From food wars to a podium spot at Ironman Lanzarote

I have been fighting food wars since IM South Africa. And sofa wars. Not something you might expect to hear from a pro triathlete with a penchant for healthy nutrition and typically well motivated to train. But there it is.

Following Ironman South Africa back in March, my race plan had always been to do Ironman Lanzarote just eight weeks later. Previous experience racing full distance with this sort of gap had resulted in surprisingly good perfomances, and I was keen to build off a slightly average race in South Africa. My plan was to have a couple of weeks recovery, and then launch into a bike focused training block prior to IM Lanzarote.

Unfortunately my body had other plans. Usually three weeks after an IM I feel good to go – firing on all cylinders again – motivation back at full strength. Not this time. I was hit with fatigue, training apathy and general desire to eat rubbish and sit on the sofa. Not ideal! I entered IM Lanza in the hope that it would motivate me, but although I was fighting hard to win the food and sofa wars, hunger was still winning.

There was nothing I could do except take advice from those that know me well, and listen to my body. We totally changed my training programme, and I had to accept that my strategy leading into Lanzarote would be a different one to normal.

That said, the training still ramped up in the window that I did feel good, and I arrived at the two-weeks-to-go point feeling like I had at least managed to progress a bit. But my confidence was not high. 

Add to this a busy work schedule leading into my departure for Lanzarote, coupled with a major logistical disaster on the eve of the flight – it’s a long story involving a catalogue of errors entirely of my own making – and let’s just say that I had less than optimal mental and physical preparation prior to the race. 

I arrived in Lanzarote feeling strung out, tired and not particularly excited to be tackling the toughest Ironman on the planet in just a couple of days. Usually I feed off the excitement of race week, and I enjoy all the box-ticking of registration, route recces, plastering numbers on my bike etc. This time all I could think about was the wind! It was so strong in the days leading up to the race that the rides we did were definitely life threatening. I painted my nails (thanks Gail!) the now “lucky” orange colour of the Ironman 4 the Kidz charity, put on the wrist band, and tried to draw strength from those thoughts.

So that is where I was mentally as the eve of the race drew in, and race-day pain drew closer.  I will spare you a blow-by-blow account of the race itself – it’s a long day and there are plenty of videos/photos to show you what it was like. (see links especially Video , Images )

Suffice to say that unsurprisingly – given the conditions – on the day it was all about the bike. I came out of the swim in 10th position and I rode my way through the field into 3rd by T2. Although it was a 6-hour bike epic, it felt to me like the blink of an eye.

Neither the wind nor the hills were as bad as I had expected – by that, I mean they were BAD, but actually not life threatening – and my ride was broken by fabulous views and wonderful spectator support, thanks to Gail Wilkinson and the entire Forshaw family. T2 was over before I knew it and I exited to be led by a mountain bike (new experience) with only one thought in my mind.

“How long before someone catches me.” 

But I was in the zone. I knew chasing down Michi or Diana was unlikely, but I did not know who could run well behind me. I also knew that the bike route would have taken a lot out of people, including me, and that anything can happen in 26 miles. I stayed positive and felt fluid and strong.

Again, the support I received on the run from both friends and total strangers was overwhelming. Certainly in my first lap I was able to smile, give some thumbs up, and absorb the cheering and take strength from it. At 30km in I was suffering, and digging as deep as I could to try and outrun the incredible Shiao-Yu Li. She was chasing me down, and I could see the gap ever narrowing.

During the final 10km I entered the “goldfish bowl” – that place where all external stimulus dulls to background noise and it’s just you and the pain in your body fighting to stay at pace. It really wasn’t until the finish chute that I could relax and let it all sink in. 3rd place. Podium. In an Ironman race!

It is strange how we are programmed. Despite all the rubbish preparation I still achieved a podium position in one of the toughest races on the Ironman circuit – on one of the toughest days for 10 years- although I do wonder if they say that every year.  Club La Santa do a wonderful job organising this unique Ironman, and it was one of the friendliest race experiences I have had.

This sport is so tough. The highs and lows of a race are felt keenly as they are a direct reflection of all the hard work and sacrifice that has gone before. My remarkable husband had always told me that I had the capability to achieve this type of result in Ironman – but I don’t think I ever actually believed it until that moment arrived.

I was a mix of utter exhaustion mingled with joy and disbelief on the finish line. It was a truly emotional moment for me. How did I celebrate with friends when I got home? Well, had to be didn’t it – cake. But by then, I had long won that war.

Thanks must once again go to all my fabulous supporters and sponsors. 

Xhale

HUUB

Specialized

proto-col

Brodie Skin Care

RAWnola

Primal Pantry

Ian Freeman

David Annett

And of course my fabulous husband (and coach) Mark Livesey