There are great races and then there are awesome races – and 70.3 Phuket definitely sits in the latter camp. Despite now being back home in cold, dark Blighty I’m still smiling about last weekend’s race. Although it wasn’t a season-best performance for me (I finished 4th in the women’s pro race), it was a fun way to conclude what has been a terrific year with a great bunch of people.
It’s been some 10 years since I was last in Thailand (back then I was a student backpacker) and I’d forgotten just how beautiful this country is. The race was held at the Laguna Phuket resort which is home to 1,000+ acres of tropical parkland, 3km of white sandy beaches and an impressive collection of deluxe villas and hotels. One of the toughest parts of being here was remembering you were actually there to race – not snooze on the beach all day!
Fortunately I managed to raise my oomph levels come race morning and soon found myself among the madness which is the swim start. The Phuket swim course is unlike any other I’ve raced: after a mad dash down the beach into the ocean, it’s a 1.2km swim in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea before running back up the beach and across into a freshwater lagoon for the final 700m. My swim wasn’t stellar and I was out of the water in 4th place.
Once out on the bike, I knew there would be plenty of fun and games – especially as the weather had turned from tropical to seriously stormy on race eve. At about 50km into the bike, it seemed the weather gods decided they hadn’t yet thrown enough rain at us and down it came. And I’m not talking half measures either.
This meant the latter half of the bike was all about preservation and getting up the second set of steep climbs at about 70km was entertaining to say the least (she says that now, from the comfort of a warm, dry desk).
I’d ridden the final miles with Belinda Granger and we’d been having so much fun (especially through one of the last bends where the water was now knee height) that I’d almost forgotten I was racing.
I left T2 in 4th place and was soon up to 3rd and feeling good. The two-lap 13.1-mile run course weaves its way around the Laguna Phuket resort and with sections along golf courses and trails as well as tarmac there is plenty to challenge your legs.
Throughout the first lap I felt comfortable and was holding onto 3rd place but I could see there were a handful of girls not too far back who were running well – uh oh, this could get interesting! When Czech ITU racer Radka Vodickova came past me on the second lap there was little I could do to go with her and she grabbed the final spot on the podium while I finished fourth. Great racing from all involved and a lot of fun!
Perhaps the biggest effort from everyone was saved for the post-race awards party. I’d heard a lot of tales about this one and, like everything else at this race, it certainly didn’t fail to deliver. All I’ll say is there must have been plenty of athletes with sore heads, as well as sore legs, the next day.
It’s been a hugely successful season and as much as I love training and racing, it’s just as important to rest, so I’m now enjoying a fortnight off. When I resume training, I’m very excited to be joining forces with one of the world’s leading triathlon coaches, Matt Dixon of purplepatch, and I can’t wait to work towards bigger and better things in 2012.
Massive thanks to all of my sponsors for your terrific support throughout 2011.
Happy Off Season!