Interview with etriatlon.cz regarding my Ironman Nice Victory
“It was magical” says Hana Sykorova, Age Group winner of Ironman Nice
14.06.2016 – Interview by Josef Rendl
She lives in Mexico, is a yoga master and competes in Ironmen. She participated in the World Championship in Hawaii twice already. This year she started getting coached by Lubos Bilek. Recently at Ironman Nice, she won her Age Group and has the right to start in Kona. She decided otherwise, however. In our interview, she told us about her Ironman in the beautiful French Riviera.
You won your Age Group at Ironman Nice.
What are your first impressions?
I am super happy as I started my training after the winter. I did not think I would be capable of coming all the way in first place. Furthermore, I started training with a new coach, Lubos Bilek, in March. Usually it takes a while before your new coach finds out how you respond to different training stimuli. Lubos only had three months to figure it out and he managed to do so! We were very lucky the day of the race because it was overcast. It started to rain after I had finished.
- Weather conditions were quite different the day before the race when it rained all afternoon and our bikes were getting wet in transition.
There was no strong wind, so the sea was calm, simply ideal race condition. The bike a leg goes through 16 medieval villages, around castles and it’s one of the toughest Ironman bike courses. The second part has a lot of technical descends. Even though it’s very challenging, you really get to enjoy the scenery. It was magical.
To clock in fast times and to qualify for Kona, a lot of athletes tend to pick other races. Why did you pick Ironman Nice at the beginning of the season?
I spent part of last summer in Grasse, roughly 30 minutes away from Nice. I knew we would probably be coming back with my boyfriend. He used to live here.
Because I knew how amazing the cycling was here, I decided to organize a Cycling Retreat with Yoga and discovering French cuisine and local surroundings directly in Grasse, the first week of May.
This was in coordination with the Gran Fondo National Championship Series, gfncs.com
, a cycling race series in the United States.
And Ironman Nice would follow in a month. It only made sense to sign up for this now home course race.
How did your cooperation with Lubos Bilek (also the coach of the Ironman World Champion and two times 70.3 World Champion, Sebastian Kienle) start?
Last year in the fall, after an intensive meditation and yoga master course, I started to teach yoga as well as study it further. I stopped spending so much time triathlon training. I continued to keep in general shape with just one hour of training per day. Later in February of this year, I panicked. I realized I had two big races coming up, Monterrey 70.3 in a month and Ironman Nice in three months. I wrote my old coach and he responded he had changed careers and was no longer in the coaching business. I panicked for the second time, as now I also needed to find a new coach in a short period time. Luckily Lubos Bilek responded to me and I started following his plan.
What changed for you?
We immediately had to increase my training volume. Due to my missing winter training, Lubos had me do more shorter runs rather then fewer really long ones. We were living in Mexico at this time where I also have my yoga studio with accommodations on the beach by the ocean. Cycling is dangerous there, so I spent the entire spring on the trainer.
One month before the race we came to France, and I finally starting to train outdoors, and a week later with clients of our Cycling/ Yoga Retreat. Our clients were of varying levels, so I did not always put in as many kilometers as planned. But we did get to enjoy some amazing local scenery such as Route de Napoleon, Mercantile National Park or Gorge du Verdon.
Even though I started to train for Ironman Nice a lot later than other Ironman in the past, my body felt generally more healthy due to my yoga and meditation routine which reduces stress and the stress hormone cortisol in the body.
After my training and yoga, I slept really well, and the next day I did not even feel soreness in my muscles, even if I had just completed some intense hill training.
Let’s move on to Day D. How did your swim go?
I’m always the most nervous before the swim. After arriving in France, I only trained in the short pool in our garden, the length of 13 m. Even though there is a public pool in Grasse, the length of 25 m, it is always packed. When I went to swim there for the first time, there were at least ten of us in one lane dedicated to triathletes. I went there for a second and last time. But at least I met other Ironman Nice participants there, and ended up doing a 164 km training ride with them. So on Sunday, right before the race, I was doubting whether my preparation in the short pool was sufficient. I swam in the sea only twice, the week of the race.
How about the challenging bike course? Did you know what you were up for?
