This page gives a brief overview of my race history. Also has notable race reports for those interested, any more in-depth connections with the ‘academic athlete’ I will pick up elsewhere.
Inaugural Ironman 70.3– Marbella, Spain – 29th April
Outlaw Half Nottingham, May
Cambridge, UCI world championship qualifier, Gran Fondo, June
Tour of Wales, June
Outlaw Half Holkham, July
Castle Hever, 70.3, July
Vitruvian Ironman 70.3, September
(N.B. 70.3 = half ironman 140.6 = full ironman)
Ironman UK 140.6 finisher (2014, 2016)
Three time Ironman Staffordshire 70.3 finisher (2015, 2016, 2017)
Two time Outlaw 70.3 Nottingham finisher (5th 2016, 11th 2017)
Outlaw Holkham 70.3 finisher (2017, 14th)
Outlaw Nottingham 140.6 finisher (6th place, 2017)
Rubicon middle distance finisher (2014)
Monster 70.3 age-group winner (2016)
Wattisham sprint tri winner (2009, my first!)
Two time London marathon good-for-age qualifier
Other marathons I remember finishing include Bungay, Dunwich and Nottingham
Too many century bike rides to count (about 50 the last time I counted)
Ridden for Great Britain at the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships – Albi, France – August, 2017
Revolve 24 hour bike ride – Brands Hatch, UK – 16-17th September, 2017, 3rd place female soloist.
2017 – Ironman ‘All World Athlete’
Outlaw Full Distance Triathlon – 23rd July 2017
12 hours 21 minutes, 6th place
I wasn’t looking forward to this one at 3am. Normal standard endurance fears. No time to dwell as it was a 6am mass start meaning there was a lot of rushing for the organisers to get 1000+ athletes into the water.
I came out of the 2.4 mile swim in 5th lady overall and I knew this because the bike mount marshal shouted at me as I came up to the line. It was a fairly solid swim but I did get hit a lot.
I then got on my bike after a big decision in mid-week to ride my road bike and not my tri bike (we’d fallen out and I’d have been so much more anxious knowing the valve had bust and changing 650 tyres and wheels). A road bike is slower and less aero-dynamic.
Anyway, I get on said bike and started out at a 19mph average, I was a bit concerned as this could be considered ‘death speed’ over 140.6 miles with a marathon to run after. Anyway I felt absolutely great and so preceded into my aero position (riding on the drops, rather than bars). I then grinned and grimaced for 112 miles, I’d had painkillers before the start to warn off foot pain. I hadn’t seen another lady (other than the 4 I knew to be in front). I don’t know what has happened but by the way I was riding my bike, something has! Since I’ve stopped tablets, there’s some fight in me and I’m an alright cyclist! After 40 miles, I was over taken by a lady in my age group. I was almost certain I was now in 2nd. I carried on going for bust until 90 miles in.
At 90 miles I dropped quickly from 19.1mph to 18.5mph and felt a bit unwell. “Nope that’s not air burping, that’s sick comprised of energy gel and drink”. I wasn’t that bothered in the decline. I’d torn the field apart and quite a few men, riding my road bike! No bars, or bars with gear shifters or aero drinks systems here. That gave me some encouragement for Albi. I think I can race A bike.
On the run, 2.3 miles in, Kyle (commentator and wetsuit undoer) had news for me. “Now this is Charlotte Smith (going past) and I’m going to put a bit of pressure on Charlotte. Charlotte is currently 2nd in her age group, and you know what that means don’t you, you can’t stop”.
Thanks buddy. I didn’t need to be reminded of that, I knew I didn’t have the running in me and would never hold the pace for almost a marathon. I hadn’t got enough miles in and was getting what I deserved, I was in a lot of foot pain too. After the 2nd lap running I was into 4th, and after the third, 6th and that’s where I finished. I wasn’t unhappy, I was so pleased with the bike. I wasn’t feeling well again, there was nobody home and I was very spaced out by now. I could see 3 miles before the end that I had 45 mins for 3 miles and that would get me a sub 12.30 full distance triathlon and that’s what I shot for and got. I could not ruin it all by pushing boundaries that may end in no medal.
