30th August 2015
Since qualifying for this race back on June 20th in Luxembourg, 10 weeks after breaking my collarbone, I made this race one of my main aims of the season with the goal of contending for a medal. Ok this was going to be a big ask but I knew that with the right build-up this would be a challenging but realistic goal.
12.05 the canon was off and the battle had started. The first 200m of the swim was nothing like I have ever experienced in open water – OK I’ve faced quite a few punches and kicks and boy do I love a good old cross-country running, elbows out type start but this… Head whack, leg pull, arm yank, whole body dunk, sat on, jumped on, head kick – you name it, it happened. Somehow, after drinking a good quarter of the lake (at least) and becoming more of an asthmatic rat than ever before, I made it to some clearer water and could actually swim, not just survive! For the next 600m to the turn around buoys I just focused on full arm employment, dodging the aggressive limbs of swimmers from earlier waves and trying to avoid taking on more water. I made it!
Now time to do it all again back down the buoys and get on some dry land. I finally found quite a good rhythm and just focused on higher arm cadence. Before I knew it I could clearly see land-ahoy so started to kick and pull even harder just to be grounded once more. Right done – so up the steps, hat off, wetsuit down and breathe in some non H2O air!
Knowing I was hardly first out of the water meant I had to be on my bike ASAP to start my real World Ironman 70.3 campaign.
The first 22km into the notorious climb went by pretty fast (Austria your roads are awesome) and the legs were feeling pretty good so just kept pushing along. As I turned into the 13km climb I gave myself a little nod and went for it. Knowing climbing is more of my forte at the moment than the faster, flatter riding meant that my plan was to be strong but in control on the flats but push pretty hard on the ascent. So I did. The first 10km was a pretty honest gradient so I just got into a rhythm and started passing people. The last 3km became a tad steeper (reaching 14% at times) so it was out the saddle and employing those hopefully Swiss trained legs to keep pushing. Before I knew it (well my heart and lungs knew it!) I was at the top and getting ready for the descent. After a 3 minute technical, hairpin section it was head down and back on the TT bars all the way home. At this point I had no real clue where I was standing in the race so all I could do was just keep pedalling, keep myself cool in the 33 degree heat (water bottle shower at every aid station!) and enjoy the ride. So that what I did for the last 40km or so of the bike!
Jumping off the bike in T2 I was surprised how good my legs actually felt considering the ride and was excited to hit my favourite part – the run. Being now in 6th place meant I was exactly where I needed to be at this point with only a half marathon to go. The first 2km back into the town along the lake felt pretty good and my pace was bang on where I wanted it to be. I was aware (couldn’t not be tbh) of how hot it was so I knew whenever possible I was going to have to pour water over my head and chest to keep my core temperature down – us Brits don’t really suit sauna running! However, the heat seemed to be the least of my worries. As I was coming out of the town at 3km to start my first of two laps my legs started to become heavy and I suddenly felt like I was running through thick, sticky Warwickshire mud (yup that heavy!). I checked my watch to see my pace was that of my recovery runs – Eloise what is going on… get a move on. But I just couldn’t get much of a move on at all. For the next 8km it was a battle of mind, body and goodness knows what else to keep me running – I kept telling myself don’t even think about walking and/or giving up, sitting down and throwing a tantrum – however much the little gremlins inside want to!
Somehow I ended my first lap and a massive cheer from my family, friends and coach gave me a little push to get back on the road and end this shuffle. I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other and trying not to decrease my already pretty slow, donkey on a beach pace. I used the sections between the aid stations (cooling opportunities!) as mini races in themselves as anything more in my state would have been a bit daunting.
What seemed like a million hours later, and the impossible when I had 18km still to go feeling but like road kill I was running down the finishing shoot and under the Ironman 70.3 World Championships finishing arch. I was emotionally, physically and mentally spent – I couldn’t have done anything else and knew I had tried my hardest on the day, but why didn’t I feel that satisfaction and inner pride of finishing a tough race?
9th in my first Ironman 70.3 World Championships and third time over the distance in reality is not a dire result, in fact it is pretty reasonable. But as I said my goal was to race for a podium position. Seeing this goal becoming more and more faint as the 21km run continued (barring in mind I am supposed to be a runner and I have never lost a race due to my run) left me pretty disappointed and empty. I know I can compete and contended with the top athletes in my age-group, I can run faster and hey my next half-ironman I am going to be a Pro! But what I failed to let myself adjust to and hence the disappointment was my goal was possible with the right build-up – you definitely can’t wing a half marathon and especially not one after a 1.2mile swim and a 56mile bike ride at the World Championships!
Back in perspective
The right build-up seemed harder to achieve than I expected, even after recovering so well from my crash. The 10 weeks following Luxembourg both my swimming and cycling seemed to be progressing well, thank you to the Alps. However, running was not going to be that easy – stupid legs! For three weeks following Luxembourg I suffered from ITBS that left me side-lined from running until I was prescribed running only uphill for 10 days – good thing I had mountains around me! This thankfully cleared up in time for some running pre my race in London. But following London my left leg started to have another say. So after resting/testing it for a week and a half it was back to the Physio to sort this calf out – once again I was prescribed mountain reps. With only 10 days to the World Champs both my Coach and I knew all I could do was get in a few pain free, mountain plods and then let it be. So five runs and 18km later it was race time.
Maybe this is why my legs only played ball for 3km on race day, as anything more seemed excessive to them! And if I had been able to have the right build-up a run I know I am capable of could have been on the cards and my goal may have been achievable. But I am one to know that could, may or what if do not win races – reality does.
So why didn’t I realign my objective for this race after the preparation? I didn’t because one I am stubborn, two I am competitive and three I didn’t let myself believe I couldn’t reach my goal – “shoot for the moon and even if you miss you will fall among the stars”. Now all I can do is take this race as a process, build on it and know that not giving up when it hurt mentally, physically and emotionally will count one day to the point I will thank myself for letting the pain, disappointment and discomfort in.
An amazing well done to all the athletes racing over the weekend, it was not easy and I know everyone had to dig deep. Especially well done to two of my awesome, great friends I was able to share the journey and race with – Kim and Imo, sharing really is caring, you guys rock!
A massive thank you to my family for supporting me through the tears, laughs and miles in the lead up, during and after the race – you always put a smile back on my face and keep me going. Also to my Coach, Mark, for getting me race ready and putting up with me, friends for all the support and good lucks, the Physio in Sion and Pete who both worked wonders on my crappy left leg over the last 10 weeks and to my all my sponsors – team work is dream work!
Happy end of Summer and now time to get back to the UK.
Lots of Love,
P.S. Alice had to fall down a great hole before she reached Wonderland!