Ironman 70.3 Dublin race report, August 2016

I entered this race because all my friends seemed to be doing it…. which seems like a bad reason at first glance, but over the years I have learnt that racing needs to be fun as well as hard! I’d also raced here before, and knew that the course suited me. Added to the fact it was only a week after Challenge Fredericia, this combined to give me an opportunity to try back-to-back racing with a great course and environment, and without any pressure.

Ed and I flew from Denmark to Dublin on Tuesday of race week, and on Wednesday I headed out on my bike to find the course. We seemed to have brought the rain with us… Training still felt heavy and sluggish on Wednesday after the Saturday afternoon race, to the extent that I even did fewer race pace intervals on my run than the maximum number I was allowed to do (!!).

Thanks to Charlie for driving me round the bike course with minimal getting lost!

Thanks to Charlie for driving me round the bike course with minimal getting lost!

Once we’d had a few days to settle in, I was feeling much better – this was actually 8 days between races, but I felt ready to go again within a week. I’d also decided to try throwing caution to the wind and hammering the bike this time round, rather than sticking to a carefully calculated % FTP, and see what happened.

Pro women's swim start in beautiful conditions

Pro women’s swim start in beautiful conditions

This may have been the calmest sea swim I’ve ever raced! I managed to hang on slightly longer than usual off the start, but by a couple of hundred metres in was still swimming by myself, and eventually lost sight of the front pack in the overcast weather. In my mind I was definitely last and definitely going too hard, so concentrated on holding good form and sighting well. The final straight towards the swim exit was the most challenging section of the swim, as the current pushed me off course.

Coming out of the swim I was happy to see one girl leaving transition as I came in and another three bags still on the rack – fifth out of eight is my highest swim finish yet, so it’s time to lose the “I’m sure I must be last” thoughts while out in the water.

A reasonable T1 and out onto the bike - must remember that in this country we ride on the LEFT!

A reasonable T1 and out onto the bike – must remember that in this country we ride on the LEFT!

Not knowing how my run would be after racing the previous weekend, I had decided just to enjoy the stunning bike course…. otherwise known as smash it! The course never lets you get bored, with a couple of steepish hills, some great descents that you can push hard, twists and turns, all accompanied by beautiful scenery.

A big Thank You to the race organisers for changing the planned 5 minute head start to an 8 minute head start on the age groupers on race morning – this meant that I never saw the course get busy and the closed roads were largely mine to ride. I passed a couple of girls to ride myself into 3rd position at one point, but was then caught myself and came into T2 in 4th, ready to see how my body would hold up for the run.

The run is 3 fairly flat loops around Phoenix Park and a great course – as is often the case, the first loop was quiet enough that I wondered if I was going the right way a couple of times, but I soon had much more company. Leaving T2 with only a couple of minutes gap behind me, I was very happy not to slip into 5th place until my second lap.

Ed was giving me splits to 6th place and we were relatively happy that I had a comfortable gap, until spotting that the tracker was malfunctioning… I’d been pushing hard anyway, but then I realised how little gap there was with only a couple of km to go. Somehow I found a little bit extra, but until I was on the red carpet and heading to the line I was convinced I was going to be run off the podium and out of the money in the closing metres of the race.

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Once the world had stopped spinning and I had been released from the medical tent, we headed to the Phoenix Park cafe (a favourite part of last year’s trip) for lunch, then back to the course to catch up with friends. This included a venture back to the finish line to give Charlie his finisher’s medal, before watching him accept a slot to World Championships at the awards ceremony later in the day!

Charlie finishing the race after dishing out Polos on the red carpet

Charlie finishing the race after dishing out Polos on the red carpet

Top 5 pro women

Top 5 pro women

Tired but happy at the end of an exciting day!

Tired but happy at the end of an exciting day!

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Challenge Fredericia race report, August 2016

Having not really dared to plan anything based on what my body might still be able to do After The Ironman, I was slightly bewildered to find myself still in one piece at the end of June, back training normally a couple of weeks after the event, and needing to choose some races for the second half of the season. We’d had a great time in Denmark in June, so another race run by Challenge, and very close to where we’d raced previously, seemed like a good choice.

After spending July mostly keeping my swim and bike ticking over but running round the local park like a lunatic in a bid to gain some run speed, we headed to Fredericia a few days before the race, giving ourselves time to settle in and check out the course well before race day.

Outside transition, during a rare gap in the rain

Outside transition a few days before the race, during a rare gap in the rain

Investigating the course turned out to be an experience in itself! With dolphins (and other, rather less welcome creatures) roaming around the swim course, rain that had the bike route virtually under water at times, and my visor blowing away as I went for an easy jog round the first part of the run section, race day looked set to be an interesting experience.

Triathlete pick 'n' mix at the expo!

Triathlete pick ‘n’ mix at the expo!

Race start on Saturday wasn’t until 3pm – the trick seemed to be to fill the morning with just enough activity that nerves couldn’t set in too much. A lie in, quick pre-race swim and “race morning breakfast” at lunchtime occupied the time, and for a start so late in the day, it rolled around surprisingly quickly.

I’d spent most of the week trying to get my head round the swim full of jellyfish, knowing the real risk was that I would panic, rather than any damage caused by the jellyfish themselves…. Thanks to Yvonne for letting me stick with her during the warm up, and magically managing to calm me down in a few words when I first saw one of the stinging kind and freaked out a bit!

Somehow, when the gun went off, I stuck my head down and got on with it, taking it one stroke at a time and managing not to panic. It helped that another girl was swimming right next to me for the first section along a canal, and once out into the more open section in the harbour, the rough water and concentrating on sighting diverted enough of my attention to keep panic at bay.

Athletes swim 2 loops once they’re into the harbour section, and towards the end of the first loop I did jump a bit seeing something large and grey swooshing underneath me – but how very cool to see the dolphin during the swim! Starting out on the second loop I merged into the mass of age groupers who’d started 5 minutes behind us, trying my best not to accidentally smack any of them on the way past. Again, dodging round people and trying not to get a mouthful of the choppy sea kept my thoughts off the jellyfish, and soon enough I was out of the water.

As an added bonus, the number on my watch even started with 27 as I came into T1. A huge PB, possibly a slightly short course, but given how “busy” it was in there, I am still pretty happy!

