Ironman 70.3 World Championships, Vegas, 8 Sep 2013

Having qualified for Vegas to great excitement a full year earlier, by the time the race rolled round it had become an almost unwelcome distraction from preparing for Kona.  I was exhausted after a long season and was trying to get rid of a persistent foot injury; if we hadn’t already booked for the flights and the accommodation we wouldn’t have travelled.

But we had, and so we did.  We flew with Virgin Atlantic, who have lovely comfy seats, reasonable aeroplane food (all things being relative) and don’t charge you to carry your bike as long as it’s under 23kg, all of which helped to keep stress levels down.  [NB I am not sponsored by and have no connection with Virgin…. I was just impressed by good service and being treated well!]

Arriving in Nevada in what our bodies insisted was the middle of the night, we bundled ourselves and our bikes into an enormous hire car and set off for the condo we’d rented, right by T1 and the swim start.  Having found food and shelter, we finally collapsed for the night.

Up and bouncing due to jetlag at 3am, I unpacked as much as I could without waking Ed and then started wondering how early was too early to wake him up!

Once we were both fully awake and in possession of carefully rebuilt bikes, we set off for a short ride to check out the area, heading straight for the stunning Lake Mead National Park in which the majority of the bike course unfolds.

It was almost painfully hot.  I’d been doing plenty of “sauna time” in an attempt to prepare as best I could from the UK, but I don’t know whether it had any effect.  We were out riding for 75 minutes and I was exhausted.

The next day we set off to cycle TO ANOTHER STATE.  Just because we could.

Arizona

We mixed in some swims, some short runs and plenty of good food: I was introduced to the rather excellent Trader Joe’s, as well as discovering that you could buy guns and ammunition off the shelf in Walmart and marvelling at the quantity and variety of Pop Tarts on offer.  And the fact that all prepacked salad in the US seems to come with copious amounts of cheese on top – why is this?

Unfortunately, despite eating and sleeping well, I was still feeling shattered, and three days before the race I found out why, as the unmistakable symptoms of a cold began.  Over the following days I felt rotten, but decided to race anyway – it was World Championships, we’d travelled thousands of miles at great expense to be here and used up over a week of Ed’s annual leave, so I might as well at least start the race and see what happened.

Shortly after I woke up on race morning my “cold” reached the coughing-up-yellow-stuff stage, but my mind was made up: I had a job to do and I was going to damn well do it to the best of my coughing, spluttering ability.  We went down to transition to check my bike over and discovered that, mercifully, it was raining, and hence much cooler than it had been: some luck at last!

The swim was deeply unpleasant.  A wave start, divided into gender and age group, meant that when each group started, everyone knew their direct opposition was right next to them.  The kicking, punching and clawing that ensued was the most targeted I’ve experienced in any triathlon swim, and I’d been struggling to breathe before I was even in the water…

I came out of the water in just under 37 minutes, normally a time I would have been disappointed with, but under the circumstances I didn’t care.  Rain was still pouring down and I picked my way carefully through T1 as I’d seen several others go flying in the mud.  I wasn’t after a time anyway, I just wanted to make it to the finish line.

Onto the bike and passing people, I felt more in control, and to my great relief breathing became less of a challenge.  In the cooler conditions I began to enjoy myself, and about 30km in, unexpectedly averaging over 30kph on a very hilly course [WTC’s course profile bore a directional resemblance to reality, but my Garmin clocked around double the advertised elevation!], something clicked and I started racing it.

The turnaround came earlier and with less pain than I’d thought, and I headed back with renewed optimism.  Leaving the National Park, the sun had come out and it was starting to heat up.  The last 20km into T2 included a storming descent and then a seemingly endless climb, on legs that were beginning to feel really quite tired.

I shoved my trainers on and headed out onto the by now baking run course.  It was here that I became immensely grateful for the De Soto cool wings, or “bat wings” as they are nicknamed, that I’d bought earlier in the week.  Their capacity for ice was, I discovered, just enough to get you from one aid station to the next, and I was on the receiving end of a lot of envious looks!

Having had a problem with my foot ever since Ironman UK (which I’d assumed was tendonitis, but turned out, after the race, to be tenosynovitis masking a stress response) I wasn’t sure how the run would go, but my foot seemed fine and the ice was helping me stay cool, not to mention slightly smug as lots of people had seen the rain and left their arm coolers in their T1 bag…

Realising I was on course to get my run a little under 2 hours if I pushed it, I stepped it up as the day went on, wanting to salvage something from the race.  Eventually I crossed the line in a IM 70.3 PB (by a whole minute!) of 5:43, and with a run time of 1:57, which I was pleased with given my lack of run training.

The finish line!  NB the clock shows time elapsed since the pros’ start time, rather than mine

The finish line! NB the clock shows time elapsed since the pros’ start time, rather than mine

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