The surreal feeling of stepping onto a podium; and the awkward bit when you're on the number 2 step but still taller than the guy on the number 1 step. My aim is to make it less surreal and more normal. Instead of thinking someone must have got the results mixed up, I need to think how I deserve to be there and have worked hard for it. The biggest change I have had to make and still need to make is my mind-set. It’s a constant project and therefore needs constant attention. Self-worth is important, liking myself and being positive about myself, all the time. Focusing on the now and letting negativity pass me by is an ongoing project, and knowing that I am always learning and to question everything that I think I know. If I met myself, would I think I am a good person? This is the mind-set that I believe will make me a better athlete and also a better person.
The first run went very well for me. I ran at a pace that felt hard, but at one that I knew I could sustain for 10K and still be able to swing a leg over my bike afterwards. The course was muddy and partly off-road which added an extra challenge, but the main thing was that I ran at my own pace.
In November last year I met Oliver Saxon at Animis Racing Team who I soon asked to be my coach. Having never been coached before, it was very new and a bit scary, but it’s a change and a challenge that I embraced because I knew it could have a very positive effect on me. I told him what I thought, what I wanted to do, what kind of athlete I wanted to be and fully trust the training sessions that he sets me. It was important for me to find a coach who I liked and who I thought I could have a good coach/athlete relationship with and also one whose method of coaching would suit me; as for those that know me, I'm far from normal.
The bike course was not plain sailing. A new bike with my arms closer together than I'm used to meant I had to adapt quickly and make the most of what I had on a multi-lap, bumpy, tight and twisty, hilly, slippery course. Being laps, it meant there were slower riders to pass after the first lap on narrow roads and often with cars around. There are always some 'oh shit' moments as you are constantly risk assessing your actions whilst also in full-on race mode. 'Do I shout now and pass or wait for this car? No, there's enough room, the car has slowed and the rider ahead has heard me, I'm going for the gap.' It's a hard balance to get right sometimes and I'm always thankful to whack the bike back on the rack in transition knowing I've remained upright and not had any mechanical issues.
Everything about my training has changed, from where I train, to how I do it, to what I pay attention to and what I don’t and to the aids and tools I use. I put my trust into my coach's method, get my head down and put the work in. So far, it’s led me to probably my best race performance yet by bagging a silver medal in my age-group at the England National Standard Distance Duathlon Championships last month. But the result is just a consequence and a medal is just the icing on the cake. The real aim is to be happy when racing, to feel good and continually use endurance sport for the 'natural high' and for my mental well-being, to feel strong and enjoy the process. If all of those things fall into place, good things like shiny bling-bling and standing on numbered boxes will be more likely to happen as a secondary result. That’s what I believe anyway and I believe in myself that I have potential if I work hard.
The finish line was a lovely sight and I knew I'd had a good race. As with most second runs after a hard bike ride, you run as fast as you can but not so fast that the legs seize up with cramps. This meant I was dangerously on the fine line of having the odd warning shot twinge in a calf or a quad as my body was quick to let me know when I was pushing my luck and to not try and ramp the pace up. Anyway, I finished, nearly stumbled into a wall and ate a banana or two before realising I had a number '2' next to my name in my age group of 25-29 year olds.
So a few weeks later, and my body rested, I am carrying on the hard work leading to the second race of the year at Anglian Water Standard Distance Duathlon. I would not be at this point or even close if I didn’t have Oliver putting in the work and the thinking behind his whole approach to training me and I am thankful for having that support there that I really need. When you push your body and mind and are continually adapting to new things and in new directions, it’s tough to do it alone.
Dubai was a challenge and was always going to be. Leaving the UK with a temperature of 3 degrees Celsius straight to Dubai airport at 32 degrees was epic but a massive shift in pace and difference in atmosphere.
A strong swim started the day but also slightly backing off to preserve an amount of energy for the demanding bike course in scorching temperatures. A smooth transition followed the swim and after running through the cold showers, the bike course started.