Thankfully the weather gods were kind to us during the bike, and I didn’t have to test out my newly-found carbon-braking-in-the-wet skills on the twisty descents. The wind was strong and gusty, but every time a gust shoved me across the road I gripped on tight to the aero bars and remembered that wind + disc = a big push forwards! The only place this didn’t work was going across the Old Little Belt bridge, with a rough road surface and very strong side winds, where the base bar seemed like a safer place to be…

After all my mental (thankfully not physical) wrangling with the jellyfish, I was speeding down a hill back into town at the end of the first of 2 bike loops when I felt something fly into one of the side panels of my helmet and get stuck, buzzing around the side of my face. After smacking it a couple of times, there was no more buzzing, but instead a painful sting on my cheek. Actually really pleased to have got a wasp stuck in my helmet, as it is something I have long been terrified of, and now it’s happened and no one died (apart from the wasp…) I will be less scared of it happening again!

Unfortunately I managed to miss the single aid station on the bike course, which is a few metres before transition, just round a corner, before heading back out onto the second loop. However, I did see Ed, who told me I had moved into 5th place without realising it… Now used to the corners and the wind, I managed to ride the second loop slightly faster than the first and hold my position, but rolled into T2 feeling slightly cooked after not drinking enough on the bike.

Having checked out the run course profile on the website, which claimed that it had a whole zero metres of climbing, it was a bit of a shock to find that other than the section I’d jogged before the race, it was almost entirely either uphill or downhill. Still, a leg of the course with no wildlife to deal with was to be appreciated, and I could feel a huge improvement in my running from the last couple of months’ training.

Although I lost one place on the run, it seemed to progress surprisingly quickly, and before I knew it I was coming into my last lap. Hearing that I had “3 or 4 minutes” on age-groupers behind me, I took off like a scalded cat… not used to my newly improved run fitness, I’d clearly gone out a bit conservatively, given the step up I was able to make at that point! Better than the huge slowdown in the run of my previous race, although with less than 4 minutes between me and 4th place, it’s annoying to know I might have been able to go faster.

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Sprinting to the line

Overall this was a great race, with an exciting course and great atmosphere – definitely one to come back to!

Awards ceremony

Awards ceremony

Next stop is Ironman 70.3 Dublin next weekend, where I will find out how my body responds to racing back-to-back weekends. Rumour has it they’re even sweeping out the jellyfish… luxury!

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Where next?

So – having finished Challenge Denmark iron distance in June – I can finally say I am officially back to doing what I love!

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Of course, the next aim is to do it faster…

After Denmark I had a whole FOUR DAYS of rest and going-for-little-walks, by which point I was starting to get a bit fidgety. Looking back over my training diary, I appear to have paid at least some attention to Russ’ Rules for Ironman Recovery, though the “no intensity in week 2” part appears to have been edited out somewhere between my brain and my legs!

The last six weeks has been an opportunity to train and build some fitness without travelling to camps or races, and only one daytrip back to the UK for physio and work on my S&C programme. I love training camps and I love racing, but it’s also been great to spend some time at home, not get on any planes and be able to speak to Ed without regular  instances of “what…. what…. sorry it’s cut out again…. maybe try audio only…. maybe try Skype? Ah never mind I’ll see you in 10 days anyway”!

Swimming has involved lots of race-specific skills and race intensity work, along with getting comfortable in my new wetsuit (for which thank you again SwimForTri!) in Amsterdam’s outdoor pools and lake. Very many thanks to Steve Trew for providing some truly revolting inspirational bike and run sessions – if I can execute these on a turbo trainer and while not tripping over the tourists or choking on the ‘interesting’ smoke in the Vondelpark, bringing them to bear on race day should be a doddle. Right?

Next is to test out my fitness, and so Ed and I will shortly be off on a racing extravaganza! First stop is a return to Denmark to race in Challenge Fredericia on 6 August…

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Outside transition, a couple of days before our last Challenge Denmark event

Then it’s a quick turnaround to head to Ironman 70.3 Dublin, where I raced last year. The course has changed slightly so comparison is tricky, but I’m still hoping to smash my previous time!

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Racing Ironman 70.3 Dublin 2015

From there, we head to Austria for 2 weeks for some training time in the mountains, finishing up with racing 70.3 Zell am See-Kaprun on last year’s 70.3 World Championship course.

Finally, a return to Amsterdam just in time for Challenge Almere, which I’ve regularly been told is a course that would suit me ever since I started triathlon – now I’m living nearby, it seemed an obvious choice!

And yes…. this is a lot of racing. It is all subject to change, and I need to be very careful to stay in one piece. But one of the pieces of the jigsaw is race experience, of which I still have relatively little. I have time, support and nearby (ish) races. Oh and as mentioned above… I love racing!

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Happiness is…

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Challenge Billund-Herning race report

Having finally managed to stay in one piece for long enough to do the training for an iron distance race, it was time to put it to the test! I chose Challenge Denmark months ago, looking for a race whose course and likely conditions would suit me, and was excited and not a little surprised when I actually made it to the start line in one piece. Unlike my equipment…. but I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of the positives of living in Amsterdam is the ability to travel to European races without having to cross a large chunk of water, and so, instead of flying, on the Tuesday of race week Ed and I bundled an incredible amount of kit into a hire car and set off to drive through Germany and into Denmark.

Incidentally, stopping for lunch in Germany and speaking German again when you’ve been learning Dutch for a year = Mind. Blown. Amazingly I actually managed to make myself understood!

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We arrived after a long day’s drive to our first ever homestay at a race – I was pretty nervous about it and didn’t really know what to expect. I needn’t have worried – our hosts Annette and Michael were absolutely lovely, and welcomed us into their home like family. I’m amazed and very, very grateful that people are willing to have athletes to stay with them for the races!

Race week proceeded as planned, with the usual mixture of bike rides, ridiculously short run sessions, a dip in the lake and inadvertently breaking the rules of foreign swimming pools (because using my snorkel is DEFINITELY a hazard to other swimmers….)

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Pre-race swim in the lake

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Outside T2

The day before the race, I went for a final spin, then we headed over to T1 for one last swim before racking my bike and bags and heading home for an early dinner and a good night’s sleep.

As I came out of the water after a good swim, I could see Ed walking towards me; from his demeanour something was obviously Very Wrong. Half expecting to be told one of our family members had been seriously hurt, it was a relief when it turned out all that had happened was that my bike had developed a crack in the base bar that made it unusable. Somehow. Since Ed had checked it the day before and my ride that morning had passed without incident, I was perplexed to say the least.

Out of my wetsuit and into normal clothes in a time to shame many of my previous attempts at T1, we were onto Google and heading to a bike shop down the road in record time…. except it was closed on Saturday afternoons. And so was the other one in town. We headed back to transition, hoping there would be some sort of extra special mechanical support there that could magically solve the problem.

