I HAD great confidence in my training as I went into my first 70.3 race of the season last weekend – and I’m delighted to report it was well placed.
I raced well in extremely tough conditions, finishing second in a solid field at Ironman 70.3 Texas. I was defending champion so, of course, I was keen to win and maintain my title, but am still more than satisfied with my performance.
I travelled to Galveston, Texas, four days before the race and soon settled in. Ironman runs a homestay programme, whereby athletes are placed with local families who typically tend to be keen triathletes themselves – or at least avid fans. My family – Hud, Sandra, their baby son Ethan and their two dogs – gave me an instantly warm welcome (although Hud soon took me out running and wanted to kick my butt) and I felt right at home.
The weather was proving to be a little unpredictable – certainly not the Texan sunshine I’d experienced the year before – and as race day neared there were question marks over whether the swim would even take place because of high winds and thunderstorms.
Come race day, despite the weather still misbehaving, the swim course was deemed safe and away we went. Swimming conditions were definitely challenging and even as a strong swimmer I was struggling at times, but exited the water after 1900m in second place. I had a 45-second deficit to the girl in the lead and tried to close this down once out on the bike.
The bike course at this race is a simple 28 miles out, 28 miles back and, unfortunately for us, we had a very strong tail wind to begin with. I say “unfortunately” because this meant as soon as we hit the halfway mark turning into the headwind was hellish. This was a definite low point of the race for me and although I’d now caught the girl in the lead, I soon lost her again. I was floundering and struggling to find any rhythm.
In races like ours – when you’re out there for four or five hours – you often hit low points and it’s how you navigate through them that determines your success. Somehow, I managed to keep on pushing and although the weather seemed to be getting worse not better I made it back to T2 (transition number two, bike to run) ready to run. I was still in second place but had a number of fleet-footed girls behind me.
It was one hell of a run race, with three of the favourites dropping out and a girl no one had expected to feature – Belgian Sofie Goos - blitzing us all to take the win.
I hung strong in second, although had a great battle with my best friend and team mate Sarah Piampiano who rounded out the podium for third.
A very fun race and a strong start to my 2014 campaign.
I’ll be in action again in three weeks at 70.3 St George in Utah for the US Pro Championships. I can’t wait.