Wow, firstly what a fantastic race. It’s a non pro event but the whole community embraces it and makes all the athletes feel so welcome. Even the local school children make handmade cards for each of the competitors.
My partner Adam and I had been on holiday about a month before but with 3 weeks back in the UK before the race I hoped to get in a nice final block of training. However within 24 hours of landing I was covered in a rash which a few days later became aches and fever.
Being a typical triathlete I tried to ignore it, train regardless and hope it would pass.
It didn’t and I felt worse.
Long story short is 2 years previously I had picked up a bug (again on a plane!) and ended up with a cough that wouldn’t shift. I kept training and ended up breaking a rib from coughing so much.
This time I tried to learn.
I did manage some bits and pieces but with a week to go the Team Tissink orders were to rest completely.
While this was less than ideal I knew it was the only chance of me getting better in time for the race.
In the time I wasn’t training I decided to start reading a sports psychology book. Although I couldn’t train myself physically it felt good to feel I was prepping my brain for the challenge ahead.
One of the chapters had me come up with plans for what to do if x y or z happened. While another taught strategies for “staying in the moment” on race day – something I realised I’d been previously guilty of not doing.
Finally 3 days out I started to feel a little more human and 2 days out I got some energy back in my legs. The day before the race I did a little bit of swim/bike/run and actually felt great. After several weeks of not feeling I could run for a bus, I suddenly couldn’t wait to race.
Natalie and Raynard sent me a race plan – swim and bike, yes, and then start the run at 5min/k – gulp!
While I know I run that in training without a problem, I just had a mental block with my running and have never gone under 4 hours in an Ironman run (often not by a long way!) Being a strong biker always makes this worse as basically I feel like I’m being overtaken the whole time.
I figured I’d see how I felt as to whether I’d give that a go or not.
Race morning came and it was forecast to be unseasonably warm and humid (something that follows me to races!).
I went to put everything on my bike only to find my bike computer decided to freeze. No amount of trying to reset it would work.
I did have a watch but I can’t see it when I’m on the bike so it was going to be a stat-free day.
The swim was uneventful. The drip drip of the rolling start meant it was pretty/boring so I was quite happy for it to be over.
I only had time of day to go by but figured it wasn’t a particularly fast swim for me (1:04).
Never mind, stay in the moment, on to bike.
The bike route was fantastic. It was flat but very windy – 2 things I like on the bike! Unusually for an Ironman it wasn’t closed roads but they were for the most part very quiet so it wasn’t a huge issue.
I wanted to run well and I was also conscious that I had no idea how recovered I was from being ill so I tried to stay focused on listening to my body. I wanted to make sure I was able to fuel ok and also keep my temperature down. If I didn’t feel on top of those I eased back for 5 minutes until I felt back in control.
I knew I’d passed a few women but had no idea where I was in the race at any point but kept telling myself it didn’t matter as it was about getting the best performance I could regardless of what anyone else was doing (more from the psychology book).
The bike went way too quickly – I’d of happily gone around again, but as I came into T2 there was a massive fanfare as they announced I was the leading lady with a 5 hour flat bike split.
I was super surprised but fully expected a rush of girls to fly past at any second.
As I started the run a “lead bike” came up behind and explained they’d be there with me until I was overtaken.
I joked again that that wouldn’t be long and then reminded myself to focus, stay in the moment and ignore everyone else.
I started off and got into a rhythm and then looked at my watch – spot on 5min/k. At this point it felt ok so I figured I’d go with plan A and see how it went. I ran through the first few aid stations but with the warm temperatures I knew I was going to have to start slowing down through them to take on enough ice and fluid.
As it was a looped out and back course I did get to see all the other girls coming at me but for once I managed to block it out and keep my focus on my race.
I’ve heard athletes talk about staying in the moment and finally I understood what that was.
I did get overtaken at around mile 19 but stayed focused on my race. Naturally it was all beginning to pinch by this point but for as long as I could I just focused on my form and getting the most I could from my body.
With about 3 miles to go my legs did start to go and so it became a war of attrition. The “2nd lady” bike man later told me I took out quite a few bollards in this period but I was mostly just focusing on how I could continue moving forward with any muscles still able to function.
My legs just about held out down the finishing shoot before I flopped over the line. Although the pictures don’t show it I was delighted to finish with a 3:53 run (at last!) giving a 10:07:17 overall.
To finish 2nd lady overall was a bonus and it also gave me a slot for Kona 2018, but in truth I was just delighted to finally give a performance I knew I was capable of.
Thanks to Team Tissink for making believe I could do it. Plenty still to improve on as always but it’s nice to end the (northern hemisphere) season on a high.