After the adventure of The Norseman in August, I took a week off and crafted my training plan for yet another Ironman. With just 12 weeks to go until race day, I was pretty scared at the prospect of another big challenge!
In my first few weeks back, I met with a top nutrition specialist along with my fellow Ironman & training partner Lauren. We’d both experienced sickness issues in recent races, so it was time to understand a bit more about fuelling our bodies before and after a big race. A straightforward salt loss test and chat with a top physiologist helped us come up with some new strategies. It turned out that I actually needed far more salt than I had thought in my race nutrition. Wow has it made a difference, not only in racing, but in my training and recovery too! I am now a convert to a pre-load on salt and carbs and keeping salt high in my system throughout.
Ironman Florida was my attempt at earning an early qualifying slot for the Hawaii World Age Group Championships 2020 (50-54 years). As I was still in the twilight of the 45-49 years category, I had to chance my arm at being at least 2nd in this race, so I was going to be up against it! My original plan was to race at Ironman Wales to achieve this, but after I unexpectedly received a place in the Norseman ballot in August, I felt I needed more time to get over such an epic race. I looked at the calendar and I decided to push back my attempt to a November race in the sun. Not hard to convince myself of this, but it would mean training for longer than my friends around me, which was going to be a test.
A far cry from Norway, Florida is known as the ‘flattest’ race on the Ironman circuit and renowned for personal best times. However, having done a ‘flat’ Ironman Copenhagen last year, I knew these types of races can actually be far more punishing. My training approach altered a lot on the bike. Having obsessed over the past year on hill climbing and elevation gain, I found myself on Tony Robinson’s indoor bike (thanks Tony) doing 3 hours straight at Ironman pace, followed by long runs on several rainy UK weekends. In this time, I watched lots of inspiring events to keep my motivation high. The highs were Kipchoge’s sub 2-hour successful marathon attempt and the Women’s World Road Race. Never have I cycled so consistently hard indoors. This turned out to be exactly what I needed, as there was simply no free wheel on the Florida highways, not a jot! I simply can’t convey how crazy it is to pedal relentlessly for 5 hours with no let up and no available downhill to free wheel for a ‘p’at all. The loss of bike speed was going to be too expensive!!
The Florida climate was quite quirky. On arrival, I was wandering around in a bikini all day long, only for a cold front to come in two days before the race. So much so, that I ended up doing my run recce in torrential rain and riding in winter gear to keep my body warm. At the time I thought back to the Norseman. We had actually baked in the sun out in Norway and now I was thinking about using all the kit I had invested in for that race. Luckily, I had packed all my Meglio recovery kit and so with a recce done, some rest and with a bit of stretching work on my Meglio foam roller & lacrosse ball, my body was ready to “rock this race.”
On race day, the swim would require a wetsuit despite being a borderline decision. This ended up being very hot. With an air temperature of only 6 degrees, I completed the whole race in calf guards to keep my legs warm and I wore a pair of gloves for the first 3 hours on the bike. As I hit the run, the temperature soared to 24 degrees and the first lap felt very hot. Fuelled by coke, water and ice, I made a desperate attempt to get my core temperature down.
In the heart of the race, I knew I had gone out on the bike in age group contention. It was only after a 1 min 30 second toilet stop at T2 that I got my first timing and race position info. There was an unknown USA athlete that I hadn’t even considered some 6 minutes up the road and another chasing me down. I was holding 2nd place, so the race for a Hawaii spot was on. I cut down the lead to a couple of minutes quite quickly, but on the last ½ marathon, I couldn’t close to better than 65 seconds. In actual fact, the athlete behind me was beating both the leader on the road and myself on the tracker, as she started later than both us. I wasn’t hugely clear about these facts, but my race plan was done and nothing was going to affect the situation. I didn’t see her on the route once and I had hoped that my second place was in the bag. Unfortunately to no avail and I finished with a third place finish. Great for the podium pictures, but not for a Hawaii qualification slot.
On reflection, I had done everything I could have. Leaving with a great personal best made me feel it was the best day I had in me and I am exceptionally proud of it. So, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m now booked in for Ironman South Africa in March 2020, in search of a another qualifying slot. By March, I will be in the 50-54 year old category, so it may make the qualification more possible. This sport can be a lottery as you can’t control where athletes will go to get their slots. There are only two available, so I’ll be training even harder to push for my goal and reach Hawaii!
- Train more & even harder
- Never has a single minute been so costly
- Question whether taking a toilet break is really necessary. A stop in the T2 ‘Port-a-John’ as the Americans call them was very, very costly!
- Never give up on your dreams!
Two weeks later and I feel inspired like never before by the girls I met after the race. Quite often you just don’t get a chance to chat with other athletes, but I have to say at the prize giving, I chatted to most of the top 20 girls and they were all so amazing. We chatted about how we felt as we saw each other on the out & back and a lovely Danish girl gave me a gel that she thinks is her breakthrough nutrition. She told me to get myself to IM SA which I’m now booked in for. Never have I felt so proud of the girls I raced against. It made me feel there is more to come after seeing them run 3 hour 20 minute marathons, so let’s get on with it…
Next year is manic! IM South Africa & an invite back to the Norseman again is what will inspire me.
Thanks to my husband Mike for a fantastic trip and support. We even managed to avoid a trip to a bike shop before a race which is a first. It was on the nearly on the cards when my bike was delayed by two days, failing to make the flight (A heart in mouth moment). Thanks so much to Team Meglio for all your help & support, to Alex Partridge for making me see that there is much more work needed & to Lauren Davies for helping me train through this long season. Thanks also to Laurence Plant for helping me keep my body & mind intact & to all the team at Athlete Service – Chris, Rob & Simon who have helped me get my bike time right down with set up & equipment gains, a source of invaluable knowledge.
Ironman Florida, Panama City Beach, Nov 2nd 2019
3rd / 98 – 45-49 years
15th / 535 overall female