I have to admit that I am very pleased with how the ironman went. All the factors I could control went according to plan. Inevitably it was the weather that produced the only significant imperfection to the race.
On 13th September race morning we were up at 04:30 and I had my usual porridge and banana breakfast with a pint of strong coffee. Then it was off to Weymouth. As the day dawned we could see big, threatening black clouds and sure enough as we arrived at transition the heavens opened and it poured down for an hour or so – soaking everything.
I went into transition and asked the Just Racing bike mechanics to check my tyre pressures (didn’t trust myself) . The bike was OK – just wet. Phew. I changed into my wetsuit and went over to the swim starting pens. I was quite nervous but felt in control. However, I didn’t realise my goggles were upside down until the starting horn blasted at 07:15!
There were about 350 athletes in my swim wave so inevitably I took a few knocks and a ducking up until the first buoy at 700 metres but after that there was very little contact with other swimmers as the field spread out. The swim element of the ironman was 2 laps of 1900 metres. After the first lap I had to get out and run along the beach before starting the second lap. During my 92 minute swim the wind picked up and the sea became rough. On the second lap sighting became an issue as the waves got bigger and I probably swam a few extra metres by wiggling about. I had a problem with cramp but I have leant how to deal with this in training. I have also learned to tolerate sightings of Barrel Jellyfish without getting too stressed.
The swim felt long and I was pleased to be out and dashing up the beach through the wall of spectators and noise to transition.
I had planned to get changed carefully into cycling kit and make sure I was going to be comfortable for up to 8 hours on the bike. It had stopped raining but was still very cloudy so I put my jacket on to start with. I had an electrolyte drink, a banana and 2 pieces of flapjack while I changed. The transition from swim to bike took 9.5 minutes.
Once I was on my bike I was straight down onto the aero bars, warming up and getting up to speed. It was just before 9am so still quite chilly and damp with an obvious breeze.
The roads were wet with some large puddles- yeah right, Puddletown – what do you expect!
I enjoyed the bike ride. I had trained on the course as it is close to home and knew it well. There were no surprises. My family and friends were cheering me on at regular intervals and I was in good spirits.
The wind increased throughout the bike ride but it was from the south east which is unusual hereabouts. It did mean that the parts of the course exposed to the usual south westerly were OK. The second lap was harder into the freshening blustery wind.
There were aid stations supplying nutrition at 3 places on each lap. I carried most of what I needed but made a planned stop with the Army at Bovington to replenish my electrolyte drinks.
I monitored my progress on the bike on my Garmin Edge so I knew I had had a quicker ride than I had anticipated and came into transition after 6 hours and 51 minutes with an average speed of 26kph. That was 2kph faster than I had planned.
I had planned to change out of everything I was wearing on the bike, towel down and put clean stuff on to run. I had more flapjack, electrolyte drink and another banana. This all took 5.5 minutes.
I emerged on the run feeling very happy and headed into a stiff breeze towards the Oasis cafe at the end of the esplanade.
There were 3 nutrition stations on the course which were manned by volunteers from local sports clubs – Bustinskin, Wessex Wizards, and Sandsfoot Cafe Racers. The volunteers who stood there for hours in wind and rain giving support and encouragement to the athletes were fantastic and I am extremely grateful to them all.
I also met my family and friends from time to time – they shouted themselves hoarse in their efforts to encourage me.
I continued to run slowly and steadily around the laps of the run course. I was given a huge amount of support from family and friends along the way.
The wind gradually got stronger and Weymouth sea front is very exposed. Running into the wind became increasingly arduous and I had to dig deep. It began to rain and it got dark at about 19:30. The last 2 hours of my ironman were in torrential driving rain.
I had developed a feeding routine which wasn’t in the plan. Every feed station I came to I had a handful of salty crisps, then a USN Peach Gel (unlimited gels were available) and about 300ml of water.
It was just a case of head down into the wind and survive until the next aid station. The last 2 hours of the marathon were in the dark so reaching the Bustinskins at the end of the unlit esplanade was quite an achievement. It was really a light at the end of the tunnel. Five times I had to get to the Oasis cafe on that marathon! To be met by enthusiastic support each time really helped.
As each lap is completed the athletes are given a band. Red, white, blue and then a Union Jack. With the 4 bands on my wrist I just had to get to Bustinskins at the end of the long dark esplanade – against about 30 knots of wind and driving, torrential rain (paints a pretty picture doesn’t it?). Once I turned at the end for the 5th time and the shouts of the Bustinskin volunteers faded I knew I was going to be able to finish. The wind was mostly behind me. I was soaked through but couldn’t get any wetter. And the Sea Life tower at the finish was in sight!
Eventually I was on the red carpet in front of the grandstand. The weather was atrocious but I didn’t care. I had made it. A long course iron distance triathlon in a time quicker than expected despite the difficult conditions for the last few hours.
I remembered to celebrate – as instructed by the seasoned triathletes I had talked to about this moment. My family and friends were still there in the pouring rain. What a team!
I had some real food – (cheese sandwiches) and a massage in the recovery area before meeting up with my support team. I didn’t feel too bad and we walked through the torrential rain and flooded streets back to the car. I then went to transition and picked up my bags and my bike. We got home about 23:00.
On Monday morning it was back to Weymouth for the presentation. I knew I had won the women 60 -64 age category as I was the only one to finish. I didn’t realise I was going to have to go up on the podium to receive my award. I would have worn something sportier than a pair of old jeans!
My legs have been a bit sore after the 14 hours of hard exercise but nothing serious just collateral damage which will recover by itself if I rest. I haven’t slept very well – partly because I don’t seem to be able to eat enough to stay satiated for long, so I have been getting up in the night for snacks. I have done very little exercise – just some gentle walks and relaxed pool swimming. (I didn’t even count the lengths!)
After a few days though my body and mind are recovering. I can already look back and feel pleased Normally I am very critical of myself but on this occasion I think I did alright.
Better than that – pretty good!