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IM World Championships (13.10.18)

Overall: 8:57:54 - 9th Pro Female
Swim: 00:58:42
Bike: 04:38:16
Run: 03:16:27

Every race has a story and here is mine. The marginally more concise version.
(The self indulgent essay can be found here if your flight has been delayed or your train cancelled…)

I qualified late for Hawaii; This year was more about individual races, racing healthy and not putting all of my eggs into the Kona basket. I wanted to see how my body recovered after IM Sweden and I only wanted to go back to Hawaii to race if I felt like I could put in a solid performance. So left it to the last minute and eventually booked my flights 3wks out from race day to leave in 7 days time. I kid you not; Within 48h my calf started to hurt, so I had massage, saw the physio, had another massage, saw the osteopath, ran out of time to work with my usual team of therapists(!), flew to Hawaii, and picked up treatment appointment times there as well.  By the time that race day came around I’d run twice in the past 3 weeks and my calf was still frustratingly sore and tight. Should I have cancelled my flight and not come out? Should I have postponed it to get a clearer diagnosis or gone to the UK to work with Alex at Drummond Clinic? Should I fly home now before the race and not risk further damage and injury to myself? A huge thanks to those who were helping me through this tumultuous time!  Thursday before the race I turned a bit of a corner with all of the emotional stuff and felt more accepting of the situation. I felt like I could look forward to the swim and the bike and see what my fitness was like and how I might perform. Normally as you probably know, I’m looking forward to the run, but I was able to park this and accept that I’d just have to wait and see how the body was going to respond to running a marathon on race day.  

Swim swim swim.
After IM Sweden (8 weeks out from Kona) I made some changes to my swim training… A risk? I hoped not. While training with Brett and the TriSutto group, I spent 3 years swimming with a pull buoy, every session. Put me in the race situation with head up sighting as well, and I reverted right back to sinking hips and legs. So now being my own coach and more responsible for these things and encouraged by my Geneva swim buddy (a swimmer-swimmer no less!), I started leaving the pull buoy in the swim bag and swimming without it. A challenging time as you might imagine, times all go backwards, effort goes up and I’m constantly feeling like my swim technique is not very effective (a fact, it's not). I had glimpses of change, fleeting moments or laps where I felt that the body was more on top of the water and there was coordination between the legs-arms and connecting torso in between. Trying to hang on to these moments was like trying to hold mist. It’s there and it’s gone. But I took encouragement from it being there at all and persevered.  I wasn’t sure that it would be effective in time for Hawaii, so I also focused more on it being a longer term process and not to expect drastic results within the short timeframe to the next race.  My swimmer-swimmer buddy was great - a huge thank you to her. She was encouraging, adapted her sessions so that they could suit the both of us (she wore drag shorts to slow herself down!), and then closer to the race, was advising and suggesting sessions specific to my preparation. For the first time I was looking forward to seeing what the swim segment of the race might hold for me. Certainly I’d say this was my best swim in a race situation ever. I was comfortably at the back of a big pack throughout and found myself quickly in the transition muddle. 

Hippity hop and I was out on the bike. Flippity flop and my gel jumped off the bike.
That snatched decision where if you don’t make it quickly enough, you are already 20m up the road and it is too late, but I stopped quickly and picked it up. As I went up Kuakini - an out and back at the start of the bike course, I saw the front pack swimmers (normally well ahead of me at this point in the race) and also spotted Daniela not far ahead.  Gradually over the first 35-40miles of the bike course I picked my way forwards through the pro-women’s field.  I’m not keen on cycling in a pace line during a race. As Rinny says (here), it is mentally demanding, and physically you are pushing, coasting, braking, pushing hard, coasting, braking etc. all to try and maintain pace and your position without breaking the drafting rules. Thankfully, this didn’t affect me as for most of the bike course I was in no mans land in 4th place. End of the bike course and I’d just pipped myself into 3rd place. I’d made up the 6min deficit to the front pack swimmers and put time into them on the bike so I was in a good position. Unfortunately (or not, depending on your perspective), my powermeter wasn’t calibrated properly pre-race. Given the lack of objective numbers, I can’t say for sure, but I feel that I actually biked better at IM Kalmar, Sweden. It is intangible, but certainly the couple of weeks before the race I’d felt stronger in Sweden and I think that the effort came more ‘easily’ on race day. 

The run, the run, the run.  
I’m sure it must have been as painful for anyone watching my slippery slide from 3rd to 9th as it was for me to experience it. Most of the passes were a blur, but Sarah Crowley said something positive on her way past as did Rinny, who much to my surprise and amusement gave me a slap on the backside as she tripped on by and said something encouraging that I can’t recall now. Honestly, this was so unexpected and kept me amused for a good while, I thank Rinny for being so sporting. The other run highlight (as well as the cheering from friends and spectators on the course), was hearing Crowie on Palani cheering me on. Class.  I also have to give a mention to Bob de Wolf (BMC team), the Pewag team and the TriSutto coaches for their encouragement out on the course. Obviously I’m no longer on either team or training with TriSutto, but I was grateful to say the least for their support, past and present.  
As I came out of the Energy Lab, Angela Naeth passed me and I was bumped from 8th to 9th and I knew that I’d have to pick it up if I was going to finish in the top 10. Honestly, I still wasn’t confident that I would finish at all, but I galvanized myself, clawed back the 15m that Angela had put into me, started to hang on and tried to tap into her pace and a new (faster) rhythm. I was racing, yes, but in all honesty, I was racing myself and the women behind me more than I was racing Angela. With about 3km of the run course left, I felt that I was out of danger from the chasing women (ha!) and Angela pulled away.  I’d love to say that I celebrated that finishing stretch, but it was tunnel vision and I missed the high fiving and waving as I ran up the finishing carpet. Maybe next time. (Next time?!)

It was great to finish 9th and in the coveted top 10.  It was great to finish at all given the weeks running into the race. I’m happy to park the sub-par run performance pretty squarely with the lack of running 3wks before the race, and the fact that I ran 3h16 at all, I attribute to the solid training that I did before the hiccough.  If you’d asked me a several months ago, I didn’t think that I would have been content with 6-10th place finish, I wanted and placed ‘value’ on being top 5. But now, I’m more than happy with how it’s worked out.  I’m hugely encouraged by the swim and bike performances and more than delighted with how this year has been - winning Challenge Lisbon as well as winning and setting bike and course records in IM Nice and IM Kalmar is more than I could have hoped for. I know that it is not solely my doing and the changes that I’ve made this year, but it is built on the support of others and foundation of the last 7 years of training (ok, 40years of life ‘training’!), the experience of coaches and teams that I’ve worked with and learned from, as well as most recently, the last 2 years of training and racing injury free. Rob (significantly better half), Liz (friend), Tim (friend and run coach), Alex (friend and physio) have been constants through all of this and much thanks goes to them for their support and sharing their experiences and knowledge with me. 

It’s back to Europe in a couple of days to get the calf sorted and then make a new plan… I’ll keep you posted!
For now ~ Aloha ~ 

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