Glasgow Triathlon Club

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Christina Cox: My first Ironman

GTC member Christina Cox recently completed her first Ironman. She had previously competed in the Aberfeldy Middle Distance three times, but Ironman Mallorca was her first race extending to the IM distances of a 3.8km swim, 180.2km bike and 42.2km run.

Christina, who has two teenage children, had originally been training for Wales Ironman, which she entered in September 2019. The race was cancelled in 2020 due to the Cold pandemic and Christina had expected it to go ahead this year but it was cancelled.

So, having trained for two years towards the IM goal, she decided to take a gamble on travel and restrictions and enter IM Mallorca.

She said: “I was very disappointed when IM Wales was cancelled but I decided that IM Mallorca I would be less of a gamble than waiting for Wales next year and trying to avoid injuries, life and other unknowns. 

“IM Mallorca jumped out at me straight away as an event that was in a beautiful place with a lovely swim, some challenges in the cycle and a straightforward and fairly flat run course. It was also easy to enter, which was a major bonus in these uncertain travel times.”

Christina first started participating in triathlon in 1999 and some of the people she trained with at the time had recently completed Ironman races. Christina said: “They raved about the experience, but it was them describing how tough it was that appealed to me. 

“I’ll never be a podium place triathlete and I only ever really compete against myself in events. Competing against myself, I find more of a challenge in pushing myself over an endurance distance than in a speedy short distance. Ironman was the obvious ultimate challenge for me.”

Christina with other GTC members during a training ride.

A break from triathlon – then the IM goal

After a few years of triathlon and with a young family, work challenges and a lengthy commute, Christina decided to put triathlon on hold for a while. Then, as she approached a big birthday in 2017 (50) and with her children becoming teenagers, she thought the time was right for her to get back into triathlon and to pick up an endurance challenge. 

That took her to Aberfeldy Middle Distance, joining Glasgow Triathlon Club again, picking up training and taking steps to have a go at her ultimate challenge,

Christina, 54, spent two years focusing her training on an IM. She worked with a coach and built up with are so as to avoid injuries, especially those related to running.

In the build up, she participated in St Mary’s Loch Standard in June this year.  She said: “It was a good event, but we were all just pleased to be back being able to do the sport together again. 

“During my IM Wales disappointment I also entered Aberfeldy Middle again, which turned out to be perfect timing for preparing for IM Mallorca eight weeks later. Aberfeldy is always such a friendly event and the buzz of being back again post-lockdowns was also palpable.” 

Christina’s IM Mallora went well.  She reveals that the swim and then up to about 160km on the cycle felt quite comfortable. She added: ‘Until then, I felt reasonably in control. 

“After that I repeatly thought to myself, ‘This is just too much and I’ll never do it again.’ I put that to the back of my mind once I finished, of course.”

Lows and highs of Ironman

Christina describes some tough times during the Ironman. She said: “It was mentally hard when I had to descend a massive hill with 28 hairpin bends during the bike section. 

“Descending is always my weakest area, but this was particularly challenging for me with the technical skills required and not trying to be too spooked out by some bends with only small 1ft high blocks between me and a precipice.

“Physically, I found the run hard because my back seized up. Actually, that was a mental challenge too, but my training had built in walking as a Plan B strategy, so I was mentally and physically prepared.” 

However there were many highlights, too.  Christina said: “The start had a natural and orchestrated drama to it with the sun just coming up on a dark and beautiful beach and all the professional hype. The end included all razzamataz and jubilation. 

“The weather was also perfect.  It was a sunny 22 degrees, which was a bit hot for the run early on but as the sun went down, it cooled nicely.”

Christina says she recommends IM Mallorca. She said: “I would encourage anyone to do both an Ironman and IM Mallorca. Ironman isn’t for everyone but, if it is, I would say don’t wait until the perfect time to do it. 

“Mallorca is beautiful, relatively easy to get to and GB was the most represented nation of 63 taking part.”

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