Ironman Warsaw 70.3 2023 Race Report

I Started training with Rich at Peak Performance Multisport in November 2022, having entered the Warsaw 70.3 taking place in June 2023.  Rich was recommended to me by a friend who is an experienced triathlete and Physio. Following our first meeting I felt confident that Rich was the right trainer for me, and I loved his supportive and knowledgable approach.    
I had already completed a 70.3 in 2022, and whilst that triathlon went ok(ish), I didn’t feel fully prepared and despite completing some sprint triathlons in the past I felt like I was stepping into the unknown when I travelled to Finland to complete my first half Ironman.  To prepare for the event I followed a half Ironman training guide that I found in a book.  On reflection I followed it about 50% of the time, and had numerous aches, pains and injuries throughout the training; my biggest fear as I approached the event was the bike as I was generally a slow cyclist.  This concern became a reality in the event as my time was slow and despite completing it I came away with complete imposter syndrome about the 70.3 distance.  My final times for the event were Swim 46 mins, Bike 4hrs 13mins, Run 2hrs 45mins, so 7hrs 57 mins in total.
However, I was keen to complete another 70.3 and perform better, but I knew I needed to approach it differently and this is where Rich came into his own.  I was given some homework following our first meeting and this was to set some short, medium and longterm goals.  
In summary these were:  
1. Get into a consistent training programme
2. Weight loss - lose about 4kg
3. Maintain a strength training programme along with swimming, cycling and running
4. Build up my confidence on the bike
5. Go into Warsaw 70.3 strong and confidence and enjoy the day - working hard to achieve 6-7 hours
6. Then enter another event and start again….  
Having a good training plan was important to me not just to prepare for everything a 70.3 was going to throw at me, but also to ensure I could fit the training into my busy life.  I am a 49 year old Police Officer, Mum of two teenagers, and married to a cop and we both work on-call in addition to working full time.  Whilst some might think my life was busy enough, training has always been my bedrock for managing stress and maintaining my health, so why would a 70.3 be any more challenging?
When I reflect on the eight months of training with Rich there are three things that sum up why the training was good for me and why it was successful:  
1. Accountability - knowing that Rich was monitoring my performance via the Training Peaks app, and that we would discuss my performance and challenges, made accountability key.  I knew I wanted to deliver and stick to the programme, and this accountability really worked for me.  Knowing Rich would see if I missed a session drove me get out of bed at 6am on a wet Tuesday morning in January to run for 40 mins.  Don’t get me wrong, Rich is nothing but supportive and if I fed back that my week had been poor due to work he was nothing but supportive, however I felt accountable for my training and therefore working with a trainer was the biggest incentive to meet the training plan.  
2. Varied training - the training programme included pool swimming, running - both for time and speed, cycling - turbo and road cycling for both time and speed, strength training, and stretching.  I never bored of the training plan and would eagerly await Sunday morning to look at my week ahead and all that was on offer.  The addition of strength training and stretching worked brilliantly and I didn’t suffer from any injuries during the training.  I also supplemented this with monthly physio sessions and massage.  This was money well spent and paid dividends during and after the event.  
3. Expert advice and understanding - Rich clearly knows his stuff about training and competing in triathlons and this level of knowledge and expertise wraps around the training plan.  Rich is humble about his achievements and gently provides encouragement and confidence throughout.  He understands the challenges of training with a busy life, and also recognises individual challenges.  We spoke about the impact of periods on training, the peri-menopause, nutrition, and also the importance of enjoying the training.  
As I approached June 2023 and the Ironman Warsaw 70.3 Rich spent time talking about my plan of attack, nutrition, rest, and mindset.  In the week leading up to the event I started to get incredibly nervous, and once we arrived in Warsaw and I saw the Ironman machine in full swing, the imposter syndrome returned.  I reminded myself that this was my race and every other super athlete taking part (because that is how I saw them) wasn’t relevant to me.  I was fortunate to be racing with two good friends and experienced triathletes - Lucy and Ruth.  I was supported by my husband Chris and also joined by Lucy’s husband Alan.
Ironman Warsaw 70.3 - Warsaw is a beautiful city that was sympathetically rebuilt after the atrocities of WW2.  The Ironman village occupies a large area in the centre of City, so staying in the old town was the ideal location to access the facilities and feel part of the Ironman circus. Our travel to the event was plain sailing and the bike box arrived without damage.  The city is only a 20 minute drive from the airport, so the travel was pretty stress free.  
