Triathlon: Stephen Houghton update post World Champs

By Stephen Houghton

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Holla from Playa Del Carmen Mexico!

It has been a few days now since the completion of the ITU World champs in Cozumel. It's now time for Carla and I to kick back and relax and soak up some of the tourist attractions that this part of the world has to offer and for me to take a few days off training (maybe).

Race week was full of action right from the start with the opening ceremony welcoming all the competing countries parading down the main street. It was full of festivities and of course a lot of happy and proud athletes from around the world who were wonderfully cheered on by the Mexican crowds.

I must start by saying what a fantastic team of people Carla and I got to spend the week with. Everyone has a great story about their triathlon adventures and challenges. I still can't believe how humble and supportive every competitive athlete can be towards each other - it is truly a very special and unique environment to be in.

My goal was to have a good swim and try to get a PB for both the swim distances. I know it takes individual dedication to achieve this and a lot of hard pool sessions over the winter.

However, without my swim coach, Tracey Wales and her clever swim plans and technical skills training. I would never be where I am now swimming 1:39 min/100m - especially without a wetsuit! It's hard to believe that time when under 4 years ago I could barely swim 50 metres without having to stop for a 5-minute rest. The rest of the plan was to have a solid bike ride and survive the heat of the run the best I can and the result will be what it is.

Most of you will be aware of the weather conditions on race day after seeing the men's final and the Brownlee Brothers as they came into the last 500 metres. Those effects were being experienced by many athletes at various points on the run course throughout the week. I think this was the most concerning and anxious part of the race for myself and others.

However, I am thankful I went into the race knowing I was in good run shape and knew it would be just a matter of survival and keeping the core body temperature down and accept that my run time wasn't going to be flash. There were a number of competitors collapsing on the run course so I knew I had to sacrifice time and a few positions in the field to finish the way I did.

I must take my hat off to several of the NZ athletes that performed amazingly on the run with some blistering pace efforts and PB achievements for some. The heat was one big mountain to climb and so it was fantastic to see some NZ athletes knock that off.

There are many positive things I can take from this World Champs event. I have realised that being intimidated by incredibly fit and strong looking competitors in your age group means nothing. I saw many crumble with the conditions of the swim and the run. Therefore, it is important to trust in your training and the support network that got you there. Most of all, your actions during the race are what you have control of and that's what makes this sport so challenging and exciting.


The two defining moments during the race happened in the swim and the run. The swim had currents that were so strong that some people had to be pulled from the course and when I realised I was catching people that started two to three waves ahead of me, I appreciated how difficult it must have been for them. I had a little chuckle to myself and started talking in my head to Tracey (my swim coach), thanking her for the two months of long endurance swim sets. For the first time ever, I got excited about the current challenges and dug it in and knowing I was going to have no trouble ploughing my way through was very satisfying.

The second moment was on the run leg. My coach, Jeff Magrath (JME) often talks about that comfortable feeling of discomfort and it has always bugged me as I knew I had never gone there (partly because it's mentally hard to push yourself to that point). But in the case of the standard run I did find that zone and I didn't die, collapse or hurt myself. The confidence it has given me is exciting for the up and coming Sovereign Tri Series. Jeff, also said to remember that he would be right there with me on my shoulder and yes, I found myself talking to him at times (anyone watching would have thought I was loco).

I've been asked, "did you achieve your goals?" The short answer is, Yes! There have been some very pleasing achievements from this experience that surprised me. I'm now working on some new goals for the upcoming Sovereign Tri series in New Zealand that I'm looking forward to.

Wins in Summary
• PB swim without a wetsuit
• Equalled my PB on the bike
• Improved 30 placings in age group world rankings

- NZ Herald

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