For me, the journey getting onto the start line at Ironman Estonia, is just as significant as the race itself. After finishing Ironman UK in July last year, I found myself booked onto Bolton again for the following year with no motivation or desire to even continue in triathlon let alone do another Ironman. After speaking with Steve we decided perhaps a different ironman, a different course something different would ignite the motivation again and so the hunt for an overseas Ironman began. Tallinn was the chosen one. The motivation came back but it was sadly short lived. The demands of working full time, single mum to Jessica and Derry (my blue angel)training, was taking its toll on both my mental and physical health. It was decided between Steve and I, there wouldn’t be any races other than Tallinn this year. Remove the demands.
In November time I joined a swim squad, where I met my partner in crime Andy. We had meet previously on a number of occasions none of them ending well, mainly us bickering about lane etiquette, and how I was holding him up in the fast lane to the point where I actually changed my pool session to avoid him so imagine my surprise when he turned out to be my swim squad lane buddy!! He was training for his first Ironman (Bolton) and we became training partners and the story of Team Taylor-Lynch began shortly after.
I spent the early part of the year just going through the motions of training, dreading every session and then a failed marathon attempt in April was the final straw that sank me into depression with life in general. I came very close to quitting triathlon, but Steve and Andy worked hard to keep me on the right track and remind me why I was on this journey. Steve sent me over some mind set exercises to do, and thought provoking activities to help me and a lot of words (available in his mindsetbooklet) struck a chord with me – if you are striving for perfection, you will never be happy, work with the tools and resources available. I decided to pull out of the European Championships in Romania as I couldn’t face the possibility of not performing, removed myself from social media for a while, took some much needed time off work and decided to change my outlook on training. This was my hobby, something I do for me, not to compete against others, but to better myself – to be the best version of me. And so with the help of Andy and Steve I slowly started to pick up the pieces of my life and work towards getting better mentally.
Andy’s first ironman was Bolton; he had trained hard leading up to the race and was set to have a cracking one. Sadly he didn’t have the race he wanted. Despite battling everything that was chucked his way he completed it and became an Ironman on the 14th July 2019 – that’s his story to tell this report is about Tallinn! (When I eventually get to it). Andy was naturally disappointed and upset, he wanted a better time and experience. During a phone conversation with him, he was debating whether he should do Tallinn with me (note Tallinn was just 3 weeks after Bolton) and whilst he was debating, I entered him onto Tallinn and he received the confirmation whilst we were chatting!!
About 4 weeks prior to Tallinn, my mental health started to improve, I was finally starting to enjoy life again. The pressure of not worrying about what anyone elsethought of me, and just doing this for me was working. I told Steve my number one objective for Tallinn was to finish this race with a smile, this race was for me and me only and the time would be whatever it would be.
So after Andy’s initial shock that he was about to do another Ironman when his feet were still blistered and sore from Bolton, it was time to pack up and head to Tallinn for our adventures.
When we stopped at Frankfurt we received an email stating, due to the 11 degree sea temp, they were moving the swim course to a lake and it would now be a split transition. Deep breaths Lynch, Andy whispered to me as I started hyperventilating, how were we going to cope with split transitions in a different country with no transport and now the start was nowhere near our apartment? ‘We will deal with it when we get there everything is fine, just smile Lynch’.
Realising that in fact it was no biggie, I soon forgot about it. Upon arrival into Tallinn, we were hit with another email but this time it was about our bikes, they were delayed and wouldn’t be ready for collection until Friday morning. Now we were both stressed, we needed to rack our bikes on Friday and any other delays could possible mean no race! Our stress was further added too when we realised we were the only ones standing at the luggage carousel and our bags were in fact still in the UK !!
So with no bags, no bikes and new arrangements. We did what anybody in our situation would do and went for a beer! We found our way to registration and with nothing to do we decided to head over to the lake, where our next drama awaited. Andy took one look at it, and said ‘Lynch I am not swimming in that lake it’s disgusting’ and those are pretty much the only words he repeated for the remainder of the day, night and morning of the race. The water was grim, and I mean GRIM. The water quality was fine, but the water was black and I am not talking dark brown, you couldn’t see your hands in the water and it was like swimming with your eyes closed. I was convinced he was going to pull out. It was touch and go until the race horn went off to be honest. I tried to remain positive, but deep down I wasn’t too excited about the prospect of swimming in that lake either.
Thankfully our bags and bikes arrived by Friday morning and it was a mad dash around to get organised, and ready for the race.
Race day – (finally hopefully you are still reading)
Andy slept = 0 hours still stressing about the water!
Karen slept = perfect
On the bus over to the start line, Andy decided he was going to get into the water prior to see just how bad it was. I didn’t want to know as I was calm and feeling really positive about the day ahead. I soon changed my mind when I got there and realised everyone was having a pre water warm up. I put my head under the water and thought ‘wow’ this is going to be a tough swim I can’t see anything! Andy gave me one of his ‘I told you so Lynch’ grins and we both got out without acknowledging just how terrible it was.
We both decided to play it steady on the swim, Andy much steadier as he got in behind me on the pen. I gave him a quick kiss and cuddle and said hopefully see you out on the course. We were off. The swim was tough, not in the respect it was punchy with only 1300 competitors it was a fairly small field by Ironman standards, there was no visibility, black water, blinding sun light. My breathing started to panic and I thought relax Karen, forget the time you are doing this for you, take it steady and get it done. I also was really worried Andy would have an anxiety attack and not get out of the water. I sang many a song to myself during that swim and eventually the end was there. I had made it. My time wasn’t the best but honestly I didn’t care. I quickly got changed and ran straight over to where his bike would be racked, it had gone.. yesssss!! He was out on the course; I jumped on my bike and was away.
