First race of the season. Check.
Olympic year. Check.
Table mountain in the background. Check.
Genuine, if not slightly unnecessary, fear of being eaten by sharks whilst dressed as a seal. Check.
That's probably where the similarities end, because fortunately, the day's played out very differently.
The first occasion was in February 2012. An early season Continental Cup. I was on the points chase. Not an Olympic points chase. Far from it. I just wanted enough points to maybe, just maybe, get one of those elusive World Series starts. So shiny and exciting in all their blue carpeted glory. I had two or three rather dismal attempts the season before on the big stage, most of which had ended with DNF's for one reason or another. Lapped athlete being an almost reoccurring theme. Undeterred however, I was determined to try again, my eyes set on the iconic chase around the Sydney Opera House. Apparently completely ignorant to the lack of promise or potential I had displayed in any races up to that point.
The day did not get off to the best start. A good luck text 60minutes before race KO roused me from an unusually deep, pre race sleep; I'd managed to snooze through an alarm that hadn't even accounted for the one hour time difference in the first place. Slightly panicked I jumped out of bed and frantically dashed around the room collecting my things. The only thing I could find to eat was a fairly squashed slice of banana cake that I'd probably squirreled away from the BA snack bar during my flight a day or so earlier.
Bed to athlete lounge in 15 minutes...must be some sort of ITU record?! I'm claiming it anyway.
Unsurprisingly the race didn't go much better. It got off to an equally dyer start and ended with me being tripped mid run, performing some overly elaborate tumble, jumping up and running in the opposite direction, only to be completely confused when an equally confused Dutch athlete rounded the corner into me. I managed to eventually find my way to the finish line and spent the rest of my stay nursing a concussion and a dented sense of pride in the shadows of Table mountain.
Fast forward 4 years and I'm sat atop of afore mentioned mountain, basking in its sunshine instead of sulking at its foot, marveling at the age old adage "what a difference 4 years makes". Ok so no one ever remarks at the wondrous changes that occur in 4 years. 4 years is actually a pretty long time to instrument some significant changes. Rome wasn't built in a day, but I bet they made some seriously straight inroads into changing its skyline over the course of a few years.
So what was different?
Thankfully the start, middle and end all played out to a completely different tune.
I woke up in ample time and ate a substantial breakfast.
I nearly had enough time to get bored in the athlete lounge.
I encountered a slight hiccup when an official decided he'd try and hurdle me in the pre race line up but instead ended up kneeing me in the head. Luckily I could laugh this one off.
I managed to stay upright the entire race and didn't once run in the opposite direction to everyone else.
I won my first World Series race in almost 3years.
So much has happened in the time between those two Cape Town races. Yet the time has genuinely flown. It feels like only last year I was stood cheering from the sidelines of London 2012, yet here I am now, a whole Olympic cycle later, preparing to compete in the Games myself.
So what's really different? Not a lot. I'm still the same athlete and the same person. I just found a good road and made decent headway in evolving my own skyline. And depending on how you look at it, a lifetime away or just around the corner, 4 years is just about enough time to make the unattainable, attainable and seemingly elusive dreams a reality.
|'Enjoying' the view from the top. I'm actually pretty terrible with heights and definitely posing rather tentatively!|
|I do enjoy the new 'Pano' function on the iPhone...|
|Getting the work done on the bike.|
Photo credit: Delly Carr
Photo credit: Delly Carr