I’ve wanted to race Ironman Wales again ever since I won it back in 2013. Tenby has become one of my favourite triathlon haunts and turning down my Kona slot this year was made far easier by knowing that by doing so I’d give myself another chance at the UK double; Ironman UK and Ironman Wales. I don’t look at start lists until 2 days before a race – there’s simply no point. But there’s no hiding behind the fact that the pro field this year in Wales was embarrassingly small, and on paper at least, it was mine to lose. It’s a shame.
It really is one of the best (albeit toughest) races out there and if there are more paid prize positions than there are women racing, it kind of makes pro-racing a bit of a joke. Anyone who thinks women in triathlon are hard done by I think is kidding himself or herself. It’s far easier for a woman to end up on the podium than a man, simply because at most races there isn’t nearly the same depth. I think that all races should pay the top 3 men and women equally and then distribute the remaining prize funds proportionately depending on the numbers of men and women racing. Anyway, that’s an aside and I know others think differently. Ironman Wales is always tough. Add in what I can only describe as biblical conditions and it’s super tough. Howling winds; heavy downpours; leaves, ‘rivers’ and oil on the roads. But still the crowds came out and cheered. And despite the horrible weather, for me, it was one of the most fun races I’ve done. I’d planned to, if possible, ride a little bit easier than I would normally. As it turned out, I rode much more easily, simply because a lot of the time, my only focus was on staying upright and making sure I didn’t come off on a corner. There was a lot of free-wheeling and a lot of granny cornering. I felt as though I was in a sportive, not a race. But given the conditions, I was very glad I wasn’t being forced to be more aggressive on the bike. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in a close race, having to take risks on the descents and corners, particularly on lap 2 when I was overtaking age-groupers. I know there were lots of crashes and I feel for anyone who did come off. So after a relatively easy bike, I started the run feeling pretty fresh and while it’s a super tough run course, I genuinely enjoyed nearly all of it. There was support all the way and being able to run without pressure meant I could soak up and enjoy this much more than I did in Bolton. I’ll be honest – my win in Wales wasn’t as satisfying as my win in Bolton, where I was pushed all the way. Winning without completely emptying the tank almost feels a bit of a cheat. But it was definitely more fun. I could savour the crowds, have a bit of banter with other athletes and had enough energy at the end to dance down that finish chute and #doalucy.
It was great having Simplon and Skechers there before and during the race and I enjoyed meeting so many people at the expo in the run up. And if you were watching in the rain and wind – thank-you! Jo, Jay and John – thanks for your support on the mic all day (all season in fact). You big me up more than I deserve but I love it!
I know lots of people didn’t finish the race last week. If that’s you, don’t beat yourself up. Any ironman in the future will probably feel a walk in the park in comparison. So give yourself a break. Eat some chips. Drink some wine. And then press the ‘enter’ button for 2018. So what about me? Well I’m off on a holiday to Italy for some pizza, red wine, gelato and an Ironman. I’ve never done 2 Ironmans in 2 weeks so I’m entering the unknown. But I’m feeling pretty good. There’s absolutely no pressure. And worst-case scenario is that I end up with a nice end of season holiday in Italy. Nothing to lose, lots to gain, and if you don’t try you’ll never know!