Wow! What a race. I’m on the flight home from Gran Canaria reflecting on what has been a fantastic trip. My preparation for this race was considerably better than Ironman70.3 Dubai, I was pleased with my result there but I also knew I had so much more in me. My build up to that race was challenging, I was sick over new year’s and did not ride outside at all given the cold weather. Racing in January is tough.
After Dubai I finally got outside on the bike training at Club la Santa in Lanzarote with my good friends at Havering Tri Club. I built on my winter fitness and started putting in some decent bike miles in much more appealing conditions. I was cautious at first, however after a few rides I got my confidence back. It usually takes me a couple of weeks to see the benefits of a solid training block. Reece kept reminding me of that while I was ‘in a pit’ during heavy training. A few weeks later at 3 local events I started to believe it had. A good run at the Active Training World Half Marathon, a PB at park run and a 12 minute PB over 50km at the Welwyn Hilly TT. Things where certainly starting to come together and just in time for Challenge Gran Canaria.
I flew out on the Wednesday before the race, this was the first full rest day I’d had in a long while. It felt nice to just sit down and do nothing for once. We did get some funny looks as we boarded the plane with our surgical masks on. But I don’t see the point in risking getting a cold/flu when so much hard effort has been put in.
On the Thursday before the event we swam, biked and ran some of the race route. I love getting a good feel for the course, it’s crucial to know where time can be won or lost, especially on a technical bike course like the one in Gran Canaria. Reece & Gary are always great at giving me pointers on this, probably as they often get bored having to wait for me at the bottom of a descent during training! Haha sorry, I’m getting better, I think. Although it’s still safe to say my Zwift character is much better version of me at descending hills unfortunately. She’s such a show off!
It was nice to be able to do a proper warm up in the bay before the swim start, this isn’t always available at races so a big thumbs up to Challenge to that. Waiting on the start line behind the pro men, including fellow HUUBster and double Olympic Champion Alistair Brownlee was a pretty cool experience. I felt calm and ready to go out there and give it my best, after all everyone’s eyes were on Alistair and Daniela Ryf.
The swim was business as usual, I got off to a great start with instant clear water. By the time I had hit the second buoy, where we made a left turn I had caught a couple of the pro men, they set off just 1 minute before us. It was choppier than I had expected swimming out past the sea wall but nothing I haven’t experience before. Heading back into the shore I could see more pro men ahead, by the time I reached the Aussie exit I had passed another handful of them. I do love an Aussie exit, it breaks the swim up nicely and you can get a better idea of where you’re positioned. I could spot Catherine Jameson and Daniela Ryf on their way back in, both strong swimmers about 30secs behind. After lap 2 of the swim I excited the water with just over a minute lead onto the bike.
I started the bike feeling good but my Di2 was playing up for the first couple of km’s, it kept wanting to jump in the small chainring, maybe it knew the course was hilly too. I wasn’t able to push more than 150 watts without spinning out. Luckily the gearing problem had resolved itself by the time I reached the first turn. By this point I got a chance to see where everyone was. It wasn’t long until I could see Ryf hunting me down, as expected.
Ryf eventually passed me but I was in full race mode by this point so I put in a surge and went back in front, only to be passed again on the next descent. Still work to be done on my descending skills. I thought that would be the last I would see of the two-time Ironman World Champion. I continued to bike hard regardless, there were plenty of strong women behind me that I needed to try and hold off.
Just before I reached the next bike turn Reece passed me and informed me that I was riding well. This was great to hear and gave my legs a positive boost. I loved the bike course, it was brutal but beautiful at the same time. By the end of the fourth lap I wasn’t sure if I had biked too hard. I had averaged way above my FTP on hills. Would my legs be able to run? I ignored the doubt’s and pushed on.
On exiting T2 I was told Ryf was roughly a minute ahead. I was so absorbed in my own race that I didn’t process or have time to think why the gap was suddenly much smaller than it had been previously. Nor did I think the time gap mattered as I wasn’t going to close down a two-time Kona winner, was I?
The run started with a steep uphill, one we would have to run four times during the half marathon. I was surprised by how strong my legs felt on the climb, the hill reps sessions with the Orion Harriers and winter cross country races must have paid off. I continued to run well and by lap 3 I was being told I only had a 30 second gap to Daniela Ryf but I also felt the ever-closing presence of the stellar runner that is Emma Pallant. So, by this point I had two questions in my head. 1. Could I catch Ryf? 2. Would I hold off fellow Brit Emma? I could not have predicted before the race start that I would be hunting down the Ironman World Champion while being hunted down by a Duathlon World Champion.
Just after the turn around on lap 3 I passed Ryf. A surreal moment that not many can say they have experienced. Both times I’ve been to Kona I’ve witnessed her dominance and been in awe of her. I could not picture myself beating her anytime soon. Certainly not this soon. I expected her to repeat what had happened in the initial stages of the bike leg and come straight back past, but this was not the case. Question one had been answered and there was only one final lap left to answer the second.
On the final turn on the final lap, with roughly 2km remaining I could see Emma gaining. I gave every ounce of effort I had in those last 2km but it wasn’t enough, 6 seconds separated myself and Emma. Antagonising close to the win but still delighted with my result when I crossed the line.
It’s amazing that a 4 and half hour race can come down to just 6 seconds. Those 6 seconds will definitely be my driving force for the coming weeks training. Hats off to Emma Pallant for a fantastic race and to fellow Brit Lucy Gossage coming in fourth. Proving that the British women are a powerful force, the men aren’t too shabby either!
I am excited to see what the rest of the season has to offer, up next is Challenge Lisboa in just two weeks.
Thank you to James Mitchell for the fantastic photos, he technically out ran both me and Emma Pallant to get to the finish line photos. Seriously impressive!
As ever thank you to all of my supporters and sponsors for helping me get to the start line in the best possible shape.
HUUB, ENDURA, SKECHERS, COMPRESSPORT, REVOLVER WHEELS, ROTOR BIKE COMPONENTS, TANNUS TYRES, PEDAL COVER, CURRANZ, ACTIVE TRAINING WORLD, BAKER PRINGLE, HATFIELD CYCYLES, PULSE FITNESS, SIDAS INSOLES, IPRINT STUFF, HODDESDON TRI CLUB.