When you can say you’re 6th at the IM 70.3 World Champs…

It’s taken me some time to come around to writing this, mostly because I don’t really believe it happened, and was waiting to see more finisher photos for it to sink in. Which it kinda has.

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It definitely wasn’t a flat course with 650m climb on the bike – but the headwind for the first 40 km was a bigger obstacle.

So on the 1st of September was I took part in the IM 70.3 World Championships in South Africa, my first time racing any sort of Championship race as a pro.

My plan was to go for experience, of course race as hard as possible, but with limited expectations. So here’s an account of how the race went down from my perspective.

The World Champs was split into two days: day 1 being women’s day, and day 2 being men’s day. I have never raced in such a format, but have to say that I really enjoyed it. It meant that the women had a ‘true race’ if you like, with no additional parameters that varied depending on where you came out the water (ie age group men coming out the water with you and pacing you etc).

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Can you spot me? Sarah True (green hat), Heather Wurtele, Jeanni Seymour, ME, Daniela Ryf, Agnieszka Jerzyk. P.C Talbot Cox

After the swim warm up, the pro females lined up, waiting for the opening ceremony. I don’t think I appreciated this as much as I should have, mainly because I was trying not to think of the race as a big deal, and doing my best to ignore the show in an effort to appease the nerves. I guess it kinda worked apart from the moment it caught up with me on the bike and I was a little sick in my mouth.

I was ranked high enough to be called out at the beginning and choose my line up position on the start line, which is beneficial to get a straighter line to the first buoy.

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With the 2nd group on the bike – Sarah True and Pamella Oliviera behind me. It was cold and windy and I was unblocking my nose…

When the gun, wait no, cannon, went off, the women ran down the beach and into the waves to start the 1.9km sea swim. The water was cold and burned my head in that explosive kind of way. But, unsurprisingly, there were enough distractions to think about, most importantly who was where and why was someone unnecessarily pulling me under. I got out of that situation and stuck on some feet. Coming out of the water, I realized that I was in the lead chasing pack behind Lucy Charles, alongside six others including Daniela Ryf, Anne Haug, Radka Vodickova and Sarah True.

We hurried through transition, with crowds screaming as we hopped on our bikes. It was then a 90 km bike ride, undulating with some steeper and longer climbs in the middle section. A strong headwind on the way out, that turned into a nice tailwind on the way back. I rode with a group of 5 girls, with Daniela shooting past us up the first hill – ironically named Mt Pleasant.

We stayed riding 12m apart, with lots of marshalls patrolling up and down as well as tv crews. At the turnaround we got a glimpse of the race leaders Daniela leading Lucy who were a few km in front of us. I could tell how far ahead they were by tracking the helicopter that was following them.

On the way back, I took the front of the group for 10 or so km, trying to keep consistent and the pace up as I was aware that in the 2nd chase group a couple minutes back were some very strong runners.

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In A LOT of pain in the last 1km of the fastest 1/2 marathon of my life to date. Good day to PB on!

Off the bike and into T2, which for once I felt I nailed coming out first from our riding pack and in 3rd position overall! This didn’t last for too long as Anne Haug effortlessly skipped past my, on a hunt for 2nd place which she dug 4 minutes into but finished 3rd in the end.

Meanwhile, I was caught by Radka Vodickova who I hadn’t raced in a couple of years, while she’d casually had a baby. I let her pace me and it swapped a couple of times. I didn’t look at my watch, as I knew if I wanted to hang onto a top position, slowing down was not an option as the runners behind would catch pretty quickly.

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Running side by side with Radka Vodickova. PC Talbot Cox

We ran like this from the 2nd to the 16th kilometer, when the Brazilian girl Oliviera, who had been sitting 20-30m behind us the whole race pounced just before the final uphill to the last turnaround. My legs broke on the final downhill, and the last 3km were a struggle to the finish, trying to mentally and physically keep it together as I knew the girls behind me were gaining.

The crowds and support the whole way along the course were absolutely phenomenal, and kept me moving right to the very end.

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Imo’s look of finish line relief

I crossed the line in 6th place overall, absolutely elated but also physically destroyed. It was straight to the massage tent being crutched by my mother to avoid the legs cramping as it was on the brink of happening.

When your legs ‘go’ like mine did that day, and you still have a few km to run on them, you know that the recovery is going to be hard.

A few races left this season and starting to think about the main goals for 2019. How time flies!

