22 May 2017
By Emma Deary - Business Projects Officer
DP World London Gateway's Business Projects Officer, Emma Deary, only started taking part in triathlons three years ago. Now, she is an elite at the multi-discipline sport, with numerous sponsors, including DP World London Gateway, and is one of the sports rising stars.
Recently, she won silver in the European Triathlon Union's Championships. Read about her remarkable weekend in Lisbon here!
Normally in my race reflections I take you through each step of my race, concluding in the result. This time, however, I can’t contain myself. Spoiler alert: I am a European Championship silver medalist!
We arrived in Lisbon on Wednesday and had 4 days to prepare. This included checking out the bike/swim routes, team meetings; down to getting used to living out of a hotel and finding places to eat.
Checking out the bike route was amazing. We had a police motorcade escort on 20km of closed motorways. It’s not very often you get to do that while enjoying the coast of Lisbon. This was really helpful as I could see where the pot holes were, how to take corners and how long the “dreaded” 78m hill was. This really helped me visualise my race plan on Saturday night when I was meant to be sleeping.
The swim course familiarisation was interesting, with us being able to swim the course two days before. The water was tidal, salty and had random currents due to shape of the marina. The swim exit was also described as the bridge from Lord of the Rings where all the orc’s fell off! This was due to a narrow ramp up the sea wall covered in algae. Someone actually slipped and fell off in front of me. Thankfully they’d put protective matting down by the time it was race day. There was still only room for one person at a time up the ramp which was a bit concerning.
On Friday I went down to support my GB team mates in the sprint race. This really got my nerves going and made me want Sunday to come around as quickly as possible. Watching, I realised we actually ran through (instead of around) and finished in the Meo Arena making it seem all the more daunting, especially as the Arena has a capacity of 20,000 people!
Saturday then seemed to drag on for ages but before I knew it I was racking my bike in transition, getting my kit ready and setting my alarm for 5am. Race time!
Sunday. Race day. I never sleep particularly well before a race but all I could think of the night before was how do I get on my bike? Do I put my left foot in first or my right? Something so simple but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I usually do. My alarm went off and I pretty much jumped out of bed, had my breakfast and headed down to transition. It was still dark outside when we left but thankfully the sun was starting to rise by the time we got there.
Setting up transition didn’t take as long as it normally does. So I was left staring at my bike for ages trying to think if I had forgotten anything. I was very fortunate that my bike was racked right by the entrance after the swim. This meant finding my spot was so much easier amongst the hundreds of bikes. Finally satisfied that I had done all that I could have done; checked and triple checked my tyres were inflated, I headed down towards the swim start.
We were the second wave to start, just 3 minutes after the first wave which meant there wasn’t any time to watch what they were doing. I was talking to the winner post race and she said she saw me before the swim and thought “I wish I could be as calm as her”. It’s good to hear that, because looks can be deceiving. I most definitely would not have described myself as calm at that point. More apprehension, excitement and a lot of nerves. I knew I just had to get the swim out the way then I could enjoy the race. In actual fact, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, I enjoyed the swim.
It started quite well and I managed to find some people to draft for the first 300m or so, but then everyone seemed to spread out. There was still the usual elbows in the face and kicks to the chest going around the buoys, which I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to. I just think I’m too polite to get involved in this. The swim exit wasn’t too bad in the end, although I had to slow down to wait for people to move in front which lost me some time but I’d rather that than being pushed off the edge.
As I came into transition I could see that a fair few bikes had already left. I was 7th out the water out of 22 in my age group. I normally come out about mid pack so I’m pretty happy with this improvement.
As soon as we got on our bikes we went over 3 or 4 high speed bumps on a cobbled street for about 300m. I’d certainly call that a rocky start to this part of the race! Once we were out on the roads it was so quiet and peaceful. It felt like a true time trial on the first lap as there were hardly any other competitors on the course. This can be quite difficult because you don’t necessarily have anyone to gauge how fast you are going, and might get distracted watching the sunrise! A German girl in my age group went flying past me quite early on.
