Archive for the ‘Challenge Series’ Category

Thank you

Posted: September 12, 2013 in Challenge Series, Iron Man

I never really got the chance to write about Ironman Copenhagen 2013.

Time kind of ran away from me.  It was not a terrible day, but not a good one either.  I had planned to hold back A LOT on both the swim and bike, then run hard and hopefully fast.   I did exactly that on the swim and bike but tactically this turned out to be a bad decision.  On entering T2 I had a huge nose bleed that lasted for the first 5 maybe 10km of the run.  No idea if this affected me physically (probably not), but it completely blew my concentration.  Looking back on the race I just did not take on enough calories during the run.  I really should know better.  I came home in 8:59 and to be honest was disappointed & frustrated at how the day turned out.

But this blog is not really about Ironman Copenhagen at all.  It is all about Challenge Henley 2013 – a day I NEVER want to forget.

Ten days before the race I was flying.  I felt like superman.  The numbers (SWIM, BIKE & RUN) were looking better than I had EVER seen before.  The weather was set to be cold and wet – perfect racing conditions for me.  I was totally convinced Challenge Henley 2013 was going to be the day where I would do ‘something special’.

On Thursday night (two days before the race), I came down with a bug of some sort.  I was congested and unable to sleep at all that night.  The next day I had meant to go to the press conference but I was in no fit state.  I stayed at home and tried to sleep it off.  By Saturday morning I was feeling OK.  Not 100%, but much better, so I made the call to go register, rack my bike and just hope I would be back to 100% come race morning.

That night I could hardly sleep, not because I felt bad – the exact opposite in fact.  I was excited and fully of energy.  I remember just lying there looking at the stars for hours.  By the time 3am came, any thought of illness had completely left my mind.  I was going to start this race.  Carli, my amazing wife, who is also 8 months pregnant was adamant that she was going to come to the swim start.  So we left the house together both in good spirits with the music blasting out of the car.  If you told me then, what lay in front of me I can honestly say I would have never left the house.  However, if I went back to that moment right now, to stay at home that day would have been one of the my biggest mistakes.

BUT I didn’t, and so it began ….

I think it must have been one of my best swim starts.  I felt strong and powerful in the water and latched onto Steven Bayliss’ feet.  To my huge surprise, they were not moving away from me.  I sat there for a bit but slowly I lost touch with him and he drifted into the fog along with the lead canon.  I found myself leading a group of swimmers into the mist.  I was not pushing hard and honestly at that point I felt good.  We got to the turn buoy and out of nowhere I got hit by severe cramps in both my calves.   I stopped, tried to stretch them out.  I could loosen one, but my left calf was solid.  It would not budge.  I could see Joel and Tom (two of the race favourites) swimming away from me and had a split second decision to make.  Stop or crack on.  I didn’t really have enough time to think, so I just went on instinct and cracked on.  The rest of the swim was utter agony with other muscles joining the ‘cramping’ party.  Coming out of the swim I think I almost pulled two BIG volunteer support guys into the water.  When I finally did get out, the cramp in my left calf was so bad my foot looked fully dislocated!  I think it freaked a few of the helpers out!  Anyway, with all my weight I managed to put my foot back in place, the cramp FINALLY went, and I cracked on through T1.  Joel and Tom were 10-15 seconds ahead of me now so I needed to be quick.IMG_3991

Out on the bike, Tom was only 20m in front of me and I focused on trying to reign him in.  But I had nothing in my legs.  That first lap I buried myself and the power numbers barely went above my easy zone 1 ride levels.

I felt utterly ruined.

Heading out on the second lap I felt this anger building and I gave it one final push to try and bring my race back on track.  Pretty stupid really.  It is hard to describe what happened over the next thirty minutes.  To be honest I don’t really know.  I just felt like my body was falling apart.  My back started cramping, then my vision went a little hazy.  After that ….  I don’t really know.  I just remember lying on the grass and a guy (later on that day I found out his name was Clive) coming over to ask me if I was alright?  He offered me his phone and I texted Carli to let her know I was OK.  I have no idea how long I lay there? 10,15 maybe 20 minutes.  Clive would come over every now and again to check on me.

