Ironman Finland 70.3 race report: Emma Edworthy

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What an amazing day it turned out to be!

Arriving in Lahti, Finland to wind and rain the day before was not the best. But as so many people reassured me ‘these conditions suit you Emma, you train in Wales’!  How could I argue with that! Our apartments were about a 20 minute walk to where all the action was by the lake so after dumping our stuff we  braved the weather and wondered down to register and meet Elo and Kim (two wonderful inspirational pro ladies) to drive the bike course.  The bike course looked rolling with what us folk from Wales would call, one real descent and climb, so none of us seemed too worried, although bits were very exposed and we could feel the wind in the car! Funny enough though when we all talked about the course after the race we all agreed there were bits we did not remember – but then we did recall a lot of picture sharing of dogs.  The night before the race was a lovely meal in an Italian with my wonderful support crew (mummy, Lucy and Christianne) and Elo and her mum – my diner consisted of pizza and lasagne and Elo’s was pizza with a side of plain rice.

So race day came and given how awful the weather was when we arrived I did not spin the bike on the Friday so I needed to do that as well as source some food. We found a hotel with a buffet breakfast which was amazing and perfect. Despite the forecast for an improvement in the weather, that was debateable – it was windy still with heavy showers. But in between those  showers when the sun came out it was warm.  I wondered how the long wait would be on race day, what with it being a 4pm start, but it was fine and I loved lounging around and relaxing. I literally sat in bed messaging everyone back home whilst my wonderful supporters  cracked on with the alcohol at 10.30 in the morning – so proud.

So with a 4pm race I had to actually think about my food and coach said to eat around 12-1pm. After a massive breakfast at 9.30 I literally could not eat until 1, but then found some cooked salmon to eat with the microwave rice I had bought from the UK all washed down with electrolytes obvs.

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Elo said she was wondering down to rack her bike about 2, so I thought if it is good enough for her it was good enough for me.  The set up in transition was great – you racked your bike and then there was an area for your bags – a lower rack and  a higher one – one was my cycle one and the other my run one – I was responsible for taking them off my peg and putting them back after and there were a couple of benches there to sit on and the all important loos. Elo and I then met up for a practice swim in the designated area and then as the rain came down heavy Elo, me and Kim and our wonderful support crew all sheltered under a tree where I started to get very cold – Elo’s mum was all concerned bless her and before I knew it I had Christianne’s jumper over my wetsuit!! But not for long. The ladies went to their start area and I stuck myself in the self seeded pen – as discussed with coach I went bang in the middle of

30-35 mins. It was lovely as at the swim practice I met a guy from Wales who recognised me from a Twitter post coach Mark had put up saying I was here – so was in my pen and we happily chatted and made a new friend from the UK too.  It is worth saying that words failed me when two Russian ladies climbed over the barrier to squeeze in with fake everything – including fake eye lashes and full make-up (turns out one of them was second in my age group and first in the age group above me – you should have seen them at prize giving – holy pants words failed me again-  although as Elo pointed out their times were almost identical and she did not hold back on her thoughts of ‘cheating Russians’).

So when I got to the start I had already decided to go wide (there is a surprise!) and there were 6 pens you literally walked in to and someone was letting you through every 5 seconds.  As it turns out going wide to the right helped as when I looked at the swim course that morning I noticed the end Buoy we needed to round (we just had to swim a one lap rectangle – so two long out and backs) was slightly to the right of the markers guiding you down – so actually going right helped. Bar one or two knobs trying to swim over me on the way back in it was a pretty decent swim and I was pleased.

