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Sat 19th Oct 2019
© Darach Photography
Ironman 70.3 Ireland report
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Thursday 8th September 2011

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Lucy Gossage isn't sure whether the events of last weekend were a dream but the evidence definitely supports it having been anything but! Here's her story from a slightly 'soft' day in Galway. ['Soft' is, as far as we can gather, the polite Irish term for raining cats and dogs!]

Did I imagine it? There have been a few times in my life when I have genuinely surprised myself by achieving something I would have sworn would be impossible. The first was getting my offer from Cambridge as a sixth form student. The second was completing my first ever ironman. The third was winning Ironman 70.3 Ireland on Sunday.

I’d entered Galway as a bit of a late decision. I did some cycle touring in Ireland years ago and have always had a bit of a thing for the Irish (I even have an Irish voice on my sat nav...) so decided entering this would be a bit less daunting than travelling on my own to some of the other European races on the same weekend. I knew I was in good form going into the race, but with the phenomenal Rachel Joyce on the start list (5th at Kona in 2010, 6th in 2009) winning was not something which crossed my mind. I truly believed I was racing for second and thought that would be a tough ask even on a perfect day.

Looking at the forecast the day before the race I knew the conditions were going to be tough. However, I’m a tough cookie and don’t mind the cold and rain as much as most so prepared myself mentally for a cold wet day. My main worry was getting cold in the swim, so I tried to get a solid warm-up done in order to be ready to swim hard from the off. As I was running back to the start to put my wetsuit on I heard them announce their decision to delay the start and shorten the swim. As a weak swimmer this was obviously good news for me, but I suspect disappointing for Rachel who is one of the strongest swimmers in Ironman. In actual fact this was one of the few race swims I really enjoyed; my days of body-boarding as a child meant I have no fear of waves and I thoroughly enjoyed being thrown around by them. I managed to stay close to the slowest male pro which helped reassure me I hadn’t completely gone off course and started the bike as second woman – a very pleasant surprise!

The bike was somewhat surreal. It was absolutely chucking it down and until the turnaround at halfway I didn’t see anyone other than the camera crew from Channel 4 and the brave, hardy marshals who must have been absolutely freezing. I remember looking up at one point, seeing a lake and thinking how beautiful it would be on a clear day. Other than that I remember nothing of the scenery. When no-one rode past me it crossed my mind that they may have cancelled the age group race and I had visions of the whole race coming down to a field of 15 pros! Coming towards the halfway point I saw Rachel, shouted well done and looked at my watch to get a vague idea of how far ahead she was. And then I saw the turnaround point... The only explanation for this that came to mind was that she must have punctured or had some mechanical. She was far enough ahead to be out of sight down the road, and still without company I just tried to concentrate on riding hard and use the camera crew for motivation whenever they rocked up next to me.

Image courtesy Darach Photography:

I had nothing to guage effort other than how cold I was so figured the harder I worked the warmer I’d stay so I may as well work hard. Coming into T2 I heard the commentator shout out I was second lady and "they’re quite close”, but didn’t expect to see Rachel leaving the change tent as I ran in. I think I said something along the lines of “this isn’t what should be happening” to the volunteers as I was fumbling with shoes and socks and then ran out, trying to get my head around to the situation I was in. This wasn’t a race scenario I had ever pictured and I wasn’t sure how to deal with it. I decided not to get too carried away at the start and ease into the run; with time I realised that if I kept running at my own speed I would catch Rachel so just tried to keep a rhythm going.

Having passed her towards the end of the first lap (only a true champion would give me words of support like she did as I ran past) the rest of the run was a bit of a blur. It was almost as though I zoned out and just tried to keep in a rhythm (easier said than done in the wind and rain on a pretty twisty technical run course), still not really believing I was winning the race. The supporters were amazing; Galway really seemed to embrace this race and despite the horrendous weather the streets were lined with encouraging spectators. I wish I had given them more smiles back but running consistently was taking a lot of concentration! I was most definitely in a state of disbelief when I turned the corner to the finish and still am to some extent. Someone, somehow gave me a motor on Sunday; I wonder if I’ll ever be able to find the same motor again?!

Regardless of my performance, I was extremely impressed with the race as a whole. Despite a distinct lack of information on the website, the race itself was organised extremely well, the volunteers were incredible particularly given the conditions, and the support on the run was excellent. It felt like a race which had been running for years rather than an inaugural event and is definitely one I would do again. I am truly honoured to have had the opportunity to race against Rachel and wish her good luck in Kona. Next up for me is Challenge Barcelona in 3½ weeks so I’d better recover as quickly as possible!

Images courtesy of Darach Photography.

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