I entered Wales Ironman late in 2016, my first Ironman with a view to completing a few events in the build-up to the main event in September. First event of the year was Brass Monkey half marathon with a PB on a cold wet January morning, followed by Manchester marathon in April which I had a reasonable but disappointing run due to a glute strain half way round. Onwards and upwards to the first of my big races of the year – City to Summit, Edinburgh to Fort William. An Iron distance duathlon not for the feint hearted with only 49% of people making it to Fort William. 3 weeks later (legs still tired) I took part in Thuderun – a 24 hour 10km relay race. Weather conditions were atrocious and of the four laps I completed, 3 were like running in gravy it was that muddy!
With all this in the bank, training was going extremely well for Wales up until 2 weeks before race day where I went over on my ankle whilst running. Luckily after an x-ray, it wasn’t broken just ligament damage causing massive swelling and bruising from half way up my calf down to my toes. My foot looked like it belonged to a zombie!
With this in mind it took the pressure off me on race day as I knew I wouldn’t be able to push for a time and I could actually relax. I slept well the night before waking just before the alarm at 0345, breakfast and in transition for around 0530, final check of the bike and wetsuit on ready for the off!
Being a self-seeded swim start I decided to aim for 1:20 – 1:25. I was lined up on the road waiting for the procession to move to the swim start, I checked my watch and it felt a bit loose so I went to tighten it and the strap broke – great! Luckily I still had my swim to T1 transition bag so put it in there for safe keeping. From this point onwards I was blind from any data on the swim, bike or run.
I exited the swim feeling comfortable (apart from the run on the sand between to two laps due to my ankle) in a time of just over 1:25. The swim was relatively calm but became a bit choppy on the out leg of the second lap as the swell increased somewhat.
I saw my family and support crew as I ran to transition. Before I went out on the bike, I was planning on painkillers to get me
through, but even though I had packed them I couldn’t find them. The bike leg started off well and I managed to make some time up into the wind on the way out to Angle and the first of the big laps round Saundersfoot was going well (apart from the severe wind) until on the second lap the pain in my ankle returned which slowed me right down as I couldn’t push on the hills. I finished the cycle in 7:24, an hour or more than I originally had planned. Back into transition and still no sign of the pain killers! I later found them in my cycling shoe when I was unpacking my gear when I got home! I started the run which initially I had a shooting pain in the lower of my leg which went numb to it after an hour or so but I was unable to run uphill, or at any great pace downhill. Wrist band envy became the nature of the run as I passed other athletes going in the opposite direction. I saw a few guys who I knew who were in front of me as it was good to see some familiar faces a few hi-5’s and a quick chat encouraging each other on. Finally I had my yellow band and only 2.5 miles to run downhill back in to Tenby. As I turned the final corner looking towards the finish line (which you have to run past 3 times prior to finishing – mental torture!), I was overwhelmed to hear those magic words “John Chambers you are an Ironman!” It was a relief to see my brother at the finish line who I think had nearly endured as much as I had having to watch me run in pain for over 5 hours, the feeling was quite overwhelming. 15:03 wasn’t the time I was hoping for or normally capable of but without the pressure of being able to or having to chase a time, it gave me the opportunity to really soak up the experience and make the most of the day. The support through the town throughout the whole day was awesome, I felt like everybody knew me cheering me on (it did help I had my name on my race number!).
I cannot explain in words what the atmosphere was like in Tenby as the whole town just embraces it, I have experienced nothing like it, especially as the Welsh National anthem was sung prior to the swim start by what felt like to whole town was spine tingling.
Thanks as usual to Steve Clark at OffThatCouchFitness for expert guidance and coaching and my support crew, Tim Bulman and the legend that is Dave Jackson who I am glad I could share my Ironman experience with.
Here’s to next year with a return visit to slay the dragon hopefully this time not on a dodgy foot, and finally, best wishes with the new arrival to Steve and Emily.