Ironman 70.3 Gdynia
Comeback from illness & injury / My first race of 2020 / extreme gratitude to be on a start line / what’s next? Report below......
What a mad year for us all! At this stage of the year most of us are usually thinking about our final races of the season and not our first. I can’t tell you how privileged and grateful I am, that Ironman 70.3 Gdynia have managed successfully host this race.
A lot has happened since my final race of 2019 in Bahrain, following an unsuccessful attempt at regaining my pro status for 2020. The day I stepped off the plane I drove straight to Solihull hospital for an operation to have a patch of skin cancer removed from my head, the op went successfully and over Christmas I took the time off to recover. January started well, I was super motivated after a longer the normal break and firmly had my sights set on regaining my professional status all over again when the season kicked off.
A week later I fell off my bike and broke my collarbone; the injury was bad enough to require surgery, so 10 days after the accident I was back in hospital having my second operation within 8 weeks. The op didn’t go quite as my surgeon had hoped, I was advised that it had been a complicated procedure due to where the collarbone had broken and the small area where they had to drill into was extremely fragile. Not sure that asking if I could go on a training camp 2 weeks later went down very well! Post op, the surgeon advised I have an x-ray every 2 weeks to monitor the progress and no training what so ever during this period. This was definitely the hardest and most frustrating period; I think as athletes we almost rely on that feel good factor we get from our training and daily routine. With no structure I definitely took to drinking too much wine and eating too much ‘nice’ food lol. Over the next 4 weeks I took the surgeons advice and didn’t do a thing (apart from annoying my wife Sophie who was heavily pregnant with our 3rd child) and visit Little Aston Hospital for checks on my skin cancer and shoulder needless to say I was on first name terms with all the receptionists at the hospital.
After the 6th week the surgeon was happy for me to do some light training on the turbo but still no running. More importantly, I could start seeing the physio for rehab, then the following Monday Lockdown happened and none of the hospital based rehab appointments could go ahead however, I was lucky enough to be introduced to John Dennis who talked me through a rehab programme via zoom calls. So, this would be my lockdown, getting well, getting fit & getting our 3rd child! So many different emotions but I guess in a way I was heavily motivated to use this time to get back to the strongest version of me that I could for whenever racing might commence again. With more and more races being cancelled or rescheduled for 2021 I thought about completely writing off 2020 until a friend, Tom Davis mentioned a race out in Poland ‘Ironman 70.3 Gdynia’. I emailed the race organisers who got back to me straight away saying they’d been given the green light by local authorities to host the event, I got on the age-group entry and immediately told my coach Matt Bottrill, so that we could look at a process to get me in good enough shape to compete.
Myself and Tom travelled out from Luton airport on the Thursday before the race, everything seemed very straight forward as long as you followed the guidelines; keep 1.5 meters apart, wear a mask, keep cleaning your hands etc. Luckily, Poland isn’t one of the countries where you are required to quarantine. Tom had raced here last year so knew the best place to stay, the prep for the race couldn’t have been any better.
My start time was 7:40 which was the 5th wave to go off behind the pro’s and younger age groups. I had to change my race mindset, after the privilege of racing pro last year and then have to race as an age-grouper is completely different. Why? For a start you’re not starting with 25 of the fittest guys on the planet! Although you still have to swim fast you get the benefit of the top swimmers pulling you around at the fastest pace, similar on the bike although you sit 12 meters apart you’re still 12 meters away from guys putting out 300/330watts where as an age-grouper it’s pretty much a straight out time trial.
We had been instructed to remain 1.5 meters apart on the start line and wear a face mask right up until the point where we were about to start (the race organisers did a fantastic job of adhering to these new procedures). I got on the first line of the 7:40 start and off I went; swimming has obviously been limited and my shoulder is still slightly wonky!! but I did the best I could and lead my wave all the way through jellyfish infested waters (gross) making only one wrong turn as I was blinded by the early morning Polish sunshine! Out of the swim and straight on to the new Giant Trinity, sporting some very bling Cadex wheels. Alongside Matt Bottrill, I’ve worked really hard on trying to get back to the aero position I held last year and this has obviously had its challenges but I will strive to keep improving this over coming weeks and months. The thing that I noticed straight away on the bike course was how aware I needed to be passing so many other athletes off in the earlier age group waves. It was a mixture of wanting to go fast but also being cautious not to make any mistakes and ruin my day. I pretty much held the planned watts but maybe lost some speed on the faster sections of the course, but I know one thing; I had a big smile on my face just to be racing and going fast again! On to the run; the course management was excellent, the organiser had changed the course to adhere to social distancing meaning it was two loops rather than last year’s three, to keep us safely apart. That heavy leg feeling off the bike to run soon passed and I got up to my desired speed. My aim was to run at around 3:40per km and after getting the bike out of my legs, I held this pace.
I finished the race in 4hrs 12mins 13secs which was good enough to win the overall age group field. I am absolutely thrilled to be back racing, it was such a buzz to get out and smash out a race. To say I’ve got back to this level in only 4 months leaves me with a lot of confidence that I can kick on again to where I was last year and keep the dream alive :)
So, what’s next? Outlaw X on September 27th - Looks like an amazing line up! I can’t wait to get on the start line again later this month.
Massive thanks to Ironman Gdynia for hosting such a well organised race in these difficult times.
I can’t finish this report without thanking all those who’ve supported me through this time, my wife Sophie who’s an absolute rock, my friends for all the support and my coach Matt Bottrill for believing in me.
Get in touch at www.mattbottrillperformancecoaching.com