September was the big one, Ironman 70.3, Weymouth. Since getting into triathlon a couple of years ago I had added an Ironman event to my bucket list. For those unfamiliar, a triathlon involves swimming, cycling and running to get to the finish line. Distances vary but an Ironman 70.3 (aka a half Ironman) involves a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile cycle and a 13.1 mile run. No easy feat. When planning My Mammoth Year this event was the first one I signed up for. This was the one I really wanted to achieve!
Juggling training was tricky especially with all my commitments and I had to become super organised. Fortunately many of my earlier challenges had helped with my preparations. Getting ready did involve lots of early morning sessions. Although I consider myself a ‘morning person’ I did struggle, and on days where I was less motivated it was hard to drag myself out of bed. With my schedule some days also required me to complete two training sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening. On those days, sleep came very easy to me. Although it was tough, I did enjoy the diversity of training. Triathlon requires you to prepare for 3 disciplines. This meant that my training was quite varied and split between swimming, cycling and running. I also aimed to strength train in the gym a couple of times a week. Looking back I really don’t know how I fitted it all in.
As part of my training my sister Jenny planned a weekend in the Lakes. She basically organised our own triathlon. We swam in Derwent Water, South of Keswick. Open water swimming is quite different from the pool. Although my Ironman swim would be in the sea, our swim in the lake was certainly good practice. It also gave me the opportunity to try out my new wetsuit. It passed the test! Jenny then planned a cycle followed by a run around Keswick and the surrounding area. We couldn’t have picked a more beautiful place to train. On the cycle and run I tried out more new kit. We also tried out nutrition and hydration tactics to work out what might be best to use on the actual day. I finished the weekend feeling far more confident. An Ironman 70.3 was not outside my grasp.
The big weekend finally arrived. We decided to get to Weymouth a couple of days before the race. My parents came to support Jenny and I, as did my boyfriend Owen. Jenny’s friend Alex was also completing the event. As there was a few of us we decided to book an Air B&B. Weymouth was lovely, and definitely worth a visit if you ever get the chance to go.
The day before the race we had to get ourselves registered and organise our kit in the transition area. This would be the last opportunity before the race to ensure we had everything we needed, where we needed it. When we got to registration the wind was quite strong and the sea looked pretty scary. My nerves were certainly starting to kick in. In the afternoon we had to attend a safety briefing with the other participants. At that point, s***t got real! I didn’t plan on getting much sleep that night.
RACE DAY! I arose early from a not so terrible sleep and made sure I had a hearty breakfast. I managed to keep my nerves at bay while I checked and double checked my remaining kit. Owen dropped Jen, Alex and I at the start point so we could get ourselves ready. He would return later with my parents to cheer us over the start line. Due to the weather forecast the organisers had decided to reduce the swim from 1.9km to 900m. Although many were disappointed by the announcement, I was quite relieved. The sea wasn’t looking very friendly.
Before the race participants were allowed back in to the transition area. I returned to my bike, water and nutrition bag at the ready. I then checked my tyres. Damn it, a flat! Not to worry. I remained calm and changed it myself. I was pretty pleased with my handiwork and went to return my bike to its designated spot. However it popped again almost immediately. Now was the time to panic! I had given away my only remaining spare inner tube to someone else who was having the same difficulties. Transition was soon to close so I raced across to the bike mechanic. In my haste I must have pinched the inner tube, surely a professional would do a far better job. Although the mechanic was super busy he got my bike sorted and kindly returned it to its spot. Phew!
As the swim had been reduced, the race start time got pushed back. After the drama with my bike it allowed me the opportunity to calm back down and mentally ready myself. We met up with Owen and my parents and made our way to the start. After what felt like an agonisingly long wait we finally crossed the start line into the sea.
The swim: Initially I veered off the wrong way. Luckily the event stewards pointed me back in the right direction. During all my swim training I had been doing front crawl but I couldn’t calm my breathing so chose to breast stroke instead. Once my breathing had settled I tried again with the crawl but struggled to stay on course as the sea was still fairly choppy. I decided to stick with breast stroke for the rest of the swim and play it safe. I made it to end within the cut off time and was very glad to be back on dry land.
The Cycle: This was the part of the race I was dreading, cycling was still not my favourite. However I was going to give it my best effort. The route took me through some beautiful countryside making the cycle actually rather pleasant. I pushed myself up every single hill I came across. I could hear my sister’s voice in my head motivating me and felt rather smug when I cycled past those that had got off to walk. My nutrition plan was working well and I was feeling rather pleased with myself. Maybe cycling isn’t so bad after all. Around mile 40 I then heard the noise I most feared, a pop followed by a hiss. Not another puncture! I didn’t have any inner tubes to try and fix it myself as I had used all my replacements earlier. So I just had to wait for the maintenance guys to find me. Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long, and in about 20 minutes I was back on the road. Despite the loss in valuable time I tried to remain positive and continued onwards back to the transition area. I was so happy to see the Ironman banners. Yes I had made it! I saw Owen smiling and cheering as I turned the corner back into transition. I was on a high. I still felt strong and was so ready for the run. As I dismounted my bike and entered transition my heart quickly sank. One of the officials approached me and said I had missed the bike cut off time. As a result I was not allowed to continue on to the run segment of the race. I had to return my time chip and collect my kit. I was devastated! I got my things and left the area. Owen came to find me as he hadn’t seen me leave to join the run course. As soon as I saw him I burst into tears.
I was truly gutted. At that moment I felt like I had let everyone including myself down. This was the one I really wanted to tick off my list. But that day it was not to be! It took me a few days to get over the disappointment. But now looking back I’m actually really pleased with my performance. I gave it my absolute best shot in the circumstances. I know that if I had the chance to continue on to the run, I would have made it to the finish line strong.
Although my race didn’t quite go the way I had hoped, Jenny and Alex absolutely smashed it. Great job you too! Very proud.
I will attempt another Ironman race, that I’m fairly certain of. But for now I have no immediate plans. After a very busy year I am taking a well earned rest.
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