IRONMAN WALES 2015 - MY STORY
How many more bags are there? There's no end to these bags....SIX in total.... What a
mess... our B&B room looks like a bomb hit it. Stuff everywhere...OK, it's time to get
organised, pack these bags with our gear... and get some sleep!!!!! I was exhausted from all
the organising and we hadn't even got to the start line yet.... Bed at 9.30pm Long day
Ironman day started at 4am. After a very twisty and unsettled night's sleep it was time to
get some fuel into our bodies. Porridge, toast and coffee. It felt like the middle of the night...
Made our way into Tenby to the enormous transition area with our wet suits and swim gear
in our white bag. The whole transition area immediately felt intimidating as every athlete
looked so professional and super fit. Thoughts of "what am I doing here "maybe it's all a bad
dream" rushed into my head. Put our food and drinks on our bike... checked our tyres and
joined the queue for the port loos. "Best not need the loo again as there were about 20
people in front of us".
Time to change into our swim gear making sure we wore our special Ironman Wales red
swim hat, and start to make our way to the beach. The people of Tenby were lining the
streets as we walked down to the beach start. The atmosphere was already alive and this
was only 6.20am As it was a "rolling start" we had to choose which group to swim with
according to how fast we would complete it. At this stage it was goodbye to Mike as he was
in the "much" faster swim group. There was such a buzz as we waited for the Pro's to start
first. Before we knew it we were in too.
No time to wet goggles or get them settled... it was just go.... don't lose your goggles, don't
get kicked in the head or face, don't let other swimmers push and knock you around.... just
keep swimming. The swim course was in the shape of a triangle measuring 1.9km. We
needed to swim this once, leave the water and run along the beach for 200m (called an
Australian exit) and then swim the same loop again. Neoprene covered bodies with black
arms and legs and red heads were everywhere. As we got nearer the first enormous red
buoy the swells got bigger. There were volunteers on paddle boards and in canoes all
around us. Turning at the first buoy was tough as the swells were big and it was difficult to
sight. I started to feel nauseous from the big swells and thought I would be sick but held on.
Mike enjoyed the swim having practised a lot in the sea so was ok with the big swells. He
had allowed 1hr30mins for the swim but finished in 1hr18mins and I finished in 1hr57mins.
Now 1km to run to transition. Pulled my old runners from my purple bag and off up the cliff
side which was zig zag all the way. Hurry into transition, grab my blue bag containing all my
cycling gear and changed as quickly as my cold hands allowed me to. Ran to my bike and off
on the notorious bike course still feeling nauseous.
The first loop was relatively flat they said as we fought against a head wind out on the
peninsula. There were still some mighty hills with gradient signs that read 14%. Just when
hell I decided. This guy passed me on a fairly flat section and then I passed him on the hills.
This continued for about 10km until he invited me to join him for tea and sandwiches (which
he had in his small rucksack) at the first food station. Does this guy realise he is taking part
in an Ironman event???? Hills and wind.... then more hills and wind..... and then just hills....
and some more hills just to finish us off..... We needed to cycle the super difficult, super hilly
loop twice and boy did those hills just keep coming....
I was getting concerned as I hadn't been able to eat as my stomach was still feeling
nauseous. My Motilium were in my Run bag back in transition....not very clever... My
average speed at the beginning of the bike ride was 24kph but slowly my legs began to feel
emptier and heavier.... but I still couldn't eat. I watched as my speed slowly slipped away
22kph.... 20kph.... 17kph.....I knew as I approached Tenby with 110km on my clock that I
wasn't going to make the cut-off time. I knew my race was over. My Ironman experience
lasted just under 8 hours. I felt angry first, then sad and disappointed but changed those
thoughts pretty quickly and decided to be happy about what I had achieved.
In the meantime Mike was pushing it out on the hills. Clocking up a fair pace for the first
couple of hours when just as the hills started to kick in his legs started to cramp up. Front of
thighs and inner thighs decided to spasm not allowing him to bend his legs. So off he had to
get and sit at the side of the road hoping it would ease. Very painful but refused the help of
the Medic in case the Medic didn't allow him to continue. After 15mins his legs began to
loosen and off he went again. Sausages, gels and energy bars were keeping him going.
Progress was slow. Then at about 100km the same cramps in the same muscles. Pull in, get
off, rub them, stretch them, and maybe just call it a day. First time ever that quitting
entered his head... No start again slowly and see how it goes....
On the second time around the hilly loop at about 130km he got a puncture. Luckily it was
front tyre. Those quitting thoughts tried to push in again. But no messing around here, fixed
and on the move again in about 5 mins.
By this time I had become a spectator hanging over the barrier just outside transition to wait
for Mike. I was getting concerned that he was so long on the bike course. When he
eventually came into sight I was so relieved to see him. He stopped and explained what had
been going on. He had made the cycle cut-off time but was doubtful about carrying on. "Just
do one loop" I said and see then. I didn't want him to be a DNF'er like me. Four loops of
10km around the town of Tenby. 5km up hill and 5km downhill four times. Mike walked
most of the up hills and ran the down hills.
Athletes were now beginning to look a little spent. Daylight was disappearing and darkness
was closing in. I hung out at the food station so I could encourage Mike and the other
athletes every time they came around. Salty pretzels, water, flat coke, energy gels and the
constant support from the spectators kept the athletes going. Mike finished his Ironman in
16hrs 15mins. What an achievement. Hugh congratulations to Mike... Iron Mike for sure....
what a day.....
This wasn't just about the day, it was about the hours, days, weeks and months of training
which led us to the day. Ironman Wales, they say is among the top three most difficult
Ironman races in the World. The support and encouragement from the Welsh people was
absolutely phenomenal. They carried their sofas outside, had picnics at the side of the road
and sat drinking wine so they could be there for the athletes. They created a narrow
passage way for us on the hard hills on the bike route and slapped us on the back and
cheered us on, just like the Tour de France. We had never experienced anything like it.
The whole Ironman experience certainly taught us a thing or two about ourselves in so
many different ways. As Mike said "it was the hardest thing he has ever done". One thing's
for sure you absolutely have to step out of your comfort zone, that's where all the learning
So now, what next.....