Challenge Gran Canaria was very much my prep race before Lanzarote – 4 weeks before the big day in similar conditions and with a pretty brutal course. Time to see how winter training had paid off and dust of the triathlon race cobwebs.
I flew out on the Thursday night, giving me Friday to sort everything out. I was staying in the next bay along from the race start, and discovered on the first night we were close to a rooftop karaoke bar that went on to the early hours!
Friday was spent doing the usual pre race faff. Little spin on the bike course, dip in the sea to check my new Orca Alpha wetsuit, registering, racking and attending the briefing. The bike course is truly stunning along the coastal road with spectacular views, and continuous climbing and descending.
Race morning – usual pre race breakfast and the nerves were starting to kick in. As we were getting ready the sun was starting to rise, and the bay the swim is in was looking nice and calm. We watched the pros and age group men set off and suddenly we were being counted down and then we were off!
The swim. . . Was horrible for me! As soon as we were out of the sheltered bay it was like being thrown into a washing machine – very choppy and we had soon caught the slower age group men and were having to fight our way through them. The 2 loops also meant there was a section of us heading back in as age group men were heading back out along the same line, so lots of people swam into each other! I also had a guy properly try and dunk me – I was holding my ground around a buoy which meant pushing him a bit, so he grabbed my shoulder and tried to push me under – he got an elbow in the face!! Finally the swim was done and I was horrified to see one of my slowest swim times of over 34 mins, slightly balanced by seeing it had been 300m long but not the best of swims either way! I was also feeling a bit sea sick from the choppy swim, so was hoping nutrition wise all would go down ok.
Out onto the bike after a very slow T1. We had one big loop and then 3 smaller loops. For some reason I really struggled to get going on the bike – power was low, heart rate was off and I just didn’t feel great. The constant up and down made it very difficult to get into any sort of rhythm And I just wasn’t feeling as good as usual. Seeing the pros coming back on their loop helped give me a boost of motivation and coming into the second lap I have myself a bit of a talking too and managed to get myself more into race pace! It was definitely a leg burner and I was a bit worried about what the run would be like after such a sapping bike leg. One of the highlights was having Alistair Brownlee come flying past – unbelievably quickly! Coming into T2 in 2.58 I was happy to be under 3 hours but annoyed to have lost time on that first lap.
Coming into the run and the very first part of the lap is a steep climb! Similar to the bike the run course is basically hill reps. I was going pretty well on the first lap so wanted to just hold on. It was great to be able to see the women’s race unfold, especially to see the Brits absolutely smashing it. Lucy Gossage came absolutely flying past me – always amazing to see the speed which some of the girls run! By the third lap the heat and hills were starting to kick in and the pace had slowed a bit, however it is probably the best I have felt in a triathlon run. I had lost some of my nutrition on the run but think the good carbo load the day before and managing to take on a lot on the bike meant it didn’t matter too much.
Crossing the finish line I had no idea where I had finished, it is always difficult on lap courses to know where you are, and whilst I had overtaken girls on the bike and run I didn’t know how many had been ahead on the swim. It was only when I got my phone I could see I was first age grouper and 9th overall, which was a great feeling. It wasn’t the perfect race but I was glad to have been able to turn it around mentally.
It was great as a pre ironman race – great to see the nutrition strategy that Will G and I have been working on go well, and that all the kit was feeling good. I was thinking on the run I’ve got no idea how I can do double this distance at the end of double the bike. . . But hopefully when you go a bit slower it feels marginally easier!
Thank you to my very generous sponsors for the best kit for race day – Orca – the wetsuit was brilliant just a shame I couldn’t swim better to do it justice, Giant St Paul’s – the Liv was epic as usual, Clifbar for the tasty nutrition, Precision Hydration for keeping me well hydrated in the heat, Skechers for the speedy trainers, Lezyne for giving me the tools to prep the bike. Big thanks to Will for his coaching – was great to be able to follow his awesome progress at Ironman Texas having finished this race, and also to Will G for the nutrition advice. Thanks to James Mitchell for the brilliant photos as always.