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Aileen's Blog

11- BG World Cup Lorient – 30th Sept ’08

pre Dec '08 Posted on Mon, February 03, 2014 20:31:51

My 1st World Cup race and I’m off to Lorient, France with Davy, and my now 2 wheeled bike box. Opting for a flight to Paris, we drive around in circles for an hour deciding how to get out of Paris before we embark on a 5hr car journey to Lorient on the Wednesday night.

On the Thursday I checked out the bike and run course, both seemed to be manageable, and a large team of people were setting up the rather vast and impressive transition area. Just out of transition was a bit of a hill so I practiced this a few times at speed on both the Thursday and Friday. Mark Dempsey who happened to be in the area on his honeymoon with Ailbhe came to meet and help me. (Get a life Mark).

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I left the wetsuit swim practice to the Friday and it felt very long and my arms were sore having not swam in a wetsuit since tri-athy. But the 2hr sessions with Lisburn (and lots of backstroke) have given me extra shoulder strength which I think has helped.

Lorient town was lovely, and my pants French was tested to its limits. The waiter didn’t seem to understand ‘pan du garlic’, and in the hotel it took a while for me to get across ‘black tea with milk’ (ie not green, herb or lemon stuff, but with milk)- you can imagine that conversation. I cant survive without tea!.

The briefing, and general organisation of the competition venue and event were exceptional. I was dumb struck by athletes I’d only seen on TV or in magazines and felt silly amongst them.

Race day and I line up with the others, I’d counted 23 athletes on the start list (of 42) who were (as far as I was concerned) ‘big names’ or I’d heard or seen in the big events before. I tried to put that out of my mind aiming to finish amongst a few athletes I’d competed against before and knew I was capable of beating- I decided to aim for a 20-25th place.

The hooter went and I was off to a clean start, I wasn’t beat up too much until the first bouy, when I probably swam wide a little. On the long straight back to the pontoon I swam next to Felicity Abraham (ranked #1,) with the 1 on her hat. In transition I was out again just after a group of girls. Andrea Witcombe flew passed me in transition and I tried to stay with her and Abraham. On that hill 4 or so girls were in front and 2 just behind me. Those girls weren’t too bothered about killing themselves on that hill and I tried hard to push and bridge to the 4 in front. I didn’t and ended up with 2 hard laps until we caught 2 of those girls (Witcombe and Abraham got away), and then the 3rd chase pack caught us on lap 4. I done my fair share of the work and hung-on on the uphills and corners which are definitely a weakness of mine.

The big lead group worked hard and caught 2 girls who had had a gap from the swim, they also caught the last group of cyclists and so those were disqualified. I am glad I was not in that group, but some of the girls I have competed against more recently were and I felt for them. But it shows the standard of these races, and how important a good swim is.

I positioned myself well into T2, but my bike fell over ontop of my shoes, and I fumbled to put them on as quick as the others. I caught a few girls quickly and stayed 25meters behind a girl for 3laps. Davy shouted at me I was as good as her, and I managed to run hard on the downhills and out of corners to catch her at the end of the last lap.

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I finished in 22nd place, and felt like lying there to die for a while. But the euphoria of finishing a world cup race and beating people on the run made me feel so good. I was congratulated by Davy, Mark, and Ailbhe, and spoke to girls I had become friendly with.

The experience was nerve-wrecking, adrenaline-pumping, demanding, euphoric, rewarding, and all those other words I cant think of, but definitely one which I want to feel again.

I am so thankful for Triathlon Ireland, Chris and all those who have helped and supported me throughout my first year (or actually 5 months) of being an international tri-athlete. It is only because of the vision and dedication of these people that I have been given a chance.

I will enjoy my 2 weeks off training, and already enjoyed a Chinese & bottle of vino last night upon my return. Heheh.

Thanks again to all.

I will return to training with a new found desire to cycle hard, kill myself on hills, and swim and run more than ever before.

10 – ITU European Cup Vienna – 16th Sept ’08

pre Dec '08 Posted on Mon, February 03, 2014 20:31:04

So to my 6th and last European cup race. This was to be my toughest race as there were 42 on the start list, many of whom were seasoned tri-athletes. Having done tests in Sports Institute NI a week previous my iron levels came back low, and my run treadmill test was poor compared to what Chris had expected of me. This had played on my mind and I lacked confidence and motivation going into the race.

