Focus stays on task at hand, not Olympics
TRIATHLON DIARY:It’s back to six days a week, four sessions a day – there’s a lot of swimming, cycling and running to be done before London, writes AILEEN MORRISON
I WOULD LOVE to start this off by saying I think of London every time I jump in the pool for an early morning swimming session, or hit one of those last steep climbs on the bike up Scarva Hill.
It’s not like I have been dreaming of the Olympics since I first started out in the triathlon, and even up until last year, this was all totally beyond what I thought I was capable of.
The reality is all I think every morning about swimming is that black line at the bottom of the pool, and all I think about on those hill repeats on the bike is the sore neck and numb ass. You’re just totally concentrated on that, stuck in every moment. I’d be getting a little too romantic if I said anything otherwise, and the fact is you can’t start thinking about London or else you’ll lose focus on the task at hand.
But I do have a very good idea of what to expect in London. Last August, exactly one year before the Olympics, they staged a World Series race over the exact same course in Hyde Park, from start to finish, at exactly the same time of day. The idea was to give the officials and triathletes a feel for what it’s going to be like this August.
It is a fabulous course and an amazing triathlon venue – swimming in the famous Serpentine, cycling out around Buckingham Palace and up Constitution Hill, then running back into Hyde Park, and four loops around the Serpentine. Even though it was only a test event the crowds lined both sides of the road and the atmosphere unbelievable. The weather was great too.
It wasn’t one of my better races of last year, although I did go in with a slight leg injury. I was just a bit of a chicken on the bike, sat back a little, and I was very annoyed with myself afterwards for riding like that. I started the run as fast as the leaders but 15 seconds behind, and that’s no use. The lesson there was to be more proactive, more aggressive. In the triathlon you have to be at the front for the run, because that’s where the race is won and lost.
Qualifying for the Olympics actually began in May of last year, taking in your best results from the World Series, the top-tier races, or also the World Cup, the second-tier competition. Only the top 55 ranked men and women get invited and only three per country. So I more or less knew at the end of last season that I was safe, and there was no way I could be overtaken by 40-odd others.
That was a big relief, qualifying early, because it allowed me to plan this year’s races more carefully, with the idea of learning little things as I go.
First up was the European Cup in Portugal at the end of March, where I finished second, a good start; and from there it was on to Sydney for the World Series, where I finished 28th. What happened? Some tummy problems on the run. It’s something all triathletes experience and it can be a number of things. I was experimenting a little with my drinks and sometimes it’s just the time you drink it, or else the amount. It was an early morning start as well, which I’m never great with, but even the way you ride affects how well you take the food on board, so it’s always a learning process, and for me that means trying to put everything down to experience.