I learnt so much under the baking skies of Kona

Now the dust has settled on The Ironman World Championships, British triathlete Laura Siddall settles down behind her laptop for a personal and honest debrief on her performance in this, the third and final part of her Hawaiian trilogy

It’s now been nearly three weeks since I raced at The Ironman World Championships. To be honest my race hit me hard, and the disappointment hurt a lot. It’s not quite the final part of the story I was hoping to write. I had imagined I’d be all excited and bursting with energy as a result of having a great race and a good result.

However, as professional athletes, we have to take the highs and the lows and learn how to process the race. Take those learnings and move on. It’s only really a bad race or a failure if you don’t take anything from the event and improve for next time. You should be able to pull something constructive out of a race whatever happens. I took some huge learnings from the race. Some have also been pretty hard to swallow as they relate to processes or disciplines that I would normally pride myself in doing and managing.

So, I’m listing here just three of the things I learnt – but believe me there were a lot more!

The first one is belief. I felt in great shape going into the race. I had a good training block leading in, and felt I’d given myself a really good opportunity for a great performance. Certainly it could have potentially put me in the top ten, and even top five. However, did I fully believe and trust in myself and give myself the confidence that I could achieve that performance?

Secondly, what’s right for me? As mentioned in my previous articles, there is a lot of commotion once in Kona with activities and sponsor commitments. It can be hard to get the balance between ensuring you are fulfilling these commitments, but at the same time giving yourself the time and space you need to focus on the race. I feed and draw energy off these activities, love being involved, and felt I’d planned my time and commitments well. However, in hindsight, I probably over-committed and didn’t give myself enough time to relax and mentally rest before the race. In the days leading into the race I remember feeling unsettled and distracted. I needed to dedicate more time and space for just me and my race-prep that had worked in other races this year.

Finally, to embrace the occasion. I spoke before about treating this race like just any other. However, truth is, it isn’t like any other. I think I got a bit lost between trying to play the race down and not embracing the fact that this was the World Championships. It was something that should have been an amazing experience, something I’d worked towards and should have been proud of.

So, nearly three weeks on, how’s my body, mind and soul? Well, as mentioned, it took a bit of a battering. But I’ve now taken on all the learnings, put the race behind me and moved on. I’m back in a good place, physically and mentally. I spent an incredible few days at the Challenge Athlete Foundation #BestDayInTri event in San Diego, which really brought my ‘minor’ and ‘trivial’ issues into perspective. It was amazing to mix with the challenged athletes, and just once again love sport for what it is. It was great to be reminded how powerful sport is in having a positive effect on people. From San Diego I travelled back to Europe where I have just raced in Sardinia. It was great to put Kona behind me and to finish with a second place in a ‘middle-distance’ event (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run) at Challenge Family Forte Village Sardinia. That runners-up spot also resulted in me finishing second in the whole Challenge European Series, so no complaining there. It was a beautiful location and a stunning course taking in the roads of the Sardinian coast line.

That was my last race for a few weeks, and effectively my last race of the 2017 season. I’ll now take a few weeks to refresh, rest and catch up with friends, before building up to a race in December in New Zealand which will kick off my 2018 season. I won’t go cold turkey on training, though, as I find it too hard to regain the fitness afterwards. I’ll aim to live a more normal, healthy and active lifestyle, with some ‘exercising’ rather than specific training, while allowing my body and mind to switch off for a bit.

Will I ever do Kona again? The jury’s still out. I go through days when I’m determined to go back next year and put in a performance I feel I can be proud of. To take the learnings and implement them, and do everything I normally do pre-race to put me in the right place. It’s the World Championships, of course I want to compete and race against the best women in the world. Then I go through days when I think that I don’t want my whole year to be focused and managed around trying to qualify for one race.

There are lots of amazing races around the world that I love racing so much more, due to the event team, the location, the support and crowds. Races that are awesome to do, but don’t provide any points for Kona qualification. It’s something I’ll start to look at over the coming weeks as I start to plan my racing schedule for 2018. If I am able to qualify through doing the races I love, then, yes, you are likely to see me on Dig Me beach for the Ironman World Championships in 2018. However, I won’t necessarily be chasing races and chasing points around the world to get there.

For me triathlon is my job. I resigned from the corporate world in 2014 to follow my passion and to see how good I could be as a professional triathlete. I started the sport late, at the age of 29, and felt I needed to make rapid and progressive improvements in the first few years. It’s what I chose to do. If I don’t enjoy it, or it turns into a chore, then I’ve not got the right attitude and approach. Like with many things in life, you have to love what you do.

It may not be quite as straightforward in the corporate world, and there are days when I definitely don’t leap out of bed at the prospect of jumping in the pool or on to my bike. However, the majority of the time it’s much better than getting up when I worked in business, following the traditional paths that I thought were expected of me. I haven’t chosen this sport for the money and earnings; I’ve chosen this sport because it’s the lifestyle I want. I want to push my body physically and mentally to see what I can achieve. I don’t want to look back in ten or 20 years’ time and say: “What if?” I don’t want to die wondering.

Kona was a valuable experience in my development. For sure it hurt and wasn’t the result I wanted. But I can say I’m proud to have qualified to race and to stand on the start-line as one of the best female triathletes in the world. It was the World Championships, and I was 15th in the world. That’s not too bad really. As athletes we are always striving for more, and better. The British team’s slogan at the 2012 London Olympics was: Better Never Stops. It rings true. It’s time to refresh and step up ready to attack the next season of racing.

Bring it on!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Siddall. Laura’s latest articles.

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