After all the training and preparation it was great to not only complete the course, but to experience such a fantastic day. My final time of 13 hours 52 minutes was slower than hoped and as suspected it was the run that caused the problems or more to the point gut problems, which unfortunately meant I had to walk part of the second half of the run course.
I had travelled up to Nottingham with the family on the Saturday and there was a great buzz at the race venue with the build up including a race briefing and sorting the bike and kit ready for the next morning. Once registered competitors wore very distinctive orange wristbands that had to stay on until after the race and competitors seemed to be everywhere at the hotel and around town in the evening.
On the Sunday, it was up at 3.30am for a light breakfast and final preparations before dragging the family out of bed at 4.30 to get to the course for a 6 am start. It was a bright, but windy morning and unfortunately it stayed very windy all day with a mix of generally being overcast with a couple of very heavy showers and some bright sunshine at times.
The swim was in a long rowing lake at the National Boating Centre and the course was straight down the left hand side for 1.2 miles, round a bouy to go a short distance across the lake, round another bouy and then back another 1.2 miles to the start. The start was always going to be chaotic with around 1000 competitors all going off together (for footage see the utube link on the home page). We had self-seeded into 4 groups based on estimated speed to allow the faster swimmers to get away unhindered. I was in the third group and after about 250 metres managed to find some space to settle into the swim. It was busy again around the bouys and on the return leg we were swimming against the wind which made the water quite choppy, but I again found some reasonable open water and was really pleased to finish in 1 hour 19 minutes, virtually bang on my predicted time. The only problem I encountered was that the top of my wetsuit hadn’t been secured properly and I felt it rubbing on the back of my neck on the return leg. No real problem at the time, but rather sore later in the race with a combination of sunshine and salty sweat!
It took me 7 minutes in the transition from swim to bike and would have been longer if they didn’t help us take off the wetsuits (although the winner only took 1 minute 49 seconds).
The bike leg also went pretty well, it was in 2 main sections and I had driven round the northerly section on the Saturday afternoon so I knew what to expect. This section included the only hill of note, which fortunately was nowhere near as bad as many of the hills in the Sussex Downs that I have trained on and caused no problem at all. It was windy, but only seemed to affect a few stretches of this part of the course and I was still feeling really good when after about 50 miles I got to the southern part of the course. This involved a 22 mile loop that started at 58 miles and we had to do it twice. As I didn’t have time to recce this part on the Saturday I did not know where the loop started and as it was not obvious, I was cycling along not knowing how far I had gone and whether or not on I was still on the first loop. It was not until a few faster riders went past who were obviously on their second laps that I knew for sure. The loop was very flat, but so was the surrounding landscape and there seemed to be no escape from the wind, whichever direction you were heading in and it seemed to go on for ages. Every time I turned a corner I hoped I would see some sign of the end of the loop, but all too frequently it was yet another long straight and the other cyclists near me also had no idea. Finally I reached the end and the second lap, which whilst tough seemed easier by just knowing where I was going. After that it was 10 miles back to the start, although the last few miles seeming to really drag and I got soaked by a couple of very heavy showers, but much better that way than at the start of the ride.
Taking the wind into account I was very pleased with a time of 6 hours 31 minutes for the bike leg (which again was roughly as expected) and whilst knackered I felt I had enough in the tank for the run.
Another 7 minute transition which was longer than planned as I had to take my socks off. (I put talc in them so it is easier to slip then on when your feet are wet after the swim, but I had gone over the top and it had solidified around my toes during the cycle and it took a while to shake it out).
Then off on the run, nice and steady and once I had settled into a comfortable pace, I then deliberately slowed slightly to try and conserve energy. The course was once round the rowing lake in which we had swam (approx. 3 miles) and then 3 times round a 7.5 mile course that included the rowing lake and a river side run along the Trent past the Notts Forest ground to a turn point and back the same way. I was still quite comfortable after the first full lap running at about 10 minutes per mile and just before half marathon distance was on schedule for a 4 ½ hour marathon which would have got me home in around 12 ½ hours.
But then the big but. Part of this challenge is to get the ‘fuelling’ right and you have to take food and drink on board during the race. The bike is the best time to eat solid food as it is very difficult to digest anything while you are running and I had had a couple of bananas and Mars bars before going on to energy gels. You are told to have these before you feel that you need them and I had decided that on the run I would have 1 every hour and had trained on this basis. I had taken a couple on the bike and was on my second gel on the run when my guts decided that they had had enough and I was getting some semi-serious stomach pains. I carried on, but feeling that I was either going to get stomach cramps or throw up decided I would have to stop or risk not being able to finish. So I stopped and once the stomach pain had eased I tried to run again, but could hardly move and had completely ceased up. At that time completing the remaining 13 miles or so seemed somewhat daunting, however quitting was not an option and after a while I managed to get walking again. I then introduced a walk/run strategy initially running for a couple of minutes then walking for a minute gradually increasing the running sections, albeit slowly and managed to run around 5 of the 7 ½ miles on the final lap finishing the marathon in 5 hours 46 minutes.
Once finished a massage was provided and this, as well as a brief swim the following morning, really assisted my recovery and I felt nowhere near as bad as I thought I would in the days after the race.
I was one of 838 that finished the race, coming in 671st some way behind the winner who finished in 9 hours 6 minutes, with the last one home in 16 hours 47 minutes. I am really pleased that I managed to finish, although still a little disappointed that I didn’t run all the way and at the moment the thought is that it is unfinished business and I will have another go next year to put that right.
All in all it has been a fantastic experience involving the training, the build up to the day and the race itself and there will be many good memories. The expectation at the start, the camaraderie before, during and after the race, the relief of finally finishing and on the lighter side there will be the Lady in red. She was an extremely attractive blond, probably in her 30’s with a superb body emphasised by a figure hugging red tri suit. I had seen her earlier in the race when she had run toward me on the river side part of the course and later in the race she then overtook me when I was running round the lake. Shall we say a prominent brown stain didn’t quite match the rest of her appearance!
A few thank yous, my wife for putting up with the training regime, my physio Alison Fricker of Body Balance Clinic not only for helping me overcome numerous injuries, but also for the guidance along the way and to my 2 sons for their constant reverse psychological encouragement of ‘you’re never be able to do it.’ And also a big thank you to everyone that has supported me and I am hoping that around £2000 will be shared between Dizzy: Support for Diabetes and Worthing Town FC Palatine Project.
I have been asked ‘what next ‘ and am looking forward to doing some shorter faster training sessions in preparation for the Worthing Triathlon in mid August (this is Olympic distance – 1 quarter of the ironman race). I also want to do a reasonable time in a marathon and may have a go at the New Forest Marathon in September, although this could be a bit too soon and it may have to wait until next year. I am booked into the ‘Hell Runner’ in November which is 10 miles up and down hills and through mud/rivers with a group of guys from Worthing Town to ‘celebrate’ Bully’s 40th Birthday and have also just booked a 10 Km swim in a lake near Windsor in early September. As mentioned earlier I am likely to have another go at the Ironman next year, so I should be able to keep myself reasonably busy before possibly having a go at another bigger challenge in 2014. Watch this space.