As it happened, there kind of was….

boardman in bits

We brought All The Tools with us. Just sadly not a whole spare bike

We owe a LOT of thanks to the race mechanics from Triudstyr for coming up with a solution! It involved

  • A new base bar
  • New pads, extensions and Garmin mount
  • Completely recabling my brakes and gears
  • and of course… who needs a top cap when you have…. Duct tape! to hold it all together

 

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Check out my duct tape top cap as I head out of T1 wondering whether my bike will disintegrate during the ride! Hashtag Marginal Gains 😉

After all too short a time at home and about 3 hours’ sleep, we headed back to T1, racked the beast at last and then headed over to the warm up area. Very impressed with the race organisers for providing an in-water warm up – at least, I really appreciated it, though didn’t see any other athletes using it!

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Warming up before the start

I’d already decided to make the most of where I was: even if the bike bodge didn’t work, I still had a shot at the swim. If it and I arrived safely into T2, no matter how slowly, I still had a crack at finishing an ironman for the first time in over 2 years.

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…and we’re off!

The swim passed without incident for the first 400m. Then we turned left round the first buoy into the rising sun. My goggles were dark, but not dark enough; with the glare on the water I couldn’t make out any of the buoys, nor any of the sighting points on shore I’d carefully noted before the race, and had to rely on the other athletes to sight off. Not ideal. Despite swimming well, I sighted atrociously, and must have added minutes to my swim time. Lesson learned!

Somehow I still left T1 in second place and – somewhat apprehensively – headed out on the bike. It took about 15 minutes for third place to pass me – on the flat, and she went by as if I was standing still. I looked down. 216 watts, bang on target. I told myself either she’d blow up, or there was something still wrong with my bike, or she was just stronger than me and there was nothing I could do about it.

I stuck perfectly to my nutrition and pacing plan, eating and drinking every 20 minutes and riding consistently at exactly the power I’d planned. I guess there still was something wrong with the bike – I rode much more strongly and consistently than usual but still lost much more time to my competitors than in previous races. However the bike did, as hoped, get me to T2 without further incident, so now “all” I had to contend with was the marathon.

The run course consisted of six loops, and our supporters were allowed to give us food and drink at a designated point on the loop. So the six communications went something like this…

  • “Hello! Yes all good, gel and Coke please, no one closing behind me? Good.”
  • “Seem to be slowing down a bit, still doing good, thank you, see you next time.”
  • <shouting, run into Portaloo, run out, grab gel> “Hgnnnnngggh”
  • “I never want to see another gel in my life”
  • “No don’t go to the finish line yet I don’t care if I make it before you I NEED TO KNOW I WILL SEE YOU NEXT LAP”
  • “I want to die I want to die see you at the finish line”

 

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My best “I love my job” face

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Game face back on

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My first pro podium! Congratulations to Mirjam and Anne

Thanks to everyone at Challenge Denmark for a fantastic race!

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Journey back to Ironman, or, when you’re going through hell, keep going

In May 2014, things were looking good. I’d just qualified for World Championships in Kona via a top 10 overall result in Ironman South Africa, was enjoying a balanced amount of work and training, and lived with Ed in the house we’d recently bought in London. The stability I’d been aiming for to build a platform for training and happiness was finally in place and working.

By June I could barely walk, let alone train. After a couple of months of misdiagnosis, we found out that I would need surgery on both of my hips to have a chance of competing again. I had a relatively rare condition called femoroacetabular impingement, which damages the inside of the hip socket – it’s exacerbated by training, but the underlying cause is skeletal structure.

I ended up having four separate operations between July and November. During that period, work dried up, and I didn’t dare try to take on anything new while I was on so many painkillers. People I’d thought were good friends stopped replying to messages. Post-op, the injuries took longer than expected to heal, and I couldn’t imagine being able to jog round the park pain-free, never mind race.

Or, the way I try to think of it: I had private health insurance, giving me swift access to excellent medical care. Without work and training keeping me busy constantly, I realised that if and when my body allowed, I wanted to “go all in” with training. I learnt who my real friends are, and now when I’m training and it’s hard, or it hurts, I think back to how I felt in the latter part of 2014 – and it doesn’t hurt at all.

It felt as though my world had fallen apart, like a nightmare that I never woke up from. A day while I was injured went something like: wake up, have coffee, and try not to have much breakfast because of the weight I was gaining from inactivity and pain drugs. Check emails and social media. Cry because other people were training and I couldn’t, or because races were going on that I had planned to compete in but couldn’t. Physio exercises. Watch TV. Physio exercises. Message Ed. Cry some more. TV, physio exercises, more dinner than I ought to have. Cry. Try to sleep.

Six months of days like the above is a long time, and patience is not my strong suit, so it would have been no surprise to anyone when I tried to rush back into training and racing in 2015. After a whole year out of racing, my body wouldn’t absorb even a moderate amount of load without breaking down again. I repeatedly got sick, and for a year I had to strap my ankle every time I raced, following another injury after my first race back in May.

I managed to haul myself round a few 70.3s, but all the wanting and trying and positivity in the world can’t make up for missing a year of training, and despite improving as the season went on, my results left a lot to be desired.

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During and after Dublin 70.3

During and after Dublin 70.3

My lamentable excuse for the 2015 season came juddering to a halt in late July and early August, when another insidious and apparently inexplicable pain in my back, hips and legs stopped me from walking again. In the meantime, Ed had moved to Amsterdam for work, and I felt isolated and very confused when repeat visits to a specialist doctor yielded only “everything’s a bit inflamed and you just need to give it a bit of time to settle down”.

Luckily, Ed does not have my tendency to blindly accept medical advice. After a couple of months with no improvement, he finally managed to convince me to see a different specialist, who MRI’d my lower back and found a torn, bulging disc that was the source of all the pain. Season over, but eminently treatable, and this time with only one hospital visit and corresponding unpleasant procedure! And, of course, a hell of a lot of physio.

By October, Ed and I had found our new apartment in Amsterdam, and moving day was scheduled on a Thursday. Of course as luck would have it, that day Ed was in Amsterdam directing the removal guys, and I was in hospital in London having a needleful of steroid stuck in my back. Unlike the hip operations, I had to be wide awake for the whole thing, but at least I was allowed to fly out to join Ed (sans heavy luggage, of course) the next day.

There followed some more months of only gradual improvement of the injury, combined with constant doubts about healing and competing again. Thankfully the rehab this time was much more active, and getting to know a new city – not to mention learning a new language – provided some distraction.

Once I’d been deemed well enough to go on training camp, albeit with significant volume and intensity restrictions on what I could do, I headed off to Lanzarote and spent as much of the winter there as possible! It was hugely frustrating watching others go out on rides and runs that were longer and harder than anything I could currently do, but I’m pretty sure I set the record for the number of hours spent in the lovely Trisports gym doing strength and conditioning work…

By March 2016 I could feel a little bit of fitness coming back – I still don’t feel back to the level I was before injury, but it was definitely an improvement on the point in late 2015 where I’d been literally unable to get out of bed (or, on one particularly embarrassing occasion, off a physio table) unaided. I was also desperate to race, having written, rewritten, re-rewritten and finally binned my race plans for the second half of 2015.

