The French Riviera Marathon 

THE IDEA

This seemed like a very good idea 12 weeks ago. As I sit today and bask in the post race analysis and finally draft a blog piece I ask myself what went wrong? I’m a crap runner that’s what and I keep going to extreme lengths to prove it.

Post Alpe D’Huez I felt that I didnt want the season to end just then. Two weeks off and I would be itching to have something to focus on. So I had a quick look around and also remembered a friend had done the Nice to Cannes marathon. Well – that just fits the bill doesn’t it? A weekend away, couple of good friends, a 12 week training plan. Sucess.

The first odd thing is that when you write down on social media you are running the Nice marathon the standard response is “Ha – there is no such thing as a nice marathon” No, you know, the place Nice. Oh. So lets call it the FRM.

Nice to Cannes? So do we stay at the end or at the start (that decision is borne out by do I want a lie in or a short route home). Short route home everytime!

Plenty of brits also do this event. Why not? Short flight, winter sunshine and the chance to meet a b-list celeb or two. On the subject of b-listers we did in fact. None other than Jeremy Kyle at Warwick Services on the way down. How much better can it get? The omens were good.

So we decided to stay a place just off the main area about a ten or fifteen minute walk from the finish. The place is perfect for a group running the Marathon and I would recommend it. The web link is here  However what I would not recommend is getting a Taxi from the airport. They rip the arse out of you with a 15 euro airport charge.

We flew out the day before on a BA flight from Heathrow with the usual number of skinny looking Marathon runners. It’s quite easy to get yourself in a state of mind of being out shape. And I was.

On arrival we went straight to the expo. This was the usual chaotic registration queues and the free gift. A jar of curry paste and some other associated crap that we either ate there and then or chucked in the bin. There was also the plethora of tat shops and stalls advertising other marathons. Adidas was a major disappointment, seemingly putting their prices up to put you off buying anything.

On arrival at the apartment and the usual walk about criticising the facilities, I noticed there were no towels. Ed was willing to use an old sweatshirt, Neal had handily bought his own. Now instead of checking around or even asking at reception, I embarked on a towel shopping spree securing a Spiderman Towel for 15 euro. I would be nice and dry! I would also discover on returning back to the apartment there were also 4 nice fluffy white towels for our use. 

We adopted a very straightforward approach to eating and drinking. Same restaurant every day. A good blogger would know the name, as the food was very good and so were the beers and the staff were attentive. But alas I was either pre-occupied with the race or absolutely knackered afterwards,  so I failed to record it. It was down a side street near the front.

RACE DAY

As ever, race day came all too quickly. An early alarm call, some food you don’t really feel like eating and then as always the pressure to do a massive shit. I failed. A tiny plop was about it.

We took the train to the start which worked very well and had plenty of runners making their way, so there is no need to worry that you are going the wrong way. We of course popped to a coffee shop, Ed and Neal going for the last minute dump, me queuing up far too long for a double espresso in the vain hope that would get one down the pipes. Sadly it didn’t and I made my way to the start with the nagging not empty feeling. Port-a-loo beckons?

The start area was well organised with the usual mix of nerves, confidence and women attempting to take a piss hiding behind a bin bag whilst simultaneously baring their Arses to the people on the other side of the fence. I adopted the knob in a bottle technique (wide mouthed bottle of course).

THE RACE

Now I had some lofty ideas that I could run a PB. Why? I have no idea at all. My training had gone ok, not brilliant. I had set a course PB in a half marathon three weeks before BUT I had not had a comfortable long run above 32km across the whole 12 weeks. Still, I felt ok and set off with the 3.45 flag carrier. That was my first error.

Although at the risk of this being viewed as an extremely sexist comment, the 3.45 flag person was an extremely attractive lady. Now you need motivation from all sources, and to be honest Ed,  my running companion for the day,  was not going to provide it. So as we joined the happy band of 3.45’ers, the omens were good. 

Being in possession of the very latest running technology in the form of a Fenix 3, I was well set on what pace I had to run. I had also decided to work out a fade element, knowing that I would go off at 3.45 pace, fade and hopefully come in around the 3.50 mark. What I found surprising was the 3.45 lady clearly was anticipating a larger fade and as such went off “like the clappers” Still, I continued with her knowing full well it was too fast and that I would pay for it but hey, why not? 

