Pocket Rocket / October 20, 2019

IRONMAN World Championships!

Firstly I would like to say I have never been so nervous for a race in my life. Training has been very testing this year and while I was very excited (understandably) I was also very nervous and I spent a lot of time doubting I would even finish the race.

The week before the race was amazing.

Monday

We went on the most incredible boat trip to see the dolphins, eat, take pictures and jump into the beautiful Hawaiian waters.

I then had a swim in the sea in Kona while Lauren and dad got the beers in. This was also the first trip to the Ironman Store, an expensive trip some might say..

Tuesday 

For me, the most exciting day as I finally got to register and visit the expo. I also had my first and only run before the race, it was hot!! I met Emily at the Mariott and we registered and visited the expo. I also had my first coffee in Lava Java with her family before getting a lift back in their convertible 😂

That evening was the parade of nations, and I have to say it was so special to having people cheer you down the closed roads in Kona.

Wednesday 

We were incredibly lucky to be able to go up the Hualapai Volcano. It;s actually not a hiking trail, so you have to be guided up. It was an absolutely amazing experience taking the off road 4×4 up most of the way and walking the last bit. Even more special because hardly anyone gets to do these trips so it was a very unique and special experience.

In the afternoon, I took my bike out for a little spin in the heat which was lovely, however it left me very tired for the trip to see the manta rays that night. I can honestly say I fell into bed that night!

Thursday 

Dad, Lauren and I took another trip into Kona while Mum and Mark headed off to find a waterfall! After a long morning of shopping, including more Ironman store, we had an early lunch at Lava Java. It certainly didn’t disappoint.

Friday

The day before the big day. I spent the morning writing lists before heading down to the local bay for a dip in the sea. Packing the bags was seamless, and before long I was cycling down to Kona to rack the bike.

THE BIG DAY
I woke up before my 3:45 alarm and can’t really pinpoint exactly what emotion I was feeling. All I knew was I felt sick. We arrived at the shuttle stop before 5am and it didn’t arrive for another 15 minutes which always helps to add to the stress on race morning.

I randomly ran into Emily in the entrance to the Mariott so we went to body marking and bike check together. It was really nice to have someone to distract you.

After a very long queue for the toilet it was time to line up for the start. The swim start was actually about 100m out in the sea which meant it was a static swim start. I can’t decide if I liked it or not. All I know is I got an almighty punch in the face before we even got going.

Swim
The swim was hard. The water was choppy and I was surrounded by people especially at the start. For the first 3/4 of the swim I felt really strong and knew I was on for a good time. However, in the last bit I started to struggle and it all went to pot. This then seemed to be a bit of a theme of the day.

Transition 1
T1 was great. After running through the showers and being handed my bag by a volunteer, another volunteer then took my bag and emptied it practically dressing me and getting me ready for the bike. Bit of sunblock and I was on my way to the bike.

Bike
I started strong, I wasn’t actually feeling on top of my game and this became even more apparent as many girls just came flying past me. I was looking at them and seemed to be lacking some of my normal fight. Nonetheless I kept pushing on after all what else can you do.

After a while the fast pros came flying past and I have to say actually seeing them ride that close to you was an amazing experience. I did sadly miss Lucy Charles as I was looking the other way.

I honestly thought the bike course was a bit boring. I was expecting more excitement and support, but instead I was greeted by miles and miles of empty road right up to Hawi which was the turnaround point.

Even more frustrating the sidewinds on the way back were so strong that I didn’t feel comfortable riding in the tribars as I just hadn’t had enough practice in strong winds. There is me on a really aero bike and making it the complete opposite.

When I reached the 140k mark I was really struggling. My bum really hurt and I just wanted to get off the bike. I could actually have cried.

Transition 2
Much alike T1 I was handed my bag and a volunteer helped me stuff all the gels in my pockets while lathering me up with sun cream, maybe a bit too much.

Run
Since I’d had a less than ideal bike, I was dreading the run. My sports bra had started rubbing on the swim and the chafing was unreal. Running out of transition I saw my parents cheering me on which always helps to put a smile on your face. Running down Ali Drive was brilliant. So much support including a family we had met on the boat earlier in the week. There were also so many hosepipes and people that were more than happy to squirt you.

My favourite comment: I think you missed a bit. I mean I didn’t want to burn did I?..

I had made a deal with myself in the run. I could walk, however if I did, I could walk for a maximum of one minute before I must start running again. In addition to this there was to be no stopping in the first 6 miles as they were flat down Ali drive.

Turning the corner to start the rest of the run I saw my Dad and sis again. Lauren screaming at me always encouraging. By this point I had taken my trisuit half down to limit any further chafing.

I walked up the first hill in Kona as it was so steep, I decided it was more sensible to preserve my energy. After this point I, mostly, stuck to my only walking for a minute rule. Interestingly though once I hit half way I didn’t have any desire to walk and actually ran the final 13 miles.