Nailing a personal best on the bike was a massive highlight of this incredible race and all the training really paid off. Returning back to the city I took on my last caffeine gel and prepared my legs for the run. Transition again was very smooth and a high cadence started for the first few kilometres but unfortunately the heat got the better of me.
The liquid feed stations were quite spaced out and with the temperature now in the mid-30s, the field was faltering. A mid-run surge was followed by a painful finish, but with a personal best overall at Ironman 70.3 a happy athlete and coach returned to base. Mission completed!
A massive thank you to Sundried for the lovely triathlon suit which was a pleasure to wear and represent in certainly challenging conditions! Awesome to be part of team Sundried.
About the author: Andrew Jones is a triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
Sophie Kirk is a Sundried athlete ambassador. She tells us about her experience racing her first ever Ironman.
As a (tri)athlete it's difficult to go more than a few weeks before setting goals.
70.3 was surely the 2017 challenge after competing in Standards in 2016. My friend Vicki was already eyeing up several races for the season, now a seasoned 70.3 athlete so I jumped on the bandwagon for IM 70.3 Vichy signing up back in January.
Goals were set with my coach making IM 70.3 Vichy my A race of 2017 with European Standard just before and Worlds just after as B races. I set time goals for each which seemed achievable if I put in the hours and worked on my run speed which was lacking after months of injury in 2015/6! It seemed a long way to the A race of the season with only a couple of lead up races.
So here's my account of my first ever 70.3 Ironman race (it's long, but hey it is a 5 hour race!):
The Build Up
The summer months in the lead up to this weekends race couldn't have gone better, I was lucky. No illness, no injuries and huge support from friends and family both out on the road and at the end of the phone. Despite work colleagues trying to fatten me up the nutrition goals were in full swing with Matt Gardner and I'm convinced this helped me remain strong and illness free!
Race week came around quickly and soon my number 1 supporters Mum and Dad were down to collect our TT bikes and drive down to France. Taper plans were short but gave me no time to get nervous which I seriously appreciated, thanks Imo!
Vicki and I flew out on Thursday morning hand luggage only. Always a win. The 2 hour drive from Lyon airport passed quickly and we were soon at the expo checking in. My first IM branded event, the arena looked awesome and of course I had to buy some stash!
On Friday we went out for a short spin to check the bikes and settle the nerves followed by a short run. 'Iron' dad agreed to drive the bike course with a picnic spot just over halfway through the 90km route we would tackle the following day.
The course looked flat, beautiful and with only one short significant climb it was going to be fast. That goal I set back in January began to look good. In the afternoon we racked our bikes and dropped off our transition bags for the bike and run sections. In IM events you have to store all your additional equipment (like trainers, gels, helmet) in bags which you collect during transition, something I'm not used to at all!
I tried to get an early night but after a fairly long couple of days the stress and nerves finally got to me. I had a headache and couldn't wait for the race to be over. I had coped so well up until this point. What was going wrong? Some wise words from the girls back home and coach set me straight and off to sleep I went. Fingers crossed.
I woke up feeling good surprisingly after the previous evenings meltdown. I was excited and looking forward to getting stuck in after 7 months of training! Porridge gobbled and we were soon on the way to the start line for the 7am start
We watched pro Imo start from the sidelines and soon we were running down the pontoon (why does everyone run so fast!?!) and jumping into the water, or diving if you are feeling pro/silly. I had never done a rolling start before so it was an interesting experience! We self seeded on lakeside based on our predicted swim time. But despite starting with others who predicted a 30 minute swim for the 1.9km I found myself swimming past people for the majority. It was non wetsuit so I was doing my first race in my Zone3 swimskin. I felt slow but when I finally got clear water 400m from the end I kicked on determimed not to get a bad time. Swimskin off, run to bag. Shoes on, helmet on bib on. Hop on bike. Lets go
Swim time: 30:41
Now this was going to be fun. The sun was out and it was only going to get hotter. The main goals of this were eating consistently (I had 2.5 tribe energy bars split over the ride and a high5 gel at 80k to get ready for the run) and HYDRATING. I think I upset most of the volunteers handing out water bottles on course when I proceeded to swipe most of them to the floor before eventually picking one up on my 10th go. Before I knew it I was at 45km halfway through in 1hr15 exactly. On target for the 2hr35 goal. 60k where the rolling hills started I knew I had it in the bag so took the corners carefully not wanting to ruin the day! From 80k it was all downhill mostly freewheel taking the opportunity to rest the legs pre run.
