“Challenge yourself, jump off the deep end and learn to swim” Carson Kressley
I didn’t feel physically great for the entire week before the race. It’s not an excuse, it’s reality. I’m not one to panic that I’m feeling sluggish in taper but this was different. I felt heavy and not myself after each session in the lead up and out of breath on a couple of hill climbs on my short ride the day before the race. Other than not feeling tip top physically, I had a great time with good friend Meredith arriving late in the week and sharing the adventure and excitement of our first pro race together.
It was a late 10am start and the race takes place about a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik. I picked up Meredith and I think it was about halfway out there we looked at each other slightly frightened and said “ummmm have you noticed the wind outside?”.Wowzus. We arrived and parked near the swim start and it was blowing an absolute gale! And it was freezing. I have to admit – I was terrified from the minute we got there.
The lake we were to swim in looked like an ocean. Because of the conditions, the swim course was changed to a point to point 1,500m course and the start pushed back by 15 mins. As a result, we had to walk about 1.5km to the swim start so by the time we got there it was time to get in and we only got about 5 mins to do a swim warm up.
Water temperature as posted on updates on the Challenge Iceland Facebook page was 12.8 degrees. I had swum there the day before and was so glad I did so I knew what to expect in terms of the shock to the system of the cold. It takes your breath away and your face, feet and hands sting for a few minutes but it was ok after a few hundred metres. I knew from the first stroke of the swim that my body wasn’t playing ball and I was going to be in for a long day!
Welcome to pro racing – boom! Dropped within 100m! There were 3-4 of us who fell off the main group pretty much straight away. Very different to AG racing where you have packs of others coming up behind you all the time to pull you along. Nothing exciting to report I just slugged away until the finish and I knew I hadn’t had a flash swim.
I came out of the water 6th with two girls behind me however my transition was so slow I watched them both come and go while I was still getting my layers on! I made the mistake of wearing a long sleeve wind stopper shirt and it took a lifetime to get on because I was wet. I think everyone else wore arm warmers (so smart!). then I couldn’t get my gloves on. And by then I was freezing after sitting around for 4+ mins and couldn’t get my socks on. I ended up just laughing it was such a disaster! I was about 3-4 minutes slower than anyone else. Hilarious. But not.
I’ve never been in the position where my bike is the last one on the rack in T1! I had wondered all week how I would mentally cope with all these new mini challenges transitioning from AG racing. Things like potentially being the slowest swimmer and not being the strongest biker anymore etc. I kept my cool and just kept repeating to myself just get on the bike, relax, get some nutrition in and focus on doing your thing and chasing them down one by one.
It wasn’t long into the bike (I think maybe 15km or so) when I came down a descent and around a bend and the wind almost knocked me off my bike (for the first time!). I was absolutely petrified. I was up on my bars within seconds. It got worse and worse and at one point I was on the opposite side of the road and doing everything I could to keep upright. This went on for a couple of kms. Then, I saw another female pro on the opposite side of the road down a ditch, she had been knocked from her bike in the wind. I think I spent about 75% of this race sitting up and holding on for dear life instead of down in TT position. There were sections I got down in TT but as soon as there was a slight decent I was up on my bars again freaking out because of the wind (insert eye roll). My bike handling leaves a lot to be desired at the best of times being so new to cycling, add some 40-50km hour gusty winds in and I knew I was in big trouble. I did the best I could for the remainder of the race but kept looking at my waning power and knew it was going to be a shocking ride. I was so glad to get off that bike. It was the worst wind I have ever experienced. Far worse than the winds at Kona I had ridden in in 2015 and 2016. Heather Wurtele later commented that it was the worst winds she has ever ridden in too so that made me feel marginally better.
Kudos to the all the other female pros riding such awesome times in such testing conditions. My average power was 15-20 watts less than what I had held at Cairns 70.3 just 5-6 weeks prior. And it’s a completely different ball game to AG racing again! You spend at least the first 40km or so on your own. And when the AG men start to go by its only a few here and there and only the strong male agers so they fly past and you cant really work with them at all. It was a solo effort that’s for sure, and particulary in this race which was quite small in terms of numbers
Uneventful. However a lot more successful than T1.
The run for me was just about getting to that finish line. It was 2 loops and a couple of out and back sections so I was pumped to see Meredith doing so well and being able to give her a cheer a few times. Also caught Stef from WITSUP at one point who saw the look on my face and gave me an encouraging “C’mon mate you just have to get it done now”. Familiar faces always help. I also saw Kevin Collington last years male pro winner on the side of the road in a sling and later learnt he too had been knocked off his bike in the wind! Epic. The run had everything. Hills. Wind. Block head wind up hill. Tail wind down hill just at the point of the race your legs are struggling to turn over! I watched Heather and Jeanni running past in awe. Such incredible athletes.
The race announcer proceeded to tell my transformation/weight loss story as I ran towards the finish line which was a pretty special moment and so thoughtful by them.
I walked into the recovery tent and Meredith just looked at me and I burst into tears! I was so emotional. Mostly disappointed that I had not had the race I was capable of. I didn’t have huge expectations going in but I at least wanted to race to my potential.
I spoke to my coach for an hour that night who talked me through all the positives. And I found some perspective a few days later. By my own admission I was feeling sluggish all week, I simply wasn’t on my game and my numbers reflected that.
I went through 24 hours of the whole “im not good enough/I should have raced AG/I should have waited until the end of the year”. However I would have won my AG that day by 18 minutes. And I would have been second age grouper overall, 4 mins down on the first overall ager (I was 4 minutes slower than her in transition alone!) and she was the 2016 35-39 AG, 70.3 AND Ironman world champion. An incredible athlete. So, my doubts were promptly gone. And that is the last time I’ll be comparing my times to age group times. This one off, it just helped me feel better about my decision and put things in perspective.
I picked myself up and dusted myself off and got myself out of the negative mindset. I had the best few days afterwards, sightseeing and enjoying Iceland. I packed my gear up and got ready to depart for the next adventure – Gdynia 70.3 in a fortnight!
Course & Host Location Overview
Given on the day the conditions were terrible but any other day it would have been a great swim. Easy to sight, simple course. Cold though!
Again I’m ignoring conditions on the day as I don’t think the wind is always like that! Minus the wind it was sensational. Stunning scenery. Some pretty sharp hills and climbs, approx 1,000m elevation gain (wind adjusted score 5/10)
A runners course! 2 laps, undulating with some sharp little hills and rises but some down hills too. Mostly bitumen with a section of gravel road. Approx 155m elevation gain (wind adjusted score 5/10)
Small race so short and easy transitions
This race is one for the tough nuts who love a challenge and doing something a bit crazy. They call it a mini Norseman. I’ve never done norseman so cant comment on that but it seems to have similar elements on a very miniature scale. There are not many spectators its more like a local grass roots race. But the comradery and support from those that were there was awesome. It’s a race for those who are perhaps over the big brand race “hoo ha” and are looking for an epic challenge.
It was pretty cold. Comparable to Melbourne in winter. It rained at some point most days and obviously was super windy for a few days. There were a couple of nice days though around 14 degrees and sunny. This was the weather I was expecting though so I wasn’t surprised
Host Location – Rejikvik 7/10
Easy to get around, about 45 mins from the race venue, gorgeous shopping and restaurant strip, lots of pools for swim training, awesome bike path that circles the entire city, great activites and sightseeing post race. Super expensive though! Everything costs an absolute fortune!