I met Mark in the airport in Vienna and we pushed, pulled and tugged my 3 wheeled bike box along to the hotel which was about 15m walk from the race venue.

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A slight lack of organisation (compared to the other races id been at) meant no one knew much about the actual race routes. Pre-race-day morning at the venue (an island park) still there were no maps, leaving me to ride what I thought was the course, and run out and back through the park. The transition area looked to be long and narrow. At the mount/dismount line there was a ramp, making for potential disaster during t2. I didn’t get a chance to practice this and the turn around (also narrow and dangerous) so I came back early race morning before breakfast to make sure it was actually possible. This put my mind at rest. I had also spoken to Chris that night and he said a few things that bucked up my ideas and helped me put on my racing head.

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I tortured Samantha Herridge (GBR whom we had met previously and befriended in Turkey) and Mark with ‘I am fast, I am fit, I am strong’, followed by kissing my guns. I was ready.

I also texted this to a few people to help convince myself!!! Hee hee.

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The swim start was ridiculous, diving from the edge of a walk bridge. I swam strong for the first half, leading a group to the first bouy, another group had formed and I was around the bouy in about 4/5th. There was also a lone swimmer out front I knew would be Samantha. During the second half I lost my form and swam all over the place. Out of the water behind a big group I knew I needed to make it with them as they’d form a pack. Up the long steps to the transition, (mine was poor), and off with my bike. There was another girl just beside me and the two of us worked hard to try catch the lead pack, only 25meters in front. I cycled faster and harder than ever, my legs burned, and I couldn’t breathe properly I was trying so hard. The other girl made it to the group and I was still killing myself. 2 girls came up behind me and I was ready to fall off my bike, I didn’t even have enough energy left to stay on their wheels. Totally pants as I knew they could make it to the lead group. Fortunately they crashed (sorry girls) on the turn around and I worked with one of them for a while. 3 others joined us and we had a chase group of 5. Only one girl did any work, and she kept overtaking me when I did my share, so I just ended up letting her go, and just injecting some pace when we slowed down.

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Off into T2, and I near fell over that girl as she (had crashed and) couldn’t move her arm, which you can imagine would make jumping off your bike at high speeds difficult.Blog Image

I was behind those girls in my group, but I quickly made up time. I felt like I was flying and passed 2 people every lap. By the 3rd lap I could see Samantha and aimed to catch her. By the turn around on the last lap I had caught her, and was finishing strongly. I crossed the line with lung burn- a sure sign id given the race my all. I was pleased with 12th, as my run was good, and my swim was ‘promising’ despite having missed the front pack. Looking at the times my run time was 8th fastest, which I am also pleased with.

Only the first 10 got prizes so I went off Into Vienna with Mark, Samantha and the another British girl Jackie. We stuffed our faces with pizza, ice-cream and I got drunk on 2 glasses of wine. Home by 12 (I know we’re sad) and packed up bike etc. In the morning I woke up at 6 unable to sleep and so went for a 40m run (again I know I’m sad, I apologise).

I was luck enough return through Heathrow with my bike (it got lost last time) and in good spirits in preparation for my next race- a WORLD CUP race in Lorient France. Holy moly. Am I really ready for a world cup race???

9 – Podium In ITU European Cup Race – 4th Sept ’08

pre Dec '08 Posted on Mon, February 03, 2014 20:30:14

So offskie to my 4th European Cup race, with both racing and roomie buddy Claire Connor and coach extraordinaire Chris Jones.

We’re expecting it not to be as hot as Turkey, but we were wrong and the dry heat hit us as soon as we arrived early on the Thursday morning.

Claire and I head out on the bike course and find the circuit of Split’s southern parks area both beautiful and ‘rolling’ (that’s a nice way of saying it was hilly but didn’t quite require small chain ring if you are as tough as nails like us).

We stopped to admire the views and Chris tells us to do half a lap ‘all out’ on the way out of transition ‘so we know what it feels like race pace’, we oblige and I near killed meself skidding around the hairpin bend at the bottom of the decent. Woopsie, note to self, slow down next time (I think that’s exactly why we were supposed to do this exercise). We also test the lovely water, run course, and of course food & obligatory pre-race-day ice cream in the city centre. A gorgeous old city I would return to happily.

