Emma Pallant-Browne Talks Tough Start to the Season, Oceanside Podium

Emma Pallant-Browne is known for a few things: the super-high ponytail she wears atop her head accompanied with a wide smile, podiuming in nearly every 70.3 she’s entered the last two years, and terrifying her competitors with a devastatingly fast run.

Pallant-Browne began her 2024 season at T100 Miami, ready to avenge her heatstroke incident of 2022. Instead, a nightmare unfolded as a similar heat-induced delirium took over partway through the bike, causing Pallant-Browne to once again pull out of the race.

Not one to shy away from adversity, Pallant-Browne recovered from her affliction in Miami and headed to Tucson, Arizona to dial in her heat management strategy before arriving in Oceanside, California, ready to compete in a deep field of professional women on April 6.

We caught up with Pallant-Browne about her lead up to Oceanside 70.3, how she handled her initial disqualification from Oceanside, and what’s next for her this season.

ST: T100 Miami was a bit of a challenge for you, and no one wants to start off their season that way. Given that early season frustration, what was your mindset heading into Oceanside about a month later?

EPB: I take a bad race better than a DNF. I really don't sit well with not finishing a race and I think I can be quite hard on myself. I kind of wanted to think of prepping for Oceanside as like a reset as if now I'm just gonna start my season again. We went to Tucson, Arizona after Miami and I was still recovering from my heat incident and the first few days there I felt like I had a hangover - which ended up helping me actually rest for a few days and not get back into hard training too soon.

I felt like I built up really good fitness and then lost some of that in Miami, so when I got into my Oceanside training block in Tucson, I started religiously looking at all my data and trying to drop Jaryd, my husband, on all our efforts. The training I did in the heat and terrain of Tucson gave me the confidence I needed and reminded me I’m not a terrible athlete and I can look at Oceanside as a true start to my season. I also reminded myself that three years ago a very similar situation happened at the start of my season and then I had one of my best years ever. I kept telling myself that heading into Oceanside.

ST: We saw via social media that you had a minor bike crash just a week before Oceanside while out for a ride in Tuscon. What happened there, and did it impact you on race day?

EPB: Ahead of my season, I went to London to dial in my bike position. As I trained for Oceanside, I was so focused on dialing in my bike position and getting comfortable with it on all my rides in Tucson. On my final big ride in Tucson a week before Oceanside, I was on a great road for time-trialing, and I was in my aerobars doing a hard effort. I must have hit something in the road, although I didn’t see anything because my tire was suddenly slit and I went over the front of my bike.

Luckily, there was a guy driving behind me that saw the whole accident unfold, and he helped me right away. I had some bad road rash on my hands which prevented me from swimming for nearly the entire week ahead of Oceanside, and I also had whiplash, but I was so, so lucky that it wasn’t worse.

My Liv bike was also miraculously OK - we had to replace the basebar, but any other issues were cosmetic. We also replaced my helmet, of course. But that’s why you wear one - helmets are replaceable, heads aren’t.

My road rash hurt a lot and in Oceanside on Thursday we decided to test out if I could actually swim. We put kinesiology tape over my road rash as that was the only bandage-type of tape that would hold up in the water. I managed to swim on Thursday and we decided I’d race, so it wasn’t a typical week where I had time to build up race nerves; I literally didn’t think I would be racing as of Monday of that week, so it was a very different race week for me.

ST: Give us a quick play-by-play of how the race went for you, especially given your road rash injuries and knowing the women’s pro field was filled with talent.

EPB: Coming out of the swim, I heard I was four minutes down - I don't think I've ever lost four minutes in a swim. When I heard that I knew I was going to have to bike well - and part of the reason I wanted to race was to get back on the bike and quell those post-crash nerves. I thought to myself , “OK, the roads are closed to traffic, I’m in a safe environments, there’s going to be medics all around, let’s hammer the bike.”