So we headed to Mexico for Monterrey 70.3, where I managed not to embarrass myself as 12th out of 14 pros – hardly setting the world on fire, but a sizeable run and overall PB, a strong bike split in a red hot field and “not coming last” made me pretty happy.

Stunning swim venue at 70.3 Monterrey

Stunning swim venue at 70.3 Monterrey

Back home, I trained in Amsterdam for the next block, making sure we got our money’s worth out of the turbo trainer with some truly hideous interval sessions, joining our local tri club for swim training and running seemingly endless loops of the Vondelpark. The idea had always been to work my way back to racing iron distance as my stronger event, and I felt as though I was finally approaching a level of fitness where I could think about heading to a start line.

Challenge Denmark was already on my radar, after I’d been signed up to race the half distance last year and had to withdraw at the last minute with one of my many injuries. I entered the full distance this year: it looked like a great race, with a lake swim, rolling bike and flattish 6-loop run – which sounds hideous, until you realise it means you can see your supporters 12 times for a bit of much-needed encouragement!

A training camp in Italy in May laid the final steps, with two weeks hammering the swim under Dan of SwimForTri’s expert guidance, coupled with riding up some hills, running on a very forgiving trail and some wise words on mental attitude from Steve Trew, who’s been running this camp for 30 years. Many of the athletes on the camp have been attending for years too, but I felt entirely welcome as a newcomer and met some lovely people.

Back home, only a few days remained before starting the taper, so I squeezed in one last long ride and long run. The “long” run felt very long but was only 16 miles, very short for marathon prep, and I was more than a little nervous at the thought of doing all that, after the swim and bike, and then still having 10 miles to go, but I told myself it would have to do.

Going into the race, in a sense I didn’t care about the result (spoiler alert – I finished – but I’ll save that story for another day!). For the first time in over two years, my body had made it through the training for an ironman, and that in itself was a lot to be thankful for.

Speaking of being thankful – there are many, many people who helped me through the nightmare:

Daz and Debs from TriSports Lanzarote, who provide an amazing training camp destination (which I’ve previously written about here) and who were kind enough to let me move a recent stay at 3 days’ notice when we started to realise the latest injury was more serious than we thought

Dan from SwimForTri, who has the patience to coach me on a regular basis, and who came up with something productive I could do when I first turned up to meet him on a cold, wet and miserable day in November 2014 and said “I want some coaching, I need to break the hour for the ironman swim, oh and I’ve just had hip surgery so I can only swim with a pull buoy, is that OK?”

Russell Cox for reading my rambling emails of data and questions, and coming up with useful suggestions in reply to questions like “I’ve just had hip surgery, can I do 2 Ironmans next year?”

Steve Trew for something I can’t quite explain, but will try to summarise as judicious application of off-the-scale emotional intelligence

Cris Kellett and the whole team at Progress for reconstructing me when my disc tore

Joy, Cath and Giles at Sport Hip London for hammering my hips back into shape (literally, I believe – happily I was unconscious for most of it) and Jane Attard at Central Health for physio support and not minding when I spent a session crying instead of balancing on one leg with my eyes closed

Anna Waters, who helped me get my head round injury and recovery

Laura Turner, who taught me to run in a way that bore less resemblance to a baby elephant, though I admit there is still work to be done here

Ed’s dad, Martin, who has come to many of my recent races to support, providing conversation and perspective. Thankfully, he enjoys the experience equally whether I come first or last

Friends and family who have come to visit, listened to me, read my wailing emails and generally been there when it mattered – I doubt any of you want to be named on my blog, but you know who you are

And Ed, who not only stayed with me through all of this when other people would have left long ago, but did, and does, anything and everything he can to make my world a better place: from holding my hand while I cried as they knocked me out for the operations, to providing me with food, cuddles and shiny pieces of carbon fibre, to cutting the dead skin off my feet after races, to acting as chef, chauffeur, psychologist, coach, #bikebitch, Head of Legal and of course Team Manager, Great Britain

Everyone wants to spend a snowy Sunday in February feeding their girlfriend gels and water while she runs round the forest, right....?

Everyone wants to spend a snowy Valentine’s Day feeding their girlfriend gels and water while she runs round the forest, right….?

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Amsterdamse Blog

So technically this is supposed to be about triathlon, but my 2015 season can best be summed up as: raced some half iron distance races; did extraordinarily well for someone who had just spent a year out having hip surgery; was however never exactly going to set the world on fire at this stage.

Racing during what is still technically a rehab period (up to a year after the last of the major operations) was like rehab itself, tiring, stressful, and with nothing much to show for it immediately, though I know the benefits will be apparent in the years to come.

All in all, not particularly exciting to write about in detail, and even less to read!

During the off season, I’m now focusing on a huge core and strengthening programme, establishing some better sleeping habits, oh, and setting myself up to train in a new country…

The background here is that Ed started working in a new role in Amsterdam in June this year, we saw each other when we could but were both pretty miserable the rest of the time. Having been out to visit in the summer, I came round to the idea of moving out myself…

Beautiful city, beautiful weather, beautiful sunshine...

Beautiful city, beautiful weather, beautiful sunshine…

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…good food…

...and the famous cycle-friendly infrastructure

…and the famous cycle-friendly infrastructure

And so it was that one morning last week, four men and a huge lorry came to our house, packed everything away and disappeared again at the end of the day. Perhaps of note here that it took four person-days of specialists’ time to pack our “relatively small” amount of stuff (ah, how my parents would laugh),  so if you’re moving house yourself and feeling bad that the packing is taking ages… then don’t!

Having finished up some training admin in the UK, I left to join Ed in Amsterdam on Friday, eagerly awaiting the sunshine, cycling paradise, pancakes and relaxation I remembered from my trip in the summer.

Friday

Arrive at Schiphol. It is very cold here. It is raining. However, Ed is waiting for me at the airport with a large bunch of flowers – orange, of course – and an enormous grin. As we head off train-wards, he cheerfully informs me that, while he’s been standing there, several Dutch women have approached him and tried to appropriate the flowers – and, I can only presume, the Ed – for themselves. Hmmm.

A relatively short train and tram ride later, we reach the apartment that is now home. Even in the foggy drizzle, the city is still stunning – and stunningly quiet – compared to London. It’s also tiny, and getting around is fast and easy. Walking to most places is an option, as well as trams or the Dutch bike I will clearly need to get, with n+1 being what it is and s-1 tending to infinity in our household [see here, rule 12, for the uninitiated].

