Racing the Ironman 70.3 World Championship is always special. The calibre of athletes is high, the competition fierce, and the atmosphere is electric. I was absolutely delighted to qualify at my first race of 2019, despite having a year off due to injury throughout 2018.
This year, the world championship was to be in Nice in France, and athletes were to tackle what was being described as one of the toughest bike courses yet. 1,300m of climbing up the famous Col de Vence was going to be extremely tough. Especially when you favour flat courses as I do!
Training had gone well leading into the race though and with some specific turbo sessions designed to build climbing strength, a whole lot of track sessions, and a little weight lost to help my power to weight ratio, we were in a good position.
The weather was perfect – brilliant sunshine, blue skies, and the sea was so warm that the organisers were teetering on the decision of a wetsuit or non-wetsuit swim (wetsuits are banned over 24.5 degrees), but with just 0.5 degree leeway in favour of wetsuits on the morning of the race, the decision was favourable.
As we lined up on the beach with almost every famous name in triathlon present, I was excited but felt super relaxed. We hadn’t put any pressure on this race, just to see whether I could finally do myself justice at a world championship, in the toughest of tough fields on the global Ironman 70.3 circuit.
With the format of women racing on the Saturday and men racing on the Sunday, it always makes for a more pleasant race environment, especially during the swim and the bike. Women tend to race less aggressively than men and the atmosphere almost feels ‘calm’ in comparison.
Crystal clear water made for an additionally pleasant swim – in fact at one point I actually acknowledged that I was enjoying it, which is probably a first! The sea was warm, there were fish swimming below us, and no dramas at all, and with just a little chop, it didn’t seem to take too much out of me as I ran into T1.
The start of the bike was flat and fast along the coast so I was in my element, but this didn’t last long before the course swerved inland and we were hitting the start of the climbing.
Weirdly, I was also enjoying the climbing. My power numbers were looking super strong but I felt comfortable and was riding within myself, so pushed on trying to make the most of the stunning scenery. The famous climb seemed to go quite quickly and before I knew it we were starting what would be a FUN descent which would last about 30km – plenty of solid recovery time!
The final stretch of flat road led us back into transition and although my bike split seemed slow at a touch over 3 hours, the climbing would have accounted for much slower bike splits than usual – even for the pros.
I ran out of T2 feeling strong and was delighted to see my parents and my coach on the course – the support at a world championship is extra special, and it definitely made the 21km run go quickly. The run course stretched along the Promenade d’Anglais with the sea glistening alongside the entire way, it really was a beautiful spot for a race.
I was holding my pacing very comfortably, perhaps even a little too comfortably, and as I ran down the finish chute I felt super proud to have completed yet another Ironman 70.3 World Championship. I was pleased to have run a 1:34 half marathon, especially off the back of such a tough bike course, and although my overall time seemed a lot slower than usual, in 5 hours and 17 minutes, I knew my personal performance was strong and I couldn’t have got much more out of myself.
I ended up finishing 25th in my age group out of 250 – a huge improvement in my overall result compared to previous world championship events. I was so happy with this result, finally I had achieved the performance that was warranted and it was testament to all the hard work I had put in so far in 2019.
The best bit though, results aside, was that I absolutely loved the race – every single minute. I had no dark moments, I was just in my element and for me, you can’t ask for much more than a perfect race.
About the author: Amy Kilpin is an elite triathlete and Sundried ambassador.