I Don’t Have A Clue!
Apologies for the delayed blog post but as many of you are aware I have started Dentistry at The University of Manchester and so the past few weeks have been ram packed! I have just sat down after a day in University and thought I’d take the rare opportunity of peace to write a little something about my most recent races and fill you in on my first week as a dental student. So here it goes…
For most multisport athletes, their season is ending, but not me… I have decided to extend mine up until November 19th so I can deliver myself in the best possible form for BUCS Duathlon. I have been offered a full sports scholarship at The University of Manchester subject to my performance at BUCS, hence the slightly insane length of my season. I additionally plan to target the National Hill Climb Championships (yes rumours are correct, if selected I will ride with my Minnie Mouse Ears on) and so my race calendar has been padded out with as many Hill Climbs as I can manage.
Last Wednesday was the start of my hill climbing competitions with the Wrekin Sport Hill Climb, it was a Pollard family affair with Ian, Luke, and Dan (the 2nd favourite honorary Pollard… Sorry Dan) in tow. Dan and Luke decided they would take a ride out which proved to be the worst idea ever as the heavens opened and they arrived wet, cold, and sulking. I always forget the pain a competitive hill climb brings, the chest burning and leg destroying ascent is one which cannot be replicated by any other means. I was thrilled to come away with first place… turns out this triathlete can hold her own amongst cyclists after all!
Next on the cards was Round 1 of the West Midlands Cyclocross League. Legs still battered from Wednesday’s effort, I arrived at the venue with my father ready to compete/survive. It’s safe to say my cyclocross skills are extremely lacking and I adopt the approach of ‘push hard and if in doubt RUN!’. Dad was off first and he managed to cheekily squeeze into the 2nd row on the start line up (I guess that’s the beauty of having a common name, you can take someone else’s gridding position) which caused a little stir amongst the regular riders. You can’t deny he is a strong cyclist but the trouble with cyclocross is that it requires practice to master the technical skills needed to get around the course… and we have not been practising. I was next to race and got off to a rocky start, my go hard tactic was causing me some trouble and lead to a few falls (3 to be precise) so I was extremely surprised to finish 2nd U23 in a competitive field. As always, a big thanks goes to my Mom and Grandparents who were of course our number 1 supporters, even if the cow bells had to be confiscated (it turns out the officials don’t take too kindly to spectators ringing bells when there is an official bell to indicate the riders last lap.), you guys were great!
After pretending I can handle multiple races in a week (apparently, according to Giant Rutland, Rule #5 applies) it was time to taper for my debut race for Montluçon Triathlon Team in Division 1 French Grand Prix for Duathlon. It was a new experience from start to finish but one which has been the highlight of my racing calendar. I first had the task of getting myself, my Liv Envie bike, and rucksack (the size of me) to France and through Paris to Evreux… oh the joys. I won’t dwell on the journey but let’s just say it tested just about every part of my physical and emotional strength. One challenge down… onto the next…I don’t speak French! I instantly gelled with the team, despite the linguistic barrier, it’s amazing how ‘banter’ can be so universal and independent of spoken language. Once I was kitted out (to the max) and given some goodies, curtsy of the team’s sponsors (I could get used to this professional athlete malarkey), we were off to recce the bike and run course. It was soon apparent that the race was going to be tough… the bike route was quick and technical with sharp corners and dead turns, and the run was off road looping through woodlands. Triathlon can often be a lonely sport encompassing long rides, runs, and swims but the weekend with Montluçon Triathlon Team was anything but lonely. It was a welcome change to be a part of a team and prepare for the race as a unit.
Race day came around quickly and I was feeling tired from the journey but I had to get my head in the game and pull out a good result. I decided that I needed to go off hard on the first run and stick with the lead pack to put me in a good group on the bike. I stuck to my guns and ran hard clocking a 17:03 for a tricky off road 5km. Onto the bike… It was a bitter-sweet bike leg for me. My bike fitness is up there with the lead girls but my technical skills are still developing which meant I was getting dropped on each corner. After 10km of sprinting out of corners to stay in contention with the group (great crit practice I guess), I blew up and finished the remainder of the bike leg working with a Spanish athlete just behind the leading pack. I held onto 25th in the final run and crossed the line with a whole host of mixed emotions. There is definitely more work to be done with regards to my bike skills and so I plan to introduce more technical practice and cycling races into my training programme in the off season (crit racing it is next season…holy crap!).
It wasn’t long after coming home from France that I would be moving into my new home in Manchester and so the proceeding week consisted of a lot of last minute running around in preparation for starting University. My parents drove me down to Manchester the following Saturday with a car packed to the brim. It was a late night unpacking all my belongings and the worst preparation for a Hill Climb event the following morning. I had arranged to meet Manchester University Cycling Club to ride to Weaver Valley’s Hill Climb but the early start on Sunday morning was a struggle…I dragged myself out of bed, layered up, and headed out in the rain (a great introduction to Manchester’s climate) to meet the team. The team were great and I even came away with a cheeky 3rd place… not bad considering the lead up.
It’s been a surreal week up here in Manchester but I have been kept busy with an intense start to my course and adapting to training in a new environment. It’s obvious my degree is going to be extremely demanding but I for one am up for the challenge!
I’ll leave you in peace to enjoy your evening and save some excitement for my next post.
Over and out,