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