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Last year, I went through the finish line of Ironman Mallorca 70.3, and in a moment of emotional unrestraint, I cried with shocked happiness that I had managed to get a sub 6 hour half Ironman nine months after I learned to swim front crawl.

Afterwards, I said I had been there, done that, (and worn the t-shirt lots of time since that race) and wouldn’t do it again. Something different next time. So when planning my season and looking for a Spring 70.3 somewhere with a nice climate (most of you know I have an aversion to racing in the UK ;-) ) that was within affordable and realistic geographical range, it was pretty much the only option. I had never raced the same course twice so this was going to be interesting as there was a clear comparable at stake…!

Half of Twitter had also entered with lots of chat about how stacked the field was (although probably not in my category), and I was slightly unnerved that there would be so many people there to witness that I am actually still quite slow.

Last year I also turned up at that race with very little in the way of expectations. I was so new to it all I was just praying I wouldn’t come last. There was zero pressure, no one knew who I was and I turned up incognito purely to have a bit of fun and prep me for the full Ironman later in the year.

This year, totally different ball game. I have nearly 20 sponsors, many followers and friends in the triathlon world, a whole support team including coaches, my nutritionist and physio, and a whole load of people who mistakenly think I must be really good. There would be people tracking me, looking up my results, and suddenly there is this massive pressure due to the expectation that I must perform.

I have to say this completely freaked me out. I was feeling the pressure, and because it was the first race of the season, and I hadn’t raced a triathlon since September, I had absolutely no idea where I was at in terms of my performance. *GULP*.

What’s more, I had just completed nearly 50 hours of training in the space of two weeks right before I flew out, with only a five day taper and training pretty much every day leading up to the race. I was quite shocked at this and did question my coach, Rick, worried that I would be overdoing it and not feel fresh for race day. I guess I need to trust him more but my training load is pretty intense and I was unsure of whether I would feel ready to race.

I was out there on my own and there were lots of people looking to catch up with me, which was nice, but at the same time I needed to try and keep away from the ‘athlete hype’ because mentally, this is not a good place to be before a race. However, I did catch up with a few great people in the end and it made the week really enjoyable, more relaxing, and less mentally stressful than if I had stayed on my own the whole time. So credit to Brian, James and Roland!

So, a few training sessions, a “bit” of sunbathing and a wonderful Thai massage later (if you’re in Mallorca, I highly recommend Alison of, it’s the best sports treatment around in my opinion!) and I was racking all my kit in transition the day before the race.

On race day, I felt sick. I am not good before races anyway, I get super nervous, and I had been feeling nervous about this race for some time because of the unfamiliar pressure on me. I hooked up with Brian before the race (first 70.3 for him so a far more scary position to be in!) and it was nice to have some company. Roland, a friend and coach who lives in the same town as me, came out for a warm-up swim in the bay with me and suddenly my nerves just melted away as I moved through the water.

The game was on.

“Be punchy, get right near the front” were Roland’s last words to me, so I stood a couple of people back from the start line, ready to smash this race to pieces.
BANG. The gun goes off, and we all run into the water until it’s deep enough to swim. Enter mosh-pit hell. It was as bad as Ironman UK – I’m not sure why or how but this was a proper washing machine of seemingly deranged human beings. There was NO space around me, just flying limbs. I was absolutely paranoid about my goggles being smashed off my face and my breathing went into panicky mode, so the first few hundred metres were extremely unpleasant.

I managed to find a gap to move into the inside line and as people started to spread out a bit I had a clear space. Just how I like it. Rick’s constant reminder of “get on someone’s feet” was ringing guiltily in my ears as I swam alone in this lovely clear area. But I didn’t care because I could finally settle into a rhythm, focus on my technique, and relax.

I ran out of the water in 31 minutes, an absolute shock considering the mosh-pit start and my lonesome non-drafting skills (ahem). Also a full 6 minutes off last year’s time.

I ran into a transition completely full of bikes, and knew I had probably come out of the water in the top third. Good stuff. Grab bike, leg it to the mount line.
Out on the bike and the first bit is fast and flat. I was in full on aggression mode, cruising at 37kph which was decent for me! The Mallorca bike course is basically one big eff off mountain with flat bits either side, so I knew I needed to save something for that! Predictably, I got passed a LOT on the mountain bit but I kept my pace steady, consistent, and at threshold, all the while trying to eat peanut butter sandwiches to keep my tank fuelled up.

I definitely didn’t take on enough during the bike but was feeling pretty strong still so I pushed hard in the last 10k and came off the bike in 3:04 (16 minutes off last year’s time).

Quick transition and gel and I was running. It was also the hottest day of the year so far in Mallorca and at 28 degrees, you could definitely feel it.

I knew straight away that I would struggle a bit on the run. It just felt hard. I was trying to keep consistent pacing but I had slight stomach cramps and my legs felt heavy, and I could see my splits slipping all the time. This was not good news. I knew I was pretty much on for a 5:30 though, which is what I was aiming for, so I just ploughed on with a disappointing 1:48.

I crossed the line in 5:32:35, pretty much completely spent. I started the race feeling sick and ended it feeling sick! But I was pleased with my time,and a massive 26 minute PB. Then, I did the exact same thing again. I found out I was 12th in my age group and burst into tears! I was on my own standing near the pasta tent so probably looked like a bit of a weirdo at this point.

This is nothing hugely special, 12th certainly doesn’t get you any prizes and my age group wasn’t hugely competitive (61 athletes), but for me, it was an overwhelming achievement.

15 months ago, I came out of the water in the Lanzarote 70.3 (in 51 minutes) and there were less than five bikes in transition. I spent most of the bike course on my own. And I finished within just 35 minutes of the cut-off time.

Here I am, 12th in my age group and a faster swim split than some of the pro women. I’ll take that.

I later found out they had rolled the World Championship slots down so I had qualified to race, but I wasn’t at the awards ceremony to accept (too busy drinking cockatils, naturally). I can’t make the race date anyway so wasn’t bothered. Said without any arrogance at all,I know there will be another opportunity for me.

Despite a disappointing run time, because I know I can run faster than that, I was overall pretty happy. It’s not just where I am, it’s where I have come from, and that was from a big fat nowhere.

I work unbelievably hard to train and compete, and as my coach said to me after informed him of my first race result of the season: “This is just the beginning…”