At the ITU World Triathlon Series (WTS), the world’s most elite triathletes travel to iconic cities to compete in standard and sprint distance races for a chance to be crowned World Champion. For 2017, the WTS took place in Abu Dhabi, Gold Coast Australia, Yokohama Japan, Leeds UK, Hamburg Germany, Edmonton and Montreal Canada, Stockholm Sweden, with the final in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Jodie Stimpson is Britain's defending champion but was pipped to the post by New Zealand's Andrea Hewitt this year, while five-time ITU world champion Javier Gomez of Spain is the one to watch out of the men.
At the final in Rotterdam, Sundried triathlete ambassador Brooke Gillies finished 5th out of 53 girls in her age group (16-19) for the sprint distance and was the first British athlete to cross the line in a time of 1:12:19. She gives us a race report of this impressive race.
Before the race
On the morning of the race I woke up at 7:50am and had a small nutritional breakfast to fuel me for the long day ahead. In this race, the transitions are a 20-minute walk apart so I had to go to T2 to drop off my running shoes and then I hopped on my bike and cycled to T1 to drop off my bike. Once all this was done, I headed to the swim start and relaxed for an hour and a half until it was time for my wave.
My wave was due to start at 14:40, so I started to get my wetsuit on about 30 minutes prior; by the time I was ready it was time to line up in our wave.
5 minutes to go - We were told to head to the pontoon and get in our positions.
1 minute to go - We were told to get in the water and place one of our hands on the pontoon.
30 secs to go - My heart was pounding.
Then all off a sudden I hear ‘on your mark’ and a loud horn and I was off.
I started on the right hand side of the pontoon and this meant that during the swim I had a clear visual of the buoy. Throughout the swim I was in the front pack and I was feeling comfortable and strong, and I knew I had to stay at the front in order to have a good chance of finishing in a good position.
I was 3rd out the water which made me feel really comfortable, but I remembered that there was an 800m run to T1. As I ran up the stairs onto the blue carpet I started to take my wetsuit off the top half of my body. The run felt like it went on forever, but finally I reached my bike, stomped my wetsuit off my feet as I put my helmet on, grabbed my wetsuit and threw it in the bag and grabbed my bike and went for the exit.
Once on the bike I tried to pick up some speed so I could get my feet in my shoes. I was fourth out of T1 onto the bike with another British girl in front of me, so we worked together to catch the other two girls in front. It didn't take long until we caught them and then another girl in fifth place joined the pack and we travelled the full 20km together. There was a lot of technical turns and speed bumps so communication was a huge factor during the race. I was feeling surprisingly strong on the bike because in past events I started to feel tired, but I knew that I had to just push it and stay with the pack. I led the group into T2, but I was the third one out of transition to start the run.
The run was hard at the start and it took me a while to get into my rhythm, however, I felt good in the latter part of the 5km and I wanted to catch the girls in front of me. I was fourth for most of the run, but a girl behind me was just pushing so hard that she ran past me and didn't stop or slow down at all. I tried everything in my power to catch her but she managed to get about 400m in front of me. Once I turned the corner and saw the finish line I was so relieved, I knew all I had to do was push it for the last 200m, and I did and I finished 5th.
I think I underestimated myself at the beginning of the race because I knew that most of the girls had raced at the Worlds before. But I didn't let that bother me, I just kept my head down and went for it and I think I surprised most people when I finished 5th overall.
I was really surprised about what just happened, coming 5th wasn't something I was expecting. But I worked extremely hard throughout the entire race to finish where I did. If only I had had a little left in the tank I could have gone for it a little harder on the run. After all it was my first big event.
Overall Times and Splits
Matt Leeman is an outstanding triathlete and has won some fantastic full iron distance races this year. He tells us about his experience competing as a pro for the first time.
This whole year has been about me gearing up to be able to race at an international professional level. That meant no corners could be cut and I had to get the most out of every day. Ironman Wales was chosen to be my first professional start at full iron distance. Me and my coach Perry Agass had chosen this race as it played to my strengths with a hilly bike and run. There was a strong start list of 22 including Ironman champions and World championship qualifiers. I had a rough aim in my head with regards to position but was mainly focused on the process of having a solid race and making a good account of myself at the level I want to race at.
