Ironman UK 70.3 Wimberball, Exmoor. 1.9k swim – 56 mile bike – 13 mile run
Reputed as being one of the toughest courses in the world!
Sun 15th June 2014
Friday – The long car Journey
Left home at 2pm on route to Taunton, Somerset. Hit the M4 and brakes start to grind with all the stop start traffic. Getting worse and worse and wasn’t sure if we would make it.
Finally rolled in to the Holiday Inn at 8pm with Saturday’s game plan in tatters. Car became priority for Sat as Wimberball lake was 50 mins drive. In stepped the IM hospitality company Nirvana to the rescue, Lizzie managed to track their rep down in the hotel next door. Great people and what a relief, I was now able to have my bike and kit collected from the hotel at 7am and be taken to Wimberball lake at 8 with their guests. Time for supper and by now the stress levels were abating – things were looking up…
Saturday – Prep Day
6am we’re all up for breakie followed by Lizzie and Charlie off to spend the morning with the nice chaps at Mr Quick Fit Fitters. New disks and pads £250 later – Rick had warned me the week before that they were low at the MOT. Don’t ignore it – Plan for the unexpected!! I was now able to register, do the swim practice, rack my bike, hang both my bike and run bags and then get to the 11am race briefing before Lizzie and Charlie joined me at mid day. All that was left was a spot of lunch, check out the trade stands before Charlie’s Iron Kids race at 3pm! What else could go wrong – His all ready for the 1k run as the big boys and girls set off first. Then somehow we managed to miss his age group as they all set off so DNS with lots of tears. A promise of his favourite supper soon cheered him up. Only one more thing to do, drive the bike course to see what’s in store. I’d seen enough after 20 miles to realise this is why it’s reputed as being the toughest in the world! Exhausted and back at the hotel by 6pm for early supper in the Harvester next door before bed by 9pm. Who should be sitting next to us with No1 on his wrist band – both pro’s Ritchie Nicholls and his girlfriend Eimear Mullan. Winners of 2013 and Eimear soon to win 2014’s race, Ritchie came 3rd behind winner Will Clarke in a new course record of 04:18:07.
My new favourite carb loading pre Iroman supper is ‘Full Rack of Classic BBQ Ribs Harvester’s famous pork ribs glazed in their classic BBQ sauce with a mega 958kca at £11.49 Just awesome!!!
Sunday Race Day
We’re all up at 3.30am without much sleep and to my amazement Lizzies really getting in to the whole Ironman thing now. Bleary eyed and a light breakfast in the packed restaurant full of like minded athletes and loved ones, all struggling to digest breakfast in the middle of the night. We’re off, 4.15 and a very nervous convoy of cars and mini buses all heading towards Wimberball lake. We arrive at 5am and head over to do the final tweaks in transition such as remove bike cover, place water bottles and then check tyre pressures five times over! Funny how the mind plays tricks on you under pressure – maybe that’s not quite enough air, lets try a bit more, was that too much, not quite sure if that valve cap’s on tight enough, Agony! You could hear a pin drop, so much nervous energy and the queue’s for the loo’s just got longer and longer going round the block.
Wetsuits and calf guards on and ready to go, finally the nerves seems to abate as 1750 athletes walk down to the waters edge. Bang, 7am and the first wave was off, another 15mins of waiting before our turn. I managed to get over to the far left out of the main pack and hopefully avoid any trouble. No drama’s, arms and breathing felt good throughout and exited in 36:54mins (1min quicker than I hoped) to be confronted with an 400m uphill run to T1. One down, two to go.
T1 felt forever trying to get the bike gear on but the lovely volunteers were on hand to help us. Wished Amanda good luck as we both left transition for the bike that I feared most. Started with a 2 mile climb straight out of transition which set the tone for things to come, my hopeful average of 16mph wasn’t looking good sitting at 12mph. Things improved in the perfect weather conditions, warm, overcast and light winds. Then more hills and big descents clocking up nearly 40mph at times. My average started creeping up and was soon 17mph and then drastically dropped on the big climb sections. So glad I went with the compact and 28 on the back, was able to tap up the hills, just, whilst guys on their tri bikes really struggled. One lap to go and found myself grinding out the flats and downhills whilst taping up the climbs and loving it. I was in my element munching my jelly babies, sipping Hi-Five gels and drinks.
15 miles to go and something suddenly felt very wrong in the legs, had I smashed the bike to hard and had nothing left for the run? I couldn’t physical get out of the saddle on the climbs anymore, immense cramp pains in both thighs that I’d never experienced before, O sh*t, i’m in trouble, how can I run! The sun broke through as I came in to T2 having averaged 16.4mph in a time of 3:28:04 which I was thrilled with, could I go sub 6hrs with a good run time, 8min miles needed, lets see.
Two down, one to go!
T2 was quick, trainers on, nearly leaving my brand new 2XU cap behind thinking I wouldn’t need it. Boy am I glad I did take it, the heat was immense with no breeze going up to 24 degree’s or so.
The legs didn’t work and I was in trouble, thighs just cramped up and felt myself not being able to finish this thing. The climbs on the run were brutal after the 53 hills on the bike and the descents were just as bad. The garmin was reading 15min/miles (so much for my 8 min/miles then). 1 lap in with two to go I shouted across to Lizzies and Charlie – I can’t run, something had to be done, I yanked as hard as I could on my tri suit’s elastic round the bottom of the shorts and a loud rip was heard, then the other leg, relief – that felt good. Within minutes the pain had disappeared in both legs realising they were far too tight preventing the muscle movement and circulation. I made headway in the intense heat and finally crossed the finish line with a run time of 2:02:37 averaging over 10min/miles.
Maybe I could have gone sub 6hrs with a ZipVit tri suit – who knows – my Aldi special did only cost 12 notes and now going in the bin unless any one fancies it!!!!
Total Time 6:17:34
50th (45-49 Age group of 237)
491th Overall (1750 entries)
The most amazing experience, every conceivable emotion through pain and joy.
All the weeks of training and bike prep etc paid off, they say train hard – race easy.
Hoped for sub 7hrs knowing how hard the bike and run course was going to be – So a very happy bunny.
Many thanks to our top coach at Rok Tri for getting me to the start line in one piece ready to race, all prepped with a bike so slick she flew up those hills without a whisper. Might try the red bull and coke they hand out next time, apparently gives you wings!
Work on the run, brick training, find more hills, learn how to focus the mind and get in the zone. Don’t wear a cheap tri suit!
Must Have Favourites
Calf guards – run cap – right nutrition – jelly babies – prepare for the unexpected.
Special thanks to Lizzie and the boys for putting up with my daily training schedule and feeding me 24/7!
Good luck to team mates Paul and Pipey at Bolton.
Ironman UK 70.3 2014 Finisher – Highly recommend it….