You have a pro licence in your pocket, there is a full calendar of races, all around the world. Which races do you pick to learn your craft? Courses lined by palm trees? swim's starting on golden beaches, where you can dive into turquoise blue tropical waters for the swim leg? Bike routes that include alpine courses or ocean views? Me, I have chosen the British 70.3 tour. Staffordshire, 10th June, Edinburgh 1st July are done and dusted, a 6th and a 5th place respectively for me. Dún Laoghaire in Ireland on Aug 17th and Weymouth Sept 23rd to come.
Not as exotic as some races, but easier to travel to, cheaper to compete at and no jet lag to contend with. Winning decisions all round. Strategy is key, as a newbie Pro, at the bottom of this post I explain the prize money structure, within Ironman races. When you take the prize money into account, keeping your costs down is key to survival.
Staffordshire 70.3. June 10th
My post race summary on Instagram....
That post race cup of tea from local Fiona and her family, hit the spot. I obviously looked in need of a pick me up, sat on the pavement outside her house.
It was nice to finish one place higher, than Marbella, and squeeze into the prize money. My 2 main aim's going into Staffordshire were:
1) Swim hard, cling onto the pack and not got detached, like I did in Marbella.
2) Ride hard, aim for an average power of 85-90% of ftp.
So how did that work out?
6/10 for the swim, made it to the first bouy on the Gossage/ Bartlett group, then got detached. I realised I was swimming pretty much at the same speed, as the gap stayed the same, between the group and myself. More work to be done.
As I ran into the transition tent, the others were putting there wet suits into the bags. Close, but not quite close enough to get onto that bike train.
Pre swim: chilling with Lucy Gossage, as we wait for the fog to clear.
Aim 2) I rode hard, I thought. I forgot my garmin, so had no idea what my power was, but I was pleased to pick up 2 places during the bike.
Well done everyone who survived the bike, speed bumps took many bottles out of bottle cages, the country lanes, pot holes and interesting road surfaces, made for an interesting time. I felt like a celebration, after the racking process that day before, my watched beeped at me, mid way through the racking process congratulating me on 10,000steps for the day. I quickly abandoned my pre race day 20 minute jog, my legs had done plenty.
Onto Edinburgh, 1st July.
The race was based around Holyrood Park, providing a spectacular backdrop to the run and finish line.
Post pro briefing photo.
This years swim was considerably calmer than last years.
Third time lucky. Could I hang onto some feet in the swim? Argh, I got detached again, after the second bouy. A group of 3; Nikki Bartlett, Martina Kutunz and Anna Basso, were ahead. I realised, they were swimming on each others feet, and whoever was leading, was not taking a straight line to the bouy. I took my own line, and caught the group at half way. Around the final bouy, again they were playing follow the leader, I thought i had a better line, taking the slight tide and current into account, I reached the swim exit before the group of 3. 4th out the water, brilliant. It was the first time, I had jumped onto the bike, with other athletes, rather than everyone else already up the road. Result. The next step is to be able to hang onto the cycle train.
I had remembered my cycling computer, this time. Again, I aimed to keep a consistent power of between 85-90%ftp. Making sure, I didn't go too hard on the hills, and keeping the power on, during the down and flatter section, of which, there were not many. A truly challenging course, bumpy road surfaces, twisty turning small roads, combined with lots of steep short climbs made for a tough day out on the bike.
An IF (intensity factor) of 0.87 means I rode at 87% of ftp. Which was right on my aim. I now need to improve my ftp. Always work to be done.
The run was another challenge, 3 laps up and down the slopes of Holyrood park. I came off the bike in 5th, and held on, during the half marathon. Running through the tunnel, with music blaring out of a speaker, was a cool part of the run course. Running off the bike, is my current weakness. With a pb of 1.20.25 for a stand along half marathon, I know I can run a lot quicker than what i am currently running off the bike. This is going to be my focus for the second half of the 2018 season.
With Rici, post race. Thank you Rici and Dan for letting us stay with you for the weekend
With Magda and Martina, 3rd, 4th and 5th Pro's
Staffordshire and Edinburgh taught me, that having specific in race goals; such as getting on feet in the swim and getting out onto the bike with others, really helped me focus and have a target to work towards. I enjoyed listening to Billie Jean King on desert island discs recently, she re iterated this brilliantly. Sharing, how she focused on learning and improving, rather than winning. I think that is a great mindset.
Analysing each race, provides plenty of opportunities to spot areas to develop and work on for the next race. I chatted to Rob, on the Oxygen Addict Podcast, the day after Edinburgh, which you can listen to here. Where I share more post race reflections.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invite to compete at the World 70.3 Championships in South Africa. My points from Marbella, Staffordshire and Edinburgh had placed me high enough on the Pro 70.3 KPR list to earn a roll down slot. The top 50 world ranked athletes are given an invite, they accept or decline, then places get rolled down. This system is changing for next year, where you must win a race to qualify. Though, there will be roll down slots, as 50 individual athletes are unlikely to each win a race outright.
I declined my place. My reasons for this, being:
1) Prize money is given to the top 10 only. Outside the top 10, there is no financial incentive to go. Unfortunately there is no reward, for trying hard.
2) The cost of travelling to South Africa and spend time there for the race, will mean, a negative bank balance will be the outcome if you are not in the top 10,
3) I personally would only want to go to a world championships, feeling competitive. I am currently not at that stage.
Having talked to many athletes, I am not alone in my thinking. For athletes, to decline a place at the World Championship, due to it being financially unfeasible, shows the current state of the sport, for many of the 'professional' athletes.
For those interested, below is the Ironman prize money table. Prize money, depends on the points rating, of the race, Staffordshire was a $15,000 (total prize purse) and Edinburgh was $25,000 (total prize purse) rated races. Therefore my 6th at Staffordshire, earn't me zero, as it only pays 5 deep and 5th at Edinburgh, meant $1000. Fingers crossed, it appears in my bank account soon, so I can buy the flights to Ireland, for the next race. Racing Pro, is definitely not, for those, wanting to get rich. Prize money, for Challenge races and independent races, are outside of this system.
Ironman 2018 Prize money distribution. The biggest money is at Kona, the World Championships ($650,000 total prize purse, paying money to the top 10) then the IronMan Regional championships and then it works down. Some races pay prize money, to the top 10, others top 8, down to some paying just the top 5. It means many pro athletes, will come away empty handed for their efforts.