The bike course was amazing, it was mostly flat with about 700m of elevation, and the roads were long and straight. Sounds ideal doesn’t it? But as you know there is always a trade-off and the winds on the course were pretty brutal. There was at least 70% of the course fighting head winds. We both felt comfortable on the bike, compared to some of hilly tough rides we have done recently, this felt good! I think I smiled the entire 112 miles. As we approached a hill there was a board it said ‘don’t worry it’s just a hill you will get over it’ both of us thought right let’s get ready changed gear, got up the hill or should I say incline and thought that’s not a hill, Yorkshire has hills. Needless to say the 2nd loop there was not much gear change.
I wanted to see Andy on the bike course, we hadn’t got to a point where we had crossed over yet, I figured he would have been out of his swim around 60 mins so I was about 15 mins ahead him give or take a little. Should I push on and try and catch him up, no that would be a silly idea. I was comfortable and whilst I felt I could have gone harder it’s a long day and I really wanted to do well on my run.
Ouch, what was that? I felt a burn/sting in my thigh, I pulled my suit up and saw a puncture mark had glass flicked up and caught my leg? It really hurt and left my leg tingling, what was it, oh hang on that’s Andy coming up on the other side ‘hey baby’ he shouted as he cruisedpast smiling from ear to ear, yay I had seen him, so I made a note of the miles and by the time I reached the point of crossing him I knew I was about 6 miles behind him. The rest of the bike course was pretty uneventful we both fuelled well, worked hard, took a bashing from the wind and I was pleased when we crossed each other at pretty much the same point on the 2nd lap as the first. We were consistent and neither of us was losing or gaining pace. There was about 15 mins difference. Thankfully it was the right decision to hang back on the bike as the last 20 miles were crucifying with the headwinds, going down 14 miles per hour I got into a tangle mentally thinking I had bonked and I was losing time but in reality I wasn’t and I was maintaining the same distances from other cyclists. I remember Steve always says to me, it’s the same for everyone Karen so I just gritted my teeth and got on with it.
Bike course completed, and I was still smiling. Run time. Within mins of starting my run I needed the loo, damn why didn’t I do this in transition it’s going to affect my run time. Whilst I was in the toilet, Andy unknowingly ran past, and was going into a bad place mentally as he was expecting to see me on the first lap and hadn’t. He started to think I had come off my bike and I was in trouble and was debating asking the course support to help locate me. Completely unaware of any of this drama, I got out of the loo and started my run. Wow I feel in good shape here, my legs feel tired but I can deal with this, I am actually going to be able to run this marathon – I have got this. I smiled the entire 1st Lap (unknown Andy was having a meltdown). The run course was beautiful, a couple of hills but mostly on cobbles and gravel. Trust me this this takes a serious toll on the legs, and my left leg was swelling up and pain was creeping in. I carried on determined to ignore it, I had stopped at the feed station when I saw Andy running towards me shouting ‘I am so bloody glad to see you baby, I love you’ see you on the next lap. I remember thinking wow he really is pleased to see me not realising how he was feeling!
I knew we were consistent on the run as we crossed paths at the same feed stations each lap, grabbing a few words, kisses, high 5’s as we went along. I was still pretty much 15 mins behind him. I just wanted to catch him up and be with him my leg was hurting and I was working as hard as I could but I didn’t want to tell him as I knew he would worry. On the next feed station, I ran through it and was expecting to see Andy but I didn’t, when I saw him it was clear he was struggling with his feet, I confessed to him at this point my leg was hurting and I was struggling to weight bear on it, I had adopted a rather cool jog/limp at this point. He set me the challenge on the 3rd lap to catch him up, I smiled and said I would but honestly I wasn’t convinced I would be able to as I was shattered.. Next food station no sign of Andy, I knew I was making ground and eventually I saw his back. Yes I had found him, I stopped my rather cool jog/limp and I could tell instantly his foot was bad. I know if his foot had been ok I wouldn’t’ have caught him up. If neither of us injured it would have been game on! We were 4 miles from the end, and we were together, we stopped had a kiss and cuddle and decided to run the last bit in together. We took a toilet break, some fuel on and did the ironman shuffle up to the red carpet, he said ‘here we are Lynch, this is what we train for’ he took my hand and we crossed the line together, at which point we had a cheeky kiss. What an experience it is to even run the red carpet but to do it with my partner was just amazing and outweighs any time or feeling. I had finished the race achieving what I had wanted, to finish with a smile and enjoy it. Time between us 6 seconds – we couldn’t have planned it better. We laughed when we eventually got back to our phones and saw the banter on facebook about it being a couples races, and was I going to chick him haha.
I just want to say to complete an Ironman alone is a major achievement to complete 2 , three weeks apart is pretty amazing !! No words to describe just how proud of Andy I am.
I can honestly say for the entire 12 hrs 21 mins I had a smile on my face, I was beaming from the inside out. I acknowledged what a strong woman I am for doing what I do and I was actually proud of myself – what a breakthrough.
Is this the end of my Ironman journey? not a chance, we have our next IM eyed up for next year. 3rd one for Andy, 4thone for me. I recently celebrated 2 year anniversary with Steve at OTCF, he has helped me become the athlete I am, not just physically but mentally. He has always believed in me, and understands a lot of my battles are mental. Thank you for sticking by me and please continue to have faith in me coach. ‘Your favourite kind of fruit cake’
Ps the sting on my leg turned out to be a bite of some kind, which resulted in Andy taking me to hospital after we landed. I had to get medication to stop the infection getting worse. Good news is I haven’t had my leg cut off, I will be back to conquer the Ironman run next year!