Race report for the 2013 Sprint Distance Age-Group World Championships

By Claire Hitchings

It’s 09:59 on Friday the 13th 2013. It is raining and I am sat on the pontoon on the Serpentine, Hyde Park, London. To make the start line has been a big achievement. For the past two years I have been trying unsuccessfully to sort out a hamstring injury. Ten weeks ago I decided to stop resting as it wasn’t helping. So I am here, with no expectations.

I am frantically kicking my feet, trying to block out the cold. There are two girls to my left and 87 to my right. My race head on. I think about Peter my swim coach. I think of all the 800 metres he has made me do.

The starter signals to get in the water. I brace myself for the cold. Goggle check and then we are off. I get a flying start. I have managed to hook my legs up and do an ungraceful, but effective, make-shift backstroke start. When I take my breath to the right there are green swim hats for as far as I can see. I am momentarily in the lead - it will take me about an hour and ten minutes to regain this lead!

I am approaching the first bouy about 200 m from the start. I am aware of a pack of girls ahead of me. I guestimate about 10 of them. 10th – I’ll take tenth. I have girls all over my feet at the first bouy and have to kick hard to free myself. The next bouy is uneventful and I’m on the back straight. Trying to keep focus, swim straight and keep the turnover going. Two more bouys and then I see the exit. Two girls swim past me. Annoyingly, I’ve given them a free tow.

Goggles off, top half of the wetsuit off and then the long run to my bike, racked on a muddy grass slope. It’s a long transition but I gain about 30 seconds on most of the athletes and move up to 6th.

I mount my bike for what is normally my strongest discipline. Not now. I have only 10 weeks of bike and run training in my legs but I have opted for 4-6 runs per week and only one bike per week.

A GB athlete flies past me on the bike. Nice helmet – Add to wish list! Way too fast wheels to follow. There is a Kiwi girl just ahead. We seem quite evenly paced so I try and keep her in my sights. At the first chicane she crashes. I think that is her race over but a minute later she goes past me, probably with a huge adrenaline surge. She resumes her normal pace. With T2 approaching I dig deep and try and close the gap. I finish the bike in fourth place, the Kiwi is a second ahead. As we dismount I noticed her legs – proper nut cracking track cyclist’s legs. Her power out of the turns now makes sense – but surely they can’t be runner’s legs? Please!

They aren’t!

I feel like I am shuffling up the muddy slopes, the final surge on the bike has sent my heart rate sky high. When I get to my rack there is no space for my bike. My brain is in overload; caught in a loop – rack bike…no space…****!! I am like a bunny rabbit in headlights. I shove my bike somewhere, helmet off, trainers on and GO!

I exit the transition area and hit the run course. At this stage I think I am still about 10th as I haven’t seen anyone on the course apart from the Kiwi. I am actually 2nd. I look ahead and see a Brit – she looks familiar and good! I quickly work out that I am running faster than her. I tell myself not to rush the catch and to go at my own pace. At the end of lap one I catch my breath and go past with a surge.

Ten minutes later I am approaching the finish – I look behind for the first time and see I am safe. There is an Aussie guy just ahead. I debate if I am up to trying to get a pointless scalp. I don’t have anything left, but then he starts show-boating, so I sprint and dip and have him!

A good race - I think a Top 10.

The Brit I have passed on the run also finishes and she heads towards me with a huge smile, saying “I got silver – you got gold”. “Really? Are you sure?” “Yes the guy announced it.” The penny drops that this is Tanya Brightwell. Blimey how have I beaten her? Next a Canadian joins us. “I got bronze, which one of you won?” I say nothing. Tanya responds. Next more girls finish – some asking who has won? I remain silent as I get congratulatory hugs from some of the Brit finishers. It is all very surreal. Where are the ten girls in the lead pack of the swim? I am not at all convinced that I have won.

I decide to head to find Anthony, to get some normality.

When I see him I get all teary. He gives me a hug and says, “You didn’t do too bad!” I mutter, “I think I won.” “Really? Really? Are you sure?” “No, not really.” “Well we need to see something in writing.” And so one of the oddest hours of my life started. Anthony and I tried to hang out like normal as he tried to access the results on his phone. We sought out Jon Hollidge in the mechanics tent and tried to chill in the dry. A random girl said she’d look to see if my results were up. She returned to the tent and told me I was disqualified. My brain instantly went back to T2 – did I do something wrong racking my bike? Lost in my thoughts I then hear her say “Only joking.” Oh hilarious!

I go and check for myself and I see my name at the top of the list! Finally I can enjoy the moment!

On Saturday 10th August for 10 minutes I believed I could win gold at London. I had just run a 20:19 5 km at the Bromley Park run. A big P.B. Add that to my 800 m swim times and I struggled to see that many girls would be coming with similar CVs; but then I remembered my hazy days of a sub-hour 25m time trial were back in 2010 when there was 4 of us in my marriage, Anthony, me, the turbo trainer and my heart rate monitor. I was now injured. On one bike session a week I was no longer in that form and so I returned to the original goal of turn up and see what you can do.

So a few people to thank. For my swimming, at the 2009 world champs I exited the 750 m swim in 15:05. Since then Mike Wake, Peter Bala and Paula Dewar have all made a huge difference. My running and biking is assisted by Dr James Hopker. I am also hugely lucky to have supportive family and friends. I think the photo below of Anthony and me at the medal ceremony sums up my joy. One photo of Tanya and me – not bad for two girls from the ‘Shire of West Kent’. I also love the photo of the medal winners a few age groups up from me. Very inspiring!

 

Results: Sprint Distance Age-Group World Championships - Women | Age Group: 40

Place

Pl.AC

Number

Name

AC

Swim

Trans 1

Bike

Trans 2

Run

Finish

25

1

21088

» Hitchings, Claire (GBR)

40

00:11:53

00:02:54

00:37:01

00:03:01

00:20:20

01:15:08

29

2

21082

» Brightwell, Tanya (GBR)

40

00:11:33

00:03:12

00:36:13

00:03:40

00:20:49

01:15:26

33

3

21159

» Chandler, Suzanne (CAN)

40

00:10:50

00:03:55

00:38:30

00:03:06

00:19:26

01:15:45

47

4

21123

» Sharp, Tanya (NZL)

40

00:11:28

00:03:12

00:37:07

00:03:09

00:21:19

01:16:13

48

5

21094

» Miall, Celia (GBR)

40

00:12:30

00:03:15

00:37:56

00:02:52

00:19:42

01:16:13

51

6

21130

» Cox, Andrea (USA)

40

00:13:30

00:03:29

00:35:25

00:03:38

00:20:16

01:16:16

62

7

21121

» Mcauley, Pogo (NZL)

40

00:11:54

00:02:45

00:38:56

00:03:00

00:20:13

01:16:46

65

8

21105

» Willhöft, Andrea (GER)

40

00:11:59

00:03:05

00:36:42

00:03:12

00:21:57

01:16:53

72

9

21090

» James, Julia (GBR)

40

00:11:31

00:03:24

00:38:56

00:03:36

00:19:45

01:17:10

83

10

21128

» Cannon, Sara (USA)

40

00:10:52

00:03:20

00:38:25

00:03:24

00:21:31

01:17:30

Comments

Andy Evans's picture
Andy Evans
Awesome! Thoroughly deserved for all the hard work you've put in over the years :¬)