Ironman Wales – Paul Mcewan

The Ironman thing started just before Christmas when my wife Steph wanted to book me one for a surprise xmas present. She sent out spies to find out which race I would prefer. Turns out I said conflicting things to different people so Steph brought up the subject with me and we planned my ‘surprise xmas present’. We or should I say Steph decided upon IM Wales as we could have a holiday out of it too.
So at the start of the year my goal was set. IM Wales in September. Of course that’s the ‘A race’ so to plan other race’s around it I didn’t have to change my routine much. I enjoy the local races and the timings of them seemed to fit in with the ‘A race’. I did Paul Kirk Sportive, flat & Fast Sportive, Scunny Half, Humber Half, Ancholme Sprint, Lincs Edge & Steelman. Oh, and Slateman too (Great hilly prep).
I was pleased with my physical performances at all them races I spent the year following the Offthatcouchfitness plan the best I could for maximum effect. My only downfall in a couple of these events was my notoriously bad sense of direction. (I could get lost in a pool! ….and I probably have.) Well it turns out there are 2 not 3 laps in’ The Edge Standard’ I did know this. I just couldn’t remember which turning to take back to transition. Also during the ‘Flat & fast Sportive’ I seemed to have trouble spotting the bright Yellow Luminescent arrow signs! That caused me to do a bonus 15 miles.
The year went by fast and  the A race was creeping up. A few weeks away from race day I had the big training weeks. Most days were: Work, train, Sleep, Repeat. Social stuff takes a back seat and time with the Mrs is seldom.  One of the biggest sessions in training was a 94 mile hilly bike followed by a 16 mile run. The bike was a great ride out in the Wolds. The run however took a turn for the worse after half way. Let’s just say I had to run for the bushes. That had never happened to me before & would become my biggest paranoia for race day.
So, race day is upon us. If your familiar with IM races you’ll know the day starts at silly o’clock with a breakfast & checking you have your goggles & swim cap 20 times. I got a lift down to race HQ with fellow Lincsquader John Chambers who was also doing the race. Ashley Evans & Pete Tindall were also competing. I walked down to the swim start with John soaking up all the atmosphere and quietly containing my nervous flatulence within my wetsuit. It was a rolling start into the swim which made for a less congested start to the race. The sea was ‘in my opinion’ very calm. I can say this because the week before myself & John swam in the sea at Cleethorpes which can only be described as a ‘washing machine’. With that in mind this swim was uneventful really (apart from busting for a pee all the way round) there was a bit of swell in the second lap that made it hard to see the buoys but even I managed to find my way round. I glanced at my watch on exit of the water and was pleasantly surprised at the swim split.
Just a mere 1k run into transition & a really refreshing long pee. (My first of many….I reckon 8 overall). I had a nutrition plan which was discussed with the coach. I stuck to this the best I could. It was basically to eat and drink at regular intervals especially on the bike as its easier to digest food etc etc…. The only thing with drinking a lot is that you pee a lot. I would rather have this than fatigue and cramps. So, on the bike I go. The weather seemed pretty standard to start with. Overcast and a bit of wind. Then it just seemed to get progressively worse with the wind picking up and some heavy rain into the mix. Now I
don’t mind the hills its part of the attraction to IM Wales. I like the challenge of climbing. However, my Achilles heel are the descents. I am just too cautious, especially in bad weather conditions (oil on the road on a couple of descents). I spent most of the downhill sections gripping my breaks like my life depended on it. To make things interesting my chain was coming off every time I changed back into top cog. Luckily I could change down to rectify it without stopping. This however would become frustrating after a dozen times & make me paranoid about a DNF because of a mechanical failure.
Another factor to think about in these long-distance races is of course, pacing. Without a fancy power meter, the heart rate monitor is the next best thing. I didn’t trust mine so I went by feel. I must say despite the weather conditions I did really enjoy the bike. The support of the spectators on the climbs & through Tenby was phenomenal. I was made to feel like a famous athlete on the Tour De France and it felt good! Towards the end of the bike leg I must admit I was starting to look forward to the run. I knew that on the run I had less chance of weather or any external factor getting in the way of me and that finishers medal.
Into transition again and another ridiculously long pee, a change of footwear and onto the run. I held back enough on the bike to feel comfortable starting the run. As I mentioned before the spectator support for this race is just awesome. This is what gets you through the run. I should at this point thank my wife, in-laws & father for coming all this way to support me. I looked forward to their cheers every lap. Just like on the bike, pacing & nutrition was key. So, I carried on with the regular intake of fluids & a gel at every feed station. All the time making sure I don’t blow a gasket. I managed not to go out too fast at the start of the run which was a concern of mine but it turns out after 112 miles on the bike your legs are tired. That helped me keep my pace in check. Three laps in and I managed to keep the pace regular. In fact, the fourth lap turned out to be the quickest! I spotted John and Ash on the run and exchanged encouraging words. I managed to catch up with Ash on the last lap which I wasn’t expecting as he looked to be running strong when I saw him earlier. My favourite part of the run was high fiving all the kids on the way past, again feeling a bit like a celebrity. And so the time came on the fourth lap where the finishing chute is in sight. As much as I enjoyed this race it had to end sometime and I was ready for it. I regret not slowing down on the red carpet to soak up the glory but it was all good. I made it to the line in a time of 13:43:01. Happy with that for an IM debut with a rough bike leg.
Firstly, many thanks to the wife not only for booking the race but for putting up with all that comes with it. Being a ‘triathlon widow’ as she calls it. Many thanks to offthatcouchfitness Steve Clark. The man with the plan! And thanks to all the fellow lincsquaders for their help and comradery.
Would I do it again? Yes I would. However, there is now a little McEwan cooking as I speak so my available to train will diminish. I will return one day to IM Wales but for now its all about somebody else’s toilet breaks.

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