Tojo Lazzari is a para-triathlete who represents Ireland in this great sport. He tells us about his experience achieving second place in the ITU World Cup in Florida.
From The Flu to Number 2
Soon after I arrived home from racing in Rotterdam I received a phone call from my coach and manager Eamonn Tilly. He said one short sentence that filled me with excitement but also got all the cogs working in my brain. He said, ‘‘do you want to race in Florida?’’ I said "Of course! I'd love to! But… I'm working, no chance of time off… I will also have to ask my family…." I said I would ring back as soon as I know more.
After a long time wheeling and dealing with my boss, I was granted the week off in return for many extra hours of hard labour and to make up the time lost by slaving away over the midterm break. Next, I had to get the green light from my other half Natalia and my super cute newborn daughter Yana. I asked Yana to pass on the message to mum, then booked the flight!
10 days before my flight I was hit hard with the flu. I was devastated because my training had been going so well; I had been hitting all my targets and hadn’t missed a workout but now I was in a bad way. I told Eamonn I was sick and he just said don’t worry, don’t do any training, rest and recover, chat soon.
I was just getting over the flu when I arrived in the USA. Sarasota, FL is a beautiful place, the people are so nice and the race venue - Nathan Benderson Park - was a perfect location to host a triathlon. The course suited me well but it was seriously hot and humid, conditions we Irish are not to familiar with. We were also informed that the swim had been cancelled, which meant my chances at winning a medal just increased dramatically as I’m not a fantastic swimmer.
On the day of the race it was 33 degrees Celsius (91 F) with 98% humidity. I went through the usual pre-race routine: check everything - check in - keep cool - hydrate - warm up and go to the toilet about 1000 times.
We were off! I felt rough, 100 meters in my throat was burning and I was roasting hot, but I told myself the others must be dying as well so I kept the pressure on and made it into transition first. I necked a bottle of salty surgery water as I knew I would need it to get though the rest of the race.
Transition went well and I left on the bike the same time as Oliver from Austria, a legend of an athlete but also a lovely guy. The bike course consisted of 3 laps around the lake within the park. I could see Oliver getting away from me so I dug deep and kept pushing the peddles. Up one side of the lake there was a very strong headwind but a super tailwind down the other side. On the last lap I couldn’t wait for the pain to end but this pain would only be replaced by a new more intense pain on the run!
The bike was fast and I finished a minute or so after Oliver. I heard the commentator shout his name as he left transition and I was entering, I was second! I knew I had a great chance if could hold it together on the run.
2km in I was in another world, the intense heat and pushing myself to the max had brought my mind into a state of deliriousness, I just kept putting one foot in front of another and tried to catch up with the man in the red trisuit in the distance.
I grabbed bottles of cold water at every water station and just covered myself, the shock would bring me round and cool me off for a few seconds until the water evaporated and I was just as hot as I had been before. I kept pushing. I knew a lot of guys were chasing me down. I passed an athlete who went off 1 minute before us in another category. He looked like a guy who had been lost in the desert for a long time, I shouted some words of encouragement and kept going.
I crossed the line in second place! I was never so happy to cross the line, very hot, dizzy and exhausted, suddenly I lost the ability to walk let alone run, with the help of the support crew I was covered in cold towels and led to an ice bath which brought me back to life.
My Friend Havard from Denmark came 3rd soon after me, and that was it, we went out for dinner, cheesecake and a well earned Guinness.
I'm so thankful to everyone that helped me this year, I couldn't train and race without the support from my family, coach, sponsors, Velocity Bikes, Lough Allen Adventure and triathlon Ireland. Currently, I'm really looking forward to putting in hours of training over the winter so I can come back stronger. If you believe you will achieve and I'm a believer. Bring on 2018!
Lori Westcott is a Team GB Age Group triathlete. She tells us about her experience at the iconic Ironman Lanzarote 70.3 race.
Qualifying For Worlds
When I fell off my bike in May and fractured my elbow, I thought my season was over. I was unable to compete in the two GB Age Group races I had qualified for and so my priority was to come back stronger for Lanzarote 70.3 in September. This was always my big race towards the back end of the season but it became more of a priority and my training became more focused for this race.
In my head the goal was to qualify for the World 70.3 Championships in South Africa the following year. However, realistically in my first triathlon season I knew this might be a big ask. The wind and humidity of Lanzarote was always going to make it tough and being a baby to the sport, with only one 70.3 behind me, maybe 2019 was a more realistic target. Head down train hard and see what happens. If you can convince your mind, stay strong and focused, you're half way there.