I tried to stick with her but didn’t want to burn myself out with a lot of the bike leg left to go. I decided to stick to my race plan and hope she would tire so that I could reel here in later on. On the second lap the course was much busier as most age groups were now on the course. This was quite stressful as the draft busters (guys on motorbikes circling the course like vulchers) were really watching us closely. These guys are on the course to ensure that you aren’t closer than 10m to the bike in front unless you plan on immediately over-taking them (within 15 seconds). If someone passes you, you have 5 seconds to drop back 10m. To my relief I was consistently over-taking other women on the second lap, and entering transition I had improved to 2nd position in my age group. It wasn’t all good news though, there still was no sign of the German woman who had over-taken me earlier.
It is worth noting at this point that I had no idea how I was getting on. When I came into transition I knew I was doing relatively well as I could only see a few bikes near mine. But I didn’t know if they were in my age group or not. The key was to not really think about position, and just ensure I ran the fastest time I could.
The first couple of minutes of the run were tough. I quickly realised that I was really tense and had to try and make myself relax. The run was a 4 lap course but you finished on the 5th time you entered the arena. This really started playing with my head on the 4th lap as the only way I could tell it was time to finish was from my legs telling me they hurt (I don’t race with a watch). The run was hot, even at 9am. Fortunately there were lots of water stations, shade and amazing supporters to keep me going.
After the first lap I knew there were a few girls in front of me but I couldn’t tell which age group they were in. But as the course got busier and busier, it became impossible to work out what position I was in. When I entered the arena for the final time I was very anxious that I’d miscounted my laps and had one more to go. However, a quick glance at the official timing board showed my race time and I thought “yeah, that looks about right!”
Crossing the line was an incredible feeling. For everything to come together at the right time, with all the training and preparation I had to go through before. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a race as much. The course was great, with the conditions being nigh on perfect (maybe a tad hot, but barely any wind on the bike). The atmosphere produced by all the supporters lining the circuit was amazing also. Going into the athletes lounge I saw a few other girls but still didn’t know where I had finished. I eventually found my family, who also didn’t know how I’d done. It wasn’t until I looked at my phone about 30minutes later that I had lots of messages telling me I had finished second! Although I tried not to celebrate too much at this point because the results hadn’t been made official yet.
Once the result was officially confirmed, there was a combination of joyous tears, laughter and excitement. This was a welcome difference to the disappointment in the 2015 European Championships in Geneva. Most of my family had made it out which made it all the more special. Sadly there were a few who were unable to make it but that just means the celebrations can continue at home.
The medal ceremony was an experience I will never forget. Being able to stand on the podium representing my country was very special and it makes me tearful every time I think about it. The German girl did beat me to gold and unusually I beat her on the swim but she beat me on the bike.
Despite the race going almost perfectly, there is plenty I will be working on moving toward the World Championships in September. The celebrations can’t continue for too long as I am back in the UK and to my normal training as before (just with the added bonus of a European silver medal for motivation.
Now is the right time to say thank you to the many people who have helped me get to this position. The biggest thank you of all has to go to my coach, Mitch (@ACS_Mitchell) for not only providing a training regime that led me to this incredible result, but also the extensive support he gives. You never doubted my ability to achieve results like this, even when I did, so thank you. The second is to my employer, DP World London Gateway. Without their financial support I’d never have been able to get there.
I have recently developed a relationship with Yonda Racing, who have provided me with a truly amazing wetsuit as well other great pieces of kit (including High5 products). I hope this is a relationship we can continue to extend into the future! Also thank you to Ed Kirby Physiotherapy, True Start Coffee and Paddock Cycles for their continued support. I wouldn’t have been able to get to the start line without you. Last but not least, I have to say a huge thank you to my family and friends. The mere fact that you all came to Portugal to be there for me before, during and after the race means everything to me. Words will never be able to describe how grateful I am, nor how important this is to my race success.
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