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Lou Collins interviewed

The shock Lanzarote runner-up on having come so close to a maiden Ironman victory

In one of the most eventful and remarkable races of 2010 (and any other year come to think about it), Nottingham’s age-group (F25-29) athlete Lou Collins (right) came painfully close to winning her first Ironman race. Overall. And at the world’s toughest Ironman experience.

But it was not to be as Cat Morrison (pictured left, having sat at the side for 45mins with a broken chainring) passed the TFN athlete with minutes to spare. Look for a full race report, news story and interview with Morrison in issue 249 of 220 Triathlon (out June 29th).

But here’s Lou on that performance…

220: Congrats on the race! Last time we spoke to you in December 2008 [Lou was one of 220’s Unsung Heroes of 2008 in issue 229] you said the ambition was to go Ironman (‘Anything is possible in Ironman’ was the pretty apt quote!). Did you enter Ironman Austria last year? Or was Lanzarote your first?

Lou: I pulled out of IM Austria as I hurt my knee in late March and couldn’t run for seven weeks (too much volume and intensity – a rookie error!) I knew I wouldn’t be able to do myself justice so I decided to pull out and wait until this year. I still managed to have a good season even with minimal run training so, although I was disappointed initially, it didn’t turn out too bad and I learnt some valuable training lessons.

Can you talk us through your Ironman Lanzarote race? How did you feel pre-race? Any aims? What was going through your mind when you were winning?

Pre race I was nervous! First IM and first time I’ve pitted myself against the ‘big guns’ as such. Also I’ve heard many stories from club mates and others of people having a meltdown and Lanza is hot (for us Brits anyway) so I didn’t want to blow and have to walk the marathon. Chris my coach had the view that I was either going to go very well or I was going to blow myself up so I was under strict orders to keep it steady early on and that the race starts properly with 10 miles to go!

In terms of the race I had an okay swim despite the rookie mistake of not getting to the start early and having to fight my way to near the front. The bike is normally my strength and the part I love but not this time. I normally bike aggressively and sometimes when I hold back to try and bike conservatively I struggle to find a rhythm. I was quite happy to get to the run, which is rare for me!

Run wise I’ve been going well in training and I felt good at the start but I know in an Ironman you can go from running strong to walking in an instant so I just kept focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, keeping steady and cool (sponges stuffed down the tri-suit isn’t a good look but I figured it’s better than having a meltdown!!).

I wasn’t thinking at all about position even when I was in second. I was just focused on keeping running! It was a shock to see Bella in front of me as she is someone I’ve looked up to for years but, again, I just told myself to keep running – I never thought about winning the race, just about keeping in my rhythm. At the last turn around I expected Bella to have hung on to me (she’s so tough) and then I saw Cat who was clearly flying.

I tried to increase my pace but my legs wouldn’t move any faster – I knew she was going to pass me and I tried to hang on but she was too strong. At that point I was in a lot of pain and just wanted to get across the finish line.

We’re guessing you would have bitten our hand off if we told you that you were going to take silver at Lanzarote pre-race. But having come so close is there a sense of frustration?

Of course. Now that the pain in my legs has gone there is a frustration that I couldn’t hold on for the win. However, Cat thoroughly deserved it and is a class athlete. Also I know that I will use that frustration in my training and races in the future.

Kona slot sorted? How’s that feel?

I have my Kona slot – now I just need to work out how I am going to get the time off work and pay for it!

Any pro intentions now?

I may think about getting a pro license next year but in terms of giving up work to concentrate on tri full time I don’t think it’s a viable option. I’m not good enough yet and there’s not much money in triathlon unless you are at the very top. I’m also very lucky to get terrific support from Total Fitness Nottingham (www.tfn.uk.com) who provide me with the best equipment. Although I’m not a pro I have the equipment to match the pros!

Profile image of Matt Baird Matt Baird Editor of Cycling Plus magazine


Matt is a regular contributor to 220 Triathlon, having joined the magazine in 2008. He’s raced everything from super-sprint to Ironman, duathlons and off-road triathlons, and can regularly be seen on the roads and trails around Bristol. Matt is the author of Triathlon! from Aurum Press and is now the editor of Cycling Plus magazine.