Up up and Away in the Alps

Last weekend was the first big race of the year. I qualified for the European Age Group Standard Championships last August in Worthing.

 

Racing in Worthing August 2016

This race promised to be completely different to Worthing’s choppy seas and brutal winds on the run. Out in Austria, Kitzbuhel having not spent much time in the Alps I was mainly excited for the views and of course strudel!

In the month leading up to the race I bought a new road bike because I thought the course wouldn’t lend itself to a TT bike with multiple laps with significant climbs and twisty descents. When the course was finally released it became apparent that a TT bike would be the fastest option. Oh well everyone needs N+1 bikes right?

The beautiful new Canyon

This race brought new challenges. Moving up an age group meant I didn’t have a clue how I would get on, AG25-30 tends to be more competitive! To add to this, this was no longer my first time competing for Great Britain. Family, friends and work colleagues all expected the best from me, but in reality I didn’t know how my normally strong ‘flat’ speed would cope over a hilly course and would my legs survive the run?!

Mummy Kirk agreed to come out and be chief supporter/bag holder and nerve checker for the extended weekend trip. We flew to Munich on the Thursday morning prior to the race on Saturday leaving plenty of time for a bike recce and time to register/chill pre race. Unfortunately the German motorways were jammed so it took about 4 hours to get to the Team GB hotel in Kitzbuhel and I missed my slot to go out with the other girls in my age group for a bike recce.


Luckily there was another organised from the team hotel for an hour after I arrived. Building my bike in record time to make it in time (result! the weekend was off to a speedy start). A group of 5 of us set off for a recce of the 15km lap, and after a short but slightly scary cycle through a tunnel we reached transition and headed out on the course. The first section of each lap was a slightly downhill 8km fairly straight section of road. I knew I would be able to gain some speed on this part, next came the 2km climb….getting into the lowest gear on the TT bike was a must especially over 3 laps. Next a 2km descent (not too bad, a few corners to tackle but not a scary as Mallorca!) then another 5k or so back up to transition to complete 1 lap.

20170618_114034
The view from the top, here you can see the swim, bike and run courses!

It looked like it was going to be a fast and beautiful course! Not that I would be appreciating the views on race day.

On Friday it was time for the Team GB race briefing, this is when you get to hear about all the last minute details for race day and also see the sheer size of the team!!

Team GB
We had to rack our bike on Friday night so I made sure to sneak in a quick wetsuit/non wetsuit swim (it could be non wetsuit on race day due to the water being warmer than 22 degrees) and run shake out. The water was beautiful, and it became the bit I was most looking forward to come race day.

 

The lake to myself!

Racking up, it became obvious it would be easy to find my bike being right on the edge of the blue carpet, result! Early night following some traditional turkey escalope, rice and salad in the local Austrian restaurant I was race day ready!

 

Racked and ready

Saturday’s 5am alarm came around rather quicker than I would have liked! Travel by Nirvana to the transition area made it easy to get up there in good time and save my legs, boy I was gonna need them!

Transition was set up easily, with 1 Tribe bar and 1 high5 gel (get them here with code SKIRK10 to get 10% off)  to be taken on the bike along with the trusty Active Root in my front water bottle. There was much talk about whether it would be a non-wetsuit swim. Personally I didn’t mind and so I took myself out of transition as soon as possible to avoid the constant questions asking whether or not I would wear one. It turned out to be borderline so wetsuits were optional, everyone went for wetsuits and with my new HUUB suit I was pretty pleased to give it its first race out!

The young women were in the final wave for the morning so we got to see plenty of race starts before it was our turn to take to the pontoon. I think this was the most nervous I’ve been for a race ever, so I was glad just to get going!

The swim went well, finding a draft to the first buoy but from there on I was leading a small pack for the remaining 1000m or so. This meant I was getting tired by the end, but I was extremely happy to post a new fastest time of 20.38 and it was nice to have clear water in such a beautiful lake!

 

Feeling the pre race nerves

Quickly stripped off my wetsuit, helmet and racebelt on time to get out on that bike course. I decided not to push the first lap too hard, especially on the straight slightly downhill section just to see how my legs felt on that first incline. This meant I slowly built speed on this section over the 3 laps as I grew more confident. I think I posted fairly equal times for all 3 laps. Gotta be good right? I didn’t see anyone in my age category until I spotted Jess up the road on the final lap. She’s a fast swimmer so I was happy to be close by ready for the run.

 

Transition 1 – must not fall off bike.

Into transition carefully, not wanting a repeat performance of Hercules festival race. I could see Jess in transition and vowed to try and keep her in sight. I set off on the 2 lap 10km run course  trying to maintain a pace of around 4.15/k. This proved difficult over the constantly undulating course. Jess was getting away from me but I could still see her and toward the end of the first lap I found myself gaining ground again. Keeping my own pace seemed to work and I went past her at the start of the 2nd lap. I tried to maintain pace to the end. But a sprint finish with an Austrian (who turned out to be in a different age cat) left me for dead on the finish line.

 

Feeling the burn on the final sprint

I really felt like I had put everything into that run, and was so happy to learn I had finished 5th, 3rd Brit and just 1 minute 30 down on 3rd. Better than I ever could have expected! This result also means I have pre-qualified for next years European Champs in Estonia 😀

Celebrations were had over the next couple of days with cable cars, strudel and Aperol spritz consumed. And despite German traffic attempting to make us miss our plane home, I’m now back in London, back to training hard for Ironman 70.3 Vichy in 9 weeks time. More motivated than ever!

 

Relaxing in the sun
Strudel on a mountain!

With thanks to all my sponsors/supporters for helping to get to the start line and finish line coach Imo Simmonds, Matt Gardner of Mile 27, Pat at Department of Endurance, Active Root and FuelIt. The suit came out pretty good!!

 

 

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