"It's been nine months since I last raced and last week I finally ended that very long stretch with two races in seven days. A very chilly Monday night Aquathon in Howth, Dublin, to blow some of the cobwebs off and prepare me for the madness of a Sunday sprint race in Dunkerque, France.
I race for a French team like most other guys and girls that race ITU. The French have a professional league with three divisions and each year there is promotion and relegation. It's a five race series and Divison One is pretty much like an ITU World Series race – it has the same field with a few extras thrown in. So when you race you are racing for the team. There are five guys on a team and three to score; it's all about the team. We had quite the international team last week; an Aussie, an Italian, a Russian a Frenchman and myself. We are Team Tri Bale de Somme and we didn't go so well last week – 13th of 16 teams. The manager was not so happy, kicking water bottles like a football manager in the team van.
The Monday night Howth Aquathon had prepared me for the cold, but nothing could prepare me for the speed in Dunkerque. Going into a race where most guys have 5-6 races under their belt already is hard, when it is a race of this standard it is very hard. I had to start somewhere and see where I was at. Dunkerque is known as a brutal race. I knew it was coming and how hard I thought it would be, but it was still a shock and a violent experience; carnage and bodies everywhere, and I ended up exiting the swim too far down the field which is where I would stay for the day, chasing in the third pack.
Perhaps looking back I could have eased myself into the season a little more tactfully. My race wasn't so good; 57th of 88 starters, I say not so good but when I look for the positives I can see quite a few. I knew going over it would be a very hard race; I was looking for a marker to see where I am at. I have got it – I'm fit but so far away from race fitness. It is nice to know I can step up to a race at that level and still compete to a degree. I was disappointed I didn't make more of my swim and ended up in the third pack.
Warm up kids, warm up is crucial at this level of racing if you want to perform. I didn't do a good enough warm up and when the gun went and the proverbial hit the fan I wasn't able to go that deep without putting myself so far into the red there was no coming back.
It was great to be racing again and to catch up with old friends on the circuit. I think I was the most relaxed I ever was for a race as well, which is a big change for me – usually I would be a lot more nervous – but I have learned to deal with that side of racing now and control those emotions and use them in a positive way.
It is back to normal training with me for the next few weeks before I hit a few domestic races. Before I do that I have a training camp with Gavin Noble in Limerick, yes glamorous and sunny Limerick. Why, you might ask? Well it has an altitude house and that is where I'll be living and training for the next few weeks before the next training camp in Spain at the end of June.