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Ironman 70.3 Exmoor – the Epic Wimbleball!

Race report for Wimbleball

Wimbleball was my first ever long-distance race back in 2013. Much as I had prepared for it following a 6month plan, I wasn’t from an endurance sport back ground so it has to said, come race day I struggled and it was the hardest thing I had ever done up until that point. After the race I vowed that I would return to compete again once I was fitter and had more racing experience.   So after several more middle distance races and training for 3 Ironman distance races I decided that I would take on the mighty Wimbleball again this year. My 3 objectives in order of importance to me were;

  1. Reap my revenge on Wimbleball – it killed me last time, I had to finish feeling that I was the victor this year!
  2. Do a sub 2hr half marathon
  3. Get a sub 6:30 race time

New Race top complete with RaceRX logo

In the months leading up to Wimbleball I had several niggles, my knee problem had got much better since February but then it went on me again about 5 weeks ago so I hadn’t done much running and I had that in the back of the mind. I also had a toenail fall off 1 week before the race so again I wasn’t sure if that would bother me, however, in the week leading up to the race I was feeling really good, my knee felt stronger and I was very surprised that in the space of only a few days my toe healed so well I couldn’t even feel that I had lost a nail.

Race morning I woke up, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t have that feeling “why do I do this?” as the alarm went off at 3am. I actually sprung out of bed raring to go and really excited for the race, even though it was forecast for heavy rain all day.   We got to Wimbleball lake and did the usual pre-race bike checks and before I knew it, it was 6:30am and I was standing in line in my wetsuit in the rain waiting for the official march down to the lake.

Swim (34:56)

My swim went well – I felt relaxed the whole way through, got a bit battered at the first turn buoy but continued with a nice easy rhythm. The time wasn’t anything amazing and far from a PB for the distance but it was an improvement of 7 minutes over my 2013 time. Happy with the swim, I ran up the hill to transition (it’s a long run) and spent some time wrapping up as it was by now raining very heavily so opted so a waterproof, arm warmers and a jersey.

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T1 (5:17)

Bike (03:45:11)

Heading out on the bike was chaos, it is very narrow single track roads around Wimbleball lake so that paired the large puddles and usual mount line chaos meant it was a slow start but I was soon peddling away on the route and I took my time, having ridden this course once before in a race and twice on a training weekend with my friend Claire (all 3 times in the rain might I add) I knew what was to come so I was in no hurry to power off up that first hill. The first lap was pretty much constant heavy rain, my boyfriend Mark had waited for me to get out of the swim then headed out onto his own training session riding part of the course in reverse so it was nice to see him when I was around 2/3 way around the first lap. On the second lap I felt great, I was still smiling and thanking all the marshals and generally having a lovely day out in the countryside in the best of British summer weather. I think having had quite a few training rides in the rain this year had toughened me up to the elements, knowing nothing would ever be as bad as hitting the top of the Le Col der Fer in an electric storm and having a treacherous 30km descent in torrential rain with my training squad buddies only a month before this seemed to make the rain almost non existent. I was a little annoyed at one point that my chain dropped off the chain ring just before hitting a hill so I had to dismount to sort that but other than that a fairly uneventful bike leg. Once I hit the end of the second lap and knew It was a fairly flat 7 or 8km to home so I put the power down a little bit and passed loads of people in that last stretch all of who looked like they had overcooked the hills and were suffering. Into T2 looked at my watch and knew I hadn’t pushed it hard enough as my time was pretty similar to the last time I raced, albeit I raced on a triple chainset last time and now ride a 56,39 chain set with a 26 cassette so not the ideal hill set up I have to admit! Still, I was a minute faster, and improvement is improvement and means my coach and I know now we can push my HR levels much higher in coming races.

