I would start by saying I wish I had written this sooner but if Im honest sometimes you need to take time for yourself, process big moments and look back at them with a small bit of distance and perspective. This won’t be a race report, I’m not going to talk you through 9 hours 46 minutes of racing, emotions, feelings, highs, and lows but more a chance to look back. Look at how far I have come, what I achieved at my first World Championships and what it meant. I’m going to do a separate blog on training, data, stats etc so if that is more your thing come back soon!
Life is about moments, ones that shape you, define you, provide you clarity, hope and perspective. And I believe doing an ironman is a pretty good way to experience most of these in one day. Running down the finish line of the Ironman World championships I felt a deep sense of happiness, clarity, and pride. At that moment I had no idea of my finishing position, a rough idea of finish time but I was content. I felt I had done what I could, delivered a very strong performance and that felt “enough”.
When Nice was announced as a World Championships, I was super excited, as I have mentioned before Kona never really inspired me, I like a tough hard bike course, a race that won’t put me out of £10k and having family and spent a lot of time in the South of France it’s a place I’m very familiar with. Of course, around the time the race was announced, and qualifications began I was in the shit with an ongoing knee injury and felt I would need to wait two years for the chance to race. You can read more about that on my previous posts, but the point is to simply arrive in Nice, to have qualified for the race and be on the start line fit, healthy, happy, and up for it felt like huge success before the gun had even gone off.
Waking up the morning of an Ironman is always a bit strange; you start to comprehend what’s ahead for the day and the challenges ahead. I process it in my head by methodically going through the steps what I need to do, how I want to be feeling in those moments and any details I need to remember. Thinking like that keeps me calm, focused and in the moment. Soon enough I was in transition organising the gear and still feeling relaxed. Because of the descents, corners and climbs I was riding my Cervelo road bike (more of that on the next blog) and was confident with my kit.
My parents had made the journey South, their 4th World Champs with me, so after some final words I was waiting in the start pen, I like to find an area on my own in these situations other people’s energy can rub off and it’s important to do your thing. I put myself at the front of the group and made a point to be first to walk up the carpet, I feed of the energy of a crowd and support, so this really fired me up and I just felt confident. Into the water with the sunrise and I told the guys in the AG we shouldn’t fight, give each other space, and just race for yourself. Strangely it seemed to work as once we got going everyone had space and you could focus on swimming. I love the feeling once the gun goes off, everything else goes out your head and it’s just time to get to work, to get stuck in and go through the processes step by step.
I felt strong in the water, a non-wetsuit sea swim wouldn’t be my first choice, but I settled into a good group, and it was nice to be able to feel in the race on the swim. I just told myself to stick with the guys and keep the rhythm. Out the water and onto the bike it was really time to get to work. I had done a lot of work on my climbing, lost some weight and was probably in the bike shape of my life. My bike in the past has been strong but this year I worked super hard and, in the weeks, previous set a lot of power PB’s on some efforts in Annecy and Chamonix. My goal for the ride was to really push the climbs, take time where I could as I knew I would lose time on the flatter sections to the TT bikes and big power guys. The bike course was crazy, and I loved that, you could never really settle into a rhythm which is how I like to ride and race. Once onto the bigger climbs I was steadily overtaking a lot of athletes, and no one could quite go with me which was a great feeling. My legs felt good, set up was very light and I just stuck to the plan and rough numbers id set out. I was cautious on the descents, I value my life and don’t really take risks, I was a bit pissed off with how some guys flew around me or cut corners, crossed the centre line etc but at the end of the day you just have to focus on your own race it’s a long day out.
One challenge of the bike was fuelling, as it was so hard and “longer” than usual for that bike distance I really had to be on top of eating and drinking, the climb efforts take a lot out of you but then you have time to recover on the descents or easier sections. If I’m honest I should have headed out with more solid fuel as started to rely too much on gels which I saw again later in the day..
I always knew the bike course would be a bit cat and mouse, guys I would overtake on the climbs would catch me later, I would catch them again and so on. I felt strong for most of the ride but struggled a bit towards the end, really, I was just hot, had gone hard, wanted more solid food and mentally was ready to run. I had done a lot of big days in the lead up to Nice and already an IM in July and I think mentally these days were beginning to add up.
