IRONMAN Staffordshire 70.3
I want to start this blog thanking every single volunteer, event staff and support crowd on race day. I think absolutely everyone suffered out there in the heat, and you guys got all of the athletes to the line. So a massive thank you!
I had the best support team out there - 3 x dogs, parents, Aunty, Bex, Bex's parents and Grandma.
IM Staffs had always been in the race plan. The course is honest, the run is probably one of the hardest on the 70.3 circuit, the crowds and home support is epic, and my family can come and support. Alongside this, it was down to be my third consecutive time racing. 6th place (my first ever Pro race) in 2015, 3rd in 2016...
Unfortunately the Pro field was teeny tiny. But hey, you can only race with those who turn up. However, the pointy end of the field was unbelievably talented. So, race on!
It's no secret that Kim has been setting bike records all over the shot, in 70.3s and TTs. Coming off with 5-10 min leads. Alongside that, Lucy usually puts down IM/70.3 bike records down. So arguably some of the best cyclists in the sport racing.
With Hannah in the field, the pace was going to be on from the gun with her fish-like swim skills.
Then Goss who's undefeated here, gunning for her third title.
With a small field, it's no surprise all of us swam alone. To say I've been swimming a lot lately, is an understatement. I actually didn't show how far I've come over the recent weeks in my swim. I will have to save this motivation for IM Bolton.
The swim is a beautiful 1x1.9k loop in Chasewater, which ended up being around 20deg on race day.
Coming into T1, with around 2.5mins to Kim and 4mins from the front.
Standard, Lucy absolutely teared through T1, and I ended up losing sight of her out of the exit and onto the first section of the bike.
The bike is a rolling course, with the fist 10k through tiny country lanes, but after this slower section, the road surface was good, with just a few inclines. Our plan was to stick to around 84% of my FTP. Which considering I struggle to hold this for 30min efforts in training, was sure a big experiment. I knew Kim could quite easily come of off the bike with an 8-10min lead. So it was time to show how far my cycling has come on this year. Bit of a fly or die kinda moment...
My aim, as per last year, was not to lose sight of Lucy. We actually rode within around 20-30m gap of each other. The pace was seriously on, and we tried to take it in turns as to who was at the front, but ultimately knowing you're around someone - seeing they're busting a gut too, is a huge boost to the confidence.
Staffs can be a lonely bike course. You can literally ride 91k without seeing another athlete (bar one tiny out and back section). Thats the reality of this race, as a Female Pro.
This year I was able to match the pace, and it was actually mega exciting to be within a race. I knew we were riding well, but wasn't quite sure if it was good enough to match Kim's speed. Although if my Watts were reading right, I knew we could come off the bike with a smaller gap than 8mins...
Into T2 and realising I've still not mastered this dismount. The slower stop allowed me to take in how many people were out supporting. OMG the noise was absolutely epic. I saw some of the Team Passion Fit athletes (you can't miss their gear), then all of my family support going mad that I've come off within 1min 40 from Kim, and kept Lucy in sight the whole ride (literally a blue dot most of the ride), and we somehow managed exactly the same (fastest) bike split.
Making up some time in T2, it was pretty exciting to see the three of us leave T2 within 50 seconds of each other. Race on.
The run course is 3x loops in the stunning grounds of Shugborough Hall Estate, and as I said previously, it isn't a fast course; off road, long inclines, gravel - you name it, it had it. An honest run course for sure.
I have to be honest here. I had absolutely no idea how this run was going to go. 30 deg (although felt a lot warmer), and last 8ish weeks have been a tad rocky. So time to leave it all out there, and see where my fitness is at. I decided to run the race, and leave the watch behind...
My motivation was to get to 2nd place asap. Sarah was so kind pre race putting us up (and has the best shop - all tried and tested gear on sale) and she was lead 2nd female bike. So with that in mind, I obviously wanted to get to her, then see what I had left to give. Into 2nd place, with Lucy still in sight, I kept fighting. Ignoring how hot it was, concentrating on pushing the first lap. Tick box, still in sight. But I suddenly realised how quick she was running, which was pretty incredible considering the course. However, right now, I was not good enough on the day to match Lucy's run speed to try and break the tape for the first time. I was around a minute off of the previous course record, but it was yet again broken this year too (by 3mins).
2nd here is still arguably probably one of my best results to date, and I'm incredibly proud to finish 2nd, and be on the podium with Kim and Lucy. Whilst doing it with all my family, and an amazing home crowd, and giving Dad a nice Father's Day 'gift' in the process.
It's no secret that I'm aiming for Kona this year, so onwards to IM Bolton on the 16th July, where I have high aspirations for the podium, but always searching to break the tape...
Massive congrats to everyone who raced, I expect there was some serious DOMS and sunburn the next day! Massively looking forward to watching the Channel 4 highlights on Saturday at 7.05am.
Racing wouldn't be the same without the team, and sponsors who are allowing me to grow and develop as an athlete.
Thanks to Rob for keeping the belief in me through rocky couple of months, and developing a training programme that has allowed me to have 3x70.3 podiums in 5 weeks.