I made my return to professional racing at the weekend, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. Levels of pre-race anxiety were some of the worst I've ever felt in the week before hand but on race morning I just realised that I was happy to be back on the start line and anything else was a bonus. I had no idea how I was going to fair against the pros after the last 12 months. The preparation hasn’t been ideal.
The race was IronMan 70.3 Barcelona – half the distance of an ironman for those not in the know. Due to nuances of IronMan triathlon rules I didn't have the option of racing in the age groups so it was in the professionals for my first race back and a baptism of fire.
I didn’t look at the start list as it wasn't going to make any difference to my race but couldn't fail to notice Former IronMan world champ Frederik Van Lierde's distinctive bike in transition along with Olympic gold medallist Jan Frodeno's. As number 57 myself I knew there were at least 57 male pros on the start line.
The result was better than I could have hoped for with a 25th in the male pro field. I had a great race and have plenty of obvious things to work on – open water swimming, transition practice which I hadn’t done since pre-accident (April 2014), actually running more than 13km in training (knee injury has limited my running quite a lot so far this year) and getting my descending head back on the bike (it quite literally got knocked out of place in my accident) would all have improved my result.
I was really pleased to not get totally dropped in the swim and still be amongst some of my red swim capped fellow pros coming out of the water. I was up there on the bike despite being very conservative in both effort and descending and dragged myself up inside the top 20 into T2. To have my run split be my fastest relative to the other athletes was astonishing. I’m usually fastest on the bike but the hilly terrain meant I lost time on descents. I spent quite a bit of time riding and running with a massive smile on my face – really happy to be back racing. Let’s hope spectators thought it was an effort induced grimace.
It was back to England post Barcelona, and the awesome hail and 7 degree weather we’ve been having typical of a Cumbria Spring. A couple of days after Barcelona I took part in the Howgill Harriers Cautley Horseshoe fell race, 4.7 miles which I can only describe as ‘hilly’.... I crested the first climb in 2nd place and finished in 5th behind the indomitable Rob Jebb who was about 10 minutes ahead of anyone else (I exaggerate, but not much). Best result in a fell race yet, and what’s more my £6 entry fee included a free beer and bacon butty. IronMan really need to take note of the value for money offered by fell races.
The next race on the agenda is the British National Middle Distance Championships in Wales on the 7th June, followed by IronMan 70.3 Stafford on the 14th before I'll have a 6 week training block up to my first target race of the year: l'Alp d'Huez Long course triathlon.
Bring it on!
Thanks for reading.
Hi, I'm Ali. I like riding bikes and coaching people to achieve their athletic goals. I've been coaching for more than 10 years now and have never failed to make an athlete faster (I can't quite believe this myself either). I used to race bikes, triathlon and in 2014 I broke 9 vertebrae and my skull. Follow my journey here and on Twitter.