Finally, I was rolling back along the promenade and starting to prepare for the run, this is the part of the race that excites me, where I know I’ll do damage and get to really push. Into transition and honestly the legs felt amazing, fresh socks on, shoes tied, deep breaths it was time to hit the marathon. Into the run I knew I was feeling good, the legs seemed strong, and I set off around 3:40 per km pace, the goal was well under 3hr marathon. After the first 10km some stomach issues hit me hard, at first, I thought I just needed more fuel but soon I was slowing down to vomit, once, twice, and finally it stopped. This kind of pissed me off, the legs felt so good, but my stomach was slowing me down. For sure this can happen in Ironman, but I just wanted everything to “work together”. I was still able to hold a pretty solid pace and started to consistently tick of the kms. I think I was around 40th but told my support crew I didn’t want splits, times of information, I wanted them to enjoy the moment, support me and I knew if I ran what I could I’d move up the field.
Lap after lap It was incredible to run past the people who had come to support me, to see their passion and energy lifted me as did so many in the crowd willing me on seeing how I was moving through the field. The run was effectively a 5km out and back and at the far end it was hot and lonely, but you knew back towards transition the crowds were passionate, loud and waiting.
For me the run was a simple process, keep moving forward, keep pushing hard. I had to slow for a few aid stations to properly hydrate, take on some coke and get through the crowds of athletes. Onto the last lap I finally heard I was a few minutes from top 10, I figured that must mean I was somewhere in the top 20 and gave me the final boost to go hard for the finish, not a single person was able to run with me or overtook me the whole race, so I figured all was going well.
With 1.5kms to go I was just smiling, I told myself to enjoy it, to take it in and just be proud. Proud of the journey, proud of where I had come from and what it took to be there. These moments can flash by so fast and it’s important to stay present. Onto the finish line, seeing the people that matter most to me there and the huge crowd was overwhelming. I crossed the line arms in the air, content, happy, exhausted. I didn’t know my position, barely knew my finish time but I knew I had done enough for me. They tried to usher me away from the finish line a bit fast and I told the kind volunteer I wanted to take it in, to look back at that red carpet and remember it. Soon I was with the support crew being told I was 13th in the World. Honestly, I broke down, the emotions, the feeling were so much and so strong I just couldn’t really believe it. I think even now as I write this those emotions are difficult to explain or ever experience.
I came to Nice to be part of the race, to do my best and give it a good go. To be part of a World Championship and to grasp the magnitude of what that entails . To walk away fully content with my race, with a position I’m so proud of and to feel I raced as best I could on the day is one hell of a feeling. For sure there are places I could have gone faster, deep down I wanted to run a lot faster. But that’s Ironman, you roll with the day, things happen, and you must overcome, adapt, and keep pushing on.
It's a bit like life in a way. Regardless of what’s thrown our way or how out the window our plans go you have to keep showing up. Doing your best and never ever give up.
Position - 13th
Finish time : 9:46
Swim - 1:02
Bike - 5:37
Run - 2:56
There is something about airports and waiting for a flight that always inspires me to write and take the time. I suppose it is because of less distractions and you naturally begin to reflect. At first, I was quite frustrated at myself for not writing for so long, I really do love to write, to reflect and share. But then in a way it’s okay, I want to write when it feels right for me. When it feels like the time to put down thoughts, take the step back and share. Not be stuck to some routine or made-up deadlines.
It's been a strange year to say the least, a year where I went from completely directionless and lost to having such a strong target and ambition almost from nowhere. I went from MRI scans, doctor appointments constant second guessing to feeling fitter and stronger than ever, planning an approach to a World Championships and racing in some of the most incredible locations in the World. Naturally like most of us I feel I have taken some of it for granted, not stopped to appreciate how far I have come or where I’m going. But really that is the beauty of the process, once you are on that train you can’t really stop and jump off you have to just go along with the ride.
It's three weeks until the Ironman World Championships in Nice, a race I always had a hope of racing and being at, but it seemed like the boat had sailed earlier in the year. Despite qualifying before I’ve never been to an Ironman Worlds and Kona didn’t do much for me. However, with such a tough demanding course Nice suits me and my style of racing. Until June I really couldn’t run much beyond 15kms and certainly not at a fast pace, but I did feel I could give racing a go at Rapperswill 70.3 and see if I got through. This turned into one of my best 70.3 performances and a big confidence booster, sure the half marathon wasn’t my best, but it was enough. Enough to feel I could push on and possibly finish a marathon. The swim and bike shape were there, the physio was working well, and I wanted to roll the dice.