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I seem to have had a longer transition than most again! Who the hell knows what I do in there. But least this time I had learnt from Chattanooga and the calf guards were already on. To be honest I think it was my nutrition, I ate a banana and then faffed around with my sausage rolls etc ;-). But I was pleased despite being slow relative to others. Then we were off on the bike. Now bearing in mind I have only used my TT bike twice this year before the race I was a little nervous of wet and windy and also it took a good twenty minutes to remember how the gears worked!! It rained heavy right at the beginning, just in time for the descent which I love (not!!) and the wind was catching my partial disks – the joy I thought!! But then it dried up and the sun came out soon drying the roads which was ace for me. However, the wind was constant all the way around. The guy at briefing said he cycled the course and was confused how a lollipop course could have a head wind the whole away around – well it did and not a small one. So the one bit that Elo, Kim and I had all thought would be fab and fast turned out to be 10k on a main road going slightly up hill (do not remember that on the drive at all) and in to a tough head wind. It was literally head down time and talk to yourself and also eat the sausage rolls which due to the rain had lost the roll ;-).  One thing that happened a couple of times in this race which I thought was naughty was groups going past clearly drafting off one another – I have no idea whether they got caught – but so annoying to see when you are battling some headwind!! But karma is a bitch and near the end I clawed back past a couple of the fellas who had done that and one of which who whilst drafting came so close I had to scream at him because he nearly knocked me off my bike – Russian again!!

So coach and I had discussed 3 hours for the bike, but as ever, when he gives me a time I like to try and beat it – so was dead chuffed that we came in around 15 mins under that as it was not an easy ride by any sense of the imagination – it was a tough day at the office!

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Getting off the bike was great – my lovely group of ladies were all there to cheer me on. So just the run – two laps around the lake and through the main supporters area. Had discussed with coach – go off slow and build!! Hmm – that did not quite work out – ha ha my pacing is shocking. Luckily I wore my watch as I don’t always and about 3 miles in I thought ‘hold on this is meant to feel comfortable and you are puffing a bit’ then I looked at the mile split as it beeped and it said 8.30! Shit, shit and double shit I had gone off too quick – that often and regularly spells disaster for me so I tried to slow down – that took about 3 miles to do and then at half way I slowed right down. As coach knows my one goal from the race was a sub 2 hour Half marathon and the first lap had me well inside, but then the second lap the 9.30 min miles saw my aim slipping away. Yet there were my wonderful supporters to cheer me on, joined by Elo on my second lap – all of them screaming me on and waving fizz bottles at me – I mean they know me so well – if that would not help drive me on, nothing would.  Also both Kim and Elo gave me some advice before the race on nutrition on the run as I said I was sticking to water only given tummy issues. Kim recommended trying coke near the end – maybe last water station as I had not tried it before. OMG I hate coke normally, but I had it with about 2 miles to go and it tasted amazing and gave me that little extra boost I needed. My stomach had gone about half way through the run but luckily for me (and my aim) there were hardly any loos and they were always full so I just had to hope and pray ;-). So with the coke, dying for the loo and the allure of fizz,  I found a bit extra to get me to the end.  The run is always a tough one for me – I get overtaken left right and centre which is quite demoralising, but you need to just remain calm and tell yourself this is our race and no one else’s and indeed when I thought I had lost my sub 2 hour I literally perked up after I said to myself it did not matter you were still gonna smash your 6hour goal  – which we did. 

The finishing chute was amazing – Lucy, Christy, Mummy, Elo and her mum all shouting and screaming – so I took the time to savour it, blowing them kisses before finishing – to be amazed when the guy read out my time of 5hrs 30 and 2 seconds – woo hoo. Elo came to meet me and gave me the biggest hug and confirmed I had snuck under 2hours for the run – I was just the happiest girl in the race right then. Then it was obviously time for the loo – obvs. As I came out I was handed a glass of fizz immediately – it does not get better than that! Then hearing Kim won and Elo got 5th and me 10th – what a day of racing for the British ladies.

Normally I never have anything to say about the presentation part, but blow me down with a feather, there were 3 slots for the Ironman 70.3 World Champs in South Africa in my age group and I got one! On going up on the stage to collect my coin and sign up I literally collected it from the lady and wondered off only for the finishing chute guy to shout across the stage ‘who are you young lady’ to which I replied for the whole theatre to hear  me shout ‘I am Emma Edworthy and I came 10th’ – honestly!!!