Bike time: 2:34:12
I knew I was going to have to slow myself down. I knew I was. I just didn't appreciate how hard it was going to be. This was brilliant. I was having so much fun. I ran with a Spanish guy at around 4.40 mins/k for 7km and it felt easy. He told me he was going for 1hr33, I knew I couldn't get that but he looked like he was slowing so I kept going. There is a straight section in the 2nd half of each 10km lap where you can see the bridge you have to cross for a long time....and it never seems to get any closer. But I just got my head in the game and settled in to my pace. Still 4.40s!? By the end of the first lap I had given up slowing down and just focused on what felt right whilst making sure I took on plenty of water.
The end of the first lap went through the finishing arena and the music gave me that extra boost, I couldn't wait to get back there! Nothing can describe the feeling of running through the arena. You will just have to do one to find out how awesome it is!! I started running with another guy from about 8k to 12k which helped a lot. But we both agreed we were going too fast! Then he wished me luck and sped off, cheeky!
My knee was twinging around 15km so I took my foot off the gas to around 5min/ks to ensure it wasn't going to get worse. Then the straight came again and I knew it was 3/4k to go. I sped up! Back to 4.40s this was it, I could see the end and I was still smiling. The supporters and marshalls were incredible. Onto the carpet, sprinting, taking it all in. Waving to those who cheered my name and then I spotted the guy who had sped off earlier. I had caught him, we high fived and crossed the line together. It couldn't have been a better finish! Epic.
Run time: 1:35:28
Total time: 4:47:26
I later found out through friends following back home (and abroad!) that I had finished 2nd in AG 25-30, 18th Female overall including pros! A podium finish was a dream. I had never expected that, I'm still surprised writing this now. My aim was just 4hrs51 total time. Mission complete, and more.
Learning Imo had finished in 4th place in her first IM 70.3 pro race and Vicki had finally got her sub 2hour goal in the run (1:50!!) was the icing on the cake. And the first time we had all been reunited since Thailand last November!
I had put myself under a lot of pressure in the lead up to the race with the prospect of a podium finish but I tried to keep my eyes on the primary goal of 4hrs51. I also had a sneaky goal of World Champs selection, although I thought it would be more achievable in 2018/9. And Coach Imo kept telling me to enjoy my first 70.3. But I'm so damn competitive!
The award ceremony World champs slots in South Africa 2018 was possibly the most nerve racking part of the day. I refused to believe there would be more than 1 slot for my age category. I couldn't even drink the celebratory beer Rich and Giles had gone to get! When your name is called out, it's a bit like an auction where you have to shout 'YES' if you want your spot otherwise they continue down to the next place. I think all of my family and friends shouted for me and I practically ran up to claim my place despite the pain 😂
So that's it. Place secured for 2018. Guess I have some new goals to set for 70.3 Ironman World Championships in South Africa 2018!! Next up is the World Standard Championships in Rotterdam in just over 2 weeks time, before a well deserved rest!
As always a huge thank you to all my friends and family who have supported me throughout my training/racing! This has been the most intensive 7 months training of my life and I couldn't have done it without you.
Special shout out to those over in Vichy who helped with everything:
Transport/logistics Mum & Dad,
superstar coach Imo,
bestie Vicki for being a legend,
Michelle & David who signed up to the race because I did, it was great to have a friendly faces out there and a cheer from you David!
And finally Rich & Giles for ensuring the celebratory drinks flowed!
