LAURA SIDDALL: A Reflection on the Kona IRONMAN World Championship
SKINS strives to celebrate wins, big and small. One of our ambassadors, Professional Triathlete Laura Siddall, recently celebrated a big win—placing 16th at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii despite battling a recent brain injury. Read her story and how SKINS Compression gear helped her maximize recovery and finish the World Championship in less than nine hours!
By: Laura Siddall, Professional Triathlete
It’s been a few weeks already since I competed in the Ironman World Championships. It was a record-breaking year: Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) breaking the course record, Anne Haug (GER), finishing in second and breaking the run course record. Sixteen women went sub-nine hours. In 2014 when Miranda Carfrae won, her time would have placed her 17th this year!
The women are raising the bar and it’s exciting.
Me — I finished 16th. And whilst I’d love to claim that if I’d raced in 2014, I’d have won (beating Rinny’s time), of course there were also 15 women ahead of me! Ha! This year I placed 16th and dipped under the nine hour mark for the first time in my five World Championships in Kona. But what makes 2023 special, is that just four and a half months ago, I was hit by a car during the bike leg of IRONMAN Brazil. I can’t remember any of the incident, and fortunately, I had no broken bones. However, I did suffer a brain bleed and therefore, a concussion. I went from 30 hours of training a week and being in great shape for IRONMAN Brazil (although typically you don’t quite realize it at the time, in terms of what shape you are in), to zero hours. I wasn’t allowed to do anything, bar a few easy 20 minute walks a day. I wasn’t able to drive—just rest. I had to limit my time on screens. But mainly, it was going from training to nothing.
I’ve always played sport since I was a kid, I’ve never not been able to do anything!
I wasn’t even sure I’d make it to the start line in Kona this year. I was fortunately offered a Wild Card to be able to race, but it was still going to be an uphill battle to regain fitness and be at a level to compete whilst managing a brain injury.
After many weeks of no activity, bar walking, I was able to get back on the bike—albeit the indoor training bike—and start low intensity work. The first session back in the swimming pool was certainly surreal and almost an out of body experience, but slowly I was able to get back to some walk/run and add time to my sessions. It was several more weeks before I rode outside, but we started building up the sessions. The biggest difference I noticed was fatigue and energy levels. A session that I would have done without thinking pre-Brazil, would leave me wiped out for the rest of the day. I would still have to rest and nap and take time between sessions. I had to really manage my efforts and be careful with sensations in my head still.
What helped was taking out the structure. We went a little “off-piste” with the training—following a more organic approach with some unstructured sessions and just going off to ride in the mountains and run on the trails without thinking about pace or power. I focused on just loving being out and about—all the time just trying to reduce any additional stress.
Sleep would also be disrupted, as can often be the case after a brain injury, so I was utilizing everything I could to ensure the rest I had was optimized. This meant sleeping in my SKINS Compression Sleepwear, and regularly, when the sessions started to ramp up, living in my SKINS Recovery Tights. I was trying to give my body the best chance of benefitting from the training, and recovering to go again the next day.
The final few days heading into the race were great. My coach, Dibs, was with me and did an amazing job at making the run as relaxed as possible, as well as keeping my head out of race day in the right way. With various commitments this year, I had to be extra careful to ensure I had enough quiet time—resting my body for race day (pretty much sleeping/living in my SKINS Recovery Sleepwear), and my head to ensure I kept the headaches and sensations at bay.
Fast forward to race day—the Ironman World Championships, Kona, October 14th. My last race (completed) had been back in March. My last full distance was the Ironman World Championships in Kona the year before. Whilst my coach, Julie Dibens had done an amazing job at getting me into the best shape we could with the time and circumstances, it was still an unknown as to what would happen on the day, in the race, under the stress and conditions. Would my head be ok? Could my body manage the day—the 2.4 mile swim, the 112 mile bike and the 26.2 mile marathon run, in the hot, humid, windy conditions that Kona throws up?
As an athlete, you always want better. You always strive for more. But considering the buildup to the race and the past year, I have to be proud of my performance. Finishing 16th, going sub-9 hours—my fastest time in Kona. Also, the fact that I feel I managed my body and head and ensured I did everything in my control to ensure my health was in check.
I feel it was a big step in moving forward, almost closing the door on the past few months. Being back on the start line and making it to the finish line. I know and am aware I still need to be really careful. The days post-race I was extra conscious to ensure I took things easy and tried to rest as much as I could (again back with my SKINS Recovery and Compression gear, especially as I headed straight into some long haul travel—my SKINS Compression Travel Tights and Compression Socks are a must for travel. Things are still very much unknown, and I am still managing some symptoms, but I feel we are moving in the right direction.
Onwards and more races to come…
Participate in our “SKINS Win” Giveaway beginning 11/7/23 for a chance to win a free pair of SKINS Compression tights. Complete this questionnaire before 11/14/23 to enter to win.