Challenge Denmark European Middle Distance Triathlon Championships – Richard Gardiner

Since the very first year of competing at the age of just 9 way back in 1982, one of the focal drives for myself in my sport has been to represent my country, fortunately by the age of 13 I had achieved my first taste of this running for the Welsh Schools Cross Country Team in Boyle Ireland, a magical experience that will stay with me forever.  From that point on I was fortunate enough to compete for Wales every year after over many distances up into my late 30’s culminating in the ultimate honour of Representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Marathon and half marathon, an honour that only approximately 10 runners get each year as there is no age grouping.

 

When I made the transition to Triathlon at 40, I found there was the same focus present, I quickly learned about the age groups and felt that there may be an opportunity to achieve this aim if I could learn how to ride and swim to a level that would allow my running to get me though, thus allowing me to compete for Great Britain in two sports, an exclusive club which I felt would be a fitting legacy for the years of dedication to my sport.

In June 2016 I finished 1st Vet 40 in Cotswold Half Iron Man which placed a good marker for selection for the European Middle Distance Triathlon Championships 2017 in Denmark – job done!

As stated in a previous blog, after qualifying, if felt like a long winter of training and trying to recover from Iron Man Wales 2016 which had taken a toll on my body more than any event competed in my 34 year career, however, working with Team Cranc, with a new TT bike and the lure of representing Team GB I got through those harder months.

As June 2017 approached I eventually got through the seemingly endless logistics, bookings and packing that had to be completed and I was on my way to Denmark!

I flew out the day before race day and upon arriving I was met by friends from Tenby Aces who collected me, took me to my hotel, expo and transitions.

This was a huge learning point, this race had separate transitions along with a separate expo, in a place I was unfamiliar with, therefore competing abroad presents extra logistical issues that can ruin the race, OR just enter a race that has all aspects at one location. Furthermore arriving one day before such an event is just not enough time, if not for my friends from Tenby I would have been in big trouble!

Race day

On the morning of the race everything finally settled down and the journey to the start of the race was the most relaxing part of the trip.  After torrential rain, the sun was shining and the weather forecast was for warm weather.

Final checks and warm up completed I entered the lake in my wave and we were off……..

As usual I hit the swim flat out (not wise I know but as a former distance runner, my endurance allows me to attack from the off, it just makes for a completely miserable race!) having come out of the swim in a very good position, the effort caught up with me in transition which felt like an age, my wetsuit would not come off and at one point I got completely confused with the infinite amount of bike kit to put on, that being Helmet glasses and shoes!

Upon approaching my bike things got worse, I ran down the bike isle towards where I believed my bike was and on feeling the relief of seeing my bike, a man appeared akin to the “Mr Ben” cartoons circa 1970’s – In broken English he told me to stop?  Not knowing what was going on I “politely” enquired as to what the heck was going on, was I disqualified? In the wrong race or was this a crazed fan of Triathlon???  He stated that I had ran down the wrong side of the bike isle and now had to stand still (I don’t think he understood that standing still for me is a near impossibility let alone in a race!) This I found out later was a standing penalty, and I had breached a rule that is only applied in ETU events that you collect your bike handle bars end……?? (simple sport eh) The penalty felt like an age. I eventually left transition thinking my race was over, in reality it was probably less than a minute, albeit on top of other deliberations it was not a good transition even by my sedentary standards!!

I got on my bike and began attacking the 56 miles course, the first 45 minutes there were a few head winds, I wasn’t feeling the race was going well,Riders were passing me in great numbers and my bike computer was telling me my average was 19MPH, I knew this wasn’t a good enough pace, however, the last 90 minutes of the ride, my endurance and mentality kicked in and I stated to push a much better pace finishing with an average of 22.4MPH completing the course around 2 hours 30 minutes, although I lost around 30 positions in my race!

Transition 2 was much better and I went onto the run in Searing heat , in my mind with a point to prove…….

The run is where I usually come into my own, however this was the first time I came into a triathlon with a worrying running injury which meant training had not been the best and there was a fear that if the injury got worse then my efforts would be in vain.  I took the early miles steady although passing runners, which was the theme for the rest of the race.  Not too much to say about the run other than running with the fear of not knowing if my body would hold together and having three separate cramp hot spots in my legs, it meant for a miserable experience!  That said I still managed a sub 80 minute half, one of the fastest of the whole race but personally not good enough!

My finishing time was 4 hours 26 minutes, top 10 overall in my race and first three out of the Brits, securing a place in next year’s European Championships in Spain. A solid performance all things considered and a wealth of experience gained!

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