Arlene wins silver at aquathlon world champs

GTC athlete Arlene Lewis was delighted to take the silver medal in the 2019 Pontevedra World Age Group Aquathlon Championships (F45-49) earlier this month.

If you were not aware, to qualify for the ITU Aquathlon World Championships, applicants had to supply evidence of their best aquathlon or triathlon performance at an event achieved between July 2017 and the final registration deadline of 21st December 2018.

If an age group becomes oversubscribed with eligible athletes then results achieved in the previous 12 months will supersede older results.

To be eligible for a qualifying place all athletes will be required to have completed their nominated race within 115% of the winner of their age group, although this does not guarantee you a place.

With world and European triathlon championships, there are qualifying races for each country.

The 2019 Pontevedra World Age Group Aquathlon Championships comprised a 1km swim and a 5km run.

Arlene with her dad and husband.

Arlene’s world aquathlon report

My first experience representing GB at Aquathlon was Ibiza 2018. I had raced age group triathlon for GB and I thought aquathlon could be fun – and a lot easier without the bike.

To be considered for qualification at the Pontevedra aquathlon, I submitted my Ibiza race time and my race at The Bikeless Beastie. I then received that fabulous email saying I was in.

My dad was in right from the start, with my husband needing some gentle coaxing to take time off for a wee trip to Spain. And from then it was a case of focusing on the hard work.

Pre-race nerves

In the lead up to the race I was super tense. I made numerous visits to Achilles Heel for massage and I was constantly bonding with my foam roller.

The day before the race we went to the Expo. I was struggling to let myself enjoy the experience and I was keen to get to the swim familiarisation, which I usually see as an excuse to get more open water swimming in.

There has been a lot of talk about water temperature (14C) and I struggle with the cold but the sun was out and air temperature was around 22C so I was optimistic. My husband Brendan and I had been in Loch Lomond the previous week at 9 degrees, from which I took comfort.

The swim familiarisation was fine and I wore a neoprene hat, but then I spent the next 24 hours wishing I had tested the water without it. I find that pre-race nerves play havoc with my mind!

Coming out the swim recce, my wetsuit got stuck on my watch, which prompted drastic action. I decided not to wear the watch for racing.

I found the 24 hours before the race was a state of limbo. I tried to behave normally and I looked for any distraction, but I kept slipping back into pre-race nerves mode. My poor support crew tried to please me and talked away about any subject they could think of.

The race was in the afternoon, which makes fuelling easier but also gives more time to go over anything and everything that could go wrong.

After a pre-race coffee and chocolate muffin, and a pep talk from my dad, my brain finally seemed to switch.

Set for racing

Aquathlon is my favourite thing. It’s just swimming and running. I kept telling myself: “It can’t be that hard. The sun’s out. Stop this stressing and just enjoy.”

The swim

In the water I saw a space and secured a good start position. From then on there was nothing else in my mind other than the race; no distractions.

Because of the current, the swim seemed a bit messy with a lot of cross crossing. I tried to hang on to a girl’s feet and ended up being kicked in the eye, but it was worth a shot.

It was so hard to tell how you were racing. The wave before us was five minutes ahead and it all became a big mixing pot once in the river. It was really a case of swimming hard and watching out for others.

From the turn, I kept thinking am I going hard enough? I pushed more and just I decided I would deal with the run when I got to it.

In and out of transition

Glad to get my wetsuit off, transition was a controlled affair. I was surprised to see my target competitor still in transition and I heard Brendan shout: “You’re smashing it.”  I left transition thinking: “It’s going ok.”

The run

On the run I soon caught up with my target and passed her. I thought: “That’s good but let’s keep chasing them down.”

I tried to pick up run speed while keeping my shoulders relaxed and I could hear my dad shouting: “Going well.”

Into the second lap it was warm and so I threw water over my head. Checking calves of the other competitors for their age groups, I become focused on ticking them off. I didn’t know who was in front of me but I thought: “Probably a few Americans!”

At the last turn it was only 3.55k to go. I focused on holding the effort until the blue carpet, then I just put it all out there.  With 300m to go, an F45-er danced past and I tried to go with her but I was trying to dodge two others and I was breaking.

As I reached the finish leg the announcer shouted a new world champ in F45 Richardson. She was 50m in front of me with two others who were not F45. Was it possible? I must be silver…

In the finish area I was waiting and wondering how do I find out? Why has he not announced? Is it possible? It must be, but is it?

Arlene is delighted with her silver place.

Silver, or not?

I met Brendan, who had come to same conclusion. I must be second. But the results took ages and I started to doubt it.  Had I put my wetsuit in the box, was I due a penalty, why was there a delay with  results?

Dad and Brendan needed beer. I think they had raced every metre with me and I tried to cool down . I did anything to pass the time until we got results…

I tried to convince myself it didn’t matter. I was happy with my race. I had raced hard, given everything. But, oh, please let it be true.

I gave in and found dad and Brendan at the bar looking confused at the results on their phones.

They were looking in the wrong place. I scrolled further to my category age F45 to 49.

I had done it.

We had done it!

Dreams of a podium

Honestly, I had dreamed of a medal. I think you have to imagine yourself somewhere if you are going to get there. I think you have to believe.

I started to doubt in the two weeks leading up to the race and I let the dream slip away. But on race day, I thought: “Why not? I’ve done the solid winter training and I’m as good as anyone out there.”

Thoughts on GB racing

The more I race GB, the more I enjoy the level of completion, the standard of event, the friendliness and fun competition, the opportunity to race against different nationalities and, for anyone who knows me well, the opportunity to swim and race in the sun.

If you can take family with you it’s a fantastic experience and a great reward for hard training and long suffering support crews.

When I raced the European Championships in Ibiza in 2018 I spent ages analysing the results (as we do). I was amazed by how fast the girls swim. I said to Crawford, Project3, they were 2.30mins ahead of me and I need to change that. And he did.

At his suggestion, I joined GTC in November, slipping quietly into the Tuesday upper master lane. Thank you to the guys in that lane. You know who you are and I look forward to smashing out some more Tuesday swims through the year.

Thank you to Crawford P3 and all the P3ers who understatedly led me to this point, an age group medallist! Thank you for the opportunity. And to Brendan who has done everything to make this possible for me. He put up with training, screaming, stretching, crying and even joined me at Wednesday morning P3 circuits and Loch Lomond swims.

If you are thinking about age group, I’d say, get out there, do it and enjoy the journey.

Also read: Amy takes gold in aquathlon world champs.

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