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For personal trainer, triathlon coach and mother of two Harriet Chettleburgh, anything is possible. Here, she reveals to FitPro the reality of competing in the Ironman, Austria.

Trust your body

“The final moments before the mass start of an Ironman open water swim are ‘intense’ to say the least,” recalls Harriet Chettleburgh. Standing on the beach at Lake Worthersee in Austria, the competitor looked around at the focused expressions of the other 2,500 athletes waiting for the start cannons to blast. With no previous Ironman experience, Chettleburgh was certainly venturing into the unknown with the mantra “trust your training, trust your body”.

“Everyone was waiting. In those final moments I witnessed something that amazed me. A blind athlete was led past me by her guide; they were attached to one another with a leash around their wrists. Everyone here had their own challenges to overcome in the hours that lay ahead.”

The swim was 2.4 miles in the crystal blue waters of Lake Worthersee, the water temperature a balmy 22°C. Chettleburgh tells me that much of the swim was “a frenzy of limbs” and she took a few “kicks and punches to the head”.

“I could taste gunpowder in the water from the huge fireworks that had accompanied the start cannons. The water was beautiful and clear, which made it relatively easy to relax and get on with the job. For the last half mile we funnelled into a narrow canal, where it really did become every man for himself and resembled swimming in a washing machine!”

As Chettleburgh swam, the crowds lined the banks and cheered her to the finish. She completed the race in 1hr 13mins. Running for the changing tents, she peeled off her wetsuit in triumph.

Turn the page to find out what happened when Chettleburgh tackled the 112-mile bike course around Lake Worthersee …

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