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Natalie smashes personal best in Ironman World Championships

11 September 2023
Reservist Lieutenant Natalie Grainger smashed her Ironman personal best to place herself in the top quarter of athletes on the planet.

Natalie, who serves with HMS Pegasus, completed the Ironman 70.3 Triathlon World Championships in Lahti, Finland, in just over five hours – smashing more than half an hour off her previous best time for the gruelling endurance race.

The event comprised a 1,900m swim, 90km cycle and 21.1km run – 113 kilometres (70.3 miles) in all.

“Flying out to Finland to compete at the World Championships was just a little bit surreal, having trained hard for this over the last few months I knew I was in the best possible shape I could be and was ready to race!” Natalie said.

She was one of more than 2,000 female competitors – 250 of them in her 35-39 year group category.

The lake swim was flat calm, which for Natalie should have been easy.

 “It wasn’t the best swim for me, but not my worst. Conditions were great and it set me up okay for getting on the bike… my favourite bit,” she said.

The cycle race climbed 700 metres over its course, but the excellent road surfaces mean it remained a fast course.

On her speedy Lios Javelin she made particularly good progress on the flatter first half of the stage; on the second, hillier phase, she noticed a lot of penalties issued to riders for drafting (riding behind someone else to save energy – basically, cheating and incurring a five-minute penalty).

“One last thigh burning climb before the end of the bike leg, and I knew I’d had a good ride, 2:41 - which is about 30 minutes faster than I’ve managed before in a 70.3 triathlon,” Natalie said.

Flying out to Finland to compete at the World Championships was just a little bit surreal, having trained hard for this over the last few months I knew I was in the best possible shape I could be and was ready to race!

Reservist Lieutenant Natalie Grainger

The final stage was the run – a half marathon in hot weather over hilly terrain, notably a 200-metre climb right at the start which caused many fellow competitors to walk rather than run.

After that initial shock, the first lap passed pretty quickly, and she held a really great pace. At one point she found herself running alongside British Army and RAF triathletes during laps of the Olympic Stadium, though she was a lap ahead of them.

After overcoming a pain barrier at the 18km-mark by the lake and the final kilometre was especially tough, mentally and physically.

Punching through, she grabbed a Union Jack flag from her mum and crossed the line in 5h 8m 15s (37m 19s for the swim, 2h 41m 4s on the bike and 1h 41m 1s running)

That placed her 65th in her age group, and 417th out of the 2,001 women who took part.

“I felt so happy, I knew I had done a personal best time, I knew I’d done well and I was spent!” Natalie said.

“What a feeling - probably the first time I’ve actually enjoyed a race, genuinely smiling and laughing without a care in the world. I love this sport.”

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