You regularly question your sanity about racing two iron distance races in two weeks. It’s normally about the point you jump off your bike in Transition and try to convince your body that it has to run a marathon!
It’s the second year I’ve attempted what has been nicknamed the Dixon Dirty Double, racing Challenge Wanaka, followed by Ironman New Zealand just two weeks later.
There’s something I just love about races in New Zealand, be it Challenge Wanaka or Ironman New Zealand in Taupo. They are just awesome events. The welcome you are given by the community and locals is just incredible and the volunteers are seriously the best. I think also now, and something I really felt this year, and was very humbled and touched by, was the incredible support I received personally in the days leading up to the races and whilst on course. So many people cheering for me and coming up to say hello. It was so lovely. It may be through returning to these towns a few times now and meeting so many people, and building those friendships, with the fact having lived in New Zealand over summer. Of course, I’m sure part of it is due to my huge fan base from my fortnightly segment on Fitter Radio, Sid Talks! ha ha! But seriously it was just incredible to receive that amount of support and I was truly grateful. Thank you. (A little shout out here also to the team at Spoon and Paddle, my favourite hang out when in Taupo!)
So if you want a couple of world class races then book yourself in for Challenge Wanaka and Ironman Taupo. You don’t have to do the double, you can do the half in Wanaka or even a team, as build up for the full in Taupo! You won’t regret it and I’ll guarantee you’ll absolutely love them and fall in love with these events and places.
Many people have asked, what do you do in the two weeks between two iron distance races. Actually they often ask, “Have you recovered?” The later I can never answer, apart from saying, “Who knows”, and “guess we’ll see on race day”. You really don’t know if your body is going to come to the party or not. But there’s no use worrying about it or trying to second guess it either. You simple have to go session by session, day by day and not think too far ahead. Some sessions you’ll feel great, some not so good. I had a bike session one day and felt really good and thought, great I’m getting there. The next day I felt awful on the bike, and was back down to earth with a bump, so wasn’t looking forward to the evening run I had. But I approached it with a blank mind and was pleasantly surprised that I felt good. So it’s just a case of executing the session to the best of your ability with what your body gives you on the day and not over thinking it.
It’s about getting the basics right too, making sure I was getting enough sleep, and rest, and eating the right foods to give my body the best chance to recover (after a couple of days of beer and pizza post race that was)!
Being my forth time in Taupo, it’s my forth time with my awesome homestay Ellen and Murray Kindred. They are absolutely amazing. They welcome me into their home, again spoiling me and looking after me, yet giving me the space needed to get ready for the race. Thank you! They were also out on race day cheering, and getting everyone in a what felt like a 3mile radius of where they stood on the run course to support and cheer for me! Or else they saw the wrath of Ellen! Ha ha!
I was actually feeling really good leading into the race. Almost better than I’d felt before Wanaka. This was exciting and gave me a great buzz, but with that came nerves and fear. However as my coach Matt Dixon said, better to be feeling good leading in, and see what happens, than to be dealing with feeling shit!
Back in December, after the 70.3, I’d set my sights on doing everything I could to win the full distance event and believing that it was achievable. Then when I put Challenge Wanaka in the plan, I knew my performance in Taupo was likely to be compromised, as well as with the caliber of athletes on the start line, it was going to be a tough ask. However, I accepted this as I love Challenge Wanaka, and didn’t want to miss that race. I readjusted my expectations, knowing that Wanaka would take the edge off my race in Taupo, where I’d really need to be on my A game to win. Almost writing myself off before I started. However in the weeks between the races I started to believe again. Not necessarily, that I’d win but just that I was in a good place, and had a growing inner confidence in myself, that I could be competitive. I was feeling good, and I started to change my mindset to…
“I have got absolutely nothing to lose”, and “I can take some risks in this race, and see what happens”, etc.
As I said, it was exciting, but a matter of controlling the nerves and adrenalin, as there was that fear of the unknown of what would actually happen on race day and would my body turn up. It’s all very well feeling great for a few sessions in the weeks prior, but would the body last the longer duration of the race. Who knew..?
It was the night before race day and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…. yeah right! I was woken through the night, by the howling wind, which caused my bedroom door to bang open and shut and on my wake up pre race run, the wind was definitely blowing! This was going to make it interesting.
Down at the start on the shores of Lake Taupo, it was the complete opposite of the perfect calm conditions we’d had in 2016. Whilst it was still dark, with the sun not having risen yet, you could hear the waves lapping and crashing on the beach. This was going to be fun!
I made a better job at lining myself up at the start, than I had done in Wanaka and when the cannon fired, got out to a good rhythm. Knowing Annabel Luxford and Meredith Kessler, would be swimming off the front, I was pleased to find myself in the second pack, and holding my own. I was able to maneuver myself to be at the front of the group. A few times during the swim, I made the decision to break away from the pack, and swim the straight line, as they zig zagged in and out from buoy to buoy in the chop. I probably didn’t take full advantage of the lead over some of the other women that I’d achieved through this move, and by the turn buoys we were back together, swimming back to the exit as a group, swimming next to Emma Bilham, but I with a couple of women on my feet. With the chop and conditions, I had a feeling it wouldn’t be a particularly fast swim, but was pretty happy to hear as I ran up to Transition that we were only 5-6mins down from Annabel and MBK.