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Run (1:58:27)

This year, I seemed to have learnt to push harder on runs than I have been able to previously. Not sure how much of that is learning to suffer and how much is due to the fact that since being diagnosed with autoimmune disease and going gluten free I now don’t have any gastric distress. That said, my plan as always was come out of T2 (03:51) at a slow jog to allow my HR drop and take on some fluid and fuel (a bottle of RaceRx), however the pacing part of the plan didn’t seem to work, I went slow but my HR would not drop to the level it was meant to. At this point I felt really good, my legs were killing me but I knew that feeling would pass, mentally I felt good and physically I knew I had a strong run in me. I made the bold choice to ignore my HR plan, this was a tough call as in Majorca I ran to plan exactly and had an amazing run….however, something felt different and I made the decision to use the plan but instead of HR levels used perceived exertion. I am pleased to say I nailed it – lap one was steady, lap 2 I surged a bit and powered away feeling amazing, lap 3 I had a slight lull early on but spent the majority of it feeling great again and it was my fastest lap. Stupidly I thought a half distance was a 20km run so at 18km put my final gear into action and then at 19.5km saw a sign saying 1 mile to go – I wasn’t sure if I could hold the pace for another full mile but I did, and ended up crossing the finish line with a huge smile on my face knowing I had, had an amazing race ad taken a good 12 minutes of my previous run time and achieved my 3 objectives for the race.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 18.29.04Overall (06:27:42) 10th in my AG, and 25mins better than in 2013

So was it the race of my life?? No, I didn’t push hard enough on the swim or the bike but I am 100% happy with the outcome and really pleased with the progress I am making. This race was up there with Majorca 70.3 in terms of how I felt I performed, now I need to work on pushing harder on the bike to improve my times but not to the detriment of my run. Hopefully this has set me up well for IM Wales in 10weeks from now, it has done my confidence a lot of good and I am genuinely excited to see what happens in Wales.

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Thanks as always goes out to our squad sponsors; Triathlon Zone of St Albans, MPG, Bowller and HKR Architects.

And special thanks to my personal sponsors RaceRX for providing me the best ever race fuel to get me through all this training and my races (http://www.goracerx.com/)

The Hertfordshire Triathlon Club Championships

DSCN0121 It was with a bit of a sigh that I set my alarm clock on Saturday evening. A wake up call starting with a 4 is never my best start to a day. My third weekend of racing in a row after an exceptionally busy work week which saw me missing the majority of my planned training sessions – poor planning on my part – but I was looking forward to another sprint race.   Being as I had just done a middle distance race the weekend before I told myself not to think about this weekend as a competitive race but to have a fun race with my squad mates.

We had a team of 6 racing at the event – Cameron, Gerry, Dan, Myself, Lucy and Pippa. In addition to the athletes we had quite a big support squad with wives, children, non-racing squad members, squad sponsors, and 2 canine cheerleaders!

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The swim was a 1 lap 750m swim in Stanborough Lake – my local lake being only 4 miles from home, but I’ve never been there before the race as they don’t hold regular swim sessions anymore. It was cold but I managed a couple of minutes warm up whilst waiting for the start. I seemed to get off on the gun quite quickly from the front row but was quickly swamped and in the middle of a crazy mix of arms, legs and fists again. Luckily I don’t mind getting into the thick of it and until my swimming improves its something I have to stick with, as I like starting at the front. I got out of the swim in decent time and a quick glance behind me made me realize I was quite near the front (13:51).

Onto the bike – and because of the gravel path run out to the mount line and the incident I had with shoes on the bike last weekend I decided to do an old fashioned mount, putting bike my shoes on in transition and just running with my bike in my shoes (51s). The mount area was a bit of a mess, the mount line was at the bottom of a 5m hill with a 90degree left hand turn at the top of the if so the marshals’ were all shouting to make people push bikes to the top then mount, this then meant there was around 10 people trying to mount a bike, on a single bike width section of road – it was chaos! Anyway, away we went and all went smoothly for a round 2mins before I heard a very worrying sound on my bike – I couldn’t work out was it was but it was very clanky and felt like my rear brake was binding again….. As it was a 20km ride only I decided to ignore it. Part way in to the bike Gerry went cruising on by at a point where I was sitting upright trying to work out what was about to fall off my bike, he did say afterwards it was making quite a noise! About ¾ way around the bike the noises all seem to stop and the bike seemed to have settle in so I smashed the last 5km or so overtaking quite a few woman. After finishing the race I realised what the noise has been, one of my brake blocks had been loose and then had fallen of meaning I wasn’t braking pad on disc, I was braking brake fixing on tyre – needless to say my tyre is now ruined.   I was pleased that on the bike course I was only over taken for about 4 or 5 people – all of them men! There is a short out and back turnaround at the end of the bike course and so I saw Cameron and Gerry on this so I gave them both a shout of encouragement (42:51).