This being said those 13 miles went on forever and my pace was dissapointly slow. One positive though by the time I made it down to the energy lab it had completely cooled down and running in the dark meant I couldn’t see any of the hills.

The relief at seeing the sign for 25 miles was indescribable. Being back in Kona it meant there were people cheering you on and I knew it was almost over. Seeing the red carpet was the most amazing feeling and as always, I managed a sprint over the finish line.

While I wasn’t completely happy with my result, I am incredibly happy to have had the chance to race at the Ironman world championships and its certainly one to have ticked off the bucket list.

A massive thanks to everybody for your support and lovely comments, they really mean so much!

Pocket Rocket Rach x

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Pocket Rocket / July 20, 2019

I Got the Wobbles

The days after Lanzarote were very different to Wales. While my body was tired, I had enough energy to have woken up the next day and done another. This has really shown me the benefits of proper fuelling, not just for performance on race day, but also to prevent feeling like a deflated elephant for days after. The day after was obviously a rest day, collecting medals, spending lots of money on race entries and basking in the glory of finishing the race. The adrenaline was still pumping through my body, and the belief of what I had achieved had not quite sunk in.

Being in a beautiful country for 4 days after the race, coupled with my major FOMO (fear of missing out) wasn’t really the best recipe for recovery success. 2 days post-race enter the half marathon walk through a beautiful part of the island. 3 days post-race enter ‘easy’ bike ride though the volcanoes, after all my bike was there and I didn’t want to miss out. All of these things mixed with alcohol (which my body really doesn’t deal well with) and sun provided a very enjoyable end to the holiday.

Our flight was very early in the morning, and before I knew it I was back in the UK. I had an easy end of week planned, but lots of stuff going on, including going back to work, which as we all know provides the biggest snap back to reality in the world. I have to be honest the first week back was really good, I was on a free week and enjoying being able to do as much or little as I wanted. But the week after, I sort of fell apart. My motivation was through the floor and this was the first time I bailed on a session in as long as I can remember. The worst part this wasn’t to be the last one I would do this on.

After about a week, I pulled my head back out of the gutter to fingers crossed get back on the training properly. I found it incredibly frustrating as it appears there are so many people out there that just seem to need no recovery at all, but my mind and body sometimes just refuse to play game. I was advised to just take it easy as the last thing I wanted was to burn out.

At this point I was 2 weeks post-race and just found my enjoyment start to drain, only worsening the whole situation. This is where all the doubt about whether I could even ride 30 miles began to set in, not ideal really.

Week 3 was slightly better, I still managed to bomb out of another bike session, but I was trying to be a bit kinder to myself, something to this day I am not very good at. Week 4 was a run session lost, and at this point I was really starting to doubt myself. Had I completely lost my marbles? Had I left them in Lanzarote?

I got some good news around week 4 which really helped pick my mojo up off the floor (which hopefully I will be able to reveal soon). I have begun to have some really successful training weeks again, and have just completed a week of testing, where I have made improvements in all areas, weirdly especially the swimming!

As of the 21st July, I am no longer a David Lloyd employee and am excited to have a fresh start back in a more intellectually challenging role, something I have missed this year. But mostly I am looking forward to having some structure back in my life, and sorting my sleep back into a mostly normal pattern as I am convinced this is having a negative impact on my training and mindset.

All eyes on to Kona now, but I am also going to race the Vitruvian triathlon as a warm up race, which will be my first 70.3, so I am quite excited for this!

As always thanks for reading!

Pocket Rocket Rach

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Pocket Rocket / May 30, 2019

IRONMAN Lanzarote

So where to start. Ironman Lanzarote 2019.

We flew out the Wednesday before race day, which quite uniquely for this event was on a Saturday. Never uneventful, we ended up going to the wrong airport parking, luckily we left early enough that it wasn’t too much of a problem. Then at the correct parking the guy tried to tell me I couldn’t take my bike on the bus, which didn’t provide much amusement as I was already worried we were going to miss the flight. However, once we got to the airport it was a smooth flight out with a large thud as the plane landed in Lanzarote.

If I’m honest the fact that the registration was at Club la Santa was quite a big inconvenience. While there were shuttle buses put on they weren’t frequent enough and I am very glad I came early enough so as not to have the stress on the day before race day.

On collection of the race rucksack pack, we actually got a free (🤔) water bottle, buff (probably not to be used on race day) and some red bull. Being around so many other competitors really added to the experience, the days before race day seeming to fly by even. My family also flew out on the Thursday.

The day before race day you typically want to try and keep off of your feet but I didn’t do too well at that this time. Racking up a solid 25k steps before finally going to bed. We met my family and strolled through the expo and popped for a smoothie. The one thing that did surprise me about IRONMAN Lanzarote, there was no official IRONMAN merchandise store, which was quite disappointing from a competitor point of view.

