Well Ironman Sweden was unplanned, planned race. I think I had already entered the race in March this year. It was a race which was always on my bucket list and this year was PERFECT YEAR TO TICK THIS off the list.
But…… I then did Ironman Brazil in the May and it didn’t go anything like how I wanted it to. I had bad day all round. Race day the weather was miserable – pouring with the rain and I just simply didn’t enjoy the race at all. The last thing on my mind was doing another Ironman soon, so Sweden was forgotten. All I wanted was bit of break, maybe late season Ironman? (I can’t finish my career on such a low) but definitely didn’t relish the thought of training through the South African winter.
What I didn’t expect was email from Ironman few weeks after 70.3 Durban that I qualified for 70.3 World Champs in September! Well it was like the proverbial carrot in front of the donkey. I had never been to 70.3 World Champs. Over my triathlon career I have been to all of them (ITU Olympic distance, ITU long distance, Kona, Olympic Games) but one, 70.3 World Championships.
I used my old plan from Brett Sutton combined with the plan I devised for Ironman South Africa age group winner Garron this winter and combined that with the knowledge of time I have available for training. It was hard but a doable plan. Except for my long (4hr) Saturday ride, every other bike session was done on the indoor trainer. Swimming meant I had to convince two of my athletes Craig and Ty to swim with me twice a week (easy, I just made sure it was in their training peak program). And for the run I made sure I managed a double run Wednesday – combination of track and treadmill, with best pacemaker around – Hadley.
It was awesome team work and with support of my boyfriend Aubrey I actually had solid and enjoyable weeks of training and everything seemed to be on right track for 70.3 World Champs, until……… I opened the Ironman website and on checking the start list for Ironman Sweden and I realised that my name is still there and start list is not too bad. So being a proper girl I changed my mind again and quickly sorted my last minute travel and accommodation plans for Sweden. Guess 70.3 World Champs will have to happen at some time in the future.
Race itself didn’t disappoint. It was all I had ever heard about the race and much more. I had wonderful home stay, met amazing people there and basically had time of my life in Sweden. Motto of this race is “race with a smile” and I didn’t stop smiling for the whole Ironman.
The day started with very very cold swim (and lot of jellyfish). I think it was only part of the race I wished I was finished. If you know me, you will know I am definitely not a fan of jellyfish. So I was bit freaked out swimming in the ocean all on my own, or at least it felt like that. It was female pro race ONLY and with age groupers starting 15min behind, it was a very lonely few hours for me.
I took a lead straight from the start and it was amazing feeling leading whole race overall. I think I had goose bumps all over my body. There were so many people cheering during the race and course was absolutely stunning.
I lost my lead probably around 140km of the bike and came to second transition in second position. I wasn’t sure how well first girl can run but I knew I had one of the best runners in triathlon behind me, I decided to go for it and see how long I can last at a pace of 4:30min/km. I knew it will either be big explosion somewhere or great run. After half way Kirsten Muller passed me like I was standing still but I was getting closer to other girl. So I hold my pace despite my body screaming at me that it hurts. Run course was again stunning and full of people cheering and supporting. I managed to passed Caroline and get back into 2nd place overall and hold my 4:30min/km pace.
It was just an incredible experience, I finished 2nd, ran a 3:10:00 marathon in one of the best races I have ever done. And topped it off with an amazing Champagne shower at the podium. This race really exceeds my expectation in every aspect and I think everyone should put Ironman Sweden on their bucket list.
Next stop for me was Ironman Barcelona. Only 6 weeks after Sweden, I knew it will be tricky with recovery and training. But I did it before so I thought I will manage just fine...
Guess I didn’t realised my old body will have different view about this. First week I spent recovering from the race, week after I spent on antibiotics for my stomach. Then it was the main races of the season for some of my Trifactri athletes (ITU Olympic distance and long distance World Champ, Kona) and my mind was focused on their training requirements and my training was somewhere in the background. Add little bit of stress in your “normal everyday life” and I was in completely opposite state than before Sweden. Nowhere near ready to race Ironman. I was playing with thoughts to cancel the race, probably the advice I would have given to anyone else... So please everyone, listen to me, don’t look at me what I am doing. Yes, I can be the worst example ever sometimes.
After lot of discussion, I decided not to cancel my trip and go... go to do what is probably my last Ironman pro race (I am still a girl so you never know, but it is my intention for now). I wasn’t even sure I will manage to finish the race with another bout of antibiotics in race week. But I needed holiday too so it was also my time out. Holiday near Barcelona with little race thrown in
I think my mind was in holiday mood when I packed. I got to race briefing and water was 22,6 degrees which meant no wetsuit swim for pro athletes. Panic!!! I only packed my wetsuit not my swimskin speedsuit. My speedsuit was on the trip to Kona with Desie and here I was in Barcelona needing one. After a bit of crazy running around and messaging to everyone, I managed to talk to guys from Sailfish at the expo and get one from them. Well, now I could breathe again and it was time to actually focus. Hey I am there to race an Ironman. Holiday and Sangria after the race!
I like Ironman Barcelona. It was my third time there, I always had good time and good race there.
Race morning came quickly and there I was, in my brand new Sailfish swimskin, waiting for the start of my last race. I was actually excited, chatting to everyone and I made promise to myself that I am going to enjoy the race doesn’t matter what. I still hoped for good result and was determined to do my best. But I really really wanted to have fun.
Well, back to the race... start gun sounded and we were off. I run quickly into the water and once again I am in the front with all other girls behind me. I settled into nice rhythm and tried to catch some pro guys who started 2min ahead of us. I was first out of the water by 3 minutes and I felt great.
Bike course is flat and fast...but it can be windy. And it can also be very congested with all the people racing . I was leading the race until about 70km when Annah and Caroline caught me. The race dynamic changed dramatically at that point with age groupers mixing with pro female field. I didn’t manage to stay with the bunch and I was riding alone in 3rd place. I knew girls behind me are still quite far back but I just focused on my own cycling. And then I made huge mistake. Doesn’t matter how many Ironman races I have done, there is always something I learn. At aid station at 120km I didn’t take a bottle with drink, I thought I still had. And when I wanted to take a sip, my bottle was empty and it was about 30 degrees outside and no shade. Next aid station was at 160km... I dehydrated. I dehydrated so badly in last 30km that I had to change gears to small chain ring and just peddle home without any effort. And then I over did the drink at the next aid station... my stomach didn’t like me so almost everything went straight out. I have only myself to blame for this, for not checking my bottle.
I got off the bike in 6th position, not where I wanted to be. I tried to run fast, I tried to drink lot of coke at every aid station (I still think it saved me). I couldn’t run as fast as I wanted so I settled into the pace I could manage and I could finish. I looked for other girls on the course. Annah had great race running into podium position. I was running in 6th and ran my way into 5th overall in the end.
I didn’t have bad race, I was 5th overall, I did 9:23. It wasn’t what I hoped for but it was very solid day. And despite my little problems (it is an Ironman, it rarely goes according to plan), I had fun there. I just finished my second Ironman in 6 weeks and I really enjoyed both of them.
It is time for me to give back, to help other people to achieve their goal and to enjoy this wonderful sport and lifestyle. And I am sure I will be back one day. When and where I don’t know yet, for now it will be on other side cheering on all crazy triathletes.
Thank you Aubrey for all the support in last year, you made me believe I still can do it. Thank you to all Trifactri athletes, I would never be where I am now without you, you guys are my everyday motivation. Thank you to everyone who supported me – Kiwami, Sailfish, Token, Enervit, Rory and Grant.