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Into T2 and I quickly dumped my bike, got my shoes on and off I went on the run (35s).

The run is a 2.5km lap, which you do 2 laps of, mostly on grass and mainly flat with the exception of one big hill at the end of each lap. I felt like I was going strong on the first lap and passed lots of people but then it was hard to tell if the people were from the sprint race or the Olympic distance athletes that had set off earlier, on the second lap I kept going strong and finished with a hard sprint – it hurt but it wasn’t anything near as tough as the St. Neots sprint where I literally was doubled up in pain afterwards. Run time was 21:48 – not a PB but happy with that considering it was my third race in 3 weeks, last weeks being a hilly middle distance. Overall time was1:19:58 and I was 5th female and 1st in my AG. The results sheets however didn’t tell you your position so I was really surprised when they called my name out as AG winner to pick up a medal and even more surprised when they then called my name out as Hertfordshire 35-39 Champion, and I got a lovely trophy for that. Overall a great race but I am glad that I’m not racing for a couple weekends now – lie in’s beckon!

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The ‘Beaver’ Middle distance race

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The Beaver (Belvoir) middle distance race

The beaver is a middle distance race I’ve heard a lot about over the last couple of years and it’s always gets a good report so I decided to enter this year as an early season warm up race. Friday afternoon we drove to Belvoir castle to check in to the hotel we had booked. We went over the race site and I was instantly taken by how relaxed the whole event seemed.  I took a look at the lake, which is rumored to be the muddiest swim you will ever do in a race but it looked beautiful.  I didn’t have a plan in mind for this race other than to get around it comfortably and hope my knee wouldn’t play up on me being as this would be the longest run I had done since I started rehab for a knee issue 3 months ago.

Race morning was soon here and I had my usual race breakfast of ambrosia cream rice, a very strong coffee and a bottle of RaceRx, we headed over to rack my bike and get ready to race.  Again, the atmosphere at this race was so relaxed and friendly, it was a really nice vibe.  At the race briefing the guy said if anyone gets into trouble in the swim, we normally recommend turning on to your back and raising one arm, however, in this lake we recommend you stand up and walk to the edge, haha, it really is a shallow lake then!

For the swim I was in the second wave and I positioned myself right at the front as usual, I somehow managed to get off on the gun much better than the previous week when I seemed to be overtaken in milli-seconds by loads of athletes.  The swim was fairly uneventful, a 2 lap course, was pretty slow and steady, I went hard for the first 500m or so to stay near the front then relaxed into a comfortable stroke for the rest of the 1.9km.

Out of the swim I was really happy, and started on the long run up the hill to transition – it’s half a km up the hill so the swim times reflect this as the timing mat is part way up the hill (Swim 34:56).  Into T1 (1:42) and I grabbed my helmet and ran of with my bike to do a speedy mount over the mount line, unfortunately I couldn’t get my freezing feet into the shoes on the bike and no matter how many times I tride they would go in so I had to stop, get of my bike, take the shoes of the pedals and out them them on then ride off – I felt a right idiot but needs must!

The bike course is lovely, mostly flat with a long steady climb about half way around, would have been a fast course if it wasn’t for the 20mph winds with 30mph gusts.  First lap I barely used the aero position as was trying to get a sense of how far over the road I would getting blown about, turned out not to be so bad as the wind was more head on, so whilst it made for a hard bike, it felt safer than side on gusts blowing you over so for the 2nd and 3rd laps I maintained a proper aero position for most of the course.   It has to be said I was pleased to get off the bike (2:45), T 2 was smoother and I was out on the run course (2:03).

The run course is 4 laps and I knew what to expect as mark had run it the day before as training so he told me it was basically one long hill up then a turnaround and one long hill down X 4 laps!

