• Nikki Bartlett

IRONMAN Wales and Weymouth 70.3


IRONMAN Wales

Writing about IRONMAN Wales is a toughie. It was without a doubt my big ‘A’ race of the year. The one race which made me jump out of bed in the morning, when in deep fatigue allowed me push through those comfort zones, and the race which I feel (based on the races I’ve done), remains the most outstanding in every sense.


I don’t want to dwell too much on what went wrong, or how terrible I felt on the run. Lets just summerise it as the darkest deepest place – in a race (not day-day life) I have ever gone to, dug through, been through.

However, what I do want to talk about is how bloody amazing this race is. I didn’t have the day I wanted to, but this is why (if you haven’t already) should give IM Wales a shot:

-Just talking about it gives me Goosebumps

-It’s got to be the most vibrant race I’ve ever done

-Swim: The masses of Agers are lined along the sea front – up the zig – zag path which is the most pleasurable 1k uphill run of your life (after the swim obviously!), up onto the streets above. The National anthem is played – by a competing athlete too, literally tingles down your wetsuit. You look up and around and it makes you very proud to be British. I couldn’t even put a number on how many people are there – 10s of thousands.

The sea swim is very straight forward, three main buoys to site, two loops- Aussie exit which just blows you away with cheers and hearing Jo on the Mic.

The run out, like I said before is one huge uphill climb to T1, but you don’t even care because of the buzz you feel when running through the crowds. Thick – 5 deep at least.

-Bike: Stunning. Plus 2000m of climbing, and when I say climbs, you had better be prepared to well up in your sunnies/visor. Oh my days, I thought 2016 was RAMMED, but somehow, just somehow it has got even better, louder, crazier, more people in fancy dress. Bex and my family were giving splits, but I couldn’t hear a thing. It was just magnificent.


Run: The fact you do 4 x loops of a 2mile up, 2mile down, then what can only be described as a million turns in heaven – through the town. Just makes this run the best one in the business.

The crowds, volunteers, community, race organizers, police, medical staff – you name it. It’s the best I’ve seen. And would like to thank Tenby for putting this show on every year. I’m not sure when, but I’m definitely racing this many more times in the future.

It really is hard to describe, you could write a book on it! But really, until you’ve done this race, you’ll never understand the beauty and magnificence of it.


3rd Pro for me, it was a matter of survival for the majority of the run. My goals completely shifted, I must get to the red carpet!!! It didn’t show what I’ve put into the race, but life moves on and you have to pick yourself back up. Until you’ve had a big race which doesn’t go to plan, and you spend a good 3-4hours in a dark place (in a race!) you won’t understand how much it batters you afterwards. Like I said on my social media posts yesterday, I really struggled mentally. I was so fatigued I struggled to move out of bed. Any confidence I had in my ability was smashed into pieces, and I just felt very sad and upset.


(Photo credit: Huw Fairclough)



Some awesome coverage on Channel 4 from IRONMAN Wales if you haven't seen already: https://www.channel4.com/programmes/triathlon-endurance-events

But life’s a journey, you learn from (in this case) races, and you create new goals. I was in a dilemma whether to head to IM Italy or do Weymouth 70.3 two weeks post Wales. My heart said Weymouth, head was saying Italy, one last stab at Kona Q for 2018 season. But ultimately my body was in a mess, and most importantly I had zero confidence to go through a very long day that IRONMAN brings, and by the time I was needing to fly I still had tears running down my face. So that ruled out Italy, and by the time Thursday had cone, I had some chats with amazing people who picked me back up, and installed some belief into me.

So off we went down to the ‘sunny’ coast. Oh what lies…

IRONMAN Weymouth 70.3

Logistically this (along with IM Wales) are the easiest to prepare for. One transition, all of the accommodation is along the seafront. Same as the expo. Easy, you don’t need a car.

Another plus, and I will always say this about most of the IRONMANS/70.3s in the UK (bar Bolton – the one UK race I won’t go back to until some things are ironed out), which allows a fair and safe Womens Pro race – an 8min gap. So you don’t have anyone around you on the swim or bike. So thank you for allowing this. And if and when these gaps are slashed, unfortunately it’s not fair and impacts the race massively. Probably one of my biggest considerations now when choosing races. Alongside typical motorbike draft fest courses.

The race:

Well if you haven’t heard, where have you been? COLD WET WINDY. To summarize, this race will never ever be forgotten, and I feel for the oragnisers and support staff.

But they did an amazing job to put a race together. This is how it went:

Race morning: Leaving our hotel room, ‘oh its raining already, this wasn’t due until 8’! And there lies the issue with the day – it was POURING from 6 until about 12. So:

Swim: Cut short to ‘950’ – probably not the accurate distance. Therefore a delayed start of 20mins. It was cold, nowhere to go, sit or get warm.


