To Do or Not To Do – 2011 British Paratriathlon Nationals

I’m back from over two weeks out of the country – back to London.  I’ve often said that home is wherever my heart is – on holiday, my heart was on the bike, on the hills on the ride from Houston to Austin, in Florida as I spent almost two weeks with my sister, bro, niece and neph.  I got to hang out with my awesome 94 year old grandma too, who told me that she doesn’t have time for things like Twitter because she is too busy living. Awesome.  On holiday we did a triathlon and I loved it.  My heart was totally into triathlon, I felt great, and for the first time loved the sport 100% – I had no fears, just did my best and enjoyed it all.

And now I am home.  Home is where the heart is.  And I am torn.  Do I follow my heart, replicate the love of triathlon I found on the course in Pembroke Pines, and participate in the British National Paratriathlon Championships on 14 May?  Or do I do what I know is right.  I made a list, I weighed things up…

My heart says…

Beyond *wanting* to do nationals, there are a few other reasons for doing the race on May 14th. 

First and foremost, I want to support paratriathlon and its development as a sport.  I have written about paratriathlon and how it is now a paralympic sport.  Everyone knows that I am a huge advocate of the sport, and also of increasing involvement in triathlon for people of all abilities.  Participating would be an outward demonstration of my commitment to paratriathlon.

Second, by participating in the race I would also be able to be observed in competition, the final step in finalising my paratriathlon classification (right now I have tested as TRI4 which is arm impairment, however observation in a race could confirm this or see this change or even result in a determination that I do not meet threshold criteria to compete as a paratriathlete).  When I first started doing triathlon, I did it to get fit.  In 2009, the idea of competing as a paratriathlete became a huge motivator for me, and in 2010 I began to see it as an aim in itself – to compete as a paratriathlete at the highest level.  But I was unable to finalise my classification in 2009 or 2010.  Racing on May 14th would enable me to complete the process, which would give me certainty and focus.

And back to wanting… I loved the race I did in Florida.  It was, quite simply, SO MUCH FUN.  I want to have that kind of fun again, and soon…


Here is the *but* – it’s sensible argument time…

When I was sick in January and February, I had a lot of time to reassess what I was doing in 2011, and where I wanted to take myself this season.  I decided that I wanted to do things for fun, to push my limits again without feeling any pressure, to just do sport because I could and because it was fun.  I have already started to do this with my participation in the MS150, and the Egg Hunt Triathlon.  Would jumping into nationals this year take the focus off the fun? Would it distract from the season and plans I have set up to push my limits?  I am thinking it would – and I worry that a competitive environment would kill that fun feeling for me? .

Pushing the limits is the name of the game for me this year.  I signed up for the MS150 (and with it Strong Like Bull) to push my cycling, to start the process of getting leg strong and confident on the bike.  And I am doing the Dunwich Dynamo in July with my friends to do more of the same on the bike.  I ballotted and entered the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim in June, to cross the Chesapeake Bay – all 4.4 miles of it.  Swimming longer than I ever dreamed possible.  And I signed up for not one but two Olympic distance triathlons this year – to get familiar with and comfortable with doing triathlons of this distance more than one time a year – pushing the envelope ever so slightly, testing the boundaries, and seeing what I am made of…  I fear that jumping into Nationals may be a distraction.  If I did nationals on the 14th, would I then tempt fate and do Hyde Park one week after London, a critical recovery week in the run up to Fireman?  Would I get distracted from my main 2011 goals?  Would my focus shift from pushing the limits to qualifying for worlds?  And what if I was deemed not impaired enough to be a paratriathlete?  Would that destabilise me and be a blow to my confidence, at an early stage of the summer months when I want to be doing things that build my confidence and faith in my abilities (not stuff to highlight my challenges)?

Ah.  And then there is work.  As much as I would love to (on the one hand) give up work and just focus on training and doing the things that I love, the fact is that part of me loves work, loves my job, and needs to work.  And that means that work can’t be pushed away.  My job can be demanding – especially with travel requirements.  And May is a kick start to many exciting work things – things which involve fast trips to Hong Kong and Moscow.  I get back from a whirlwind 36 hours in Hong Kong at 5am on May 14th.  I guess that means I could get home by 7, sleep for a few hours, wake up, eat, pack and ready my transition bag, catch a train 2 hours to Nottingham, arrive at 1pm, meet with paratriathlon assessors, race at 3, finish by 5, home by 8.30… Well, you get the point.  Doing all of this after a long flight would be tough.  But it is SO TEMPTING.  I want to race again.  I had a blast at the Egg Hunt, why not do it again?  And my recovery didn’t take *too* long (a week of reduced training, and besides, I am swim focused right now which is perfect recovery training, right?)…  But… I have a track record of getting injured when I am overtired.  The most glaring example of this was after an overnight flight.  I got home, packed my bags, and headed to the train station – and missed a curb, toppled over, and rotationally dislocated my elbow.  It was only down to skilled surgery from Simon Lambert that I am like Humpty Dumpty back together again.  Would racing while exhausted put me at risk of another bad injury?