I lined up for Ironman Switzerland for the second year after the shortest preparation period I’ve done, hoping I could perform on the day and just finish such a beautiful race. I won’t go into details or the emotions but after around 9 hours 15 minutes in brutal 35+ degree heat I crossed the line completely empty, just over a 3-hour marathon and 5th in age group, 8th overall. A performance that meant more to me than many before, a performance that went beyond time, numbers, and goals. But it was almost a re-set, a moment to feel back, in control and where I wanted to be. To run down that finish line again having achieved what I set out to do, to enjoy the day and feel those emotions again is hard to explain. Moments like that go beyond racing, for me it’s something much deeper, possibly a search of meaning, of purpose and happiness.
Even writing this I’m not sure I let the performance or day sink it, I’m not sure I really could process it all and what it meant to me. In the build-up to Switzerland the most important thing for me was to enjoy the training, to not have pressure or expectation to enjoy the moments and not take it for granted. I wanted to enjoy the day, to go all in but remember the hard times that led to the start line. Sure, I wasn’t as fit as I wanted to be, but sometimes it’s about much more than that. Courage and strength can come from just standing on the beach looking at the sunrise over the Eiger feeling ready to start and willing to go all in.
After Switzerland I also managed to race Alpe Dhuez triathlon for the fifth time. Once again, a race that means a lot to me and inspires me to push myself to new limits and not take any of this for granted. I always feel a deep sense of happiness arriving back in the Alps, the fresh clean air, mountain views and perspective it always seems to give me. Again, I went into this race very relaxed, a chance to have a day out in the mountains, push hard and soak it all in. I even was enjoying the 20km downhill ride to race start in 7 degrees with some music in the ears and a smile on my face. These environments and races give me something that’s hard to describe I think many readings this will understand but those feels are hard to emulate.
The race itself went very well, I had one of those rare days where the legs could push, push and push some more. I was climbing better than ever, holding high numbers, and just felt super strong. I’m fortunate to race in the professional race and it was brilliant to be “in” the race for most of the day. I knew I was having a good day coming to the Alpe Dhuez climb and pushed hard before the run with the run still being a question mark. Off the bike the legs felt just as good, a super strong run one of the best of the day and home in 28th, a 15-minute PB and another feeling of being back.
After the race I sat for a while up the mountain on a chairlift watching the sunset. Honestly, I was quite emotional, I reflected on all the shit I had been through the dark times, the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with those moments. Yet here I was having finished another long-distance race, performed better than before and was enjoying it more than ever. I felt I was where I needed and wanted to be, that in a strange roundabout way maybe everything that had happened was okay, it was time to accept that and move on.
I also made a conscious decision, as much as I want to race well and perform in Nice I want to enjoy this build up and the race itself. I didn’t think I’d ever be there; I did not think I’d get into this shape and feel ready for a second ironman in one year. But here I am, a few weeks out, fit, healthy, strong, and happy. I had written off this year, sure I never quite gave up and maybe deep down I knew I would come back but it has taken time, highs, lows, questions and answers. I pride myself on my resilience but we all only have so much in our back pocket. I’m fortunate that some incredible people have kept me going, got me back into one piece and I’m thankful for them. But ultimately, I’m proud of myself for being where I am and I’m excited for what’s to come. I think life is going between moments of feeling exactly where you want to be and feeling lost, right now I’m in a good place and let’s see what comes next.
About this time last year, I finished a key tough run session I’d planned for a few weeks. The session was simple 5x2kms, but the aim was to run them all sub 3:10 pace. I ticked it off, felt like I could go faster and knew I was ready. I was preparing for Zurich half marathon and my attempt at going sub 1h10minutes for the first time. It wasn’t the easiest way or race to do this, I was dropped from the top 3 and ran most of the race alone pushing harder than id gone before, however I crossed the line in 69:40 and 4th place. It was April, I was feeling fit, strong, and excited. Whilst my personal life wasn’t great my training and fitness was exactly where it needed to be.