Finally, I stood up….. to go home.  It was down hill all the way into Henley.  Carli had text to say she was going back to the car and she would meet me there.  Then my friend Clive wondered over.  I think he kind of assumed I was carrying on.  I remember him saying in a really kind softly spoken way “carry on mate, come on,  you can still do this”.

My head was in turmoil.  Yes, I could stand up and yes I could just about pedal.  But the time I would walk away with and end result would be so bad….. It was hard to find a reason to carry on.  I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself.  All I can remember saying is “PRIDE (long pause) is a terrible thing sometimes” as the tears rolled down my face.  I sat there for another 5-10 minutes battling with my own thoughts.

Finally I stood up for the second time.  I was not feeling any better, or any more positive about anything.  It was just I could not sit there all day.  I had to make a decision.  Right to go home, left to carry on.  As I stood up for that second time I still did not know what I was going to do.  I just found my self on my bike turning left.  I honestly don’t know why.  I said to Clive “Tell Carli I am carrying on” and tried to smile.

IMG_3998

That second lap was very emotional.  I went through stages of trying to fight and pushing the power, followed by long periods when I realised my body could just not handle it.  The process repeated itself over and over again.  I was balling my eyes out half the time.  I felt pathetic!  But I was still moving.

At the end of the second lap, I stopped and gave Carli a big LONG hug.  I really needed it and did not want to let go.  Finally I did and started out on the 3rd and final lap of the bike.  This lap was survival.  There was no fight left.  I kept saying to myself I would just make it to the next junction and then call it a day.  I had decided I could not do it any more.  This was it.  I was done.  But every time I got to one of those junctions a part of me deep deep down could just not let myself do it.  So I would say to myself.  OK to the next junction, then call it a day.  FINALLY I found myself entering T2.  I had completed the 3rd lap but that was it.  NO MORE.

I stubbled towards the side on the path and sat down.  At this point I was beyond tears.  I just stared at the ground totally spent, freezing and to be honest I don’t know what…   Carli came over, put a jumper over me.  We sat there for a long time.  I kept saying  “I don’t know what to do?”.  I said it over and over again as if I would get an answer from somewhere, but of course I didn’t.  I must have made the decision to quit dozens of time during that long 20 minutes in T2.  But I could not walk away.  I have no idea why, I just couldn’t.

Eventually I asked Carli to get me a top to run in.  My kit had my name, sponsors logo’s etc. on it.  I was embarrassed, so very embarrassed to be racing as a ‘pro’.  I felt like a joke.  Finally, after maybe 30mins I started the run.

From the second I left T2 my path was fixed.  I have no idea why, it just was.  Don’t get me wrong, my body was still ruined.  My mind had quit a long time ago, over AND over again.  But there was ‘something else’, don’t know how to describe it.  It is so deeply part of who I am that I don’t know what word to use.  It has always been there, but it is buried so very deep, I never really notice it.  Anyway this ‘something else’ had been boiling under the surface all day.  And as my body and mind faltered it had come right to the surface to take charge.  It had been behind every decision that could not let me walk away and it was pulling me along right now.  I found myself running, not fast, but I was running.

As I passed the supporters going out on the first lap every smile, every friendly face, every clap, every cheer meant the world.  It really really did.  I tried to smile (probably failed badly) and say thank you to everyone.  My emotions were still all over the place and again I spent most of the time running in tears.  Half way round the first lap I passed my friend Clive.  He did not say much.  He did not have to.  He just nodded, smiled said something like “you’re still here Chris”.   As I came towards the end of the first lap I was passing some friends who had joined Carli.

Their cheers and their smiling faces meant more than I can put into words.  I stopped & gave Claire (a great friend) a hug.  I just wanted to say thank you for coming down, taking the time out of your day to cheer me on, and sorry to be such a disappointment.