Thanks also to:
Matt Gardner (Mile27)
Jon Beckett (Fuel It)
Huw Stradling (Active Root)
Ben Hillier (Department of Endurance)
Victoria Samson (Ken Physio)
Cesare Gaetini (Fulham Massage)
Pat Leahy (Turbo training)
Tri Camp coaches for the brilliant middle distance training camp that gave me that early season confidence!
Hever Castle Triathlon is part of the prolific Castle Triathlon Series and is one of the biggest triathlons in the country with over 6,000 competitors taking part and 8,000 spectators expected to be in attendance each year. Sundried ambassador Davina Greenwell tells us what it's like to take part in this historic event.
2nd Place Was More Than I Could Have Hoped For
Last year I did my first ever triathlon at the Castle Series at Hever: it was a starter sprint - 200m swim, 15k Bike & 2k run. I loved it and caught the bug!
So, 12 months later, I returned to take on The Gauntlet which is half iron distance (1.9k Swim 90k Bike & 21k Run). It was quite a step up and the past few months have been a steep learning curve. It is safe to say that without the help of my coach Perry Agass, of TriSutto (www. trisutto.com), and a couple of training camps with ETE Tricamps, I would certainly be nowhere near where I am now!
The swim at Hever consists of a loop of their lake, then a blast down the adjoining river. A fantastic setting, and as you make your way down the river you can hear supporters on the bridges above you. I am certainly not what you would describe as a natural swimmer: more cat in a bath…. This does have its advantages though! Both my boyfriend Iain and coach Perry could spot me. The swim went really well except for one minor navigational issue when I ended up in some rather shallow water. I came out the water 9th lady in about 34 minutes. A ran up to T1 where I did a fair bit of faffing and decided not to put my socks on.
The bike at Hever is best described as undulating and scenic but the strict instructions were that I was not out for a day’s sight seeing! The night before, Iain and I drove the course and my ears popped five times. Despite this, I thought it looked tough but fun. I am not overly brave on the bike so some of the downhill bits looked quite intimidating. Being from Suffolk, I don’t get a lot of practise on hills, so it was a bit of a gamble. Before I started, I was told to put everything I could into the bike. I felt really strong going up the hills but was giving the brakes a fair bit of work on the downhill sections. I knew things were going well though, as by the time I had completed the first lap no one had passed me. I saw Iain and Perry at the end of lap one and they told me not to slack off! I kept working and came in off the bike 3rd lady. Into T2 where again I decided against putting socks on!
The run is where I feel most confident, but after working hard on the bike, an undulating XC run was always going to be tough ask. I decided in my head not to look at my watch and just keep on running even if I felt really slow. I saw Iain and Perry half way round the 1st lap: they told me I looked strong (lies) and that I was making ground on the girls ahead of me. I just kept on plodding and trying to enjoy the flats and the downhill bits. When I got to the last water stop the guys were waiting for me and told me I was 40 seconds off the 1st lady…. get a move on!…. so I duly stopped and had some water and High 5. I dug deep and just as I turned to the finish I saw the leading girl! I tried my hardest to sprint….probably a fast jog….but I had left it too late. She finished 11 seconds in front of me. Apparently I need to run and drink in future!
2nd place was more than I could have ever hoped for and I was even lucky enough to win a pair of swanky wheels from Wheel Science for the fastest bike split! I seem to be recovering well, except for my poor feet….maybe socks would have been a good idea.... I will learn one day!
Sundried ambassador Pablo Marcos is a promising young triathlete who has enjoyed a fantastic season this year. He gives us a detailed report of his experience competing at the renowned Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA and meeting legends of the triathlon world.
I qualified for the Ironman 70.3 Championship after racing Ironman 70.3 Weymouth. The run is my worst discipline when it comes to triathlon so I spent 8 months from the end of 2016 into the middle of 2017 committed to improving my run with the help of a triathlon coach. My hard work paid off with a 3rd place result at the Marlow half iron distance triathlon and this gave me the confidence I needed to secure a great result and qualify at the Weymouth event.
