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Nikki Bartlett: 'the fittest I've ever been'
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Friday 2nd September 2016


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British Pro Nikki Bartlett looks ahead to her first Ironman 70.3 World Championship this weekend

"I'm the fittest I've ever been" 

Sunday's IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship on the Sunshine Coast in Australia will see the the world's best athletes over the distance set off from Moloolaba beach. Cany anyone stop Daniela Ryf (SUI) from earning a third consecutive title?

Among the five British female Pro's racing will be Nikki Bartlett (www.nikkibartlett.com). Nikki first came to our attention about two years ago when, as an Age-Group athlete, she finished second overall at Ironman 70.3 UK, to Eimear Mullan.

Having made the transition to the professional ranks with some success, I wanted to get an insight into her preparations and thoughts ahead of the biggest race of her career to date. 


How long have you been out in Australia, and did the trip go well?

We arrived out here 12 days before the event. I’ve not travelled out of Europe before (late to the party!), so we wanted to get out here and adapt, but not too early that we were flying in the middle of the big training block. We spend most of the year in Scotland, so even Aussie winter is hot for me! I’m also not a great sleeper at the best of times, so we wanted to give my body the best shout at adapting to all changes.

As of Friday (2nd) I can safely say that i’ve adapted well. It’s been great training on the course too in Mooloolaba.

We also wanted to come out early, as we’re flying back at 5 a.m. on the Tuesday post race, to get back for Ironman Wales, two weeks post World 70.3 Champs.

You’ve been consistent this season with three podiums from four 70.3 events. Have you been happy with those results, and which do you regard as your best?

That’s right;

3rd IRONMAN Pays d’Aix 70.3
5th IRONMAN Barcelona 70.3
3rd IRONMAN Staffordshire 70.3
3rd IRONMAN Norway 70.3

At the start of the season Rob and I discussed my goals, which were to be;

  • Regularly challenging for a podium spot
  • Qualify for the World 70.3 Champs
  • Come top 15 at World 70.3 Champs
  • Podium in my first IRONMAN event

I must admit, setting these goals coming back from my off-season, unbelievably out of shape, I wasn’t as confident as Rob. But by January, after sometesting on the Wattbike and increasingly seeing my fitness levels rise, my confidence and belief in these goals were very high. 

Getty Images for IRONMAN

I’m extremely happy with these results. Racing four 70.3’s in 12 weeks is bloody tough. Rob set out a clear recovery strategy and training block around this period, which basically involved three recovery days (light training and day off on the Weds), post each race, straight into a very hard block of training, with a quick taper. It worked a treat. The only result I was disappointed with was Barcelona. But, I had to take ownership for putting myself on the start line, when I wasn’t 100%.

Tough call between Aix and Staffs, but improving on the Staffordshire 70.3 course by 17mins (from 2015), 22mins off the win (to the same winner - Lucy) in 2015, to 4mins off the win in 2016, is pretty special.

How has your preparation gone - I believe you’ve been coached by Rob Cheetham this year?

Yeah that’s right. I feel very privileged to be coached by Rob, and also to find a coach who believes in you, understands how your body works, and somehow he’s always right! Sure he won’t mind me admitting that ;).

Preparation for this race couldn’t have gone better. I had a mini season break after that big block of racing, then came the biggest block of training I’ve ever put together as an athlete. And I’ve put my body through big blocks of training before, but not quite like this. So, I can safely say I’m the fittest I’ve ever been, carrying no niggles, which is quite exciting leading up to race day. Pretty much all of my five races this year there’s always been a ‘challenge’, actually if you ask most athletes, that’s a pretty common thing leading up to a race. But so far, none leading into this one.

Getty Images for IRONMAN

You’ve gone to Championships before with experience and expectation as an AG athlete. How different is it knowing you’ll be standing out alongside Ryf, Hauschildt, Steffen this time around?

It’s completely different going into this race, as apposed to European AG Middle Distance Champs (my last AG race). For that, I knew if I put out my best performance, I would win my AG and possibly winning fastest AG’r overall, which I managed to do. But here, I have very high expectations on where I can come if I put everything I’m capable together. But one little error and I could easily go from 15th-35th. In some of my AG races, I’ve won by 30mins.

I know if I deliver, top 15 is very realistic. However, I have to be realistic in that Ryf etc - I’m just no where near that level yet. Those are the athletes I look up to, and aspire to compete against one day soon.

The similarity of racing AG / Pro, is to focus on your processes, not to panic and think about the others around you, as you can’t control them. 

Getty Images for IRONMAN

What are your hopes/expectations for your first WC as a Pro? Can you think about potential placing, or is it more about the process/wattage/your own performance?

Top 15 is the aim. But equally if I came top 20-25 and put out my best performance, I will take that. I have no control on what the other athletes are doing. I’ve probably only raced a couple of the girls on the start list before. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in names, their years of experience, list of results etc, when they probably skip past your name in the start list as they haven’t heard of your before. But that’s not going to change my mindset or how I approach the race. Not one bit. It motivates me if anything.

Rob always gives the best pre-race chat on the Saturday/day before the race, but I can safely say the plan will be to maximise my strengths. I have been riding with Rotor for most of the year, but the numbers were all strangely high, but we’ve now sorted that, and now I have a clear focus on the wattage I know I’m capable on the bike. It’s a true honest course. Hard sea swim, challenging bike (nice 20% climb thrown in), and a hard run along the coast, with a 400-500m hill that you have to climb four times.

I hope to do everyone who supports me proud on race day. Looking forward to a morning full of pain, sweat and smiles!

As always, a massive thank you to everyone who’s got me to the World IRONMAN 70.3 Champs:

  • Financial Fitness Group
  • Skechers Performance
  • 9bar
  • Leisure Lakes Bikes Cheltenham

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