Thank you to all my supporters, family, friends, people who have given me advice and worked with me to get me fit and healthy. In particular Jurgen Zack and my parents for their support and putting up with me. Also to my sponsors for helping me achieve my goals; Z-Coaching Phuket, Maserati, White and Wong, Revv Energy Thailand, Jiakina Customized, Sailfish, Project Artisan Layan Phuket, and excited to announce the start of my partnership with Tappit – check’em out for events…end of season is coming!

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Rapperswil 70.3

I opened my European race season with IM Rapperswil 70.3 at the beginning of June. I often get asked how I choose my races, and of course there are a variety of reasons. But at Rapperswil, the beautiful scenery and amazing spectators, particularly when running around with the Swiss flag on your bib, are unbeatable.

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Amazing support the whole way around the course at 70.3 Rapperswil

I was relatively relaxed going into the race, and really looking forward to being back on a startline after 6 weeks away from it. I had done the race once before, and been up to do a bike recce beforehand to calm the nerves a bit. So here’s how it went.

The swim was perhaps my favourite bit of the day. The gun went and I swam hard, with the aim to try and see if I could stick on Daniela Ryf’s feet. We’ve been doing a fair bit of work on my swim for the first half of the year, and it paid off, that and my new Sailfish wetsuit. A pb of 24.34 over the 1900m, and coming out just behind Daniela and with no one I could see too close on our tails.

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2nd out the water on the feet of Daniela

Onto the bike, and I was a touch slow through transition, and by the time I was settled on the bike, Daniela had flown away. The first loop of the hilly bike course I did mainly alone, with a couple of the male pros we caught in the swim floating around. I held myself back up the hills, knowing there were plenty of them, and also aware of the infamous “Stairway to Heaven” on the run.

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Out of T1 with my personal escort 

Onto the second loop of the bike and suddenly the whole vibe changed. The age-groupers were on the course and the roads weren’t quite so clear. Luckily, I had the motorbike in front trying to keep the road clear.

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Almost wanted to stop to take in the view 😉 

The nature of the course is that there are some sharp climbs, which became a real problem when there were so many people on the course not respecting the rules. There are strict and fair rules in Ironman racing, and when you are being followed by a race official, the smallest error can cost you dearly. I had to work to overtake people riding in the middle of the road on their left hand side, all without crossing the middle line. Not straightforward.

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And of course, then it was onto the run, and I was given my splits to the other girls as I made my way through transition, and carried on receiving the updates from various incredible supporters around the course. My legs didn’t feel too fresh, but I was holding an ok pace. After lap 1 (of 2) I realised that if I could hold it steady and not be broken by the 2nd climb up the infamous Stairway, then it was unlikely I’d get caught.

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Enjoying perhaps the only bit of shade on the run course

It was an incredible feeling come down the finish shoot, high fiving mum just before crossing the line.

Of course, Daniela had put in a stunning performance and arrived quite a while before me, spurred on by chasing down the boys one by one. But to come second to the current Ironman and half Ironman world Champion was quite a feat for me, and a good marker of where I stand.

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With Daniela Ryf (1st place – middle) and Skye Moench (3rd place – right) at the finish line

I had also knocked a fair chunk of time off my 2016 result across all the disciplines, thank you Mr Jürgen Zäck. To top it off, Dad finished shortly (ish…) after me, and qualified for the 70.3 World Champs in South Africa later this year, where I have also qualified for.

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As ever, thank you to all my sponsors and family for their support, through the thick and the thin, White and Wong, the Z-Coaching Phuket team, Jiakina Customized (my amazing new tri-suit), Sailfish, Revv Energy Thailand for keeping me fuelled to the final km, and of course Project Artisan Phuket.

The recovery after the race wasn’t quite as obvious, but that’s another story for another time…

Liuzhou IM 70.3: 2nd place by 4 seconds, what the time doesn’t tell.

Liuzhou IM 70.3 marked the beginning of my 2018 triathlon season. There was a world class field racing in both the men’s and women’s race. The names Alistair Brownlee and Craig Alexander might ring a bell even to any non-triathletes who have somehow found themselves on my blog.

I was ready to race and felt pretty fit after 3 months of solid training with the Z-Coaching team in Thailand.

The morning of the race was due to be cold and stormy, but I had stopped trusting the weather forecast after it had proved wrong every day previously. How naïve I was.

The gun went for the boys, and 5 minutes later for us and we zig-zagged down the river. The current was almost non-existent, and the water pretty flat for all the pros. I started quite hard and ended up swimming on the front. I was too focused on sighting to look behind me to see how many girls had held on, and was so surprised that as I ran up the stairs to transition still no one had come out of the water.

