Guest post from Laura Siddall on her season so far.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of winning. We talk so much about the process and focusing on being present during the race and training, and just wanting to execute a performance you can be proud of, almost regardless of the result. But even when it’s not your best performance, that feeling and emotion as you turn into the finish chute and run to take the tape is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. Ironman New Zealand Champions 2018 and the first British winner of the race (male or female) ever!
It’s been a magical few weeks as the 2018 race season kicked off with Challenge Wanaka and then Ironman New Zealand. Wanaka is a very special place for me and I love returning each year, this time being my fourth year back there. This year the race was also reduced to the half distance for the Professionals, a shame as the full distance is just iconic in Wanaka, but I was still ready to give it a shot. I had a poor swim which put me some 5minutes behind the lead as I started the bike. However, I felt good on the bike and just put my head down to ride the terrain chasing the women in front. I was getting good splits as I moved through the field, informing me that I was catching the frontwoman, and by 70km I had taken the lead. We started the run side by side, and swapped the lead over the first couple of kilometres before Annabel started to stretch ahead. I still felt strong so kept my pace, as the lead probably stretched to 45seconds. With 10km to go, still feeling strong I started to claw back the time to the leader. I was making ground but running out of road, and in the end fell short by just 11seconds, coming in once again for the fourth year in second place. I was disappointed to have come even closer this year, but still just missed taking the win. It would mean so much to win in Wanaka. However, there were a lot of positives to take away from the race and lost to build on. On the day I was beaten by a better athlete, but a World Class half distance athlete, and only by 11seconds. I took some real confidence from elements of my performance as I then shifted my focus to Ironman New Zealand.
I had a much better swim at Ironman New Zealand, working well with three other women to come out the water in a solid time, about two minutes down from second and five or six down from the leader. Unfortunately early on in the bike, I realised that my cycling legs weren’t coming to the party, and so had to do some quick reassessing and adapting of plans. It was a case of staying positive focusing on what I could do and get the best out of my body at that time, hoping that my legs would come good through the ride, and telling myself that there was still a long way to go. I started to finally eat into the gap to the women in front and caught them, moving into the lead at the start of lap two, and lead the race into Transition and the start of the run, but with only a 20second gap to second. This gap remained for the first 10km of the run until I was overtaken, dropping into second. However, I didn’t panic or falter. I worked to keep the gap to the leader at a minimum, whilst keeping focus on my running, fueling and hydration. I started to close back in on first place and re overtook at about the 18km mark and never looked back. Literally, I consciously told myself to not look back, and keep my eyes and focus forward, not giving the athletes behind me anything to feed off. I certainly had to work all the way to the line, not fully believing I was going to win the race until the very final kilometre. It’s an incredible feeling, but also a very surreal. You dream of these moments, so much emotion going on, yet it’s all a bit of a blur. It wasn’t my best race, but I managed to win and will treasure and savour this performance and experience for a long time to come. It’s also exciting that there are still great opportunities for further improvements.
Ironman New Zealand is in Taupo on the North Island. It’s another great community and one of the best Ironman races in the World. I had an incredible experience this year, with the activities I was involved in before the race, the race itself and then following. I was able to catch up with the Special Olympic Swim Team that I’ve now forged a fantastic relationship with over my past three visits to Taupo. I lead two runs for athletes, as part of the Hoka One One Team, and was also on the panel of the Women For Tri breakfast, and Meet The Pros. Post race was an incredible whirlwind of activities, as I attended the Roll Down Ceremony, presenting Leis to the athletes who had qualified for Kona, as well as the Awards night and the Volunteers Party. The Volunteers Party was special, not just from having the opportunity to work behind the bar, serving the volunteers drinks and having the opportunity to thank them for their amazing hard work, but because a group of students spontaneously performed a Haka for me, a whaikorero (fye-core-rare-raw). This was amazing and I was blown away, understanding later that this is a huge sign of respect. I also carried out a couple of school visits. One to the local college to speak to biology and high performance sports students on hydration and fueling in races. My other visit was to Hill Top Primary school. Each competitor had received a letter from a local school child. Mine was from Ilia, at Hill Top School. It said
“Kia Kaha. Be Strong. Be Courageous. Bike like a monkey, swim like a stingray and run like a leopard. I think you are a winner.”
It was amazing to receive this in our race packs and I took Ilia’s words with me on race day. I wanted to meet Ilia to thank her and with the help of Ironman was able to make a surprise visit to Ilia’s school to say thank you and present her with my medal.
One thing that has stood out to me over the past few weeks of racing and training, is the incredible support I have here in New Zealand, but also globally around the world. It’s pretty overwhelming, but something I am incredibly grateful for. I am finding I have a unique, genuine, powerful rapport and connection with others, be this other athletes, locals in the community, fans and spectators to the race and even the race event teams. I am passionate about supporting and being involved in the local communities and I am now experiencing the uniqueness of this, in their support and engagement back to me. I believe this is a strong characteristic that I have and I hope the companies and brands that support me, see this value in me as an athlete and professional as well. I believe it can be more powerful and fulfilling than any number of race results because it is genuine engagement and interaction with the sport and people of triathlon.
Part of this has been supported by my involvement on the Fitter Radio Podcast.
“We invited Laura onto our show to become a regular contributor almost 18 months ago. We felt that she would provide valuable insight for our audience as both an incredible athlete and an incredible professional. Her regular segment “Sid Talks” on Fitter Radio is hugely popular and as such she has gained a very large following. The global reach of our show has meant that she is recognised at races by podcast fans as they refer to her as “Sid”, like they know her personally. The connection with her podcast fans is very “real” in the social media world. Her easy nature, intellect and sense of humour is well received by our listeners meaning the connection is far more loyal and engaged.“ – Bevan Mckinnon, Host and owner of Fitter Radio Podcast.
Follow Laura on her socials to keep up to date with everything she is up too.
Twitter : @lmsiddall
Instagram : @lmsid
Website : www.laurasiddall.com