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Race Report: Bala Standard Distance

Sarah Harrison

Bala Standard Distance Triathlon – 30th June 2019

On the last weekend in June, I raced in Bala, North Wales. Bala triathlon has been on my radar for a few years, with friends often mentioning the changeable weather in hushed tones. But when I found out last year that the bike route was a relatively flat closed-road out-and-back (i.e. even better than a time trial) it jumped up my to do list. Luckily for me, it fit in with other plans for this year, and I arrived in Bala on Saturday in time to see the course with my own eyes and to be inspired by watching the juniors race. Their commitment and enthusiasm, not to mention how small some of them looked next to their bikes, reminded me how much of racing success is in the mind.

Sunday morning saw me on the turbo in the event car park (yeah, it looks daft, but warming up becomes increasingly important as you get older). Fortunately it wasn’t quite raining, but the wind had picked up and the oppressive heat of yesterday was no more. The cooler temps were definitely a good thing, but the choppy water conditions led to a decision by the organisers to shorten the swim. I was disappointed and had to remind myself that only a couple of days before there had been talk of cutting the swim altogether due to blue-green algae. Time to get on with whatever I had to do.

That turned out to be exactly the mindset I needed for the swim; a single swim wave start in choppy water, and I’d decided to go for broke and position myself near the start. It was five minutes of controlling the panic as I got pummelled from all sides, and only another five to relax in to the swim before it was all over. A short run to transition then off out on to the A494 on the bike.

I assumed I’d lost a lot of ground on the swim and that, due to the bike course suiting me, I would rapidly pass women on the bike. But it rapidly became apparent that either I’d done VERY badly on the swim or very well, as I only passed two women and in fact the road was relatively clear. On the bike, I kept an eye on my power and heart rate, being careful not to get carried away, and concentrated on staying in an aerodynamic position. By the time I returned to transition it was undeniably clear that I was in the lead. I don’t get on well with elastic speed laces but, thanks to Accelerate for sorting me out with some great new running shoes with a lacing ‘dial’, I made a quick shoe change – and then spent extra seconds carefully placing my bike helmet out of harm’s way!

The run wasn’t so much ‘embrace the pain’ as chasing after it and giving it a bear hug. I tried to hold in my mind the look of joy that my daughter had on her face when running on her sports day a couple of days previously. It was the emotion I wanted to channel, but I suspect my own face was showing the hard work too. Once I reached the run turn-around it felt good to know that, barring disaster, I was going to pull it off. It turned out that I could’ve slowed down, but I would sooner have stopped entirely; I won the women’s race by 5 min 35! The next three women came in within a minute of each other and a part of me would’ve relished that close race – but it also felt great to be in good nick and enjoying some quality type 2 fun in beautiful surroundings, just doing my own thing and aware of everything about the moment.

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