The apartment is beautiful: newly refurbished, high ceilings, tall, wide windows designed to let in as much light as possible, were there light to be let in. The internet doesn’t work, the heating keeps cutting out with a very loud ‘bang’ from the boiler, and there appears to be no washing machine, but these are all quickly and easily fixable…. right?

We head out for dinner. Again, Amsterdam wins hands down over London, with a wide selection of restaurants within easy staggering distance of our front door. We pick a tiny Italian, eat an excellent dinner, then hurry home and collapse into bed.

Saturday

It is raining. When I step outside, I can see my breath. Back inside, there are boxes everywhere. By the end of the day, there is a heap of empty boxes by the front door, but no discernible difference in the number of boxes still to be unpacked.

Sunday

It is raining. We stand in the rain to cheer on a couple of Ed’s colleagues, who are out running the Amsterdam Marathon. It feels very odd to be watching, rather than competing, and I immediately go home and investigate entries for next year’s event.

The house starts to look more like a home; that is, we have now removed enough of the boxes from the living room that the bikes are clearly visible at first glance.

IMG_0496

Monday

It is raining, but slightly less cold. Other than this, the day can perhaps be best summed up by an excerpt from an email I sent to a friend…

“Here is the list of things I / we have mistakenly bought thinking they were something else (and, I remind you, I have been here 4 days):

Buttermilk, instead of normal milk [obviously, the three types of milk in the supermarket here are full fat, semi and buttermilk, rather than full fat, semi and skimmed…]

Ready prepared potatoes, instead of gnocchi

A mango, because it somehow insinuated itself into my groceries between the conveyor belt thingy and the checkout and I couldn’t think of the Dutch for “errr, that’s not mine” quickly enough

Shark fillet, thinking (not unreasonably given the appearance) that it was cod”

Tuesday

It is raining, and Ed is in London for work. The irony of the latter after the last four months is not lost on me. The boiler, having been fixed yesterday, breaks again. I walk into town to try and buy a kettle, and nearly have a breakdown due to the number of people in the Bijenkorf, Amsterdam’s equivalent of John Lewis. Instead I find a bookshop round the corner and happily lose myself in the Languages section for a few minutes before wandering back home.

Wednesday

The rain continues. A man comes to fix the internet, but tells me he can’t. In the afternoon I meet Ed at Central Station as he returns from his trip. With supervision, I am able to successfully navigate the Bijenkorf.

We go to the shoe section in the admittedly wildly optimistic hope that as Dutch women are tall, Dutch shoes will go up to larger sizes. When I tell the assistant my size, her sharp inhalation and unsubtle glance down at my feet, presumably expecting to see clown shoes poking out from under my jeans, confirms otherwise.  We shuffle quietly away – or rather, Ed does; I have difficulty shuffling quietly due to my clown feet…

Thursday

We fly to Milan to go to a party. No, really.

Netflix have launched in Spain and Portugal earlier this week, and today, they are launching in Italy. Staff who worked on the deals in each country are invited to its launch party, along with their family, so Ed’s weeks of negotiating have earned us both a trip to Milan.

While I normally have little interest in parties, the facts are that (a) being invited to a Netflix launch party doesn’t seem like the sort of opportunity that would normally present itself very often, and (b) being invited to a Netflix launch party is almost always the sort of opportunity I would have to turn down because of being in heavy training.

So we go. The hotel has upgraded us to a suite that is very significantly larger than my first flat in London. We do a spot of shopping (be rude not to) and then head to the party. I actually enjoy it, so it must be a very good party! I even recognise some of the famous people. More importantly, it’s a good opportunity to meet Ed’s new colleagues, who are all very friendly and welcoming to me, which I greatly appreciate.

It turns out clothes do fit my strange body shape... it's just they are really really expensive clothes

It turns out clothes do fit my strange body shape… it’s just they are really really expensive clothes

Hands up who doesn't recognise us in normal people clothes, with washed hair

Hands up who doesn’t recognise us in normal people clothes, with washed hair

Netflix launch party

Netflix Italy launch party

Friday

The most important meal of the day. Brought to us in our ridiculous room, with a whole nother table...

The most important meal of the day. Brought to us in our ridiculous room, with a whole nother table…

Italian coffee is surprisingly disappointing. Italian driving is unsurprisingly terrifying. Our greatest achievements today are getting to the airport without dying in a car crash, and acquiring broadband internet at home once we’re back. And for the first day since I moved to Amsterdam, it didn’t rain. Things are definitely looking up!

Onwards

I didn’t know what to expect from my first week in a new country, but it’s been a lot of fun, as well as providing a fascinating set of new experiences and challenges to keep me from being bored while my body recovers from the battering I’ve given it in training this year.

I have lots to look forward to over the coming weeks and months… starting Dutch lessons next week, because sadly a language cannot be fully learned at home with a book, and does require interaction with other human beings… exploring the swimming, running and cycling possibilities in and around Amsterdam… and learning the ins and outs of a new city. Living in the same house as Ed again is working out pretty well, too 🙂

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The Egg Unboxed

Lots of training; Easter weekend, FrEd-style; and the most ridiculously awesome Easter egg ever

Part 1: the obligatory but hopefully at least mildly amusing training-related bit

It’s now almost three months since I was released back into the wild from the care of my medical team after this happened. At that point I was swimming with little or no restriction, cycling about half my normal duration and with only limited hard work, and not running at all. So it’s been three months of working on the bits of the jigsaw that I am able to at any given time, and trying not to worry about the rest. There are still some missing pieces, but it’s starting to look vaguely like a picture again…

I kicked off my year with a five-week block of training in Lanzarote, which is a great place to focus on swimming and increasing bike volume. Thanks are due to…

Swim For Tri for a great swim camp, into which I squeezed some shorter bike and run sessions as well as many times my normal weekly volume of swimming;

the lovely Daz and Debs at Trisports Lanzarote for providing perfect accommodation, food (seriously, it’s worth the trip for the food alone) and support for a great couple of weeks including sea swims, building up some running and lots of bike miles, learning how to use a power meter; and

Russ and David for finishing me off with two weeks of bike, bike and bike (and I seem to recall a bit of splashing and mincing in there as well). Russ has posted a blog for every day of this last camp, with the one I feature most in unfortunately being a bit of a mishap!

