If you had said to me at the start of the year that I would successfully back up two ‘doubles’ this year I am not sure I would have believed you! Nevertheless, I have and I am delighted to have finished the season on a high. Here is how the first ‘double went down ……. And this is how the last two weeks happened:
Ironman 70.3 World Championships
Racing in the USA meant we aimed to arrive in Chattanooga on the Tuesday, which would give me plenty of time to get acclimatized and adjusted to the time zone. As with many best-laid plans, they don’t always come off! Cue a storm in Atlanta on Tuesday night and a flight delayed until Wednesday morning. When we finally arrived in Chattanooga we got to the hotel and I got on with the final hard sessions before race day. I always do the same bike and run sessions 4 days before an event. The bike session is a big gear session and the run is a speed work session. I feel like they are a perfect primer before some very easy days leading into the race. The rest of the build up to race day was no different to any other. We drove the bike course, registered, sorted my race equipment out and rested as much as possible.
I was feeling pretty nervous and I had been in the build up week too to be honest. The unknown, the uncertainty and the doubt were creeping in. Nevertheless I just stuck to my normal race preparation. I racked my bike first thing and then went away from the transition area to do my own thing. I always find it helpful to warm up away from the nervous energy that surrounds transition. It helps me to not think too much about the race until I really need to. Before I knew it I was warming up in the water and being called to the start line.
My first experience of a dive swim start and most importantly I didn’t lose my goggles and managed to get into my stroke pretty quickly. I built into the swim and found myself in a small group with swimmers I was pleased to be swimming with. I also managed to accelerate around the top turn buoy to ensure I had a good line in and out of it. This was a great start to my race and I came out the swim at the front of that group and confident I could build on this solid start of coming out the water in about 22nd.
You only have so many matches to burn in an Ironman 70.3 event and choosing when to burn them is an important lesson to learn. I love a good climb and set about the bike course with real intensity. There was a short, sharp hill before the main climb and I decided to over take an athlete here, which was definitely a match burnt. Despite going on to pass three or four more athletes up the climb, I lost touch with a few of the other athletes who I had been with on the swim and also got passed by one other athlete. Nevertheless it was a good start to the bike and my main aim was to keep fuelling, keep pushing hard and try to catch as many athletes as I could. The descent on the bike was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the wide-open road and the opportunity to really go for it. The headwind on the way back towards town was less fun and a really tough section of the course. I finished the bike in about 16th and was with two other athletes coming out of transition onto the run.
The run was hilly and I choose to build into the course and try to consolidate on the hills and attack the flatter and downhill sections. A conservative first lap meant I felt strong going into the second lap and could push on and hold a consistent pace. This meant I overtook athletes going into the final few kilometers and finished the race much stronger than I have done in previous races. I was pleased that I stuck to my own strategy and think that this was what overall led to the positive result of finishing 14th .
Finishing 14th in my first Iromnan 70.3 World Championships is a really solid result. The performance happened because I made sure to focus on my own strengths and I stuck to my race plan. I am pleased I was able to perform to the best of my ability on the day, but I go away with a renewed motivation and a commitment to get better to improve on this result next year.
Ironman 70.3 Weymouth
So the week leading up to race day was pretty eventful!! We had the small matter of travelling back from the USA, which was delayed by 24 hours due to a Hurricane, then collect my bike from Heathrow due it deciding it needed another 24 hours in the USA and then finally travel down to Weymouth on the Friday night. All, whilst doing my best to get back onto UK time and ensure my body was good to go for another race. This included some rest, the key bike and run sessions on Thursday and a much needed massage with Helen too. When we finally got to the hotel it was nice to just relax and try to re-focus one last time.
It was cold and a real shock to the system after Chattanooga. It was a case of keeping the layers on for as long as possible before the start of the race and making sure I had extra layers for the bike in transition. I did my normal land warm-up, but decided not to do an ‘in water’ warm up as I have a tendency to get cold waiting for the start.
After a good start to the swim, we quickly got split into smaller groups. The swim was cold and very choppy. The waves were making it difficult to sight and we were all swimming very different lines to buoys. I was also finding it really hard to avoid not swallowing lots of water as I knew this would not be good for me later in the race. When we finally got to the first turn buoy our whole group ended up going markedly off-course. As we were re-directed, mainly to avoid a boat in the sea, we started picking up a bit more momentum and on the way back to the beach, one swimmer broke away. I tried to follow her, but could not keep her and the sighting buoys in sight, so decided to try and stick with the speed I was swimming and limit the loses on the way into transition.
Getting through transition in bare feet was painful. I was also trying to make sure that I had my bike gillet on and some arm-warmers. You can see my attempt at getting the arm-warmers on in the picture, but I would like to think that having warm wrists helped my hands finally thaw out at about 60km. The bike was hilly, with lots of corners and little lanes, with uneven surfaces. It was a classic British countryside type of route and I felt thankful for the hours I have spent in the Surrey Hills on similar style roads. I pushed on alone for most of the bike course having passed fourth and third early on. I was in second place for a long time until I finally caught Hannah coming over the top of a hill. She then chased on the whole way back to transition and we ended up coming in together. The cold weather and the impact on my hand dexterity made eating hard on the bike and my Garmin not working meant I did the whole ride blind to time and distance.
Back in transition and back trying to run on concrete with numb feet….. so painful!! Once I had trainers and socks on, however, I quickly got into my running and felt good. I was holding good form and felt fluid and relaxed. I was trying to stick to my nutrition plan, but was feeling increasingly bloated and full (probably from drinking the sea water on the swim). I knew I had built a bit of a lead, but also knew that Katrien was running very well. As we went onto the third lap I really felt the fatigue hit and everything started to hurt. As my pace dropped, Katrien kept getting quicker and I just had no response as she came passed. I held on for second place and come away from the race knowing I couldn’t have given anymore.
Looking back on it now I wish I held on, but I think the fatigue finally caught up with me. Nevertheless, I backed up worlds with a strong performance and raced as bravely as I could. I will continue to attack races in the knowledge that I am getting stronger all the time. It is exciting to end the season with two good results and I am now looking forward to some rest, relaxation and planning for 2018.
This season would not have been possible without the most amazing team around me.
- The best equipment. Check out why I wear the Alpha wetsuit here, all about the Argon18 E119 here, the Fulcrum disc and racing Quattro, the x-lab hydration system here and the Skechers meb4 here. Not to mention my ISMseat.
- Nutrition delivered to my door and chosen by me to meet my needs for training and racing from Komfuel.
- Countless hours at Digme Fitness for specific power based bike sessions mean I have never been stronger on the bike.
- Andy Bullock who as a coach pushes me and believes in me in equal measure.
- More massage and treatment from Helen Smith. As someone who isn't always good at keeping on top of this, it has made a noticeable difference.
- The best support from all my family, mum and Pete, not just on race day, but all through training.
As I build towards 2018 I will be looking to develop my team and continue to ensure I create the right environment and opportunity to become the best athlete I can.