Jules Richards is out in Auckland for the triathlon world championships – here he recollects his pre-race experiences.
I can’t believe how time has flown out here! As it got to 72 hours before the race, I felt that I’d acclimatised well. I’d already checked out the run course – flat and fast – and the bike course – first half undulating and technical, second half flat and fast. Having said that, if the wind had continues the way it was at that moment it wouldn’t be all that quick cycling into a 27mph headwind!
People talk about having four seasons in one day, back at home the weather can be changeable but compared to New Zealand it seems settled. We’d had all four seasons at least twice at different points during a single day and unsurprisingly, the forecast for the elites didn’t look promising, and with the course they had to tackle I didn’t envy them. The forecast for the age groupers was looking a little better though and I was hoping the fact I’d be off at 7am might mean I’d miss the worst of the weather. Well, I could hope!
Before worrying about the weather, I’d received a massage from one the team therapists, just to iron out any niggles that might be lurking. I knew my calves were a little tight but I ended up having acupuncture to try and release a trigger point the size of a large grape, which was particularly unpleasant experience!
Then it was on to the evening of the parade of nations and opening ceremony, an opportunity to meet competitors from other nations and also get to know people in our team a little better. Staying in Auckland and not at the team hotel, I felt slightly isolated from the team activities so it was really nice to feel like part of the group. All the teams assembled on North Quay and proceeded to the event venue behind a traditional Maori tribe and the New Zealand team. There was a lot of support on the route from locals, which was great to see. I have to say the Canadians definitely stole the show in terms of uniform, every member of the team who came along was is full kit and they looked amazing!
The opening ceremony itself was started with traditional – and spectacular – performances from the Maori tribe, which reminded us all that even though Auckland feels like a Western city, its culture comes from a very different place. We then had the Lord Sebastian Coe-equivalent give a speech to officially open the ceremony and official, athlete and coach representatives took oaths just like in the Olympics. It’s things like this, the ceremony of the event, that I hadn’t thought about and which actually made it feel special and made me feel part of something spectacular.
The New Zealand triathlon team then did the Haka, unfortunately though, they were at the other end of the venue so we couldn’t see it, luckily the Maori tribe then got back up on stage and to close the ceremony also did one and then tried to get some crowd participation going with (as you can well imagine) some hilarious consequences.
I also took the opportunity of having a couple of rest days to see if I couldn’t shake a cough that had been clinging on for dear life. Even though it wasn’t affecting my ability to swim, bike or run I knew I would be happier in the knowledge it wasn’t going to rear it’s ugly head halfway through the bike course!
Fast forward a little and with less than 24 hours to go until race time, the weather turned extremely windy and poured with rain. This made me really quite nervous about my wheel choice – 90mm – but there wasn’t a great deal I could do about it, I was just going to have to make the best of a bad situation and ensure my run was the fastest it’s ever been!
The day before, as I watched the U23 races and the elite women showing the world how it should be done, the weather was stunning: blue skies, light winds and not too warm – ideal conditions for the tough course.
The first race off was the women’s U23, it was awesome to see the elites race and being able to get so close to the course was an amazing experience. After watching Non Stanford take the title I met up with my team-mate Chris to watch the elite women’s race. We found a cafe and viewed most of the race sat next to the course having lunch – very pleasant indeed!
After eating, we headed for the Sky Tower (I had to do some touristy stuff while I was there!), it’s the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere and the views from the top were stunning. As I was in GB kit I had a lot of people wishing me well and asking about the race. There’s a lot of interest in it, which is fantastic: you get the feeling Auckland is pretty sport mad, everywhere you go there are people running or cycling. As it turned out you could see a large amount of the course from the top of the tower so Chris and I watched some of the U23 men’s race from around 150m up!
Now that the races had begun, I started to get really nervous about race day, I realised there was nothing more I could do but I even get butterflies when I’m doing a local race, so in Auckland, I felt like I had a family of golden eagles flapping about in there leading up to this one!
I did a short bike-run and then had to rack up, after which all I’d have to do would be to measure myself against the best age group triathletes in the world…no pressure then…
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