2016 finished with a broken shoulder blade following a bike crash but every cloud has a silver lining. This being a winter of great training and a determination to do better than ever. 2017 has turned out to be my most successful year in triathlon; seeing a shift in focus from long distance (Ironman) to shorter distance racing (sprint, olympic and 70.3). My major goals were to qualify for the sprint distance age group world championships in Rotterdam and to race well at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire.
The year began with a couple of duathlons (Lancaster and Parbold) whilst waiting for the weather to warm up. Then on to the pool based sprint distance triathlons at Ulverston, West Lancs and Mold. These races all went fantastically well and led into the open water events. Southport was first up and served as the qualifying event for the 2018 European Championships in Strathclyde. Having exited the swim near to the front I managed to pass those ahead of me on the bike and led on the run until 20m before the line when a child stepped of the kerb into my path, allowing second place to tie me in a dead heat. This was enough to qualify first in my age group for the euro champs, which I hope to do well in this coming season.
Next came Chester Olympic distance and then one of my main target races, Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire (a distance that perhaps suits me best with a relatively short swim compared to the bike and run segments). The day was extremely hot and this proved to be the biggest challenge for all athletes. I knew that I was in a lofty overall position when going out on the run, but didn’t dare hope of too high a finish with a half marathon left to run. The heat began to take its toll and it was a huge mental battle to keep pushing forward. Exhausted at the finish, I was elated to find out that I had finished in 3rd place in the 35-39 age group and got to take part in the podium presentations.
A week later I was in Llandudno for the sprint distance world championships qualifier; an age group win meant I could book the tickets to Rotterdam. The back half of the season saw me win 2 events in the Lake District before placing 2nd in our home town race (St Helens Sprint Triathlon). One week later was the finale to the season in Rotterdam. The whole experience was fantastic; from staying in the team hotel to sharing stories with team mates and my parents who had travelled out to watch me. I always set myself lofty targets and hoped to medal if I’m totally honest. Having had a near perfect race, including the fastest bike split overall, I was content with my 6th place finish in the 35-39 age group. I’m starting 2018 early with a trip to Dubai for the 70.3 race and then will focus more on my cycling in preparations for Race Across America in June (in association with The Steve Prescott Foundation).