Since I announced that I have qualified to race for Team GB at the Age Group European Championships, a few people have asked me to explain more about the qualification process.
I’ve always tried to share the message that “if I can do this, so can you” on my blog and social media. I’ve gone from being someone who was very unfit and inactive, to someone who will be racing in a Team GB trisuit next summer- it really blows my mind to have achieved this!
As Club Captain for Havering Tri, one of my roles and responsibilities is to understand Team GB qualification, so that I can guide our club members if they are interested in trying to qualify. I realised that I didn’t actually understand the process myself, so I decided to read up on it, partly out of curiosity and partly to be able to fulfil my role as Club Captain.
Firstly, you need to be a member of your home nation association- I’ve been a member of Triathlon England since 2014 so that part is taken care of.
I learned that the qualification process is different depending on the distance of event you want to qualify for:
Sprint and Standard Triathlon and Duathlon Championships– there are a set of specific qualification races for each Championship event. You are required to qualify via one of these races.
Middle, Long, Cross, Winter, Aquabike and Aquathlon Championships- you are required to submit your best past race performance that meets certain criteria. You need to supply evidence of your finishing time, the winning time of the athlete in your age group and a link to the race result website for that event.
I’ve been focused on 70.3 rather than shorter races this year, so I took a look at the criteria for the middle-distance triathlon. Athletes are required to have completed their nominated race within 115% of the winner of their age group. Looking at my result from the Lakesman Half, the winner of my age group finished in 5:16:20 and I finished in 6:10:23, which means I was 117% of her time. I was quite surprised at how close I was to being within the required range and started wondering if it would actually be possible.
Next I looked at the requirements for the middle-distance aquabike. An aquabike is essentially a triathlon without the run, so it’s a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56 mile bike. A few people have asked me if it’s some sort of pedalo race. Although that sounds fun, I’m not sure they have a European Championship for pedalo racing! Running is not my strongest discipline, so an aquabike event should actually suit me.
The required range to qualify for the aquabike is a bit broader- 120% of the winner of your age group… so it meant my time was good enough to try and qualify.
The nominated race needs to have had a minimum distance of a 1500m swim and a 50 mile bike, with chip-timing to show evidence of your times. The results also need to be displayed in 5 year age bands (eg: Female 35-39), so although I came 5th female overall at the Brutal Extreme Triathlon, I couldn’t use this result as it was not broken down into age categories.
There are 20 slots per age group, and British Triathlon try to allocate each slot in the first round of entries for this race (mid-November). If there are still slots available, then there are two more deadlines in January and February.
I double-checked my maths and texted my coach. I felt like it was ridiculous to even consider registering and wanted his assurance that it wasn’t completely stupid. He told me to go for it, so I paid my £10, submitted my results and registered my intent to qualify.
I registered at the end of September ahead of the deadline in mid-November, so it was a waiting game to find out if I’d qualified. I’m not the most patient person- those weeks really dragged by while I waited for the news. I’m also terrible at keeping secrets, so although I’d intended to keep it quiet, as the deadline approached, I started mentioning it to more and more people.
By the end of November, a Q1 had appeared next to my name on the British Triathlon website meaning that I’d qualified in the first round of entries. A few weeks later I got an email confirming that I was in Team GB, so I just needed to pay my race entry, book flights and accommodation. It felt very surreal. I ‘m convinced I’m not fast enough, not fit enough and not good enough to be at a European Championships, but somehow I have actually qualified.
The race is on 28th June 2020 in Walchsee, Austria- the venue looks absolutely stunning with the swim in a crystal clear lake and bike route through foothills of the Kaisergebirge mountain range. It will be my first time racing abroad and it’s going to be at a European Championship! My parents are coming out to support, so there is that added pressure.
My training plan starts on 1st January and I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine and building up my fitness, to perform as well as I can in Austria. Even if I come last, I can still say I’ve raced at the European Champs!
Hopefully that explains the qualification process- it really is as simple as submitting a qualifying time from a race which meets the criteria. When I raced the Lakesman Half back in June, I aimed to get a PB but I never knew I’d actually be using that time to qualify for a championship. If it’s possible for me, then it’s possible for anyone!