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Race day arrives and 9 girls turn up at start line. Holy moly, 9 that’s pants! With 12 on start list not great but 9 is super pants, half because there’s more pressure to come further toward the front, and half cos there’s more chance of finishing 9th, and another half cos- if I do manage to finish well, then there’s crap points toward European ranking (yes, I am aware there are 3 halfs).

Anyhow, on with the plan- my swims haven’t been great so just get stuck in.

I do and Clare and I lead the swim to the bouy, I overtake as she’s offline and lead the swim to the transition (o my god I was leading), I jump on my bike the Danish girl hasn’t got her helmet clipped (oopsie- disquafiable, but no-one notices). She is talented and it requires effort to keep up. 3 of us together Danish (her names too long), Hungarian (Walko), and I work together for 2 laps and the Hungarian drops her wheel, leaving us 2 to work hard to try to stay in front of the chase group with Clare in. I noticed her turns and downhills weren’t great so I done the work then and let her take the uphills- suits me grand, but I done my 50% of the work.

We stay in front but loose 2min+ to the Dane and the Finish girl passes Claire’s group and makes good ground on us. Off the bike in 3rd, I quickly pass the Hungarian, and try to stay in front of the Fin. She runs well and I tried to stay on her shoulder as she passes me, she’s too fast and I cruise into 3rd. By the 4th lap she was too far in front and 4th is miles behind, I felt like there was no pressure to run fast (a very bad habit to get into Aileen, don’t do it again).

Great! A podium finish, and hopefully some mola to keep me a while longer in this crazy sport. Ok, so 3rd out of 8, but still, I’ll take it- the first 2 were very good.

Meet Claire at the finish who DNF’d, she knew she was tired before the race, and felt she just didn’t have it on the uphills, she came, she tired, and gave it her best. Claire’s no giver upper, so there must be something wrong.

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So back to the daily grind, I’ve had a few days off and easy, and today I am back at Jordanstown to get poked and prodded, and have blood squeezed from my fingers whilst I have a gas mask on my face, and am videoed collapsing from the bike. Bike test this morning (I made it to 308, whatever that means), and I have a treadmill test later (in an hour). More fun again tomorrow.

Next stop Vienna 13th Sept, check out the start list at, 25-30 including some top names and world champions. After that I’m going to dip my toe into the World cup circuit for the first time in Lorient, France 27th Sept. OOOoooo scary. Emmas there too, and again a top quality field. But no pressure. AAAAAAAghhhh!

Again thanks to Chris, Amanada & Jag at Triathlon Ireland, and of course Wheelworx and Rob for everything.

8 – ITU turkey – 7th Aug ’08

pre Dec '08 Posted on Mon, February 03, 2014 20:29:20

During the 12 hour travel day poor Claire has to pay more at customs as she has a British passport, the control guys says ‘because she English she pay more’. As you can imagine Mark does not let her away with this and she is reminded a thousand times over the weekend. Friends back from turkey tell Claire its 50degress, and so we drink lots. It’s not as bad as they make out and when we get there a strong wind across the lake greets us- happy days (but it’s still 35 degrees).Before we make it to the airport Mark has already lost his sunglasses. But in his defence he had done some organising to get us there with the bikes in a 7seater.

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With 2 days to prepare we make friends with the race referee over midnight food. Then local police woman in charge at the next days who joins us for Turkish pizza at lunch, then local bike shop owner (to borrow a seat post and saddle cos I accidently forgot it, woopsie). At the pasta party we make friends with the Turkish television guy and so we have met the entire town, we are treated like celebrities by everyone.

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The race underway and Claire gets a great swim, out 3rd and me 9th I think. A lead group of 2, Claires group and me with some Ukrainian who sits on my wheel and will not help me at all. After another lap and me screaming at this Ukrainian a group come up from behind with the Canadian Murray, who Chris said mite.