The course starts at Lake Zegrzynskie, in Neporet which is about 20km from Warsaw.  The location was beautiful however bikes and bike bags had to be transported by train the day before the event.  The train was straightforward and about a 30 minute journey however a consideration for any athletes who want a more straightforward race with one base.  The weather was great - about 26 degrees with a gentle breeze.  Living on the south coast I regularly swim in the sea so experienced in choppy water however I naively thought the lake would be a tranquil mill pond.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The water was very choppy, to the extreme that I would avoid a sea swim in similar conditions.  So my hope for a 40 minute swim were soon dashed.  On a positive the water was a balmy 24 degrees and fresh water, so no salty lips or chlorine sneezes.  The swim out was against the current and despite the constant smashing of waves into my face and head, I did make progress and was soon at the last red buoy and turned right for the short parallel.  This was the worst stretch as all the swimmers converged, many resorting to breast stroke as the waves tried to push you back to shore.  I maintained front crawl and tried to weave my way through the other swimmers avoiding legs and arms.  The return leg was fast however at times I felt like I was submerging and had to work hard to keep my head up.  However I reached the shore in 45 mins and 25 seconds.  
Transition 1 took me 5 minutes 16 seconds, and yes I dried my feet before putting my socks on and had a quick chat to some athletes, so a clear area for development for me!  
The bike section was like a dream.  The roads were in good condition and the first 60km consisted of a number of sections out and back towards the lake, feeding through the Polish forests and small villages.  I followed Rich’s advice and drank, ate and stretched every 20 minutes.  I aimed for 25-30km per hour, and using my Wahoo element I could monitor my progress and stick to the plan both in terms of speed and feeding.  I dined on Naked bars broken into quarters, wine gums, and two bottles of squash with isotonic tablets.  There were two feed stations at 30km & 60km, however the provided drinks were in disposable plastic bottles rather than ’sports bottles’, and the water bottles didn’t fit well in the bike cage and I lost the first one in the first couple of minutes.  However I took another one at 60km and managed to keep it in the cage and drink it all.  At 60km the route headed away from the lake and back into Warsaw.  Entering the suburbs of Warsaw the number of supporters increased, and the road closures were effective and well managed.  At 80km and coming into Warsaw I saw my husband Chris and our friend Alan.  I was so excited to see them, and although I enjoyed every aspect of the bike ride, I was pleased to move away from the quiet and isolation of riding.  I completed the ride in 3hrs, 18minutes, and 36 seconds, nearly 1 hour quicker than Finland.  I felt strong and happy when I entered transition 2, and true to form I changed my socks and had another chat about the swim with an Italian competitor, so my transition was another long one - 6 minutes and 12 seconds.  Definitely a need for an action to plan to improve transition times.
The run was a four lap course of 5km, through the old town of Warsaw, with nice wide roads (some cobble stones) great crowds, and two feed stations at 2.5km and 5km of each lap.  Ruth was first off the bike and I soon caught her up and plied her with wine gums to help with her cramp.  Lucy then caught me up and we ran the route together, egging each other on.  It was so good to be with Ruth and Lucy and finish the event close together.    
Lucy and I ran consistently only walking through the feed stations, downing water, coke and banana’s. Upon completion of the fourth lap we followed the road downhill to the Ironman village and soon saw the finish line.  A young chap was just in front of us so we hang back so that he could enjoy his final 100 metres, and then we made our way to the finish line.  Chris and Alan were cheering us on and it was a fantastic moment and wonderful to finish with Lucy.  The run took me 2 hours, 29mins, and 33 seconds, and I completed the 70.3 in 6 hours, 45 minutes, and 2 seconds.  I was over the moon to complete it in under 7 hours, but what was more poignant was that I loved every minute of it.  I knew I had trained and could do it, I felt confident, so enjoyed it, I took in the scenery, smiled and waved, and pushed myself on.  The day was also my last day in policing as I retired on the day of the Ironman Warsaw 70.3.  I did wonder why I didn’t do what most people do and celebrate my retirement with a beach holiday, however I couldn’t think of a better way to mark my retirement after 30 years on policing.  
Of course, on reflection I am driven to complete another one and improve on my time, however that’s for the future.   So looking back on the goals I set, with Rich’s training plan I completed all of them:
1. Get into a consistent training programme - 8 months long and still going strong
2. Weight loss - lose about 4kg - I lost 3.5kg
3. Maintain a strength training programme along with swimming, cycling and running - this was key and so important to prevent injury
4. Build up my confidence on the bike - absolutely and I feel more confident about cycling and my ability as a cyclist
5. Go into Warsaw 70.3 strong and confidence and enjoy the day - working hard to achieve 6-7 hours - completed in under 7 hours
6. Then enter another event and start again…. The next chapter  
Moving forward I am going to to continue to work with Rich as the training plans and the Training Peaks app work really well for me.  So our plan is now to focus on continuing with the elements of triathlon (swimming, cycling and running), but also focus on strength and body composition (lose fat and gain muscle).  I’ve also entered a half marathon in 3 months time, and will start thinking about another 70.3 at the start of 2024.