And then I finished racing and I felt very unwell at this point. I’d gone through the medical tent (where they assess you without you knowing). I must have “looked” (Charlie after all) ok then but I wasn’t now. We then took nearly an hour to walk a mile back to the car whilst I sat and shivered for long periods trying to hold sick down without passing out. I’ve never ever felt so ill; my whole body was screaming. I’d started the race with a sore throat, I guess flu had kindly waited until the end to show itself with a massive blood pressure drop. We made it home, I don’t know how. See, stop when you are done, not when you are tired!
UCI Grand Fondo – Tour of Cambridgeshire – 4th June 2017
This was my first ‘Gran Fondo’ race, 79 miles racing around Cambridgeshire. I have ridden sportives for years but never really raced a bike over that distance without a swim before or run after. I was quite excited at the prospect of racing with 8500 others, on the flat and not just plodding along to get around. It also seemed a nice distance, stopping 20 miles before a tonne and when fatigue starts to develop quite substantially.
I was in the female 30-34 ‘race pen’ and this was perhaps my down fall. I was dropped from the peloton very early on (why do I never warm up properly?) and then spent a good 45 minutes out on my own in the wind, waiting for another peloton to come along. Anyway, soon they came in their hundreds and I managed to tag along into a train. All on. I had set myself the target of keeping to 20mph as this would get me home in about four hours and last years’ slowest time for a world champs place was 4 hr 13 min. I had worked that out in December 2016 and trained with that goal. However, sustaining that pace wasn’t proving easy, I was having enormous foot pain from about 15 miles in. Unlike never before. Tears of agony were streaming down my face at one point and I had to keep unclipping and pedaling with one foot for as long as I could maintain reasonable cadence. Anyway, once in a group I picked it up. Got to 50 miles, now firmly onto my 20mph average. Sugar level wasn’t doing great, especially as one of the gels in my pocket had gone off (repulsive!) and I wasn’t planning on any feed station stops. The best I could do was keep forcing in my favourite powerade energy drink. Around 66 miles I had the last of my gels, it wasn’t enough but inspired by still holding the required average I had a big moment and realised the next 13 miles could be some of the biggest I have ever ridden.
With the gauntlet firmly laid down I decided to go all out. A kind guy could see what I was trying to do and that I was shifting fast and said to me “you just get on my wheel and stay there”. That lasted for about 5 miles or so until we got separated but it was a big help. Inside the last ten miles I was hurting, really hurting but I was also really motoring along and over took several of those in my age group. I was starting to believe. I could see baring mechanical I would be home in 4 hours and I gave everything I have ever owned to get that bike home in that time. Made it in 3 hr 56 minutes. Although I was dead chuffed with that time as it was way more than I would have achieved last year, I knew the poor start had let me down and I also knew that the quality of the field had gone up dramatically from last year. I waited for the results very ambivalently and sadly I hadn’t quite made it. I was just ten minutes away from qualifying for a world champs place. I was gutted, only blaming myself for accepting unconditionally last year’s target. I had such a fantastic time though, this was also my first UCI organised event and it didn’t disappoint. With 400 people working on the event they did an exquisite job, just what one would expect from the UCI, but still, an athlete is always grateful when things are perfectly organised and they can just ride. I know there’s more in me though and I have already signed up to try again next year. Once triathlon season is over I am sure I can make some big gains during the winter just as I have done during winter 16/17.
Ironman Staffordshire 70.3 – 18th June 2017
Pre-race: It’s 05.02 am, having been awake since 03.30am I am now waiting on the shuttle bus ready to move like cattle down to the lake for a 7.15am swim start (in the elite wave). Sitting at the very back, as usual. The slightly rebellious triathlete coming out. Writing this is proving a necessary distraction. I’m surrounded by a 100 or so other athletes in this just one space and I quite frankly don’t want to hear what time they’ll be having their caffeine gel, what pace they will set out and when they will be going to the porta loo. This doesn’t usually bother me as I normally have headphones and a coffee. I have neither and so I’ll just have to be irritable (again). It’s like a noxious concoction of sugar and caffeine, anxious farts and nervous energy.
I guess what’s bothering me as I inhale these fumes is the usual thrill of endurance racing and especially triathlons, knowing that so much can go wrong during a relatively long period of time (several hours, up to 15) and the majority of that not going wrong or it being fixed is down to one person. Yours truly. Yet if it goes right then the endorphins later will be mine and Team Charlie’s.
