The Sprint Champs was one of my main targets for the year. I planned my race schedule and training around been in top shape for it. It took me a little be longer to recover from Riga then I’d hoped, but once recovered I had a month of full gas training to lead me into the Champs. Training was going very well and I was hitting some very good numbers across all 3 sports. With the good numbers and a serious amount of creeping on the race results of all the main contenders I knew it was a race I could win. I wanted to add a National title to my name and planned my race tactics to make that happen.
With the sprint champs been run by Pulse tri the entire club was out to marshal the race. That meant the entire club were on hand to shake my hand and wish me luck race morning. Thanks guys, It was unbelievable to have such support on the day. I took it in every well wish and shout. Much appreciated. #lovethisshit
One of the big things with sport is routine. With parking only meters from transition I went for a short cycle after parking up to replicate the cycle from the hotel to race venue. A quick set up of the transition and off to do my usual run warm up. Legs felt great as I went through my routine, this coupled with the weather had me gunning to race!
With the wetsuit on, arms swung around, stretch cord stretched and race briefing completed, it was time to head down the beach for a warm up in the water and the race start. And by warm up I meant cool down!!! The water was Freezing with a capital F. I went through my swim warm up as best as I could but it was mainly trying to acclimatize to the cold.
The start line was a meter or so from the water’s edge. I lined up next to Chris Mintern as I knew he would the one to follow on the swim. Before the start he moved down the line and I moved with him. We had a laugh about this after the race.
Take your marks, hornnnnnnnn… The water was shallow for the 1st 30m’s or so. 4/5 dolphin dives before we got into our swimming. Out to the 1st turn buoy I felt shite. I was maxing out but not moving quickly. I’d say I was somewhere between 10th/12th going around the 1st buoy and I just had to tell myself “hold it together Neil, you can salvage this”. After the turn I sat on the feet for 10 or so strokes before setting about moving up the group. To say I was swinging wouldn’t do it justice but I knew I needed to move up incase there was a split. Once I started moving through the group my body came around and I felt good. I got to the front of the group beside Kieran Jackson and we shot each other a look as if to say come on lets pick this up a bit. I wanted to push on in an effort to limit our losses on the guys out front and to hopefully drop the faster runners that were still on. A few dolphin dives back into the beach and into a fast transition.
After a hassle free transition, I jumped on the bike beside Con and Rory quickly getting to work. A quick look around there was 6 of us together and I wanted to keep it that way. The shouts from the side-lines said we were around 1min down on Chris and James, they were the only two I wanted to see join our group. We were smashing it, about 10mins in looked down as we went up a small drag to see my Lap NP over 300w and I was pushing over 500w( I gotta start taping over the screen). On the subject of small drags, did anyone else find the ‘flat’ bike course nearly all uphill!?!
As the bike went on I was getting worried that we weren’t catching the two out front. There was no sign of them on the long straights and no shouts from the Marshalls saying your only x seconds down. I told myself don’t worry about it, I knew how hard we were work which meant they would had to have been killing it, resulting in very tired running legs. The last few km along the coast were fast and I was looking forward to getting out onto the run course. I’m very lucky to be sponsored by ROTOR bike components. I use their power meter every day and not only is it a fantastic tool for training, it’s also invaluable for race analysis. Below are my numbers from the race and for all you strava nerds here’s a link to my race file. Sprint Champs Strava
When we got into T2 Steve Delaney was shouting the Guys out front had taken a wrong turn on the bike and got DQ’d so we were the front of the race. I’d a quick transition and exited T2 2nd behind Con. I had measured the course online in the days leading into the race so I knew it was a little short and I could push on hard. Myself and Rory ran side by side for a KM or so before he dropped back. Con was up the road but I was feeling good and knew it was gonna take a quality run to catch me. I hit the turn around 2nd but had just been caught by Darren Dunne who was having that quality run. I tagged on his shoulder hoping he’d gone too hard too early. With about 800m’s to go he picked up the pace ever so slightly and pulled away. I had nothing to respond with but told myself to dig deep as I was still on for a National Medal. Around 200m’s out from the line Britain’s Rich Horton went by me like I was standing still. I didn’t care, he wasn’t taking a national medal from me. A quick look over the shoulder turning into the finishing straight to be sure I was safe. I crossed the line 4th but most importantly 3rd Irish man.
I’m delighted with the result. It’s the first time I’ve gotten onto the podium at a senior national champs. I raced well and put out a good performance. This season has been disappointing to date with average results in the British super series and a constant struggle with injury. To get a result at national champs has made the struggles worth it. It was very satisfying to be able to do it in front of Pulse Tri who have been so good to me over the years. My parents were on holidays so couldn’t come up to watch, so it was great to be able to ring them with good news.