Ironman UK Bolton – A very British affair

Ironman 70.3 Haugesund – Norwegian efficiency

Norway. If you have never been, go – it is a beautiful country and one where I found I felt totally at home. It has more than a passing resemblance to Scotland, and the people are both incredibly friendly and helpful as I discovered when Mark and I travelled to the Ironman 70.3 in Haugesund.

Direct flights from Stansted made logistics easy, and and crucially I didn’t have to take too much time off work (leave allocation well and truly spent).

The race itself was incredible and I had so much fun, despite not getting quite the performance I had hoped for.

The venue for the race is near perfect. A beautiful still lake, a large flat (astroturf) transition area, smooth rolling closed roads, fabulous support throughout the bike, and then a truly wonderful run route. Wonderful not because it is particularly flat or fast – but because it is challenging, well supported and creates a real race.

Out-and-back courses are brilliant- you can you see your competitors and clock the gaps – closing or opening. Queue dodgy mental arithmetic and tough self-talk.  Who was I clocking on the run route? HA! My husband! Mark had started just 20 minutes behind me, and I had seen him going into transition as I ran out.  I challenged myself to beat him to the line – nothing quite like a bit of husband/wife rivalry and it stopped me thinking about how far off the pace I was compared to the top girls.  I held on, torn by emotions – wanting Mark to run past me and have a brilliant race – and wanting to hold on to the “Livesey win”.   I just pipped him to the line – and we got to celebrate together at the finish. There was a pretty talented line up of girls and I was 8th Pro – and some way behind the very fast top trio of Eva Wutti, Susie Cheetham and Radka Vodickova.

Norway was wonderful -we were incredibly well looked after – and I wish we could have enjoyed a couple more days there – but alas I had to get back to work… We will definitely go back next year if we can.

The two weeks between Norway and IMUK flew….and before i knew it we were in the car on the way to Bolton.  A novel way to be travelling to an Ironman….

Ironman UK Bolton – A very British affair

There are as many reasons not to race Ironman UK as there are to race it.

It’s in Lancashire – and being an adopted Yorkshire lass (originally from Scotland) that means it’s in our rival county.

It’s in the North of England – where the weather in July is “changeable” (read “crap”).

It’s on British roads and their “eclectic” surface (read “crap”).

There is a split transition – always a logistical pfaff.

It doesn’t tick the “exotic destination” box which I like to apply to races – simply to have a holiday at the same time. Hence why the travel by road was novel.And it starts before 0600. We Brits love our early race starts (aahhhemm)

All these reasons could be negative. But let’s look at the other side of it for a moment…

Lancashire – where the hills are similar to Yorkshire only less steep. Bonus.

Lancashire is local as well – no leave required – stay in the office until the last safe moment. Tick.

Crap weather – which British athletes are more used to than those from warmer climates. Mental and physical advantage.

British roads and their potholes- again what we are used to – and technical/hilly courses seem to suit me (Lanzarote anyone?).

Split transition – not much I can say about this – it was a logistical pfaff!

And 0600 – that just meant that we managed to hit the bike course as Armageddon rain set in…

So perhaps you are thinking the negatives outweigh the positives?

And certainly I was not very happy (read “close to wrapping”) when I was 1 hour into the bike course and starting to think hypothermia was a real possibility.

But then we are forgetting the main advantage of racing on your home course.

The support.

I am used to racing Ironman races abroad – where perhaps I have a few friends racing with me, and the odd supporter on the course. Those supporters are always vocal and very much appreciated – but nothing compares to the crowds that appeared at Bolton.

I was out of the swim in 6th place, and went out on the bike into the torrential rain, pushing a bow wave along in front of my bike thinking “this is shit”. I’m not going to lie – if someone had offered me a warm car and a brew anywhere in that first 90 mins I would have cracked.

But faced with hypothermia I rode hard to keep the HR up and stop the blood from freezing. I soon passed Ele and Alice, but was not expecting the update of “you are in second place” from Mark the next time I saw him.  Unbeknown to me two of the girls ahead had gone wrong on the bike route – effectively taking themselves out of the race.  As the news of 2nd sunk in I knew I had been offered a golden opportunity and that there was no way I was going to pass it up.

I had already started to see people I knew on the bike route. Everywhere. Friends, family and strangers – all shouting my name as I rode past.  I rode as hard as I dared – feeling strong on the second half of the bike – and entered T2 with about 6 mins over 3rd place.

I had not seen any of the run route – so I was entering the unknown. I actually quite enjoy that – new scenery keeps the mind active, and I had the lovely Sarah on a mountain bike for company and to keep me right.  As I ran out of T2 and up a steep hill I realised that this marathon was going to be unlike any other I had run. Not just because of the terrain, but because I was running with belief.

Lanzarote had shown me that I could outrun other girls I would never have expected to outrun in the past.  I wanted that podium spot – but I also believed it could be mine.

Leaving T2 I got a taste of what was to come. The support was amazing. People were shouting and screaming for me – I loved it and I soaked up the energy as I bounced along on surprisingly fresh legs.  Soon Mark appeared and got some updates on splits. I was not concerned about Lucy – the duracel bunny was in a class of her own way down the road ahead of me.  But I knew there were some good runners behind me – and I didn’t know how far.  I stayed in control and I knew I was running well, feeling pretty fluid. With the next split to those behind me the gap was growing – that was good news!

 

The 3.5 laps in town were just epic. The running was tough –a long 4km uphill section each lap – jinks and turns – but rewarding downhill parts too.

I can honestly say the run for me was a joy. Yes it was long – and yes it was painful – but that’s marathon running. It was a joy because of all the friendly faces I saw along the way.  Seeing the emotion on the faces of people as they cheered me on was fantastic. I drew strength from them and ran my way to a personal best marathon despite the hills! Running down the finish chute into second place at my home Ironman is something I will never forget. It was a special day and to have been able to share it with so many people was fabulous.

Thanks to everyone who turned out to support me and the other athletes. Thanks to all my friends and family, but also to the total strangers screaming my name. Thanks also to the sarcastic lady about half way up the hill who kept telling me I was catching Lucy! (not in this lifetime…)

I thought IMUK was the end of my season…but turns out its not. With so many points on the KPR it seems silly not to put a 5th race on the board even if it is a long shot.  I am now heading out to Wiesbaden to race the 70.3 European Champs in just 10 days’ time with one of the best fields of PRO women I have lined up against so far. It’s going to be a challenge – I am just hoping the legs follow the heart.

Thanks as ever must go to my wonderful sponsors and supporters:

Xhale, protocol, HUUB, Specialized Concept Store Harrogate, Brodie Skin Care, Primal Pantry, RAWnola, Central Harrogate Osteopathy, Ian Freeman and of course my husband and legendary coach Mark Livesey.

Photo Credit Huw Fairclough

I continue to support Ironman 4 the Kidz – South Africa and thank all those who have made donations so far. Please visit their website (www.ironman4thekidz.co.za)  if you are interested in making a donation and helping this small charity to support children in need throughout South Africa