10:54:12 The last days preparation were going surprisingly well compared to my usual hiccupsJ, apart from my Garmin 310xt which broke one week prior the race. The no “watch option” was quickly dismissed thanks to the offers from my dear team mates Gill and Helen, whose watch I used in the end.
Swim: 58:14 Standing on the front line prior to the swim start, hmm I am thinking not sure whether it is a good idea, but I remained in that spot nonetheless. Richard was right next to me, it’s always good to see familiar “Turbo” faces when nerves are reaching the peak – in my case 😉 (I still need to work on this, perhaps some meditation in the future could help). During the briefing they reassured us that running along the beach as witnessed last year would not be happening, and one extra buoy to swim around plus “armed” guards made sure it was to be this way. I tried to push really hard at the beginning to get into a good pack, however I was really beaten up at the start and up to the second buoy, but later I found a good rhythm and the first lap split on my watch was 28mins which made me feel really positive and on the second lap with less company for drafting I tried to concentrate on having the most effective stroke and minimal kicking to save the legs for later.
Bike: 6:19:13 It took me some time to warm up on the bike as it usually does. I started feeling good after around 1,5 hour on the bike. My nutritional tactics were different from the last couple of IM races: listening to my coach Tom Bennet’s advice paid off. I used solids only the first 2 -2,5 hours and after that I stuck to shots and Power Bar gels. This saved me from diarrhea and cramps later, and I was able to digest it all well. I could not thank my coach more. After around 120km I started fading, HR was low, I couldn’t produce any power in my legs and got lower back pain, that was around the same time Milan passed me. I tried to stay in a legal distance behind him, but the moment the road turned uphill, the gap was getting bigger. I felt like whole world passed me at this point, but not one girl, which made me think, are they all in the front so I never saw them, or where are they hiding? At this point I knew this was the lack of cycling training I had due to my job as flight attendant. I usually work 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off, which means often I ended up 2 weeks without cycling at all. The hotels where I am staying on duty are sometimes great, but unfortunately, a proper gym equipped with stationary bike is often missing. The last 2 hrs on the bike it started raining, the few crashes I saw made me even more conservative on the down hills. On the last descent to Tenby I tried to start Helen’s watch and of course I messed it up as I pressed by mistake “use as indoors” and as a consequence, after a quick transition I ended up running without seeing my pace which was a little disaster for me as I am real gadget queen in this world of Garmin.:-)
Run: 3:26:59 The run course consisted of 4 hilly laps out and back into the pretty town of Tenby, and the lap times were my only indicator of how I was doing time wise. I could see very few women ahead of me, all of them were Pros and one girl who had her number twisted turned out to be the one age group girl in front. I thought, maybe I wasn’t riding all that bad in the end. I kept reminding myself of an effective running body posture and not to forget to eat. I actually ate much more than usual, had a gel every 20 minutes, my body was just craving sugar. As long as I could digest it I would listen to my body. I have to say the crowds of supporters on the bike and run were just amazing, I heard quite a few people shouting “Go TURBO Go” which kept me really focused. On my first run lap I saw Brian with his family, which really surprised me as I knew he was racing too. Unfortunately Brian had snapped his chain and couldn’t continue. That made me feel very sad for him and every time I passed by Brian, I was so grateful for his amazing support and at the same time I was wishing that he could run along as well. I felt unusually comfortable on that run, I probably wasn’t pushing enough, but it is always very hard to find the right balance. On my last race (at Challenge Roth) I lost lots of liquid and pushed through periods of pain, this time I said myself, I don’t want to end up fainting at the finish line again. But now, a couple of days after the race, I wish I would have pushed out of that comfort zone in Wales on the last lap. Especially when I finished just one minute after 8th girl Bethan Fowler racing as pro girl. I knew I had no pressure, I could see on the turnaround points no one was getting closer and I wish I would have had that pressure. Running into the finish line I hear a pleasant commentator’s voice, “Alena Stevens, who is also the winner of her age group”.
I would like to say massive thanks to my family, friends, team mates and Milan for their amazing support and mainly my coach Tom, for his golden patience with all my last minute work changes and training adaptations.