I can define the “why not” simply. Because you will blow your doors off.  It’s just a matter of when. Not if. WHEN. Now my previous three marathons I have exploded at various point. London – 22 miles. Berlin – 18 miles. Ironman Zurich, 12 miles (although given what had gone before I do not beat myself up about that particular effort). So today’s explosion would be………….. A new one in a straight marathon, 13 miles. Yep, not quite half way.

The initial 5km was good. I felt strong, not troubled by the slightly faster than required pace. It’s a great start and all the time you have the sea on your left. The sun was shining (a little hot but at 18 degrees very manageable). I felt happy with the world. I could be in Wolverhampton in the rain. 10km came and went, still all ok however I was noticing rather alarmingly that my Heart Rate was on the high side. 165+ high. Hmmm. I mentioned this to my running companion Ed who proceeded to ramp the effort up a bit. 15km and my heart rate was now very toppy. 170. Not good at all. I decided to not look at my heart rate anymore. Obviously if you ignore it it will drop. 

I think around the 20km we hit a hotel complex that involved a few loops. The worst bit of the marathon course and hey presto my suitable explosion point. Bollocks. Why can’t you crack in a nice area? Ed drifted off the front now and I said my goodbyes. Time to re-boot and get to the finish. I’m experienced in this, but not so far out.

I continued to plod my way along, taking the opportunity to have some walk breaks at the feed stations. The temperature crept up and I got worse and worse. I couldn’t hold any sort of pace and the highlight of this phase was a woman going  past me (with a rather large exclusion zone around her I hasten to add) with Shit running down her legs out of her pants. Great , a new low in my running history, overtaken by Mrs Shitty Pants. (Note: I did pass her when she went into a portaloo).

I could go on with various stories of walking, stopping, plodding, shaking my head, asking why, crying out at the injustice of being crap, vowing never to do it again etc etc. I even considered the dreaded packing. However as I have a track record for insulting “quitters” that was never an option.  Also, this completely flat course has a fucking big hill in it towards the end. That induced some full on sweary behavior. I am not proud of dropping a c-bomb, but sorry, it was needed.

And now I realised that the 4 hour fun bus had yet to come past me. Great, I can jump into it and still be close to the four hour mark.WRONG. They came and went having what looked like a great time. No panic. I would jump into the 4.15 extra fun bus and jog to the finish. WRONG!!!!! They came and went too. Oh dear. Oh really dear.

I finished. In a totally shite time and a personal worst of 4.23. The run if you can call it that down the finishing chute was quite frankly an embarrassment. 

THE AFTER PARTY

I’ve decided I go to run marathons because I like the training discipline but most of all I like going for a few beers afterwards. Pretty much the same as with all of my sporting endeavors. It’s the camaraderie of the event, the planning, the doing is the worst bit and then the after party is the best bit. Nothing quite like earning a few pints.

I’d like to say we hit Cannes hard. We didn’t. We did however branch out and eat somewhere different (sadly an Irish pub but I wanted pie and mash with a Guinness)

And so, another unsuccessful marathon. Oh well. There will always be another one.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alpe D’Huez Long Course

A quick recap. I chose this event as my main focus for the year as it appears on a lot of must do triathlon lists. It also favours those that are better on a bike, which having come from a cycling only background, I thought I would go well.   “Iconic” many describe it as. “Memorable” many others. I’ll go with “fuckin hard.

The race itself is slightly longer than a half ironman, 2.2km swim, 115km Bike and a 22km run. What makes it different is the swim is in a lake at 700m , the bike takes in three climbs including Alpe D’Huez and the run is undulating (hilly) at 2000m. It also has a split transition. I’m never so keen on split transitions, it’s something else to think about. 

I did the event as a family trip which brings its own pitfalls and benefits. Personally after finishing a big event a hug off my kids makes a world of difference to post race recovery. However the pitfalls is you maybe have to be a bit more organised and you also have to think about how the race will impact on them. For instance, you may decide to minimise their waiting about by “cutting it a bit fine” at the start. And that’s how I shall start my race day.

