Sophie’s Road to Tartu!

1.8.18 – Race Day!

So after months of preparing, self doubt and the odd injury, the time finally came for me to head off to Estonia for the ETU European Triathlon Age Group Championships, by the far the biggest event of my life. 

Racing abroad is a whole new experience, just getting the logistics sorted for going away was quite a challenge and I am lucky to have some amazing family and friends who stepped in to help me out.  We managed to con two of our best friends into having the children for a whole weekend which meant that my husband, Karl, could come with me in his official role as chief bike mechanic, hand holder and organisational lead.  This was very lucky as everything that I attempted to organise I got wrong, from booking airport parking at the wrong terminal to misreading the update email about the transfer bus and missing it! Not my finest moment.  Luckily Karl did much better than me and I did make it to the briefing, transition check-in and the race start! 

It was a fairly exhausting experience just getting there as our flight was delayed by several hours and then there was a two and a half hour transfer from Tallinn to Tartu, we eventually arrived at our hotel at around 4am on Friday morning!  After an all too short sleep, I headed off to the 9 am briefing, luckily meeting some other GB team mates in the lobby who took me to the correct location. After the briefing it was off to team photo, it was quite astonishing to see just how many members there were of team GB, just going to show the popularity and strength of triathlon in Britain at the moment. 

After a bit of milling around Tartu to check out the more technical sections of the bike course (which were then taken out!) and having a look at parts of the run course, we watched the elite races. It was very inspiring to see such talented athletes and great to see Sophie Coldwell winning for team GB.  

After a quick catnap back at the hotel it was time to rack bikes, my first time ever on a smart blue carpet. The rest of our transition kit would be brought down on the morning of the race and in itself brought up all my usual fears of thinking I had forgotten something.  The atmosphere in transition was very friendly and lots of people were offering support with the loan of a track pump or tape to attach gels etc.  Transition closed at 8am and the athletes were taken on a short bus ride to the start of the swim.

The swim was in a river, we entered the water from a beach and made our way to the centre for our deep water start, there was not much hanging around as the current was pretty strong so people were being carried over the start line and having to try and swim up stream to get back to the start. I have to admit to being pretty apprehensive about the swim; it is my least favourite part of a triathlon at the best of times.  Now at the biggest race of my life the water was sitting at 23.6 degrees so it was declared non wetsuit and we were also told we would be swimming 1750m rather than the usual 1500 due to the influence of the current. When I first got in, in just my trisuit, it did feel a bit cool and I had a bit of a panic, this was not helped by the slightly rushed start, but I am proud to say I help my nerve and quickly got into my swim! It was actually great swimming down stream, I don’t think I will ever go so fast again, I had one slightly unfortunate incident of swimming into a buoy but otherwise had a great swim and recorded a new personal best. 

Safely out of the swim exit, I made my way past the many bikes in transition to start the bike course. My bike has not been going well for me this season so I was happy it was pretty flat. We headed out of town on a long straight road with a great surface, before completing a dead turn and heading back into the town. Once in town there was a short hill to climb up and make our way around some beautiful parts of the town before coming back down and repeating the loop again. I felt I pushed hard on the bike but it was very obvious that I was seriously outclassed by many other athletes who came flying past me! Still, not a bad effort I felt and I was very happy with my dismount! (the poor guy next to me stopped so hard me went over the handle bars)

Finally out on to the run section, usually my favourite part of the race, by this point the sun was out and it was very hot and humid with talk of the athletes finding it tough out there.  Nonetheless I still felt ok, but by about 5km in I started to fade fast and ran some very slow kilometres. There was a slight hill towards the end of the race where a friend was waiting and cheering me on, I was very grateful for this as I had felt like giving up a several points but by the time I reached the top and turned I could see the finish line and knew I was going to get there. I gave it my best attempt at a sprint finish and came over the line with a smile and a massive sense of relief. 

I finished 19th out of 24 in my age group so have not set the triathlon world on fire with my performance, but  am really proud of what I have achieved.  My run was disappointing but generally I think I raced about as well as I am able and you can’t really ask for more than that. It was a great experience to be part of team GB and one I may not repeat again, the qualification standard seems to get higher and higher, and I went out there did my best and finished with a smile/ grimace (its hard to tell!). 

I had a really tough time with my blood sugars throughout the weekend, I don’t know if it was stress, temperature or something else related but I spent the whole of Friday night on hypo and eating  sweets to try and get my blood sugars up, not the best race preparation.  By the time I woke up on race day my blood sugar was at 22mmol, so also not ideal, I was then trying to balance getting it down but not causing myself to go hypo in the middle of the race!  Continuous Glucose monitoring showed it was pretty high throughout the race, I am not sure of the impact of this on performance but think it is likely to have some impact. I am happy to say that by the evening on Saturday I had it back in the target range! I don’t ever want diabetes to stop me from doing the things I want to do, but I am very aware of the impact it can have and on the extra stress involved in trying to manage it along side a demanding sport like triathlon. 