As I write this, I don’t think I have done a run session or ran faster than 4:00 per km since around October, races have come and gone and are coming thick and fast and I find myself still on the side-lines. If you missed my last posts, I have been dealing with an ongoing knee injury since October and while some progress has been made, I’m still nowhere near where I need to be and often have new setbacks.
Being injured earlier in the year as much as it was difficult was in a way more manageable, you feel far away from race season, have hope that with another x number of weeks and months you will be back and can build the fitness. When it’s dark and cold it’s easier to keep the training shorter or not go for that run. But now I feel I’m in a new period, the usual time of year where I would ramp up my training, hit some big miles and sessions and prepare for the race season and the disappointment, frustrating and impatience comes back once again. It can eat away at you, slowly draining your energy and hope, it comes in moments and sometimes all at once.
Less people ask now what races I am doing, how the training is going or what’s the big target. But it doesn’t stop yourself asking these questions, when will I be back? When will I be pain free? Will I race this season or simply watch the races and performances go by? My injury seems to be complex and not easy to treat, bruising of the knee bone, inflammation of the IT band amongst another couple of small issues. One of the more frustrating parts is a simple break, fracture etc would have healed by now and I’d be on my way.
While I have managed to accept the situation more, focus on other areas of my life it is still something gnawing away at me in the background. The triathlon season is long, and I’ve not given up hope, I see myself more now exercising than training and doing what I enjoy and can when I feel okay. Of course, I don’t NEED to race, there is no pressure or expectations, but racing for me is the beauty of the sport, the moment where you stand on the start line and test yourself, put yourself out there and find what you are capable of. For me it makes me feel alive and content. Some of my happiest memories are the midst of an ironman marathon or deep in a 10km run. These moments bring meaning and purpose.
Possibly that is an article for another day, and many may not understand the desire and drive to put myself through these events and challenges. But I’m sure others will relate and know exactly how I feel. Thank you for the support I’ve had, in a way writing about these moments and frustrations helps to accept the situation and slowly move forward.
I remember being asked a lot why did I move to Switzerland? Why did I move to Zurich, away from home, family friends and what I know. It’s interesting you get asked that a lot in the first year you are abroad, and my answer usually changed, was offhand or generic. Something new? To learn more? Because I wanted a change? I think the more I answered this question the more I began to ask myself why?
I’m quite a deep thinker, I overanalyse a lot of situations and decisions I make but when I look back, packing up my life to move and change what I knew was a fast and easy decision. I didn’t take much time to ask myself why, over think certain situations or start to look at the what ifs.
I’ve been abroad now for almost a year and a half, I’ve been home once and gone through many phases of missing home, people, familiarity, and my “old” life. It comes in waves and moments; weeks and months go by without much thought and looking back. Then you wake up one day and it hits you like a riptide; it can feel suffocating and can overwhelm anything else going on for a certain moment of time.
But I think as I sit here and reflect, I’m beginning to feel content, happy and possibly more at home. There is a famous phrase that home is just a feeling, I’d disagree with this but there is a small part of truth. It’s easy to be away and to feel you are missing out, look back on where you could be or what might look “easier”. But harder to do is to change your energy and focus, take stock of where you are, what is right Infront of you and make the most of those opportunities and moments. It’s easy to say you haven’t met people, you haven’t found your feet or your rhythm, to feel out of routine and structure. But then what is harder, but more rewarding is to create change, to look for chances and times to move forward. To put yourself out there and to begin to make the small steps of change.
I do believe it doesn’t happen overnight, as humans we aren’t best programmed to always be positive and look for the good, it’s easier to be negative, to give up and accept a bad situation. It takes strength, character, and confidence to make changes. To look in the mirror and decide you want more and will work for it.
Honestly, I can’t give you one reason I moved abroad, I can give you a good few reasons why I’m still here but I could have given you just as many as to why I have felt like leaving, why I’ve had moments of tears and pain and questioning what I’m doing.
If you read my last article, you would know I’ve spoken about strength of character and resiliance before. I don’t want to keep banging the same drum, but I do feel proud of myself and where I have gotten too. Change takes time to adapt, it can take a while to feel yourself somewhere new and be the best version of yourself. To move forward, look ahead and not back. I’m nowhere near the end of the process but to feel on the road feels pretty good. Keep your head down, keep going and you'll be surprised where you can end up.