To ensure I left no stone unturned, I headed out to Club La Santa for two weeks the beginning of August for some focused training with no distractions, which gave me the chance to Reece the course (of which they changed a week before the race!) and become acclimatised to the lovely hills and cross winds!
I then headed back out to Lanzarote the week before the race (being a teacher the timing of this race worked perfectly) and stayed away from La Santa, so I could stay relaxed and focused. My friend Annaleece came with me for moral support. Little did she know she was in charge of bike and run splits (no pressure!). I am a super relaxed and a laid-back person, not a lot really phases me, however pre-race week, I was feeling sick with nerves and couldn't really stomach much food. I wanted to qualify so badly that this was taking over my thoughts all week leading up to the race (not ideal when tapering!). Regardless of the outcome of this race, I knew I had had a great first season, better than I could have ever expected but this somehow didn't seem to help the pre-race nerves.
2nd female age grouper out the water; 28.15, a great start (being from a swimming background it always helps me psychologically being out near the front of the swim pack), on to the bike and the first 30k out to the turn around point I felt good, the last 60k however was painful. I'd mucked about with my position too much on the TT and I was in all sorts of pain, I could barely stay in the bars for more than a few minutes. Those 60k were purely get the head down and push through it (think of the goal!). Being a rookie, I didn't fuel well either and I could sense the run was going to be a painful slog. It was a long 2 hours 59 minutes! In to T2 and Annaleece told me I was first in from my age group and I had 14 minutes on 2nd place.
The run was 3 laps, I didn't feel too bad for the first lap, however, the poor fuelling on the bike had left me with nothing more in the tank. The run was a long mental battle. Annaleece kept me updated with how far back 2nd place was and in the end I had 18 minutes to spare. A 1.53 run was not at all a true reflection of how well I had been training. However, 1st in my age group, 15th overall on a really tough course and qualification for the World 70.3 Championships! I had nailed the goal!
I was super happy with the outcome but slightly deflated that my bike and run wasn't a true reflection of where I was. Maybe I was being too hard on myself. I have this tendency to sometimes expect too much to soon. Writing this race report two months later has given me a bit of time to reflect on what I have achieved so early on in my short-lived triathlon career. It is amazing how much you learn in training and in every race. Triathlon is a tough sport but the body is capable of so much with the right head space and mindset.
Next up is Bahrain 70.3 in November, with the main goal to nail my race day nutrition... and then see what I am capable of.
Sundried ambassador and winner of the Southend Triathlon 2017 Harrison Smith gives us an account of his time at the ITU WTC in Rotterdam.
Feeling Fresh and Relaxed
This year’s World Triathlon Championships were held in Rotterdam, Netherlands. With the race scheduled for late Sunday afternoon, my dad and I woke up bright and early Saturday morning, clipped the bike to the top of the car and breezed through the six-hour trip. Our hotel was situated about a mile from the finish line, so, after unpacking, we walked down to catch the elite men’s race. The pace they can sustain for 10km never ceases to amaze me. I went through the standard procedure: register, go back to the room, stick everything onto the bike, and go for an easy shake-out run to check out the course.
I woke up feeling fresh and relaxed; I focused a lot on my running last summer and my only other triathlon had been the Sundried Southend Triathlon three months previously. I wasn’t hugely confident, but I knew that if I could get myself into a decent group on the bike I would come through in the footrace.
Unsurprisingly, the day dragged on as we waited, idly watching the other age-groupers. The race was at three o’clock so I had a small bite for lunch before setting up in the two transitions- T1 was on the north side of the river, we would cross the bridge during the bike and finish on the south side for the run.
I warmed up with my usual run followed by drills before slipping my Tri’n’Swim Well wetsuit on and doing some sprints in the water to get a feel for the rather fresh 16-degree temperature. Alas, we were let out onto the pontoon and I realised how big the field actually was- over 70 guys from countries as far away as Australia had made the trip.
I went hard to the first buoy- as did everyone else- and was forced backwards in the ensuing chaos. As we rounded the last of the two buoys and began our journey to the swim exit, I was latched onto a set of feet, focusing on maintaining my technique and keeping up the cadence, consciously aware that I was toward the back. As I sprinted out of the water and into the 300m run to transition, my dad shouted that I had swam 10.40, hardly my fastest time for the 750m but not awful considering I had swam only a few times all summer.
I put a big effort in through transition while trying to focus on being as efficient as possible. It paid of as after a couple of kilometres of hard riding I found myself in a group of about eight, around 45 seconds behind the main peloton. Luckily the bike course was narrow- mainly on bike paths- and particularly winding, which suited our small group. As we worked together I did take a moment- at about 15km- to acknowledge how awesome it was that I was chain ganging through Rotterdam with an Aussie, and Belgian, another Brit and an American. We made good progress through the final miles, bringing the peloton from out of sight, to within 20 seconds as we leaped from our bikes into T2.
