Written by Ian Dempsey

The last race of the 2016 season at Challenge Peguera felt like a distant memory, but getting a category win at the race definitely inspired my winter training. It also gave me a new focus for 2017 that will hopefully end with an age group world title.

Arriving in Mogan, a beautiful resort in Gran Canaria, 5 days before the race could have made it easy to get distracted from triathlon but as myself and my new wife Sophie are using it as a honeymoon I took the opportunity to take an easy week enjoying the sun, pool & beach.

Towards the end of the week, prior to the race, the arrival of all the professional athletes in our hotel made the impending 70.3 feel all the more real, especially as Alistair Brownlee was using the event as his first long distance triathlon.

Myself & fellow Brit Catherine Jameson rode the bike course for the first time on Thursday. It soon became apparent was that Gran Canaria has no flat surface. This highlighted to me the importance of familiarising yourself with the course before you race it. After my first full winter of training with power, with coach Joel Jameson, it was clear I would not be hitting my normal output on such a hilly bike course. I was confident with swimming & running though, having recently returned from a training camp in Mallorca with Joel & some other top age group athletes so my plan was to swim strong, not overcook myself on the bike & then run as well as possible.

The race started at 8am and it was tough not to get caught up in the euphoria when sharing the start line with athletes such as Alistair Brownlee & Daniela Ryf. The horn sounded and altogether, we sprinted into the sea. The two lap out-and-back swim course looked relatively flat until 300m out. I found some rhythm and was soon in the front pack. Panic stuck. A competitor caught my timing chip with their finger; ripping it off. Luckily, I managed to turn around under the water, scoop it up and re-attach it under my wetsuit. I had lost about one minute, pushed to catch up and came out the water as 3rd age grouper.

After a relatively straight forward T1, the bike course instantly felt tough. It was a four-lap up-and-down leg sapping 90km. I didn’t feel strong from the start so rather than putting myself in a hole I just rode and trusted in my winter miles to get me through. It’s hard, being over taken when you have a racers mentality, but what you learn with experience of endurance racing is that anything can happen, so just stay in the race.

As I was finishing my 3rd bike lap, Brownlee was finishing his last, showing what an incredibly strong athlete he is. Inspired, I cracked on. Coming into T2, I knew I’d lost places but after my 1st lap Sophie was shouting ‘you’re 4th, two minutes behind 3rd place and five minutes behind the leader’. I must have been thinking too much about these numbers as I turned left instead of right, running down the finishing shoot.

For a minute the live tracker said I’d finished in 3hrs 50. I was winning.

Embarrassingly, I ran back the other way and re-joined the run course. I got my head back in the game and started closing down the guys in front, keeping my wattage lower on the bike meant my legs felt fresher to run and on the last lap I was in 2nd place, thirty seconds behind the age group leader. I clawed it back to five seconds but just didn’t have a sprint finish to take the win.

In my first race of season I took 2nd place in my age group. Overall, I’m happy with performance. Once again, I have shown that in triathlon, the trick is to NEVER GIVE UP. No matter how many mistakes you make or how bad you might be feeling, hang in there as everyone else is suffering too.

Onwards to Outlaw half in four weeks, but first I’ll enjoy the rest of our honeymoon.