Our #BTheBestUCanB athletes continue to be such an inspiration, and Naomi Wright’s race report from Ironman Italy Emilia-Romagna reads like a thriller…. Enjoy it!
Back-to-back Ironman performances!
The idea of putting together solid back-to-back Ironman performances seemed quite intimidating. But I knew if properly planned and managed, it could be done. Luckily my coach, Nick Thomas, took care of this for me! Ironman UK in July took a hefty toll on my body, both physically and mentally. I put everything in to it. I took my time to recover from that race. I knew my body would tell me when it was ready to roll again, and I waited for that to happen.
Ironman weekend warrior (alongside a busy day job)
I had a couple of setbacks during my last few weeks of training in the build to Italy; a foot niggle and a persistent tightness and cramping in my diaphragm which put a stop to my running and a busy period in work meant that life was anything but easy. With this came a lack of motivation. Training for Ironman is hard. You punish yourself in the water, then head to work. You get home, you put your cycling kit on and then punish yourself on two wheels before putting your trainers on rinsing yourself on two feet, whilst hoping that somehow you still have some energy left to cook at the end of the day! Motivation to get going might have been low but once I started training, I always loved it so despite the setbacks, I managed to put together a decent last training block.
Fast forward to race day and I was feeling good and buzzing to get going. Strong currents the day before the race made the sea unswimmable (to use the technical term) so I was really pleased to wake up to mild conditions on race day morning and news that the full swim would go ahead. The atmosphere was electric on the beach with euro pop blasting out the PA system and the voice of the Ironman Lead Announcer, Paul Kaye, building the anticipation and excitement. I zipped up early and got in to the swim pens with 2,500 other athletes.
The canon fired. Go time. The swim consisted of a single 3.8k loop in the Adriatic Sea. It was a beach start which is super exhilarating. Charging towards the water without any regard for the 10-hour race that was ahead of us, it was all about the sprint to the sea! I’d heard rumours that there were Barrel Jellyfish in the sea. I’d googled these to find that they were 95% water, have no brain, blood or heart but blimey do they pack quite a punch with their sting, as I found out at around mile one. I was obviously thrown off my game, but I quickly gathered my spilled marbles and kept going. Round the third turn buoy and on to the longest stretch of the swim. The wind had changed, and the sea began to chop. It felt like I was on some weird rollercoaster and no matter which way I turned to breathe I got a face full of water! I felt like I had been in the swim for an eternity so was pleasantly surprised when I hit the beach that I’d clocked a 1:01.
Once I had negotiated the 1.2km run from the swim exit to Transition 1, (yes 1.2km!!!), it was time to do what I love the most, ride my bike! The bike course was flat with one 2km climb which we had to tackle twice. There was a lot of anxious talk of this climb amongst the other competitors, but Ironman UK had given me a massive confidence boost and I knew I’d have nothing to worry about. As we left Cervia the course took us through the nearby salt flats, home to pink flamingos, and then out towards the town of Forlimpopoli. This part of the course included a testing headwind and I just focused on staying as low as possible, only emerging from my pads to collect water from the aid stations. After exiting Forlimpopoli, the road slowly started climbing towards Bertinoro. This was by far the stand out part of the bike course for me. There was plenty of support at the top of the climb, what an atmosphere, what a welcome. I was eating up the miles, the power was consistent, and I was feeling good. Unlike Ironman UK, I felt like I could have kept riding for longer but now it was time to run.
I knew I would find the marathon in Italy tough. From a crowd participation point, Ironman UK was fantastic. There were spectators lining the course most of the way, so many of which I knew, and they were cheering for me so loudly. It was crazy, in a very motivating way. The Italians were much more laid back and I only had my friend Oriana out there supporting me, who made an incredible effort to see me at least twice on each lap, encouraging me, giving me splits and making sure all my friends at home were kept up to date with her live Instagram stories, as well as Oxygenaddict Triathlon Podcast Helen Murray ,who was probably the loudest supporter on the course! The course itself was technical as far as run courses go, we had to negotiate numerous corners and U-turns, running through old world alley ways and along cobbled and broken road surfaces which made it a tough rhythm breaking marathon.
Dig deeper & running on fumes
As is normal with Ironman, I had a load of girls overtake me on the first lap, but I had the phrase in my head, ‘play the long game’, so I just settled in to a rhythm I knew I could comfortably hold for the entire marathon. With one 10k loop to go, Oriana told me I was in 4th with a 4-minute gap to 3rd. I knew I had no choice now but to dig deeper than I’ve ever had to before and give everything to try and get on that podium. Asking my body to do that having already been racing for over 9 hours was a big ask but I just ran as fast as my little legs would allow. I went to some dark places, but I just kept pushing and then I heard Paul Kaye’s infectious voice greeting the athletes at the finish – I knew it was soon to be my turn. I was running on fumes at this point and could barely muster a smile for the finish chute photos. I crossed the line in 10:03:09 and had clinched 3rd. Speechless.
I can’t thank Nick Thomas enough. I know I have been a nightmare this season, stressing that I’m not fit enough, not good enough, but I know he’d never tell me something just for the sake of appeasing me so when he was telling me I was in good shape, I just had to take his word and believe in the process. Thanks also to Oriana Heer. From collecting me at the airport, to my daily pre-race massage and being there from 4am to 6pm on race day, I really couldn’t have done this race without you. Thank you, Ori! Thank you also to the support of Agfa HealthCare, who encourage me to #BTheBestUCanB.
I felt a lot of pressure this season with stepping up to the Ironman distance and the sacrifices that come with it. I feel like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders having proved myself at this level. It’s been a long season, I have surpassed my expectations and I am now enjoying some down time, freshening up physically and mentally and maybe starting to think about what next season might hold…over and out for 2019.
Naomi completed the 2.4-mile swim in 1:01:54, the 112-mile bike in 5:13:35 and 26.2-mile run in 3:39:18 – 3rd in her Age Group and 15th female overall.
Our other #BTheBestUCanB sponsored athlete Lewis races the Ironman World Championships, Kona, Hawaii on 12 October 2019.