(Photo Credit: Huw Fairclough - IRONMAN)

The air temperature was around 9-10 deg but with the torrential rain the real feel was around 7. Lush.

The key was to stay as warm as possible before race start. Which I can imagine if you don’t have supporters to help, is a huge issue. Most were stuck shivering in their wetsuits before entering.

Luckily, and very luckily, I had my parents, brother, GF, Bex and coach Rob at the start. So (and if you can do this – as an Ager – get your supporters to follow your line into the water, definitely maximize clothing) I had three hats on (two swim hats and a wooly one, waterproof socks, trainers, two jackets and thick skiing gloves right up to 90 seconds before entering the water. I was warm! But… the sea was not!!

Swim: Swell, chop, cold. You name it – it had it. But nowhere like 2014. I personally was freezing in the water. Without a doubt I dislike water below 18/19 degrees. Just doesn’t suit me at all. Again, like Wales a huge chug of sick swelled the sea around me. Lush.

Out and into the pouring rain into T1. No one judge transition times today!


(Photo Credit: Huw Fairclough - IRONMAN)

I had arm warmers on, and a set of sealskin (not sponsored) ultra-grip gloves – ‘waterproof, windproof’ and another set of gloves. Toe warmers on already. In hindsight now, I need to have in my life a waterproof cycling jacket as I don’t own one. I would recommend in this situation that everyone should have had one on. I’m umming and arrring about whether I would have been okay without but binliner or newspapaer down the front. Anyway. NOTHING I HAD ON HELPED.

Bike:

Honestly, without a doubt the coldest I’ve ever been in my life. And I’ve lived in Scotland. For anyone who knows me I HATE THE COLD. Below 17 and I’m in gloves on the bike. I really struggled living in Scotland due to the darkness and cold. And somehow until Sunday, I’ve never experienced being that cold ever, and don’t ever want to feel like that again. Hmmmm yes jacket next time!

What kept me going? LUCKILY, no one around me, I could concentrate on the road, I really really did NOT TAKE and risks, lots of time out of the TT position, lots of (hardly working) breaking. I thought about the volunteers and everyone stood out in the rain waiting for me to get back, giving me time splits, the volunteers stood in the rain and then, the AGs who were out there whilst I was FINISHING THE RACE. Perspective.

I could hardly break, get nutrition out or take a drink. My jaw hurt SO MUCH from chattering, when I saw Rob at 30k I literally couldn’t stop shaking my arms in my TT arm pads. But, last year, my bike broke coming out of T1 and I couldn’t race. On Sunday I could and when you go through times when you can’t you appreciate the opportunities a little bit more so.

I went from 7thto coming off the bike with a 7.5min bike course record, somehow! My biggest achievement this year is finally maximizing my ability on the bike, in a comfy aero position. I was buzzing coming into T2.

T2: Seriously needs MATTING! Ouch, numb feet on hard floor, for what felt like a 2min run. T2 packed full of people who had been brought back off the course.

And here is where my brain proved I was out of it: I was blue, literally, even the staff told me. I stupidly tried to take off my wet socks, and put fresh ones on. Oh dear, and that’s where I needed help, the staff were awesome, I couldn’t bend my foot to even get it in my shoe.


(Odd sock evidence: Photo Credit Huw Fairclough - IRONMAN)

So a million minutes later I went out, shoes undone and odd socks. Stylish!

Run: And this is where I felt IM Wales. Oh hello! It was a really bizarre feeling getting onto a VERY EMPTY run course. Until I realized I was the 7thperson on the run course, and realized how many people hadn’t made it off the bike …


(Photo credit: Team Chris and Harry)

I gave it absolutely everything, but the win wasn’t to be. I will persevere and train my butt off even more in the winter season. It was an extremely exciting race. And came down to a ‘sprint’ I’m sure Fenella will agree – we weren’t particularly running fast, finish to grab a 2nd place behind India Lee.

I absolutely love the journey I'm on, and will continue to share the highs and lows of sport.


(Photo Credit: Huw Fairclough - IRONMAN)

The crowds were brilliant, and as we crossed the line the sun started to come out and it was buzzing on the beach front.




(Above photo: Credit Huw Fairclough - IRONMAN)

A massive congrats to everyone out there. A huge thank you to everyone who’s a-part of my journey. You guys are the best.

I’ve got a super cool competition with my sponsors The Financial Fitness Group – who have supported me since day 1 as a Pro, coming out tomorrow. So watch out on social media for that!


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