British triathlete Lucy Charles grabbed the F18-24 title at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships with a 22:57 swim and a great bike and run, but now her sights are set on the GoPro Ironman World Championships in Kona for the title and the swim record.
Slowtwitch: Lucy, it is good to chat with you.
Lucy Charles: Yes it is always great to chat triathlon, so fire away.
ST: You had a superb race in Zell am See that gave you the 18-24 age group title by more than 6 minutes. Has that all sunk in?
Lucy: Thank you. I’m not sure if it’s sunk in just yet. When I finished the race in Zell am See, I knew I had just over a month until the Ironman World Champions in Kona. This meant it was pretty much straight back into training. I’m saving my celebrations until after Kona. Hopefully it will be a double celebration!
ST: I believe your 22:57 swim time in Austria was only beaten by American pro Lauren Brandon, who swam 22:53 but ended up not finishing. Do you think you had more in you?
Lucy: I had a solid swim in Austria but I know I could have swam a little faster. I was the last wave to start at 12:05pm, which meant I had to swim through many of the slower swimmers from previous waves. I certainly could have found another 4 seconds, had I known!
ST: Did anyone try to stay on your feet?
Lucy: They may have tried to but by the first marker buoy at 100 meters I had dropped everyone from my feet. It’s always head down and go for the first few buoys. I try not to let anyone have the opportunity to stay on my feet.
ST: Who holds the age group swim record in the 70.3 distance?
Lucy: I’m not sure on this one, probably shows how much of a newbie I am to the sport! [laughs]
ST: Did you have to deal with much traffic during the other segments in the race?
Lucy: There wasn’t too much traffic, although there was never a point where I was riding or running without anyone in sight. This is how I like to race, always having someone to chase. It was a fantastic course and the field was fairly well spread out due to the nature of the wave starts. The only real traffic was during the swim section.
ST: As someone fairly new to triathlon, your 2:41:29 bike split on that challenging course is very impressive. Did you feel good and confident?
Lucy: The bike is my weakest of the three disciplines, but it’s certainly improving. I’ve dedicated the most time to training my bike legs, and less than 2 years ago I could barely ride a bike! However I felt great on the bike section and knew I was flying from my power output, this gave me a big confidence boost. I wanted to grow my lead from the swim so decided to push it and see what would happen.
ST: Was the climb or the descent more trouble?
Lucy: I loved the climb! I have found climbing is my strongest part, the tougher the better. Despite my limited experience, I know I tend to do well on courses with lots of elevation. The descent was where I felt I lost time and this is where I need to build confidence.
ST: Has anyone helped you with your bike fitness and handling?
Lucy: I’m a member of my local triathlon club, Hoddesdon Triathlon Club. These guys have been brilliant in taking me from complete novice rider to starting to get some speed! I do a lot of chain gang riding with the male members of the club and this has really helped my handling skills. Although there is still room for improvement.
ST: What kind of bike do you ride?
Lucy: I ride a Cervelo P2C, which I bought it second hand just 2 months after buying my first road bike. I had to learn fast! Haha!
ST: At a recent Ironman in Canada we saw a fast pro struggling with a flat tire. Do you feel confident when it comes to stuff like that?
Lucy: I feel very confident with this kind of stuff. Thankfully Reece has been very patient with me and taught me well.
ST: Talk about the run.
Lucy: The run was another great course, with a fantastic backdrop along the edge of Lake Zell and a small section through the busy town. My legs felt surprising strong off of the bike but I decided to build into the run section. I usually make the mistake of going out too fast.
ST: Did you know you had won?
Lucy: I knew I was leading on the run thanks to the commentators at the main turnaround point. However I tried to remain focused, I didn’t want to celebrate or even think about celebrating until I had crossed that finish line. After the last turn around I wasn’t sure how big my lead was so I just kicked hard for home with everything I had left. My win was confirmed to me as I crossed the finish line to the sound of ‘Lucy Charles you are an Ironman World Champion!’
ST: And no celebration after?