Race Day

I decided to park at the top so my Van was at the finish and then ride down to the start. As we drove up to the top of the Alpe, hundreds of cyclists were making the 30 minute trip down to the start. This was pleasing as I would have a big crowd to follow. As I said above, I didn’t want to leave my family hanging about anymore than I absolutely had to, so with a race time of 9.30am start (very leisurely compared to an IM) I would leave the village at 8.30, get to the start at 9.00 for the briefing and then have some faf time. However, after setting upT2, it was 8.40 as I left. No matter, get in a group and roll down. No. No that didn’t happen, I was totally alone. Paranoid thoughts started racing through my head. Have I got it wrong???? A build up of nervous energy. Not a good start. By 9.05am I still couldn’t see the lake. SHIT! have I gone the wrong way?? I catch a glimpse at 9.10. I am now time trialling at 40kph to make the start. I scream into transition at 9.20. Get marked up, strip off and wetsuit on and run to the lake. I don’t need a warm up…….

The Swim

The lake is legandary for being cold, usually topping out at 14 degrees. I struggle with really cold swims, I’ve had a few panic attacks in the past. I did use an extra skull cap, but I must admit I was so stressed at almost missing the start I didn’t notice. As you get in the lake the start is about 150m away. I dipped my head and tested my goggles, all fine then noticed the gun had gone off and I wasn’t near the start line – better get cracking then!!!

I latched onto the back of the field but as my swim has improved I was continually catching slower swimmers and having to pass. This causes you have to check your stroke a lot and change course. Add in the chaos of the first buoy and I found the first half of the swim pretty tough. Lots of kicks and slaps.  It was maybe the start of the second lap before I was in a group of a similar speed and level. I exited the swim in 41mins which all things considered wasn’t a bad time, I maybe lost 2-3mins which is nothing really. I was glad to be out. 

The Bike

I always look forward to the bike; it will always be my favourite part of an triathlon. And with three big climbs it would be a good day out. What struck me first was how bad the drafting was to the first climb. I took the moral high ground and dropped away from big packs. That changed when I saw how many were taking advantage. I jumped on the back of one big group near the foot of the first climb. What is noticed second was that I had no HR data. Not ideal but at least I had my power meter. Well I did have for 20km then I noticed I was averaging 1000watts and then it promptly packed up. I’d like to write a review of the stages power crank, it would fill a blog. However I can’t be bothered. I’ll summarise with its unreliable and shit. I checked the battery at 10pm the night before (it was full). Clearly the damp conditions overnight caused it to discharge and so it packed up, 

Given I train using power, cadence and HR to be robbed of all that data so early was a pain. Riding on feel is fine given the right conditions, but I didn’t measure my effort well on the first climb and on the valley roads with a headwind I think I went too hard.  For me it was a day that given the conditions (heat and headwinds) I really needed to know where I was. The first climb was a lot longer than I thought. Despite being fairly experienced, I don’t spend enough time reading race manuals. I found the roads between the first and second climb tough. My legs felt dead. I refuelled properly at two aid stations and came back a bit on the Col de Onron. That just left the climb to Alpe D’Huez. 

It’s known that it’s tough. I rode it earlier in the week in just over an hour and hoped to achieve about 1hr10 in the race. I did 1hr26 and it was a struggle. With a 34/27 I couldn’t quite spin and had very sore knees, so had to climb out of the saddle a fair bit. The support was amazing and when I reached the top it was a sense of relief and achievment. 5hrs 30 was about 30 mins slower than I had wanted. Why? I don’t know. Maybe burnt a bit getting to the start. Maybe I wasn’t as bike fit as I needed to be. Hard to tell. Still,jJust the run now. 

The Run

It’s undulating. I’d say hilly. And it’s off road a pavement. I was glad to be off my bike and running. I did the first 10km just under an hour and was happy enough. I was going for a 2hr flat. Mid way through the second lap I was in a lot of discomfort with my knees and I had to walk a few aid stations, freeing my knee caps at the same time. Third lap I was walking more. They were just too damn sore to run. I crossed the line in 2hrs 10 with a total time of 8hrs34mins. I was properly knackered.

The Verdict

I’m happy enough. I would have liked 7.59, but it drifted on the bike. I found it tough, but I did love it. It’s a proper iconic race. It’s a one off, I can’t see me going back. But I’m glad I have it in my palmares.