The second lap was a bit of a blur – Literally.  Not sure why but everything went hazy.  The only thing I can really remember vividly is my niece Lucie handing me a bottle and shouting “come on Uncle Kanga”.   I will never forget that moment.  Oh and yes for those of you who don’t know me, my nickname when I was a kid was Kanga, for obvious reasons I hope.

Half way round the 3rd lap, whatever had  been pulling me around started to fade.  At that exact moment in time, when walking the rest of the run seemed a certainty, a chap called Steve came along side me.  I had meet Steve at the Forestman.  He waited for me to try and help.  That gesture was so very kind and meant more than I can explain in words.  We started chatting and I told him what had happened today, in brief!!  What he said next was, well awesome.  He quoted something once said by Theodore Roosevelt’s.  I had never heard it before…

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who come short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid should who neither know victory nor defeat”

It is hard to believe that someone in the middle of an event like this would be able to quote the entire thing.  But trust me he did!

It is hard to explain but I felt like I was inside that speech.  Its message consumed every part of me and from somewhere I found new strength.  That is the only way I can describe it.

The last lap was a very emotional one.  When I ran past my bro, friends and Carli I almost broke down then and there.  A bit further on Sophie, a friend I have not seen for a while, jogged with me for a few meters to cheers me on.  I gave her a big hug.   I just could not believe how kind everyone had been to me ALL day.  I remember passing Clive with 5km to go.  He had a massive smile on his face and for the first time today, so did I.

I crossed the finish line of my 20th Ironman distance race in 10hr 50mins 29 secs.  I am not going to lie, I was devastated.  Afterwards, I sat there with my bro saying nothing for a long.  There was noting to say.

Later on I sent my coach a text that I think sums it all up pretty well.

“So so many amazing people out there.   Spent most of the day in tears and have no idea how I finished.  Have to say worst and at the same time best sporting experience of my life.  All because of the people”

At the start of this blog I wrote “I was totally convinced Challenge Henley 2013 was going to be the day were I would DO ‘something special’.”.  I am not going to claim that I DID something special, but to me Challenge Henley 2013 WAS ‘something special’.

Over the last 8 years I think I have experienced just about every emotion possible in sport.  It has been one hell of a roller coaster ride, but one that I would do over and over again if given the chance.

I just want to say, THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart to EVERYONE who has made this ride possible.

medals

Quote from Challenge Copenhagen race report 2011 – 8 hours 59 minutes 42 seconds

“Sport can be heart breaking.  You see it every day in sporting events when things do not go ‘your way’ after all the focus and effort that has been invested.  This can cause grown men and women to break down is tears, with the disappointment just too much to handle.  Conversely, the ecstasy you feel when you achieve your dreams in sport is like nothing you can imagine.  This is why I love sport.  It is an emotional roller coaster and you never know where the ride will take you.”

One of the great things about writing this blog is looking back over past entries.  It reminds me of the roller coaster ride that is ‘SPORT’.  Following on from Challenge Roth 2013 I found it very hard to bring myself to write anything.   The race was without a doubt one of the most mentally gruelling experiences I have been through.  After 2hrs on the bike, physically I was broken.  The power had dropped like a sinking lead weight, I was seeing stars and struggling to ride in a straight line.  For the first time in my life I seriously thought about quitting.  This was then followed up by pure anger at myself for even thinking such a thing!  And so this battle continued for the next 6hrs.  By the time I crossed the finish line I was mentally broken.   My mind was spent and I had nothing left to give.  I was totally and utterly gutted.

Challenge Roth 2013

In the days after the race I remember feeling broken like never before.  I am used to physically being broken.  That has happened to me 100’s of time and the body heals quick.  What I am not used to is being mentally broken.  Even after the crash in IM Lanzarote my mind felt strong and full of fight.  OK, my head had been through the wars and had some healing to do but I can still remember feeling that ‘fight’ inside me.  After Challenge Roth for the first time in my life that ‘fight’ felt completely gone.

After the race there were some kind words said to me, from people who had no reason or need to say anything.  So I just want to say thank you to them.  If you are reading this, you will know who you are.  It was very much needed and you have no idea how much it helped.