After going home to pack the bags it was time to rack the bikes. I had been having slight gear issues but didn’t want to fork out 40 euros for a full service. Luckily Shimano had a tent and last minute the gears were properly sorted out which provided a lot of stress relief. Big thanks to the guys at Shimano for that!

At this point I was also starting to worry I hadn’t done enough as there was a crazy number of people people cycling running and swimming all over the place. Whereas I on the other hand, had been for a very short swim in the sea after a few very light days.

After a quick jump in the hotel pool that the rest of my family were staying at (enter very rare bikini entrance) it was time for dinner and an early night.

After my race morning shower, porridge and coffee it was time to walk to the start. I know I was nervously jabbering the whole way stuck half way between being excited and absolutely terrified. Much unlike Wales the start was a bit of a free for all only really taking any structure about 5 minutes before the race start. The positive in this being there is less time stood on your own so less time to get worked up into a bundle of nerves. I also met the other girl in my age group at the swim start, and she did my wetsuit up for me.

I don’t have much to say about the swim. I knew the other girl in my age group (Renee) was a better swimmer than me and my only plan was to get round in one piece. The sea was very choppy, and I swallowed a lot of the salty water. The swim seemed to go on forever and I was out of the water in around 70 minutes which was about 7 minutes slower than my counter part. Entering into transition her bike was already gone so I just had to hope I would catch up on the bike.

I was lucky on my entrance into transition as I changed right by the bucket of water for washing your feet, no sandy shoe rubbing for me. Big thanks to the volunteers in transition that lathered you with suncream which went a lot way to limiting the sun burn at the end of the day.

Now 112 miles with your own thoughts is a very long time and Lanzarote, well known for the mental winds, heat and hills did not disappoint. We were however very lucky to have a slightly overcast morning. The views were spectacular and I thoroughly enjoyed being on the TT bike, and somewhat glad that I had swapped to the roval wheels from my road bike for some slightly shallower rims. There were a few minutes where I was nervous about coming off so didn’t stay in position but as the race went on I became more confident in the bars.

It was slightly frustrating at the feeds as the water was supplied in Buxton bottles, which became much of a challenge when trying to put them in the bottle cage. A few times I opted for the bright blue liquid that seemed to taste of watermelon, just hoping that my belly wouldn’t have any adverse reactions.

I finally caught Renee on the climb up to Haria which was a great moment. I knew if I could keep my lead on the bike it would be well within my ability to win the race. Later that evening after looking over the splits it was evident that Renee put her foot down after I overtook and she actually only finished about 3 minutes behind me. I was over the moon with a 6:53 bike split, a lot of work to be done but also a lot of progress made.

As I rolled back into Puerto del Carmen my mind switched to the impending marathon. We were now moving into the heat of the day and god did I know it. Annoyingly I had been unable to actually wee on the bike today, but was way too competitive to stop mid ride, so going into T2 I was very desperate..

More suncream was lathered on my face and neck by volunteers and I readied myself for the next 4 hours. I had 2 goals for this marathon: to run the whole thing and to complete it in under 4 hours. The course was a pleasant one, 6 miles out, 6 miles back, 3 miles out, 3 miles back and then 3 miles out and 3 back to the finish line. Easy to break up in the head.

The run was pretty much gel, water from feed over head and sponges down the trisuit. This only changed as the race went on to any fluid that I could get from anywhere over the head and in the mouth. I saw Renee on every single stretch but my family informed me she was losing time in every lap.

If I’m honest this was one of the main things that kept me running. The Kona spot was well in my grasp and my motto for the race became; girls who walk don’t get Kona slots.

My pace did slow as the marathon went on, and considering the lack of run training I have been able to do this year due to injury I was hardly surprised. I was cheered on by so many people during the race which really helped my keep pushing on.

Top tip: if you want more support during a race become a girl, then every guy will shout at you in disbelief you are so far ahead.

Reaching the final turn was the best feeling in the world. Just over 3 miles to go and I could run down the red carpet and claim my spot. I did my best for a sprint finish to the line arms in the air.

When you stop after finishing an event this long its such a bizarre feeling, its like the world suddenly stands very still, as what you have achieved slowly starts to sink in.

My family bought me a post race mojito, but I only managed to drink a few sips as my stomach couldn’t cope. Quite a rare occurrence for me, not being able to finish a cocktail..

After a restless nights sleep we met my family for breakfast and headed to La Santa for the Kona roll down.

I can honestly say this has been one of the most amazing experiences and I cannot wait to race at Kona later this year. Big thanks to my mum, step dad, sister and Toby for coming along to watch the race, all the guys from Off That Couch Fitness for their support and cheers during the race, my coach Steve Clark, Ceri (my landlady) for her constant encouragement when training wasn’t quite going to plan (and the prosecco on my return), my dad and step mum for everything, and all the volunteers at the event which made it possible!

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