Carolyn Hayes - European Championships 2019


European Championships, Weert, The Netherlands

I travelled to the Netherlands last Wednesday to compete in the European Championships in Weert- my first experience of travelling internationally in a team environment and my first big games. Preparation couldn’t have gone better and my coaches at HupHup had done all they could- the rest was down to the day.
Course familiarisation (swim, bike and run) took place Thursday morning for the Elite and Junior athletes (Girls race Friday/Boys Saturday)
The swim was in a lake and consisted of 2x750m laps for the Elites including a run up and re-entry after lap 1. 
The bike course was technical but flat with strong headwinds greeting athletes as they departed town where T2+finish were.
The run course consisted of 3x3.3km laps with 100m run into the finish.
Split transition T1 swim location/T2 finish line 
Race registration and briefing was on in the evening and is mandatory for all athletes- if you miss it you get a penalty and cannot choose start position. 
Friday- race day
A race start time of 18:00 was difficult to plan as generally we race early morning or latest 14:00 but it was the same for everyone and you just had to plan as best you could nutrition wise to avoid any upsets….I had a good sleep the night before the race and did an easy morning shuffle before breakfast. Bags were packed the night before along with final bike check so I didn’t have to worry race day. 
The two Junior girls- Ella Doherty and Maeve Gallagher- lined up to race at 16:00 so I was able to watch their swim start and get an idea of how the swim ‘might’ split. The two girls had the swims of their lives with Ella leading out of T1 and Meave hot on her heels. It was great to see and had me excited for my own race. 
17:50 Elite Women Athlete Introduction
I had a pick of start positions given I was numbered 24 out of 58 starters and I choose my own number. Once the gun went it was chaos into the water for the two lap swim which I got through with the minimal amount of kicks/punches I could. 
I had a clean T1 and mounted my bike to chase- narrowly avoiding two athletes who crashed ahead. The front pack was in sight and so in an ideal situation the chase pack sorts itself out early and works. There is ZERO point arriving to the run with fresh legs when you are in the chase pack- you’re only job is to chase. Myself and three other girls were the only ones taking turns in a pack that was filled with WTS and world cup podium athletes. We lost time to the large front pack and when I dismounted in T2 the gap had grown to 1min48s.
All I could think about was getting my shoes on ASAP and getting out to run. Triathlon Ireland had Michael Black and Stephen Delaney on the course and they were able to shout time gaps and positioning as well as my own coach Eanna who travelled for the event.
I ran at my pace and went as hard as I could for the 3 lap course. I passed a lot of athletes and without the team on the course I would have no idea of my placing. As I rounded the final turn for home (800m to go) someone shouted I was in 5th!!! I had an athlete on my shoulder and tried to find another gear to go before we got into a sprint finish on the blue carpet. She was able to respond to my surge on the home straight and once onto the carpet we both gave whatever was left. She took me just before the line and so I crossed in 6th position. I was destroyed at the finish line and initially upset I hadn’t had more to hold onto 5th. That’s racing. But wow 6th in my first games. The adrenaline rush kicked in straight away and any fatigue/aches/pains suddenly disappeared. I just wanted to find my coach and Stephen Delaney to see if they were happy (or disappointed I made a mistake in the swim and lost a position at the very end). The team was buzzing- phew. Recovery and chill with Ella and Maeve was all I had to worry about for the night.
I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone for all the messages sent through after the race and Triathlon Ireland (Stephen, Michael, Petra) who sorted everything for us athletes over the weekend. 
Also, big thank you to Gavin & Eanna who keep pushing me daily to be better and for getting me to the start line healthy, happy and in good form and all my HupHup teammates! ☺ 
Next up in the points chase is Kazakhstan World Cup June 15th.