Helen Graham…..You Are An Ironman !!!!!!
Helen's 3rd attempt at completing 140.6 miles of triathlon was a great success. All the sweeter following the missed bike cut-off in Florida 2015 and the retirement during the Florida 2016 swim due to breathing difficulties.
Helen entered Ironman Louisville 2017 at the beginning of the year but injury and ill health prevented her from following a conventional training plan.
Preparation consisted of regaining the ability to run long distances, swimming as much as possible in Ardingly reservoir and learning to enjoy cycling fast down hills.
Helen attempted to change her swim style from breast-stroke to freestyle in 2017 but progress was slow and for Louisville she reverted back to breast-stroke.
In summer 2107 Helen completed the Prudential London Ride-46 and the Penticton Long Distance Triathlon (3km,120km,30km). However, just a few weeks before Louisville she missed the bike cut-off at Weymouth 70.3 having struggled with hypothermia and sea-sickness during the swim.
The volunteers and local athletes at Louisville were very friendly and encouraging with lots of positive advice.
The 3.8km wet-suit swim in the Ohio River was moderately challenging and busy despite the rolling-start with around 2,500 athletes. The first third of the swim is against the current then the rest of the swim has the current in your favour but then the water is more choppy. Overall this is a relatively fast Ironman swim course and Helen's 1:35:02 ranked her 2,201st coming out of the swim. This was the first time that Helen had ever managed to draft off another swimmer for a substantial time during a race.
The 112mile bike course is relatively benign with rolling hills, good surface and picturesque scenery. However, a storm hit during the second half of the cycle with heavy rain and high winds. Leaves, twigs, branches and fruit blown from the trees made sections of the road hazardous for cycling but the race continued. Helen completed the cycle in 7:58:02 and was placed 2,208th overall at that time.
The Louisville 26.2mile run has a pleasant mostly flat course with good crowd support and a wonderful finish line atmosphere. The run is a big challenge even for triathletes who are good runners because there is so much fatigue by the final stages of an Ironman race. However, Helen knew that she would complete the race within the cut-off times having completed both the swim and cycle faster than expected. Plenty of time to do a comfortably paced run whilst enjoying every moment of this much anticipated experience. The Louisville finish is one of the best on the Ironman circuit with lots of bright lights, music and enthusiastic supporters as runners hit the red carpet that takes them to the arch that is located in the centre of the vibrant "Fourth Street Live" entertainment and retail complex.
Helen's 5:38:48 run allowed her to overtake 459 athletes so that she finished 1,749th overall. Finish time 15:41:41.
There were 2,271 finishers from the 2,750 athletes registered and it appears that around 2,500 started the swim.
Helen arose early next day to get in the queue for finishers kit and purchased everything available in her size. Apparently these trinkets will be needed for the lifetime of bragging to come.
Helen is hugely grateful for all the support from family and friends, especially those at Mid Sussex Triathlon Club and We Run Hassocks.