Swim panic, I’ve lost my goggles half way around the first lap….and I woke up at 4.30am after a night of restless sleep, that was it I was up. Thankfully just a dream!!
We arrived at Hatfield bright & early. I Headed straight to transition and began getting set up whilst slowly getting more and more nervous. There was only a field of 46 people and I really didn’t want to come last.
After the brief which was highly confusing for both the swim & bike course I had a last toilet stop before heading to the water…this was it.
Fortunately I had done most of my open water swimming at Hatfield so I was quite comfortable in this water, that was until I saw we had to swim through the weeds to get to the start & there was a Australian exit required too to start the second lap….argh panic began to set in even more.
We weren’t given much notice to swim over to the start area before he set us off so it was a bit flustering, but I thought ok here we go.
I remembered Steve telling me to take the swim start and the bike start slowly allowing the body to naturally fall into rhythm which I did and to my shock I was swimming really well and my spotting was on point, something I had been struggling to master in my training.
Coming into the shore ready to do our Australian exit I managed to not stumble and began jogging through the water and through the start flags before beginning to swim again. This is where I felt uncomfortable, my breathing was ragged from running and then trying to swim I wasn’t in my rhythm so I slowed my stroke and try to regain my composure. To my surprise it all fell back into line and I was swiftly moving through the water.
Another swimmer was alongside me and it took me a while to realise it was my fellow team mate Ricardo. We swam together for the remaining of the lap and as we headed back into shore he was swimming wide which was also pushing me wide so I kept nudging him back across to the right side to stop us going off course and eventually we both came out the water together. I couldn’t believe how well the swim went. I wasn’t last out of the water and I had PB’d by over 4 mins from my last half distance so the quickest I have ever swam open water. Result!!
Transition 1 – I didn’t even think about drying myself I just popped my helmet on, socks, race belt, gloves and shoes, lodged my bacon wraps under my bra straps drank some water and hot tailed it out of there. Now to think about the bike section.
The exit through the water park was horrific, there are 3 big speed bumps followed by big pot holes and lots of loose gravel. I had been dreading this prior to the race and fortunately by taking my time & listening to the marshals guide me, I was out of there without falling off. Now all I needed to do was wake up these legs.
The days leading up to the race my legs had been so heavy and I struggled to get any power in my rides, so I was shocked once I had come back across the M180 Bridge and passed the Green Tree Pub for the second time that they were awake and I was sitting nice and comfortable above my Ironman Pace.
10 Miles in a had to stop for the loo and watched 2 more people pass me. Great I am last on the bike was my first thought, but then I looked at my bar stem which Craig had bought me; it reads “believe in yourself” “you can do this” and I remembered this is only a training race to put all my training into effect so I just started powering through and ticking off the miles. It was quite lonely as there was no one about but I just got in the zone.
Second Lap was a lot quicker, I knew the route & didn’t need a loo stop. I had been feeding at my set intervals, 18 miles & 36 miles allowing me enough time to digest before the run. I felt amazing and it was showing on my average speed.
Into T2 I realised I wasn’t last in as there were 2 more people I had seen behind me. And now was the run so I could play my strengths to my advantage. Bike racked, shoes changed & laced, sun cream applied and bottle grabbed. I was now in my comfort zone.
I soon paid for my speedy transition because I forgot to apply glide and soon found myself chafing under my arms. As I exited the park I shouted to the first aid if they had any Vaseline and he told me he would have some at the turn point. I have to point out he was amazing and he was there waiting for me at the drink station as promised & kept asking me throughout the run if I was ok. Once applied I had no more issues with chafing and continued ticking off the mileage and also managed to pass a few people. Maybe I won’t be last after all I thought to myself.
Start of the second lap I had a toilet stop and then continued. My pace was faster than I expected despite trying to slow down. I was running 8 minute miles which is my marathon pace and then I made sure I stopped at the water stations which brought my average down (something I know I need to do at Ironman, all good practice), but I used my heart rate to indicate if I was working too hard and it was nowhere near my threshold, so I was happy with that. I was high fiving my team mates and friends out on the course which kept my spirits high.
At the start of the 3rd lap when I realised I would have to do 5 more of these on ironman day my composure started to falter and I had a bit of a wobble. I saw my team mate Dan & told him “I don’t think I can do this in 3 weeks’ time” which he shouted at me “Yes you can, you ran 69 miles in one day last year, you can do anything”. That picked me up.
I kept the momentum going and got so much support from fellow competitors and marshals all asking how was I looking so fresh and running so effortlessly. That was giving me a lot of confidence, as well as the longer I was running the more people I was overtaking. This is where I began thinking about Ironman in 3 weeks’ time. If I can pace myself on the bike and the swim, once I get onto the run I know that is my strength and that is where I can shine.
Final lap, the heat was getting stifling, it started to get tough, but I could see Mr Cannings in front of me and throughout the run he kept saying you are going to catch me (something I didn’t think was possible as he had already run a lap more than me by the time I left T2). Finally just after the turn point I passed him, high fived him & gave him some encouragement. In my head my mind was working overdrive, “you’re too hot”, “it’s still half a park run”, then “but you only have one more hill to climb then its downhill & flat”. I shut it down and just ran, “4 laps of the track, 3 laps….” Then I entered the park. I heard someone shout come on Steve, so my competitive head kicked in and I ran hard, “1 lap of the track” and there was the finish so I gave it everything I had left.
I was quite overwhelmed at the finish, I had just finished my second half distance over an hour faster than my first a year ago OMG!!
That was where I realised all my training had paid off. Not only had I physically improved but mentally I was so much stronger. Thanks coach for pushing me out of my comfort zone.
I can swim,
I can bike,
I can run strong off the bike,
I can cope with the heat (something that I never imagined I could do),
I can go into a dark place and crawl straight back out of it.
I can do this Ironman!!