So last weekend saw the start of my racing season for 2015 and also my first ever half distance race out here at Challenge Fuerteventura. It was a last minute decision to do this race for a number of reason and I’m so pleased that I stepped up and took it on.
After the end of season last year, it took me a while to get back into training but in the lead up to Christmas my fitness was slowly coming back, I was finally enjoying running and looking forward to what 2015 would bring. Unfortunately, in early January I managed to pick up an injury stemming from my lower back which meant that whilst being away training in Aguilas, Spain, I couldn’t run and struggled to find anyone to put me back together. On a plus my swimming and biking was going amazingly and I clocked up a lot of miles in the saddle!
Thankfully when I got home! Mark Booth from Body Limits, Newport Pagnell, managed to realign me and got me back running. He really is a miracle worker and I would not have been racing now if it wasn’t for him!
In many ways, deciding to do the race and sorting everything out the week before had its benefits. I had no time to over think things which made it all stress free….well mainly!
Challenge Fuerteventura has always attracted a strong field and this year was no exception with the likes of Daniela Ryf, Anja Beranek, Eimear Mullan, Corinne Abraham and many more on the start line. I knew the only way to compete with these girls was to go out hard right from the start. There was no time to get into the race, I knew it had to be full gas from the beginning. The men had a two minute start on the women which had positives and negatives as it meant that I knew I would be leading the girls around if all went to plan.
As soon as the starting horn sounded, I sprinted out to the first buoy and quickly knew that I had clear water ahead. I could see the men in the distance so I just kept thinking that I needed to swim to them. The course was two laps where we had an “Australian exit” which meant that we had to run out onto the beach in between laps. At this point I could have a quick look at where the other girls were and I saw I had a lead on Daniela and was closing in on many of the men. By half way round the second lap I was passing quite a few of the men so I put my head down and pushed on.
Goal number one was achieved. I lead out of the swim and put good time into the other girls. Running into transition I saw that the elastic bands holding my shoes on had snapped as well as the elastic band securing my front bottle to stop it falling out on the rough road sections! I wasn’t too smooth getting on my bike with my shoes dragging along the ground and I am sure it did not look pretty but never mind I made it onto my bike and it was time to set off on the 90km hilly circuit.
After my slow transition Daniela rode up to me on the road out of Playitas and at this point I knew no matter what I had to try to stay with her. There was no way I was going to let her get away from me! Not long into the bike course the inevitable happened and my front bottle hit the floor. I tried to hold onto it but it was on a technical section so I had no choice but to leave it and ride on. Daniela and I rode past each other a few times in the first 10km or so but after a while she did not come through so I had a sneaky look back and I could not see her. I was shocked as I thought she would be right behind me. I knew I was feeling strong but the thought “have you gone out too hard” did cross my mind!
At around 30km, Anja came storming past which took me by surprise. She rode away initially but I stuck to my plan and slowly reeled her back in. We went through half way together, 90 seconds ahead of the rest of the field but unfortunately minutes later as we started to descend my chain came off whilst switching to the big ring and jammed against the frame. There was no hope of saving this one so I had to stop and sort it quickly! Anja, by this point was flying down the hill and I knew it would be hard to catch her again. I could see her pretty much all the way but I got no nearer to her. By half way I was also running short on fluids, my bottle with High5 energy and gels had almost gone so I was just onto water which I managed to pick up on the course. Lesson learnt. Don’t drop vital nutrition!
In the last 20km Daniela suddenly went storming past like a train but this time I could not go with her. She made it look easy and I can see why she is such a class athlete. I saw she caught Anja but then did not put too much of a gap into us. In the end I came off the bike 3rd and had a massive lead on 4th, 5th and so on.
I was looking forward to the half marathon in a strange way as I knew it would be an achievement in itself. I always knew I could run the distance but not having run that far since the middle of last year and only having been back running for 5 weeks I knew it was not going to be easy. The run course here is a toughie as it’s ridiculously hilly so I just found my rhythm and tried to stick to it. I ran in 3rd for 80% of the course but then the girls got me! At the end of the day I finished 7th but I know there is so much more to come.
I learnt so much during the race from needing to wear bigger racing flats (with socks on they have wrecked my toes) to needing to carry salt sticks as I suffered with a lot of cramp on the run which slowed me down. All in all it was a great first half distance event and I hit most of my objectives. Congratulations to all the other competitors, it was a tough but fun day I’ll be back!
I would like to say a massive thank you to my coach Mark Pearce, Intelligent Triathlon Training, who has taught me tons and pushes me daily. Thank you also to Mark Booth for putting me back together and to my sponsors who without you this wouldn’t be possible, Jackpot Racing, BlueSeventy, Spin Industries, High5, Impact Cycle Trading, ISM, Pedal Cover Insurance and Lane1 Sports Management. THANK YOU!