Ironman 70.3 World Championships race report: Emma Edworthy
Well what a surprise it was being on the start line for the Worlds in South Africa one sunny, hot and windy Saturday in September. This year was my first dabble into the world of 70.3’s after realising that doing a full every year was just too much – not just for me but my long suffering friends and family ;-). Amazingly we qualified in my first one in Lahti in Finland –in fact if coach had not had ‘the chat’ with me before I went I might not have even gone to the slot allocation.
Anyway we qualified and there was the slight issue that I was already signed up to do the inaugural Dun Laoghaire 70.3 less than two weeks out from the Worlds. However, there was no way I was not going to do that as I was combining it with staying with my bestie and a road trip with Bow after to retrace the steps of my great grandma. I was not the easiest race by a country mile – holy pants – it is now being marketed as the hardest on the global 70.3 circuit – it was not an easy day in the tri office – weather was awful to start – swim was long and really rough. Bike then goes up in to the Wicklow mountains which with a 20mph head wind was particularly awful (3pmh at one point and a guy on a TT bike zig zagging in front of me so he did not go backwards!!). The run was not bad – flattish and the sun came out! But to try and save my legs coach and I had agreed to take this one easy – however that was just physically impossible on the swim and bike – so only option was easy run – so I walked the last two miles, had stich anyway. So was best I could do less than two weeks out to save something. Turns out we got 5th even with the walk – result!
So then less than two weeks later, on bank holiday Monday, off I fly from Cardiff to Port Elizabeth. This was the first time ever I was without my wonderful support crew and was flying solo. So I totally maxed my flight out and drank fizz the entire way (not sure I told you that bit coach ;-)). I had a ball for 22 hours – ha ha. So I arrived Tuesday night and discovered I was very lucky my bags and bike box arrived with me. When I got off the flight there must have been about 20 people without their bikes. An added bonus was having the amazing (and slightly lush) Gomez on my flight who graciously allowed virtually the entire flight to have a selfie with him ;-). Bags and bike collected, I then found my B&B which was within walking distance of everything I needed. The owner was fab and the other 3 couple staying here were all doing the Worlds – one retired couple from the US had both qualified and had both just done Kona – geez! Another guy was from Columbia and the other lady from Australia!
Anyway my biggest concern was getting the bike put together but it turns out the bike shop was down the road so the nice American couple dropped me down and I wandered down later to collect the bike and then again to get the box – sorted. Then it was just about registration and checking everything out. I decided against a practice swim given my fear of sharks – if I had to swim in shark infested waters I figured once was enough. It was not safe to do the bike course on your own so that ruled that out. So a wee jog it was then. Fine but it was getting hot and they said this was unusual for that time of year. I mean I nearly did not pack my sun cream – after Chattanooga my body just shuts down racing in anything over 10 degrees.
So I figured I needed to try and get a safari in – i had come all this way and may never come back so Thursday I did – an all day one – the guy picked me up and one other lady – Brianna – she had qualified in the 25-29 age group and was British but living in San Fran – we had an amazing day – lions, elephants you name it. I also made it back in time for the parade of nations – wow – what an experience – lining up behind your countries flag and having Paul Kaye greet every country on the walk – this is when I bumped in to Kev Pullin and his wife Katherine – Katherine had qualified. They carried the Welsh flag through the parade and when Paul Kaye saw it he gave a special mention to Tenby J. I also did the parade in a sparkly sequin union jack top my sister had given me before flying – obvs J. Cath had also sourced a pink t shirt with a union jack on – I used this for Friday.
So Friday was about racking bike and depositing bags in the right place – split transition – my first experience of that. It was fine but a bit lonely doing it all on my own – just not the same without my gang of fizz drinking supporters. Anyway for once in my life I asked someone there where I came in and went out and most importantly where the nearest loos were!! I also bumped in to another triathlon superstar – Danielle – wow – another selfie taken ;-). Then I headed back to the B and B – I had to be in before dark every day for safety reasons so I bought some food and took it back with me. Then early night!!
Up at 5am which considering other races was quite a lie in. But I only had a 5 minute walk to T1 and swim start and all I had to do was add the sausage roll, fruitella and squashies to my Bike bag ;-). Food of champions I would say!! Oh and my fluids to the bike. There was of course the obligatory 20 toilet stops before I wondered to the beach to watch the pros go at 7.30 – that was amazing. The slight issue then was that my age group was the last one to go at 9am – so we were left on a hot beach in our wetsuits for an hour and half!! I managed to get to sit in the water before I went in my pen to help acclimatise, but you were not allowed fully in. Then in our little pen the commentator asked us to turn around and hug the person next to you – unfortunately I was next to three very mean Americans who when I turned to hug and I smiled they literally looked me up and down and turned their backs on me! Well I would have cried anyway but that did not help. At the two minute countdown the tears came – nerves and disbelief that I was on the start line all rolled in to one. Then some poor women went to put her goggles on and they snapped – to this day I don’t know if she started!!
