Thursday 27th August
After what seemed like a very long day of travelling, to a place that is relatively close to the UK. I arrived at the location of the biggest race of my sporting career so far, Zell am See Austria. Having raced at World level for swimming I am no stranger to international racing however nothing could prepare me for the show that Ironman would put on. The village of Zell am See, typically a beautiful picturesque holiday destination had been transformed into a haven for athletes, all of them ready to tear themselves apart in the hope of adding a World title to their name. Of course I was no exception; having a World title is something I have dreamt of since I was little.
In the days leading into the event I tried to stay calm, focused and away from the hype. This was difficult to do at an event of this size but I wanted to be as fresh as possible come race day. A couple of very steady runs along Lake Zell left me slightly concerned. Many super lean athletes appeared to running insanely fast past me, two days before the race, running hard! Really? At this point I reflected back on my own training remembering the tough track sessions with MarkOneoaching. I knew I was ready but I didn’t need to show it until race day!
Two non- wetsuit practice swims of the race course, clocking sub 25 minutes left me feeling super confident about that section of the race, at least I knew I’d have a good start.
I woke early after possibly the best pre-race night’s sleep I’ve ever had. Admittedly I was a little nervous, who wouldn’t be it was the World Championships. I only tend to get nervous when I truly believe I have the capability to achieve what I want, knowing it certainly won’t be easy but it is possible! This was one of those days where I needed my body to do exactly what I was going to tell it to do. To remember all of those hours of blood, sweat and tears, and as my coach would say ‘there is no pain!’
Transition sorted; bike, T1 & T2 bags prepped it was now a waiting game for me, I was the last wave to start at 12:05am. The atmosphere in the swim warm up/athlete holding area was like nothing I have ever experienced. A mixed bag of emotions with athletes, spectators, volunteers & mountains surrounding the lake, as far as the eye can see.
Attempting to stay cool, calm and hydrated it was soon time for my wave of 18-29yrs women to be called forward. It was great to chat to a fellow GB athlete Emily Meakin pre-race, having qualified at the same event back in June at the Staffordshire 70.3. Always nice to see a familiar smiley athlete to calm pre-race nerves. Thanks Emily, hope you had a great race!
In the water, it was a fight for the front line, everyone wanting the best start position. I’m used to being hit during the swim in open water races but never multiple times before, this fired me up to say the least! I’m sure a few of those girls might have ended up with my feet in their faces, oops! A solid swim leg of 22:57 (the 2nd fastest age group swim split in the history of Ironman 70.3 by just 4 seconds) secured me a decent lead.
On to the 90km bike leg…
Before the race I had picked up on everyone’s fears concerning ‘The Climb’. To me this sounded like a challenge and excited me. 10km into the bike I was feeling good and hitting above my target power numbers, I wasn’t going to hold back, I wanted to increase my lead! The climb itself was 13km of gradual incline with the last 2km at around 15%, this was the only real tough part. Passing competitors from earlier wave starts the whole way up the climb felt great and was another injection of confidence.
The decent of the climb was the tricky part with some steep scary 180 degree switch back turns, thankfully my brakes worked. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for my Fiancé Reece whose rear brake locked causing him to take a nasty crash. Thankfully he is one tough cookie, he brushed of the dirt and pressed on.
The last section of the bike passed back through Zell am See where the streets where lined with spectators including my family who gave me that last little boost before T2. I completed the bike leg in a time of 2:41.29. Still in the lead but closely followed by 2nd place.
The run, a hot 21km to claim the Ironman 70.3 World Champion title, could I do it?
After exiting T2, I vowed to myself I would never look behind, I would continue to push and give everything I could. If I was suffering surely everyone would be suffering just as bad, if not worse! It was hot out there, very hot! The aid stations where like a god send, ice cold sponges, water and isotonic drinks kept me going.
At the final turn around point I couldn’t see another athlete in my age category so I just kicked hard for home. Every time I kicked my calves very giving me a small but distinct warning of cramp! Not now! I ignored them, nothing was going to stop me this close. Running up the final hill and down the finish shoot I do not remember breathing or hearing anything. The muffled silence was broken by the sound of someone shouting ‘Lucy you are an Ironman WORLD CHAMPION!’ My signature roar was out in full force as I crossed the finish line, not sure if this was to finally take a breath or the scream of excitement. My overall time was 4:46.00, six minutes clear of 2nd place.
The day was topped off by celebrating at the Awards ceremony with Reece and my family, as well as mixing with the top pro athletes. Receiving my award was an experience I will never forget but also one I will never tire off.
Time to travel home now and get back to training. Kona is my next race and I’m going for the double!
A huge thank you to: