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Emma-Kate Lidbury: Wimbleball win
Posted on: Wednesday 22nd June 2011
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It's been a great season for Emma-Kate Lidbury so far. Starting the year with a top-10 at the stacked Abu Dhabi International in March, she then secured her first two professional wins at Tristar111 Nevis and Ironman 70.3 Mallorca.
In our weekend preview last week, we had predicted a win at Ironman 70.3 UK, Wimbleball for 'EK', and while that did come true... she had to dig very deep to make it happen, having been passed in the very late stages of the race by Ireland's Eimear Mullan. Having lead for so long in 2010 before finishing third, and "never before have I won a race on the run course", this was to prove a truly memorable victory for so many reasons.
Here, in her words, is the race report of Ironman UK 70.3 winner Emma-Kate Lidbury.
I took my second Ironman 70.3 title of the season on Sunday at 70.3 UK in Wimbleball and what a race! To say I am pleased is an understatement; it was a hard fought race with the victory only being sealed in the final moments. Of course, the win is fantastic and is enough to keep a silly smile on my face for many days to come. It is more the way in which I won that will ensure the smile stays a little longer. Never before have I won a race on the run course. In seasons past, it is typically where I have lost races, so Sunday's victory means an awful lot to me and is about far more than the win. It was about all the months and weeks I've spent sidelined with run injuries; it was about the countless times I've built leads on the swim and bike only to see them – and me – fade away; it was about racing smart and racing hard and doing exactly what I had hoped and dreamed I could…
Anyone who's ever raced 70.3 UK will know how brutal this course is. The swim is cold, the bike course is challenging (to say the least) and the run course is...well, it was obviously mapped out by someone who loves inflicting pain on others!
My swim is almost always a strong point of the race for me and over the past few months I have been working extremely well with Dan Bullock from Swim for Tri. In every race this season I've been able to focus on technique pointers Dan has set me. Unfortunately it didn't quite work out that way at Wimbleball. The age group race starts a few metres back from the pro race and they obviously didn't have quite the same gap as last year because - THUMP, BOSH, BANG, OUCH! - before I knew it they'd caught us (some of the pro women) and we were caught up in a melee of bodies who seemed more intent on boxing than swimming. Typically a strong swimmer in these situations, I took on so much water that I couldn't get my breath and panicked. By the end of the swim I was just pleased to reach dry land in one piece but my race had not started well and I was second, two minutes back off the lead girl, Simone Benz from Switzerland.
With the weather being so grim in the days leading up to the race, trying to figure out what to put on for the bike leg had become a tough call. My family was treated to a full dhb fashion show the day before as I weighed up what wouldn't take too long to put on in T1 with what would be most breathable/windproof/waterproof. After all that, I made the executive decision in T1 to just throw on arm warmers and then shivered around the first lap of the bike.
The bike course at Wimbleball makes grown men cry. It is one hell of a ride - 53 hills in 56 miles - and on Sunday conditions were far from easy. It took me a while to find my bike legs but by lap two I'd finally warmed up and got into more of a rhythm. I really felt for Sam Warriner, who I saw had punctured on lap two while leading, and never ruled her out of the race because I know what a tough cookie she is. By the time I reached T2 (in second place) the gap between me and first place was almost four minutes.
In previous years, running out of T2 with that kind of deficit - coupled with the fact there were some strong runners behind me - would have scared me silly. Fortunately, though, the work I've undertaken with The Running School in Chiswick has helped to change all that. Although on that first lap of the run there were times when I felt so bad I was ready to walk off the course, I knew also (from my own personal experience last year), that a lead of that size on this run course doesn't mean much. I worked hard to keep positives going through my brain and focused on all the technique pointers Mike Antoniades and his Running School team have set me.
By the end of lap two the four-minute deficit was now just 20 seconds and I was feeling strong. This was not going to be easy, though, because although I'd caught the girl in first, the girl in third (Eimear Mullen from Ireland), had also closed on me. Not long after I made the pass to take the lead, Eimear came past me on a steep grassy uphill section. We ran shoulder-to-shoulder with the TV crew catching every grimace. We were at the point on the course where there's a steep uphill before it falls away into a sharp descent. Eimear pulled away on the downhill and I thought that might have been the race-winning move but we hit the dam (the only flat paved section of this killer run course) and I could see she wasn't taking any more time out of me. A quick slurp of Coke at the next aid station and we were back to running uphill off-road. I continued to feel strong and caught up to Eimear knowing that if I didn't make my move when I felt good then I'd regret it. After passing her, the very next athlete I saw (of all 1600 on the course!) was my boyfriend Ozzer who, seeing me in the lead, promptly went nuts and gave me enough verbal firepower to propel me to the finish. There was still a couple of miles to go so the win was by no means signed, sealed or delivered.
After winning 70.3 Mallorca, I could remember how sweet the finish chute was and I wanted it all over again - this time with family and friends here. As I turned into the chute and saw I was clear for the win I think I went a bit loopy. To say I was pumped might be a bit of an understatement, but this is a race I have wanted to win ever since last year when I lead for so much of it.
It was brilliant to have my sister Susie there as well as her fiancé Gavin and my good friends from Miami who'd come over especially to do this race. Steve and Ian were racing while Steve's wife Jill had been on course giving me first-class support (as always!) as well as reliable splits and feedback I could trust. Every pro athlete needs Jill Brookner on their team! Thanks guys!
Huge thanks also to:
To all my sponsors, without whom I simply couldn't train and race at this level:
Special thanks always to Ozzer and all of my family, whose continued love and support means so much. And for my Dad: race day was also Father's Day and, although my dad died eight years ago, he was with me every step of the way on that run course. A large chunk of my prize money will be going to the British Heart Foundation.
Happy training and racing all.
PS Thank you to Richard Melik of Freespeed and Tamsin Lewis for photos.