Then it was go go go – 5 in every 5 seconds. I always always go wide and no exception this time – right hand pen. I was in pretty quick and trying to get through the surf – was not pretty or graceful but we were in and off. I had been having dreams of sharks for weeks literally! Not aided by that movie that had just been released for some giant prehistoric 75ft shark ;-). But once I was in I just forgot about it – the water was really cold to start but randomly warmed up as we went further out – so weird. I had been warned not to panic if I saw divers in the water – they would have sonar equipment to keep the sharks at bay – and yes I saw them and waved – they waved back J. Getting out proved to be some sort of Bridgette Jones moment due to the surf! I stood up and in about knee deep water I was completely floored from behind by a breaker crashing over me – fell over, head butted the sand and swallowed a tonne of sea water – there is always some incident ;-). It was quite a jog up to T1 then. So again I have to explain the long T1 – well this time it was the toilet – the nerves and the sea water swallowing incident took their toll – so I just needed to sort it out – no room for stopping on the bike ;-). So it turns out from the 220 that started I was 49th in the swim – I was more than pleased with that. Considering when we started this journey in to triathlon 3 years ago I would have panic attacks in open water and indeed breastroked to the first mark in LCW just before IMW – I have come a long way – important to reflect sometimes I think. We are so busy being critical of ourselves!
So off we go on the bike and this is by far my strongest event of the 3. So not even haven driven the course I relied on the description of those that had – stunningly beautiful along the coast, harder than the IM course, hiller than it says in the elevation guide in the guide and the wind direction is key. Turns out we had a headwind on the way out and tailwind coming back – preferable in all honesty – but geez that was a tough cycle out – slightly uphill it turned out and with a headwind that was just constant – I stopped looking at my speed as it was quite depressing. I have also never seen so many referees out on course – they literally stalk you. After the turning point is the penalty tent – I have never seen so many women in a penalty tent, in fact I have never seen one woman in a penalty tent!! Coming home was so much nicer and this is when I passed a lot of people – I was also stalked by a referee for a good 5 mins as I passed people to make sure I did so in the allocated time! So nerve racking! Mark and I had discussed before I came out that I would be tired from Ireland so I figured – give it your all on the swim and bike and sod the run you can walk that if needs be – so I did that – I literally motored home – I was doing about 32 mph for a lot of that return bike leg – felt lush J. So turns out I was 57th off the bike – again I will take that anytime of the day.
So on to the run – by this point it was midday and really hot – my absolute worst nightmare. So I just said to myself – go real slow and potter around! Turns out really slow still felt really awful and I got stich within minutes – so frustrating. I also suffer badly from this burning foot thing in hot weather where the balls of my feet are agony when I run.
This kicked in after half hour. All I can do is chuck water on them at each feed station – but that works for about 5 mins max – the pain is horrid! So the run was just awful in all honesty and also very noisy because of my squelching trainers ;-)– walk, run, walk, run. It was by far the slowest half marathon I have ever run by far – I came in 155th for the run – which then effected my overall standing – I rocked in at 116th – and you know what I did not give a sh*t (excuse my language) I was delighted – just to be there was just amazing.
Me, my stich and my burning feet were so grateful to see that finishing line – it was so amazing. Made even more special by Paul Kaye noticing I was Cr*p Tri! Rather than high five me like everyone else running past he said ‘Cr*p give me a hug’ – so I had a hug from him – amazing. I still then had about another 20m to run and I literally crossed the line and blubbed – it all hit me at once – I was just so overwhelmed by everything that had happened not just in that race but all three. I was then presented with the biggest medal you have ever seen and as a result bent over suddenly, only for this lovely volunteer to think I was about to collapse and run to my aid – I reassured her by just saying it was the shock of the weight of the medal.
So wow what a race, experience and adventure. This really has been one of the most amazing sporting years I have ever had and none of it would have been possible without my wonderful coach Mark Whittle, amazing tri club Cr*p Tri and the best friends and family ever. This year has proved to me anything really is possible if you work hard but also enjoy it and don’t take it too seriously. I have partied just as I ever would this year doing my 70.3’s – maybe having a few too many a few days out from all the races in all honesty, but did it stop me – no J. So maybe just maybe I might be beginning to believe in myself just a little – not just in tri but in life in general – this sport is doing wonders for my confidence and fitness oh and fizz drinking – celebratory obvs!