We are extremely proud to have yet another international athlete within our school. Pastoral teacher Mrs Fagan has recently returned from the World Triathlon Championships in Mexico, where she put in an outstanding performance to finish 14th in her age group.
Although primarily a successful runner, Mrs Fagan only become seriously involved in Triathlon in recent years. Last autumn, she joined a triathlon training squad based in Edinburgh in which the collective goal of members is to represent Team GB. However, in order to balance her sport, work and family commitments she trained as a ‘satellite member’ – joining the squad once a week and completing the rest of the intensive sessions herself.
At the start of the season, competing internationally seemed a distant, long term target but at the beginning of June Mrs Fagan travelled to Strathclyde for a European Championship qualifier and a World Championship qualifier – back to back – with the aim of gaining race experience. On the Saturday, exceeding all her own expectations, she earnt a place at the Euros, which will take place next year in Dusseldorf, Germany. With limited time for any relaxation or recovery, she had amazing success again on the Sunday with a podium finish and second qualification!
Once the celebrations from this incredible weekend were over, it was straight back to the pool/ bike/ turbo trainer to put every effort into training for the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final (Sprint Distance) in Mexico. Triathlon is never an event for the faint hearted, but competing in the severe humidity and heat of Mexico would add another gruelling factor to the race. Mrs Fagan, along with three other Edinburgh squad members who had qualified, wore many layers and compression tights when training through the summer. They completed three sessions in a heat chamber, where the humidity was pushed up to 90%.
Before long, with vaccines complete and the Team GB tri-suit packed, she was getting on the first of three planes; final destination Mexico. The race took place in Cozumel, a stunning island in the Caribbean Sea, off the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula … think clear blue ocean, white sands, palm trees and scuba divers. The whole island became a ‘Triathlon Village’, creating an amazing atmosphere. 5000 athletes had arrived to compete in a variety of distances and age groups, ranging from a ‘Kids 6-7 Event’ to ‘Aquathlon U23 Championships’ to the ‘Elite Men World Grand Final’.
With three days to go, Mrs Fagan and her team members were able to acclimatise to the conditions and get a feel for the course. They had a splash in the 28°C water – this was the first time they could swim the 750m distance without need for a wetsuit. Their first impression of the 20 km cycle route was that it was very tight and technical, and none of them wanted to dwell too much on the with the final 5km run in killer heat. However, the excitement and feeling of privilege for this once in a lifetime opportunity balanced out most of the nerves. After all the hard work to get there, the aim had to be to enjoy it – Mrs Fagan’s only target was “to not come last!”
Race day began at 5.30 – the events had to start early to avoid the peak midday temperatures. Everyone was setting up for their transitions in darkness, then was a period of waiting around nervously. Finally, they were diving off into the turquoise water. As expected, the swim was rough and tight for space but fine overall. From the water, everyone ran a 900m transition distance to reach their bikes. Mrs Fagan went straight into a group, consisting of 4 Mexicans, an American and another Brit. Despite having to take the lead for much of the way, this was the most exciting and enjoyable section and passed quickly. Then came the run – a promising 400m start was followed by the unpleasant effects of overheating; heavy, unresponsive legs with increased muscle fatigue. Thankfully, the crowds gave constant roaring support all along the route, encouraging the athletes to give it everything they had. The fact that she had no idea how competitive her performance had been when running made crossing the finish line even better. Along with the team members, she cooled off in a giant, icy pool – delighted and relieved.
Finally able to relax after months of build up to the race, the GB team celebrated in style on the beautiful island. The Brownlee brothers joined them for an evening, then they cheered them on through their dramatic finish on the Sunday. Like the rest of us watching at home, they were shocked but inspired by the sportsmanship shown by Alistair and they felt lucky to witness what has become an iconic moment in sport.