Lucy: I attended the post-race ‘Banquet of Champions’ with my fiancé Reece and my family. There I collected my trophy and winner's jersey. This has been the extent of my celebration so far.
ST: You swam competitively for 12 years, and I believe you preferred the long distance races both in the pool and open water. What would you consider the highlight of your swimming career?
Lucy: This is a tough one, I had many highlights including: racing in the 800m freestyle Olympic trials final against Rebecca Adlington, beating Kerri-Anne Payne in the Great North Swim, and traveling the world to compete internationally. However my biggest highlight was racing in the London 2012 Olympic test event 10km marathon swim, this was my first ever 10km open water swim.
ST: Can you give us some of your personal best times for various longer distance swims?
Lucy: So anything from 800m upwards was considered a distance event in swimming. My fastest times were as follows:
800 meters 8:28.39
1,500 meters 16:15.10
5,000 meters 57:58.00
10,000 meters 2:06.57
ST: Why triathlon?
Lucy: I needed a new challenge once I stopped swimming and it was the lure of Ironman that made me choose triathlon. An Ironman was always on the bucket list but I had no idea it would lead what it has.
ST: How much training do you do now compared to when you swam competitively?
Lucy: When I swam competitively I would average around 22 hours a week, mostly pool based with too many 4:30am starts. There were also a couple of hours in the gym each week too. I now do a very similar amount of hours but spread the time across the three sports. I love that it feels like I’m training less thanks to the variety of triathlon. I never get bored!
ST: Do you still get up that early in the morning?
Lucy: Not quite 4:30am, but I do usually start training early so I have time to rest before I work in the afternoon and evening.
ST: Work in the afternoon and evening?
Lucy: I'm a personal trainer, which suits me to a T. Reece and I run our own personal training business in Chingford, London.
ST: In about 2 weeks you will be at the start at the GoPro Ironman World Championships. What time do you think is possible for you?
Lucy: Having only raced in two full distance Ironmans, both of these being at Ironman UK with very British conditions, I’m unsure what I am capable of but I would like to go sub 11 hours as I did in Bolton this year.
ST: How well do you know the competitors for the W18-24 title, and the fastest swim time?
Lucy: To tell the truth I haven’t done my research. So much can happen during an Iron distance race, I just want to focus on myself and what I can do. Although I have looked up the swim course record, and from memory it’s around 48:46. On a good day with smooth conditions I feel I am capable of this!
ST: But I think you are not just hunting for the swim glory in Kona.
Lucy: Of course I want to go to Kona and tear up the swim. I’ve just secured sponsorship with HUUB, so I’m sure their swim skin will help me to achieve this. However after my result in Austria I’m now hungry to replicate my world title!
ST: Your fiancé Reese is also racing in Kona. Is there also an internal bragging rights battle?
Lucy: My fiancé Reece and I are very competitive, our coach Mark Racher would probably argue that we’re too competitive! We normally have one rule, the slowest swim split buys dinner. Reece is in fantastic shape so I’m excited to see his result in Kona.
ST: Give us the time he might swim in Kona.
Lucy: He will probably swim a very similar time to me, the way he is swimming, and possibly a little faster! Obviously conditions will play a major part, but he will comfortably swim under 50 minutes.
ST: How do you like an ocean swim compared to a lake swim? And how about Reece?
Lucy: I’ve had plenty of experience with sea swimming and dealing with both the conditions and sea creatures. However this has probably put me off more than helped! Reece and I much prefer lake swims, but in a race situation we can both pull it together for a fast sea swim.
ST: How long will you stay in Hawaii?
Lucy: We will be in Hawaii for 10 days before the race and 5 days afterwards. I can’t wait to get there now!
ST: Are many family members and friends coming along?
Lucy: Some of Reece’s family members are coming out to see us which will be brilliant. But my family and friends will be stalking my race from home.
ST: Anything else we should know?
Lucy: My fiancé Reece and I have our own online triathlon coaching business, which includes loads of swim specific stuff. To find out more go to: http://www.pulsefitnesstriathlon.com/