Finally, choosing nationals would take away a critical swim session on Saturday.  On 10 May I start wetsuit swimming with my Coach again at Parliament Hill Lido (he runs a big group session for triathletes) and the Lido sets are perfect preparation for triathlons as well as long open water swims.  I know that I need swim mileage, lots of it in a structured fashion, before the Bay Swim.  I also need to try out my new Aquasphere Ironman Wetsuit (compliments of DailyMile and the Ford Ironman contest I entered) to see if it is the suit I will race in for 2011… And what is the next big thing – my next “A race” – in my calendar?  The Bay Swim… On 12 June.  Only a few short weeks away…


So when it is all laid out it seems so obvious, doesn’t it? 

But that is the thing.  My heart really wants to do nationals. 

What would you do?

8 responses to “To Do or Not To Do – 2011 British Paratriathlon Nationals”

  1. It is funny that all the comments here are against, and pretty much all on Twitter are for! I am going to think about it this weekend on a long bike ride. It will be a good distraction from saddle pressure issues (read my MS150 blog if you don’t get that joke!)

  2. I know what I would do, but people say I’m not right in the head. I’d go for it. you only get so many shots at something like nationals. but, you have to find what is right for you. go with your heart and you’ll find your way.

  3. I wouldn’t do it. The reasons not to are too compelling. Why not work on your confidence and having fun this year as planned and do this next year? If you decide that’s a goal you still want?

  4. That is a heck of a commitment and race program you have without the Para included on the back of a long haul flight.
    Personally I’d stick to your original plan and enjoy it, as doing the para just hours after landing would be very tough. Also what about things out of your control such a delays, ash clouds, elephants on the runway that could throw you plans out the window.
    Cant you delay para entry for a season ? Took me 6 years to get into London marathon as was so worth the wait, then I focused purely on that for 5 months. Now back to the tri’s I love.

  5. I’ll give you my experience. I knew I shouldn’t do the last tri I did last summer, it was too soon after a broken ankle. I’d trained for about 5 weeks, was still in physical therapy, and hadn’t been on the bike or run much. It wasn’t nerves this time it was a concern I wasn’t ready. I let family and friends talk me into participating. Like you I tend to be more uncoordinated when tired and ended up falling in the last 1/3 mile of the run. (I think I slipped on discarded water cups but really I don’t know.)  I had a cast from my thumb to my elbow for 6 weeks and was out of the pool for months. 
    If you have any doubts that you won’t be ready mentally or physically you probably shouldn’t do it. But I know how hard it is to want to do something even though you know it’s not the best idea.
    Don’t forget it could be out of your control, flights get delayed. Your plan assumes all your flights will be on time smile

  6. Count me among the people who says you already have a pretty heavy programme going this year. Paratriathlon nationals will always be there.

  7. I know Nationals is a big deal. But one thing you have to bear in mind – this is the first year British Triathlon are heavily promoting paratriathlon on the back of its inclusion as a paralympic sport – so paratri nationals are not a “by invitation” event but open to anyone who may classify for paratriathlon status.  They are prestigous and full of incredible athletes, but for me I don’t feel the absolute pressure to do nationals just because it is nationals – I am pretty sure I could still participate next year, if I meet the threshold for impairment which given my recent strength work I may not now…  Anyway, I would do nationals because racing would be fun – not for prestige or the like.

    The decision is tough for me because the last race I did was so much fun. Before that race, I had pretty much ruled out participating, as I wanted to focus on being well trained and strong for the Bay Swim. A huge event.  Now… Well when you have so much fun doing something, you want to do it again, right?

  8. Donna – I feel your struggle here! It is not possible to do it all – and you do have a very very full schedule. If you do Nationals, and it doesn’t go as planned for whatever reason, are you willing to give up something that you already have planned? That was the question I asked myself when I decided to do Boston this year. I knew it might mess up tri race plans – and it did – but I guess I have to be okay with that. I wanted to do Boston *that bad*. It’s a tough decision – and I think only you can know the way to go on this one. it’s tough when the heart is pulled in directions isn’t it?

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