70.3 specialist Emma-Kate Lidbury looks forward to the other half of the Ironman this November
For as long as I’ve been racing professionally I have always focused on the half-Ironman distance. The problem with doing a “half” anything, though, is that us humans always want more, we seek completion, we want the other half.
In my line of work, this means racing Ironman and for as long as I can remember I have always been asked: “So when are you going to go long?” It’s a question I have successfully rebutted – and a race I have managed to avoid – for years. Since 2008 I’ve been casually saying “maybe next year”. But now that time has come. I’ve succumbed and I’ve thrown my hat into the long-distance ring. Come November this year, I plan to race Ironman Arizona with a view to a full season of Ironman racing in 2015. Gulp. Did I just write that? If anyone wants to take this laptop hostage, delete those words and rewrite this column that’s fine by me. Anyone? No? Oh damn. Looks like I’m in it then.
Joking aside, my coach Matt Dixon and I had one of “those” chats over the off season where we decided it was time.
In November last year I went to watch Ironman Arizona – partly to support my friends and purplepatch team mates Sarah Piampiano and Meredith Kessler, but also to recce the course and get a feel for the race. I rode on the bike course and did several run workouts on the run course. Needless to say, with a hearty purplepatch crew in attendance (who know only too well about my fears), I also received a fair amount of abuse about what “delights” I would be experiencing on my debut (got to love your team mates, eh?).
I left Arizona feeling both inspired and terrified, but ultimately it has meant that the early part of this year has already seen some longer distance efforts included in my training. And it’s this that has surprised me. Not the distance as such, but my enjoyment of it. I’ve discovered that I love nothing more than going out on my Felt bike for five hours and just riding and riding. Longer runs are equally as liberating and almost meditative. And swimming at Tower 26 with Gerry Rodrigues means that 6K+ swims are just standard fare. What do you mean you wanted some shoulders left by 8am?
In short, I had always been terrified by the prospect of training for an Ironman, but the reality – so far, at least – has been entirely different. Now before you seasoned long-distance racers fall off your chair laughing, I more than realise that racing one of these hellish things is going to be a little more tricky than some five-hour tootle on my road bike through the Santa Monica Mountains, but for now, I feel safe in this newfound world of going long.
To cement this, earlier this year I did my first century ride – the Malibu Seven Canyons Classic, which involved 11,000ft of climbing. I was under strict instructions to ride patiently and smoothly until the last two hours when I could then “unleash the hounds”. I found myself loving it and deep into the business end of the race my legs kept giving me more and more. It was one of those magic days where I finished feeling as fresh as when I had begun. Honestly, I did!
Surrounded by roadies, I then put my bike in the back of the car, threw on some run kit and did a 20-minute jog off the bike (cue weird looks all round). Once back at the car, I realised I’d only have another 23 miles to go if it was Arizona race day. Ouch! The thought of that did not appeal so much. Instead, I sucked down my Osmo recovery drink and headed to meet friends at our favourite burger joint. Well, everything in moderation, right? Even Ironman training…