As she was climbing the walls at the age of two, Zoe Thomas’ parents saw it fit to channel her extra energy into gymnastics.
After falling in love with competition and 14 years of competitive gymnastics, swimming, track and cross country running, Zoe took the seemingly natural step into triathlon at 16.
Over the last six years, Zoe has gained national podiums, under 23 national representation and a British Universities title.
We caught up with Zoe after she took part in the U23 European Triathlons Championships Bulgas, Bulgaria. Here’s what she had to say about the race:
I had a truly fantastic weekend at the European under 23 championships, with one of the best teams I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Every individual competing for team GB in Bulgaria gave off a true feeling of togetherness and a strong team atmosphere, which is something I do not experience too often in the individual sport of triathlon.
Having such a fantastic group made the approach to the race much easier, keeping me relaxed before go time on Saturday morning at 11:30am.
It was hot, the type of hot that we never experience in South Wales – Muggy, oppressive, and to be honest just totally unpleasantly, uncomfortably hot hot hot. This meant that the race was reduced to half the distance in sprint form. This disappointed me greatly but was one of those things that happens before races and has to be dealt with.
So, the H20 was flowing, with umpteen bottles of water consumed between the 7 of us, we were truly hydrated and ready to rock.
At the start, we were lined up and introduced one by one to chose our start position, I was lucky enough to find myself only one position away from our own Sophie Coldwell who can always be relied upon to be one of the strongest swimmers in any field.
I had a great start, my South Wales beachie pedigree paying off, and managed to have probably the best 200m of swimming of my life where I found Sophie’s fast feet and hung on for dear life almost to the first turn around buoy. I lost a few positions in the next 500m but finished the swim only 20seconds off Soph in the lead so was over the moon with making a quality front pack. I’ve certainly learned just how important it is to commit right from the start of a swim!
After exiting the choppy Black Sea, we had to ascend 77 sanity-sapping steps before reaching the first transition. This, combined with the initial part of the run out on dry sand, was a recipe for seriously sore legs before even catching a glimpse of my bike.
Having lost a small bit of time on what felt like the stairway to heaven, I had to attack straight out of T1 to ensure my position in the front pack was solidified. Despite energy-sapped thighs, I managed to achieve this pretty swiftly. I could then see Sophie about 10seconds up the road with a Hungarian for company. I sat in and recovered for a few seconds and decided this was a big chance for us both, and a small breakaway was something we’d hoped for in a pre-race plan. So I attempted a wide, solo attack on the main bunch, hoping to give Soph a hand up front and get ourselves away from some strong runners.
Unfortunately this wasn’t to be, as my little legs wouldn’t carry me far enough to make the duo, and eventually I sank back into the bunch and rolled along.
Sophie was pulled back, and the bike became a 20-strong, motivation-less roll around that could easily have passed for an easy group ride. Apart from several very twitch moments, I can actually say I was bored in a race, and looking forward to the bike leg ending for probably the first time in my triathlon life.
I approached the run-in to T2 at the front of the pack, hoping to hold my position. Unfortunately, the now 43 riders in our Saturday stroll decided they all wanted to be in the front, and I became probably the 35th person to cross the dismount line and was caught behind total carnage as bikes and bodies flew everywhere.
I tried, through T2, to get myself in a better position – but it was not to be and I was still among the back markers heading out onto the run with a significant deficit on the leaders and the top 10. I kept my focus and picked off stragglers in front of me eventually finishing the run in a less-than-satisfying 20th position and for the first time ever, losing the number game and not getting anywhere near my start number of 16 – absolutely not what I had travelled to Bulgaria for.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I’ve learnt a lot of lessons from this race which I will take forward to my next race at Holten ETU cup and beyond. I can certainly take a huge amount of confidence from a step forward in my swimming ability, and I’m learning more about racing triathlon in higher standard competition with every race I start.
No rest for the wicked though, as we had a great relay team out for the Sunday, I led the team off followed by Chris Perham, Sophie Coldwell and Morgan Davies. We had an exciting tussle with the Italians and brought home the silver medal, despite having to serve a penalty. Podiums are always great fun and resulted in a post-race Red Bull and champagne bath which put a massive smile back on my face after the disappointment of Saturday.
As I mentioned earlier, my next race will be Holten ETU cup on the 2nd July, I will continue to race around Europe through July and August and will see where this takes me for the end of the season. For now, it’s back to the grind in not-so-sunny-South Wales, for what’s now, allegedly, official summer time!?
Ciao for now.