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Race Report Ironman South Africa 2010

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I woke up a little later than usual on race morning, preferring to sleep in and have less time before the start to get nervous and interact with too many people. It was to be a day of conserving as much energy as possible until the time came to unleash the beast that has been bottled up inside for so long. Training had been near-perfect, I felt ready for anything and I was especially confident in my running form. So after a light breakfast and warm-up swim, close to 1600 of us lined up on the beach waiting for the long day to begin.

The swim was choppy, and even though I had a pretty good start and swam on Brad Storm's feet to the first turn, I was uncomfortable and swallowing a lot of water. After about 4-500m I decided to back out of the lead group as it would require too much effort to try and stay with them. I saw Lucie Zelenkova being dropped a little earlier so slowed down until she and Lawrence van Lingen came past and got into their bunch. Out of the corner of my eye I could see another swim-cap close by, and had a feeling it was James Cunnama, a serious contender for the title as he had so publicly stated. After the first lap James and I ran through the already enormous crowds side by side, and I decided there and then that today I was going to be James's shadow. I let him go infront of me and switched my mind off and just followed.

We started the bike leg about 3mins down on the leading 5 men. The 2 Storm brothers, 2008 winner, Bayliss, Swiss star, Hecht, and 70.3World Championship silver medalist (who I considered the biggest threat)Italian, Fontana. We were a group of 5 as well, myself, James, German, Raphael, SA's Horner, and Frenchman, Billeau. Immidiately James went to the front and put the hammer down. He put a small gap into us , but I preferred to hold back for the first 13km uphill drag, conserving energy and only pushing on the dowhills to catch back up. After 60km the leaders had put another 90sec into us, James was still doing most of the work, but by now the pace had slowed. Up the hill for the second lap I still preffered to be the shadow. Some of the other guys were helping with the pacing, but the gap kept growing. At 80km, 5.5mins, and now I was strarting to get anxious. But still I stayed at the back conserving energy. At 100km we were just on 7mins behind and I couldn't hold back any longer. I felt the guys were getting too weak and decided to put in a burst of speed to break things up. James stayed at about 30-40secs for the next 20km, the rest of the bunch imploded. Bayliss imploded from the first group and I passed him at 125km. At 140km, James was 3.5min back, and the leaders 5min ahead. At 160km the gap to the front was about 4min, but after 60km of hard riding it was time to back off again to recover for the run. Even so, my legs were still a little tender coming home but the body and mind were ready to hammer. I also managed to pick up Anton Storm in the last 5km which meant I was up into 4th position off the bike.

After a leisurely transition, I set off on my marathon. Hecht was leading @5,5min. Anton Storm @3,5min and Fontana @2min. James was 4,5min back, so by no means out of the picture. I tried to start slow for the first 2km, trying to let the legs loosen up a little, but 3:49 and 3:56k's didn't help that cause. Then I decided it was time to just go for it. My legs felt good, I was well fueled and figured I had nothing to lose. I had two good runners in front of me and one behind. If I didn't gamble on running faster than I have in a long time, I was probably going to end up 4th. Next km went by in 3:42, then 3:48, and I just kept ticking them off. I passed Storm at 8km, and could already see Fontana about 45seconds ahead. My pace started to drop off to a slightly more conservative 3:55/km, but I was still closing. Everytime I went through the crowds near the finish line, the deafening noise would spike the adrenaline and I'd pick the pace up again. Natalie was trying to tell me to slow down, that I was going too fast, too early. But I couldn't. I just kept hammering, thinking that I'd worry about “blowing” when I get there.

I came up behind Fontana just before 18km and thought, “should I stay or should I go?” He was technically the fastest runner in the field and we were only 30seconds or so behind Hecht. I still felt good, so I went. He tried to stick with me for a few hundred meters, and then he was gone. The leader was right there too, and just before 20km, as we started the hill up to the university I went into the lead. For the next 5km I kept running hard trying to build a quick lead. Then I tried to calm down and “run smart” as Lothar Leder once told me. There was a long way to go and I would need the energy if anyone tried to make a move in the final kays. Slowly my GPS monitor told me my km times were dropping. 4:02's became 4:06's and eventually 4:11's. The lack of milage on the run was starting to catch up to me, but with only 10km to go, I was hoping that the gap was big enough. A very slow 4:40km up the varsity hill got me worried. Then another slow 4:32 for the following kay. I was trying to get time gaps to the guys behind, but everyone kept saying that they couldn't see anyone yet.

In the 3 years that I finished 2nd at IMSA, I was caught on the lonely university loop. I always said that if I had just made it to the crowds down Marine Drive for the last 2,5km that the adrenaline would have kicked in and I might have been able to hold them off. In 2010 I made it to the crowds, and I went from running 4:15k's to hauling 3:50's again. The people of PE carried me to to the finish line and it felt like I was finishing an easy training session. No pain and no stiffness. Just pleasure and relief. Relieved that after 5 years I eventually proved to everyone what I still have inside me. Perhaps not finishing last year was a blessing. It forced me to see a doctor and ultimately was diagnosed with asthma which is now being treated. Perhaps that was the problem the whole time. Perhaps if I go back to Hawaii I can achieve greater success than my 7th place of 2005. That was the same year I last won IMSA. Has the tide evenually turned??

Annah Watkinson - Race Report IM Brazil 2017

After a great first year racing in the professional category in 2016, I was amped for the 2017 season. Feeling stronger and fitter and more in the "right head space" - I had done some great training over December spending many many many (and many more) hours on the bike - I loved it. My swim was starting to click, I was starting to understand the phrase "feel the water", and my running was strong

READ ONAnnah Watkinson - Race Report IM Brazil 2017
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