Written By Anna-Marie Watson
Anna-Marie is an elite endurance athlete and performance coach who’s recorded top 10 finishes at some of the toughest ultra marathons in the world, including winning the inaugural Ultra X Sri Lanka 2019.
Ultra X Sri Lanka competitor and pro ultra runner Anna-Marie Watson had a huge 2018 season with enormous back to back races (listed below). According to her she’d “crammed a catalogue of mammoth races back to back alongside work and life” and was in need of a switch of codes.
Anna-Marie is a very keen triathlete and an advocate for cross training. Below she takes us through her experience at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in South Africa. Her main events are listed below.
- Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc
- Half Marathon des Sables Fureteventura
- Marathon des Sables
These races were arguably four of the toughest mountain and multi-stage events on the international ultra running calendar. By the end of April, I was physically, mentally and emotionally tired. My “Quality over Quantity” mantra had been broken by the temptation, opportunity and lure of races in sunnier climes. It was time to step back, take a break and mix it up back in the triathlon world.
I’ve always enjoyed the pursuit of a variety of sports to balance out my running; a quick glance on Strava illustrates this mix of cycling, swimming and yoga amongst the running, to the extent that my weekly running load can be interpreted as pretty questionable for an ultra-runner.
So, looking for a change the opportunity to enter the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in Nelson Bay in the Eastern Cape of South Africa was impossible to ignore. Thankfully, the triathlon gods were feeling favourable and my 2nd in Age Group place at IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire was enough to guarantee me a slot in the 70.3 World Champs and just like that South Africa was confirmed.
It was the first time this event had been held on the African continent with nearly 4,500 athletes travelling from over 90 countries to take part. The separate ladies and mens races took place on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd September respectively with plenty of chances to rub shoulders (at least from a distance!) with top pros such as Javier Gomez, Alistair Brownlee, Jan Frodeno, Daniela Ryf, Lucy Charles and Emma Pallant.
The race started from Kings Beach in Port Elizabeth with a 1.9km swim in the Indian Ocean, a stunning 90km rolling cycle route up and over the Maitlands before returning along the coast to finish with a 21.1km run along the seafront.
In line with all my triathlon races, the swim is a bit of an ordeal to endure until the real race starts on the bike. Having eventually emerged from the ocean into T1 after 38 minutes, I soon began to make up places on the bike, especially on the hillier sections. The final 25km snaked along the coastline where it was a struggle to avoid the temptation of stopping to admire the breath-taking scenery.
While the day had started overcast, once into T2 the sun appeared and temperatures sky-rocketed. As usual I set off onto the run course with a bit too much enthusiasm (i.e. too fast, according to the Garmin!), though I was feeling strong and decided to go with the flow. Luckily my gamble paid off clocking the 3rd fastest run of the day in my Age Group, equalling (literally to the second!) my previous IRONMAN 70.3 run PB of 1:32:27 for a total finish time of 5:02:50 and 13th place in my Age Group out of 252 athletes.
While I enjoy the sport of triathlon and it’s been an excellent mid-season break, it’s now done, and I am ready to dig out my trail shoes and return to the ultra running world. The switch into triathlon served it’s purpose perfectly and I’m very much returning to the ultra world with thirst. If you’re suffering from a lack of motivation when running or struggling with burn out, an option could be to switch things up with triathlon, it works well for me.
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