NN

Pyrenees Trip 2015

With this years focus event being the Alpe D’Huez triathlon, I decided that some riding up and down proper mountains maybe in order. My local mountains are, well, not mountains, more small hillocks. So I decided that as I had a spare week (my family were going off with my extended in laws and I was excused) what better plan than a week in the Pyrenees!! I hadn’t been there before so it would be whole new experience, filled no doubt with fun, frolics and bike riding.

Having invested a large sum of money In a new campervan last year, this was to be a road trip. Hopefully a road trip that had a far better conclusion than last years in which the wheel fell off the said campervan (note: have since taken to routinely checking the wheel nuts with the regularity of my daily ablutions).

As I’d not been to the Pyrenees before, I didn’t really know where to start, so of course I started where everyone else does these days with Google. Quite remarkably it took some more imaginative searches than just “cycling in the Pyrenees” to get anything meaningful. 

Probably the best source of information you can find (also a good reference point when you are there) is on this chaps website. [insert link]

What’s great is it gives you the detail of all of the major climbs across the Pyrenees including some suggested routes. In conjunction with two Michellen maps [reference], I worked out a fairly loose place to base myself in order to avoid having to drive at any point (apart from moving location for one specific climb). And anyway I felt the 750 miles I covered to get there was sufficient driving.  Should also add that I “cut things a bit fine” generally. On this occasion I was the last vehicle on the ferry with 1 minute to spare. No need for that level of self induced stress.

A broad plan was to ride the famous Tour de France climbs of;

  • Col d’Tourmalet
  • Hautacam
  • Luz Ardiden
  • Col d’Aspin
  • Col d’Aubisque
  • Col de Soulor
  • Plateu de Beille

I used Argeles de Gazost as my first base. This is a good town it’s got all you need (bars, restaurants and a massive Casino supermarket). It links thorough to Lourdes with a really nice flat cycle path that is used on a number of rides. Lourdes has the advantage of a Cafe Leffe. Which sells Leffe obviously.

I used a campsite called Deth-Post. Reculantly given the name and my arrival was slightly less than ideal as I’d driven about 750 miles and the first thing I did was stand in a massive dog shit as I started to unpack the van. I moved pitches and spent a good half hour scraping my foot across the floor, indicating to fellow campers “maird” for the avoidance of doubt as I resembled someone with a mild physical disability. 

The facilities at Deth-Pots are more than adequate including wifi. Although the Wifi zone wasn’t cutting edge. Warm shower block, washing up facilities etc and a swimming pool (too early in the season to be open).

And so that was my base for five days of riding. I shall now comment on each day’s ride with separate blog posts and some photos I took either on a piss poor camera phone or later on in the trip my GoPro which I imaginatively mounted under my handlebars. 

    Tardiness

    My blogging has developed into, well not blogging. Not that I haven’t had things to say, just I haven’t really had time. Im not sure how that happens; that you don’t have time to write a few things down in a quiet moment. 

    What do you want to get out of it?

    I picked up an article on Triathlete Europe around the questions you should ask yourself before you make a decision to do an Ironman. The full article is worth a read, but one section I found very true was about what you hope to achieve.

    For many, Ironman is the bucket list event, or the ultimate endurance achievement. In this case ask yourself if you want to perform to the peak of your ability, or if you want to finish feeling good. My experience is that you can attain 80 to 85 percent of your top-end fitness and performance level with only 50 to 60 percent of the training volume of a full high performance program. However, it takes a lot more training to get that last 15 to 20 percent of performance out of yourself. So if finishing an Ironman and having a steady day is “mission accomplished” for you, then Ironman is achievable for almost any individual. If truly maximizing your potential is your goal then it takes an in depth analysis of lifestyle and choices to make sure that you are maximizing the time that you do have available and prioritizing the key training sessions and training weeks, particularly in the three months prior to your event.
    Read more at http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2014/11/10/are-you-ready-to-do-an-ironman#VSs0Y1LgO2cudbty.99

     

     

    Ironman Post event reflections

    I’ve waited a few weeks after the event to write this and it’s intended to help (if that’s not an arrogant assumption) other first time Ironman age groupers who have a family, a busy lifestyle and a job. I found that there was so much written and so many opinions it was very confusing. So, this is my humble attempt at being helpful.

