Out-smiling the smilers at the 70.3 World Champs
Here’s a top tip for you... if you feel intimidated by fit, healthy, tanned people then stay away from any Ironman World Championship event. If however you want a good giggle at OCD types, who have far too much money to spend on carbon and compression gear, then book a ticket right now to get your 2016 fix in Australia or Hawaii.
When you take a step back from it all, the whole thing is fairly bonkers.
But take a closer look and you can understand why people do it. It’s all very addictive and as OCD competitive types, we enjoy pitting ourselves against others, we want to see how much physical pain our bodies can withstand, we thrive on testing our mental resolve and trying to be the best we can be.
Having the opportunity to do that on a World stage is very unique and when the opportunity comes, you have to grab it with both hands.
I knew before I went out to race the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Austria that I would be way off the pace in my age group...perhaps even far below average. Therefore my aim was to out-smile everyone but I also wanted to have a race that I was proud of and one which confirmed to me that I deserved to be there.
I certainly managed the smiling part which made the heat and toughness more bearable. Yet I came away feeling only 90% proud of my performance, just because of a time on a piece of paper for how long it took me to ride 56 miles. I don't know what went wrong on the bike, I do know it felt like I was going backwards. Over the next day or two I know I'll forget about it. After all, it’s just a set of numbers and there are far more important things to worry about in life.
Overall it was an incredible experience and one I feel honoured to have been able to share with my parents and godparents. To also be in the same race as my friend Annette made it very special. When we met in Lanzarote in January 2013 neither of us would have dreamed we would be competing in the World Championships just two years later.
So here's what was awesome about Austria:
1. Support crew
Dad had got yellow t-shirts and caps made for the "Fuelled by Cake" team out in Austria and what a support crew they were! In the run up to the race they kept me calm and on race day they were there with me every step of the way. They made a lot of noise, sprayed water over me, told me I was looking strong when I probably looked rough and made me smile. Superstars. I was so grateful for all of the support from back home too. Simply unbelievable, thank you.
2. Picture perfect Austria
You had to pinch yourself every time you looked out of the window. It was just breathtaking and we barely saw a cloud for four days. Yes, this made cycling and running in 30 odd degrees really tough, but it beats rainy Cheshire any day and made the steep descent on the bike a lot less scary.
3. Beautiful Lake Zell
What a treat this was to swim in! On race day there were markers every one hundred metres, so it made sighting a lot easier than previously. I absolutely loved it and entered T1 with a PB and a huge smile.
4. Smiling my way around
I got a few comments about my smile during the climb on the bike and couldn't stop grinning when I left T2 and made up twenty five places. I felt strong. Yes, it was tough, yes I was hurting. But heck I was in a happy place as the lovely Kate from Raceforce could tell when she took this picture! Kate and her colleague Kris were brilliant throughout the trip and I can thoroughly recommend their services.
5. Kicking off the celebrations in style
Crossing the finish line in Austria marked the end of my 2015 triathlon season. In all it's been a brilliant year (thanks Coach Rob!) which has finally seen me get on a podium or two and qualify for the World Champs. I had the cold beer I'd been dreaming of, along with an upmarket, rather more Austrian version of McDonalds chicken nuggets, fries and apple pie. Pure bliss. It also marked the start of the wedding celebrations... World Champs and a wedding in the same week? Part one complete, no road rash, big smiles. Hopefully the dodgy tan lines will have calmed down a bit for stage two!
Finally, I know some people love numbers, so here goes... well I made page 4 of the 30-34 AG results sheet...or 66th. Swim: 32:02, bike 3:15:53, run: 1:45:08. Total: 5:43:16.