First lap I went really slow and steady and drank a bottle of ATF whilst letting my HR come right down, 2lap I turned up the pace a little and kept it pretty constant for the 3rd lap although my mind was playing games with me and I was having so of those dark thoughts you get on the long run legs of races, lap 4 came around and I thought ok, one more lap, let’s smash this.  My knee was feeling good, I had some energy left and I thought lets just go for it, I managed to pass a lot of people on this lap and was really pushing the whole way around. Just coming into the finish arena I sensed another woman behind me so went for a sprint over the finish – which hurt – a lot, but as it happens she looked about my age so I please I pushed that final 100m stretch. (1:50.)

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My initial reaction to the race was that my times were poor. Although I didn’t know what the course was really like or what was classed as a good or bad time, I hade guessed that because of the much shorter bike course than Majorca I would have been on for a 5:00- 5:05 race. I went to the timing tent to see what my splits are as was pretty disappointed looking at my bike and run, but then I saw a number 2 – I asked the guy, ‘what’s that then?’ and he said, ‘you got second place in your AG’! I didn’t believe him and muttered something about thinking I’d been crap, to which he replied, ‘oh well if you were crap, everyone else was more crap’, that really made me smile and made me realize you can’t judge or try and guess your race time, it is what it is on the day and there are so many factors that change even the same course one year to the next.   So whilst I still don’t think it was a great performance, overall I’m happy with my day – 2 early season races now under my belt and a nice trophy to show for it!

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Thanks as always goes out to our squad sponsors; Triathlon Zone of St Albans, MPG, Bowller and HKR Architects.

And special thanks to my personal sponsors RaceRX for providing me the best ever race fuel to get me through all this training and my races (http://www.goracerx.com/)

2015 British Sprint Triathlon Championships

Having had a disheartening end to my 2014 race season with a DNF at ETU long distance championships I was keen to get my first race of 2015 completed without any drama. My winter training has been quite different to the previous couple of years seeing me having more rest & increased focused training whilst reducing overall training load.   As always, I put my faith in coach Musty, but being me, I was always thinking in the back of my mind, am I doing enough.

So on Saturday morning I went for my first OWS of the season and it was freezing, I’ve gone soft over the winter it seems! Needless to say I wasn’t looking forward to my first ever river swim on Sunday morning.   We got to the race venue in St. Neots at around 6:30am after a 4:30 rather unsocial alarm call, I was excited but not nervous at all.

I was in the second wave so got myself to the front line of my swim wave, treading water and waiting for the gun I was pleased to be right at the front – however the gun went off and in a milli-second I was already being overtaken by loads of athletes, I certainly need to work on my deep water swim start!   The swim was fairly straight forward for once, no elbows to eyes or kicks in the head for a change, I knew it wasn’t a particularly good swim as my sighting and direction was well off, but I was pleased over all the with my first swim race of the year (15:01). T1 went amazingly well (1:05), and I was off on the bike – getting my feet into my shoes on the move was interesting as my feet were like ice blocks.   Once into my shoes and pedalling properly I took the bike really steady and was hoping to push the run harder than I normally do.   Coming into T2, again had problems with my shoes and frozen feet so my speedy dismount ended less speedy and more stop, get off and run! (0:45). Trainers on and off out on the run, coach Musty was at the start of the run course encouraging me so I had to push hard from the off so he didn’t think I was slacking, the first lap was like running on concrete feet but by the time I got on to the second lap I could feel my feet again and was getting into a good flow. The second lap hurt, I had a stitch in my side the whole way around but I continued to push as hard as I could and was very relieved to see to the 200m to go sign. I was aware of another female trying to overtake me so I gritted my teeth and pushed hard over the finish line – as my race picture shows, I call it my Quasimodo pout! My run was a surprising 20:10, a 5km PB for me by well over a minute so I was so really happy. Once over the finish line the stitch had me doubled over in pain, I couldn’t stand up straight – seriously, these sprint races hurt like hell, bring on the long stuff!