And then I went a little off course, which of course wasn't ideal. There was a fork in the road and a barrier down the middle. The race marshal signaled for the motorbike with me to keep right, but I thought I was meant to keep right, so I went to the right of the fork. The motorbike and I ended up on the other side of the highway, but the moto was awesome and found a gap in the barriers of the road so that I could do a U-turn and go back and complete the correct turn.

I told myself to keep calm and cool and know that I was going to have run fast when I got off the bike. As I got off the bike, someone shouted that I was about 90 seconds to Fanella and Paula, which to me meant I was still in the race, even though I know both of them have great runs. I was excited hearing this and felt ready to run as soon as my feet hit the ground.

I enjoy running because there’s not much that can go wrong the way there is in the swim or on the bike. I actually really enjoyed this run course with all the crowd support on it and I was so grateful to be racing. You don’t often get to experience that emotion while racing as you’re so focused, but I truly felt grateful and happy to be out there.

ST: You overcame a four-minute deficit on the swim, a wrong turn on the bike… and then as you crossed the finish line a referee told you you were disqualified for not obeying the speed limit zone on the bike. Talk to us about that situation and how you had your results reinstated.

EPB: The referee came up to me at the finish and I was like, oh no - I’m going to have to explain that I didn’t cut the bike course and that I did go back and make the correct turn after going off course. But then the referee said I didn’t obey the 35mph rule during the marked section of the bike course. I knew though that I had maintained 34mph as I was constantly checking my Wahoo bike computer during that section.

At first I was like you know what, this has just been a crazy trip, bad things happen in threes and this has been the third thing and I’m going to have to toughen up and get over this. My husband was like, no we’re going to protest this, even though I was saying at the time that I just wanted to go home and I should accept the disqualification.

However, my husband convinced me to file the protest and the race referees were awesome and gave us plenty of time to go back to transition, get my Wahoo computer and upload the data. The referees had a meeting to analyze my data and ended up overturning my disqualification, which was a pretty big deal, and a good way to end a tough trip.

ST: What’s next for you this season?

EPB: I’m home now in Johannesburg and going to do a three-week training block here at home. Then I’ll head to 70.3 Mallorca and then to 70.3 Chattanooga. After that, I’ll have about a week-and-a-half in Boulder to prepare for T100 San Francisco.

Beyond that, the focus will be on the rest of the T100 series and then 70.3 Worlds in December. I’m trying to remember that despite all the racing, I need to have some blocks of solid training in there, to, so I’ve tried to divide myself up in a way that allows for that.

ST: Who are your sponsors this year?

EPB: I think my longest sponsor is Hoka. This year, I’m pleased to work again with the Liv and Cadex partnership, so they provide me with my bike and wheels. I also work with Wahoo for all my data and computer needs.

I’ve also just started working with DeBoer wetsuits and Form goggles to try to help with my swimming, and Precision Nutrition and Hydration on the fueling front. Lastly, Santini is my partner for apparel and they always work with me to create a cool racing kit, which I love.

ST: Okay, we’ve talked business - now for some fun questions. Ready?

EPB: Yep, I’m an open book. Let’s go.

ST: Dog or cat?

EPB: Oh, dogs, all the way. My two dogs are currently sitting on the floor here looking up at me.

ST: Sweet or salty - which are you going for as a post-race treat?

EPB: I am more of a sweets person - always ice cream post-race.

ST: Mountains or ocean?

EPB: Ocean for sure. Jaryd was saying in Oceanside how much he misses being by the ocean, so now he wants to move us back to Durban - which I think was a joke, but we’ll see.

ST: Favorite post-race meal?

EPB: I like to go for something I don’t normally have, like a good curry. I usually eat pizza the night before the race, so I try to find a good curry house with great naan - which is my favorite - post-race.

ST: Last one: what’s your favorite pump-up song?

EPB: Go Get It by T.I.

Photos: Slowtwitch Files