The unexpected Ironman
My entry to Ironman Wales was probably at short notice compared to most competitors. As a poor runner I had planned my 2017 season around working on that weakness and the progression was supposed to go ½ marathon > ½ IM > marathon, with a full Ironman to come in 2018. With Steve coaching since January we’d successfully crossed off the Retford half marathon and then Woodhall sprint tri as a warm up. With a respectable time at Woodhall I knew I was in good form for the Castle Howard half iron in July, but as I set off for race weekend I could feel an illness coming on. Sure enough come Saturday evening I had the full set of cold symptoms and even as I sat sticking race numbers on my kit I knew there was no way I could race. I was so disappointed but Steve’s response to my DNS message was typically to the point: ‘rest, recover and find another’. Exactly what I needed to be told. Now I don’t remember the thought process exactly but somewhere over the following couple of days the idea of replacing my failed ½ with a full IM set in. After some more discussion with Steve and some bargaining with the family I finally signed up for IM Wales with around 6 weeks to race day. Having lost nearly two weeks to illness, with no sea swimming experience and having never run more than a half marathon, this was going to be a challenge. Steve was there again with the concise encouragement… ‘Showtime’. — Race morning Standing in transition at 5:30am on a cold and damp Welsh morning I suddenly realised something surprising: I was calm. Training had gone well in the build up to the race and I felt ready to go. My race plan was simple if not ambitious: a 2:10/100m swim pace (well within my ability), conserve on the bike with a 65% intensity factor and then grind out the run with 11:00 – 12:00 minute miles. Basically, finish the race. Swim As we lined up for the march to the beach I seeded myself into the back of the 1hr20 swim group, reasoning that I could take it easy and settle in without getting swum over by too many faster starters. This worked out nicely and I was quickly able to find some space and get into a rhythm before starting to move up a few places. Sea conditions on lap 1 felt OK if a little choppy further out in the bay. Somehow by lap 2 a much bigger swell had developed and I could feel myself being moved around and even thrown together with fellow competitors at times. Although this was probably nothing, with my limited sea swimming experience it felt like I was in an episode of Trawlermen. Even so it was great fun and I exited the water in 1:21, right on schedule. Reaching the top of the cliff on the run to T1 I was amazed to see so many supporters; the atmosphere was incredible. After a very steady transition (lots of “did you lose your bike” type jokes came later) I was out onto the bike course. Bike
Straight out of T2 I was feeling great. Passing my parents again and the roar from the rest of the crowd was pushing me on and as I started on the winding course around Tenby I checked my pace: 8:30/mile! Ok I’d better ease back slightly. Having got myself together I set about maintaining the planned 11:30 or so pace. On reaching New Hedges I picked up my first lap band which felt like a win in itself, but this euphoria quickly faded as I started counting multiple bands on others around me. Damn.