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My overall time was 1:22:00, making me 9th in my AG. Because the field was so strong being the British Championships, I am over the moon with this, although I wasn’t at first, but looking at the stats and splits I can see how well I did now coming 9th of 29 in a field of people who race this distance all the time. I am really happy with this having never raced this distance before I cant call it a PB, but compared to the super-sprints I’ve done in previous years, this shows my winters training is definitely working In the way Musty has planned.

Bring on the Beaver (my next race this coming weekend!).

 

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Thanks as always goes out to our squad sponsors; Triathlon Zone of St Albans, MPG, Bowller and HKR Architects.

And special thanks to my personal sponsors RaceRX for providing me the best ever race fuel to get me through all this training and my races (http://www.goracerx.com/)

S4F

2015 – plans and squad news!

It’s been a long time since i’ve written a blog being as autumn has been all about moving house and trying to rest.  That, and I’ve basically been a right old lazy thing doing the bare minimum of base training and having a good old recharge in-between packing and unpacking boxes!  After a very bitter/sweet 2014 i’m now getting rather excited and revved up for the coming 2015 season.  I have all my races planned and have a completely new focus to training this year.

Last year for me, it was all about trying to get faster than my ironman debut year of 2013, and, if that was my only goal then I would say it was it was a pretty amazing year as I got significant PB’s at sprint, 70.3 and full ironman distance as well as 2 PB’s on 2 successive half marathons.  However, I also wanted to put to bed some quibbles I had relating to health issues – and like lots of things in life, somethings have to get worse before they get better – and they certainly got worse last year!  That said, i’ve had some really good advice and diagnoses this year and now I’m definitely on the up and looking forward to a year racing as the new healthier me!

I am very pleased and proud to be racing next year in a new triathlon squad.  For the last 18 months I have been coached by Musty Salih who has taken me from a non-swimmer in 2011 to racing IM distance in 2013 and qualifying for the 2014 ETU Long distance championships.  Musty’s coaching business, Strive4Fitness has launched a UK based triathlon squad for 2015 race season with athletes of all abilities racing from sprint to IM distance.  Musty is a Professional Triathlon Coach with over 15 years experience; Level 3 qualified with the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPS) along with a whole host of other personal training qualifications.  As I’ve known and trained with Musty for several years now he knows exactly how my head is geared up and he can see what most athletes cant see in themselves  – strengths and weaknesses that need addressing, focus and tweaking. He gives me the confidence to believe in myself and my abilities.

In 2015 I will continue to race on my Azione Falce TT bike which I absolutely love and am still very grateful for the support that Azione provide me with.  RaceRx in California have also helped me greatly with my nutritional needs and will continue to support me and I’m very much looking forward to racing fuelled by their products for another year.   

So what’s actually on the agenda then in my first year of racing with S4F triathlon squad?? Swim events, Half marathon & Marathon run races, Sprint distance, Olympic distance, Middle distance, and a full Ironman – so basically covering all bases! Throw in a couple of training camps in the Alps and the Welsh black mountains and it should be an action packed fun year.

If you are interested in joining a supportive, fully coached triathlon squad, contact Musty at coachmusty.com for more info.

S4F

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ETU long distance championships – Almere

Race Report (well 2 thirds of one)

Back in November last year it was pointed out to me that I qualified for the ETU Long distance championships with my Bolton IM result. I paid the £10 to pre-register for it in Feb time and had then decided not to bother paying for the race and doing it as it didn’t really bother me to do the GB AG-er thing.  After my IM race in Austria was such a disaster I decided I didn’t want to wait until next year have another go at putting together a decent IM race so with not many weeks notice, I decided to give this a go.

The journey to Almere was very exciting having never done the Ferry thing before! Got to say, it is the best way to travel by far in my book if are are within 2-4 hours of a port – I will be doing this more often, so much more relaxed than the packing and travel for a flight.

Swim – 1:07 (12th female out the water)

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Amazing! Started front row and commenced with the usual ‘punchup’ in the first 15mins resulting in having a fat lip and swollen face for the rest of the rest. A rather fetching purple chin on sunday morning as a result. Went a little off course and too wide at times as sighting was quite difficult as very overcast and not very light at 7am but kept very smooth all way around, I think what I lost in time from not drafting I gained back from having lots of open water with no battling or trying to dodge to move around people.

