With all of last year’s very talented top 3, plus few notable and successful international pros on the startline, I knew that 70.3 UK was probably going to be the toughest competition I’ve faced yet.
Training has gone very well. Although not yet running at 100% after a recent Achilles injury, I’ve used the time off running to really work hard on my weaknesses of biking and swimming. My main aim of this race was to test these and see if I’ve made improvements – game plan: nail the swim, nail the bike and simply see what I’ve got left for the run.
Waking up on Sunday morning was a relief. The hurricane-style whether of the Saturday had gone and conditions were calm, cool and perfect for racing. The swim went perfectly – I couldn’t have wished for better. After a short sprint after the national anthem I settled quickly, locked onto the feet of one of the male pros and didn’t let go until my feet touched the mud again. Exiting the water I glanced at my watch – 26 min!! What!? After taking up swimming only a year ago – I never thought I would ever be 4th fastest swim of the day! Clearly the recent enforced swim block has paid off! Pumped up by my start – I worked up the first hill and in a flash I was out on the course on my new Exocet 2 – recently enhanced with some super-light PlanetX R50 carbon tubs for the brutally hilly course that lay ahead.
Once again I never really new what to expect on the bike. Although I knew my bike has made significant gains in the last few months, I had no idea how much. But I was surprised at how quickly I caught and then stayed with the lead girls. I whizzed through the first lap of what has been described as the toughest 70.3 course in the world, way ahead of schedule. After one lap, I was 2-3 minutes down on the leader and, considering my running background I began to get excited. So I forced myself to slow down, take it easy and prepare myself for the run.
After the 2nd fastest bike of the day I entered T2 around 4 min down on the leaders – confident that I might start moving through the field as per my usual race plan. But alas – nothing! My legs just didn’t respond. Looking at my Garmin – at times I was at recovery jog pace! But I was comfortably in 5th place and plodded on hoping my run legs would come back to me. And they did slightly, I was feeling better towards the end. But I simply didn’t have the run to close the gap to the top girls who were running mid 1h20s on a very hilly cross-country course. I ended the day in 5th.
I’m very pleased with my first race of the season. Not for the result, or my shocking 6th best run. But pleased that my recent work has paid off and I am now confident that I can swim and ride with the big girls. I know that when fully run fit, I can certainly run with them – and I’m excited about racing Antwerp 70.3 after a few weeks of sharpening up! I must admit though, After my 34min swim calibre exhibited at 70.3 South Africa just 4 months ago, I never thought I would see the day where my highest position in a pro race, is exiting the water! Thanks again for the support Planet X! Love the wheels – love the bike!