Tenby is a seaside town on the Pembrokeshire coast. The sea swim is fairly straightforward with an Australian exit (run out of the water and back in again), which in this case was around a massive rock on the beach. This is great for spectators and competitors as it enables you to see your position in the race. It was a beach start which is a favourite of mine as it's pretty exhilarating charging towards the water without any regard for the race being over 9 hours, it’s all about the sprint and getting yourself to the front of the field.
My first lap was pretty quick and I was sitting at the back of the lead group of six or seven. I made the effort during the Aussie exit to ensure I started the next lap with the front pack; the sand saps your energy but if the elastic breaks and you’re not there, you won’t be catching up again. I put the effort in and dived in on the feet of the group. I then found the swim feeling pretty comfortable, maybe because the spike in heart rate from the run around the rock warmed me up or the confidence gained from being at the front of the race. I worked my way nearer to the front and settled in. We passed the back end of the age group field and got to the last buoy. I took an aggressive line from the buoy and into shore and found myself at the front of the pack. I decided to capitalise on this and kept the tempo high to dissuade anyone else from coming around me. However, Harry Wiltshire had jumped on my feet and sprinted me on the last few meters and began charging up the beach. The run into transition is around 1km uphill through the town. Once I got running I overtook Harry and lead the race into transition. I couldn’t believe that me, a humble lad from Essex, was leading an international field from the swim in my first pro Ironman.
Once I had negotiated the Ironman transition I started the bike leg in third place. I knew I was going to have to ride my own race to get the best performance out of myself. The bike is an area of mine I need to work on to balance myself out across the three disciplines, but I knew it was hilly and drew from my experience of the Castle Series Bastion and how hard that felt 80-90 miles in and paced myself accordingly. I remembered being told by George Gandy, running distance coach when I was at Loughborough University, ‘Don’t fight the hills, or you’ll lose’. Great advice for this type of course. The first loop took us out to Angle, a narrow peninsula at the tip of South-West Wales. Strong winds were forecast and they were in full swing by the time I’d reached this area, making for a good test of bike handling skills. Once this area and the sand dunes had been negotiated, it was back inland where it had began to rain quite heavily and the roads were now very wet. I had taken a tumble from my bike two weeks previously in a race so was still a little cautious on the wet roads. There had also been some oil put on the corners of some country roads which made it even sketchier. I was very happy to be heading back into Tenby on my bike having stayed on two wheels for 112 miles. I had caught a few athletes who had gone up the road earlier on the race so knew I was still in a decent position in the race.
I started the run in 8th place and just focused on getting the first of four laps done, by breaking the marathon down into quarters. There are a few turn around points on the run on Ironman Wales, therefore plenty of opportunity to work out how everyone is getting on around you. I knew I was putting time into the athletes behind me, bar one, Andrej Vištica who was absolutely flying when he passed me. And fortunately some of the athletes ahead began flagging so it very much became a war of attrition. I had worked my way up to 5th place, which was a massive boost, as I had not expected to place this high and although the race wasn’t done I was determined to keep it. I had put 90 seconds into the athlete I had overtaken quite quickly, but he seemed to be maintaining this gap and although I was pretty certain he wouldn’t make that time up in the last 3 miles, I got my head down to put as much time into him going into the last few turn around points to make sure he didn’t want to try and fight back. I learnt this lesson the hard way when I was younger.
I pushed on till the end and crossed the finish line in 5th place. I took a huge gamble this year by not pursuing a full time job and deciding to go pro instead. Winning prize money at this race justifies this decision and the sacrifices that come with it. It’s been a long season, I have surpassed my expectations and am now enjoying some down time freshening up physically and mentally to get working ready for next season.
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!
After wanting to try my hand at a triathlon for a while now, I finally took the plunge and entered the Nice Tri St Neot's Triathlon series. Instead of throwing myself in at the deep end with a standard distance race, I figured it would be better to first test my fitness with the Sprint discipline.
