After some early year races (Challenge Wanaka, Ironman 70.3 Greece) I had a long European summer ahead of training. Increasingly middle distance races sell out so fast in Europe you barely have a chance to choose your event. As a result my options were slim and so IM 70.3 Italy & Turkey in September & November became my key races for 2019. The goal was simple, an improved run split and a World Championships slot.
Turns out its pretty difficult to continue training through late summer and autumn as most age groupers begin their ‘off-season’ and start winding down. Luckily I had planned for this with a spanish adventure to Mallorca & Girona for some sunny fun with friends. As the temperatures go down in the UK the summer continues on in the south of Spain.
IM 70.3 Italy in the Emilia-Romagna region promised a flat if not windy course and it did not disappoint. A strong swim put me at the front of the race with a personal escort around the bike course ;). Transition was the longest I have ever seen, good practice for running with the bike and generally great fun. The wind was MUCH MUCH stronger than anticipated, with a tough headwind on the way out and a tailwind home. The ‘speedbump’ (small hill) halfway navigated safely, shout out to the nutty Italians cheering at the top, and zoomed back into T2.
I knew I was a long way back from 1st overall and the glutes were on fire but out I went onto the run course. Italy is a 3 lap run, with a bit of everything – old town, sea front, canal. It doesn’t get boring. Legs feeling smooth, feeling like I was jogging at 4.20 pace….thinking what the hell is going on?! Try to high five as many supporters as possible (they were great, and this being the biggest Ironman weekend in Europe it was awesome) just to slow myself down. It sort of worked and just managed to hold on for a new pb pace run! Still after that elusive negative split run though, right coach? Must. not. get. so. excited.
Nervous wait at the finish line to confirm I had won my age cat and could tick that qualification off the list! With the late 11am start everything post race was a bit of a rush, including the much deserved aperol spritz!
After a few days recovery in the UK I was soon off to Spain to rack up the bike miles. Highlights included a 20km cat 1 climb and finding a festival on top of a hill (only in Spain) and many thanks to the Ful-on Tri (#communelife) for organising this fab fun training weekend.
Going into IM 70.3 Turkey I was mainly thinking of Thailand, where I would fly to immediately after the race. Since I had already achieved my goals, after a long summer it was a relief to have one race under my belt and go into Turkey fairly relaxed. I was lucky to arrive 1 week prior to race day as my parents were competing in a multi day orienteering event just down the road. Resisting eating too much at the all inclusive buffet became the main challenge prior to the race. That and avoiding the multitude of stray dogs. I ran on the treadmill mostly and ventured outside onto the bike course as much as possible. And of course swam in the sea :). It was a shame it was so close to a non-wetsuit swim.
Race day soon came and with a hotel close to transition and swim it wasn’t too early a start. IM 70.3 Turkey is one of the few 70.3s with an Australian exit which definitely mixes it up a bit. Since this was an age group only race again, normally I have to fight to get a good position at the front of the rolling start however in this case they introduced a sub 4hr15 mass start, so that got rid of most of the ‘macho men’. However I did see a lot of women starting here, a shame as they would have been better off in the rolling start working together. Anyway I started 2nd in the rolling and immediately caught my 6 second man. Found a few feet to follow which made a change! And by far the calmest sea swim I’ve ever done. Parents called out that I was 9th female out of the water but likely due only to the mass start.
Onto the bike swiftly, pleased with my transition times again, and no sign of any marshalls on the course. In fact they did not leave transition until a long time after me. Big mistake by Ironman, for the entire 1st lap not a single draft buster and the most drafting I have ever seen. I spent a good 15 minutes shouting at a Russian free-wheeling on my back wheel. Later saw him getting an earful from other angry competitors. I must have seen at least 3 packs of 30 or more bikes behind me coming back in from the out and back 2 lap course. The bike course is flat, super flat but on the 2nd lap the wind had picked up a bit so it was tough going. I knew we would have the benefit on the way back to T2 so really went for it here. Still I would have liked closer to 2hrs20.
The aim for this race was to attack the swim & bike, then see what I had left on the run. Turns out not a lot. The 4.5 lap course was mentally exhausting, with little to no shade. I assumed I was way down (due to mass start ahead) so was surprised to have the 3rd placed biker with me. I was soon overtaken but later moved up to 3rd before dropping to 4th overall by the finish. It was very much survival for me. And I had no idea where I was in my age group. I really hoped to finish inside the top 2 given I have never finished lower, but I had no fight left and just wanted to get to the finish safely! After the longest half lap in the world I was finally on the carpet and soon found out I finished 2nd in age cat. Phew, scorecard maintained! The Land of Legends theme park certainly made for some great photos, but what a surreal location.
Now I have landed in Phuket, ready to get my head down for training with Zcoaching. Adjusting to tropical island life once more. Lets see what IM 70.3 Dubai brings in 2020 😉