Cotswold 226 17th July 2016
Barcelona Ironman. 2nd October 2016.
This goes on a bit, sorry J get tea and snacks.
This year, Sam decided to take on the challenge of completing a long course (Ironman distance) triathlon to raise money for the hospice where his mother was cared for. Sam’s mum Beryl was such a strong and courageous woman, extremely fit and active, a dedicated runner & ultra-runner. To Sam, a long course triathlon would match her determination and commitment, a challenge worthy of Beryl’s memory.
So when, Sammy asked me at the end of last year to be his wingman for this fundraising challenge, there was no way I could say no.
This then put a fairly demanding year of racing ahead of me. After knocking back a few to many shandies at the awards night last year, before Sam had decided to start his fundraising bid, Mr Bottomley suggested that doing Ironman Barcelona in 2016 would be a great first Branded Ironman race for me, and as he was set on taking part himself, I made a less than reasoned, hazy decision (MVDM was the absinthe fairy) to enter. A week or two went by and having discussed the race with Kate, (I must have been drunk again)……… I entered.
So, two long course Triathlons in one year. Nutts!!
Sam and I had very different training plans and coupled with hectic work / family commitments it meant we only shared the odd training session throughout the year, mainly Saturday morning club rides, but we did compete in the same triathlons in the run up to the Cotswolds 226. We also ended up racing against each other too. The Mojo in particular stands out as the toughest race. Conditions for the bike were too nice to plod around for Sam, so he went for it. I followed as I thought this was my role being wingman. The exhilarating ride gave way to a horrendous stagger around the lake. I panicked a little after the Mojo, I knew Sam’s bike was very strong, as strong as his swim and worried that I would have difficulty keeping up at 226.
Anxiety was high until the night before race day. I had not given much thought to my own pacing or race plan, instead leaving that to Sam as this was his race, his challenge. I was there to keep up and encourage. So after a beer and a chicken burger (normal pre-race dinner for me) we went through Sam’s race plan and discussed feed station stops, nutrition, pace and plan in which Sam had decided we’d stick together and he’d wait for me after his phenomenal swim, ride together (but no drafting on the bike) around the bike course, and run side by side to the finish line.
Which worked out perfectly, all except Sam’s wee stops. 3-5, I think on the bike course, 2 for sure that I remember on the run. Can’t account for any on the swim but as I was behind him I’m hoping for none. But 7-9 stops on the bike was, I think, incredible. When that marshal told him to take 2 full bottles for the last section of the bike and drink them before the run I could only think of the Monty Python incontinence race……….
What a race, a little under 3 hrs away, well organised, amazing treats on the run feed stations (similar to the monster middle sweets spread). The venue was perfect, lots of people to cheer you round. The marshals seemed to take their whole families and have a picnic at key turns. Incredible. Enough to keep your children entertained while you race. Mine couldn’t give a monkey’s about me running around when there was a beach at one end of the lake and an ice-cream hut close by.
11 weeks until Barcelona. A very long 11 weeks.
Simon suggested I looked into company that specialised in getting triathletes to triathlon races. Team Race Force. They can break their service into individual portions which allows you to tailor their service to your needs, and they were awesome. They came to my house to collect my bike and race bag. They organised half board accommodation for us, right opposite the run course and seconds away from the beach, expo, registration and finish line. They organised a swim recce, bike recce and run recce so you knew exactly where you were going and from where. They included a level one service of your bike in the collection package. (They even changed my rear mech hanger for me). Breaks and gears all checked out. Took care of Kate on race day, advised on best places to stand and cheer on the run course. Packed your bike and bag back on the van after your race and dropped it back home for you. If you are thinking of doing a triathlon abroad, check out their website and see if they cover it. I know they are doing Hamburg next year……..:)
Barcelona turned out to be a fantastic experience for me. But it was really tough getting to the start line. I felt nervous going to such a massive race on my own! (Their biggest I learnt in the race brief, with over 3000 athletes). Simon, who had suggested the race to me had to pull out. Simon has been through the ringer the past few years with injuries after steady recovery happening one after the other. When he told me about the reason he would have to pull out I felt immensely sad and a little guilty about the whole thing. Now flying solo I only had me to worry about and that was terrifying.
