Ali Williams - Ibiza Worlds 2023 Race Report

Ali, congratulations! 9th place in Age Group (50-54), 2nd for GBR, and 96th overall, at the World Long Course Championships in Ibiza. How are you feeling?

Thank you, Rich, I’m feeling good! You never know quite how these sorts of events will pan out. I’d had a bit of a hamstring niggle in the months leading up to the event. Fortunately, by adding some strength and mobility work to my routine, that more or less settled just in time.

I was nervous in the build-up as always, but quietly confident that barring any disasters I could put in decent performance. I had top-ten in the back of my mind. Not really based on anything, I just felt I’d be happy with that. So yes, delighted with the result.


You’ve raced GB Age Group a couple of times before. How did this race compare?

This is the third GB outing for me. The first was back in 2007, in Lorient, France. Unfortunately, I crashed on the bike after a momentary loss of concentration and broke my wrist. ‘Swim, bike, ambulance’, is how I fondly remember that event.

So, Pontevendra, Spain, in 2019 felt like unfinished business. Objective number one was just to complete the thing! As it turned out, I placed 19th in a field of around 90, so that felt like a result.

With Ibiza, I seem to be continuing to move in the right direction. Factoring in the different courses, I would say Ibiza is definitely my best effort to date.


Let’s talk about the race itself, can you give us a quick breakdown?

Of course. The beach start to the swim really got the heart racing. It’s an amazing setting with a 3km route that takes you out and around an island. The water wasn’t quite as crystal clear as it had been during a swim recce a couple of days before, but still lovely.

I settled into a rhythm fairly quickly and despite a bit of swell, managed to stay on course. A touch of leg cramp kicked in with a few hundred metres to go, something I always seem to suffer with on longer swims, but nothing debilitating. Transition was okay. I’ve had some stick from my kids since, about how there’s definitely time to be won there. They’re right to be fair. Having shoes pre-attached to the bike would be a good start!

The bike course was very up and down, but long steady climbs as opposed to anything especially steep. Hilly courses suit me, so I kept it steady, and with out-and-back sections and two loops, you could get a real sense of where you’re losing and gaining ground to other athletes.

After 120km on well-tarmacked roads (nothing like riding around here!) it was back into picturesque Ibiza town, with its castled area, for a three and half lap 30km run. It was mostly flat, with the exception of some punchy climbing on each loop over polished cobbles. Not ideal in the unforgiving carbon-plated shoes so popular these days.

I managed to keep an even pace though, which was the goal, helped massively by relentless support from family and friends. A cheer and smile can be way more effective than even a caffeine-infused gel.

I put in a bit of a kick in the final straight to pass a chap who I thought could possibly be my age group - you never know - and job done. The family were all there at the finish which was amazing.

Any particular takeaways or learnings from this event or the run up to it?

Although I’ve been doing this for a while, I still feel like I’m learning all the time. I have a better sense of my strengths, physical and mental, and how best to play to them. That applies just as much to training, more in fact, as it does race day. I’ve always been consistent with training, but adaptable at the same time. It’s a balancing act, and I recognise how fortunate I am to have such a supportive crew at home.

I’m really enjoying working with you too, Rich. This is my first proper foray into coaching, and I’m definitely seeing the value. After finishing 3rd in age group at Weymouth Ironman 70.3 last year, I thought it was about time I took the plunge.

I appreciate that people get very different things from coaching, but for me it’s pretty simple.

Letting someone else take on some of the ‘thinking’ is huge. With work and family commitments, having a plan and individual sessions all mapped out, is a significant mental weight off. There are plenty of studies to show that mental fatigue has a direct effect on physical performance, so just taking that thinking element out of the mix must make a difference.

Plus, my sessions are higher quality. No more rocking up at the pool thinking what shall I do today, then just ending up swimming! Motivation and focus has never been a major problem for me, but both are definitely easier to maintain when you’re being told exactly what you need to do.

The other side of it is simply having a sounding board – an expert in your corner. For example, I felt a little off colour and lacking energy a couple of weeks before the race. I kind of knew I should ease off the training for a day or two, but for that to happen I needed to hear it from you!

And sometimes it’s just about someone to say the right thing at the right time, in those key moments. You’ve done the hard work, you’re in form, just go out there, smile and enjoy it. You might remember pinging me a text to that effect the night before the Ibiza race. It was just what I needed! Thank you.

swim start

Thanks Ali, I’ll take that! So, what’s next?

Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Lahti, Finland, is technically my A-race for this year. That’s in August, so we’re building up for that now. Before that there’s a great race in North Devon called the Croyde Ocean Triathlon. I’ve done it a few times now. It’s a little longer than standard distance with a stunning sea swim and particularly gruelling off-road run. Definitely punches above its weight, so the perfect sharpener in the lead up to Finland.

In the immediate-term, what’s next looks like an 80-minute fartlek session - not thanking you for that one, Rich!