Anyway, spirits up, the weather is looking like it’s going to be the hottest day of year. Racing in the heat bothers a lot of athletes but doesn’t usually bother me. Last year at Stafford it was rain and a mud fest, that really didn’t suit! Time to enter T1 now, one final bike check, bike computer on bike, eat 2 hot cross buns and a gel, wetsuit on, text my dad happy Father’s Day, shed a tear at the national anthem and then GO. Turn it up!
Post race: I suffered very badly out there today, much worse than anticipated! 1st in swim, 4th on bike, 14th on run and overall. I had clear traffic out in the swim, and felt a bit like royalty in elite pen next to the pros, but on hindsight ‘I boiled in the bag’ and the dehydration then ruined the rest of the race. During the swim I got kicked in the eye, that was a first, but thankfully I didn’t lose my goggles (or contact lenses!). I then had a solid transition and was out on the road in good time to only just start suffering. At mile 33, I got off and had a “I can’t” moment – someone who has helped me enormously knows all about those since I’ve told them I can’t do even the most mundane things over the past two years. Anyway, they weren’t there and I didn’t have a phone. My back was hurting, I was feeling lethargic and I was just uncomfortable. I got back on my bike and plodded on, knowing my efforts were all going downhill. I had only seen one other female go past me at that point but knew I was heading for torrid times. With the rolling hills and heat by the bit of climbing at 45 miles I was in bits. Eventually I made it to transition, with a worse time than last year. Transition two was also slow as I sat there in a boiling hot tent for two minutes dreading the thought of running 13.1. miles in 30 degrees. Soon as I was out of transition the struggle become even more apparent. I was needing full sugar coke by mile 2, something that I usually save until much later in the run and sometimes try to avoid entirely. It was just an oven and I couldn’t get enough water, even with stops less than two miles away each time. I don’t like being defeatist but I knew I was rapidly losing places so I ran when I could, jogged when I could and walked when I had to. The latter of which was pretty often. I was absolutely soaked in water from standing under pipes but still couldn’t get the body temperature down. I therefore decided very early on in the run that the day’s mission had to be a “get a medal and a t-shirt and avoid the medical tent” job. I want to go as fast as possible, preferably all the time, but I also know when to listen to my body, admittedly that isn’t very often but I also knew I’d had a crazy few weeks of work and had lost an enormous amount of sleep. That all said, I finished and still got the racing high driving back home south having had 400mg of caffeine in about 40 minutes. Sometimes you are proud to do what you can do. Today was one of them.
Outlaw Holkham Half – 2nd July 2017
14th place, 6 hrs 8 minutes.
Well, today was the 7th 70.3 (half iron distance) race I’ve started and finished. I am absolutely delighted in the face of adversity. I have been unwell most of the week and was several thousand calories short on the start line, still wasn’t eating but decided to put myself in the field of play. I didn’t in a million years expect to finish one discipline, let alone three, but as my bike was left overnight nearly two hours away we had to go and fetch it anyway and I thought I’d have a little go.
Once in my starting pen in the lake about 1000 people sang ‘happy birthday’ which was nice. It would have been far more embarrassing if a significant number of those people weren’t all looking the same in wet-suits and the same colored swim caps.
Started swim steady, knew I could have got right up there into the lead but didn’t as shaving a couple of minutes off the swim time would have significantly increased the chances of bike disaster and illness. I knew the bike would take 3000 calories and was where I needed to manage things the most. The whole day I stayed on energy drink, water and coke. I didn’t dare risk gels or solids and it worked a treat. I felt sure if I got the bike into T2 I would very likely get a medal as I would easily be able to make the finish cut off, even if I walked the whole half-marathon.
The run is the bit I am really chuffed with. Whilst a 2 hour 13.2 miles isn’t that fast for me, it was solid running, I gained a very large number of places, managed a prolonged sprint finish and I finally felt I could compete in that bit as well. A negative split proved that! I did have foot pain but I managed that and the calories well.
So whilst today was a second Steady Eddy in a row, there is much confidence gained. Getting up at 2.30 am on my birthday was well worth it. Kill or cure as they say! And you’ll be pleased to know I have just eaten 1/4 of a large family sized cake.
Next up: Full Iron distance at Outlaw Full in three weeks.