It’s the first time I’ve ever been first out the water so thank you very much to my new wetsuit sponsors Sailfish wetsuits!

As I was going through transition a gale picked up and I was thrown around with my bike, having to completely stop to jump on it. The storm had indeed hit, exactly as forecasted. The first lap of the two lap bike course was a struggle with the wind and then rain which appeared to be coming from any direction.

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Pushing through a climb on the bike

At kilometre 20 I was caught by Agnieska Jerzyk, who I knew was a strong two time Polish Olympic triathlete. I rode behind her for the remainder of the bike, and we came into and out of T2 together.

She began setting the pace on the run but I quickly realized that it was too slow, and we risked being caught by the speedy Sarah Pampiano if we didn’t run at around a 4 minute pace.

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Starting out on the run with Agnieska just behind

I took the lead and kept the pace, but realised that I was doing a lot of work against the strong headwind. So, I made several attempts to get her to take a turn on the front.

Again the pace dropped and I went back to the front. As it was coming to the final 5km of the run, I started putting in surges, but to no avail. Agnieska was stuck like super glue.

As we came into the final kilometer she put in two strong efforts to drop me, and I stayed with her. Then in the final 300m she put in a last one, and I had no power left to stay.

It was a tough moment, and it’s certainly painful to cross the line so close behind in second place, after it was so close for 91 kilometers of racing.

Finish line pain

But overall I’m pretty pleased with my race. To be racing amongst Olympians and top 10 Kona finisher and super strong runner Sarah Pampiano is really hard for me to believe, but it happened!

Thanks to everyone on the course for the support despite the conditions.

Thank you also to the amazing team behind me starting with Maserati China, White and Wong, Jiakina Customized for kitting me out, Sailfish for the awesome swim experience, Revv Energy Thailand and Project Artisan Phuket for the support. And of course Coach, aka Jürgen Zäck for getting me race ready.

Now it’s time to recover and get ready for next weekend’s race at Qiandao Hu, or 1000 Island Lake, near Shanghai.

And remember, don’t be afraid of losing, you’ll certainly learn something from it.

Control the Controllables

At the beginning of October, I took on my longest (and hardest) race yet, in Weihai, China. I was invited as part of the Shanghai Triathlon Club, a fun and enthusiastic group of triathletes who are also incredibly numerous standing as the biggest Club in Asia.

Continue reading Control the Controllables

Were you happy with your race? Vichy IM 70.3

Vichy was my first IM 70.3 race as a pro. And boy was it fun. I came fourth out of the pro women, and finished just over 4 minutes after the winner.

Knowing my competitive side, many people have asked me if I’m pleased with the result.

Continue reading Were you happy with your race? Vichy IM 70.3

Smashing out the 10.5km to take the Win

Cover Photo: Sprint finishing against the coach, Jurgen Zack. As they say….it’s not a honeymoon.

Last weekend I decided to mix up my training a bit by taking part in the 10.5km race at Laguna Phuket Marathon. Having been injured recently and not been able to compete in triathlons, it was the perfect excuse to get back on the start line.

The event was beautifully organized starting in the heart of Laguna, my local training ground.

Continue reading Smashing out the 10.5km to take the Win

How I ran a half marathon personal best 7 weeks post-op

On the 8th of March, I broke my collar bone in a rather silly accident. As all accidents tend to do, this one involved a certain element of human stupidity. Actually, quite a lot. Anyways, you live and learn.

I was in the Philippines, and it was 4 days before what was meant to be my first race on the Ironman 70.3 circuit as a Pro. As you can imagine a lot of time, energy and pain had gone into race prep, and I was devastated when I was told I had a broken collar bone. The scariest part was not knowing what to do next. Different doctors telling you different things from different corners of the world. When you’ve always just believed the first thing, it was unnerving. Luckily I had the incredible assistance of Subic Bay local Monica Torres who looked after me and got me to the various X-rays for 3 days. When I got on a plane back home to Geneva I felt extremely relieved, as finally it had been decided what the next step forward was.

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Subic Bay 70.3 underpants run/walk turned into priority race. Booked flights and flew back that afternoon. (P.C Madhu the Triathlete)

I got off the plane and was picked up, taken straight to hospital by an incredible friend, and within two hours of touching down I was out cold being cut open to have a plate drilled onto my collar bone.

