molly russell

Ed Performance Team: The Challenge Championship, Slovakia

Molly Russell is one of our EdApp Performance Team athletes, who represents Great Britain in triathlon. We welcome her as she shares her road to targeting the Challenge World Championships in Slovakia in June.

Molly shares on of her experiences of being an extremely valued athlete in the EdApp Performance Team.

Molly Russell:

Samorin, Slovakia

I’m swimming hard and the race hasn’t even begun. The start line is getting further and further away from me and the other age group women as we’re on the receiving end of strong currents in the river Danube. Buoyed by the announcement that British pro Lucy Charles is leading the women’s race after a 24:19 swim, the klaxon goes and 1.9km of fun begins. I hop on to the feet of a group of girls and we battle our way upstream to the turnaround, before flying downstream to the swim exit in half the time. I’m hauled out of the water by an enthusiastic volunteer and hear my husband, Jonny, yell that I’m in 13th place overall. With a 90km cycle and 21.1km run to go, this gives me a huge boost and I race into transition.

It’s thanks to Jonny that I’m here in the first place. Last October he signed us up to Challenge Mallorca for some post-wedding relaxation and I got a qualification slot for the Championship. Based at Slovakia’s Olympic training centre, the race features a flat and fast bike course through beautiful countryside and a run along the river and past horse statues galore at the equestrian centre.  As a horse lover this seemed serendipitous. What more could I want from a triathlon?

In transition, I ditch my wetsuit and grab my bike, delighted to be back on dry land and excited to hit the road. The bike course immediately lives up to its reputation. With smooth surfaces and very little wind, I soon hit 40km/h. There are a few turns on the outskirts of the town of Samorin and then I’m onto the main section of the course. 40km of flat, straight roads lie ahead. It’s eerily quiet. Challenge enforce a 20m drafting rule which means that athletes are few and far between and, when you do encounter one, overtaking requires quite a surge to get through the draft zone in time. I’m used to racing behind the age group men and having to overtake them on the swim and negotiate their dropped bottles and gels on the bike. Challenge set the women off first and it is an utter treat to ride on clear roads.

The silence is broken by the motorbikes ahead of the pro men returning from their bike leg. They’ve ridden 90km in two hours and the pro women aren’t far behind. Inspired, I put my foot down and reach the turnaround point after 1hr15. I know that my coach Chris is tracking and will be pleased. On the way back the winds pick up, the temperature rises and my neck and shoulders start to ache. I have a good bike set up but the straight roads mean that there is no respite from the TT position and I sacrifice some speed to stretch out ahead of the run. As I finish my last RaceFood bar bar and have the last sip from my water bottle I’m relieved to see the church spires of Samorin ahead and start mentally preparing for the half marathon.

I’m in 15th place overall after a 2hr38 bike split and race through transition. Out of the wind it’s feeling really hot and I will my legs to get moving as I head on to the run. The course twists and turns along sand, grass and tarmac and is packed full of cheering spectators and volunteers. I love running, it’s my strongest of the three disciplines and in a triathlon this means that I get to save the best until last. However, after 1.5km my chest starts to feel heavy and my airways feel tight. I’ve had exercise-induced asthma in the past and tell myself to stay calm, that it’ll pass, just slow down a bit and puff on your inhaler, but soon I’m walking and trying not to gasp. Not ideal. After 3km I half-collapse onto an unfortunate spectator who happens to be wearing the same colour tshirt as the volunteers. I proffer my inhaler and croak that it’s not working. He kindly and selflessly sprints to get a medic and I am soon surrounded by concerned Slovakians and being injected with corticosteroids and fluids. Thirty minutes later, I feel better. I give them my heartfelt thanks and wander back onto the run course to pick up where I left off.

I have done one sprint, eight Olympic and now three middle distance triathlons and never had a DNF. Having trained like a monster and travelled all the way to Slovakia, I really want that medal. I begin to walk / jog the remaining 18km torturously slowly to avoid raising my heart or breathing rate. It’s not what I planned but there is a silver lining. I take in the beautiful scenery and thank every single smiley volunteer. I take my time through the aid stations and feast on a smorgasbord of water, cola, iso, banana, iso, cola, water. I chat to other competitors including an incredibly inspirational Kiwi man who took up triathlon aged 55 after his dear friend died of a heart attack, and who has subsequently done 30 iron distance races. I soak up the atmosphere.

Two hours later, I complete the final lap and hit the red carpet. I am an exhausted, wheezy mess with an IV sticking out of my left arm but my smile is enormous. You don’t need a personal best, top ten or podium to find new limits and I’m so proud to have finished. Despite it all, it’s a perfect race and I hope to be back.

At EdApp, we believe that better learning means better performance. Learn more about our EdApp Performance Team here!

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