I woke up at 4am and although I had the usual pre race nerves, I was actually quite calm and looking forward to race (very different to last year when I was terrified). This year felt very different in many ways as I was doing the same race purely with the intention of beating last years time (14.02) and with the huge pirate presence I knew it would be a fantastic day. But in some ways I felt I had more pressure this year to succeed. Last years goal was to survive, no pressure of times but just to finish... this year I didn't want to just finish, I wanted to race, and I wanted a sub 14. I knew I was stronger and fitter than last year, I had put in a lot of training for this, and now it boiled down to this one day to prove what I was capable of, the day to lay it all down. I felt I had a lot to prove to myself. I was worried about things out of my control, mainly a mechanical/puncture on the bike, getting a cold/bug before the race or getting an upset stomach from the water, but I knew ultimately that worrying about these things were a pointless waste of energy, what will be will be. All I could concentrate on was the hard training I had put in during the year- marathons, including a massive p.b, a 60 mile ultra run, and the tough 114 mile 9000ft ascent King of the Downs bike ride that was 9 hours in the saddle. I had put the hard work in and I really wanted that reward, bring on the sub 14, I was ready to race!
So 4am I forced some food down (this never gets easier), got ready and made my way down to the start. Another beautiful morning with clear blue skies was waiting for the 1000 people toeing the start line to try and become Outlaws.
Now to say I hadn't trained enough for the swim was an understatement, looking back on training I had done an average of just 40 lengths per week this year, and 2 open water swims. This was the one area where I just hadn't got the training in. I am confident in the water and knew I could just 'get round' but had no idea in what time. I hadn't even done the distance in training, let alone timed myself. I started at the back of pen 1, in the hope that the fast swimmers would go ahead and I would be left in clear water, I much prefer clear water to following feet and getting kicked. Anyway, that didn't happen, pens 2-4 all grouped together and proceeded to swim over me...literally! Now I've had the usual kicks, punches, people not sighting and swimming into you etc, and I'm happy to hold my own in those situations...but people literally mounting me from behind...that's a new one on me!! This was people literally swimming over me from behind, arms either side of my body basically trying to drown me... a swift sharp kick to whichever bodily part I made contact with seemed to have the desired effect of them moving away! The turnaround point came fast and with it the sight of Mum and Jess the pirate dog on the banks waiting for me, a joy to see them amongst the madness of the swim. The headwind caused a few waves for the return leg, and I think a few people swallowed water. I really quite enjoyed the swim and being amongst the thick of the pack for a change. Out of the water in 1.19.39 and into T1...
Special mention to T1 as all I could think about was Steve A who would not have been impressed with my faffing!!! I tried my best to be fast, but after hopping about trying to remove wetsuit, throwing on some P20 to attempt to protect my delicate 'english rose' skin from any more dodgy tan lines, I had no change of clothes & ran from the tent to my bike but still only managed a 5.21 transition. Sorry Steve...next year I'll manage a sub 3!
Now where do I start with this... an emotional rollercoaster is probably the best way to describe it. Maybe my memory of how brilliant the ride was last year affected how I 'thought' I would feel this time around, where as I should have treated this is a completely new race, as indeed it was. Not only had the bike route been changed, but the weather conditions were much different from the calm sunny day the year before. The start of the ride was absolutely fantastic and I loved doing the northern loop (same as last years route), I was down on the tri bars and pushing hard, enjoying 20+ mph riding and was way above my expected average. This put me in great spirits as not only was I faster, but the new southern loop that we were to ride twice was promised by the organisers and many people who recce'd the course to be much faster. Stupidly I started dreaming of possible bike spilt times. We had been warned that although the southern loop was fast, it was very open to wind, should there be any on the day. I think the forecasts that morning were for 30-35 mph gusts, oh dear! The loops although circular seemed to be a constant head wind, and where I should have been hitting 20mph I was struggling to stay at 13mph! It was hard work, and the two downpours didn't help to lift peoples spirits. Unfortunately I have to admit I hit a bad patch and was pretty angry out on the bike from about 80+ miles, my spirits only being lifted when I got to see my Mum and Dad, and the pirate feed station who never failed to make me laugh & give me a boost. Looking back I'm pleased with my bike time, but knowing I should have been at least 20 mins faster had just made me frustrated. Someone said to me that everyone was in the same position, but I wasn't there to race others, I was there to race myself and be the best I could be. This was the best I could be that day, and I don't think I could have gone any faster without sacrificing the run. And if there is one thing I've learnt is that in my opinion, the run is just as an important part of the ironman as the ride. It amazes me how much time you can lose, and just how many people walk the marathon after a strong bike leg. To get a good time you've got to have packed your running legs...
Not sure how this took so long, change of socks and trainers, knee support on and talked to a lady who was feeling sick and I was off... (sorry again Steve!)
