Hello triathlon world; Yonda wearers and followers; and anyone who might’ve stumbled across this little race write up. I’m Zoe Thomas – a Welsh triathlete known amongst friends and peers for overwhelming giggle fits and a slightly excessive knowledge of Harry Potter. I’m here to introduce you to myself with my first blog for Yonda, and to divulge my story of the 2018 British elite championships. It was a total privilege to compete in a race of this level in Cardiff, the town where I train daily; previously studied for my degree; and as a true patriot, have celebrated a rugby triumph or three.
It’s been a little while since I’ve competed in a domestic triathlon, I started the race at Cardiff last year but a nasty crash meant I didn’t see the finish line. This was just one of a number of set-backs I’ve experienced over the last 15 or so months, but I somehow also managed to overcome these to qualify to travel to Australia as reserve for Welsh triathlon’s Commonwealth Games relay team. This was almost a total dream come true, almost…
Cardiff being just half an hour down the road from home allowed for something I’m really not used to – home support! Racing all over Europe for most of the season can be quite a lonely affair, but having the full cohort out in Cardiff was amazing, and made racing domestically that little bit more special. I really did have the whole family out to watch, including my Auntie Jayne, Uncle Mike and Cousin Eliza watching for the first time ever – definitely the newest fans of our ever-growing sport.
I exited the water in my fabulous Yonda Ghost just off the back of the front pack of swimmers - the suit is a total dream to swim in, and if possible, even dreamier in T1. Getting out of the Ghost quickly meant I was within touching distance of the main pack when mounting the bike, and by the first dead turn I was comfortably in the front pack with some good cyclists for company, and was happy that we’d distanced some of the best runners in the field.
The bike leg is without a doubt my favourite, and I was content that we’d managed to increase the gap to the chasers over the 20km. It’s always frustrating to not get cooperation from everyone in a bike group, but it’s understandable that everyone approaches a race differently with many different strengths and weaknesses. I made it to T2 in one piece, along with some of the girls who came down last year. I’m not ashamed to admit I gave myself a mental pat on the back for this at the time - we’ve gotta take those little victories, hey?!
I got off the bike to a pretty sore set of legs that didn’t want to cooperate for the first 3.5km of the run and ran like I was stuck in sinking sand. I managed to claw my way up to 8th after my legs realised that they were actually racing and not out for a Sunday stroll in the last 1500m. This is a performance I can be happy with for the moment, and something to work with moving forward.
The last year has been my toughest in the sport. I have dealt with repetitive illness, bike crashes and little injuries which have just felt like one thing after another. There have been very few highs, however consistency in training has left a lot to be desired. With this result in Cardiff, and a top 25 at the recent French Grand Prix in Dunkerque, I feel I’m finally coming out the other side of a period of bad luck, and am ready to hit the rest of the season hard.
I’ve recently finished at my receptionist job to become a full time triathlete for the first time in my life. This is a slightly terrifying but very exciting concept, and I cannot wait to see the difference that it can make to my triathlon performance over the next few months. It’s a big step and a bit of a risk, but one I feel I need to take, and that now is the right time for. At least in 10 years-time there’ll be no “what ifs” flying around and I’ll always be able to say I gave it absolutely everything I had.
So, watch this space, I guess! The rest of this season will hopefully see me head to Hungary, France and Madeira with a view to getting some results that prove – maybe to myself more than anyone else – what I’m capable of when I actually manage to get some consistent training under my belt.
In the meantime, happy training!