It has been a busy couple of weeks with two half ironman races on back to back weekends. I entered Ironman 70.3 Gdynia in Poland on the 5th August, followed by the Challenge Turku in Finland on the 12th August. Racing on consecutive weekends at this distance is never ideal so I wanted to see how quickly my body would recover. My concern was being able to perform to my best on the second weekend having never done this before. This concern wasn’t helped when I looked at the stacked fields of quality entrants on the start list before I left! I have always wanted to go to both destinations so despite going on my own I was really looking forward to the trips. My body had slightly different ideas though as it decided it would have a two week period (over both races), the joys of being a female! Something we have to learn to live and compete with. Interesting Oxygen Addict Podcast just released a great podcast on this which I would highly recommend.
The race was set in a bay, with golden sand and a great party atmosphere. The media hype was all about Daniella Ryf vs Miranda Carfrae, both of who I follow on social media. I was almost star struck when I walked into the Pro Briefing and saw them there. I was looking forward to racing against them although in an ideal world this wouldn’t have been until next year when I have more time to improve but never mind.
Ironman decided to do a Pro Parade instead of a panel. This involved every athlete being announced and doing a lap of the stadium, with smoke and fire billowing out around us! This was really good fun, as well as an excellent distraction from pre-race nerves.
Standing on the start line and looking across at some of the best triathletes in the world is a memory I’ll cherish. The sad part is I knew I probably wouldn’t see some of them again until the finishing line…
Firing a cannon off to start a race has always seemed a little over the top to me and lead to everyone jumping out of their skin. This immediately followed by us all charging into the water at full speed. As soon as I entered, the water immediately went up to knee depth which meant I thought I could start swimming. I then looked around to see that everyone else was still running/ dolphin diving – ah! I hadn’t realised how long it stayed shallow for. Frustratingly, this led to me instantly swimming on my own which resulted in a very lonely 1.9km. Obviously, this wasn’t the ideal start to a race I had hoped for. Towards the end of the course I caught up with another girl who was zigzagging all over the place so we ended up coming out of the water together.
The bike mount line was situated on a cobbled road which always makes mounting your bike and getting your shoes on more difficult than you’d like. After two failed attempts to get my feet in, I gave up and decided to wait until the cobbles had finished although they seemed to go on forever. Once I finally got my feet in my shoes, I then hit a pot hole and my front water bottle fell off. Not ideal! This meant that refuelling during the ride was going to be tricky and added an element of stress I probably could have done without. The first 30 minutes or so were up hill, which was a slight surprise because I’d entered with the hope that it was flat course! Despite this, I thought the bike route was excellent, perhaps barring the last ten minutes when the heavens opened, along with thunder and lightning. This was at the point where I was coming back into town and twisting and turning back towards the transition area. I couldn’t see a thing and my brakes didn’t work very well so it was rather scary. To top it all off, the leaders had already finished the bike course before the storm had arrived which meant I lost more time to them. Despite all this, I did end up with a 2 minute bike PB, so that was a bit of a silver lining.
I barely had time to start the run and get into my stride before Daniella Ryf lapped me. Wow! I couldn’t even keep up with her for 10 meters! She was absolutely flying. Later I learnt that she finished 7th overall, including the men….I actually quite enjoyed the run. I had no idea what position I was in so just got on with it trying to get the best time possible. My legs were actually moving at a half decent speed compared to how they felt during the full ironman which was my last race. The girl who I had over taken on the bike was slowly creeping up on me though so I decided to really push on the last lap. Unfortunately, she had the same idea and went flying past me and I couldn’t stick with her. I kept pushing and tried not to let her get too far ahead. Running up to the finishing line I looked over my shoulder and she appeared again! I have no idea where she went but she must have missed the turning but there was no way she was beating me now. So, a last-minute sprint finish meant I finished 7th out of the 12 Pros who started.
I finished rather frustrated (again) but with a bike PB and some more lessons learnt and a new water bottle ordered!
