Ironman 70.3 Middle East Championships – Bahrain
“In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take”
Sometimes opportunities seem to pop up where we least expect them. If you had suggested Bahrain 70.3 to me as a good race option a few months ago I would have laughed. The last of the million dollar triple crown race series, a regional championships, a double points race. It will be stacked right? And its flat there…
Well this is where I am sincerely grateful to the friends and advisors I have met this year. Those who have spent time explaining the points and ranking system for Kona and understanding how I fit into the pro field. I have only taken small steps towards qualification – but I am way further on now than I would have been without that advice.
A few days before I raced Ironman Malaysia -Thorsten Radde (www.trirating.com) messaged me about the likely opportunity in Bahrain. Only a small number of women had entered and although there were some big names (Rhyf, Steffan, Swallow+ Lundstrom), it looked like a great opportunity for some points for me. I entered the day before the deadline – knowing that having a back-up race lined up after an Ironman is always a good call. When things didn’t go to plan in Malaysia – Bahrain suddenly became a necessary race to get me back on the score board prior to a Christmas rest. The phrase “no regrets” rang in my head – I felt like resting but I knew this race was an opportunity I could not miss.
Unfortunately having just had a ten day period away from work I could not afford much time in Bahrain. Mark and I landed there on Thursday with just one full day before the race on Saturday. Luckily (thanks to the race organisers) we had a homestay with a wonderful French-Canadian family in Bahrain and from the minute we met them we were spoilt with fantastic company, great food and a beautiful home where we could make ourselves comfortable. Those things all make a huge difference in the build up to a race – and coupled with minimum pressure (well I was never going to win this one!) and a real desire to do my form justice after Malaysia – I arrived at race day feeling inspired.
Unfortunately the weather conspired against the race organisers and when we got to transition on race morning we were met with the news that the swim had been cancelled due to high winds. It’s at times like that when I feel really lucky to have Mark with me. A consummate professional and experienced coach he simplifies chaos – giving me fresh goals and layers of confidence in the process.
It was pretty strange setting off with the other professional ladies – running for our bikes in a group and racing to the mount line. The bike was always going to be a high speed chase from the start – Ryf had no option but to seek an early lead. I tried to hang on to the pace line as long as I could, a good experience if nothing else! But after about 30 mins I was alone, in 5th place, and with a 2 hour battle with the wind in front of me. The out-and-back nature of parts of the route meant I could clearly see the race unfolding – Ryf had wasted no time in creating a gap. It was great fun just to be part of that incredible performance. With a lap of the F1 circuit to finish I was soon on the run – feeling good, soaking up energy from the infectious Paul Kaye, and with the great news that I had a good lead on 6th place (Lucie Zelenkova).
About 5 miles into the run the fatigue of my long season of racing and the efforts of IM Malaysia started to make themselves known. I dug deep against the howling wind – knowing that less than an hour of pain was between me and an end of season rest. The course was such that I had no way of knowing what was going on behind me – but running like I was I knew that I wasn’t going to make up any places on the superstars ahead of me. Things were not helped by my Garmin giving up – and the lack of distance markers between 7km and 18km. It felt a lot further than 21km. The relief at the finish line was akin to an Ironman. 5th place – good points and a really epic experience of a race on which to finish the season. I was ecstatic. And exhausted. Ryf may have won the big prize ($1m!) but I felt like I had been handed my own little points cheque.
Bahrain was a surprising event in so many ways. Every race this year has had its own unique memories – but Bahrain will stand out as a highlight for lots of reasons. We met friends for life; I shared the stage with the incredible Daniella Rhyf who has set the triathlon world alight this year and claimed the biggest prize ever in the sport; and we were truly bowled over by the warmth of the Bahrain welcome. We were also lucky enough to meet Lew Hollander who at 85 years old- and a Bahrain 70.3 finisher – is living proof that you set your own limits. This was a fabulous race and if there is any way I can go back next year I will not need to be asked twice. We arrived knowing so little about the country – and we left looking for excuses to go back as soon as we can.
As usual I would like to thank my sponsors and supporters:
My wonderful coach and husband Mark who always knows when to push me to achieve more than I think I am capable of.
And we cannot thank Yanick and Pascale enough for looking after us so well in Bahrain. Exceptional people – I can only hope we find an excuse to visit again soon!