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September, 2013

Retirement Fun!

photo:
running through small tunnels!  Something else I did not practise before hand!  ThankYou Julie from www.lanzaroteinformation.com for the photo.

 

 

One week after Challenge Henley we arrived to our very welcoming home at Sands Beach Resort on Lanzarote.

Immediately we saw one of the many races being organised.  It was a trail run race.  I did’nt think anything of it to begin with, after all I had just raced Challenge Henley and I had just retired!  However Sands Beach offered me an entry to this race, …so it got me thinking!
I was told it involved an 18km run in the morning and a 25km in the afternoon.  Then the next day another 24km.  Wow, what a challenge!  It sounded fun!  So I signed up.
At 9am the gun went off at Teguise castle and off we went down the road, for 300m before turning left.  Left up a really rough and rocky path, then the path turned into loose gravel going down the side of the steep mountain that the castle is built on.  I was running well for the first 300m!  Everything felt good, but as soon as we hit the gravel, I was in unknown territory!  I knew it was going to be offroad, but I did’nt realise it could be so rough!  The trail runners who obviously practise this type of running flew past me.  Girls, guys, everyone, but as soon as it got smooth or going uphill I would catch a few back up.
I ran with the womans favourite for many parts of the first 18km, but she was so good on the rough parts and the down hill parts.  Xari Adrian, Spanish Mountain Running Champion.  She left me in her dust over the rocky sections and took 2 minutes out of me by the finish line.
We arrived at Famara Beach after having gone a way I have never even imagined going!  It gave me great views of Lanzarote that I have never scene before.  Met at the finish line by Stephen and Charlie and I was looking forward to getting my bag, changing my clothes and picking up more gels before the next race.  But no bags.  Instead after a quick drink it was time to get on a little boat to La Graciosa.  We all piled in, Charlie thought it was great fun watching Mummy climb onto the boat!   Luckily Stephen had a Mars bar in his pocket that he threw to me as we were whisked away.
After about 30 minutes we were getting close to a paradise beach, the athletes started jumping out and swimming ashore when the boat was having difficulties getting close to shore.  I got ready to jump in, I looked a better swimmer than all of them!  🙂  but then I remembered my half eaten mars bar, and my phone they told me to carry!  No way am I getting them wet!   So I waited for another boat to take me ashore while many of them including Xari the Spanish Champion ran off on the next race.
I dont think it really mattered they started ahead of me, as there was a timing chip to start each of our times again, but they were eager to go!
For the next 10km I was doing ok, it was hard work in the deeper sand sections but it was when I hit the loose lava that I really struggled.  I just could not run over these rough sections.  I was laughing to myself, thinking I would never choose to run over this!  So I walked that next 5km.  At the 13km drink station I stood a while contemplating another 12km…
but I went on, jogging, shuffling, walking.  I saw beautiful parts.  Perfect empty paradise beaches with hot sun.  Anyway, I got to the finish line.  I am sure I had lost 20+ minutes to Xari in the end.  Anyway, I did’nt care, well done Xari and everyone else that got around.  I went straight into the sea to cool off and try to sooth my locked legs before getting the big boat back to Lanzarote to meet back up with Stephen and Charlie.
 
The next day was the final stage of the race, 24km starting at Sands Beach Resort.  I had decided not to start.  I could hardly walk not alone run!  Charlie and I went to hand my chip in before the start, everyone was walking around looking fine.  Obviously they practise this kind of race!  I recommend anyone who practises off road to come and do this race, it was a great fun challenge.  But if you only run on tarmac, like me, probably best you dont run this race!

My last long distance race, Challenge Henley 2013

photo:
at the finish line, enjoying a special moment, Stephens 2nd place in the mens and my win with Stephens Dad John, Stephen and Charlie, Stephens brother Mark, his wife Lucinda, Stephens Mum Sandra and me.

On Sunday I raced Challenge Henley.  My last long distance race of my triathlon career.  The time had come where I had decided that a change in my life was needed.  The years of doing Ironman had taken its toll on my body, now a mother of a 2 year old little boy my priorities are different, I have had my time of being a selfish athlete, I think it is time to stand back, look after my little boy and support Stephen in his final few years of being a full time triathlete.  It is time for me to begin my new plan in my life, of helping others, giving others the opportunities that my coaches have given me over the years.

I had not been enjoying the days before many of my races in the past year, I had been getting so nervous that the fun part of racing was disappearing but after announcing my retirement I felt different in the days leading into the Challenge Henley race.  I was less nervous, maybe I had a sense of relief that Henley was my last long distance race and maybe I was actually enjoying the whole preparation rather than being so nervous.  We had decided whatever the result, I would just try to enjoy the whole day, smile as I went around and be happy if I came 1st or last.
I came out the swim with Julia Grant a few minutes down on Yvette.
At 15km on the bike I passed Yvette and at half way on the  bike I had a pretty good gap on the others, this was where I think I began to think about the possibility of another Iron distance win.  Another Iron distance win!!  That was something I have been trying to do since having Charlie!  I tried to be sensible and remember it was a long day ahead, still 90km on the bike and a 3 hour + run to do, so I tried not to get carried away in my dreams,
but as time went on the gap grew and I could’nt stop thinking of one more iron distance win.   Finishing my career with not 15 iron distance wins but 16.  That would be perfect and amazing.  It was at this point of the race I stopped relaxing and smiling.  The old Bella was back, the focused, determined and desperate to win Bella.
I got off the bike with a really good lead, maybe 25 minutes, I should have relaxed, but I didn’t!  I decided I would do everything I could to make sure I won.  I had been fuelling well and I felt ready to run.  I felt better on those first 25km of the run than I have felt for years!  My confidence was back.  I concentrated hard, and oh the feeling when I got to the finish line!  Such a warm welcome from the crowds.
My dream come true, my 16th iron distance win on my last race, met at the finish line with Stephen and Charlie.

A change of direction.

(photo above)  Ironman Austria Champion 2009.  8 hours 50 minutes 13 seconds

 

I would like to announce today that Challenge Henley will be my last race because I have decided to retire from long distance triathlon.

It has not been an easy decision because I dont want to leave the exciting and successful life I have lead for the past 13 years. As a young girl I always believed and dreamed of being successful, but I dont think I ever imagined doing even half of what I have achieved. I will never ever forget this unbelievable journey. I have met amazing people on my journey who I couldn’t have done it without, John O’Donovan for encouraging me in the very early days of my triathlon career, Darren Smith for taking me to the next level and then for introducing me to my long term coach Brett Sutton who helped me to a magnificent 15 Ironman wins in different parts of the world, a World Championship title, a 7th place in Hawaii and many many more podiums, wins and personal goals.

Now, with Brett’s help we have now decided I need to make a change of direction. While I take some time to adjust to this change I will enjoy my favorite job in the world, being Mum to Charlie and I will continue to support Stephen in his training and racing. I have a real desire to help others in triathlon and I want to give the hope and opportunity that my coaches have given me over the years so I will be actively taking up a new full time coaching role.

I want to thank everyone who has supported me in this journey and I wish you all the very best in your upcoming races and beyond.