Meeting legends of triathlon
We arrived in Tennessee the day before the Ironman village opened and we decided to do some shopping before the race products sold out. As everything was in one place, I registered for the race to get it out of the way for the rest of the weekend. Despite feeling okay, I decided not to train and to rest well instead.
Thursday started at 6am. I had a small snack for breakfast and went for a run to kick off the day. No pace or time as a goal but just moving the legs and feeling how they were. It was when I was out for my morning run that something amazing happened. I bumped into a man and woman who were also out for a run and they asked if I wanted to run with them. The man was Ken Glah, a triathlon legend who has competed 33 times in a row at the Iroman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, first as a professional (10 top ten finishes with a 3rd place in 1988) and now as an age group athlete. He is also part of the triathlon hall of fame in the USA. He not only gave me lots of advice, but also helped me to mount my bike and one of his mechanics did a pre-race bike check for me. It was a pleasure and an honour to spend some time with someone like him and also to see what a normal guy he is (thanks triathlon for not creating athletes like footballers!)
After this incredible encounter, we headed to the riverfront where we went for a swim in the river and finally experienced how strong the current was going upstream. It was a short loop, about 450m, that we completed in almost 10 minutes. Looking at the Garmin stats, our pace upstream was 1’53/100m. After a couple of laps trying different things, it was time for the athlete briefing and the press conference where we took some photos with the pro athletes and I had a chat with Ironman legend Javier Gomez Noya and his coach Carlos Prieto.
We then headed for food and enjoyed some tourism in Rock City and Lookout Mountain. What a place to visit! We found ourselves so impressed with the incredible landscapes and such amazing nature. We were so surprised with the trails in the middle of the rocky mountains that we spent almost 3 hours visiting them and enjoying the views at the top, being able to see the 5 states on a perfectly clear sunny day.
Friday was very similar to Thursday. I started with a gentle run, had another swim in the stream, and took the bike for a test spin. As with all the other sessions, it was about checking that everything was alright with the bike more than anything else. For me, it also meant trying the disc wheel on the killer Lookout Mountain Climb. First impressions were that the climb was real. It was a tough one peaking at a 13% gradient but one that could be done “easily” sticking to the watts and being conscious of the length of the course ahead.
I woke up at 5 am, before my alarm went off, and realised that it was finally race day. The past year of training and working all led up to this point. Surprisingly, I slept really well that night and I woke up feeling rested and ready for what was ahead of me. With the feeling that today was going to be my day no matter what, it was time to get ready. Breakfast was the same as what I had been eating for the past two months: 2 scrambled eggs on toast with honey, porridge with oats and chia seeds, orange juice, a banana, and a coffee. By 6.30am we were on our way to the athlete village. The event was organised very well and we were able to park easily only 100m away from transition. I performed some last minute checks on the bike, pumping the tyres, getting food and drink on the bike and spending some time with other athletes. Nothing to stress about as everything was going according to plan. I even got a photo with the Prince of Bahrain! We watched the start of the elite race with Javier Gomez Noya leading the swim and then was our time to get ready. Time to put the wet suit on and get the body pumping. At this point, I particularly like getting away from everything for a few minutes and just spend time with myself visualising everything that I want to do and reviewing my race plan in my head.
With the rolling start, we jumped into the water in groups of 7 in intervals of 10 seconds, which guaranteed there would be no fighting in the water. There was a 900m upstream section with the sun high enough to blind us all the way. I remembered all the tips my coach gave me and focused on keep my core strong to avoid going sideways and I guess it worked as we soon were getting to the first of the two bridges we had to cross. From that point I could take the other bridge as a reference and go from there as we had trained the day before exactly on the same place. I knew what to expect and hence tried to make the most of it. The current was incredibly strong but I had trained hard with my coach and the practice the previous few days really paid off.