Me "enjoying" the Tabayesco TT on the final day of camp. Big thanks to David for the photo, check out his website at http://www.do3coaching.com/

Me “enjoying” the final stretch of the Tabayesco time trial on the final day of camp. Big thanks to David for the photo, check out his website at http://www.do3coaching.com/

Once I’d come home, remembered what Ed looked like and spent a few days lying on the sofa going “wurble”, it was time to embark on the next block of training, in which the running volume has finally started to increase slowly, slowly… and much more excitingly to plan some races! First up I’m headed back to play at Monster Racing‘s Mojo race in May after a fantastic day out last year – this was the last race I did before injury and will be my first race back, a gap of a year almost to the day. This time I’m not so much concerned with “defending my title” as “getting round in one piece and pain-free”!  Can’t wait to race, though it’s still another month away, so I’m going to have to be patient (my favourite word strikes again).

Part 2: Easter Weekend, triathlete-style

I can’t actually remember what “normal” people do at Easter, but I suspect it does not involve the following.

Wake up. Turbo. Run – an easy run, with some hill sprints thrown in the middle. The “easy run” part is more successful than the “hill sprints” part. This may or may not be related to the six hours spent training yesterday. Home. Strength exercises. Fooooooood. Drag Ed to outdoor pool to help me test 2 potential new wetsuits. Feel like total idiot running (well, and swimming) around in trisuit +/- wetsuit while Ed tries to work out why I seem to be incapable of swimming in a straight line with a wetsuit on. Decide that wetsuits do not fit. Sigh. Do some actual swimming.

Drag self out to dinner with friends of Ed’s who I’ve not met before. Become aware on journey to dinner that am too hypo to meet new people and likely to be totally incapable of saying anything other than “nnggghh” until I have eaten either the table or a large plateful of carbohydrate-based produce. Slightly suboptimal. Order calzone. Better. Regain powers of conversation and have really nice evening. Sleep…

Rest day! Drive 2.5 hours to Bristol (well, let’s be honest – drive the first hour, then Ed takes over and I lounge in the passenger seat with a travel pillow trying to get some bonus rest) for a bike sizing at Bike Science. (There is a Bike Science almost infinitely closer to us in Putney, and indeed one in Tunbridge Wells, which may or may not be a better location for a daytrip than Bristol but does have the dubious virtue of being home to most of my immediate family, but we know and trust Andy who runs the Bristol store, so we go to Bristol.) Spend approximately three minutes on bike rig and approximately 57 minutes drinking coffee, looking at shiny bike kit and buying bike-related paraphernalia.

©

Drive 2.5 hours back to London. Have very painful yet very effective sports massage. And I have a feeling we did something when we got home, maybe watched some TV or something, but I was at that stage of tiredness where you simply don’t remember anything afterwards unless prompted, and possibly not even then.

Easter Sunday! Three hours on the turbo with some big gear hill repeats, straight into a 50 minute steady run. Ed went above and beyond the call of duty yet again by making some adjustments to my bike mid-turbo, putting up with my ranting about having to stop for said adjustments to be made, and then providing water, gel and slow-mo video footage of my run from the relative safety of a mountain bike.

Now, usually on Sunday evenings I swim in Putney with the Swim For Tri fitness group. BUT they had very kindly given us the week off in view of the fact it was Easter Sunday. Time to spend with loved ones, catch a film or quietly doze off after an Easter Sunday roast and some egg-shaped chocolate, perhaps.

Guess what I did?

(No. There are no prizes.)

4km and a 1km PB. Happy Easter

4km including a 1km PB. Happy Easter

Part 3: With Apologies To DC Rainmaker*

*…who, for those not familiar with his work, writes a significantly funnier, more informative and more frequently updated blog than I do, which can be found here

Hotel Chocolat Ostrich Egg In-Depth Review

Team FrEd Easter 2015

The 2015 edition of the Hotel Chocolat Ostrich Egg. Which appeared as if by magic in the house a couple of weeks ago, and which I will most certainly not be shipping back to Kansas after I’ve finished reviewing it and buying my own via regular retail channels.

Unboxing

egg 1

The second layer, with the user manual clearly positioned on top

egg 2

Reverse of the user manual, including all the information required for installation, and some more protective packaging

egg 3

Below the black cushioning layer is the tray of filled chocolates.

egg 4

After removing the tray, you’ll find the egg itself, protected by black tissue paper

egg 5

And below the egg, six foil-wrapped mini eggs or “egglets”, hidden among the tissue paper

egg 6

Thus, with all the pieces taken out of the box, here’s what you’ve got. The egg, a tray of filled chocolates, six egglets, a user manual / installation guide, and a phenomenal mess due to all the tissue paper.

egg 7

Weight / Size Comparisons

Possibly as a result of their smaller size and resulting increased snackability, all other Easter eggs in the house were no longer available for comparison at the time of review. I therefore turned to other essential triathlete nutrition as a comparison guide.

egg coffee

egg 8

egg 9

The egg was large enough that I had to weigh it in two separate measurements.egg 11

egg 10

The Hotel Chocolat stated weight for the Ostrich Egg is 1.1kg. At 1,387g, the measured weight is significantly heavier. Even allowing for the additional weight in the foil coating left on in this picture, the egg is very significantly larger than its stated weight. Happily, as this is an item of confectionery rather than a Garmin device, this turns out to have a positive impact on the product’s usability.

Efficiency

The below comparison table takes a look at the value of the Ostrich Egg compared to a selection of other Hotel Chocolat products by calculating the cost of each product per gram of chocolate. Thus, and to my surprise, the Oyster Egg actually works out as surprisingly good value for money relative to other Hotel Chocolat products. This is especially true when the actual rather than stated weight of the egg is taken into account, although, of course, I haven’t been able to check the other products’ weights on the scale.

Weight, g RRP, £ £/g
Ostrich egg 1380 Actual weight 75 0.054
Ostrich egg 1100 HC stated weight 75 0.068
Sleekster Everything Selection 350 HC stated weight 22 0.063
Large Classic Signature Collection 485 HC stated weight 50 0.103
H-Box Nutty Selection 180 HC stated weight 12 0.067

Given that at the current rate of consumption the egg appears likely to last until Easter 2016, it’s possible that we may be able to avoid inefficiency in future Team FrEd chocolate gifting by simply purchasing a single Oyster Egg each year at Easter and deploying it gradually throughout the following 12 months.

Summary

The Hotel Chocolat Ostrich Egg is clearly ridiculous. And cool. And ridiculously cool. And while it also initially appears ridiculously expensive, a quick analysis reveals that it is actually less so than other Hotel Chocolat products.

Pros

Enough chocolate to last you really a very long time

Very, very cool

Provides efficiency in chocolate purchasing

An unadvertised extra 280g of chocolate. That’s pretty much a whole nother “normal” sized Easter egg.

