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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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

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

2017 lesson #2: everything can change in a second

Last Wednesday, I arrived in Subic Bay pretty excited. It was the week before the 70.3, and also happened to be my birthday. I’d just come from a fun couple days in Hong Kong, visiting friends and family and having a bit of chill time between two races.

Continue reading 2017 lesson #2: everything can change in a second

2017 lesson #1: Listen to your body

2017 has begun. In fact, we’re well and truly into it. I couldn’t quite believe how February had snuck up on us. Mainly because it also meant that my first race of the year has also snuck up on me.

This weekend I will be racing at the Bangsaen Thailand Tri-League race in the “Master” distance: 1.5km swim, 75km ride and 15km run ( involving some monkey dodging).

I would like to say that I’ve been hitting it in training, but 2017 so far hasn’t gone 100% according to plan. I’ve had to adjust my training for certain periods of time due to a frustratingly long list of ailments/injuries I have managed to inflict on myself.

Continue reading 2017 lesson #1: Listen to your body

Triathlon de Thonon: fight till you’ve finished, not till it hurts.

Well they say no pain no gain right? It turns out the additional adrenalin you get when you hurtle yourself off a bike also results in making rather interesting decisions, despite the  pain.

So, last week I did Thonon Triathlon (olympic distance) in the most stunning setting on Lac Leman. Other than absurd traffic getting there, race morning was rather uneventful. It was a hot day at 30C, but nothing I hadn’t dealt with before.

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Pre-race pic with the Geneva Tri-Club Crew (PC Lucy Simmonds)

We (the girls) lined up in the water to do the double loop swim course in the lake, with the boys going off 5 minutes after us. We could see lots of fish in the clear blue waters below us. Pretty peaceful.

The horn went and we paddled off. I found my stroke and water after we’d rounded the second boy, taking the lead early on. Out of the first loop, and onto the second, with a lot of very loud cheering during the ‘Sortie Australienne’.

The second loop was less than calm. I caught up with the slower men and was continuously fighting the washing machine. I played it safe on the outside where I could, but it was impossible to stay out of it around the buoys where I was pushed under several times.

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Greeted by some steep steps post swim (PC Lucy Simmonds)

It was a relief to get out of the brawl, and out onto a bike after a  (relatively) smooth transition.

The bike course was a dream. Well, it should have been. The first 25 km was pretty much all uphill, going up the road that leads you to Col de Feu, one of the tough local climbs. The last 15 km was all downhill on reasonably technical descent at the top. I took it slow here as I am quite wary of my bike handling skills on a TT bike.

When the road began to flatten out, perhaps I took it less slow. It was open roads and I felt as though a car was putting pressure on me from behind. I rode fast into a corner, didn’t see that the outside was covered in gravel.

My wheels slid out from beneath me.

I hit the ground. Quite hard. I had been doing 40km/h.

I screamed. Quite loudly. I’m surprised my parents waiting for my return in Thonon didn’t hear.

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The aftermath

A couple of cyclists who had been coming up the hill jumped off their bikes and came to help me. I looked down at my hands and passed out from the shock. My palms were both completely grated. I was notified that someone had called the ambulance.

I got up and after attempting to wash myself off with some water from a very kind cyclist, I looked over the bike. The chain had come off, but after getting it back on with two fingers, I hopped back on and shakily rode back down to Thonon. I couldn’t really use my breaks due to my hands being shredded, so I was constrained to going pretty slowly this time.

I rode into transition exceptionally slowly. Apparently I’d managed to up the lead in the first half of the race to create a buffer for this kind of stupid incident.

As I went into transition, mum saw my state and asked if there was anything that I needed – I took this as a sign to carry on. Just as I was putting my running shoes on, the second girl came into transition.

No time to waste.

I got running. I had a pretty good idea of the pace I wanted to be running, so I looked at my Garmin to check I wasn’t doing a typical triathlete thing of starting out to fast (yes, most of us seem to be incapable of holding back). It was smashed. R.I.P Garmin.

So I went on feel, conscious that I was not in the strongest state, aware of a lot of spectators looking at my red raw shoulder in horror.

As leading woman, I was accompanied by a marshall on a mountain bike, who was an absolute star. Just having someone there watching me in case I re-fainted was reassuring. According to the marshall, I apparently kept ‘une cadence parfaite’. I was running in time to Let It Go from Frozen. Seemed pretty apt.

But adrenalin carried me through. At turn around point, I saw that my lead on second had, despite everything, grown. It was hot and unshaded, but the frequent water stations and marshall I was following kept me strong.

Coming into the finish area, the commentator was going wild over the mic. I crossed the line and was so relieved. I had, despite my foolishness in falling, managed to finish. And win.

I was hurried into the red-cross tent, where Gerard and his team cleaned me up in time to make it to the remise-des-prix.

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Thank you Gerard and all the red-cross volunteers! (PC Lucy Simmonds)

I guess your body is capable of doing a lot more than you realise. We are adapted to survival in more ways than you realise, and racing is just one of occasions on which we let our primitive instincts shine through.

 

But even when you don’t think it’s possible, you might just surprise yourself. Don’t stop when it hurts. Stop when you’ve finished. Nothing worth doing is going to be pain-free.

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A brief pause to appreciate what we had achieved (PC Lucy Simmonds)

A big thank you to Mum and Dad, for putting up with me and my shenanigans. To coach Jurgen for getting me strong enough both physically and mentally. To all the Geneva Tri Club crew cheering and supporting over the course – and congrats to them all as well for incredible racing. To Jiakina Customised and BV Sport Singapore for kitting me out – thankfully the tri-suit withstood the road rash better than me.

Also to all the organisers, volunteers and marshalls of Thonon triathlon. A truly stunning event, superbly organised and one to do if you like a good climb. Just make sure you know how to descend as well…

 

Aggression vs Patience

Following my race at Ironman 70.3 Rapperswil, I realised the importance in having the right mental attitude when going into a race. I had qualified for the World Championships already, so I was racing with the aim of achieving personal objectives.

Perhaps for some this would involve less self-inflicted pressure, but considering my self-competitive nature, it did not feel that way. It also turned out to be Switerland’s national Championships – which given the quality and depth of Swiss triathletes, there was undoubtedly going to be some tough competition. Continue reading Aggression vs Patience