    Deciding to do it

    I guess this is the starting point. Why bother. It’s a long day and it’s hard. But the sense of achievement and accomplishment is significant. I decided to do it because I wanted the challenge. Not just the race itself, but the build up, the training, the lifestyle it brings. It helped that a good friend of mine also trained to do the outlaw at the same time. We rarely trained together, but it was great to have someone else to share the journey with, especially when you were totally knackered. And get buy in from your family. Training for an Ironman will take you away from them. This is a fact. I was extremely organised, but I still had lots of time without them. 

    Choosing an event

    One of my main boxes to tick was to do an event abroad. A home event was less appealing (I have done both home and overseas 70.3 before). It was also important I did an Ironman branded event. They do it well. The organisation is excellent and their formula just works. Many people knock WTC. Yes they are expensive, but I think you get what you pay for.

    This website is really helpful in picking how hard you want to make it for yourself. [reference]. Not all Ironman events are equal. I went for a well established historical race that wasn’t overly challenging. 

    Starting off

    I like planning, so my advice will always be create a plan. I enjoyed this and I enjoyed the fulfilment of seeing that plan executed pretty much perfectly. Yes things came along to disrupt it (small injuries, work and family commitments) but how I adapted to it was really fulfilling and taint me a lot about plans. An adapted Mike Tyson quotation is “Everyone has a plan until the get punched in the face”. Learning to adapt your plan to fit your lifestyle is very important.

    Getting Help

    There is so much free stuff online on how to train for an Ironman. You do well to navigate through it without getting really confused. So I cut through all of this and went with an online coaching company, Purplepatch. I noted through my blogs how good they were and I also learned a lot. I’m sure I will be able to use it again in the future. Money well spent.

    Nutrition is the other big area in Ironman. Don’t underestimate the importance. I read a lot and then committed 100% to the Bob Seebahor philosophy of lower carbs. It’s not for everyone, but it worked for me.

    Conclusions

    Finally, you will no doubt get caught up in times, where you finish etc etc etc. for many that’s really important. For me, it was an end to end experience. As I said, the plan, the training, the lifestyle, the venue, the race, the experience. I read this quote at some point and it really struck a chord. It’s all about the enjoyment at the end of the day.

    “And so, in the interest in finding your happy place in the sport, let me suggest something. Next time you are worried about how fast you are going to go in a race, lighten up, look around. Smile at a stranger. Make a few friends out there. Accept the warmth that comes your way. And remember, the longer you are out there the more memories you will make that will last a lifetime. Rather than stress, slow it down and let the good times roll on and on and on.” Holly Bennett.

    Ironman Zurich

    I don’t really know why I decided to do an Ironman, I can’t quite remember now it was so long ago. At several points during the race I did ask myself the question again and again. But as I write this I am very happy I did. It was brilliant and the sense of achievement, despite not hitting my “A race” time is the biggest I’ve had in any sporting event I’ve done. It will really take some beating. In fact I’m not sure it can be beaten.

    The Big Day

    I got lots of inspirational messages of good luck before the race. Perhaps the most was from an old mate that’s done a few ironman. “You got your alarm set for 4am so you can have a tom tit? You sad bastard” motivational indeed.

    However I did have my alarm set for 4am so I could eat my pre-race breakfast of a ham and cheese omelette, yoghurt and two cups of espresso. The latter of course assisting in the pre race “tom tit” which went very well and reduced my anxiety considerably.

    I had to take a train to the start village and as is the way in Switzerland it was bang on time at 5.29 am. The train had a mix of other people heading to the Ironman start and people coming home from a good night out. Funny how life changes.

    The start and transition areas were the usual hubbub of nervous people, faffers faffing for one last time (ooh I better just check [insert] for the twelfth time even though I know it’s there.) A couple of tyres went off bang as people got a little over zealous with the track pump. I felt pretty calm considering it was my first Ironman. I think that having done two 70.3 events before you pretty much know how Ironman do things.

    A word on Ironman as a brand at this point. They get a fair bit of stick for being this big corporate that functions just to make money. That’s as maybe, but one thing about a big corporate that wants to make money is they put on a bloody good event. Ironman Zurich was very expensive, but in my eyes worth it. And the merchandise – that isn’t cheap either but it’s good. But that’s my opinion. You may choose to disagree. I would be hard pushed not to do Ironman branded events as I know what I’m going to get.

