Leading up to Vichy 70.3 I knew I was fitter than I’d ever been. In a way this added extra pressure to performing to my abilities, but it also kept me quite calm and extremely excited to see what would happen on race day. On the day before the race we drove most of the course and cycled kilometer 60-80. It was hard to contain myself, the legs were ready to fire and my mind was buzzing with excitement. We also managed to get in a quick swim early in the morning, after hearing the disappointing announcement of a non-wetsuit swim. In all fairness, the water was a lovely temperature and extremely calm, so no real reason to complain besides personal preference and wanting to race in my brand new SNUGG wetsuit.
Race morning included the typical last-minute race prep stress and before I knew it I was jumping over a fence to get into the sub 30min swim start box. Without a warm up of any sort, Kathryn, Lucy and I managed to line up next to each other in our smart looking matching kits. The rolling start allowed three athletes to start every 5 seconds. A last little group hug and off we were.
Although I had been hitting some good times in the open water this summer, come race day I didn’t execute and came out of the water with a disappointing time. Oh well, this race isn’t won on the swim!
Transition went well and off I was. Riding out of town was a bit slow and I couldn’t quite get into my rhythm. My legs seemed to be going before my lungs and I had a hard time getting my heart rate up. Why am I struggling now while it came so easily yesterday? Questions questions no answers. I came through the first aid station and heard Lee’s words, “Don’t forget to take fluid at the aid stations. You MUST stay hydrated.” So I rode through the station and grabbed a bottle from one of the volunteers, chugged down as much as possible and chucked the bottle away at the end of the aid station, inside of the ‘Eco-zone’. A volunteer or marshal immediately pointed and shouted words at me, and my heart just dropped. No. Please don’t say that this counts as littering. PLEASE don’t DQ me! From behind I could hear a motorbike approaching and for a moment I thought my race was over. They turned and looked at me as they went past and I was waiting for them to pull out the red card. They seemed to take no notice of me nor my race number, and I allowed myself to breathe again. I made sure to check every penalty box for my number and felt a massive sense of relief when my number wasn’t there.
After about 90 minutes my back started aching quite badly, something I don’t usually experience. It took me off guard a little and may have caused me to lose a bit of focus. I saw my average pace and wasn’t pleased with it. Then again, no women had come past so I couldn’t have been doing too badly. I continued on and was happy to finally stretch my back after 90km on the bike.
T2 didn’t go as planned. I got out of my shoes, jumped off the bike, racked my bike, found my bag right away, helmet off, into the tent. With a very friendly volunteer by my side I put on my socks and shoes and ran out of the tent. On my way out I chucked a couple of empty gels in the direction of the bins but missed by a meter or so. I didn’t think much of it and ran on, but then got sent back so pick them up and place them inside the bins! Okay, don’t argue and keep smiling. I finally made my way out of transition and onto the run course. Okay, this is good. My legs are good. Let’s run!
I passed Lee and gave him a thumbs up. “You’ve got three women ahead of you! You’ll pass the first one in no time.” He was right, and after two 1k splits at a 3:46 pace I passed the first of the three women I was hunting down. I saw some quick splits coming through on my watch but didn’t worry too much and let the legs turn as they wanted. Today I was either gonna prove to myself that I could put together a good run split, or blow up trying! After about 6km I passed Ashley, Paulina, and Emma who were amazing support that day. Their excitement was so contagious and I tried to thank them with a massive and genuine smile. They gave me some splits of the two girls in front of me and some of the men on the course cheered me on and said I wasn’t far behind. “You’re running faster than them. Elles ne sont pas loin!” There was the next woman, and when I made the pass there was no effort to stick with me. Okay, just one more to hunt down. Meanwhile my pressure in my bladder was building and I was worried about being too uncomfortable to keep up a good pace while needing to wee! Just keep going, maybe it’ll pass. Don’t think about it. After about 8km we had to run over a bridge to come back and start another loop. It was on this bridge that my breakthrough moment happened. I managed to wee on the go! It kind of just came out and I did my best to let it all go. Meanwhile I was highly aware that it must be very noticeable. Water dripping down my legs and splashing every where with every step I took, I got some funny looks and wondered what must be going through their minds. Embarrassment didn’t get to me, and a wide grin appeared on my face as I thought about how proud Lee would be! Coming into the start of the second loop, I spotted the leading female, checked in with my legs, lungs, and mind, and knew I could run another good lap. I made the pass and took on the lead bike. When I passed Lee I gave him another two thumbs up and yelled “I JUST PEED MY PANTS!!” He threw his hands in the air and returned my childish smile, “Leanne, that’s awesome, I’m so proud of you, WHOOOO!”
The rest of the run was really enjoyable. Running behind the lead bike meant lots of enthusiastic spectators and a VERY excited Paulina-Ashley-Emma crew. I was still feeling quite good and tried hard to hold on to my runner’s high. I had been doing well with my nutrition on the run (which was a first…), but coming through the last aid station, I gagged at the sight of gels. Just keep going, don’t be sick, nearly there. Luckily it didn’t last long and the last kilometer went quite quickly. I came into the finishers chute and got the shivers as the stands were filled with cheering spectators. And another surprise, there was a banner! YES, another banner! I ran over the finish line, grabbed it with both hands and held it above my head with a big sense of relief. Yes, I’d made it. And I think I ran okay.
A couple of interviewers started asking some questions and I kindly requested if we could please sit down while I answered their questions as I tried to regain some form of normal breathing. ☺ After a relaxing massage and some more chats with some of the men who had finished, I was eager to find out how my fellow training partners had done, and arrived to the finishing line just in time to see super star Lucy cross the line smiling from ear to ear. Goose-bump moment! When I finally found her in the finishers’ tent we gave each other a big hug and my eyes filled with tears of pride. Lucy is one of the most determined athletes I’ve come across and I have so much admiration for the grit she carries with her. Not much later Kathryn appeared and our trio was complete. Kathryn had just finished her first half ironman distance triathlon, having only done a Olympic distance race simulation two weeks before. Kathryn you should be so proud of your achievement, thanks so much for pushing me in the pool and showing us how it’s done!
The usual not-so-great feeling came up on me and I took some time underneath a tree to recover and avoid talking to people. After a few hours I finally managed to scruff down some plain pasta which did me a world of good.
Next was the awards ceremony, where I found out my official run split for the first time. Sketchers so kindly awarded the three fastest male and female athletes with a pair of free shoes of choice!! My run was recorded as a 1:19:29. I won’t quite take that as my official time as the run was a couple hundred meters short, but running at roughly 1:20-1:21 half marathon pace was really quite satisfying!
Reflecting on the race, I am still not too excited about my swim and bike splits. However, fortunately for me triathlon consists of three sports, which meant that my overall performance is probably somewhat respectable. I am really excited about having proven to myself that the speeds I’ve been training at in my running sessions hasn’t been a fluke nor an overly ambitious pace.
But most of all, I am happy that I managed to mentally pull myself together after disappointment and put on a genuine smile throughout the entire run course. Massive thanks to the supporters, my training partners, my family, our Tri-topia guests, and Coach Lee for getting me here. The win was as much yours as it is mine.
Much love and until next time,