• Nikki Bartlett

3rd Pro at Ironman Staffordshire 70.3


I wanted to race Ironman Staffordshire 70.3 for a number a reasons. Firstly, this was my first Pro race last year, so, give or take race conditions, it was a good indication on my progression. Secondly, I absolutely love racing on home turf, in the UK. Brits really do know how to show their support, and we had a fantastic support crew for race day.


Race:

Leading up to race day I was feeling pretty good, a mixture of nerves and excitement to race. I’m lucky to have such supportive family /friends who follow my racing. We had a 10-strong support team at Staffs, which was pretty special.

Race day:

Weather: Dry for the swim, and 2/3rds of the bike. Wet, bog fest for the rest.

Swim:

My aim for the swim was to get on feet and show where my swim fitness is at. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. And when you have Lucy Charles in the race, storming ahead, creating a huge lead, this wasn’t the best start to the day. However, after what felt like Lucy (Goss) swinging for me at the first buoy ;), I didn’t panic, and kept Lucy in sight.

We went arround the first buoy and what felt like we were aiming and sighting for the yellow buoy, was actually a random little yellow lake buoy, waaaaaay off course. Absolute choppers. So after adding unnecessary distance onto the 1.9k swim, we swung a left and back on course.


On exit I was on plan B of the race plan. Lucy Goss flew through T1 like a nutter, so I was chasing her tail, as I wanted to pace off/keep the blue colours in sight on the bike for as long as possible.

I also successfully tried my first proper T1 with shoes on my bike. I didn’t stack it, fabulous.

Bike:

The bike course has a little for all. Some very narrow roads, with sharp twists and turns, with some technical sections due to high bushes. After about 10miles, the course was fairly rolling. However, it’s always a challenge in the wet.

It’s pretty evident to the tri world, that Lucy Charles is probably one of the fastest female triathlete swimmers, and Goss (and now on the rise Kim), are one of the strongest cyclists in the sport. So I knew the bike was going to be mega tough, and I had to just give it everything I had on race day.

Luckily for me, and not Lucy, the bumps coming out of Chasewater must have knocked her bars, so allowed me to catch up and overtake. She overtook me, then she shortly fell off (I’m glad we can laugh about that now Lucy), of which I kept my head down, but knew at some stage she would catch up. When she did, I kept the blue dot in sight, but at the hour point into the bike, I really had to ask myself, am I going to blow? It was touch and go, and I’m still not sure this was the right decision, but I backed off a little, and the blue dot disappeared.

Here-on-in it was SO lonely. So much so, that I completely thought I was out of the race for a podium. 90mins passed, and on entry into T2, I caught Lucy Charles, and came into T2 in 3rd place. Kim FLEW, breaking Lucy’s last year incredible bike split. Bloody impressive. Especially in tough racing conditions.

Into T2 I was around 6.5mins off the lead. However, you sometimes have to appreciate how far you’ve come in the sport. My split was over 13mins quicker than last years. So, with the buzz of a great bike split, and seeing my awesome supporters, and the other fantastic crowd. I hobbled (literally) my Shiv and I across the lumpy, muddy grass. Which literally seemed to take forever. I did have a right giggle at this with the family, as it was a slow motion struggle, with Channel 4 filming at the same time. Brilliant.

Out of T2 and onto the run.

Run:

Last year I absolutely bonked like I’ve never bonked before. I had to walk a lot of the last 1k, and admittedly had two gels in this time too. So I didn’t want to repeat this again.

The course is very honest. Some head down gritty hills, bog, nice little flat section around Shrugbrough. Which I’m sure baffled the spectators on how long it took to see them again. As after leaving this area, you’re faced with a long hill section, and some nice, almost cross-country like (due to the wet weather), sections. 3 laps in total.


In summary, I ran a strong, aiming to see how much I could close the gap. I heard on the commentary, that Lucy Gossage had taken Kim around half way, and my time to Kim was slowly but surely closing. I could feel my left hamstring cramping on the last loop, and managed to close the gap to just under 2 mins. But Kim raced incredibly well, and she finished in 2nd, whilst I was just over 4mins behind Lucy.

I was extremely happy running through the finish in third, sharing what was probably my most successful race to date, with an awesome crowd, and support team. A very proud moment.

It was a super fast race from Lucy and Kim, whilst I spent the day hanging on for dear life. Plus, we obviously arranged to finish in our number order too ;).


Massively congrats Lucy for retaining your title, and for the other competitive Pros putting on a competitive race. Also, congrats to everyone who raced. The Pros didn’t have as much rain to battle with on the bike, so the Ager’s definitely had harder conditions to battle with.


The champagne podium was fantastic, and admittedly, it was my first shower podium. Talking to Channel 4 soaked in champagne, sweat, mud and emotional tears, was pretty special. If this makes the editing for the TV, please excuse the mess!!


I was just under 17mins faster this year than last year, on the same course. Which I’m absolutely over the moon with, and hoping this result will qualify me for the World Ironman 70.3 Championships in September (Australia).

As always, the support from the volunteers, crowd, and family, friends, sponsors, Bex and coach Rob really does give you that extra 10% on race day. Which, you can never gain from day-in, day-out training sessions. Without this, the journey and result wouldn’t be possible, so thank you.


What's next?

From here, I’m off for my 4th 70.3 in 12 weeks, and excited that I’m going to be racing Ironman Norway 70.3 on the 3rd of July. I’ve heard the course is fantastic, and a must-do on the race calendar. So whilst writing this, I have one more easy day, then back into hard training until a little taper into the race.

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