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.
As those who follow me on Instagram or Facebook will know, my race scheduled for this upcoming weekend (24th of Sept), the IM 70.3 Chongqing, has been cancelled – well officially postponed. It was a bit of a sting when I found out. Of course the race organisers would not have wanted this, as it would have cost them a lot both financially and in terms of their reputation. Rather than slay them down yet again – I really was pretty frustrated and annoyed – I thought I would discuss the main way I feel this has impacted me, but that is not often talked about: mentally.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…