Ironman 70.3 World Championships, Zell am See, Austria, August 2015 – Race Report by Beth Hughes
Finally the 30th of August had arrived; the 70.3 World Championships had seemed like a long time coming, having qualified in Miami 10 months prior. This was by far my biggest race to date. Fortunately I had race company in the form of my coach Chris Standidge and fellow Total Tri Training athlete Phil Murphy, the support crew of my fiancé Chris, my parents and 2 long standing friends who kindly made it to Austria for the weekend. Two days prior to the race we did the customary recce of the bike course, Heather kindly drove us the first half of the route including the climb and then we road from the top of the descent to get a feel for the turns come race day and back to Zell am See. Fiancé Chris rode the whole route and was quickly advising Chris (Standidge) that he would be well placed to return to the expo to purchase the 28 cassette he had found the day before having forgotten his!
The other focus we had pre race was the heat (33 degrees) as my wave started at midday I was going to be racing through the heat of the day and getting hydration right would be particularly key; not normally such a concern racing in the UK!
Race day soon arrived and the atmosphere was electric, I had made a pact with myself not to get overawed and enjoy the experience, this was certainly made easier by the truly stunning location for the race. Soon I found myself on the start line, I positioned myself at the front of the wave start just to the right of the bunch; I went off hard and found clear water quickly. The course was a simple and out and back with helpfully placed buoys every 100m which certainly made sighting easy. Soon I had made the turn and started to catch slower swimmers, I caught up with 3 waves in front – I think this was probably more testament to the questionable timetabling of the start waves than my electric swim time!! I exited the water 26th in AG, which was a solid start as the swim is definitely the weakest portion of my race.
Once I had negotiated the long transition I was soon out onto the bike and traditionally this is where I feel my race really starts, however my legs didn’t feel as strong as I had hoped or indeed reflect the form I was in. I tried not to panic and reassured myself there was still a long way to go and just got my head down and rode on. Soon girls were passing me which isn’t something I often experience in races, but I had never raced at this level before so thought this just reflected the step up in class. The major climb soon arrived and I felt buoyed as this was normally where my strength told, I did indeed take a few places back and kept the power steady until the last 2km when it really ramped (14%) and then it was a case of fighting to the top. The ride back to transition was relatively uneventful except for some vomiting and I was soon glad to have donned my run shoes! This happiness was short lived as my legs were heavy and empty, I stocked up on fluid at the first aid station and promptly vomited this was repeated on the first lap of the run, but I dug deep and as I ran back into town to finish the first lap my legs started to come back. The immense cheers and support from the crew dotted over the course energised me further and I was soon into a decent run stride, walking the aid stations to take on water and before I knew it had made the turn for the finish. My supporters were easy to spot with the Welsh flags and inflatable daffodils (fortunately they hadn’t brought sheep!) I grabbed a daffodil (deciding flags were very last year) and continued my sprint to the finish, avoiding a near fatal altercation with a cheer leader and her pom pom and crossed the line 34th in my age group.
On reflection the race wasn’t a disaster but deep down I knew the main reason I didn’t execute the race I felt I was capable of was the effect of my poorly timed monthly visit from mother nature! I am lucky compared to many women in that my suffering is minimal but the main effect is a complete lack of energy and general feeling of depletion – none of which are ideal when you are trying to piece together the best endurance performance of your life and clearly explains the vomiting episodes! I hope that by sharing my experience it will serve to encourage other females to share their learning’s and experiences for managing this additional racing ‘challenge’!