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So I stick on and do my share at the front, we catch Claire’s group quickly as she says they did not work together. Still I do a bit at the front (I shouldn’t have bothered as only 4 of us did). A good transition and I feel like my belly will explode on the run with all the water I drank gurgling around. I pick off only 1 runner from our group and the Canadian runs herself into 2nd. I finish in 7th running better on the second and third lap than the first but unable to make it up to the others. At least 3 of the girls in front of me didn’t do a turn at the front (at all), another lesson learned- fresh legs. Claire finishes in 9th, excellent.

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Some girls are lapped DQ’d or DNF for one reason or another. But we are happy and get massages, changed and watch the men’s race with our jobs done.

That night we celebrate along with some of the other teams as we have been invited to a Turkish wedding!

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Another long journey home and back to the hard slog.

Next stop Croatia- Split ITU, and now I got company in Claire! ITU turkey

7 – Athlone ITU and Limerick Training Camp – 11th Aug ’08

pre Dec '08 Posted on Mon, February 03, 2014 20:27:43

After the world student games in Turkey, it was back to business in preparation for Athlone. All was going ok, bar the odd session where I could feel fitness lacking in my run from hard treadmill sessions I USED to be able to do, probably due to foot injury and less running, but I got on with it.Blog Image
Two days out from Athlone I start to feel nervous, something I haven’t experienced much before. Tummy dodgy for a few days I think its all because I know its in front of the ‘home crowd’.

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The home crowd was amazing, so many people lined the streets of Athlone. Having watched some of my club members from North West Tri Club, and fellow Wheelworx athletes there s nothing much more I can do to prepare. With fantastic athletes including our own Olympic hopeful Emma Davis lining up to start again I must ‘get on with it’.

It seems my swim wasn’t great, and was in second pack on the bike. Our group caught a lone cyclist- Spence and we worked hard in constant rotation to try to make it up to the lead group with Spence yelling at us- fun.

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They beasted the last lap, why I don’t know, but I was 10m off the back for most of that lap and it left my legs dead.

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Running that first lap was painful but I managed to keep ahead of the Czech girl Jana, who oddly done the whole thing with big dangly earrings. At the finish I meet Rob and had a bit of a tearful moment. I think I thought I was capable of better, and so am disappointed with how much effort I put in and how I don’t think its reflected in my racing. Anyhow, Rob thought I was a weirdo and told me to wise up. Thanks Rob. Reality check- its my first season, and as I’ve said at every other race, if I think I can do better its only a good thing.

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Limerick looms and I am soooo excited to be at camp with the rest of the squad. Over the week the girls – Myself, Rachel Boyd, Claire Connor, Elena & Katrina from Wheelworx work hard at training sessions designed by Chris, and helped by Mark Dempsey and Peter Kerns. We watch ‘the tour’ everyday and the girls try to out-do each others cooking and see who can buy the nicest dessert. Elena buys lovely toffee cake and Claire, Dairy Milk ice-cream, whilst Rachel eats two breakfasts every day. This wouldn’t be a problem only that Aileen sees the lovely breakfasts, and must eat more- ‘eyesbiggerthanbellyittis’, (Been there done that…Rob) Elena buys cake and doesn’t eat it (so I do), and Claire shares the lovely ice cream. Aside from this I also eat the food I had planned to eat before the girls sabotage my belly. The result- either the scales in limerick weight 5kg more or I’m the only person in history to go home from a training camp heavier!

The highlight of the camp was most definitely when the girls group kicked the boys skinny asses on the wed night 25k time trial. They were so surprised not to catch us after a 4min head start over 3laps that they actually thought we had cheated! It was possibly the hardest cycle I’ve done, but the reward was worth it, on the second lap the boys only managed to make up 15seconds on us!!!. Clearly some egos amongst the boys they failed to work together like us. We also had Mark Dempsey screaming at us for 1hour and 8mins, and I have to tell you in case he dosen’t, he struggled himself, Rachel had to shout at him once or twice to move on cos he was keeping us back.

Last day of camp we are all sad, Chris cannot come to Turkey for my next ITU race, but I convince Claire she is ready to race (she so is), and Chris asks Mark to go as a reward for his hard work over the week. Holy Mother of goodness, what are we in for? Anyone who knows Mark will know what I’m talking about- who’s going to be looking after who?