    The Swim
    Anyway, (and no I’m not on the Ironman payroll) I made my way down to the swim start (after and obligatory selfie with a swim hat on). I had decided to go in the faster wave (sub 1hr 10 swim) and go at the back rather than fight my way at the front of the slow group. I hadn’t elected to get in the water before and the start and I wished I had. It was a beach start and I hadn’t tested out my goggles or got them wet. As the gun fired and everyone ran into the water, I held back, let some space appear, wet my goggles, put them on and set off. I was officially in an Ironman!!!! I felt great, really really excited. Then my goggles leaked. I corrected them, then they leaked again. Bollocks!!!! In the first 100m I had to adjust them three or four times until I got a seal. Luckily there wasn’t a lot of traffic. In fact my fears of a rough swim were completely unfounded. It was bliss. Warm clear water, freedom to swim. Amazing.

    Until the first turn. CHAOS.Everyone took a tight line into the buoy and it was carnage. I fought my way through but then this carried on all the way down the back straight. However, because I had settled in I wasn’t too spooked. Had this happened at the start I could have been into one of my rather impressive panic attacks. It eased until we got near to the Australian exit point. We had to go under a small bridge and this funnelled a lot of people into a small space. To be honest, it’s the closest I have ever felt like I was about to drown on any swim. People all over me, fists and feet flying. Awful. I held my nerve until we exited and I took a breather as I ran over the island and dived in the other side. Well, more like a plop than a dive to be totally honest.

    The second lap was easy swimming. Clearer water. I held a nice relaxed pace and exited the swim in 1hr 11m. That was one minute off my intended pace and as I ran up to transition I didn’t feel any fatigue at all. Job done. I had finished the Ironman swim. And apparently not drowned.

    The Bike
    I can’t find a lot to say about T1. I probably took a bit too much time, but I put socks on for the bike and a road cycling top so I had three pockets to put my food in. I had toyed with the whole Tri top throughout, but decided I would rather take the extra 1min putting on a road top and having pockets than trying to stick everything to the bike. I had decided to use my own food rather than the on course stuff so I could control any potential GI issues that had plagued me in the past.

    I got onto the bike and felt great, looking forward to the 5+ hours awaiting me. It had begun to rain and the roads were wet, so I set off cautiously. Unlike captain cockwomble who came past me 100m out of transition at about 50kph, hit the first right hander and promptly skidded straight across the road, smashing his bike up and his right side in the process. Quite clearly it was not a 50kph corner in the wet. As I said – cockwomble.

    I settled into the bike nicely and got up to target power and HR. I was planning to ride around 195 watts, HR around 140-150. I had put speed onto my Garmin as well, target average pace 31kph. I did this so that I could pick up some “free speed” if I could drop my HR and watts and go over 31kph then I did.

    The first 30km is very flat – all on the Tri bars. I really had to hold back. I wanted to push on and could have done, but knowing I had 180km to do and a marathon I stuck rigidly to the plan. The first set of climbs on this course are a welcome respite and a chance to get off the Tri bars and ease your back. There is nothing too challenging, but as the rain continued to fall the decants started to get a bit tricky. Again, I was overly cautious on these. I didn’t want a stupid crash ruining the event. I only started to feel a bad patch just towards the end of the first lap as I approached the steepest climb, heartbreak hill. I had heard that the crowds were great, but it was so much better than i expected. Just like a Tour de France climb with people spilling into the road, forcing us to ride single file. The boost it gave me was amazing and this lasted well into the second lap.

    I felt ok through the second lap. The rain had stopped and the roads were drying out, so the descents could be taken with a  bit more speed. I ate well and stuck to the pacing plan. A slight headwind picked up and some small (naughty) drafting went on. I did draft a little bit, but was conscious not to be a persistent offended – just the odd rest before moving through to the front of the group. I did have one delirious moment when i was convinced i had missed out a big part of the course as I was looking at the lap one distances. Funny how fatigue effects your ability to think.

    The last trip up heartbreak hill didn’t have the crowds in place like the first lap, which was a shame. But the pro’s were well into their run and I was near to the end of the bike leg.

    I rolled into T2 with a bike split of 5.43. Two minutes under my target time. My pacing was perfect. The plan was being followed to perfection!

