ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi - not the race I had hoped for

DNF… I’m almost ashamed of it, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t ever DNF unless it’s literally impossible to finish. It wasn’t impossible to finish for me today, I could have finished that run but chose not to. Why?

The short answer: I’ve been injured and didn’t want to risk my foot getting worse again for the sake of a top 50 finish.

The slightly longer answer: I’m aware of the fact that I’ve been “hiding” a bit recently and as Jodie Stimpson put it very well in her last blog, there are two reasons why athletes are quiet: either they are injured or they are so stuck in their training that they forget about the world around them. For me this time unfortunately it was the first of the two. Everything had been going really well, I was running like I’d never run before, loving every second of training and feeling very optimistic about the upcoming race season. Then I started having pain in my foot when running. At first you pretend that it’s nothing, keep running on the pain and hoping it will just go away if you are being nice to it otherwise. But after a while I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t fine and it wasn’t just going to go away – which to be fair did hit me pretty hard mentally. So I headed over to Germany to see a doctor about it. As much as I was looking forward to knowing what was going on, I was also fearing the outcome – what if he told me I wouldn’t be able to race in Abu Dhabi in 4 weeks’ time? But I was “lucky” and was prescribed two weeks completely off running before I was allowed to start slowly again, not as good as I had hoped, but also not as bad as I had feared.

So what do you do when you’re not allowed to run? A lot of aquajogging and spending time on the crosstrainer. Knowing that I would be able to run again by the time Abu Dhabi came around just made me want to work as hard as I could “off the ground” and man aquajogging can bloody well hurt! Two and a half weeks before Abu Dhabi I flew off to Mallorca on training camp with the German U23 squad and Juniors (and Steffen Justus). The only thing that got me through the first few days of watching people go on runs and aquajogging myself was the knowledge that the first bit of running for me was only a few days away. By the time Abu Dhabi was only just under two weeks away, I was back on the road – starting with 15min on soft ground, slowly. But I was pain free! Slowly I built up the time and speed – and stayed pain free. I could still feel it a bit after the first few runs or when I started to try to run quicker, which is why I knew it wasn’t just completely gone yet. But it felt so good to be running again! It made me realise that I should never take being able to run for granted.

When I got back from Mallorca I did a swimming competition for Oxford University - Varsity, the swimming competition against Cambridge. I set a 400m and 200m PB so was getting excited about putting that into the water this weekend. So then it was time for Abu Dhabi. The days before the race went really well. I felt confident about my swim and my cycling, but I honestly had no real idea where I was standing running-wise and could only hope. I have to admit I was nervous the day before the race - more than I usually am. And then it was finally time to race!

My swimming started very well, but then I was beaten up and pulled back a few times and ended up exiting the water a few seconds behind the main chase pack. We worked really well together in my pack for the first half of the bike though – but at some point my legs got tired and we hadn’t gained any time. I just had to accept that we weren’t going to catch the group in front. Massive shout out to the girls in my pack though, I’ve rarely been in a pack of so committed women who each gave it their best to see if we could make it. Then it was onto the run. We were so far down that I made the decision after about 2.5 km not to risk my foot getting worse again for the sake of a 50th place. It wasn’t the call I wanted to make and I wasn’t in pain or felt my foot being dodgy, I just knew that I have more to gain from stepping out and now starting fresh with a healthy, fully intact foot so I can be back to full fitness soon. I’ll be back stronger for it and already look forward to my next race.

© Sophia Saller 2016. All rights reserved. Impressum