Onto the bike and the group that had exited the swim together soon thinned out to just myself, Yvonne Van Vlerken and Jocelyn Macaulay. Yvonne was setting the pace on the first section out to Reporoa. I just tried to focus on finding my legs and rhythm and riding the road well. It was pretty much the three of us for the 180km. Coming back from Reporoa on the first lap, into the wind, I was finding my legs and feeling strong. At about the 80km mark the split was down to 5mins 20sec or so, to the front, as I started the fast 10-20km loop around town. Back at the same point on the way out of town, it was down to 4mins. Heck! We were making gains and closing the gap. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take much time off the leaders heading out to Reporoa, due to the tail wind and gradient, but just kept driving, and at the turn I’d managed to take another 30sec.
Coming back from the turn on the second lap, I wasn’t feeling rubbish, but not amazing into the wind, but actually just in hindsight I didn’t ride the section of road that well, and thought if I take another minute or so out from the lead that would be good. So was spurred on, when about 10km to go, I received a split that I was just 60sec down. To be honest, my first reaction was to not believe this. It was just from some random spectator at the side of the road, so wasn’t really confident it would be accurate. (That random spectator actually turned out to be Sam Clark, 2016 and 2017 winner of the Coast to Coast.) After Sam’s minutes split, I heard 50sec and looked up the hill and saw MBK and Annabel ahead. Fired up now, I made the decision that I was going to be first into Transition regardless of what would then happen on the run. I wanted that split and to be first off the bike.
It was with a huge smile on my face that I rode the last section down into town and through the main streets, leading into Transition. Again, huge thanks to Ceepo, (Profile Design, PowerTap, and Kask). Now with my first two races on the Viper R TT, I’ve clocked up the fastest splits and know from the numbers there’s more to come.
But there were four incredible women all on my heels. I think we all came off the bike within 25-30seconds of each other! A quick transition and out onto the run, where for about possibly 4seconds, I had the lead bike, before MBK drove past me to the front. At this point I was just trying to find the run legs and again form and rhythm. I knew that on paper the other women were all faster runners than me, so went internal to focus on my race. Within the first 7km, I’d gone from leading to fifth! My pace was still pretty good, even though the other women were moving faster.
Pre race the aim was to focus on the middle lap, a usual darker patch in the marathon for me, so I ensured I took on coke early and was ready. I didn’t feel great on the first lap. The others were moving much better than I was, and I was not running freely but on to the second lap and I had to mix it up. I started to run better, not necessarily faster, but better and soon started to hear the time gaps to the women ahead getting smaller. I moved up into 4th at about the 21/22km mark. I remember running back into town, on the second lap and past my fairy friends, who were all cheering positive words and saying I looked good (most likely lying regardless) and I remember replying that I may have forgotten there’s a third lap to come! Through the turn around on the main street in town, I could now see I’d gained on 2nd and 3rd , and managed to make the pass into 3rd around the 29km mark, then moving up into 2nd around 30km. Still 12km to go. It’s an odd sensation at this point. I was still feeling strong (relatively) but knew there was still 12km to go and anything could still happen. Jocelyn was a fair distance up the road and would be hard to catch, but again anything could happen so it was a case of keeping going and pushing forward. That too with the running scared from the women I’d just past. Would they get their second wind, or find another gear for the last 10km?
Running the final km’s to the finish was a bit of a blur. I try to recal now the feelings I felt, I think mostly it was relief it was over! Ha ha! I think I tried to take it all in, but not sure I really succeeded. I was also reprimanded for high fiving everyone in the finish chute, except my friends, who some how I missed! Yes the fairies!
However, I’m pretty happy with the second place, my second place in two weeks in two iron distance events. I don’t think I can really complain about that. It was a solid race, and again lots of positives to build on but again so much learning to take away, and drive me forward. Still lots to work on and room for improvement for sure, and that’s the motivation and determination moving on now.
It’s exciting to sit and talk with Paul Buick and Matt Dixon the learning from the last few weeks and plan out the rest of the year. I’m grateful for their support, guidance, and the training as we are definitely moving in the right direction.
Thank you to the brands that have come on board this year to support me. I’m excited about the partnerships and working with some great teams ahead.
Ceepo – Two fastest bike splits from two races! Loving it! Thank you Ceepo.
Scody – Really feel special in my Scody kit. Just love the design and it feels great! First time I’ve raced in sleeves and it’s ridiculously comfortable. Thank you. (Use LauraS for your discount off the store, and email me for your custom kit referrals)
Profile Design – Thanks to Ian, and the Profile Team. For Challenge Wanaka, I raced on 58/78 TwentyFour series tubulars for both Challenge Wanaka and Ironman Taupo
Shotz – To Darryl and Steph’s long term support and advice with my race nutrition and hydration!
PowerTap – For providing the power (again)! It’s great to be able to use Power as a guide in my training, racing and recovering.
Skins – For pretty much living in my Skins the awesome recovery and training kit! (Use Laura30 for your discount on the AUS, USA and UK sites)