow; 14th July. Henley Challenge (Half) 8th September, Stowe Half 29th September, alongside this some other fun events; 9bar 10k womens challenge events, Great Weston ride, Henley to Marlow bridge to bridge 14k swim (I know, a very long way!) and some TT’s thrown in too! Bring it on (after some much needed rest!) Well done to all GBR athletes who raced, amazing 11 medals, full results here

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