Over the next 12 days I spent ALOT (probably too much) of time thinking about the race and what went so horribly wrong in Roth.  I explored almost every avenue I could think of, had doctor check ups, spoke to various experts and carried out some tests.  After all this analysis it all pointed to one thing – THE HEAT.  It boiled down to one thing.  I had massively improved my race pace power over the winter.  In the Forestman I had averaged 304W and it had felt comfortable.  It was 16DegC that day and I was warm.  What I had not even thought about was the associated problems of increasing your power output – the increased heat you generate!  Basically, on a hot day at 300-310W I generate too much heat for my body to cope with.  My core temperature rose above a critical point and bang – game over.  That is what happened in Roth.

I had not even considered Germany to be a hot place to race and had done zero heat acclimatisation.  Right up to the taper the weather in the UK had been cold and wet so I had zero heat training in my system.  I had no chance out there.

Being a UK based athlete, even with heat training, I am still going to have this overheating issue.  I can’t just say “well it is a hot day, so I won’t be able to perform well today”.  I needed to find an answer….

This ‘answer’ was sparked by a conversation with Simon Smart.  The idea was simple and at that point it was no more than a concept.  But from the moment this ‘idea’ entered my head it was like someone flicked a switch.  Fuelled by the prospect of an answer to this overheating problem I could feel the ‘fight’ surging back.   This was more than an idea, it was a spark of ‘hope’.

Ironman Copenhagen is in 9 days time.  I have never felt such a sense of calm before a race as I do right now.  I know what I am capable of, I have not doubt in my mind.  Whether this happens in Copenhagen…….  Well that is what sport is all about………..

Challenge Henley 2012

Posted: September 21, 2012 in Challenge Series, Iron Man, Triathlon

I thought I would start things by quoting the last few lines from my previous entry – “In 2011 I crossed the finish at Challenge Copenhagen in 8hr 59mins 42 seconds.  At the time I remember thinking ‘it does not get any better than this’.  Well, it just did!”.  That result was without a doubt the best sporting achievement in my life so far.  So as you can imagine, I was pretty bloody happy!  I remember thinking, you don’t get any happier than this.  I did 🙂

On 1st September 2012, I married Carli out in Moraira, Spain.  The whole day and the week around it was a blur of amazing memory after amazing memory.  So many special moments.  The best of my life!

When we got back from the ‘mini moon’, Challenge Henley was only 1 week away!!  I found it really quite hard to get my self mentally ready.  Physically I was in good shape.  It was the mental side I was struggling with.  Normally I have no problem getting my ‘race head’ on.  But after the amazing events of the last few weeks I was finding it hard to do!  As the week progressed, bit by bit I slowly got myself together and as I drove down to Henley on Sunday morning for the race start, I new I was mentally ready to rock.

Physically, I was not doing so well.  During the night I had noticed I was getting a very slight upset stomach.  Nothing major and I ignored it during the run in on race morning.  The swim started well and while I was not able to stick with the lead swimmer, I was happy to settle into the pack behind.  As the swim progressed I could feel my stomach churning.  It was not holding up well and I made a call to back off the pace in the hope that it would settle down.  It helped but I was still a little concerned as I entered T1.

As I got going on the bike, my legs were feeling strong and I soon forgot about my stomach problems and focussed on the road ahead.  Stephen Bayliss was about 6mins down the road, with 2-3 riders in-between.  Towards the end of the first lap a speed line had formed with 6 riders.  Leaving Stephen, as the sole rider out in-front.  I have to be honest, I really do not like riding in a speed line.  I am much happier when I have the open road in-front of me, but I guess this is very much part of riding at the front of the race.  Being a much heavier athlete than the other riders I had to push harder than I would have liked on the climbs and hold back more than I would have liked on the flat and down hill sections.

At the start of the third lap I hit the front of the speed line heading up the fair mile and the climb out of Henley.  Talking to some of the guys in the group after the race, it seems I built up a bit of a gap on that climb between me and the riders behind.  Not that this counts for much, it is nice to know that I was still holding my own in the group.

