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Annchen Clarke: Luxembourg 70.3 and France Long course champs

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 I manage to swerve at the last second & 45 degree line over tram tracks but then to avoid oncoming bus, bike, tram I didn’t quite get my line and went down on the tracks. Mista taxi driver drove off.  300 euros later to replace shifters and bent derailleur.  Luckily I come of lighter or so I thought. Collected a bit of tar, battle scars to show for it and stiff right hip shoulder knee. Stubbornly I didn’t take any rest bar missing brick run and pushing swim sessions till later in the week to try dry up the annoying road burns. In hind sight the shock to the body and not taking any rest was enough to lower the immune system to full blown knock out in bed for 3 days. Tuesday before the race I was still flat out in bed.

But I turned cosy athlete life in Stellenbosch down, for complete new city not knowing a single soul or training buddy to raise enough money to race Europe and beyond. No careless taxi driver or illness was going to stop me from racing in Europe again.

Race morning we woke up to most gorgeous weather, blue skies slight breeze, late start (for once I was super thankful for 1300 start… as coughing my lungs on rising every morning…the coughing fits usually settles by the afternoon). The swim in river Mosel started downstream, back up the stream to finish with a slight current. It was an okay swim but my swimming always a hit and miss.  Onto the bike the first 45kms was a flat fast out (slightly breezier than expected) and back section along the river Mosel.  I settled into a decent rhythm and kept an eye on the numbers, as the next 45km there a bit of climbing to be done. After riding in Holland for the last 4 months where only speed-bumps show elevation, I was curious to see how the body will respond to the next 45km. Onto the first climb and I was bursting with excitement, I love climbing and the super flat roads of Netherlands was not going to deter my love for climbs. The descents almost all ended snaking through cobblestoned little villages and no rolling hills to use momentum up the other end, which slowed down the averages somewhat. Signage was poor and one particular descent (luckily bike recci the day before warned me what laid ahead) I tiny little girl in Luxembourg tri kit come flying passed me, I was still thinking to myself she super brave to make a dead /more than 90 degree turn at that speed, to only find her being picked up off the ground at the bottom, ankle completely pointing wrong direction. I didn’t need to see that. Focus. Focus. Focus. Focus. The coughing fits started up soon after that. I was losing my momentum, but manage to pull some of it back in the last 10km of the bike possibly pushing slightly too hard. Onto the run and there was nothing in my legs.  I usually have no problems running off the bike but today was complete different story. 3 laps of 7km up and down along the river Mosel, and with every km the coughing seem to be getting worst and worst. I kept telling myself it will come but 10kms in and I was running way slower than I should be.SO I switched to the magic cola and so did my legs manage the magic switch (should I have done this earlier). Hello legs where the hell were you. I finished the last 4km averaging 4min/km (what exactly is in that magic cola). I started throwing up on the finish line followed by a coughing fit. I didn’t make for a pretty sight, but then who said endurance racing is pretty. I probably should not have raced in such a healthy state, but super happy to pull off a PB by 17min and then how often to one get to race through 3 countries in one race  and experience the different cheers from – Luxembourg, Germany (hup hup hup) and France (allez allez allez).

Chtriman 113 – France Long course champs

Onto the next race two weeks later, this time no pre-race dramas. Not even the ominous looking clouds threatening, gathering as race day loomed and gale force winds predicted of 47km/hour was going to deter my hunger for a solid race. The race just north of Calais, Gravelines northern France didn’t make for the most picturesque course, but then I wasn’t here to admire the landscape.

The swim was one big loop mass start of 3kms. Men and women were split in rowing boat lanes, but it didn’t stop men from completely smashing their way over us. I was dunked three times in a row and had to use a lot of control not to panic, followed by a kick to the left eye socked and doing the rest of the swim only able to see with one eye, it made most fierce swim start to date. Not even mass 2000 ironman start could compare this. In T1 I made last minute decision to put on an extra layer (super thankful for this) which slowed down the transition somewhat as it rather tricky to get on extra layer in those wet conditions.  The bike was one big 90km lap no more than 300m elevation winding through French countryside; should make for a fast course. And so the clouds gathered and slight drizzle turned into a not so slight drizzle turned into the weather gods have no mercy storm. Up ahead it looked like a scene from twister and we were heading straight for it. It turned to a matter of survival. I spared a thought for the poor souls racing the full 223. The rain coming down so hard it hurt your skin and wind raging gusting at very angry 47-55km/hour speeds. And then somewhere in the eye of that storm I find my mojo, this is one hell of a tough race and I thrive on tough. Suddenly I started passing a lot of men flying pass me earlier, picking them off like packman…chomp chomp chomp. Onto run I felt in fine form and that fine form stayed with me through the entire run. It 21km mostly trail run loop around the rowing lake, up the bank on the other side giving one a bird- eye view over the race site and beyond; down onto a trail route footpath out to the coast and back. It made for a slippery, muddy very wet run, and I loved every step of it. Continuing game of packman picking off every girl, every guy up ahead. Chomp chomp chomp. I felt great, I love it when a race turns around like this and giving a finger to the French storm, as solid race I wanted and that’s what I got.

I only found out later back in Amsterdam (still shivering) I actually won the Female Open Category.  Sadly I didn’t get my moment of glory of collecting a French white jersey on the top step, after all that hard work in a very fierce race. Doh!

Annah Watkinson - Race Report IM Brazil 2017

After a great first year racing in the professional category in 2016, I was amped for the 2017 season. Feeling stronger and fitter and more in the "right head space" - I had done some great training over December spending many many many (and many more) hours on the bike - I loved it. My swim was starting to click, I was starting to understand the phrase "feel the water", and my running was strong

READ ONAnnah Watkinson - Race Report IM Brazil 2017
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