'Processing goals' is the goal in Austria
ATHLETE DIARY:Doping control at these competitions is necessary and everyone accepts that, but why can’t they do it a bit more efficiently?
RIGHT NOW I’m in the heart of the Austrian Alps, the town of Kitzbühel, probably the most spectacular place on earth for a triathlon.
It’s the fourth stop in the ITU World Series, and when my race sets off later today it will be hard not to get distracted by the stunning scenery.
Words can’t really describe how beautiful this place is. That great mountain back drop, the Hahnenkamm, the crystal clear Schwarzsee Lake – no wonder it’s become such a famous ski resort. Between the warm sunshine and cool showers even the weather is fabulous, and we’re staying in a nice family-run apartment, surrounded by some lovely bakeries. It’s all so heavenly.
Getting here wasn’t so nice, however. I’ve left Derry at 5am on Thursday morning for an early flight to Heathrow, then on to Munich. From there a group of us were collected at the airport for the long drive up to Kitzbühel, arriving almost late for the official race briefing, which was at 6pm.
Straight after that they read out a list of 15 names for doping control, and I happened to be one of them.
This is all perfectly routine, even if exactly the same thing happened at the Madrid World Series last month, when my name was called out too.
So we’re all ushered into this one room, told to wait our turn. There was only one doctor taking the samples, each one taking about 20 minutes. That wore our patience thin pretty soon, as you can imagine, as we realised some of us weren’t going to get out until very late.
Some of us got a little annoyed, and I suppose understandably so, as we had also individual team meetings, or other places to be. It had been a very long day already, and worse still, the doctor would just come in and ask ‘who wants to go next?’ You try to be nice, but actually it nearly caused a riot. So we ended up drawing straws, and I got number 10. In the end I got out at around 8pm, nearly two hours later.
None of us have any problem with the doping control at these events. Nobody is saying triathlon has a doping problem, and we’re all happy to do whatever we have to do to ensure the sport is kept clean. We all know it needs to happen, and we’re all happy to take part, but they could do it a little more efficiently, maybe have more than one doctor.
That was our only complaint, really.
It is random too, but I was tested at the race briefing in Madrid, and again after the race. Funnily enough, when I got home on the Wednesday I was tested again, so that was three times in one week. Then I was tested at home again last Tuesday, and now here. Still, I’m hoping I’m tested again after the race, because that would mean I’ve done well.
Kitzbühel has been staging major triathlons since 1989, but I’ve only competed here once, in 2010, finishing 16th. I’m ranked fourth going into today’s race, partly off the back off my silver medal in Madrid. It’s another high quality field, including Nicola Spirig from Switzerland, who won in Madrid, and Barbara Diaz from Chile, who took third behind me, plus Emma Snowsill, from Australia, who won the gold medal in Beijing.
Some of the top swimmers aren’t here, which means I’ll be looking to get out very fast, shoot for a very strong swim. With exactly six weeks to go until the Olympics this race is about “processing goals”, as my coach Chris Jones would say. By that, I mean it’s more important to be stronger in certain parts of the race, than maybe the overall end result. Such as the swim, and that second transition, between the bike and run, which has been a bit of a weak link for me.
The transition is something you’re always working on, and I haven’t been great in that second transition this season. There’s no point putting yourself at that disadvantage, after doing all the hard work in the swim and bike, and there’s no reason I can’t get it right either.
I know as well I still have another big block of training before London. After Madrid, which was an exciting result, I took an easy week. The legs were definitely sore for a few days, and Triathlon Ireland also staged their Olympic media day that week. It was great to get all the interviews out of the way in one day, for myself and Gavin Noble, but at the same time it was a little arduous – I don’t mind that, promoting the sport, telling people more about what’s involved, and we all like that bit of recognition.
I suppose I found it brings some pressure too. You have TV, radio, newspapers, all asking the big “medal” question, and you have to manage the expectations too. You don’t want people misquoting you, talking about winning medals in London, that kind of thing – when you never said that at all. Some people make that their headline, as if it was somehow a done thing, and as if I’d be a lesser athlete if I don’t win a medal. At the same time, it’s great to get the promotion for the sport, as long as no one gets too carried away.
I know I still have a lot of work to do before London.
From here, I go straight into three weeks altitude training at the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Spain. It would be nice to ease back a little, with Olympic qualification in the bag, but there’s no such thing as an easy phase of training in a triathlon. If anything, I’ll be training even harder over the next few weeks. After that, I’ll do one more race, in Hamburg, although that will only be the sprint distance. From there, it’s straight on to London, so not a whole lot of time to catch my breath, and especially after racing in Kitzbühel.
(Live TV of today’s women’s race from Kitzbühel (2.06pm, irish time) can be viewed on the BBC Red Button or triathlonlive.tv).