Challenge Turku, Finland
I’ve never competed in a Challenge branded race before so I was really looking forward to this. There was also added motivation to redeem myself from the previous week.
On the Saturday, the organisers put on an event where each pro was introduced to the crowd at the finish line area. We all had to say a few words about ourselves which was slightly unexpected but good fun.
It was absolutely chucking it down! Challenge don’t have the facilities to let you hang your bags up in the transition area so we had to lay all our stuff down in puddles on the ground… The thought of wet trainers before you even start is not ideal!
The swim was a loop in the river which they closed off to boat traffic. Having messed up the start last week I was determined to have a better one this time. We started together with the Pro men. This was amusing as the females all lined up behind the men and very politely asked them not to kick us in the face!
The claxon sounded and away we went. After 10 metres, I had already improved from last week as I was still with other people! Yay! I started swimming in a little pack, which was a little unpleasant as the girl on my right was trying to swim left and the girl on my left was trying to swim right! Two elbows in the eye later, my hat then started to slip upwards pulling my goggles into my eyes and forcing my eyes shut. Great. Although it wasn’t a particularly complicated course, it was quite difficult to navigate because the buoys were so far apart. Obviously, this wasn’t helped by lack of vision due to the issue with my goggles. I had to stop 3 times to pull my hat back down but managed to catch up each time with the group.
Exiting the water I was pleased I was still in contention and hoped my swim had been better than last week. Annoyingly, I found out after the race that it was the same time. Thankfully, I discovered that the swim course was longer than it should have been. This meant that I’d actually swam a PB, which is pleasing.
The course was a fast, three laps of the motorway. This was by far the flattest course I have ever raced on at half ironman distance so I was really looking forward to getting stuck in. The first section though was against a head wind which wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Of course, once we turned around this meant that we got the joys of a rather nice tailwind! I was slightly worried about congestion on the course because there was only one lane closed for bikes. However, it wasn’t too bad at all and the age groupers were great at getting out of the way. I wasn’t sure what my bike time was as I had trouble starting my watch at the beginning but was pretty confident it was a quick one and I was hoping to have made some progress on the girls in front.
I had come out of the water with 2 others and passed another one on the bike course so thought I was about 5th as I had counted 8 starting.
I felt good as I started the run. The course involved 4 laps along both sides of the river, including crossing over bridges, which made it a lot of fun. I couldn’t see anyone in front or behind but it was difficult to tell because the course was so busy.
Crossing the finishing line they put a microphone almost instantly in my face and asked how it was. I was very tired and out of breath so struggled to formulate any sentences. I also had no idea where I had finished, so I figured I’d ask them. Mistake. They said I’d finished 8th which certainly wasn’t what I’d expected to hear. It turns out I can’t count and 12 had actually started. I also hadn’t actually made any time up on the bike and was rather disappointed with this. This was eased somewhat when I realised I’d got an 8minute race PB (10 minute bike PB). I was also reminded that I had raced the weekend before… something I had completely forgotten about! There were just some brilliant athletes that had entered, including a few Brits and it was great to spend some time with them afterwards, whilst hiding from the torrential rain.
Two weeks, two races, and ultimately, two frustrating results on paper. However, I’d like to think I’ve made progress, and who doesn’t like to get PBs? I really enjoyed Turku and would definitely recommend it especially if you are looking for PBs! What next? At the moment, Ironman 70.3 Weymouth and Ironman Barcelona are on the calendar. So, time for a bit of a recovery week (I’ve even got a spa day booked – a belated birthday present from my hockey friends which I am incredibly grateful for, very well timed!) and then looking forward to getting my head back down and making some more progress in the count down to the last two races of 2018.
Thank you to my coach, Perry, for getting me the results and all my sponsors who make it possible.
ETE Racing Team, Hireco Ltd, Everyone Active Sporting Champions, Funkita, Ed Kirby Physiotherapy, I am Body Wise, Takeley Chiropractic, TrueStartCoffee, GoFaster Food, Fenland Runner, Akasha Wellness, Yonda Sports and Paddock Cycles