Injury strikes Simone Mitchell’s IRONMAN World Champs target
“Being able to deal with injuries is part of being an athlete”
Great Britain Age-Group athlete, Simone Mitchell, is no stranger to success in Kona at the IRONMAN World Championship. Despite having “No idea what I was doing”, she collected her first Umeke trophy in 2012 and then two years later was the fastest British female amateur when taking second place in the F25-29 category.
Last year Simone was the fastest female Age-Group athlete overall – by a full five minutes – at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, a performance which helped Simone earn our ERDINGER Athlete of the Month award.
With 2018 highlighted by a second place overall finish at IRONMAN Lanzarote and a huge course record at the Outlaw Triathlon in Nottingham, aiming to add the overall Age-Group win in Kona was looking like a realistic target.
Unfortunately – as we featured last week with Gill Fullen – injury has stopped play, for this year at least.
Over the last year and a half I’ve had great consistency in training. To come away with the results I produced in Lanza and at Outlaw was exactly where I was at, so going into Kona with that in mind, lifted my confidence a little, yes. More importantly, it justified the work that I was putting in so whatever the result over there, I knew I was capable of a performance I was training towards.
You seem to be able to race relatively infrequently, but produce your best when it counts rather than trying to fit in lots of races – would that be a fair assessment?
My ability to race comes from a few factors, sometimes it has been cost and fitting it around work. I choose my races and I want to do well in the races I train for; my coach and I set goals, we know our target and we try to hit it. I work full-time so I am picky with how frequently I race. It’s not cheap paying for entry fees and admittedly I have had to put other things before racing. Over the past two years I made the decision to concentrate on my business and also got married, so I have been really enjoying life.
You’ve raced in Hawaii twice previously and finished on the podium both times – 2nd 2014 (F25-29) and 5th 2012 (F18-24). Given your performances in Lanzarote and Outlaw, you must have felt that a win – and perhaps an overall AG victory – was possible this time?
The first time I raced in Kona in 2012, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Having just learnt how to swim and bike in the January before, it wasn’t even on the cards at all! Going into Kona 2014 I knew what I was aiming for. Coming off the bike as first amateur, but not being able to produce on the run due to the knee injury I later had surgery on was a big disappointment. Knowing the form I was in this year, especially on the run, excited me. I was feeling pretty solid in all three and believed that I had it all there ready for race day, of course it would have been amazing to win AG overall, it was a very realistic goal for me. Maybe next year!
You won’t now be racing in Hawaii… what happened, and when?
Sadly not, two weeks after racing Outlaw I was out on a training run and ran over a stone and felt a twinge under the first metatarsal. I didn’t think too much of it, I had a solid bike/run brick the next day and going into the run it started to increasingly hurt so I stopped. I went to the Physio and we had agreed that the feet maybe were not recovered from Outlaw, we gave it a week without running but continued to bike and aqua-jog. The trial run after the week off I knew something wasn’t right within the first 10 minutes, with sharp pains to the point I could not weight-bear. I booked in for a MRI the following day and received the results that I had a stress fracture in the first metatarsal shaft and the navicular which really surprised me, as I hadn’t been feeling any pain in that area. I was advised by two consultants to put the foot in an air cast boot immediately with no weight bearing for two weeks, six weeks in total with no cycling or any impact until 1st October.
How quickly did you know that Kona would definitely be out?
Pretty much straight away, the navicular is a nightmare to heal, its low blood supply unfortunately makes it quite a dangerous/awkward bone to recover from if not taken with precaution. I also went in for a CT just to make sure where we were at before making the final decision. In my profession I know when to back off when it comes to dealing with injuries and I knew straight away that if I got this wrong from the start it would take a good few months at least to get back on the road. I devised a rehab plan with the consultant which would take weeks instead of months to recover from. It was a difficult pill to swallow, but one I had to take on the chin.
How is the recovery going – and are you following the plans that, in your working life, you are normally the one issuing?
The recovery is going very well thanks, I’m really pleased with how well the bone is healing and I will not run without the consultants say so after an MRI which is booked for mid-October. Since I am unable to race Hawaii there is no rush. I have been very clever with keeping leg strength up in the gym and lots of swimming. I will start to cycle from the 12th of October and Alter-G to start the bone loading process. I have been through the process of injuries before, it makes you mentally tougher and I relish in the challenge of making the body stronger and more durable.
Having recovered from a long period out of the sport with knee surgery after that 2014 Kona race, how do you deal mentally with another set back given you were seemingly in the best form and fitness of your life?
The fitness will come back and the strength is there, sport isn’t just about racing and results (in my opinion), it’s a way of life and it teaches you how to persevere and be patient, it’s all about the process. I’m not worried as I know from the results I have produced this year it’s all in there, the head is in a good place; disappointed absolutely, but that will go in my favour going into next year. My knee injury buried a seed and so will this. Being able to deal with injuries is part of being an athlete. Some are lucky to not have injuries and some are not. It’s the card I have been dealt and it’s the card I will play. You learn a lot about yourself not only as an athlete but a person. There are always positives.
Any plans now? With that race at Lanzarote and time at The Outlaw, you could potentially race in the Pro ranks – a move which, presumably, would have been greatly assisted if you could have done so as Amateur World Champion. I know you have a very busy career as an S&C Coach – is that something that appeals or you’ve considered?
If you asked me post Kona with the win of AG/overall, then my answer would have been yes. I would race in the Pro ranks. My dilemma now is having set a goal and target I have not been able to try for, this is something that annoys me immensely. Do I drop the goal I have or continue until I achieve it? I believe I can race in the Pro ranks, it’s a case of having the talk with the coach and seeing what we think is right. We will base the answer on what will keep me motivated/ push and progress me as a athlete.
Will you still be following the race or does missing out mean you’ll be wanting to avoid it, at least for race weekend?!
Of course I will be following it, who wouldn’t!? No doubt I will be sat there feeling sick as a dog knowing I could have been out there, but it will only add more fuel to the fire.
I wish everyone the very best of luck and when it gets tough.. smile. It could be worse 😉