6 – Injured but still training – 11th June ’08

pre Dec '08 Posted on Mon, February 03, 2014 20:26:38

I’m a bit of an injury case at the mo. foot still iffy……….(in Checz Rep i pulled a tendon a little, but then then ran on it- bad idea).

I started running on sunday (after 2-3 weeks of no running), just a little every day. I can still feel it tight, but not painfull, so I have to run and get physio 3 times a week while I it get sorted.

I also staved my fingers on a netball course yesterday, they’re purple but theyre fine and I still swam both yesterday and today, apart from that I’ve got a bug bite or boil or something growing out the side of my leg, very attractive. going home to doctor tomorrow. it was VERY sore, until I stuck a needle in it and oh pain for a few seconds was worth it all, feels alot better. (I can now walk again & sleep!) but the open wound that was left on my leg has now been covered by a compeed blister plaster, (so I wont get blood poisining). what a good idea! I could include details of the surgical operation I performed on myself, but if you got a weak stomach, you wouldnt like it.

All the injuries have have little effect on trainin hours, in fact last week I went up to 29hrs. pretty good for me. the biking seems to have taken off, biking nearly every day. still getting the sore neck on bike, but hey. knees haven’t felt bad in ages, probably due to lots of cycling strengthening them up. Rachel, my new training buddy is great on the bike and will really push me on. I think I clocked 397k on the bike last week.

Swimming is going great, myself and Rachel have joined lisburn city, doing 5x 2hr sessions, 4 of which are early morning (in the pool for 5.30am). also we do a lake swim on a thursday, and because I wasnt running I did a double swim last thursday (at home in derry) so really thats 8 swims, possibly 40k.

I was supposed to be doing Northern Ireland track champs this weekend 5k, but obviously not with the foot. Next race is world student games triathlon Erdek Turkey. fingers crossed I’ll be ok. please please please.

What am i like, bet you didnt know I was falling apart so much but sure if you an still do 29 hours, its not a bad thing.

And what about Emma? great girl, I passed on the Irish triathlon community support via email yesterday. go you.


5 – My first ITU race: Brno, Czech Rep. 20th May ’08

pre Dec '08 Posted on Mon, February 03, 2014 20:25:47

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So glad we arrived on the Thursday, time to recover from the previous week and journey was needed. Saturday we spend practice transitions. Pete’s practice in the park in Dublin was very good. I’m now confident hopping on the bike with the elastics (at a reasonable speed). I also practice my left U turns (I’ve only done right).

I decided my goggles weren’t right in the lake, but lucky Gavin has a spare pair I wanted to borrow, he says keep them. I’m like- ‘Thank you, I’ve got Gavin Noble’s goggles’!. He says ‘sell them on e-bay’, errr.. No.. I’ll flippin keep them, thanks. Gavin was a font of Tri knowledge. Very helpful, thanks for the tips Gav.

Race day arrives, over breakfast Chris says things like ‘In the front pack you’ll have to do……’, after a while I’m starting to feel the pressure. I had a little bit of an emotional moment/ blubber (I was more worried about getting lapped on the bike and having to drop out).

Final preparations go according to plan and I line up on the pontoon. Holy….

The first 30 sec of the swim were absolute mess, between legs, arms, fists etc. On the second lap I calmed down and found some feet to follow, I got a good line on the inside of the bouys and made it out of the swim in about 8th/ 9th , I panicked and forgot how to get wetsuit off. Some girl ran up behind me & pulled the zip up. Ta. Onto the bike and I catch up with the lead pack. I thought they were taking the mickey on the first lap cos it was so easy (drafting races, less energy, thank the lord). I sat on the back of the group like Chris said. I had to work hard out of corners and on the hills as sometimes someone tried to break away. New bike setup feels good, and I rid on the drops for most of race.

On the 6th lap I took a turn at the front, thought I’d better if I wanted to try to get there on the last lap. (You’d get a punch in the face if you went up there on the last lap without being there before). Last lap I’m sitting on the wheel of leader, then 4th coming round last corner. Perfect?!. Then take feet out of shoes and mess it all up as the field pass me (15 or so girls), hop off bike and run to shoes, take 15 seconds each, too long, field gone. I caught 5 on the first lap, running strong. 3 on the second, running tired and 1 on the last. I was knackered but the Swiss girl was in the distance for ages and I knew I was closing a gap. 800m to go and I manage to sprint finish (though I thought id do a projectile whilst running).

