Swim – 11th July
As each discipline is done on a separate day, it meant that I only had the swim on the Friday. Starting at a nice, casual time of 7pm meant that I had time to for a little cycle ride and enjoy a lovely time sightseeing and exploring. An hour or so before the race I went to go reccie the swim course again and the course looked like it was going to be more of a duathlon as the tide was so far out! (look at picture below…we swim round the rock)
Luckily by the time of the race the tide came back and we all got ready and did our compulsory 15 minutes in the sea, getting used to the water conditions. After listening to the final briefing and the hints on where to sight and what the current was like, including the hint that to the first buoy we should aim to the left and we’ll be taken to the right. Taking that on board I decided to swap sides from the right of the pack to the left, thinking the other swimmers would underestimate it and just do their own thing.
After a long countdown, they played the 3 minute countdown song, psyched up and roaring to go, the whistle blew and all 1600 of us ran for the two red buoys only 20m away. With a massive pile up and a bit of a push and shove I was off and heading for the first yellow buoy 800m out. I was surprised with how quickly I got my breathing and stroke sorted, I also didn’t mind people near me and I wasn’t in shock unlike Dambuster a couple of weeks ago, so on the whole it was going great. The tip however meant that everyone overestimated it and replaying the starting video it looks like a large rectangle of people heading way too far left and the current taking us absolutely nowhere, with only a small funnel of people, including the hare, last year’s winner and a couple others going directly to the buoy…probably the better way to go. (look at picture below…perfectly shows that everyone else is going the long way round)
Placed on the left hand side of the pack, around 20 people wide, meant that it was impossible to swap sides and therefore I just had to stick where I was, probably swimming the widest out of everyone there. Oh well, it’ll be shorter on the Ironman, the main event, which is also in the same place in September. Going around the course I saw tonnes of fish and what seemed to be jellyfish. I kept on kidding myself that they were just the patterns on the fish but after seeing quite a few of them, they were definitely jellyfish. I found myself asking a lot of questions. Can they sting? Will they? Can the harm you? Will they? That’s when I decided to get even closer to the person next to me…thought that they wouldn’t come near us. A meter below was quite enough. I also felt a bit safer knowing that health and safety probably would have a fit if anything happened to us and that the reputation of the race would be ruined slightly and therefore I told myself that I was completely safe. Not sure how true I was being to myself, as we practically had to sign our own death certificates and liabilities disclaimers beforehand.
Coming to the end of the first lap, I could finally see where I was going and aimed for the shore, where I had to run around 100m through the mat. Felt a bit weird but after no time at all I was back in and swimming the last lap. The support was amazing. I thought I’d pick up the pace as once again I was just swimming and kind of forgot that I was actually racing. Really need to sort that out and prepare and train to go all out like everyone’s meant to, especially as I realised I only had the swim today. Still on the outside of the pack, travelling the furthest and still 15 or so wide. I found myself starting to swim a lot faster than the pack I had settled down with.
Coming down the last straight I did a last little sprint along with a very fast run once I hit the shoreline for the last 100m. Overtaking quite a lot, I didn’t know how I could run like that, felt like I was running on air and my legs just kept on rotating. Amazing!!! I think the salt must have got to me. Finishing the 3.8km plus whatever I added on, I managed to finish in a time of 1hr03. Not bad for a first ever sea swim and my first ever open water swim only a couple of weeks ago.
Finishing off the first day with a nice recovery drink from the vita-mix, we went out and I had an amazing dinner…two in fact. After all, I need to not only replenish but stock up for the bike the day after.
Bike – 12th July
Doing 180km on my TT bike, which I haven’t managed to get past 75km without it causing massive pain, I decided to change seats from my now retired race bike and a 20km ride confirmed the swap for the race. Probably should’ve gone for a longer ride but I’m meant to be tapering and I knew I never had a problem going past 100km. I know it wasn’t TT but still had aero bars. Also as this wasn’t my main race and is in preparation for the Tenby Ironman, I decided to accept the request of being a windshield for a friend, Alison.
We all set off in groups, mine was a couple in front so I had to wait for a bit but once Alison came past we were off. I started setting the pace to Pembroke then Angle, before turning back to go to Narberth via Pembroke again. The views were really good. A perfect reccie for the Ironman as it’s the same route again. We were both really enjoying it and were putting up a good fight and by mile 50 we had second in sight. I thought she was flagging a bit and starting to tire but it took another 5 miles to level up to her and another 5 to break away. Now in second we set our sights to first, as you do. Unfortunately however, although in sight she had 8 domestique’s with her, only recent ex pro, and started breaking away from us. We could just hope that we would eventually catch her and her team, a bit like tortoise and the hare.
