What a privilege to swim, bike, run in beautiful Nice, France, in the largest women IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship and the largest female triathlon race ever!  Yeap, we made fucking history 2 weeks ago and I am so proud to have been part of this movement.  Here’s to many more women participating in triathlons worldwide by daring to dream big and set bold goals. 

Anything is possible when a woman is empowered as she is able to see past her fears. Let me share with you my story of empowerment and seeing past my fears by setting audacious goals as I competed in my 2nd IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.

Approximately 2,000 female athletes toed the start line on Day 1, September 7th, at the 2019 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.  Males raced on Day 2 on the same course.  In order to qualify, more than 200,000 age-group athletes competed to earn a slot in over 100 IRONMAN 70.3 events worldwide. When you stand at start line among other age group athletes, you feel an immense sense of accomplishment, pride and for me belonging… as you know what it took for each of us to be here at this very moment.


  • Swim 1.2 miles in Mediterranean Sea.

  • Bike 56 miles in the Alps.

  • Run 13.1 miles in Promenade des Anglais. 

Nice, France is known to have one of the most challenging bike courses in the IRONMAN 70.3 circuits.  The 1st half of the bike course has 2 long and steep climbs leading to Col de Vence, also known as the mini Mont-Ventoux.  The 2nd half, you are faced with technical descents with relentless switchbacks.  I found myself wanting to die on the way up the mountain and then holding onto dear life coming down the mountain… but I am skipping ahead… let me start with the 1st leg, my favorite, the open ocean water swim.

The swim course had everything that I love: ocean swim in pristine and warm waters.  The water temp on race day was 75F making it a wetsuit-optional for age groupers and non-wetsuit for female pros.  I chose to swim without a wetsuit as 75F feels very comfortable to me and the Mediterranean Sea is super salty.  On race day, I was one of a handful of females who had opted to race without a wetsuit. This slightly messed with my head as I found myself in a sea of woman with wetsuits. Had I chosen the wrong gear? Thank god for my family and friends in the VIP tent cheering and distracting me as I waited my turn to step on to the start line.

Pro-females such as Lucy Charles-Barclay and Daniela Ryf, were the first in the water at 7am and my age group, 40-44, we were the first age group to follow the badass pro athletes unleashed hell. Once I jumped in the ocean, all my doubts and fears washed away as I was thankful I kept to my guns about not wearing a wetsuit.  The water was absolutely perfect and I felt like a fish in the sea!

The first 800 meters where straight out into the sea in the dawn light. The swim felt liberating and easy until we turned the first buoy and encountered choppy waters and jellyfish. The next 400 meters I felt like I was stuck in a washing machine.  After swallowing a couple of to many gulps of super salty water, I changed my swim stroke to avoid getting sick. On the last buoy turn, it was a diagonal shot back to beach, and it was exhilarating as you could see the city lights in the twilight skies and as you approached the beach, you could hear the crowd getting louder and louder.  I got emotional getting out of the water and seeing my family and friends cheering as I entered T1 (swim to bike transition). 

I totally felt like a badass at this point. in my head I thought I had a super fast swim. It was a blessing that I opted to race naked (no triathlon watch), as I didn’t have data to prove me wrong. Regardless, This high feeling would not last long as I made my way to my toughest and most technical bike course I had ever experienced in my lifE.

The first 25 miles of the bike course leading to Col de Vence, all you did was climb a total elevation gain of 4485 ft.  I totally underestimated the Southern Alps of France!  Back at home, on my computer screen when I was learning about the course, the elevation gain looked totally double. I purposely trained a couple of my long rides alone in Pretty Boy Reservoir, which has the same elevation gain. 

The only difference, the elevation gain in Pretty Boy is over 50 miles while in Col de Vence the same elevation gain is done less than 25 miles.  that’s a BIG fucking difference!

The truth, I totally felt defeated. At some point on the climb, I started planning options on how to stop this madness.  In my head I had come up with a couple fucked-up options:

A) fake a muscle cramp

B) pretend falling off bike

C) bike mechanical issues….

…and then in between feeling pathetic and suffering, I remembered my mom, my husband, and my friends waiting for me at transition and everybody back at home tracking me … that was enough to leash my pussy demon and push forward to the summit. I kept telling myself, “harden the fuck up, you got what it takes to finish this”.

On the last 10k to the summit of Col de Vence, the road had kilometer countdown signs which were a total blessing as I could focus one kilometer at a time. Hitting the summit was a massive wave of relief but unfortunately it was short lived as I had no idea what I would encounter on the second half of the bike course.

Let me just start that I had never ridden in the Alps before. Knowing what I know now, I should have arrived to Nice much earlier and ridden the bike course before the race. The descent was incredibly technical with zig-zag hairpin turns and no railing on the switchbacks which meant one missed turn, and off you would go straight down a cliff of rocks.  On Day 2, one of the male athletes went down the cliff with other athletes going after him to find him.  In my race, I saw two female riders colliding on a switchback and I am unsure if either woman made it as there are mixed messages on the private FB page. 

This was my lowest low of that day.  It was horrific to watch and hear the collision of the two female ATHLETES. It reminded me and made me aware of how dangerous riding can be and how unprepared I was. 

This bike course gave me a deep appreciation for professional cyclist. It also opened my eyes to how much I still need to learn. I don’t want to EVER feel what I felt on that mountain EVER again as I was ready to make this my last race and my last bike ride. Of course those feeling changed the nano second I crossed the finish line.. but again I am skipping ahead, let me finish with the 3rd leg, the run.  

Coming into T2 (bike to run transition) all I wanted was to drop my new bike and never see it again! I found my bib number on the transition rack, dropped my bike off, and just stood there for a few getting my breath back and going for a pit stop. Eventually I started moving again to grab my run bag and as I exited T2, I spotted my family and friends. As I approached them, ALL I wanted to do was to vent and debrief about my bike experience…. but boy, they wanted no parts of that… and they all pushed me to keep moving! I can still hear their voices in my head “no, no, no, get that out of your head and go run!” So off I went to tackle the last leg, the half marathon.

The run course was a fast and flat course with 2 loops along the beach promenade with little shade.  The 1st loop I hit another low moment, as I felt sluggish, hot, and without power on my legs. I stopped for another pit stop to regroup and walked through every water stop to get water, ice, coke and some fruit and as I headed towards the 2nd loop, I fucking found my legs and took advantage to pick up my pace. Without a watch I had no idea how fast or slow I was going so I trusted how I felt and was able to still clock in a 1:56 half marathon.

I had worked so hard to qualify for Nice and this course took everything out of me as it was by far the hardest and my slowest IRONMAN 70.3. Yet this course, gave me an immense appreciation for the sport, leaving me hungry to become a better cyclist and to get certified to become a triathlete coach in order to help others break through their own barriers and fears.

Onward I went with all these feelings to cross my 2nd IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship finish line and my 11th IRONMAN race!

Getting medaled at the finish line by my mom and husband was by far my most proudest and memorable IRONMAN moment and having my two best friends there (Peggy and Karen) to high five me felt beyond real! Sharing this moment with them and with all of you is truly what keeps me going. If I am able to inspire you along this process for you to take your own leap into your dreams, please know I am forever grateful. You all keep me moving forward when I thought I didn’t have it in me. Know that you were all part of this epic Nice journey… and to this challenging course….all I have to say is…  bring it on Nice! 

#AnythingIsPossible #IM703WC

Esther Collinetti