Cons

Enough chocolate to last you really a very long time, and consequently requiring of gradual metering out of willpower over months. Think of it as like pacing yourself in an Ironman: if you go too hard too soon, it’s just going to get messy

Requires relatively high initial capital outlay

You can only buy them at Easter…

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Out of the ashes

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Rehab didn’t go as smoothly as planned, with pain continuing in my right hip for weeks after the operation, and for reasons best known to itself, my brain decided to fixate on the possibility that I wouldn’t get better.  With multiple rounds of hip surgery creating gaps in my availability and making me unable to sit at a desk for hours at a time even weeks after the operations, I also struggled to find work for several months.

Lying in bed at home all day every day, banned even from going for a walk unless it was because I needed to get somewhere, gave my mind far too much time to turn in on itself.  A couple of hours watching Big Bang Theory most days cheered me up a bit, but wasn’t enough to stop me from ending up really, really sad. On bad days I cried for hours at a time, and even when I was allowed to leave the house again I often didn’t want to.

Somehow I carried on.  At the end of October, Ed and I started swimming lessons with Swim For Tri, who I can’t recommend highly enough. As well as being an excellent technical swim coach, Dan has been sympathetic and patient with my prolonged recovery time, and easily adapted the coaching focus so I could improve despite not being able to kick at first.

An extra unplanned operation at the end of November started to turn things round, and soon after that I was able to start cycling again, albeit for 5 minutes at a time, rather than 5 hours.  I built up gradually – the doctors’ definition of “gradually” this time, rather than mine – and combined with swimming and using a cross-trainer, I started to regain a little of my lost fitness.  (The doctors were great, by the way – my initial interpretation of their instructions, not so much!)

The hours and hours of physio exercises and plyometrics seem to have paid off – in January I was allowed to start running again, and although I’m building up very gradually, the times are nothing like as bad as I’d feared.

I’m currently training in Lanzarote to rebuild fitness and start working on aspects of training that aren’t practical in the UK winter, such as open water swimming and bike handling.  I’ve put the power meter back on the bike, done some timed swims and had the clock on my running.  The numbers are very pleasing, given that my last major operation was less than 4 months ago, and although I still have a lot of work to do, the only way is up!

More importantly, I feel human again, surprisingly confident in what I’m doing, and comfortable in my own skin.  The injury is behind me and I’m excited about this year’s training and racing.

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Don’t get me wet and don’t feed me after midnight

A couple of weeks ago I followed a routine I’m coming to know rather well: roll out of bed hideously early; follow a carefully prepared list of instructions, including a detailed nutrition plan and timings; go to body marking; hang around nervously waiting for everything to start…

Unfortunately this was the nutrition plan:

nutrition plan

…and this was body marking

body marking 1body marking 2

This was the final step in diagnosing the cause of ongoing excruciating hip pain I’ve been having that has stopped me from running, cycling and, at its worst, even swimming or walking without difficulty.  Following a series of scans that suggested joint issues as the probable cause, an injection into the joint under general anaesthetic was used to confirm that the pain does indeed come from the joint and, in turn, that arthroscopic hip surgery is the most appropriate treatment.

This followed a hellish couple of months of being told by various medical professionals that there was nothing really wrong, the pain would resolve by itself and it was fine to keep training on it, even when I was in agony and could barely walk.  Although the outcome was that I have to have surgery that will take me out of competition for the rest of the season, my main feeling was relief that it wasn’t psychological and was well-defined enough to be straightforwardly (if not easily) treatable.  Combined, admittedly, with mild terror…

The good news is that surgery will also treat the cause of the problem – the short story being that the shape of my femur and hip socket is such that there is impingement, which in itself causes pain and also damages tissue inside the socket.  The surgeon doesn’t just repair the tissue damage, but also remodels the shape of the bone slightly to prevent the problem recurring.  I look forward to seeing what I can achieve when I can string together more than a few months of consistent run training!

So last week I had the first (right) hip surgery. There’s a minimum of six weeks between having each hip treated in order to make rehab workable. Those of you who have met me will be astonished to learn that my second one is scheduled for six weeks to the day after the first……

My dependence on caffeine becomes apparent from my selection of items to consume upon waking. I’m also trying very hard not to look at the blood in the tube coming out of my hand

My dependence on caffeine becomes apparent from my selection of items to consume upon waking. I’m also trying very hard not to look at the blood in the tube coming out of my hand

Back on the bike, 24 hours after surgery – believe it or not, this was under doctor’s orders!

Back on the bike, 24 hours after surgery – believe it or not, this was under doctor’s orders!

Beautifully tidy stitches! BUT I CAN’T GET THEM WET, so no swimming (or having a bath) for 14 days

Beautifully tidy stitches! BUT I CAN’T GET THEM WET, so no swimming (or having a bath) for 14 days

Obviously I’m gutted to be missing out on the rest of the season, and Kona in particular.  Every night I dream that I’m training or racing – at one point I even took 85 seconds off my 5k PB, so there’s a new target for when I’m better!  Then I wake up, and I’m still on crutches, and it still hurts, and I’m still not going to be well enough even to fly to Hawaii, never mind compete.  A slightly suboptimal start to the day.

Happily the rehab process is probably the most active you could imagine for lower limb surgery – six thousand* physio exercises twice a day, plus all the upper body strengthening work I already do, and using a stationary bike with low resistance “starting with 10-15 minutes and gradually increasing the duration” twice a day.  I couldn’t possibly comment on the wattage or the duration I’m now up to…

*Ed and I will celebrate our four-year anniversary next weekend. His tendency to hyperbole may or may not be starting to rub off on me

So anyway, rehab keeps me busy, and in the low moments, or when I’m in pain, or sick from the side effects of the painkillers, I try to count my very substantial blessings…

  • Ed has been kind enough to set up and pay for private health insurance for me for the last year, so I have had and will continue to have immediate and free access to world class medical care
  • He has also come with me to every appointment, into hospital (and down to theatre while I cried and panicked – for someone who is hard as nails in other circumstances, I am very scared of medical stuff) and stayed at home to look after me in the days following surgery
  • I’ll be better pretty soon in the grand scheme of things – I should be back to full training 12 weeks or so after the second operation, with biking and swimming returning to some extent within a couple of weeks, and some running-related work (pool running, cross-trainer and anti-gravity treadmill) well before the 12-week mark
  • Once I’m better, in the medium to long term I’ll be stronger than I was to start with. As mentioned above, I should no longer grind to a halt – literally – with hip pain every few months. The physio I’m seeing as part of the process is also addressing a range of weaknesses including, but not limited to, hip stability, that may have contributed to my problems – fixing this will be a significant help in generating and transferring power efficiently when I’m running
  • In a sense this is really ideal timing – I’d more or less decided to get my pro licence next year, and having this happen a couple of years down the line could have been a lot more stressful if I’d had sponsors who expected me to race, or simply missed out on prize money I’d expected from races. As it is, I can wait and see how my return to training goes before making a decision on whether to race as an amateur or professional next year

Speaking of racing, any plans I had for 2015 remain up in the air but I’m confident that, if my recovery progresses as expected, I’ll get myself into good enough condition to race at some point during the year.  To cheer myself up, I had a look back at what I managed to achieve in the rowing season immediately following six months out of training with rib stress fractures…

Within a couple of months of returning to training my test scores were back on a par with athletes in the middle of the national squad and I’d placed fifth in the (non-squad) GB selection trials.  The following summer, I acquitted myself well racing the single scull against the best in the world at Holland Beker international regatta; won National Championships by a comprehensive margin; and represented my country in international competition in the single, double and quad sculls.