T1 – uneventful, took time to put a jersey on over my trisuit as having had a cold all week, didn’t want to get pneumonia on the bike as its wasn’t very warm in the morning. 

Bike – 6:17 (9th Female off the bike)

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Amazing again!  The bike course at Almere is so pan flat the only ‘hills’ are a couple of bridges over roads.  Quite a lot of sharp narrow turns on cycle paths mean you have to literally stop to corner a lot of the time as marshals chaperone you around in single file.  Once out of Almere you hit the coast road and its around 70mins head down along a straight flat road with no turns – sounds fast??  Well take into account the incredibly strong head winds and its like cycling in a wind tunnel – far from fast! Many comments from people saying ‘give me hills over this any day’. It was pretty brutal – personally not my favourite type of course as there wasn’t much scenery on the long coast road so quite boring. That said, the second lap seemed easier as by then you knew how long that Headwind section was so you knew to just get your head down and grind into if for an hour or so.  Back and shoulders were killing afterwards which I assume is from being literately in one position for 6hrs – because its so flat you don’t move around on the bike so much apart from the short part of each lap on cycle paths with the tight corners.

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Run – Didn’t happen!

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Very long story as to why I pulled out but suffice to say since my appalling day in Austria several health issues have reared their head and i’m being treated for 2 of them and still under investigations for another. Having been on antibiotics for the last week and also having a head cold all week its almost it a miracle I made it to the start line so getting a huge PB on my swim and having a very strong bike leg, I should really walk away from this race with some feeling of achievement. Next year, I will be a whole lot healthier and stronger.

I don’t want to sound like i’m simply making excuses, at the end of the day I pulled out – no two ways about it.  Only I know how ‘I’ felt and only I know ‘MY’ reasons behind the decision, and at the end of the day it was MY race. I know there will be plenty of ‘HTFU’ comments, but sometimes the true way to ‘Man up’ is to admit defeat in a single race, knowing it is for the best in the long term.

Annoyingly – if i had got around a 4:10’ish marathon I would have got bronze medal for AG as my swim and bike had been strong. Oh well, there will be many more races to come.

Disappointed but not defeated – bring on 2015, MY DAY WILL COME!

Ponteland Sprint triathlon

Ponteland is quite local to my family home so decided to do this so my Mam could come see me race a short course – bit more interesting to watch than her getting drowned in Bolton for god knows how many hours last year at IMUK. Unfortunately – she did get soaked again as it was torrential rain until the run – again, rain seems to follow me on races! The race is for a local charity for a guy called Simon Bates who was training to do an IM but died before he did his first triathlon. The really touching thing is, all his family and friends were racing, his mum and dad even did a relay with his sister, his mum looked so determined in the swim bless her everyone was cheering for her to keep going. It was very emotional even for people like me that never knew Simon.

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Really mixed turn out – i counted around 20 MTBS being racked and then about 40-50 bling bling TT bikes, then a mix of everything in between.

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The pool swim had 6 people to a lane and it seems many people didn’t estimate their swim times very well as when i was swimming there a guy who was so fast he lapped me twice, and a guy who i lapped twice who was doing breast stroke – and then other speeds in between! The bike course was on open roads with several cross roads and T-junctions so a couple of times had to come to a full stop. The run, was 90% on grass (verges on side of main road) and due to the torrential rain all night and morning this was just a mud bath for me and the later runners who didn’t set of until around 11am – trust me to try my Zoots out on this day…..

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Best of all though – it was a fun race, the muddy conditions made the run fun and i actually really enjoyed the bike even though it was raining – maybe because i knew it was only 20km…

Results;

1:12 – PB by 4 mins. 

Position overall 43 of 266

Position female 5 of 99

Position 35-39 female 2 of 18

swim8:34 Pos. 18

t1 Transition 1(Time: 1:09) – Pos. 12

bike Bike(Time: 39:18) – Pos. 7

t2 Transition 2(Time: 1:02) – Pos. 44

run Run(Time: 22:44) – Pos. 6