Anyway as the lap continued the pace in the group dropped as people were getting ready for the run.  It was at this point that my stomach issues reared their ugly head again.  I had to concentrate hard to avoid having a very bad ‘accident’ in my shorts!!!!  As the group entered T2 all I could think about was running as fast as I possibly could (pretty much full on sprint) to the loo’s!!!  After that I still managed a pretty quick turn around and was out on the run a minute or two behind the rest of the group.

I felt terrible.  All my nutrition on the ride had gone straight through me.  I was light headed, dizzy and running on empty.  Totally shot.  During that first lap I had some serious daemons on both my shoulders.  I had four loo stops and I was not sure if I was even going to finish the race at this stage.  I remember seeing my brother who was on the final lap of the Henley Half.  It was his first ever triathlon and he was loving it.  As we crossed paths he gave me a high five which almost completely knocked me over!  That is how far gone I was 😦

But just as things started to look really bad, I hit the path coming back into Henley.  As I got near the bridge, I could hear the shouts and cheers from all my friends and family on the other side of the river.  It had a truly amazing effect.  Those daemons who had been sitting very heavily on my shoulders started to fade and I could feel myself getting more positive with every step.  It really is amazing what something as simple as a cheer from a close friend or even stranger can do.  Just look at the effect on the home support on the Olympics.  OK, I still felt terrible, but my mind was starting to turn things around 🙂

As I approached the fuel station where everyone was, I was greeted with my requested cups of ice which I shoved down my top.  As mentioned in a post race interview with tri247, I am not the smallest of athletes.  The result is I generate a whole lot of heat.  I have come to realise that I perform better in very cold conditions.  My idea of the perfect running conditions is in -15DegC running in the mountains at in Zermatt.  For me, ice on the run is almost as important for me as water or gels.  I could feel the ice doing its magic and my body started to feel just a little bit better.    That combined with a regular intake of gels and fluids resulted in a gradual improvement.  I slowly but surely I started to find my feet.

By the end of the second lap I actually felt OK.  In the previous race out in Copenhagen, it was at this point that I hit a very bad patch for around 6km.  I had made a point in my mind to start to push hard at the 20km mark.  That is exactly what I did.  My perceived effort went through the roof!  My splits dropped…. a little.  At the end of the third lap I was in 6th place.  I had overtaken one pro and had not been overtaken by a single person for the entire run!  I remember thinking ‘this is a first’.  But seconds after that thought, another pro came flying past me like I was standing still.  It served as a pretty good reminder that the race was far from over.  A lot can happen in 10km.  My effort from the previous lap meant I really did not have much left in the tank but I managed to hold it together…. JUST!

Running up the finishing chute was a very different feeling to that of previous IM distance races.  The emotion when you cross that line is always so raw but very rarely is it ever the same.

On this occasion I just felt deeply content.  This may not sound dramatic or that impressive but trust me it was a very good feeling 🙂

Big thank you to the entire Challenge Henley team.  You guys put on a stella event.  From the iconic start on the beautiful banks of the river Thames, to the closed roads bike over the chilterns hills.   To the run, which follows the banks of the river Thames.  Much of it along the famous Henley regatta rowing course.  In my mind, you don’t get much better.

I remember meeting Alan and team (awesome group of guys) in my first race back after my crash (Challenge Barcelona 2010).  They were in the process of planning the event.  I told them my story and of my hope to one day race as a pro in Challenge Henley.  At the time I was not sure if this dream would ever become a reality, but thanks to the huge amount of support from the people around me, it did.

2012 has been the best year of my life (so far) & I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.

