One of my goals for 2018, was to complete the four home nation Ironman branded 70.3 events. Staffordshire, Edinburgh, Dun Laoghaire and Weymouth.
Each one, a month apart, it would require careful planning of training, tapering and recovery. Consistency is something I admire in athletes. I would rather have a string of good results than one incredible result and then be out with injury or illness for several months.
In my opinion, smart athletes stay fit and healthy for long periods of time. Over training, poor nutrition, lack of mobility/stretching causes injury. Yes, I have been guilty of all of these in the past. Yes, we can be unfortunate. Braking bones through being hit by a car is often not the fault of an athlete. I have fractured a bone from falling over a tree root. Somethings are unfortunate. But I know, to stay fit, healthy and in good fitness for long periods of time, requires a smart approach and I started 2018 with a plan and when i crossed the line in Weymouth, I achieved the home nations grand slam that had been part of that plan. Pat on the back Suz.
The home nations grand slam haul.
If you need a consistent 5th placer, I am your lass!
Coach and athlete taking home trophies and ticking off goals.
I had a plan for the year, I had raced Marbella, Slateman and Staffordshire and realised, I was going ok, but I needed some help. I was enjoying coaching myself, I was testing out my coaching ideas on myself, but as I dedicated more time to the growing number of athletes I was coaching, the time I put into planning my own training was decreasing. Sunday night would come around, athletes I coach had their training for the week and my Training Peaks diary was still empty. In my head I knew what I wanted to do, but I also knew my knowledge was limited, I wanted someone with new ideas to help me keep progressing. I also wanted someone who would challenge me, push me out of my comfort zone and who knew the pro circuit. I approached Mark Pearce of Intelli triathlon a week before Edinburgh. He bought a scientific approach and different ideas to the table. Once recovered from Edinburgh, he took training out of my hands.
After Dun Laoghaire, I faced some personal challenges and that's where having a coach, comes into its own. My Training Peaks diary had been left empty for a week, Mark sent me a message "Are you alive?" I explained my situation. "Mark, I am drinking more beer than training right now". After 5 1/2 years Adam and myself had decided to end our relationship.. It was reassuring to get a "don't worry about training, do what you need to do" as a reply. If I was coaching myself, I would have beaten myself up for not training, but i was in no fit state to train. That is half the challenge, getting from race to race, fit and healthy when life throws you curve balls. That is also where, for myself, having set goals at the start of the season, helped get me back to training and gave me some clarity when other parts of life felt muddled and lacked direction.
I have been in sport, my whole life. If you could catch it, throw it, kick it, jump over it, run around it, I was involved.Sport has been my saviour at various challenging times in life. So I knew, getting back into swim, bike and run would be good medicine for me. It wasn't a totally smooth decision, I had a few days good training and then my mind and body collapsed with exhaustion or the 'I can not be bothered' effect. I was pretty relieved I was working with Mark, as trying to self coach myself at this time, would have added to the challenges. He changed my training so many times, we lost count. I deliberated whether to go to Weymouth or not. But the goal, to complete the four home nation 70.3 races, drew me back to 'yes, I have got to go'.
The race day weather was just as eventful as the build up.
The race start was delayed by 20 minutes and the swim was shortened due to the increasingly stormy sea predictions. I personally thought the sea conditions were fine, but as the swim is self seeded for the age group race, with the slowest swimmers setting off last, and with sea conditions getting worse, then it was a sensible decision by the event directors. In total 40 people were pulled out of the sea by the canoe/ speed boat rescue team. It was a busy day for them, keeping the athletes safe.
Swimming in the sea, would be the warmest part of the day. Photo shows the Pro women's start. Those pebbles, ouch! I am enjoying swimming in the Yonda Ghost wetsuit.
Out on the bike, the rain lashed it down, from start to finish.
Now, I like to think of myself as a hardy sole. Bit of rain, sleet, snow, no problem, I can still ride my bike, I just need a few more layer on. I had worn arm warmers in the swim, under my wetsuit. I added a short sleeve Castelli gabba cycle top, my best decision of the day.
As with previous races this year, I came out the water with a few other athletes, but was just a few seconds too slow in transition, so missed jumping onto the bike with anyone else. A few seconds too long, can cost you the opportunity of a pace line spot. Another skill to add to the 'to improve list'.
On the bike, I was glad i had dropped my tire pressure, to around 65-70psi, the water coverage on the road was thick in places, hiding pot holes and road surface debris. A lower tyre pressure helps the wheels roll over and absorb the bumps rather than hitting them hard and flying up.
Several athletes were caught by hidden potholes and unfortunately incurred punctures, but cold hands meant fixing punctures became impossible for many.
I felt good on the bike, bad weather is my forte, I don't know why, but I love putting my head down and going for it, when the rain is lashing down and you can barely see anything, it feels mystical. I learnt from Dun Laoghaire that my helmet visor is useless in the rain, so I didn't bother putting it on my helmet. This fancy helmet, i am starting to think it is not designed for UK racing!
I got to 70km on the bike and then the cold hit my feet and hands, changing gear became a challenge, i hoped i could leave it in the big ring at the front and power up the hills, but the Weymouth bike route has a few rolling hills between 70-90km . I mashed my legs to work, when my hands would not and rolled into T2.
Photo by Coach Mark Pearce. I am sure there are easier ways to earn a few £ ?
The next challenge was getting the run shoes onto feet that were blocks of ice. My mind had switched from 'racing' to 'survival' mode. Getting to the finish line, was my only thought. Out on the run course, my feet went through the whole defrosting process. Numb to start, then slowly warming up while experiencing the painful pins and needles, through to nicely defrosted and back to life. The benefits of 21 miles, enough time for the feet to fully evolve from ice to ice cream to hot brandy cream.
The run at Weymouth is out and back along the sea front, so you can see what position you are in, i could tell the weather had taken a few casualties as only 4 females were in front of me, with Nikki, Fenella and India having a real battle up front, it was cool to see the top 3 places changing each time we passed on the promenade.
Crossing the line, I had done it. Another 5th place for me. Making that a 6th at Staffordshire and 3x 5th places at Edinburgh, Dun Laoghaire and Weymouth. If you need a consistent 5th placer, I am your lass!
Considering the build up to this race, I was happy with the performance, I had ticked off the goal to complete all 4 home nation Ironman branded 70.3 races. On paper, that goal doesn't seem to hard. In reality, racing every month, from June- September, getting to the start line, fit and healthy is a much bigger ask than one releases. I was the only athlete to achieve it.
Next, onto the second goal of the season. To represent Great Britain Elite team in the European 70.3 Championships in Ibiza.
As always thanks everyone who supports me