Texas 70.3 for those that don’t know is an Ironman Triathlon totalling 70.3miles. It consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run. I initially entered Ironman Texas with the idea to do an early season tri too see where I was and possibly look at qualifying for the World Championships in Canada, later in the year. Texas was an unusual choice for me, it was going to be testing in the fact it was fast and flat, normally, I’d go for hilly hard courses where this was a total out and out flat speed course. Living in Derbyshire, opportunities for perfecting your TT position are not easy, everywhere is a hill. ! I arrived in Texas thinking ‘OMG I’m never going to do that well, it’s so flat’. However I had a week to prepare, I did short rides, focusing on technique and positioning on the bike and actually felt pretty good.
I’m not sure how many of you know the Ironman protocol but the night before the race you rack your bikes in transition, it was a course that was suited for disc wheels, full TT bikes and Aero helmets and expensive tri accessories. Transition was like a ‘Bling Palace’ of top end TT equipment and bikes.
So race morning arrived, I was very nervous, so i texted Phoebe for her general get a grip Di and go and kick some arse advice. No one can really explain the atmosphere of an Ironman event until you have been to one, it’s a 5am start and everyone is up putting their kit into transition, pumping up their tyres and generally busy being nervous. The first part of the race is the swim, where 2000 people are stood there wearing wetsuits, everyone suddenly looks a pro, I was pretty nervous, but with good nerves. The race starts off according the your age group, I started at 7.45, the swim should be where i feel most confident (being a swimmer) but knowing I should be out of the water first always makes me even more nervous. The wait to the start seemed to take forever with 100 plus loud nervous Americans in my age group, I couldn’t wait just to get on with it. It was a deep water start which suits me best. I was first to react to the cannon and we were off. It wasn’t going to be an easy swim, it was super choppy and I had to overtake other age groups that had been set off in the earlier waves and caught up, to be honest it was a bit like the scene from the titanic, loads of weak swimmers laying on their backs for a rest or holding on the bouys, the swim course was super hard even for me and I was a swimmer, so I knew plenty of others would struggle, this obviously played to my advantage, I just ploughed on through the busy water, trying not to batter too many others on route. I came out the swim with no one in my age group around me, so a good start, the swim time was 28mins not all that impressive on paper but for the conditions a good solid start.
Transition went well no problems and I was out on the bike course, firstly you have to get on at a certain point at the mount line, there was loads of bloody men messing around in the way so, I ran though them, did a top flying cyclocross style mount which I got loads of cheering for and some good MuleBar Girl - Sigma Sport attention. After 10miles on the bike course, the nerves had settled and I was nicely into my pace, the way out was easy, tail wind and fast. I use a power meter to make sure I didn’t over cook it, which was so easy to do on such a flat course. I went out hard but controlled, I knew every second counted, conditions on the bike were not great, foggy and rainy but warm, to be honest the fog and rain was just normal to me, but I don’t think the Americans were quite as used to it as me. I rode well but within myself to the turn around point, from there it was a head wind all the way back to transition, when I reached 15mile to go, a girl overtook me, she was in my age, there was no way I was going let her take over me, in my own head I wanted to be first going into the run, for 2 reasons firstly my running is my weakest discipline and secondly I knew I had a whole team of MuleBar Girls at at the airport in Spain tracking me, I had to be back off the bike first. Previously I have never really had a team that have supported me at triathlon and it was amazing how powerful it was, all I could think of was being back first for them. So as the girl over took me it was game on, we battled it out all the way back, putting attacks in and overtakes, overtaking in triathlon can be quite tactical, drafting rules mean you have to stay 3m apart and only 30sec to do the overtake, I just keep making her work, I knew I had at least 20watt to play around with too, as I’d paced the way out. I still felt fresh. I let her get a way at one point where i took on nutrition, then put an effort into re catch her. I knew fuelling for the run was essential. I crossed the dismount line for the bike slightly in front of her and with a fast transition I was out onto the run course in first position.
The run course was compact it was 3 laps with lots of turnaround points where we could see each other, she quickly over took me, for me this was no surprise as I’m not the fastest runner, rather strong and consistent, so I had to think purely of myself now, I had to run at my pace and let her go, she put at least 40sec into me on the 1st lap but to my surprise I could still see her, so I decided I must keep her in view. On the second lap she wasn’t getting away and I was actually gaining on her, I monitored my mile times and keep them consistent, I managed to get within 15sec of her, so the question was where do I want to go or if? I didn’t want to leave it to the last minute but if I was going for the over take I needed to make it count. So on the 3rd / final lap, I quietly mixed in with the sea of runners she was in, I don’t think she really saw me then at a turn round point I went for it, gained some distances and didn’t look back. This effort did cost me a little as at 11miles it really started to hurt. However there was no way she was going to catch me without a really big effort from her. She didn’t respond and all I had to do was get to the end, I went under the finish line in 4 hours 35. I was first in my age groupers and 20th overall female and 161 overall (including the men and pro athletes) not too bad at all out of 2000 athletes.
This race taught me not to be scared to put yourself in races that you don’t feel are to your strengths, working at your weaknesses are what pays off. I was really happy with my overall performance it was my best run off the bike in a long time. I used my power meter throughout the bike section working around my threshold power and holding what I knew I could hold. When the other girl caught me I knew she would have had to have worked hard so then I went on the attack and made her suffer.
I qualified for the World Championships in Mont Treblonc Canada, however I declined to accept the opportunity because I have other events planned and I can’t get the time off work and its in the middle of Cyclocross season so decided I’d prefer to represent the team at cyclo-cross and do some more triathlon over the summer within the UK.
I’m not going to rant about Ironman here because they do provide fantastic events and opportunities but it is very expensive, it’s a rich man sport. I have the backing from an amazing team and sponsors. I have so many people to thank.
The support from the girls even from a distance, was special, the sponsors we have and the amazing products I have the luxury to use. Thanks, MuleBar, Sigma Sport, Oakley, Lazer, Wildoo, BlueSeventy and Purple Harry.
Also best thanks to my partner and coach Gary McCaffery, anyone out there needing a triathlon coach all I can say is my results speak for themselves visit www.resultsfitnessandswimming.co.uk for more information.
Right time to get some MTB’ing now with Phoebe, bring on the summer :)