Clearly I wasn’t at the same standard in triathlon before I got injured as I was with rowing, so can’t expect quite the same results upon returning, but the above is normally enough to raise both my spirits and my motivation to complete the aforementioned plethora of physio exercises.  I’m determined to come back stronger, faster and with an even higher level of appreciation for the fact that I’m able to spend much of my life training and racing.

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A better way forward for pro Ironman racing

A recent article on the future of professional Ironman racing has proposed, in all seriousness, a system whereby the disparity between the number of men’s and women’s pro slots at Kona is increased.

“The pro fields would begin at 60 for the men and 40 for the women. That would mean an increase of 10 men and 5 women”.

Andrew Messick, the CEO of Ironman, describes this article on Twitter as “a positive contribution”.  Let me repeat: that’s an article that proposes a worsening of gender inequality being described by the guy who runs the show as A Good Thing.

Twitter screenshot 1

Something I find incredible is that Messick’s comments are being passed on by female pros too…

Twitter screenshot 2

The article also suggested a number of changes to how the WTC could structure its professional racing, whereby only 12 races would have prize money and qualifying slots to Kona.  At each of those races, the top three women and top five men would qualify.

Below I demonstrate that:

  • a 12-race system would make the sport significantly less interesting in many ways, as well as less fair; and
  • ironically, one step that would help the current system to work better is creating equality for male and female athletes.

Leaving this aside, any change that were to be made to the way that racing is currently structured would provide an excellent opportunity to address the current inequality in men’s and women’s slots, albeit that this could be rectified immediately by equalising the number of pros from each gender regardless of any changes to the overall structure.

 

When the WTC adds a new race to the Ironman series it’s exciting for age groupers and pros alike to see another opportunity to race.  The increasing number of races on the circuit allows athletes to select courses that play to their strengths.  It allows them to travel almost anywhere in the world, or to travel very little.  For pros a system with only 12 races a year, combined with restrictions on travel expenses and any consideration of personal strengths and weaknesses, would severely restrict this choice.

A 12-race system would be highly susceptible to gaming and could even lead to a multi-tier system within the 12 races.  The obvious strategy for the strongest athletes is to qualify early, leaving them time to rest, recover and rebuild into Kona.  Under the proposed system, the first few races of the season would become the most competitive, with later races likely to be of a demonstrably lower standard as the top-tier pros have already qualified.

For the remaining pros, tactics start to come into play.  Should I race the first qualifier of the season, knowing that x, y, z are going to be there?  Would it be better to wait until a mid- or even end-of-season qualifier when the strongest athletes have already qualified, and risk going into Kona tired?  This also increases the risk of spreading the field out in Kona itself, with July and August qualifiers potentially exhausted from multiple attempts to qualify.

There is also the issue that races, especially those of the duration and level of complexity of Ironman, don’t always go according to plan.  Under the current system, if an athlete faces an insurmountable bike mechanical issue, they can pull out of the race and enter another one a week or two later.  Undesirable, I’m sure you’ll agree, but not as undesirable as having a deserving contender missing out on Kona because of an equipment failure.

The 12-race system would make life difficult for the next generation of pros: at the moment, prize money from smaller races (and concomitant sponsorship) helps them to survive as professionals for long enough to gain the fitness and experience needed to do well at the highest level.  Without this, we might very well find that while the sport would flourish for the next 5 years, after this we would find a gap where the up-and-coming talent had simply been unable to survive financially.

There are clearly issues with the current system that are addressed in the original article, most notably the fact that current top 10 Kona finishers are not required to “qualify” in any real sense of the word for the following year, but I do not believe this is the way to solve them.

Although the existing structure sees issues with strength and depth of field given the high number of races, I believe that to an extent this will right itself, with strong athletes willing to travel where they need to get their KPR points.  Attracting more people into the sport will also help with this: with a higher ratio of professional athletes to races, every race will be closer and hence more exciting.

 

On the subject of encouraging more athletes into the sport, it makes intuitive sense that a sport that treats all its participants fairly is an attractive sport to compete in.

On a personal level, faced with a choice between a sport that I was instantly good at or one that would require far more work for me to excel, I nonetheless chose triathlon over cycling with little hesitation.  As a woman in cycling the opportunities were limited, though it was not so much the quantum as the inequality of the opportunities that put me off.

Data from the US shows that following the introduction of Title IX in 1972, participation of both men and women at both the high school and collegiate level has increased.  The following table is reproduced from this website:

Title IX impact

These numbers provide a compelling commercial as well as moral argument in favour of equality.  If women are treated fairly, more people of both genders participate in sport.  Both the men’s and women’s races thereby become more competitive, closer and more exciting to watch.

For WTC, that means more athletes, both AG and pro, participating in their events, buying their merchandise and spreading awareness of their brand.  It means an increased general level of interest in the events, which in turn leads to rights to televise the events being worth more.  It just makes sense.

The current level of strength in depth in the women’s field is remarkable given the current lower number of participants.  Quoting from trirating.com:

  • “The top 3 in a women’s race are usually closer together than the men”
  • Where there is a drop-off in the women’s field, “the women’s differences are a lot smaller than what could be expected from the “raw” number of athletes”
  • In a women’s race, we also see more changes in the lead between T2 and the finish (in the women’s races, the winner was not leading after the bike in 17 races, in the men’s the lead changed in only 12 races)

Finally, I simply find it hard to believe that in 2014 I am having to ask not to be discriminated against, not to be given the same chance as another athlete, just because they were born male and I female.  As Rachel Joyce eloquently put it, “We count for half of the world’s population.  We should want to see triathlon be an equal sport in future generations.  What message are we sending out to kids taking up the sport with this disparity?”

With Ironman recently adding several new races with AG Kona qualifying slots to the calendar, there is clearly not a capacity issue in Kona.  WTC is so, so close to providing a system that “feels fair”; why not make one small change that would allow everyone to compete on a level playing field?  There’s still plenty of time to fit another 15 bikes on the pier this October.  Give me a good reason: why not?

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