I was just along for the ride in this Ironman. This was Aislings target race for the year and I had jumped in at the last minute via an entry with Nirvana so I had more invested in Ais’s performance than in my own but if I’m honest I secretly thought that with my swimming coming back to me much faster than I expected and my biking being strong, probably the strongest I’ve been after almost a year of just riding with no running or swimming. I would only have to run an ok marathon to scrape into a decent time and maybe, if there was a roll down, then there was the slim chance of a Kona qualifying slot.
I thought with about 8 weeks of running I could get in shape to run a decent 15k maybe 20 and surely history would get me through the last 20k…
Famous last words. Famous last stupid words…
Related: Race reports
As it went I managed a 1:10 swim which was only about 3-4 minutes slower than the best case I’d hoped for. So a good start. A slow transition to put on gilet, arm warmers and a rain jacket and I headed out into the worst torrential rain I’d ever raced in.
I always say I come to UK for 2 reasons. 1. It’s one of the hardest bike and run courses and 2. Its a relatively easy swim. This suits my strengths and weaknesses, I also come for the the UK weather which in July is not likely to be as hot as the mainland European races. (I don’t do too well in extreme heat) But I wasn’t expecting to be facing dumping down rain for the swim and the first couple of hours on the bike. It wasn’t cold but it was lashing down, think monsoon and you’ll get the picture.
I got going on the bike and had planned on starting very easy. I thought a conservative first hour or two was crucial as I wasn’t in the shape to race hard from the start but I thought that I could build into it and hopefully finish strong. I’ve used this strategy a couple of times before and I’m used to having people passing me for the first 30-40 minutes.
Related: Ironman Florida 2011 race report
At that point I normally settle into my race pace and gradually start to re pass most of them again. But that wasn’t really happening today. I could see people up the road but I wasn’t making a dent on them. I hit the first climb and tried to push and the body just didn’t respond at all.
Ok so I’ll interrupt myself here to make a bit of a confession. One of stupidity really more than anything else.
My year was originally based around racing the Ras in May. It’s an 8 day bike race for both professional and top level amateur riders and I thought if I managed to make it through something that hard I’d be in the best biking shape of my life. The clever plan then was to throw in 4 weeks swimming and running and hopefully get through an Ironman based on an ok swim, the best bike I’ve ever done and fingers crossed for the run. Can you see the holes in this plan yet?
Anyway due to problems before the Ras we had to pull out with two weeks to go. That threw a slight spanner in the works. So, no super bike legs.
Still I’d gotten a lot of bike training done and a good bit of road racing so I was in pretty good biking shape and I would have an extra couple of weeks swim and run training now that I wasn’t doing the Ras.
8 weeks to be exact. Minus a two week taper so actually 6 weeks… You can see the stupidity more clearly now can’t you?
Anyway I got stuck in and within a week or so I was back up to 5k swims and moving reasonably well. After a month in the water I did a 3800m timetrial (the distance of the Ironman swim) in the wetsuit and it turned out that I was only about 4-5 mins off my best swim shape from 2 years ago. I was chuffed and more than a little surprised. The crazy plan looked like it might actually come off. The swim was coming along great the bike was already good and now I just needed to sort out the run with four weeks to go.
Then I got sick. I picked up a viral infection from Ais who’d been unwell with it for almost a month.
I couldn’t believe it. I tried to keep up a very low level of training going, swimming once a week to try to hold onto the tenuous swim fitness I’d managed to pick up. Running wasn’t good but I thought if I could manage a couple of longish runs in the last month I’d be ok.
Related: Ironman Fortaleza 2016 race report
After 3 weeks of barely finishing most sessions and usually at a ridiculously slow pace any thoughts of a good time had evaporated and I was firmly into survival mode. I’d waited almost two years to get back onto the start line of an Ironman and I wasn’t going to miss out now.
Anyway back to the race. I’m somewhere about 40k into the bike and realising that this is going to be just a case of finishing. I’m not competitive. My legs are shot. I decided at that stage that I was just out to enjoy the experience and get the medal. Thankfully I’m not as sick as I had been some of the days over the last month but I’m not great. It was still raining, not quite as bad as earlier but the wind is after picking up and it’s getting pretty savage on some parts of the course.
It’s turning into a completely epic day. I feel like a legend in my own underpants.
Anyway it got windy and I got tired and by about the 130k mark I started to question if I would finish. I felt sick and weak and my vision was blurry. I was also moving really slowly at this stage and being passed more and more. I just wanted to stop and lie down.
Related: Ironman Mallorca 2016 race report
I was afraid that Ais would come along and stop if she saw me stopped at the side of the road and I would ruin her race too so I kept on moving. Slowly.
I made it to t2 and any thoughts of a DNF were gone. I would rather have the slowest Ironman time than a DNF to my name and I thought as long as I can keep moving I’ll keep going. I settled into a really slow jog and somehow managed to get to around 30k before I started to walk/run. I was bargaining with myself to keep the walks short and the runs as long as possible. I got a huge lift when I saw Ais on the course and she was moving well and as usual had a huge smile, delighted to be onto the run. She caught me with less than 3k to go and I would have loved to run in and finish with her but I was hardly ably to keep running at that stage. It was one of the most satisfying finishes I’ve had for a long time and I’m delighted to be back at Ironman. Lots of lessons learned and I loved the day.
Related: Ironman UK 2011 race report
Thanks to Ais, Mam and Dad who came over again and spent the whole day out in all sorts of savage weather for all the support. Thanks to all of our families and to all of our staff in Wheelworx who are crucial in making this happen.
Well done to Aileen Flynn and Declan Doyle who are both Kona bound and to Ship My Tri Bike Dave who also had a hard day but put in a solid performance.