I had a great race yesterday at Challenge Henley, picking up my 10th iron distance title. I have been doing a few big weeks in preparation for Kona and trained through this race using it as preparation, so I really had no expectations for race day but I surprisingly felt fantastic and had a perfect day.
The swim took place in the Thames river, out and back. The water temperature was 16 degrees which wasn't bad at all and I had a good swim. I was just about 100 m behind a pack of men but I just couldn't bridge to them, I spent all the race by myself trying to bridge the gap but to no avail. I came out 1st women but not quite with the gap on the others that I wanted (2 min ahead of Yvette Grice past champion and 3 mins ahead of Bella Bayliss).
The bike was 3 laps of two out and back sections enabling plenty of opportunities to compare yourself against your opposition. 2100m of climbing in total but gradual not steep climbs. I went hard in the first 60k to try and get myself a good buffer. This worked and at around 45k I had a 9min lead on Bella and 12 min on Yvette. I then backed off the pace for the second two laps. And by the end had about 20min lead over Bella and about 40min over Yvette. The last 10k or so of bike was down hill meaning you had a good chance to refresh the legs for the run.
The run was 4 laps meaning great spectator support and you were never alone on the course. I felt very good. Not sore like in Walchsee but fresh. I really held back a lot as the hard work had been done and I couldn't see how the others could catch me and I wanted to be smart and have the best recovery possible for Kona. At the half way point I was 1.26 and I started thinking that it would be possible for me to finally run under 3 hr and then I was torn. Part of me wanted to really pick up the pace and go hard and finally achieve this goal and the other part was no, back off and save those legs for Kona. In the end I just decided that the sub 3 hr time would have to wait I would see the race out and not push myself any harder than was necessary. However as I came down the finish shoot and looked at my watch it said 2.58. I was ecstatic!! I finished in around 9.08 (a course record by about 40 mins), 32 mins ahead of 2nd place.
So now the journey is on to Kona. I will have no pressure there I will be under the radar and can just go about my business of trying to have my best race and meet my goal of making it into the top 10. If I can race like I have in my last 3 races then this is a distinct possibility but I will have to race like I have in comfotable, cool conditions, in the heat. For me I have a few areas that need attention and thought. First I need to have a swim focus as I really need to come out in the first group of women to have a chance (and what better place than Kona to have a swim focus with the sea and the free pool). Next I need to not be scared in the wind and stay down in my aero bars when I have been too scared to do this before (I will be practicing the back part of the course to improve on this), thirdly I need to mentally push past the pain barrier and this really is something that can only be experienced on race day itself, and lastly I need to adapt to the hot and windy weather!! I am ready to give it my absolute all and give it everything, no holding back I think it will be my last ironman for the year!
Here is a link to my post race finish video from Challenge Henley