    Bike Fuelling
    I ate and hydrated, getting through my first bottle of generation UCAN in the first half hour of the bike. I was carrying a three sachets of UCAN in gel type solution in one bottle, decanting that into my speedfil and diluting with water from aid stations. It worked well, apart from on a couple of occasions the mix was too rich. I took in water as well and added high 5 zero cal tablets for a hydration drink (I think I had two on the whole ride). Total fluid intake therefore was 4 750ml UCAN and 2 750ml high 5. I had 4 Nakd bars, two packs of powerbar power shots in power bar and one packet of pork scratchings as a salty treat at 150km.

     

    The Run

    I did a little bit more faffing in T2, including changing into a Tri top and also putting on some fresh socks! That was lovely as my socks were wet from the rain on the bike course. I exited T2 knowing i would soon see my family out on course which I was really looking forward to. I felt really good and I had to keep checking my pace as I went through 5km. The crowds were brilliant cheering everyone on. At 10km I was still rigidly on my 6.15km pace utilising a run walk strategy (walking every aid station). it felt so easy that i was already planning to push on in the second half of the marathon. That lasted for about another 5km (after I had seen the family, stopped for hugs and got a great lift from that). So at 15km i started to feel the effects and my pace slowed. I then realised that I wasn’t going to push on, in fact I was beginning to struggle. I gave it another 2km at my planned pace and I felt awful. My knees were really hurting, my ankles were very sore and I still had the best part of 25km to run. That seemed a very very long way at this pace.

    I took my time to fuel – gels, bananas, some of the on course salty snacks and a I rallied a bit to 22 km as I passed the finish line again. Two laps to go. This was psychologically the most difficult part. Knowing I had to come past the finish line again before I finally turned for home.  Worse was i didn’t see my family on the third lap, missing them after they had moved position.

    Midway through the third lap I realised that my sub 12hr finish was ebbing away. It took me a little time to get over this. It had been a real focus. But i decided actually it didn’t matter anymore. My goal was to finish. Not finish and be in the medical tent, or throwing up on the side of the road like a lot of people i saw. No – finish down the chute, running not stumbling with a big smile on my face. I reset my pacing knowing i would come in around the 5hr Marathon mark, half an hour slower than my optimistic best and 15 mins slower than my probable scenario. Once the weight of time pressure was lifted, I started to enjoy it again. I walked more than I should, but this helped massively. I finally saw my family again on the final lap with 10km to go. I told them I would do it and I’d see them at the finish in about 1hr 10mins.

    With 2km to go i was walking when an Auissie ran past me (he had 12km to go) and he said “C’mon mate, why are you walking, you only have 2km to go” I replied “lets see if you are running next lap [sport]…”

    1km to go and I ran again.   I ran the whole KM and that was some feat at this stage. I felt great again though, the felling of elation started to build. I had done it. And I wasn’t that far away from my target. The pain in my legs miraculously went away as I hit the finish arena. I rang the bell one last time and then spotted my family at the end of the blue carpet. It was amazing. I gave them a big hug, high fives then I ran down the chute. I heard YOU ARE AN IRONMAN and as I crossed the line I stood still and enjoyed it momentarily with my hands in the air. 12hrs15mins 57 seconds. And that is something I am very proud of. And then I downed two pints of alcohol free beer.

    the hindsight piece

    It was my first Ironman, so i can now look back and say what would i do differently. In the swim, I would make sure i got in and fully tested my goggles. I used up far less energy than expected on the swim, so i think I could have pushed this and come in closer to the 1hr mark.

    On the bike i would go a lot harder. I had a lot in the tank but was so paranoid that I would be destroyed for the run i over paced myself. I could have dropped 15mins off with little effort and had I really pushed on I could have dropped in around 5hr15mins. Why would I do that- because it is with inevitability I am going to struggle on the run. Im not a runner and keeping some back had no benefit. I think even if i had dropped half an hour off the bike then I would have still run a 5hr marathon. As it was I left too much out on the bike course.

    Realistically, I can see a route to a sub 11.30 finish time. Just about. Is that enough to get me training again? Probably not. For once I am happy with a finish time. It was the best I could do on that day. And I am content. The Ironman box is ticked.

    NN