Laura Daly was competing for Ireland in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Lahti, Finland

Laura Daly was competing for Ireland in the 2023 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Lahti, Finland

As triathlon events go, they don’t come much bigger than the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Competing for your country there is a huge achievement in itself and can make all the blood, sweat and tears and the relentless training worthwhile. That was certainly the case for Laura Daly as she lined up to represent the Republic of Ireland in the big showdown.

The excitement was building and the nerves were jangling for Laura as she counted down the days until the day of reckoning arrived. This was it. This was what she’d been working towards all these years. This was her moment to shine and prove that she could cut it when faced with some of the very best athletes around the globe.

Only a couple of months had passed since she finished fourth in the Irish Standard Distance National Championships and topped the standings in her age group. Now she was looking to make her mark on the world stage knowing it was absolutely vital to be at her best and make the most of the opportunity. She was determined to give a good account of herself despite inevitably being up against a high standard of opposition.

Laura Daly arrives at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Lahti, Finland

The tension was building as Laura arrived in Lahti ahead of the big event

The 2023 Ironman 70.3 World Championships was held in Lahti, Finland, and consisted of a 1.93km (1.2 mile) swim, a 90km (56 mile) cycle and a half marathon run. The Swim took place in Lake Vesijärvi, starting from Teivaa Harbour, where the athletes had to dive off a wooden platform into the crystal clear water to start their race.

It was a three-turn course, finishing in the passenger harbour, it was then up the stairs to be greeted by the crowds looking on from the terrace cafes and restaurants behind Sibelius Hall.

Swimming is usually the discipline that Laura excels in most but, on this occasion, she felt she put in an average performance, registering a time of 30 minutes 25 seconds. That put her in 134th in the gender rankings and 37th in her age group which was the F25-29 division. Considering, she was up against 2,264 athletes who had all qualified to represent their respective nationalities, that wasn’t a bad position to be in, but Laura was determined to improve it.

The Bike course set off from Lahti Harbour, right in front of Sibelius Hall, giving the athletes a taste of the spectacular Finnish landscape. The route took them past lakes, fields and forests as it moved out of the city of Lahti and through the towns of Kärkölä and Hollola. In fact, the course was a little more rolling than Laura was expecting but that played to her strengths. There was quite a steep incline for the riders to negotiate before they dismounted near the Sport and Fair Centre.

Completing the bike ride in 2 hours 30 minutes and 49 seconds, Laura had gained 32 places, moving up to 102nd in the gender rankings and 27th in her age category. It was now a question of, could she move even further up the field in the run?

Laura on her half marathon run in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship

Laura leaves it all out there in her half marathon run

The Run consisted of two loop course, with some indoor to outdoor interchanges. Starting from inside the Sports and Fair Centre, it was then out of the transition area and alongside the Ironman Village before heading across a 40m long arched foot bridge. It was then a lap inside the Lahti Stadium before exiting it and facing a long and challenging climb up Salpausselkä ridge. The route then heads back down to Lake Vesijärvi.

Revisiting the Teivaa Harbour where the swim began, it then touches on the Pikku-Vesijärvi, a small lake with nice park, before a brief out-and-back near the popular “LAHTI” letters photo spot. Then its back into the Sports and Fair Centre for the second lap. The finish sees the athletes head towards the Salpausselkä Ski Jumps before reaching the line.

It wasn’t exactly a flat run though. The route featured a two mile long climb that had to be tackled twice, since it was a two lapper. That put the elevation gain up to 200 metres plus. Gaining a further 10 places over the course of the run, Laura got through it in 1 hour 32 minutes and 11 seconds, giving her an overall time for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships of 4 hours 40 minutes and 52 seconds.

Laura Daly representing Ireland in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Lahti, Finland

Laura did her country proud, coming in the top 20 for her age group and third Irish woman home

That meant she’d finished as 92nd female and 19th in the F25-29 division. Given the calibre of the athletes she was up against, that was a tremendous result for Laura. Out of the 10 Irish women in the race, Laura was third fastest, proving she could indeed be very competitive on the international stage.

It was such a huge achievement for Laura, it’s hard to even quantify it in words. The most important thing though was that she was able to put in a good performance on the day and one that would represent her as an athlete and showcase what she is truly capable of. In this race, she did that, recording a 7-minute improvement on her previous best.

Of course, there are learnings to take away from it and still plenty of aspects she can work on and hone for potentially even better results in the future. For now though, it’s time to take stock of what she has accomplished, enjoy it and be proud. Getting to this sort of level was something she’d never even dreamed of, let alone thought she was going to manage. It just goes to show though, if you work hard, apply yourself correctly and focus on your goals, anything is possible.