On August 4th I tackled my first ever Ironman. I have put many gruelling hours of training in to get into the shape I wanted to be in come race day. There have been many sacrifices along the way, as any other Ironman will know. On the morning of the race I was relaxed and felt good the only thing bothering me was the weather. I was up at 3am to fill my face full of porridge and get into race mode. Before I knew it, after a little tinkering with my bike in transition, it was time to get in the water. Advice you read tells you to head to the sides when on a mass start so in my Zone 3 Wetsuit I threw caution to the wind and started right in the middle at the front! Bring it on I thought, you could feel the tension in the air.
The Klaxon went and we were off, I set off at a good pace to try and prevent being swam over and I managed to create a bit of space. Everything went to plan and I slowly made my way over to the left with minimal contact from others, as we turned back for the first lap the sun was up and shining brightly in my eyes. Before I knew it, I was out the water for the first lap checked my watch and happy to see 27 minutes and my screaming fan club (thanks mum). I was back in the water and put in a steady second lap with a couple of goggle issues having to stop twice, but all was good and I recorded a 57 minute swim time. Great start and still felt fresh.
Transition wasn’t rapid but ok and gathered my thoughts ready to tackle the 112 mile bike leg. I soon got into my rhythm and started passing a few on the bike. It was a real novelty to be riding on closed roads. The surface was far from perfect but it was nice not to worry about cars as well as pot holes! The bike takes in Sheep Hill Lane 3 times on the looped course which is a real leg zapper. I played a good hand and didn’t attack it as much as I could of (thanks for the advice Robbie!) and I conserved energy on the down hills by freewheeling as much as possible. As in my mind I always have the worry of cramping, often brought on by pushing too hard. The weather was better than forecast slightly windy in places but it kept dry for the bike. My support crew where amazing, most based at the bottom of the hill giving me that extra drive to take on the hill. I must admit there were moments that I felt very emotional and had to ‘man up’ a few times. The atmosphere throughout was incredible, in certain places on the course it felt like I was on a stage in the tour de France!!
I came off the bike in roughly 40th place in just over 5hrs 31 mins which was ok averaging at just over 20mph. Onto the run, there was initially the worry of cramp at the back of my mind and the fear it could lead to game over but the Rocktape I used really helped me keep my form. However I felt surprisingly fresh running in my Scott trainers supplied by Metres to Miles and soon made in roads to taking over a few runners. In hindsight I probably set off a little too quickly but I did feel good and I am still learning all the time. A lot of the run is a blur to be honest I know I went through a very dark stage around mile 22; I think I well and truly crashed into “the wall”. I didn’t let it beat me. I had worked out near the end I was placed 6th in my category and I had to be 5th to qualify for Kona so this inspired me to dig dip and track down that elusive spot. Once I had past the guy in 5th place, I knew I had to carry on putting time between us to stand any chance of qualifying. At one point I knew I had to get the next feed station, as I had nothing left in the tank. When I finally got there, I destroyed as much food, coke and energy drink as I could consume. My legs still felt weak and the incline felt like a mountain. Once over it and onto the descent with about a mile to go, I knew I was going to do it. The feeling coming into the final stretch was so overwhelming and nothing like I have ever experienced before. My support crew had been unbelievable throughout and they were so loud, it was brilliant. Then, as I came on to the red carpet, I heard the words I had been waiting for “Luke Mathews you are an IRONMAN”. Home in 10hrs 13mins. Not bad for a first timer. I was on for sub 10 until the wheels fell off but I will learn from it and come back stronger. Even though it started to rain towards the end it definitely didn’t put a dampener on my day.
Steve Clark was there at the finish, to tell me I would be boarding the plane to Hawaii with him and Robbie Whitaker both OTCF Race Team members as I had just qualified for the World Championships. Unbelievable, not only had I just achieved becoming an Ironman I had gone and grabbed a spot for the worlds on my first attempt. This has come as a huge bonus and I have no dissolution’s that the conditions are going to be brutal over there. I know I will just be happy to say I have competed and completed the World Championships. A race within a race Steve tells me. If I can finish anywhere near my other team mates I would be very happy. I write this as I’m sat in my Sigvaris compression gear as I recover to start my next training block to prepare for the big one!!
Roll on Kona!!