At mile 65 (and again at 108), there was a Ceepo King of The Hill challenge, where I managed to come 6th out of around 2000 of us. Cool!!!
Mile 68, the big water station, all of us had to go in there, whether you stopped or not. After a quick toilet break Alison was off. I stayed and packed my pockets and refilled all of the water bottles. I then set off to go catch her up and give her the fuel but unluckily a mile from the water station, I saw Alison on the side of the road with her bike on its side with the wheel in her hand…you guessed it…a puncture. One of the worst sights I could’ve seen and it started to rain slightly. Even worse. After a few minutes, the time we had gained on the next female, third place passed and we were now in third, then fourth, fifth, … it kept going. It just wasn’t our day. The puncture-proof tyres had failed, along with the foam repair and sealant that had managed to find a hole and instead of filling it, seeped through even when we covered it. Now completely covered and the foam expanding in all other areas the tyre was near impossible to pull off, even with the help of others it took a very long time and competitors kept passing. Eventually managing to pull off the tyre we had to fix the other “quick and easy to attach” tub. Even that was ridiculous and the thread had to be aligned exactly. With a bit more difficulty and time, an hour had passed but we were now back on the road. Unfortunately though that puncture had now prevented her from being on the podium as planned and we were now just trying to complete in the best time. A complete change of scenario. Lesson learned…never use “quick and easy” or technical and complex equipment if you don’t know how to fix it. Clinchers would’ve been so much easier and around 30 times quicker!
After another go at the king of the hill, slower than the first time, we were on the home straight and we finally came in in 7hrs41. Another medal to add to the collection. Along with another nice dinner, massage, smoothie from the vita mix and then bed, ready for the marathon at 10am the next day.
We later realised that the puncture was due to someone laying some tacks on the floor in the compulsory pit stop. Why would someone do that?
Run – 13th July
Wow!!! Where do I start…I was feeling absolutely amazing, lovely countryside, sea views, a lot of hills, I was feeling strong, catching people and overtaking with ease. I was even pacing myself and not going all out, as I knew this was a marathon and I’m in for the long haul and the hills will become tiring. The weather was perfect. The support was amazing once again. Water stations came whenever I needed them to and I was under 1hr30 by the halfway mark, mile 13, and it’s arguably “the toughest marathon” I was repeatedly told. Feeling absolutely amazing and enjoying it. Only afterwards did I realise that by the half way mark, I was coming in the top 10 overall out of 1600 of us. Amazing!!!
Why did this have to happen? … By mile 14, yes only one mile on from feeling absolutely amazing, strong and confident my inside right elbow (from the bike), both thighs, both calf’s started to cramp, my left Achilles in complete agony, especially as I went downhill, blisters causing as much discomfort as they could to the soles of my feet, placed in the worst areas. It was painful, uncomfortable, mentally tough in all areas. I even at one point was probably on the verge of collapse. I had to just keep going. I was saying to myself nearly 10 miles to go then I can start counting down. Then as I work in km I translated…16km … wrong thing to do!!! That’s further than my training runs with Nick and that’s in another 3.6km to go. Started imagining running that in the state I was in. It was so tough!!! I decided to stop thinking about that and tried to focus on other things. At one point I even had tears coming out of my eyes and I didn’t know why…completely exhausted and lack of food I suppose. Something I really need to work on is food nutrition during a run. I’m fine on the bike and swim and pre and post just about but I don’t find it easy to take on anything whilst running. I tried but looking back it was nowhere near enough. Any help or advice would be massively appreciated.
I eventually completed it in 3hrs31, somehow I had a massive burst of energy and did a fast final sprint. Questioning how I even managed it. Must have been the depth of the supporters either side and the red carpet along with knowing it was the end of the pain and I could finally rest and collapse. I must admit I’m glad I had sunglasses on so that no one could see the state of my eyes, although a lot of people did stop and ask whether I was ok. Just felt like crawling up into a ball under a pub window. It was the toughest event I’ve done by far. Taught me so much and tested me mentally. The best test ever and an amazing medal for it. For the following couple of days I was still cramping and felt like an old, and unfit, near dead person but thankfully due to the many massages, 4 in total along with a spa day (all were necessary) I was eventually put back to normal it time to enjoy Susannah’s graduation.
Thank you so much Susannah for all of your support around the course and for your skills as a masseuse, nutritionist and podiatrist that all came in handy. Definitely invited to the next one. Thank you.
Thank you to all the amazing people I train with and to my sponsors, Apex and DaysOut.co.uk, for the amazing bike and gear along with their continued support and backing, and to Warwick Physio and Rehab for their help in making sure I’m fit and ready to race along with preventing injuries whilst still allowing me to do Ironman. Hopefully there won’t be too much damage to my knees over this summer, Lanzarote and Ironman still to come.
Till next time,