Our very own Nikki Bartlett is a super talented triathlete, and we always knew that. Although we didn't realise quite how talented she was until she took part in, what is renowned worldwide as being, the hardest 70.3 triathlon in the world - IRONMAN 70.3 UK.
Not only was Nikki the fastest age grouper there (by a country mile) but she also finished 2nd overall, to reigning champion Eimear Mullan!
Find below Nikki's account from her blog (www.nikki-bartlett.blogspot.co.uk), in which she talks about bike mechanicals, hills and the importance of positive mental attitude when faced with apparent adversity...
Main point to take away; Never give up!
Setting the scene:
I drove down from Scotland a week prior to the event. I had my first little set back of the year, and slightly strained my VMO. So the last 2 weeks to the event was predominantly swimming based. I had the pleasure of using the Cheltenham Lido
(pictured) which is one of my absolute favorite features of Cheltenham. With the sun out, 50m open pool, well self control had to take over to get me out! With good nutrition, rest and PMA, the niggled cleared up quickly and I was raring to go!
When entering the race, my aims and goals were to be within the top two female Age Group athletes overall. Big aim, but I thought with previous results this year, I could achieve this. Two weeks out from the event, and hearing the short Pro line up. My aims stayed the same, but I wanted to come top 4 overall out of the females. I didn’t voice this, but in my head, those were my aims and expectations.
In race briefing, if we hadn’t been told enough already. We were reminded of the day set out ahead of us. The course is brutally set out to challenge the physical and mental capacities of athletes to the max! Common knowledge of adding on roughly 40-45minutes to your ‘usual’ half ironman time, due to the hills and terrain of the course. The 600m~ run up a massive hill on swim exit, 2,000m of climbing on the bike, the off road run with grass, rubble, stones with many big hills to climb; this makes the event so special, a true test to the physical capabilities. There is nowhere to hide out there.
This is my first race of the year where I gave myself a good taper. For me, I cannot completely back off training, I prefer doing all three disciplines often, reduce the volume MASSIVELY, chuck in more swimming (or in this case mainly swim!), and sharpen up with speed work. That’s how my body prefers it, even if it means 3 short sessions each day.
Part of making this journey so special; racing, training in the hope of turning Pro, is sharing it with friends and family. I was lucky to have, including dogs, 11-strong support crew. My 2nd place was a result of their support!
Swim: As we entered the water, with masses of crowds gathered in the very impressive swim exit, the water was warm; a tropical 18 degrees. I positioned myself to the very far right, my thought of taking the ‘shortest line’. However not many people were over that way, so maybe I completely missed a trick there? Who knows, all I know was that it was the easiest swim start I have ever done! The first buoy was 750m away, and until that point, I didn’t touch a soul. Literally, no one was around me. No drafting, but nice clear water. That was pretty much set in stone for the whole swim. I exited the swim in 29mins, not overly great, but in relation to the rest, in the mix.
A long up hill run smacks you in the face as soon as you exit. However this almost seems irrelevant as you take the funnel towards the long drag to the swim tent. The support was simply immense.
Coming out onto the bike, I mounted with a few Pro’s so although I had no idea of positioning, I was in and around where I wanted to be.
The dreaded bike section:
I entered Ironman UK 70.3 purely because I love a challenge. With knowledge of this being ranked one of the ‘hardest’ courses in the world, my name had to be on the start list. I was therefore looking forward to the brutal bike section which I had been reminded by the media or athletes, every time I mentioned doing the race. With nearly 2,000m of climbing, bike handling skills, gear changing were going to be paramount.
With this in mind, I started out fairly hard, within the first few miles all I could hear was some funky rattling noises. I ignored and carried on. The course was stunning, a 2-lapped mostly closed roads, around the Exmoor National Park. The views captured were beautiful. You can see why the event is sold out so quickly.
Back to the race; by mile 5 I knew something wasn’t quite right with the bike. I looked down to see my shifter disconnected from my tri bar!!! CRAP!
My expectations now; well I thought game over. I had 51miles left, on a hilly course, and I could only change my gears from big to little ring. I therefore had to hold the shifter, as by about mile 10, it was properly hanging off. NIGHTMARE. Climbing hills holding a shifter, descending and breaking with one hand. Going up hills where I thought I was going to fall off backwards, I did get a few comments offering advice for me to change my gears. I felt like a numpty. Also when on the faster sections of the course, I couldn’t move up gears; my legs were spinning so fast I thought they were going to fall off.
Anyway, in summary, it was a nightmare, I didn’t know what to do. How do you over come this? You bloody well have to; somehow someway you figure out how. There is no giving up in the ‘book of Nikki’. I made it somehow to mile 40 I cycled past the bike mechanics, so turned around and they taped my shifter back to my tri bar. All in all taking around 3.5minutes. That coupled with not being able to race the bike section properly. I was so gutted. Being in a race, not being able to race properly, is truly devastating. But you HAVE to turn a spin on it. I did and from mile 40 I had a few more gears, not all, to play with. I got off the bike in 4th place. Couldn’t believe it; expectations; game on.
I basically took out all anger on the run, and almost ran ‘without limits’. Within the first lap I moved up into 3rd place, but fully aware the super speedy Vik was behind. I felt strong and was almost waiting for a bonk! The crowds were again, absolutely amazing. The 3-lapped challenging run, was made that much easier with the crowds. It wasn’t until the end of the 2nd lap, that I was told 2nd place was 90 secs in front; chase on. I couldn’t lose out on 2nd place due to a mechanical. I patiently waited and caught Jo Carritt at mile 11 and pushed home to take 2nd Female overall behind Eimear Mullan, somehow clocking 1.29 half marathon on that course! Well done to all out there, tough day, huge rewards after completing such a gruelling but fantastic course and event.
Time overall: 5.02.53
Result: 2nd Female overall
1st in age group: 25-29
On reflection; never give up. Whether this relates to racing, training or other aspects in life. You never know how close you are to success or achieving your dreams and goals, or exceeding your expectations like I did today. I was 99% certain at mile 5 it was race over. Psychologically I was in a bad place for a while, but you HAVE to take a spin on it, stay positive and create short aims. My aim was to make it to the bike mechanic at mile 40. I made it, and it allowed me to not only complete the race, but compete. I cannot thank Pembrokehire Bike company enough.
What’s next? I have Castle Howard in July, Aberfeldy in August, Helvellyn in September then Challenge Mallorca in October. For now, to take a good solid recovery period, then build back up for the season. Post UK 70.3 needs careful consideration with recovery, especially as this was my 7th 70.3 race, think I’m up to 10 tri’s completed now. So the body isn’t used to the recovery process post racing, so I need to address this carefully.
Last year, when making my 2014 aims. They were;
-run 1.28 off the bike on a flat course
-run a flat half marathon in 1.24/25
Where I am now, is where I envisioned myself in 2 or so years time. I work bloody hard to be where I am today, so by no means has this been a ‘fluke’. I plan training, recovery and work life carefully and have the aim of becoming Pro. However when I decide it’s the time to take the leap into the brutal world of being a pro, I want to be competitive. I believe I will know when the time is right, I don’t feel ready yet, I’m still very much at the beginning. Although now I’m ahead of my aims, I feel a bit unsure with the next step. Let’s see what happens for the rest of the season ey.
Thanks very much to my sponsors for their continued support, my family for being amazing on race day, and to other family and friends for your support. It truly means the world to me, so a big thanks x