It’s that time of year when most of us have finished racing for the year and we are spending our time recovering, reflecting, and reviewing.
It’s always easy to be critical when it comes to our own performances and much of the time we over-focus on what we didn’t do rather than what we actually did. However, it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate our achievements, however small they may be, in order to feel rewarded, fulfilled, and motivated to carry on.
Achieving The Sub-5 Dream
For me, I achieved a huge milestone this year; something I had been chasing for a number of years. The coveted sub-5 hour half Ironman triathlon. Having only started triathlon in 2012, at the time unable to swim even a length of front crawl, it has been a pretty arduous few years to get myself up to an even remotely respectable standard.
I am a fan of an early-season race. As someone who likes to race quite frequently to keep the fire alive, I have, in the past few years, opted for a January race to kick start the season. This year I flew out to Dubai to race the IRONMAN 70.3 the day after my birthday. Hoping a flat course and warm weather would play to my strengths, I worked hard to see what I was capable of.
I felt like I would be very borderline when it came to the sub-5 hour goal, however on race day, I managed a 4:54 finish; a full seven minutes inside my goal time. I was ecstatic. Finally, something I had dreamed of for so long had materialised.
Ironman 70.3 Texas
Repeating that, in my head, was highly unlikely due to the extremely favourable bike course in Dubai. But three months later I was heading out to Texas to race the notoriously flat IRONMAN 70.3 course.
During the bike leg, I knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I felt like I had nothing. I battled on and during the run I was close to quitting; I felt like I was just jogging round in survival mode. I was bitterly disappointed, even with a 5:01 finish time, which I would have been over the moon with the previous season! It was time to find out what was up.
Under Active Thyroid Diagnosis
After a few weeks of recovery back in the UK, I was still feeling awful: exhausted, mainly, and as such, I ended up having blood tests. We quickly got to the root of the problem when the blood tests revealed that I had an under active thyroid – and had done for years.
I was prescribed thyroxine as a hormone replacement, and gradually started to pick up. Before I knew it I was back to normal training again. Not without missing a race though. I had signed up for IRONMAN Mallorca 70.3 but decided to head out there and just train and support friends instead. It was the right decision to manage my health first and foremost, and ensure I was back up to consistent racing again. My training was consistent, and I had also lost 5-6kg as a result of the thyroxine helping to boost my metabolism. A month later, it was time to race.
In June, I raced IRONMAN Luxembourg 70.3 and I couldn’t have asked for a better race. I got a huge swim PB, a power PB on the bike, and a run PB. What’s more, I managed to go sub-5 again with a finish time of 4:56. It was so rewarding to see all the hard work paying off, and I knew that my sub-5 in Dubai wasn’t a fluke, because I had managed to repeat it. I was also coming around top 5 in my age group every time, but that was almost secondary to the result.
Fugitive Olympic Distance Triathlon - Marlow Triathlon
In July I raced in Marlow. I was feeling great, hitting all the numbers, and was excited to go for a shorter sharper race to test the water before my next 70.3. I managed to take the lead half way through the bike and hold onto it for the remainder, including the whole run. I finished eight minutes ahead of the second place female – this was such a result for me – someone who was coming close to last in triathlons only a few years ago.
I knew I was in good shape and it just seemed to keep getting better. I had not only managed to retain my power despite losing weight – I had actually managed to increase it slightly.
Ironman Gdynia 70.3
I’ve raced IRONMAN Gdynia 70.3 the past three years, and it’s a firm favourite in my race calendar. In fact, it’s my favourite race ever – there’s just something about it that ticks all the boxes. I was back in 2017 with my parents there to support me, I couldn’t wait.
Everything mostly went to plan and I was seeing some year on year improvements throughout the course, until I got onto the run. I suffered from stomach cramps on the first lap and wondered if my race might even be over at one point. However, it seemed to subside after the first lap so gradually and tentatively, I pushed on. I carried on increasing my pace, knowing that somehow, miraculously, I was on for a very good (for me) run split. I ended up getting a run PB of 1:37 and was absolutely flabbergasted. Plus, yep you guessed it – another sub-5 and top-5 AG positioning. I couldn’t have been happier.
Ironman 70.3 World Championships Chattanooga
Everything was building up to my A-race of the year – the coveted IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It felt like ages away but as always happens, it sprang up on me out of nowhere and after a hop across the pond, it was suddenly race day.
I felt like I was in the best shape of my life so there were no excuses here.
A slow swim. A slow bike. And an even slower run.
The course was brutal (is that an excuse!?) – but everyone was in the same boat. Most people were a lot slower than other races – in fact only six females in my age group went under five hours (and there were about 150 of us in total).
My time of 5:13 wasn’t what I expected – my plan had been to go sub-5 here too but the toughness of the course was reflected in most people’s finishing times. I can’t say I was hugely happy with this result, but on dissecting it with my coach later on, we realised that I couldn’t have got much more out of myself on the day. My coach was really happy with the performance and it proved true to where I was at physically.
It had been a year of ups and downs, but on reflection, it was mostly ups. It’s natural to always strive for better but as far as triathlon goes, I would say it has been by best season ever, and I am going to hold onto that.
I have worked hard to see the results transpire and cherishing that is important – it’s why we do what we do and it’s what keeps us motivated to carry on and do more.
I’ll be going into next season with a huge confidence boost and even more energy to push towards the next big goals. But for now, it’s time to absorb that feeling of contentment and enjoy a well-deserved off-season.