For 2-3 weeks I felt out of it, and I think it was from the anaesthetic, and quite a bit of pain. Of course I tried doing things to fast; lifting things when I shouldn’t have been, not wearing the cast, trying to decrease painkiller intake too soon. This was put to an end after I had a back muscle spasm and had to spend 6 hours spent bolt upright on the sofa one Saturday, in agony on every inhale. Thankfully it wasn’t hay fever season yet as sneezing would’ve been agony.

I could get on the turbo relatively soon after surgery, within 4 days, but it took a couple of weeks to be able to hold the handle bars and to get running. The first 3 km I did was quite painful, and extremely slow. But I had run, and that was exciting.

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Zonked after my first 3km plod. P.C Lucy. S

Swimming was a different thing, at first I could only kick with my arms by my side for a week. Those were riveting sets. But soon I was throwing in a length of crawl here and there, not using any force in the arms.

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A momentous moment: getting my arm above my head

I had a training camp booked in Mallorca for mid-April, a month after surgery, and I was determined to be able to bike. So I did. There were times I cut rides short when I realised I had no more force left on my left arm and attempting another descent would be dangerous. But overall it was so liberating to be back on the road and training with the awesome and dynamic group that is Geneva Tri Club, even if it was largely one handed.

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Getting up Puij Major was easier than going down. Thanks to the boys for looking after me. P.C Random Cyclist

Whilst in Mallorca I had realised that running was in fact by far the least painful of the three sports to do, so the majority of my training consisted of running. Plus to minimise the impact and imbalances I had developed after protecting my left side for a month, I was doing a bit more work on form and back to basic conditioning.

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Couldn’t wish for a better running partner/ bottle carrier on a long run. P.C Shameless Selfie

People had been discussing the upcoming Geneva Marathon, and without knowing it I had been entered into the half marathon by my mother. Thanks to her I had a goal to focus on and motivate me through my self-pity: sub 1.26. With Jürgen and we mapped out a training plan to get me to the start line as run-fit as possible.

On the start line I didn’t really know what was possible, so I started off with a few of runners I knew from the Tri Club, going out perhaps a touch strong. I then realised that up ahead were a couple of the top girls so got on one of their heels and stuck with her for as long as possible. She was very strong, but ran reasonably consistently and I hung on for 16km. In the last few Km I faded a bit, and another girl came past who went on to finish 2nd. It all became very painful, and my legs were going but I plodded on not wanting to let my goal of 1.26 slip by.

The Geneva half course is stunning, running through the countryside then down and along both sides of the lake to finish on the Pont du Mont-Blanc. On the approach a couple of the boys from the Club over took me, and try as I did to hold their heels there simply wasn’t anything there.

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Attempting to hold Jo’s heels

 

I crossed the line in 1.22.46. Much better than I had expected, coming in 4th with the “medaille en chocolat”. The time is 6 minutes faster than my previous best, which was admittedly set a few years ago when I last did a half on “fresh” legs.

It’s an ok time but nothing spectacular. What it is to me is motivating though. It’s shown me that progress has been made, but also opened my eyes to how much I have to make still. Despite still having been incapable of lifting a gel to my mouth with my left hand during the race, I had managed to smash my PB.

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That finishing feeling

Congrats to everyone who ran or walked in the 10km, it was such a fun day and racing with friends makes it even more exciting. I even bumped into my surgeon in the finishing area!

There are so many people who have helped me to where I am now, and thank you to everyone from the world over for their kind messages. In particular, I’d like to thank Monica and Madhu who looked after me and got me onto the plane home, and all the amazing doctors and nurses at the hospital(s), whether I spoke your language or not. In particular the surgeon who stuck me back together. Hopefully it stays that way. Annie and Mathieu for their help with rehab and helping me get to lift a cup of coffee again. It’s the small things you notice. The coach Jürgen, for believing in me but also understanding my rather fragile state and when to push, when to hold back. All my sponsors for sticking by me, despite the slight miss-hap: Jiakina Customised, Revv Energy and Project Artisan. And lastly my mother who, yet again, has dealt with me and looked after me, driven me, fed me and just generally put up with me without any complaint.

Let’s be clear, there is a bit more drama and pain to come. I’m yet to have the plate out, and I’m still trying to be able to swim with some sort of force in my left arm, and be able to hold my handle-bars comfortably. Plus it’s me.

But now it’s back to Phuket for a few weeks of solid training before I attempt to make it back to a triathlon start-line.

“When life gives you lemon, makes lemonade”

Ride safe everyone.