I was coming into triathlon training completely fresh not knowing what to expect. Physically, I was probably the fittest I’ve ever been though. I swam a lot as a teen and cycling is in my family (my granddad cycled across North America in 8 weeks, across the Andres and the foothills of the Himalayas, all after the age of 50). My running left a lot to be desired, but I was capable enough. After calling on a few friends who’ve tackled triathlons before, I was told to split up the distances in training into intervals. This, I was told, would improve my VO2 max; increase my speed consistency over the course of the race and just as importantly, stop training from ever becoming tedious.
I set myself the aim of doing each race discipline twice a week in the run-up to race day. With it being my first triathlon, I wanted to hit the ground running with as much momentum as possible and therefore decided against tapering one-week prior.
The swimming was my biggest error in training. Not once did I do any open water training. It was just a lot more convenient for me to base my training in the pool. Swimming 20 lengths of the local 50m pool in the morning before work suited my schedule a lot better. I learnt the hard way on race day when the open water humbled me and taught me a valuable lesson. Training shouldn’t be convenient; it should still push you outside your comfort zone to prepare your body for what’s to come.
When I was at a 25m pool, I’d split the 40 lengths into 10 lengths with a minute rest between rounds. The bike was done in 1k splits, and with running I opted for 500m sprints or one-mile splits, aiming to hit the same split time within a 10-20 seconds difference. This combination of intervals gave me a solid aerobic base.
I didn't really feel nervous on the morning of the race. It was more the apprehension of not knowing what to expect from the water or the race as a whole. I knew I wasn’t going to compare myself to others; I was there to complete, not to compete.
When the field of athletes entered the River Ouse, I was actually pleasantly surprised. I’d been so worried about the temperature of the water, but when I dunked my head under in the brief warm up, I didn’t freeze, and to my surprise the water was clear – dare I say it, the perfect conditions.
I was told from the start that jostling for position would inevitably happen in a field of over 350 competitors. I initially stuck to the game plan by hanging back, but my competitive nature pulled me in. This didn’t help calm my breathing. The one thing I was repeatedly told to do was to stay calm in the water and enjoy it, that way I could find a rhythm and settle into the swim. However, my breathing suffered and I soon found myself having to breathe every stroke, as opposed to every three strokes like in the pool (that’ll teach me for not acclimatising my body to open water).
Spotting was an art I should’ve practised too. I found myself having to slow down in the race temporarily to assess my position. In hindsight, I should’ve planned my spotting simultaneously with my strokes to improve efficiency.
One thing I wasn’t expecting was the niggling cramp I experienced in my quads while swimming. The combination of not sufficiently warming up, the cold temperature hitting my muscles, and not letting my arms do the majority of the work (to save my legs for the later bike and run) left my leg muscles stiff and unable to kick with any real strength. This combination of unsteady breathing and heavy legs meant I emerged from the water a bit off the pace.
My transition from water to bike was slow. I’m not sure if it’s common or not, but I was pretty dizzy and disorientated emerging from the water. Once on the bike though, it was a different story. I’m going to put this down to getting out of my wetsuit to show off my Sundried Performance Tri-Suit. I was flying now. I was in my natural environment and managed to make up ground. St Neots provided an ideal course for riders. Apart from a few big hills, the country roads of Cambridgeshire proved kind to the first-time triathlete. I’d hit my stride.
Myself and another rider spent large parts of the bike segment neck and neck. He would pass me on the flats; I would take him on the hill. This definitely helped keep me motivated as the miles racked up.
Going into the run, my legs felt surprisingly good. I’d shaken off the cramp and unlike from swim to bike, my muscles were warm enabling me to keep pushing harder.
Knowing all I had to do was make it through a 5km run and then I could reward myself with a Sunday roast, the run felt smooth. The hard miles had been done and I continued to pass a few more of the field. The two laps around a very flat and peaceful Regatta Meadow Park felt like it went really quickly and having amazing support from the crowds provided extra motivation to finish strong. Crossing the finish line, I didn’t feel hugely fatigued. In fact, I’m sure I crossed it with a huge smile on my face.
