It was exactly a year ago when I came to Phuket to train at Thanyapura. From April 2015 up until that point I had been trying to sort out my injury (hamstring tendonopathy), trying to come back, trying to rehab, trying to train, trying all the treatments I could think of but nothing was working so I had 3 months of complete rest before heading to Thailand for what was to be my final attempt at getting over the injuries. It was slow and painful both mentally and physically but I got some swim fitness back and gradually built up the bike and run from zero.
Throughout the past year training, especially running has been very much two steps forward one step back. I have had at least 8 other injuries mostly in the lower body which have either kept me from running and sometimes biking. Some were short lived niggles others had me off running for long periods again which was very frustrating.
From November until July I was self coached, which at the time was a good way to get some base fitness. I was in Phuket at the time but soon after I got home, around July, I started working with a new coach Rob Cheetham (husband of Susie Cheetham). We started very slowly and tried to build up some running and though I could run it just didn't feel right to me but I wanted to compete so planned a few races anyway. Each of these races passed by and niggles kept me from competing so we settled for Weymouth 70.3 in mid September. The week before I got a pretty sore foot/toe injury and that was me out of the race and off running for another 4-5 weeks. This got me pretty down and I was thinking that it's just not going to happen for me and I'd never race again but a little chat from Rob lifted my spirits and I started looking at the last races on the calendar. I knew Xiamen 70.3 in China would be a bit soon and I'd be a bit under prepared especially for the run but I wanted to race if I could manage it without upsetting any old (or new) injuries. I travelled to Thanyapura in Phuket for 2 weeks before the race which meant a much shorter trip to Xiamen than going from home. Things didn't go exactly to plan after arrival but I managed to work around my problems and got a few decent sessions done before heading off to race.
A small group of us travelled together from Phuket and whole trip was great fun. I felt no pressure whatsoever going in to the race and wasn't bothered at all about where I finished, I was just grateful and happy to be there and to be racing again. I swam in a group of 3 with Hayley Chura about 90 seconds ahead of us. It was a wetsuit swim which I was pretty anxious about having not worn a wetsuit for a very long time. The swim was very fast and with the current, 22.27 is pretty fast for me! Though my swim has definitely improved thanks to the hard work that Eanna McGrath put in to it when I trained in Wicklow during 2015.
The bike was very different from how I usually ride and was the most controlled I've ever felt on the bike in a race, I was more than happy to stay in the pace line as our group of 3 made our way to the front of the race by T2.
On to the run and this is usually where I'm feeling most at home but this time it's what I was most worried about as I knew I wasn't really prepared for it. My best run split is 1.17 but we decided that in my current shape a 1.30 would be a good run for me on the day. I was scared to push and wasn't really sure how fast or slow I should set off. This is where the race got interesting, at least for the spectators! I think the lead changed at least 8 times. In my head for the first 13k or so I was thinking 'wow a podium is awesome' and wasn't thinking I could win. I was so unsure of what I could do that I decided my best tactic was to run with whoever was running the quickest so I stayed behind while Haley took the lead until Imogen caught us and I stayed behind her for a while. Then in a moment of madness and much too early (6k to go) I put in a little surge and got a small gap. I didn't know how much of a gap I had until I looked over my shoulder with 800m to go and saw Imogen pretty close to me so pushed on to the line to win by 12 seconds! I honestly couldn't believe it, it was so unexpected and such an amazing feeling.
So many people have helped me over that past two years in many ways and it's incredible how generous and caring people have been. I'm certainly not completely 'out of the woods' in terms of injuries but things are progressing and I hopefully I'll be back to 100% for the 2018 season. Without the help of my team Alameda Triathlon Team I certainly wouldn't be able to keep racing, they have stood by me keep believing in me when I was having trouble believing in myself. Also having Thanyapura as a sponsor has been a huge part of keeping me in the sport at a time when I was ready to quit.
Post race my body is still in shock and I haven't really been able to run at all since Xiamen. I know 2 weeks is a very short turn around between races for me right now but I'm planning to be on the start line this weekend at Phuket 70.3. It almost a home race for me and I know I'd regret it if I don't at least start and give it a go.