I’m lying here on the bed reflecting on my weekend and I’m still up on cloud nine, I can’t quite believe that all the training, hard work, pain etc….has allowed me to join the Ironman club. Sometimes I’ve played down the task that was at hand but I’ll say it now, not everyone could have done it, its tough, its hard and it’ll hurt like hell and your mind will try to convince you that you can’t do it, you’ll face your demons and trust me you have to dig deep to beat them.
Let me talk you through the what some people call the “Longest Day”, I was actually suprised at how quick it went.
Wake up and swim
My alarm went off at 4:15am for breakfast, which consisted of 2 sis GO bars, a black coffee with sugar and a glass of water. Woke Em up at 4:45am and we met Dave outside at 5am to get the bikes on the car to drive to the lakes for the swim. We had o use torches to see where to rack our bikes, it was the first race I’ve started when its been a full moon. Met Viking and Minnie and wished them luck as we headed into the cold murky waters of Drummonds Dub. I wasn’t nervous at all as the gun went off and the challenge was underway. I know why they call an ironman start the washing machine, although I started to the side and the back there were still arms and legs everywhere and someone smacked me in the face hard, knocking my goggles off. Thankfully I managed to keep hold of them and after a few seconds of adjusting was on my way again. Just relax and enjoy it, I kept telling myself that and before long the lap of the first lake was over with. I looked behind me as I left Drummonds for the cross country run to Hartleton Lake, and to my suprise I wasn’t last. Jump into the second lake for the first of two laps. Disaster almost struck when I caught sight of a concret post submerged, managed to twist my head away and hit my shoulder, regained my composure and swam on. There was a very strong wind and fortuntely it blew me back down the lake quickly, into the last lake and head for home. Really felt strong and fresh as I was pulled up the steep bank of the final swim exit. Only now did I glance at my watch and I was amazed it read 1:07. I had smashed my pb by half an hour. Into transition one and into the small change marque, just strip naked and get the bike gear on. Looking at my feet as there were women in there as well. Said hello to Dave the Ex Spartan who was just about to leave as I arrived. Out of the tent, a quick kiss from Em and a word with Viking who’d had a storming swim and it was off on my bike.
I had come out of the swim and T1 in 1:14:45, In my race plan I would have been happy in being on my bike in 2 hours, I was way ahead of schedule.
The first 3 miles were all uphill and a sign of things to come, it was tough as I tried to wake my legs up. Started on the energy drink and ate a couple of pieces of malt loaf, this would be the pattern for the rest of the day, think I went through about 8 750ml bottles on the bike course. Was passing a few people as we headed up and down, none of the roads were flat. We headed towards English Bricknor, one of the monster hills I had been warned about, I caught Dave at the bottom and we exchanged a few words. My legs were feeling it as I reached the summit, only to turn the corner and have another 10% climb to combat. A few miles in and through race HQ for the first time, lots of cheers and the first feed station, throw away an empty bottle and get handed a new one ( great system that ). Still plenty of bikes around me as we dropped down into the forest for the first time, a very tight dangerous right turn and there was Em and Daves family ( Suzie, Sam and Annie ) cheering me on, what a boost and I powered up the hill as a result. I was now heading on the lower dog leg of the course and that was the last support I’d see for another 40 miles until I got to the next feed station. It was a very tough and lonely section, in all honesty it was very damaging to both your legs ( because of the relentless hills ) and your mind ( tiredness and loneliness ) and the 4 mile climb to the second feed station made me question the sanity of what I was doing, even when I had been lying in a hospital bed I hadn’t felt so close to giving up. Then salvation as I reached the feed station and was given bottles to replace my empties and energy gels, but best of all there was Em, the Spartan girls and Loon and Will. Seeing them all gave me the strength to continue.
Reached Bricknor for the second time and was amazed to see “Go Pirates Go” written on the main road, Barley had aparently been dodging traffic half way up the hill to paint messages of support and a skull of cross bones on the road. There were pirate flags and umbrellas hanging from the trees and fellow pirates ringing cow bells and shouted support, one even had a cd playing the theme from Captain Pugwash. Awesome support from my clubmates !!