I rode the entire bike course before so I know exactly what I was up for and how much climbing I had to do, and time was passing by quickly. I thought I may have passed two girls in my age group, but I had no idea who was ahead of them.
My nutrition and hydration plan that I had come up with was working perfectly. The first small crisis came after about four hours of the bike, when the last long climb appeared. I could see my watts were lower than before, so I tried to motivate myself to go faster.
The end of the race is mostly downhill, and I started to get passed by many men. It bothered me. Even though I had been practicing descending for the last month, I still don’t feel comfortable on the narrow, winding roads of the French Riviera. Just try not to break, I kept telling myself. On the straight road towards the end, a pack of men passed me. There were so many of them, and the road so narrow, it was impossible to pass them back. I gave up on trying to accomplish the impossible, and stayed behind. I arrived in transition at a slower pace, but fairly well rested. And perhaps that was not the worst strategy. I was hoping to finish under six hours, and when I looked at my watch, it said 5.50.
This is quite an accomplishment on a bike course of this technical difficulty, by a woman. Did you have any strength left for the final marathon?
I ran out of transition onto the marathon course and realized the harsh reality, that the most difficult part was still ahead of me. I tried to keep up a brisk pace, but felt very slow. I needed to use the bathroom as I did not see it in transition. Unfortunately there were only two for all race participants, as well as the spectators. I would certainly have that changed by the race organizers for next year. It may seem like a small detail but when you’re racing, it seems like the most important thing. At first I tried running with a friend from the triathlon club in Grasse. He got sick, however, so I lost him. The second loop I tried to stay with someone who was running a 3:30 pace.
Did you encounter any major crisis?
I hit a wall halfway through the third loop of the marathon. I could tell I was slowing down but all of a sudden, a couple of friends surprised me, they ran alongside the course for a couple of minutes, and it really cheered me up.
I wanted my special needs bag, but could not find the special needs area. My boyfriend was there somewhere with other friends, but I did not see him due to the crowds. The last loop was the hardest. I knew I was slowing down but had no idea what place I was in. I figured the first woman in our age group could run less than 3:25. I had a feeling that with my pace of 3:30 someone was easily catching up to me. At that time I started to drink coke. I decided to use the bathroom one more time and was risking losing more time. Nonetheless that short break helped me put myself together and I just tried to keep up the pace. During the last turnaround I thought I had seen another woman pretty close behind me. That just gave me more strength to try to keep up my pace or not to slow down too much.
Then I saw my friends again and kept reminding myself that I was almost done. The closer I was to the finish, the further the finish seemed. I was looking at my watch to see the kilometers go by. It was only when I saw the finishing shoot that I started to feel happy that it was almost over. I still had no idea what my position was, but I was quite satisfied with my so far fastest marathon run of 3:31 and swim of 1:01.
How was it in the finish line? Are you happy with the result?
In the finish line, somebody told me he was also an athlete coached by Lubos Bilek and asked me if I was going to accept my slot to Hawaii. I must have finished pretty well then, I thought. It was only when I found my boyfriend that I had learned that I had won! I am quite happy with my time. I wanted to run the marathon faster, but perhaps it’s the winter training that I was missing. My body feels surprisingly good, not as destroyed as after Ironmen in high temperatures in Hawaii or Mexico.
Did you accept your slot to Hawaii? Are you going to challenge yourself in the lava fields this year again?
As I had already been to Hawaii twice, I did not accept my slot. This year I am going to Australia for the World Championship in the Half Ironman, 70.3. I will now focus on shorter and faster training, which I am looking forward to. I will continue to teach yoga which is also part of my preparation.
What are your nearest plans?
This week is rest week and it so happens that were flying to Mexico for a wedding of my boyfriend’s niece. My bike stayed in France. I am enjoying not having a routine for a week, and being able to eat what I want, when I want or have a glass of wine without thinking how it’s going to impact my next training or recuperation.
I am really grateful for the support of my loved ones and my sponsors who help me with all the triathlon gear, starting with the wetsuit all the way to the power meter. They include: #Zoot, #Ceepo, #Garmin, #Smith Optics, #Fuel Belt, #Speedfil, #Lake Cycling, #Boom, #Fusion Pro Bike Shop, #TYR goggles