What a place to be racing in sunny Dubai! My last triathlon race was back in June at the Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire. I had been itching to race for some time but I knew I couldn’t rush back into competing after a year plagued with injury. Before I go onto the 70.3 race report I want share my 2016 injury experience for anyone else who is going through or may one day go through an injury. It’s an unfortunate consequence of sport at the top level and sometimes it makes no sense to get injured.
I had the misfortune of picking up an injury in my shin back in March 2016. I was on a training camp in Lanzarote, I had just run the fastest half marathon of my life and training had consistently been going well. The pain came out of nowhere and I was unsure what exactly it was. I thought I was very sensible and straight away reduced my run volume, substituting run sessions by using the cross trainer.
I went to several physio’s all of which initially diagnosed my pain as shin splints and prescribed 6-8 weeks of rest. I was extremely frustrated, I had just been approved my pro license and my first pro race was looming. I decided to try things like aqua jogging, cross training and working harder on the swim and bike, this allowed me to stay positive and have a focus.
However, the pain persisted through May and on the start line of Ironman Lanzarote I knew that my leg was still bad. I had done no running since March and was unsure if I would even make it through the Marathon. Luckily on race day I felt little to no pain in my shin. This made me rule out the injury being anything too serious, after all surely you couldn’t run a marathon with something like a stress fracture.
After getting through Lanzarote Ironman I made the decision to race Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire. During this race I had leg pain throughout the bike and run. After a poor performance at Staffordshire I finally made the decision to pay for a private MRI scan. A proper diagnosis confirmed I did indeed have a stress fracture and I was advised to take 6 weeks OFF completely on the bike and run. I was only allowed to swim with a pull buoy.
After 6 weeks of just swimming I was allowed to introduce the indoor stationary biking and the cross trainer but I had to wear an Aircast walker/Moon boot whilst walking around. I hated this, I didn’t like having to explain to everyone what I had done. I was already down enough from the whole situation and talking about it only made me feel worse. I was in denial, I couldn’t believe I had got an injury, up until now I had thought my body was invincible. The injury became increasing more frustrating as the tri season progressed as I was not able to be part of it.
Rebuilding my fitness was difficult, I had lots of terrible sessions, lots of meltdowns and just wanted to be able to run again pain free. In just 6 weeks my bike threshold power was almost 50 watts lower than it was previously. I decided to spend the next 6 weeks really working on my biking. It took a lot of work, biking everyday but my bike power was soon moving in the right direction. In this time I had gain 5kg from not running and I knew it would be difficult to sustain that kind of bike power once I reintroduced running, but at least it gave me a focus and made me feel more positive.
It wasn’t until late September I was able to start running again. On week one back into running I only ran for 5 minutes at a time but the smile on my face was from ear to ear. On week 2 I had a bit of a set back again as I was involved in an accident, being hit by a car whilst out cycling. This is another story, but I do not wish to dwell on it any longer. Thankfully I had a pretty lucky escape, unfortunately my very good friend Gary took the hardest hit and was hospitalised. This put things into perspective for me and made me realise how lucky I was to even be able to do 1 of the three disciplines of the sport I love.
It took 7 months for me to fully recover from the stress fracture in my shin. The advice I would give to anyone suffering with a persisting injury is to get it checked out as soon as possible. If I had the recovery time would have been reduced by at least half!
Sorry for the detour, back to the race…
I flew out on the Monday before the race with my family, equipment with my Compressport full legs, a face mask and a double dose of CurraNZ. This meant I stepped off the 7-hour flight in the best possible shape. I did get some funny looks!
This was always going to be an interesting race so early in the year, with a strong field of women including World Champion Daniela Ryf. I wasn’t concerned about the depth and strength of the women’s field as I was just happy to be back racing again!
The highlight of my trip was taking my bike out to the desert and cycling around the Al Qudra circuit. I cycled 50km of smooth road with only sand for company, I wish we had something similar in the UK and similar weather would be nice!
I felt I had a good build up to the race following my taper programme to the letter. But whoever said tapering was fun or nice, they’re lying. I much prefer my normal training regimen. Race day soon came around and I felt ready to give it my best!
The swim – 1900m 26:07
The swim got off to a fantastic start, I had left the field behind with 10-20secs, before we had even excited the Maria. However roughly 5-10 minutes into the swim I took a wrong turn, struggling to sight where I was going I ended up swimming to a buoy that wasn’t part of the race course. By this point I must have been in almost last place in the women’s field. I had to work hard to catch back up with the pack who were already out further in the sea. Luckily my swim form had been strong leading into this race and I managed to catch the group and retake the lead. I exited the water 30secs ahead of the next pro woman. I must have lost almost 2 minutes from my wrong turn. I had swam sub 23 minutes on two occasions leading into the race. Before I even had a chance to speak to my fiancé and coach Reece he knew I had done something wrong in the swim. I can’t get anyway with anything! Ha!
The Bike – 90km 2:17:20
The bike leg is still what I would consider my weakest discipline of the 3 in triathlon. However I felt strong on the bike and was able to hold my own which was a good surprise. This was my best 90km bike split of my triathlon career, granted it was a fast flat course. I felt smooth and in control on my new Revolver wheels and thanks to my new 2IN power Rotor cranks it was also my best average power for 90km. I learnt a lot in the race about pack riding and tactical racing which I will be able to take with me into future races. I completed the bike leg in 8th place.
The Run – 21.1km 1:26:03
Having spent most of 2016 unable to run it made a nice change to feel confident going into the last part of the triathlon. It was pretty warm on the run, certainly different to the weather we’ve had at home. The atmosphere was brilliant throughout the the 3 lap run course, it was great to have a big support crew of family and friends too. I ran my fastest run split off the bike by 6 minutes to finish in tenth place.
I said before the race if I finish inside the top 10 I would be over the moon, so I am delighted with this result and the 2017 season looks promising.
Thank you to everyone for your support, bring on the rest of the season!