As with any big event I am now left wondering what next……..!


1.7.18 – The road to Tartu!

My introduction to life in triathlon has been a little “stop/start” as I did my first triathlon in 2014, then spent most of 2015 pregnant having my second child in October 2015, so did not race at all, although I did manage to keep going with some swimming and biking! Following the birth of my second child I spent more time in 2016 and 2017 training and trying to get better at triathlon and I thought I would have a go at the European Championship Great Britain Age Group Team qualification race at Graffam water in September 2017. Much to my surprise I managed to qualify for the Great Britain Age group team for the 2018 European Championships in Tartu, Estonia! 

So for me, 2018 is a big year, I have no expectation of competitive glory, but the opportunity to pull on a Tri suit and represent my country at age group level is something I never expected and I am very excited about!

Oh, and I also have Type 1 Diabetes, which can make training and competing a little difficult at times! However, I really feel that triathlon has given me the opportunity to further my own understanding of my diabetes management. I also want to raise awareness of Type 1 diabetes, encouraging those with the diagnosis to have a go at triathlon or just to get more active.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the bodies inability to appropriately produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas which controls our bodies blood sugar concentrations. Without this hormone blood sugars can rise to very dangerous levels (this is known as hyperglycaemia) this will have a negative effect on nearly all bodily systems and processes and and can be fatal.

In patients with type 1 diabetes, blood sugar levels change during physical activity, to a large extent because of insulin levels in the blood. Blood sugar levels can fall during the physical activity if it is long-lasting or very intensive, and blood sugar levels can remain lower than normal for up to 24 hours after an exercise session. Because my body wont produce the normal amount of insulin I wear an insulin pump which attaches to the side of my abdomen and this regulates the correct amount of insulin in my body throughout the day.

Blood sugar levels can also rise during vigorous exercise, or with the intake of large amounts of carbohydrates before and during the activity. This can make training and race fuelling pretty difficult! However research shows us that Physical activity increases the sensitivity to insulin, primarily in the skeletal muscles, which leads to a reduced need for insulin. Because of this it is vital that people with Type 1 diabetes maintain a level of physical activity as part of their lifestyle.

Sometimes I can over cook it in training and I can be a bit hard on my self though it is important to note that in Type 1 diabetes some training responses can be a little blunted, such as capillarisation of muscles which has been shown to be slightly smaller in Diabetics. When putting the hard hours of training in, I have to bear this in mind!

So after what feels like the longest winter ever, the 2018 Triathlon season is now well under way! First off I headed to the Lincoln Tri event in April which is local for me meaning a pretty civilised start to the day. I  had been in a quandary over the last few days about what to wear (I know it’s a girl thing?!) The forecast was for dry weather but pretty cold, feeling like 4 degrees with a decent wind.  In the end I decided comfort was more important to me than that T1 time so I went for several extra layers,  I think it was a decent decision but it is always galling to see your finish time mounting up with the layers.  Anyway I’ll start at the start with the swim, it went fine, I didn’t drown, not a great time but I found my lane very busy and hard to get into a rhythm so not sure that would have helped, I think this is often difficult with pool tri’s.

I then headed out to T1 and spent what felt like about an hour putting on my extra layers, (helmet, jacket, socks, shoes and gloves) then headed out on to the bike course, I managed one of the worst mounts on record and then set off! I felt like the bike was going ok, I was catching people and my pace looked ok, then I turned the corner and the second half of the bike appeared to be into a head wind! It was a pretty flat course, which I generally like, but still felt hard, coupled to this I was racing on my new fancy wheels which are deeper than I am used to so each cross wind came as a bit of a surprise! T2 went ok and then I headed out on to the run, it was a flat course but very narrow so occasionally it was hard to get past people or on to the best ground. The run wasn’t fast but pretty close to what I usually get so I guess I will have to take that. 

Overall I was a bit disappointed, but I am working hard on taking what I can from it and getting ready for the next race. I have a better understanding of my kit and how it all works, in particular I have finally figured out how to make my insulin pump waterproof so I can wear it in the swim and don’t have to mess about with it in T1!

Lots to work on, and I am also trying to remember the non swim/ bike /run bits, keeping up with some strength and conditioning, paying attention to my diet and regular sports massage to try and prevent injuries. Oh and the rest of life of course, you know the little things like work and my family! 

In my next blog I will update you on my progress from St Neots and Nottingham Tri races and my build up to the European champs!