The smile as a crossed the line is what matters. As a first-timer trying a triathlon it’s so important to just enjoy the experience and not get to caught up in trying to keep pace with seasoned club competitors. I learnt so much from training, the preparation needed, and even more so from the race, for example pacing.
I’ve definitely caught the triathlon bug and next season I’m already lining up a few standard distance events. My advice to anyone thinking about taking the step and entering a triathlon – just go for it. You have nothing to lose, everything to gain. Thank you again to Sundried for the incredible performance tri-suit. Not only did it look great on, more importantly throughout the race it was unbelievably comfortable. At no point did I experience any discomfort, tightness or chafing, which allowed me to focus solely on my performance. Here’s to a successful off-season training hard!
About the author: Michael Jennings has been the Junior Fitness Editor at Men's Health Magazine since November 2016. His editorial areas of interest include fitness, nutrition, supplements, activewear, retreats, and events.
It’s hard to look back and analyse a race that didn’t go exactly to plan, but that’s the nature of competitive sport: sometimes a race goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. Taking home 3rd in an ITU International race is a great achievement but there will always be the question of what could have been if I hadn’t had a bike mechanical issue?
Training For The Race
After the hype of the elite mixed relays, I was raring to go for my next race and I couldn’t resist entering the triathlon held in Vouglan whilst out in The Jura (France) for our annual family getaway (what’s a holiday without triathlon after all?) I say holiday, but in reality, it is a pretty intense few weeks swimming in the local lakes, running through forests, and hanging onto my dad’s wheel whilst he tackles the Jura’s climbs (he adopts the old-fashioned training approach of ‘more is more’ so easy rides turn into TT’s through the mountain ranges…pray for my legs). In addition, we can add rock climbing and general hippy antics into the mix now that my sister has found a love for the great outdoors.
With the perfect taper week leading up to Vouglan Triathlon, I was raring to go. The course couldn’t have been better: a shortened swim, a longer bike course consisting of 3 hefty climbs, and an undulating trail run… bring it on!
It was safe to say that on arrival to registration this morning, I was a little unnerved to reveal exactly what I had let myself in for (the problems of not speaking French and using Google translate to acquire my race information). The standard was much higher than I had originally anticipated with athletes racing from the elite triathlon circuit.
After racking and warming up, the female athletes lined up for the start of the swim. I stood there clueless, hoping for the best as French instructions were read out at warp speed (there was a large white buoy which I presumed would be the direction we would be heading…but there were also many yellow buoys scattered around, so who knew?). The swim was a battle from the start and there was a lot of hustle and bustle. When I first started triathlon I adopted the friendly swimming approach, but I soon realised that you must hold your own in the water… so sorry (not sorry) for anyone I swim over/into/on today.
I was 4th Out of the swim, up the hill to transition, and onto the bike… TIME TO CHASE THE LEADERS DOWN. I knew I would hit the 18% climb after a few minutes on the road and was looking forward to being able to hit it hard. Unfortunately, an unexpected mechanical issue resulted in my bike being stuck in the big ring (THE THIGH BURN WAS REAL) and the only way I was making it up that hill was by a ridiculous amount of traversing across the road, trying not to take out spectators in the process (I don’t have to speak French to know I was getting a fair amount of banter thrown my way). The remainder of the bike was hard work, battling with a shifter that was not playing ball. It would have been so easy to throw to towel in but I am always an advocate of pushing on and ALWAYS FINISHING (I’ll take last place over a DNF any day). The run felt good, especially after such a thigh burning bike, and I crossed the line as the 3rd senior female.
There was nothing I could do on the bike, but giving up was not an option. It’s hard to stay focused when a race is slipping through your fingertips but I am glad I pushed through and persevered. Today wasn’t my day but it’s left me hungry for upcoming races and has given me confidence in my current form and training.
As always, thank you for all the support from Sundried who have been great with kitting me out for training and racing. The performance tri suit did not only look the part but fit like a glove. Its breathable fabric was ideal in the French heat and the padding was enough to give me a comfy ride whilst not affecting my run. All in all, I can’t recommend the suit enough, and I’ll definitely be sporting it in my future races.