Interview with Christina Mackenzie

Christina was the first placed female and sixth overall finisher at The Race 2014. This September she is representing the Irish age group team at the European Ironman championships in Almere before starting to focus on preparation for The Race 2015.

We caught up with her this week to chat about The Race and her training schedule for the rest of the year.

 

christina-mackenzie

Name: Christina Mackenzie

The Race 2014 Time: 18 Hours 13 Minutes

 

How did your training go for The Race 2014. What races had you done in the lead up to the event?

I got into triathlons in 2012 and adventure racing in 2013. I love the challenge of trying something new and pushing the boundaries.

I had done an Ironman in Bolton in August followed by the Hardman in Kerry. I felt comfortable with these distances but worried about the mountain run and kayak section of The Race. These were elements I hadn’t attempted before

I also knew that I would be out for a lot longer during The Race in potentially bad weather. One event that really prepared me for this was the Art O’Neill race in January. The weather was shocking and we got lost in the mountains. It was the first time I have had the feeling of survival during an event. It was horrendous at the time but ultimately gave me confidence that I could keep calm in these conditions.

It also taught me the importance of planning my clothing properly. A critical lesson to learn before attempting The Race.

 

 

Can you briefly describe your race experience. How was the event for you ?

I set out with the mentality of just taking each stage at a time. It felt like a big step into the unknown. I didn’t have a clue if i’d be able to complete the course.

Stage 1 - The first half marathon was quite pleasant. There were nerves, but I took my time and ran with a few friends. The lads were all making jokes and slagging one another. The weather was also nice.

Planning nutrition for such an intense and lengthy event had played on my mind in the lead up.

Stage 2 - The kayak was the section I was most concerned about attempting. I had done a few 2km races before but this was a big step up. I focused on the kayak for the last few kilometers of stage 1. Going over in my head the clothing I needed to get on at the transition. I knew other competitors had brought their own paddles which was a bit intimidating too. I wasn’t sure how high the standard was going to be.

As it transpired this section wasn’t actually that bad. After a couple of kilometers I started to enjoy it and was able to chat with the competitors around me.

Stage 3 - I looked forward to the bike sections. I’m comfortable on the bike and felt that I could finally settle into the race.

At one point we did a loop and for the first time I could see where I was compared to the other competitors. I start to think about making up time and racing. Mentally it was a nice change.

This first cycle was 100km but it seemed never ending with climb after climb to finish. The rain was also off and on which meant you had to change clothes a lot.

Stage 4 - Planning nutrition for such an intense and lengthy event had played on my mind in the lead up. I had settled on going for gels and bars rather than stable foods. I knew I could keep going for up to 12 hours using bars and I was used to them. This meant I was faster than most at the transitions.

The mountain however knocked me back a bit. It was the biggest climb I had ever undertaken during an event and it felt like it took so long. There was one moment when I decided to stop and look around. The scenery was beautiful and taking a minute to look around seemed to relax me. It’s easy to be too focused on the race and not take in all the beauty that surrounds you. By the time I hit the summit and turned around the weather started to turn and a fog enveloped the top of Muckish. I felt my energy coming back however and started to almost sprint down the mountain. It felt brilliant to be covering the ground so quickly and over taking people.

Stage 5 - At the beginning of the second cycle there was a really strong side wind. Coming down form the mountain at great speed I felt that my wheel was about to come off. I stopped about three times to make sure everything was ok.

After this descent the rain started coming down properly and the temperatures dropped. This became the toughest section of the whole event for me. On several occasions I felt like packing it all in and taking refuge in a bus shelter. It felt really bleak.

I felt like I was starting to go a bit mad and was constantly talking to myself. I even started to talking to the Jelly Babies I was carrying before eating them.

At this point I was cycling along with another competitor. I could tell the cold was really getting to him and we kept each other going. Throughout the course there was a great camaraderie between competitors.

Towards the end of the cycle it got dark which initially seemed hard to deal with. I was really slow for the last 10km.

Stage 6 - It was brilliant to make it into the last transition point. I just remember sitting beside a gas fire and then changing my clothes completely. It was also great to chat with some of the organisers and competitors. For the first time I felt that I would finish the event.

As I headed out into the National Park my plan was to run the whole marathon. I felt if I fell to a walk at any stage it would be hard to keep going. By this stage my mind was starting to play tricks on me. I felt like I was starting to go a bit mad and was constantly talking to myself. I even started to talking to the Jelly Babies I was carrying before eating them.

Then all of a sudden came a massive climb. A climb that seemed pointless to run. I started to march up this climb and at the top was rewarded with my first glimpse of the lights at the finishing line, still some 15 kilometers off.

 

Advice for future competitors?

Plan your clothing well. Make sure you know where every item is and can keep dry for the duration of the 24 hours.

Don’t think of the complete picture but rather break the day up into stages and take it one at a time.

Spend time on a race beforehand that requires a mental battle in cold weather. The Race is a lot about your mental toughness and keeping going in challenging conditions.

 

What are you training for in 2014/2015?

8 weeks ago I went for a cycle along a cycle path in Dublin. A teenage girl stepped on in front of me. That was the last thing I remember. When I recovered consciousness I was in the recovery position having knocked myself out and broken my clavicle in three places. It was a real shock and resulted in me missing the start of the Triathlon season.

I’m back training now and have been picked to represent the Irish age group team at the European Ironman championships in Almere. That’s in September so I still have a bit of time to get ready. After that I will start to focus on my preparation for The Race 2015.