When Ironman Staffordshire 70.3 was announced last year I was pretty excited having an IM branded race just an hour away. It proved massively popular with nearly 10k pre registrations, so i knew that when the race opened I would need to be on the ball and get my entry in quickly. 15 minutes later the race was full with over 2700!
This race was mainly about qualifying for the World 70.3 Champs in Zell am See, Austria later in the year. It meant getting Top 5 in my Age Group, but deep down I wanted to get on the podium. The race became my big focus for the 1st half of the season, and looked forward to it for months before. 4 weeks before the race I even got a group of us together to go and ride the course so we knew what to expect come race day.
Race day arrived and the usual 4.30am get up. The pros are off first at 7, followed by the age group waves 30-34 at 7.10 and the 35-39 at 7.20 which I am in. I start well and get some clean water from the off and get into a good rhythm. The first 800m or so is fine until you start hitting the back of the wave before and have to start carving your way through swimmers. You need to keep changing course and sighting more often to avoid bumping into people, which disrupts you but I push on and get to T1. I don’t know my lead, but I don’t look back, just concentrate on getting to my bike as quick as possible.
In the first few miles of a half Ironman, I do a couple of things. 1. Watch my power, I know what i can ride for this distance and it’s easy to go off way too quick because of the excitement of leading and it being such a big race. 2. Get some nutrition in early. It’s been nearly 30 mins since the start of the race and you haven’t been able to take anything whilst swimming. 3. Start to get a feel for how the legs are feeling. Is the power coming easily? Are you having to push a bit too hard to get to target power?
I realise early on it’s a good day, I am having to hold back a bit and power is coming easily. The single bit of road that worried me if there was lots of traffic went without issue and the rest of the bike was just a case of pushing on and using the people from the previous wave as targets. At around 45 miles I ride up to team mate Ele Haresign, and we both give a few words of encouragement to each other which i think gives both of us a bit of a boost. It had been a pretty lonely last 2 hours.
Into transition and it’s a great feeling seeing only a handful of bikes. Maybe 8 Pro men Bikes, a couple of Pro Women and 1 age grouper from the wave in front.
The run was a 3 lap course to cover the 13 miles. I wasn’t sure of my lead so I started at a solid pace hoping I would get some information from supporters after Lap 1. The lead was comfortable so I settled into my pace and just concentrating on topping up at feed stations. The last 4 or 5 miles on the run in a half ironman are always hard, but I ticked off the miles and enjoyed the support as I went through the finish chute.
Winning the age group was great, then finding out I had won the Age Group Race overall made it even a a better day. Overall I finished in 10th Place including the Pros and only 6 minutes off the Top 6 Pros who won prize money.