Surprisingly for me, I breezed through T2 too without a problem. I had a slight stich but I also had a long line of competitors in front, enticing me to push on. I was told at the start of the run that I was in 40th, hardly where I was aiming for in the back of my mind. By halfway I had passed most of the peloton and was in about 15th with my sights set on the stragglers from the first group out of the swim. Ignoring the rising pain, I focused on holding form and I raced down the last hill toward the finish, picking people off all the way. As I turned onto the carpet I was in 10th, so, with one last burst of adrenaline, I sprinted past two more guys, collapsing across the line in 8th with the fastest run time by 30 seconds- a respectable 16.05.
As we drove home that evening I was content with my effort, but excited for the year to come; the winner had only swum 35 seconds faster than me, with a faster swim I could potentially have won. With the priceless support of Sundried for my kit, Tri’n’Swim Well for my wetsuit and swim coaching, Finely Tuned Physio for my sports massages and injury treatment, and my coach- Nick Wetheridge- for guidance, I see no reason why I shouldn’t be able to fulfil that potential and win next year.
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!
Race report by Paul Suett.
With the season coming to an end I decided to race one last time in Kent which is only a 15 minute drive for me so nice and local for once. The Midnight Man Triathlon quarter distance is comprised of a 950m swim, 45km cycle and a 10.5km run. My body was a bit battered from the season and I had been dealing with a torn rotator cuff and foot problems all season so this wasn’t the best of ideas, but as it was paid for I decided to give it a go.
The race starts in deep water which is always a nerve-wracking but fun way to start a race. Suddenly, the horn went to start the race and the water turned into a washing machine as all the nervous energy got expelled as we all swam off. The swim course is a series of sharp turns around numerous buoys as the sun sets, so visibility isn’t great. I made a decision just to follow people until the sun was behind me and then I could sight myself. I felt great in the water; swimming strong and my shoulder was holding out, I could see the splashing of people in front but the glare of the sun made looking for a buoy impossible. After 3 turns around the buoys, the sun was finally behind me and I could make a burst and control my own race.
In my head I had it planned out: get past the group in front and turn the next buoy in front. I would then only have one more buoy to get around and then to the swim exit. I got around the group and buoy and I powered down the final stretch in relatively clear water. I made a huge mistake and swam to the wrong buoy going off course a bit but recovered pretty well coming out of the water in 9th place. I ran straight into transition with a clear head and found my bike easily.
The bike route is pretty flat and consists of 5 laps, so it's head down and attack as much as you can. I had people I knew on the course who I know are stronger cyclists than me but wanted to show what I could do. The plan was to pick them off one by one and see how many places I could make up. I felt strong on the bike passing a good friend Mark who is a great swimmer and we exchanged motivational shouts and I then put my head back down and started going for it; I could see various people in front and I used them as targets to get pass. Passing the start and finish point every lap was amazing because I got so much motivation from all the shouts from people that had come to support, I soon realised this was the fastest I had ridden a bike leg of a race and wondered if this would affect my run. I decided not to worry because this was the last race of the season and worth seeing what I was capable of.
For the final two laps I was in a battle with someone who I know is a better cyclist than me but I wasn’t letting him go. We continuously passed each other until the final half a lap where I decided to let him stay in front and waste his energy trying to stay in front; I used this time to fuel up for the run and make sure I had drunk enough as the weather was really warm. Hurtling into T2 I still had eyes on the person in front and raced through transition picking him off easily at the start of the run leg.
My legs felt heavy from the cycling but this soon numbed as they got used to the run and my foot really hurt a lot but I put that to the back of my head. I was supercharged with shouts from my girlfriend Cassie and friends and looked forward to picking off some runners. The run leg seemed lonely and after overtaking a teammate, Deborah, I didn’t see anyone else for the first lap as it twisted and turned around the course. The second lap was better because now more people were on the course and I used them to target and settled into my stride and breathing.
Coming into the final straight I could hear people shouting and saw the lights on the finishing tunnel. I slapped a few hands and passed over the finish line exhausted totally glad it was over, it was only then I was told I finished 3rd! I was totally shocked by this because I had no Idea where I was on the course and expected maybe 5th or 6th. A podium finish to end the season made me the happiest and I can’t thank Cassie and friends enough for the support as it was them that drove me to race my hardest through the pain. The season is now over and I can get my rotator cuff and foot fixed in time to start next season's preparation.