Now knowing I’d be on my own I decided to be more focused. I repeated my final 10 week training plan again after a week’s rest from the 226. This was the easiest thing I could think of doing, I’d just done it, I knew what was coming and when. I entered the monster Olympic late to keep me focused on racing and paced it how I thought I would at Barcelona. This turned out perfect, only a little faster on the run but more than comfortable. A long ride and run combo over a Saturday and Sunday, 3 weeks out, ended up being a bit too much, 5:30hrs in the rain Saturday and a cold 3:30hr run on the Sunday left my legs feeling overdone and taper could not have come sooner. I left off running for a whole week, walked the dog and did short runs the week after that. Calves and hips were still painful so Carl gave my legs a good hammering and with Sandie’s ibuprofen / paracetamol / ice / compression combination, come the race the discomfort was manageable.
The swim was slower than I had hoped, I ended up doing about 300m more as I can’t sight for sh… toffee. The swell was up and tide flowing strong so ended up drifting a bit too. I got a little bored as well. I was a wreck week before the race, so edgy and twitchy, really nervous by this stage. I even read the wrong terminal departure gate at the airport and ended up on the wrong side of Stansted. We were saved by the cabin crew bus driver, I must have look white because he asked if I was ok! we told him and he drove us round to the right terminal. Great bloke. So when you’ve been standing in a pen, (imagine one man and he’s dog with 3000 seals) on the beach for 25 mins getting hyped up by Paul Kay the commentator, ACDC at full blast, waiting for your swim time pen to be let out to the starting gate, a weeks’ worth of adrenaline running down my cheeks in tears. By the time I’d got to the 1000m buoy it had all disappeared and I was left contemplating jellyfish and the next 12 hours on a bike and run. Underwhelming swim. 1hr 10min.
Urinating in public is an instant DQ in Ironman. (only at loo’s by feed stations Sam!). But apparently it only counts if you actually stop to do it! Not in my book. Disgusting. I know it’s done on Le Tour but really. With 3000 competitors I found myself getting hemmed in a few times and when the guy in front unclips his left foot and raises it in the air, a drafting penalty seems a better option than getting covered in an Italian’s piss. Other than distancing yourself from the blatant drafting and dodging piss, the ride went to plan, ride comfortable, fast as possible down what hills there were and easy up the few others.
Powerbar was the nutrition for the whole event. I decided a while ago to test them at home. Not having much success with most of the other brands, Powerbar turned out to not upset my stomach too much and worked fine. No gels for me on the bike, just a Powerbar bar or half a banana every half hour with isotonic drink to wash it down. If thirsty drink. By the end of the bike I wasn’t concentrating much on time, I was trying to gauge my pace and heart rate (I think my sensor was playing up) so when I came into transition a little over 5:33hr I nearly shat! (Must be a definite DQ, even on a bike).
So, into transition, am I ready to run? I racked my bike, took my shoes off and jogged 300m to the change tent. Legs felt grand. Helmet off. I coated my knees in Voltarol, just in case, necked my first gel of the race and ran out. 3 x 13.9km laps ahead, felt good, missed Kate and Team Race Force on the first lap but the crowds were awesome. Head up, pace check, 8:15 m/m – 8:30 m/m, lap one done. Now, if you have watched international triathlon lately, Olympics or finals, they have been in very hot temperatures. It got to 27 degs on the run. Not the hottest I’ve raced in but enough to get your heart rate right up there. So, like the Stanford’s and the Jenkins’ and many of the other competitors at Barcelona, I decided to pitch bottles and bottles of water over my head, shoulders, back and legs, instantly cooling me down, flushing out lactic in my calves and quads, reviving me no end. Great plan I thought, until about halfway round lap 2. My socks had become drenched, I always run in new sock, every race, it’s a thing. But not in wet socks. Blisters started to form under my toes and balls of my feet and each big toe toenail started to lift. The second half of the run was going to be bad. Pace for lap 2, 8:30 m/m – 9:30 m/m.
The final lap was the worst and best run ever. The first half of it I ended up chatting to a guy called Liam, Ironman vet, we made a Brownlee pact if either of us got into trouble. Then he said to me that if he can hold the pace he might get across the line in under 11:00 hrs. WTF!!! “Are you serious?”. With me just watching my pace and wondering which toe nail was going to pop first (right big toe 22 Miles). I hadn’t realised I was so close to getting under 11. My Garmin was on run time, I went into the race wanting to get a sub 4hr marathon but with the clock ticking down on overall time, I switched to accumulative time to see 10:20hr with 5k to go. He said go for it. Boom. Toenails grow back, blisters heal. Stay at 9:00 m/m was all I needed to do. I could not stop smiling. Across the line with a run time of 3:56hrs. Total time 10:48:44.
Totals From Garmin since January
Distance: 3791.07 miles
Time: 371:14:25 h:m:s
Elevation Gain 20373m
Average HR: 138