Through HQ again and more bottles, again saw Em and the support at the turn into the lonely loop. My left knee which was strapped up ( walked into the fridge at home on thursday night and was limping all Friday ) was aching, my back was aching and my feet and toes were numb from all the standing on the peddles up the hills. Again my mind was urging me that it would all be ok if I just stepped off the bike. Thankfully the final feedstation appeared and I stopped to talk to Em and the Spartan girls, take on water, gel, and energy drink. A quick stretch of my back and I was away again.
As I crawled up Bricknor for the last time I was in agony and never wanted to see a bike saddle again, my backside stung and my legs were screaming. I came off the bike in T2 and I’ve never been so happy, I had completed what can only be described as a sadistic bike course in 8:07:49, slower than I had planned but I was just happy to make it.
I got given my run gear and asked where the change tent was, there wasn’t one. The guy said no ones looking, just strip off, so I did, stark naked in a school playground but I didn’t care. On with the run gear, heres Dave coming into T2, he’s had a storming ride. Hear the unfortunate news that Viking had to pull out at 92 miles with severe cramps. Walk over to get a kiss from Em as I start my first ever marathon.
Now I’ve joked all year that I would run a sub four marathon at the ironman, here would be the moment of truth. Suprisingly my legs seem to be working fine, I was terrified that my left knee would give in on me, it hurt but it held up. It was a tough out and back course through the forest with one sadistic hill at half way, the sort you’d have to drive a car up in second gear !! I liked the out and back 5 lap course because it meant you kept seeing the same people over and over again and it just felt great to keep being told “Go pirate, you’re runnnig strong!” Kept seeing Dave and I think it helped us both as I battled to catch him and he faught to stay away. I made sure that I took on fluid and malt loaf at every feed station and when I reached half way I was running 1:40, which is fast. I was Minnie at this point and she warned me not to blow up, having never ran more than 18 miles before I was worried about hitting the wall but I just plodded on and felt strong. The support at HQ was immense at each lap and it really spurred me on, suddenly I had collected 4 bands which ment I had one lap to go and I would be an ironman.
The whole of the last lap was run with a huge grin as I realised I was going to make it inside 14 hours overall and dip under 4 hours for my first marathon. I got to the field and all I could here was Loon shouting at me, it spurred me on and I just flew, the adrenaline kicked in and as the announcer told the crowd I was getting married the following saturday and this race was part of my stag weekend a huge cheer went up. 100m and I was home, I punched the air in delight as I crossed the line and was greated by Em with a huge hug. My watch said my time was 13:00:18 but the provisional official time was 13:04:15 ( maybe I’ve penalised for drafting ?? If I was it wasn’t intentional) and my marathon had been completed in an awesome time of 3:41:40, a time I would have been over the moon with in a stand alone marathon.
I couldn’t believe I had smashed 14 hours, a time I thought I would achieve if I had a very good day, I had surpassed all of my expectations and those of my friends and family as well I think. I pulled on my pirate t-shirt with “IRONHOLGS” written on the back, I could wear it now, I’d earned it.
Spoke to family and friends and got the best news of the weekend when I spoke to my dad who had been allowed home.
Then Dave came into view, he’d an awesome day surpassing his expectations to finish in 13:43:31, we hugged and were both grinning like kids on Christmas day. Next up it was the pirate queen herself, MTB or Minnie, and what a cheer as she crossed the line in 15:02:23 to claim the prize as the second veteran lady, what an amazing achievement considering her bike hadn’t gone to plan.
So twelve months ago 4 mates, myself, Dave, Minnie and Viking set off on this voyage of discovery, I think we found ourselves and so much more as we became Ironmen. Would I do it again ? When I finished last night I said “If I ever say I’m doing another one, slap me!” today I’m thinking about it.
So thats the Ironman finished with, going to be on a high all week and then it gets topped off in the best possible way, I get to marry my Em. This is Ironholgs signing off for the night because he’s knackered !!!