Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service
After a shock second place in Kona, British triathlete wants overall win.
In her first time over the distance at Kona, the British triathlete took a stunning second place behind Daniela Ryf, who completed a hat-trick of victories at the event last weekend.
But Ryf’s 24-year-old rival is now targeting the top spot on the podium when she makes a return to Hawaii.
“Maybe next year I can go better,” she said. “The thing is there is still so much I can improve on. I’m still really new to the sport, I’m learning so much and every day I find out something else to improve on. I feel there’s a lot more to give.”
Charles had gone into the event targeting a place in the top 10 but, after 22 seconds shy of nine hours swimming, cycling and running, she could only be bettered by the world’s dominant triathlete Ryf.
A former swimmer, it was no surprise that Charles ended the 2.4-mile swim in front but, despite only turning to cycling and triathlon in 2014, she managed to maintain that lead for the majority of the 112-mile bike ride before being caught by Ryf.
Having ended up standing on the podium, now still slightly in disbelief, she recalled: “Daniela was really nice and so humble about it. When she came past me on the bike, she said something like ‘insane biking’.
“And that’s great because not that long ago I wasn’t even riding a bike. I was a bit surprised to be leading for so long, and afterwards she kindly said she’d never fought so hard to win the race, and that I really pushed her.
“What’s nice is that we’re both Red Bull athletes so it was almost a bit like we were teammates up there on the podium at the end.”
With temperatures hitting 40-degrees, unbearable humidity and strong cross winds, conditions were the toughest that Charles has experienced in her nascent career to date.
“The heat was so intense,” she said. “If you neglect your nutrition for a moment then you’re dehydrated and it’s over. As a result of the conditions, so many people fell apart on that run.”
Unbeknown to Charles before the event start, she had an expert at the roadside on hand during the marathon distance (26.2-mile run) giving her guidance.
“It was surreal,” said Charles, “during the run as I suddenly had Chrissie shouting me advice from the side of the road during the run. She just told me to get my ice sponges on my head and not just everywhere else. It made a big difference.
“And to meet her, someone who’s my hero, on the podium for the first time made it even more emotional than I already was. It was all a bit of a blur – not surprising after nine hours of competition – but the main thing I remember her saying was to enjoy it and soak it all up.”
Charles is now back in her hometown of London and is not yet drawing a close to her season, lining up in one more Half Ironman in Sardinia before plotting her 2018 campaign with her partner and coach Reece Barclay, himself a triathlete who endured three punctures on the route.
It was Barclay who predicted she would finish on the podium and she laughed, saying, “I should probably pay more attention to him from now on!”
Charles, though, did fear that more experienced athletes would catch her before the finish.
“The last hour of the run was really tough as I’d already been out on the course for eight hours,” she added. “I knew there’d be a chasing group. At the end I kept on looking over my shoulder but couldn’t see anyone.
“When I crossed the line, it was just such a high and that lasted for a while with the interviews. Then suddenly I was absolutely exhausted.
“I remember when I used to first do it, I thought I was going to die but my body’s got used to it. Don’t get me wrong, even before Kona I was thinking myself ‘why am I doing it?’ I’m glad I did.”