I qualified for this Worldchampionship race in Ironman 70.3 UK despite a crash on the cycle course and a puncture!
I arrived in Clearwater on the 2nd of Noevmber about 10 days before the big event. As usual, I first took my bike to the race mechanic which is Chainwheel Drive in Clearwater. Since I had competed in this race already two times before, in 2006 and 2008, I knew my way around Clearwater, the race courses and also the mechanics in Chainwheel Drive. So I had booked in my bike in Chainwheel Drive for assembly and service and eventual repairs.
This year’s race would be spectacular because of the hurricane Ida that had just passed the coast of Florida. After I had dropped off my bike in Chainwheel Drive, I walked to the beach to look at the sea and talk to the lifeguards. As expected, the waves were very high on the swim course and it would be very hard to swim the course in a good pace. I decided to come back the next day and do a practise swim in my wetsuit. In the Ironman 70.3 World Championships it was permitted and advised to swim with wetsuit because of the hard swim course.
When I arrived at Pier 60 early next morning, there were a few other swimmers on the beach and in the sea and the lifeguards were already at work. The lifeguards had put some boyes out to mark a practise swim course along the Pier. While I was putting on my wetsuit, I was approached by two other female athletes who introduced themselves as age group competitors. They were both local people and very friendly. One of them was an Ironman coach, Gail Lohman. She offered me to train together and so we did our first training session together and it went very well.
After the swim course Gail offered to me to take me to Chainwheel Drive to pick up my bike and do a practise ride along the beach after that. We immediately liked each other and so I took her offer and we went to Cahinwheel Drive together where I introduced her to the mechanics there as a member of the Maddocs triathlon club (which is the biggest triathlon
club in the world) and triathlon coach. My bike had survived the flight without problems. Gail convinced me to buy some new race clothing and we spent quite some time in the shop trying on racing clothes. Finally I chose one in blue and red from Zoot which would fit very well to my bike.
During our practise ride along the beach, Gail and I had lots of fun and so she invited me to spend some time with her and her husband in her house in St. Petersburg. Since I had come there on my own and would meet my friends from the Ironman Lifecoach camp only a few days before the race, I agree to stay with Gail in her house for a few days.
Gail took me to my hotel to pick up my stuff and then we drove all the way to St. Petersburg. Her hsuband turned out to be an Ironman triathlete as well and an Ex-marine. So very exciting people! They had two huge Portuguese waterdogs, Isabelle and Luke. Gail offered me a guestroom which I shared with one of her dogs, Isabelle who would not even leave during the night and slept in my bed to protect me!
During the preparation week Gail drove me around St. Petersburg to show me the race course of an olympic distance triathlon that takes place every year in April. She introduced me to the Maddocs triathlon club and took me to one of their swimming sessions in an open water swimming pool. I was also invited to participate in one of the cycle rides of the club where I got to know another professional triathlete. I also did some cycling and swimming on my own in St. Petersburg to prepare and train for the big race.
A few days before the race, Gail received another professional female athlete from Germany and since we got along very well, I stayed with her for the final race preparation. We went together to the race briefing and also checked in our bikes and transitions bags together.
Gail introduced me to the president of the Maddocs Triathlon club, Tim Hudson, who had a house on the beach close to the race start. he invited me and the other professional athlete to stay with him during on the day before the race and also overnight before the race. He offered to drive us to the race in the morning because his house was very close to the race
start. We went to a party of the Maddocs Club in one of their houses on the beach in the afternoon before the race to discuss about the race and fuel up for the big day. This house was also where we decided to meet up after the race.
In the race briefing I met some of my pro collegues from the UK but I mainly stayed with the German athlete because we would do our final preparation and also the start together. In the evening, the race committee decided to change the swim course because the sea was still too dangerous for open water swimming after the Hurricane Ida. The course was changed and we would have to swim in the harbour without any practise! In a way I felt relieved because in the official open water swimming session that was organised by the Canadian Ironman Lifecoach camp two days before the race, the waves had been very high and I had struggled to swim out into the open sea and swim back to the beach in a traight line.
I did not have a very good night before the race because I was in a different environment and also very nervous because of the upcoming event. I got up at 4am to prepare myself. Tim drove us to the race course in the morning and we agreed to meet in that house on the beach after the race where we had had the party the afternoon before. Because of the change in the swim course, the professional women would start as female PRO wave before the male professional wave. Then the age groupers would do a time trial start, which means that they would be let into the water one by one.
One thing I have always enjoyed about starting as professional athlete was the head start in the swim course and lots of time for a proper warm up before the swim start! After two thirds of the swim course I was overtaken by the lead of the male PRO wave and I finished the swim course with some professional men! I had cut my hands quite badly on some corals in the swim in the harbour and my hands were bleeding during the beginning of the cycle course but I was not too badly injured to continue and after a few kilometers on the bike I forgot about it.
The bike course was very fast because it was completely flat! I had cycled it so often before that I knew it really well. The first part of it I cycled with one of the PRO men who I managed to drop off! My cycle time was very fast and I felt great all the way through it.
On the run I met one of my Ironman Lifecoaches, Mark Shorter, who also participated in this race as an age grouper. Again, he cheered me on and supported me while he was racing himself.
I had my best performance in an Ironman race in this competition and I broke 5 hours for the IM 70.3 distance which is 30 minutes faster than the PRO cut off time.
I had received a warning by the International Anti-Doping committee in the race briefing that I would be tested for doping. But I wasn’t and so I just cycled to the beach house after the race where I met with Tim and Gail. I spent the rest of the day with Tim in his house and in the evening he took me to the award ceremony where I met all the Ironman coaches from
the Lifecoach camp! We were seated in the VIP lounge and Tim introduced me to all his friends of the Maddocs club and we made good friends. The next day he drove me back to my hotel because I had to fly back to the UK for other athletic committments.