I’ve just come 6th in my first International race. Chris is delighted, Jag is on the phone. I call mum and she cries. I’m so happy. It was all worth it. Chris says, ‘that’s you doing the European cup series then’. Another 6 ITU races to go!!!

Men’s race- Brian is nervous, and Gavin is in the zone. The heavens open and it pours, making for an interesting race. Gavin is out in the lead pack whilst Brian was behind in the swim, and so has to time trial (solo) to make up the difference to a group. The French breakaway lead cyclist is an animal, and caught Brain, so he must retire. He tried his hardest on the bike, but suffered because of his swim. Gavin meanwhile is leading the lead pack. The Slovak in the group needs to crash out (or come last) for Gavin to be back in European flag slot (because of his big point advantage from the European champs). At least 6 men crash out on the wet slippery roads. An ambulance stopping for one. The run is the decider. Slovac finishes just ahead of Gavin, and he looks wrecked as he crosses line. No words can help. What do you say?

I had a great time away, I had so much fun, and learned a lot from both Brain and Gavin. Thanks to everyone, Chris, Rob, Jag, Pete (and the rest). Next up Try-Athy at home. See you there…
with bells on.


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4 – Pickled But Alive! – 19th May ’08

pre Dec '08 Posted on Mon, February 03, 2014 20:24:44

Aileen is heading out for her first international elite ITU race, read on for details of how it is all going…………..

Pickled, but alive and oh my god I MADE IT HERE!

Last 2 weeks been pretty hectic after joey hannon it was straight back to work. I had laid aside the following weekend to get some work done for a Uni assignment, with the queens duathlon on the Saturday. Chris, Pete, Jag decide that my bike set up just isn’t quite right and so im off to Dublin on the Sunday.

The duathlon went good I was pleased with my bike as I felt I was pushing it a bit more, trying to hold on to one or two of the men. It was good to practice my dead turns (thanks Jag, you came in very useful!) it rained on the last lap and i lost count (in 5laps, I know, I’m thick) but eventually got into transition and off on the run to try catch those men who passed me on the bike. good race, well done QUBtri. No sandwiches tho, come on guys…

up at 7 off to Dublin, met up with the wheelworx guys for a truly international training session- Rob (irl), Elena (Rus), Pete (Ger), Katarina (Aus), Fernando (Sp), and myself the token northerner. 3hr 30 cycle consisting of some hills and lots of prompts to ‘stay on that wheel’ from rob, pete and even elena. it seems I’m the least experienced, but the one who needs it most (ability to stay on a wheel).

Into the bike shop from 130-6pm (all day) the guys totally changed my bike setup, new seat, cranks, handlebars, moved it all forward so I’m above the bottom bracket more now, and arms are bent.

Pete takes me to the park to practice transition. was loads a fun and learnt lots.

back on the road and home at 11pm, up till 3am finishing work for school. Iv now driven 1015miles since last Thursday before joey hannon. Heads pickeled.

The week was spent trying desperately to finish my assignment before I headed off TO MY FIRST INTERNATIONAL RACE!!! Didn’t sleep much (not like me), missed some training (not like me), and sat at computer all day long. Not what you’d call ideal race preparation. Assignment finished Wednesday, out for quick cycle on new set up, before I spent 2hours trying to figure how to put the stupid thing into a bike box without sawing it in half. Bed by 11, up at 4am, cant believe I actually made it to the airport (with my passport) what a week.

Arrive Brno, Czech Rep, Thursday 7pm, hotel is less than 100m to start/ finish/ transition area.

Oh my god, I’m actually doing an elite, International race, holy sugarlumps. (its only actually hit me).

Swim fine, run fine, bike reasonably technical, 8 laps, Chris assures me it’ll be fine. I’m gald himself and Brian Jenkins are here to calm me down, and show me the ropes. Gavin arrived last nite, (Friday). Over dinner we discuss ‘stuff’, the guy has put the last 4 years of his life into this, he’s looking good, and we all wish him the best Sunday.

Fingers crossed for us!

Will update you how it went.


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