My swim stats
I completed the swim in 30 minutes and 39 seconds at an average pace of 1’34/100m. Despite being slower than my target, this felt really good considering the current. Most importantly, I completed it with no fatigue at all and ready to enjoy the bike! At the beginning of transition, there were volunteers who help you to get your wet suit off. It did help as by the time I went up the 5 steps of the stairs, they had unzipped my wetsuit and I was ready to get my wetsuit off on my own. I enjoyed a quick transition in which once the wetsuit was on my hand, I ran the 100m to the changing area receiving my bike gear bag from one of the volunteers. At the changing area I only had to put my helmet on and left as quick as possible as another volunteer took all my stuff and put them in my bag. Super smooth work from them! That’s one of the reasons why racing at the worlds can’t compare with any other triathlon.
The bike course was an incredible one. Tough and quick at the same time. One that showed the best of every athlete in a bunch of different terrains. We started on the climbing section to then head into a rolling section with a couple of short efforts going up 10-12% segments. Then it was a super fast descent where a lot of time could be gained or lost depending on how much you were willing to risk leading to a long 20km of pretty flat roads were consistency was a key. One last climb for 2kms and down to the bottom of the Lookout Mountain Climb from were we headed back into transition in the same way than on the way out.
My bike stats
I completed the bike leg in 2h 27 min at an average speed of 36.8km/h and 245W. Overall, I believe I achieved my target on the bike cutting out a few minutes from my planned time and sticking to the watts and heart rate I wanted to do. It was a challenging course and I got to transition with legs feeling good to run and most importantly really motivated for the last split of the day. Getting to transition in just over 3 hours also meant I had a chance of beating my PB, although I knew this wasn't the ideal run leg for it.
The run really started as soon as I got off the bike. For the first time in my life, I could experience the difference of an Ironman 70.3 World Championship against any other race. Getting off the bike, I handed it to a volunteer and ran to the changing tent whilst another volunteer handed me my stuff. Absolutely nothing else to focus on than running in and out of transition!
The aim was to run a first km at 4:30 and from there get to my pace of 4’00 to 4’10 to aim for a 1h 25 half marathon. It was an optimistic target and in fact I knew from km 3 that that was not going to be the case. Anyway, I got out of transition and my legs felt great. I had eaten and drunk well in the lead up to the race so I was feeling good and full of energy. I saw my friends and family cheering me on from the riverfront and that gave me a huge boost. However, that was probably the last time I smiled on the run. The day was getting hotter (about 32ºC) and the humidity was high (about 90%) so we were about to start a mental battle with ourselves.
The run was a two-lap route with some tough hills. The first was half a kilometre of climbing a 7% gradient. I had to really dig deep to keep my pace, but thankfully we only had to tackle this hill once. However, there were going to be 6 more hills harder than this one. That made me change my race plan to a conservative approach. It was very tough mentally to realise I wouldn't stand a chance of getting a PB on this course, but I started saving energy going up the hills, letting myself go with the momentum on the downhills and in the short flat segments. I knew in my heart that if it weren't for the tough course I would've achieve a PB and that was enough for me.
After more tough hills I was struggling mentally. This is when I reminded myself that I was racing at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and that all the tough training through the winter and all the support from my friends, family, and coach were leading up to this point. I pushed as hard as I could but did have to walk a little up the final tough hill.
The final part of the run was a blur where I didn't listen to my body and just kept on going. That's when i realised I could see the finish line in sight.
I had done it. 4h and 44 minutes later I was stepping on the red carpet and listening to hundreds of people from the city of Chattanooga cheering me on (and every other single athlete). I remember looking behind me to make sure I had nobody to slow down and enjoy the moment on the carpet, high five all the kids I could, make sure I had some good photos on my own looking to my friends, and scream one more time letting all the emotions leave my body. I crossed the finish line with a huge smile knowing I had given my absolutely best. Ironman 70.3 World Championships is a dream no longer and nobody will take that away from me.
I want to thank all my friends and family for being there for me through all the good and no so good times always believing in me and encouraging me to follow my dreams. I also want to thank Sundried and ProBikeTool for believing in me and let me part of their team. And also to my coach and physiotherapist who have been by my side from the very beginning of this adventure, you have made this a possibly!