It’s 3:30am, the morning after the big dance and I’m wide awake, strolling about ............ and aching as though I’ve been beaten with a baseball, everywhere!! My legs ache as would be expected, my neck aches, my shoulders and arms ache, my back aches. I had a proper workout yesterday.
So straight to it then. Everything started normally enough for me, transition opened at 5am but I’m lazy and I was still in bed then so I made my way down there around 6am, I threw my drink bottles on my bike and headed down to the beach. The sea was every bit as choppy as it had been in the previous days but it was hardly Croyde on a windy day. We stood around for a while, watched the Pro’s start, listened to the National Anthem and we were away.
Right from the start I just got battered, firstly it was by the people around me as I seemed to get swallowed up despite being right on the waters edge, then it was from that damn chop. There were no waves to speak of but it was never calm either, just a constant battle for 3.8k or in my case 4+k as my normal useless navigation alongside the rip tide had me swimming in all directions. I’ve never felt so beaten up after a swim since I did the monster Perranporth surf swim of legend way back when. That time it was fear for my life, this time it was just a constant hour getting battered.
Finally out of the water in an hour (5mins down on my expected time) I got de-robed by the wetsuit strippers, collected my change bag and made my way to T1 where I wiped the sand off my feet, put on my garmin/helmet/bike shoes and headed out to find my bike. It was nothing special, just a transition and I was soon headed out on the bike.
The first hour of the bike was awful, I felt seasick and my stomach was bloated after drinking far too much of The Gulf during the swim. Thankfully there was a nice tailwind on this section so I didn’t have to put much work in. I soon learned that my 125bpm upper limit wasn’t going to be a problem as I was struggling to reach 120, so I just kept bimbling along at my nice steady pace and waited for the first peleton to arrive, it didn’t take long but I just let them get on with it, I’d got my own race to do. The first real big pack didn’t come past until 35miles, it’s then that you notice the people you’ve overtaken earlier who are taking a free ride. In this case the most notable was a Female Pro (named Balding) who I’d overtaken at 20miles when she was riding solo. I didn’t see her again until 85miles when she was again solo and riding a lot slower than when she had ‘help’.
The first 2-3 groups I just have to ignore, I know they’re well above my abilities but soon you start getting overtaken by groups that are actually not much quicker. When this happens I just drift to the back and sit a legal distance off the back watching the blatent group riding ahead. It has its disadvantages of course, there’s no doubt that even riding legally you still pick up some draft, but you don’t get the full pack advantages and when somebody drops off the back because they’ve got in above their head it means I fall off the back too. I could shoot past them and rejoin the back, but that turns a steady paced ride into an interval session and that would be real bad news. When you sit off the back just doing your thing you also get to see the draft busters doing their thing they are plentiful and do as good a job as they can on a single 112mile loop but they’re fighting a losing battle and you ‘almost’ feel sorry for the 4-5 people they give penalties to when there are another 15-20 in the group that are just as guilty.
Early on I was averaging 23mph and hardly turning the pedals and I knew there would be payback, it came in a huge stretch of road, probably around 30miles of it with a constant headwind, my average speed was soon on a downward spiral and I was very happy when we finally turned off the road. There is one very bad stretch of road which was littered with gas canisters, water bottles and all sorts of bike goodies, thankfully everything I was carrying stayed put though.
At 80miles we rode through a feed station, I was carrying all by nutrition on my bike so whenever this happened I pretty much rode past any groups ahead, they would soon come rolling back past en masse once they’d topped up. This time though I was feeling super strong (and bored) and decided to put the hammer down for a while. I started reeling people in but after 5miles I was wondering if I was about to blow my whole race, very time I caught someone though they looked as though they’d been blown off the back of a pack ahead and not wanting to tow them along I just rode past them and pushed on ahead. My fears about blowing my race grew a bit more at 100miles when almost everybody I’d overtaken in the last 20miles caught me again after they’d formed their own little group. The last 10miles were just a gentle spin of my legs back to transition, there was a bit of a headwind but I’ve had a lot worse. If I’d realised how close I was to breaking 5hrs on the bike I might have pushed on a bit. The time was a huge pb and it again made me wonder if I’d done too much
T2 was pretty standard although after last year’s problems with my trainers full of sand I took extra time to wipe my feet clean and smother a bit of Vaseline on the soles of them, but that done I was soon out on the run.
The run started well enough, I was cruising along nicely and picking up places along the way. The initial plan was to walk whatever food station was closest to 20mins and take on whatever I felt I needed, plan B was to run when I could and walk when I had to but making sure that the run was never over 1min. The first 10k went well but I knew it wasn’t going to stay that way, the 2nd 10k was tougher and included my first toilet stop of the day, I was still happy to finish the 1st lap in under 1h40m. It meant an end to my hoped for 3:20 marathon because lap 2 was only going to be slower but surely I could do a half marathon on 2:10 and finally break 10hrs (I’d got 3:05 to get a new pb). There’s no escaping it, Lap 2 was tough going, there was much more walking going on, I started drinking coke (and then threw it all up) and I started doing the maths. How fast had I got to do each mile to break 10hrs? How fast had I got to do each mile to put in a 3:30 Marathon? All the sums helped to take my mind off the fact that my legs were shot to bits and occasionally I’d run right through a planned walk stop. The last 3miles were a real mental battle, my legs were shot, I’d started to hit the wall, I was getting pins and needles and ‘oddly’ my arms were cramping up. There was no stopping now, the finish line was getting closer with every step and that was all I wanted.
I took the final turn onto St Thomas Drive, crossed the path to Shelly and grabbed the Devon Flag then ran the last 400m with it draped over my shoulder. Finally I turned onto the finishing straight and with nobody around me I had time to straighten the flag out and do a pretty pose on the finish line. People have been waiting a long time to see me cross the Finish Line of an Ironman with a smile on my face, I knew that there were friends and family at home sitting in front of their computers until stupid o’clock at night watching me. They all deserved a show as a way of thanks for their support.
So that’s it. I can retire from Ironman happy with a time of 9:39, fast enough to be happy and get the monkey off my back but slow enough to make sure I don’t have the dilemma of a possible Hawaii slot........................................... Oh Crap!!!!!!!! What did I say? The results come out and there are 9 slots for Hawaii in my Age Group, I finished 8th. I’ve now got until 11am to decide if I’m mad enough to put my Ironman retirement back a year and do a race that involves everything that I hate. Wind, Heat & Hills, there’s nothing about Ironman Hawaii that appeals to my racing nature............. but ............... it’s Ironman Hawaii, a once in a lifetime opportunity and THE major aim of every other race I’ve done.
Oh what to do????? Watch this space.