Rob Cogings - Race Reports
Euro Triathlon Sprint Finals Kitzbhuel Austria
My target for 2013 was to qualify for the Sprint distance triathlon at the World Championships in London. The competition was intense with 131 men registered in the 40-44 age group for the 24 places. I did the 3 qualifying races but just missed out. However, I also raced at Rother Valley in June 2013, which was a Euro Sprint Qualifier for 2014. 60 or so men in my age group had registered and after the three qualifying races, I was lying in 22nd spot, with 20 places available. By February 2014, two of the automatic qualifiers above me had dropped out and so I got a roll down spot.
I’d realised my ambition of getting a GB tri suit and also fulfilled a promise to my sister who died early in 2013.
Working with my coach, Matt Sanderson, I stuck to my programme in 2014 with five warm up races planned between Feb and the end of May was geared to the June 20th race date. During late May and June I also had weekly physio sessions to keep on top of and prevent any injuries.
Never having raced abroad I felt very nervous, but the camaraderie between the GB team is fantastic. There were 300 people in both the sprint and olympic teams, which meant everywhere you went there was always someone with some GB kit on.
The race centred around a lake which on the practice swim was very comfortable without a wetsuit but overnight rain before the race brought the temperature down to a point where everyone in my wave wore their wetsuit. I was able to ride the bike course 2 days before the race but only on a hired mountain bike as I missed the window to pick up my bike. Whilst the scenery on the bike course was incredible, the single track roads, which although were in perfect condition, were nonetheless single track roads! On several corners crash mats had been roped to the trees!
The swim went well, with only 60 or so in the wave and I got a decent start on the 1 lap course. I did however catch my shin on the exit ramp, again something else you don’t get to practice. Transition was set up on a floating plastic temporary floor due to the conservation area status of that part of the lake area. This meant a tricky run in to transition and watching the earlier waves highlighted the very official handling of the race by the referees. I saw a yellow card given to one junior athlete for not putting their wetsuit in the box provided.
The bike went well too, although I was very nervous on the descents with the tight corners and this meant I lost around 3 mins on my time. But I managed to stay on the bike and still felt fresh enough for the run. This was a relatively flat run which had a final straight about a mile long to the finish. Seeing competitors ahead of me gave me a real boost to push on and I caught a German and Estonian before the end. Wearing a GB tri-suit and racing abroad is the biggest sporting achievement of my life and I was so proud to represent my country. The finishing line was being filmed and streamed live on utube and it was great to find out later that my brother saw me finish.
I finished 43rd out of 61 in 1hr 18mins. This was a bit further down the order than I hoped for but in hindsight having taken up triathlon only 4 years ago, racing in the European finals and completing the course safely I’m very very happy.
World Cross Triathlon Championships Zittau, Germany, August 2014
Cross Triathlon is my favourite form of multisport racing and when I saw that the World Championships were in Germany I really wanted to give it a go. There are no specific qualifying events for Cross Tri, athletes just need to submit a performance through the BTF website. I’d competed at the Tameside XL Triathlon for the last couple of years, and had a reasonable performance to submit from the 2013 race, which was accepted.
I settled on driving to Zittau which meant a 1900 mile round trip, so satnav in hand I made the long trip to the German/Czech/Polish border. Camping near the race venue worked out to be a great option with athletes from many countries on the same site. The GB Team was a lot smaller than in Austria but the camaraderie was just as strong. I joined up with the team Captain and the RAF Tri Team captain, for a practice of 37km bike course.
The swim start was a run in from the beach, 1 lap of 750m, a short run along the beach and then another lap. I’d practised the run in and out several times but this was one of the hardest swims I’d yet encountered in triathlon. I swallowed a fair bit of water and got bumped about in the melee.
Between the practise ride and race day there had been quite a bit of rainfall making for what felt like a completely different bike course. Halfway round I just wanted to finish without any injuries or mechanical problems. I was getting completely covered in mud and spray from the wheels and other riders. Visibility was poor and I kept getting mud in my eyes. At the highest point of the course I fell off skidding 20m on a steep grass downhill section. At the exit from transition were two huge buckets of wet sponges. I grabbed two on the way past to wipe the mud from my eyes and in so doing completely missed a 2 foot deep drainage gulley. I fell on my knees in front of several hundred spectators!
As off road routes go the run wasn’t too hilly although there were several sections that my tired legs struggled with. Athletes from different age groups were passing me but I caught up with a Team GB colleague in my age group and after a brief chat decided to push on, hoping not finish the last Brit in my age group. I caught a few others too but getting very tired I could hear the music and people at the finish line. ‘Keep going’ I told myself over and over again. In the last 50meters I had to scale the final obstacle some hay bales and this time managed a small jump to clear the drainage gully. Fortunately there was no one to try and outsprint in the last 20 metres and I crossed the line on a real high.
The finishing tent was like an oasis, trays of different cakes, fruit, hot food and row upon row of drinks, including alcohol free beer. It’s fair to say I spent quite a bit of time replacing the 3000 calories used up during the race. I checked my time 3hrs 54mins 41s. Off road triathlons are a very different form of racing but great fun. I will definitely be looking to add more off road races to my race calendar.
Competition for the various GB Teams is tough, but there are lots of different opportunities across the multisport disciplines. It was surprising how many of the automatic qualifiers in my age group didn’t take up their place on the team. This meant that several more men below me on the list also got a roll down spot. So give it a go, you never know what might happen.
Thanks to DTC for the financial help with race fees and travel costs and thanks to my coach Matt Sanderson, Physio Clare Sanderson and family and friends for believing in me.
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