I felt so happy to eventually finish the ride and hand my bike over that I was elated to get out running. If I had been invited on a bike ride by Chrissie Wellington herself right there and then I would have told her to get stuffed (she was supporting at IM Austria the same day...the chances were slim). This was my discipline, the thing I had really worked hard on, and the proof of how much training I had really done. There were no excuses now, I hadn't got a cold or stomach bug, I hadn't had any mechanical faults on the bike, now it was me against the course, and I was in my element. It really hurt, but I wasn't going to let it beat me, this is my favourite part!! The crowds, Mum, Dad, Pirates, all there, all shouting and cheering, willing us all forward, to do well, to finish, is what I love! Out on the course I run by feel, I always run by feel, never by what a watch or monitor tells me to do... I check my pace- 8.30 min miles hmmm this is fast, the sun is back out and shining again and all I can think is 'make hay while the sun shines' so this is what I did. I knew I would slow at some point, but I might as well make the most of being able to run whilst I could, first 10k was comfortably under an hour, lots of loud music as I passed Notts Forest ground made me run faster every time I passed it. Pirates everywhere on the course and supporting, and although we couldn't always muster words or high 5's, there were always grins and thumbs up (well from most anyway). Walking only through the aid stations for crisps, coke, oranges, bananas etc I was quickly back to running again, this generally varied from between 9-11 min miles depending on how I felt and wind direction! The run course is three out and back loops along a river and then around the lake we swam in to the finishing chute. Running past the finish chute (to set off on another loop) always made me smile seeing peoples joy as they finished! I was so close to getting on TV (they were filming for channel 4) as the motorbike camera crew following me on the final mile to the finish they asked if I was coming in to finish (big camera poised on back ready for action) and I had to tell them I still had one loop to go... I was tempted to say yes, run down the finish chute for a stupidly fast fake finish time and then carry on and do another loop! Darn my honesty! With that they drove off to film someone else's special finishing moment. Now I had promised myself that if I ran the first two loops I could walk a little on the third loop, but as what always happens with me is when I realise I am close to finishing a race (I say close, I still had 8 miles to run!) my legs start to perk up and I feel stronger. This mental recharge I get must be the buzz that gets me returning to these daft events, as it seems to happen every time, and I forget the pain of the past few hours and press on. The thoughts of walking were no longer there, and I can see my Dad is amazed too. He could see earlier that I was struggling and really fighting with myself to keep up my pace, but I assured him I was feeling good and he cheered me on! Mum of course was shouting, cheering and filming all of the days events with her usual vigour and seems to have endless confidence in my ability. I knew I was on for a sub 14 and knew I had a comfortable 2 hour window to complete my final 8 miles. It's a long day out there and I use a different watch for swimming, and had reset my garmin after my bike to run, so working out the complete time that had lapsed was hard, especially in my oxygen depleted and exhausted brain. All I knew was I wanted to finish before 8pm. With approx 4 miles to go the man running behind me had the ingenious idea of asking a spectator what the time was (this idea had genuinely not crossed my mind!) and he replied with 'just gone 6pm'... what?!?! I was beating my target, and not by a little, I was smashing it! I picked up my pace (it's amazing what a possibility of a sub 13 can do) and as I rounded the lake for the last time my Dad told me it was 6.10, woohoo, less than 3 miles to go! I ran straight past the last two aid stations knowing I had no need to waste any further time getting any food or drink from them and carried on running. Now I felt like I was flying, in reality I was only doing 10 min miles, but I felt on top of the world. Final mile with the headwind down to the finish I could hardly feel the headwind, and as I saw the finish line approach I started to well up, I honestly didn't know how I had managed to stay strong enough for a sub 4.30 marathon and I was so so happy to be finishing. As I start running down the finishing chute I'm scanning the crowd for Mum and Dad and I see them, I stop and give them both a big hug and kiss (and have a little cry.. what a girl!) and then carry on to my finish line moment.
Finish Time 12.39.26
That feeling couldn't get much better. I exceeded all of my expectations, had the most wonderful weekend with family and friends, and learnt that I'm stronger than I ever imagined. Life is truly what you make of it, and what you make happen, and I look forward to more adventures in the future. Will there be any more Ironman events... of course (Dad, you were right as always), but I won't be doing this particular event again, I can hang my hat up on this race for good...I'm an Outlaw and I'm proud. Thank you Mum and Dad for your endless love, support and encouragement, it means the world to me. Now on to some new adventures!
Stats for anyone interested in that kind of thing...
Overall position- 397th out of 782
Female position- 33rd out of 106
Age Group Position- 5th
Swim- 484th (57th female)
For Steve A- T1- 181st!! (19th female)
Bike- 583rd (50th female)
Run- 258th (18th female)