Final Result    8hrs 53 mins  Overall Position 7th  Verdict  chuffed

Sport can be heart breaking.  You see it every day in sporting events when things do not go ‘your way’ after all the focus and effort that has been invested.  This can cause grown men and women to break down is tears with the disappointment just too much to handle.  Conversely, the ecstasy you feel when you achieve your dreams in sport is like nothing you can imagine.  This is why I love sport.  It is an emotional roller coaster and you never know where the ride will take you.  But one thing is certain, it is always one hell of a ride.
Over the last 15 months I think I have just about experienced every type of emotion possible.  The crash in Lanzarote started it all off and if I am honest I am not really sure what I was feeling.  I don’t think my mind was in any state to really ‘feel’ anything.  In the aftermath all I can recall is this intense anger and frustration.  My response to this was to channel all this raw emotion into my training and recovery.  I was solely focused on getting back to racing and this focus consumed me, to the point that I was missing the things that really matter in life.
I had entered both Challenge Barcelona and Ironman Mexico with the goal of going sub 9 hours in both races.
Challenge Barcelona was emotional to say the least.  Standing on the start line watching the sun rise I just felt happy to be alive and lucky, so very lucky to have been able to find my way back to full fitness.  I wish I could explain in words what crossing that finish line meant to me.  It was like I had been going through the last few months with a red mist blurring my view of things and the process of completing that race slowly allowed that red mist to lift.  Hard to explain.  The finish time (9hrs 26mins) that day was not really what I had been aiming for but I let it go.  Always next time.  Next time being Ironman Mexico.  But as is often the way in sport, things did not quite go to plan and while I was happy with the result (9hrs 23mins & a slot for Kona) I felt like I had not performed to the best of my ability.  This bugged me.  I knew I was better than that.  I just did not have the performance to prove it.

With Kona scheduled at the end of my 2011 season, many people might have expected me not to race much in the build up.  The thing is, I still had a lot of unfinished business and did not want to leave it to be put right in Kona.  I really want to be able to enjoy Kona and not worry about the result.  I know I am probably going to melt on the run and just want to go there, soak up the experience with no pressure on my shoulders.
Instead I put that pressure on both Ironman Switzerland and Challenge Copenhagen with the hope I might at least in one of the races do myself proud.  Things in Ironman Switzerland did not go to plan. I clocked 9hrs 33mins and was frustrated to produce another performance that I felt was below par.  After the race I spent alot of time analyzing why things had gone wrong and put together a detailed race plan for Challenge Copenhagen that hopefully addressed all those issues.
In my last four Ironman distance races I had clocked 9:34, 9:26, 9:23, 9:33 and I was beginning to loose faith in whether I would ever actually make it under 9 hours at all.
Going into Challenge Copenhagen I can honestly say that I was not thinking about breaking 9 hours.  After the last four races I just wanted to have a solid race and a result I could be proud of.  Things started well and I clocked a 52mins swim.  I had felt smooth, comfortable and happy with the pace.  The bike took you through Copenhagen centre and I took it very easy in this section.  As the route headed north I started to up the anti.

By the end of the first lap I was bang on the race plan of 280 watts average and feeling very comfortable.  Second lap went well, I picked the cadence up a bit on the climbs and with 20km to go the power had only dropped slightly to 273 Watts average.  At this point I made a big call. I was still feeling good but I backed the pace right down.  Freewheeling the descents and putting minimal effort in on the flats.
This probably meant I was 5 minutes slower into T2 but I was hoping it would allow me to hit the run with at least a chance of running well???
Out of T2 on the run I was feeling OK.  The 4m40sec/km pace I hoped to hold felt refreshingly comfortable but for some reason I was not in a great place mentally.  I think I was expecting to blow up at any point.  But as the marathon progressed to my surprise I was still holding pace.  Two laps down and I was still expecting to blow up but didn’t.  One lap to go and even then I thought, ‘things like this just don’t work out, I am never going to make it below 9hrs’.  5km to go and still I was convinced I would come home in 9hr 05mins.
Like I said my maths is rubbish.  I had 12mins and 3km to go!! I thought F**k it.  If I blow up now so be it, but I am going to ‘sprint’ at my very limit until I do.  The rest was a blur of pain.  I only knew I was going to do this when i was within 5 meters of the finish line.  That is how close things were!!
As I crossed the line I was consumed with emotion.  The culmination of the last six years training and focus was all there in that moment and it is one I will remember for the rest of my life.

Challenge Barcelona, Calella, Spain.

