Here is coached athlete Mark's report from the Ironman 70.3 World Championships...
When Ironman announced the 70.3 World Champs was going to be held in Lahti, Finland, I really wanted to give qualification a try. The course looked amazing, and the timing worked for a racecation with my family.
I worked with my coach Jon on a plan for how I could attempt qualification. We looked at possible events and decided on Staffordshire, and Jon developed a training plan geared to the course profile. The race went well, and I managed to place 9th in my age group. Luckily, although the first 2 slots were taken, the third spot rolled down to me.
As I qualified late, we struggled to find accommodation near Lahti that was reasonably priced, so we opted for a glamping resort about an hour away. It was a great staging place, nice and relaxing but had loads of other athletes to chat to. We watched the ladies' race on Saturday, which was great to get an idea of how it all worked on race day and then racked for Sunday.
My start time was nearly 9am, so I could watch the pros go through T1 before lining up for the swim start. The atmosphere was great; Ironman know how to put on a show and the other athletes were very supportive. The lake was calm and water temperature was perfect. The course was straightforward, so even I didn’t deviate too much. My swim time was okay but my T1 was comical... I think the occasion got to me a little and it took me a while to find my bike.
The weather was terrible on the bike course, with torrential rain for around 80% of it. I’m sure the scenery was stunning but all I remember was worrying about staying upright. That said the rain didn’t seem to slow the fast ones down - I felt like I was going backwards at times. The course was good for spectators with a car, though and the family saw me 3 times on the route.
My hands were a little numb from the cold in T2 but it went okay, and I was safely out on the run. We went around an athletics running track and then out on the 2-lap circuit. It was excellent seeing Deb and the kids after about a mile, I felt good and tried to enjoy the experience. The support was great, and the course was varied. Soon I was passing the family again on the last lap. The second time up that hill hurt but I just couldn’t walk in a World Championship event, so pushed on through and focused on counting down the miles and then finally the glorious turn into the finishing chute. A team of volunteers were there to welcome you with your medal and flag, a great feeling.
In summary, it was an excellent experience, I am very glad I managed to join all those amazing athletes in such a well-organised and prestigious event. Having the support of my family there was awesome. I’m very tempted to try again… although I’m not sure they’d agree…