Aussie Pro Returns After Horrific Year Blighted By Injury
Laura Dennis (Australia) has fond memories of Taupo and will line up at the IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo on Saturday with her third-place finish in the shortened 2017 race top of mind, but she has some more recent memories that she is looking to bury with a steady performance that brings her safely to the finish line.
Laura Dennis (right) on the podium at IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong in February this year, credit: IRONMAN
It all started to go wrong for the 23-year-old in May this year.
“I was given the bad news that some soreness in my leg was in fact a fibula stress fracture. I patiently followed doctors’ orders and spent eight weeks wearing a moonboot, walking with the help of crutches and getting plenty of rest,” said Dennis.
“That was tough enough, but on my return to gradual weight bearing in June, my ankle completely broke. I was then forced to have surgery to remove an extra bone called an ‘Os Trigonum’ and plate the fibula.
“I had a total of 14 weeks on crutches, and 18 weeks either in a moonboot or non-weight bearing. In total it was six long months of no running!”
Dennis said the injury came at just the wrong time, not that there is ever a right time for this sequence of events.
“I had qualified for IRONMAN 70.3 World Champs and was number 12 in the world rankings prior to these injures, and of course I was devastated to miss out on that and other races. The only sentence I kept repeatedly saying was ‘can I please still race Taupo this year’ and thankfully, I have made it to the start line!”
It is not just any race for Dennis, it is a venue she loves returning to, one that will host the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships.
“Taupo is my favourite race location so far on the 70.3 IRONMAN circuit. I raced here in 2017 and placed third. I love the course, the town and everything about this picturesque venue.
“I couldn't be happier to say I'm coming back!”
Given the year she has endured, Dennis does have realistic goals on Saturday.
“This will be my second race since February so to be honest, my goal for this race is to cross the finish line with a smile on my face! I raced Western Sydney a couple of weeks back and was quite satisfied with my fourth place considering I had only returned to running seven weeks prior, following six months off running and three months off the bike.”
There has been a bright side to all the time off her feet, albeit at the expense of what used to be her best discipline.
“My swim and bike are probably stronger than prior to my injury, however I simply don't have the run kilometres in my legs just yet. The run used to be my strength, so it took me a little bit of mental strength last week to be passed by two girls on the run when usually the opposite is the case for me.
“I look forward to giving my best on Saturday in New Zealand, and whatever the outcome is, I'm beyond excited to just be there.”
Dennis will line up in a strong Pro Women’s field on Saturday morning, with a number of strong contenders in the mix including 2017 Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand champion Jocelyn McCauley (USA), 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney champion Radka Vodickova (CZE) and up and coming New Zealand pro Hannah Wells, with a full women’s and men’s pro preview to follow later this week.
IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo
Pro Women’s Field – detailed preview to follow on Wednesday this week
Bib #20 Radka Vodickova, Czech Republic
Recently returned to racing in 2018 just 11 weeks after giving birth to daughter Ruby with a win at IRONMAN 70.3 Davao, Philippines. Since then, she has gone on to clock up wins at IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam, Cebu and most recently, Western Sydney. Placed 5that 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in South Africa
#21 Jocelyn McCauley, USA
McCauley is a former age grouper turned pro and comes from a running background at Brigham Young and Cincinnati. McCauley is a mum and has a Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology. Her first IRONMAN race was in 2014, McCauley is the 2017 Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN NZ Champion. World Champ IM age group ‘14, ex college runner. 2 IM wins. 2018: 3rd IMNZ, 1st 70.3 Vichy, 10 Kona.
#22 Laura Dennis, 23, Australia
Brisbane athlete on the return from serious injury. 2018: 3 70.3 Geelong, 3 70.3 Taiwan, 4 70.3 Western Sydney
#23 Hannah Wells, 27, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
Made pro debut in 2018 at IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast with a 2nd placing and followed up with another 2nd at IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney.
#24 Rebecca Clarke, Auckland, New Zealand
Clarke is a former ITU competitor, primarily at World Cup level and is a renowned swim/biker, often leading the field out of the water and contributing to lead bike packs.
#25 Courtney Gilfillan, Australia
#26 Karen Toulmin, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
#27 Renee Kiley, 35, Australia
#28 Alise Selsmark, 35, Australia
#29 Amanda Wilson, 34, Australia
IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo - event schedule
Saturday 8 December