On Sunday 28th August, location Zell am See, Austria, I participated in my first Ironman70.3 and I was terrified. Let me explain my journey to and throughout this IM703. Now for anyone that’s not sure the 70.3 consists of 1.9km of swimming, 90km of cycling with 1,288m of climbing in this race and 21km of running. This race isn’t to be taken lightly and yet in some ways I did. I really tried to stick to a consistent and realistic training plan but it’s hard with day to day life e.g working normal Monday to Friday hours and not becoming a complete fitness recluse.
The swim which is most people’s least favourite discipline is in fact my favourite of the 3. I know that I am a good swimmer in the pool and in open water (as long as I don’t freak myself out). Last year I was open water swimming throughout the summer months every week and I got up to some pretty fast times and PBs. This year however I have been in open water 4 times (that includes an Olympic and the IM race). What on earth was I thinking? Well I thought I could rely on my swimming as a whole which I fortunately can but you do not improve unless you practice the real life situation. We got to Zell 3 days before race day and swam the whole course plus a little extra for good measure which made me feel comfortable with the distance. The lake was so clear which was great on race day as I have never swam with that many people in the water at one time, the closest is the London Triathlon. I felt like I was looking left right forward, right left forward at a million miles an hour and it’s hard to tell the distance of people’s feet in front of you so I was very grateful for the lake water. My IM swim race time was slower than I hoped but still fast enough to be pleased with 43 minutes. The only thing I didn’t like was that the women and men had different colour swim hats and may be I’m just being a feminist but I personally don’t think it achieves what they hope, I think that bullish men see that it’s a green hat and know you’re a woman and they think that they can swim over you. Perhaps I am being totally unfair but I wasn’t a fan of this separation. However I was pleased with how calm I stayed in the lake and the few times I got a splash of unexpected water in my face I just spat it out and kept on going.
The bike, oh the bike. So I don’t think I had ever taken into account how much climbing there would be, 1288km. In my head it was a short sharp 2km and that I had already resigned myself to walking up most of it so it would be fine. The day we got there we drove to the climb where I realised there was an extra 10km of 5% gradient before you got to the short sharp 2km. We practised on the 2km part where as predicted I only made it so far before needing or refusing to go any further. However I did make sure I practised that part a few times for confidence. The next day we tried the 10km which was no where near as bad as I thought it would be which meant I knew on race day I would be able to get up there despite being so hot the sun cream and sweat was getting in my eyes. On race day I just got into a rhythm and did the 10km climb with no problems. I was very regimented with my nutrition eating half a High5 energy bar every hour and a gel half an hour afterwards but again one every hour. Then drinking sips of Energy Source every 5-10 minutes. When I got to the steeper part I again only made it so far and then realised the majority of people were walking. It was hard to push your bike in the heat with your cycling shoes on but I made sure I marched up there! The descent was just as scary to me, I think I only got to 25kph and yet on the flatter parts I was hitting 45kph, shows how much I was on the brakes. It took me 4 hours and 8 minutes which for me was good as I usually hit lows and get very bored on long cycles but I cannot explain how much energy and determination I had to make all the cut offs, they were my incentives.
The run, I relaxed. I relaxed perhaps a little too much. In my eyes once I knew I had made the Swim + Bike 5h 15m cut off I knew I would be an IM703 finisher as nothing would stop me making the 8h 30m overall cut off. I popped to the toilet in T2, looked at my very burnt shoulder blades and then started to run. I ran for about 3km without stopping and then from that moment it was stop, start, stop, start, stop, start. I always knew I was going to have a tough run as anyone who follows me on social media would have noted that I am not a huge fan of running but also that I have struggled with running and came into this race completing a maximum of 10km in training. My nutrition plan at this point went out the window. I really couldn’t face another gel and there were lots of aid stations on the route through the town and along the lake to take advantage of. I was sipping and throwing water over myself, chucking ice cubes down the front and back of my trisuit, tearing the orange slice off the peel, they were even handing out coca cola so I had some sips of that too. I was pretty much taking whatever I could but knowing I shouldn’t gulp down lots of water as I would only feel it sloshing in my tummy when I ran. Now throwing water over myself at the time felt like a great idea, it was hot and I was probably getting a bit dehydrated. My trisuit however was now very soggy I started to feel the pain of cystitis. Yeah that’s right I’m taking you on every step of this journey and it sucked, then all these goodies I was seeing at each aid station started to make me feel a tad sick as they weren’t really part of the plan. At the 14km mark I came over rather emotional, knowing I only had 7km left and was nearly at the last turn to go to back to the finish line but also that I had no idea how I was actually going to do that 7km. At the next aid station I heard that Katy Perry song “cause I am a champion and you’re going to hear me roar” and that also nearly got me started.
However, I made it. I of course saved a bit of energy to jog down the Ironman walkway, where my boyfriend who had also completed the race earlier on had got the commentator to say some words to me as I was running down to finish and I cannot explain how lovely it was that Luke did that for me. I saw him in T1, on the bike and on the run and he kept me going. There were many other athletes that I met on the way, I loved that we all had a country flags on our race numbers it really made you feel supported and part of something. I had so many doubts the couple of days leading up to the race and was convinced that I would never make the bike cut offs and yet I did. I may have walked up some of the bike climb and walked A LOT of the run but I finished and for me that’s enough. I’m not sure whether I will do another one although I would like to get faster….I will keep you posted on what I decide if I have a moment of insanity as surely that’s what this is right?
Thanks #preparedtotri xx