Standing at the start of the Challenge Barcelona (Ironman distance triathlon race) on Sunday I took a step back from it all and watched the sun rise.  It was a pretty emotional moment for me.  Four months ago I was in a Hospital bed on Gran Caneria having suffered a brain haemorrhage and fractured vertebrae from a bike crash while racing Ironman Lanzarote.  That now seems like another lifetime away, or a bad dream.  In the months after the crash my mind seemed to be stuck in race mode and was unable to let go.  I have been totally focussed on racing again will little room for much else.  The reality of this meant that I have been my own worst enemy, and was forgetting what really mattered, enjoying every second of living and the people around me.

Standing at the start on Sunday it all seemed to make sense.  Sure I was going to give absolutely everything I had in the race today, but the red mist that had been clouding my mind for the last 4 months was finally lifting.  I was just appreciating the view and chatting to the people around me.

The Challenge series operates a multi wave starting system.  The Pro’s had gone off 30 minutes ahead and I was in the 4th wave of the day (Male 30-35).

The start was pretty chilled and I got clear water from the off.  I was just behind the lead swimmer but could not stay on his feet for long.  The rest of the swim I was on my own and came out of the water 2nd.  Not a bad start.

Out on the bike and I was riding my new toy, the Giant SL O time trial bike.  This is a speed machine and a pleasure to ride.  I was on my own for the first two laps with nothing but the tarmac and great views to keep me company.  I would get the odd glance of the pro wave that set off 30 minutes before me.  The guys were all operating in a peloton style with a draft legal (ish) 7m gap between riders.  It must make a big difference when travelling around 25mph to be riding in this way, even with the 7m gap between them.  Unfortunately, this was not something I was able to take advantage of and the 39km/hr average speed I was holding for the first two laps slowed to 38km/hr on my final lap.  My legs were feeling the pace and I was unsure if the run was going to go to plan.  As usual, I was still hopeful I would be able to hold the 3hr marathon pace that I was aiming for.  I came off the bike in 4hrs 46mins and 3rd in my Category.  The multi wave start nature of this race meant that was all I knew at this point.

In T2 I changed tops, put on my tri top and arm coolers both soaked in energicer.  It felt amazing and the cooling effect was immediate.  Heading out onto the run I took my time to get going and built the speed up slowly.  The run course was four laps and the race plan had been to hold 4:30-4:40mins/km pace for the first two laps and build the pace up over the last two laps if I was feeling good.  This pace should have been very easily achievable for me.  However, it quickly became apparent that I was not running well.  I made the decision early doors to back the pace off to 4:50-5:00min/km pace.

It was tough going out on the run and the heat of the day was building.  At the middle aid station Carli (my girlfriend) was waiting with ice cubes!  Amazing!!!  I put ice cubes inside my arm coolers on my forearms.  The effect was unbelievable.  I could actually feel the ice cooling my veins and in turn my entire body.  While my legs were pretty shot, the cooling allowed me to at least hold my current pace.  Using this cooling technique, I managed to hold the 4:50-5:00min/km pace for the first three laps.  On the final lap I was giving everything I had but there was just nothing left in the tank.  I think it must have slowed to around 5:15min/km pace and it was all I could do to hold that.  The run time was going to be in the 3hr 30mins region.  Way off what I had been hoping for.  But that is the nature of Ironman racing and I was just pleased I had been able to hold it all together and maintain the roughly the same pace throughout.

Running down the finish chute this time was a blur of emotion.  This was so much more to me than just finishing another Ironman.  It was putting to rest the crash in Lanzarote and all the shit that followed.  I was close to tears.  I can’t really explain what this meant to me.  I had no idea how I had done in the race, and if I am truly honest I don’t think it really mattered.

Just in case anyone is interested, the results finally emerged the next morning.  I finished in 9hrs 26mins, 3rd in my age group, 8th non-pro and 35th overall.  I had been hoping to break 9hrs so not quite what I had aimed for.  There is always next time though 😉

I even got a trophy for coming 3rd in my age group. It now sits to the right of our mantelpiece, reminding me every day how lucky I am to still be here.