And that I think covers it….
Well maybe I will add a little extra detail – please be warned this post contains my full unexpurgated description of the race – it is not for the faint hearted….
Before we set off I sorted out the race day nutrition – what goes into feeding a 70.3 race, gels gels and more gels….
We headed to the hotel on Friday night – what a long journey – over two and a half hours to get to Exmoor (it can be done in 1hr 30mins) and stayed at The White Hart in Wiveliscombe, an average pub with rooms (the staff were excellent but the rooms could do with a bit more work).
Early in the morning I went out for a short confirmatory run and bike (10mins on each – nice and easy) just to make sure everything worked still – all seemed in pretty good order. After that my father and I went down to Taunton to pick up a new seat post clamp for my bike and headed over to the lake to register. After lunch the family all headed off to Dunster for a walk (via Minehead – avoid it!) and I went to the race briefing and to rack my bike.
From a rough guestimate I would say about 80% of the bikes there were road bike frames – definitely the choice to make….
Once I had racked my bike and sorted my transition kit into bags (white dry stuff/blue bike stuff/red run stuff) I headed back for a relaxing evening.
Up at 3.30am to try and get some food inside me, a bowl of alpen followed by 500ml of High5 EnergySource Plus (ES+), then off to the lake with the other 1000 cars!
At about 4.30am I checked over my bike, check the pressures and cleaned/oiled the gears. After that it was get changed/suncream on/bodyglide applied/wetsuit on. I was ready to go!
Unfortunately Mother Nature had other ideas and the lake was mist/fog bound for a long time! After many “are we”/”aren’t we” going false starts we eventually walked down to the lakeside at 6.55am.
After we had all sorted ourselves into our assumed race positions in the water (deep water start), at about 7.15am – the klaxon sounded and we were off!
I was about 3 or 4 rows back on the left hand edge of the mass start – it was awesome, arms feet and bodies everywhere – absolute chaos for the first 400-500m – I settled into a pretty good rhythm and apart from cocking up the first buoy turn (I didn’t pull myself around far enough so headed off at a bit of an angle) I had a fantastic swim. All the way along the back section I had one of the Channel 4 TV crews along side me – great fun!! At the end of the 1.9km swim I came out of the lake in 81st position in 31:20!
T1 was a disaster – when I got out of the swim the 500m run up hill to transistion killed me and I ended up walking in…I had to find my bag not easy amongst the other 200 or so n my rack…(no help from the staff with this or taking off my wetsuit…) and get sorted for the bike. Shoes on/top on/suncream on/sunnies on/ helmet on – off I went…11:03 – I lost over 800 places in transition……
Anyway out on the 90km bike. This is where it all started to go wrong. I had had some twinges from cramp in my right calf during the swim, but I though nothing of it, when I got onto the bike it got soo much worse. I started on my nutrition plan as advised by High5 – 500ml of ES+ as soon as possible on the bike with a spare 500ml of ES+ to be consumed next before the switch to High5 Isogels/Water+Nuun tablets.
The first part of the course went fairly well, even the first hill from the beginning of the lap up to the main road, despite going backwards constantly (I expect this as I am never as good on the bike as the swim) I was comfortable and things seemed pretty okay. The long downhills and the speed of this section was fantastic – even the long 17% downhill (with a T junction at the end) which is a little scary for the fainthearted (the winner hit nearly 70mph on this)…even the first big hill went well, the second coming out of Morebath was a different story and my HR was climbing (hitting >190bpm), it was at this point a number of things happened – I think my GI tract started to loose priority on the blood supply as more was shunted to my legs and as a result I started to get GI cramps and feel bloated. In addition I started to get cramps in my quads, in both legs, over the medial head of the muscle. This developed on each hill over about 6%…
I completed the lap in 1:49:55 so at this point I was still on for a respectable time to complete, however the first hill of lap two was awful I was half way up an incline of about 12% and both legs cramped in the quads and locked rigid – I had to get off or I would have fallen off. After this every hill over 6% was a painful walk with bike….as I went around the course I was doing some mental calculation and I realised that to complete in the cutoff at 5:30:00 I would have to go like a madman on the flat and leave breaking down hills out of the picture. As a result of this tactic I managed to crawl around the second lap in 2:26:20 – over 30mins slower than my first lap….
Once I got into T2 the realisation hit that I now had to do a half marathon (21km)…
If I had thought the bike was hard the run got worse – the GI pain got worse and had brought some friends, nausea and vomiting. When I left transition I felt pretty good and for a whole 5mins I was quite happy but then the wretching started. Basically every time I ran I was sick so the 13.1 mile route turned into a run/vomit/walk cycle – quite hard but I was determined to get to the end. One of the unfortunate consequences of this was keeping fluid/electrolytes in my system was almost impossible and as a result I was pretty dehydrated by the end (after 5hrs rehydrating the bioimpedence scales still had me -6% total body fluid). The run route itself is quite hard, lots of hills and a lot of off road gravel/grass running.
Eventually I come onto my last lap – by this time the course was a lonely place as most people who had been going for this long had either quit or been pulled off by the medical staff…eventually a nice chap called Matt on a mountain bike came along with some Gatorade (I hate it, but it was fluid) and kept me company for the last half of the lap.
I will probably always remember that last bit of that run – it was a bit dream-like by then…I came up the entry chute into the finish area and the crowd were amazing – I could not hear the PA system where the commentator was waxing lyrical from my bio (which we were all asked to complete) all I could see was Lizzie and the girls running along towards the end spurring me on and the finish line (with the brightest red carpet I have seen in ages!). I came across the line in 8:54:25 – last runner in!
The winner – Phillip Graves awarded me my medal – although I was out of it by then and I posed for some photos. After that the mind stopped keeping me upright and the race crew had to help me to collect my finishers T shirt and sign out. I went to the end of the finish chute and met up with my family – at that point I must admit it was all a bit of an emotional blurr…..
So in conclusion – it is possible to go from one season in sprint triathlon to racing in IRONMAN 70.3, and it is possible to choose the world’s hardest as your first. YES!
If I was to do it again what would I change? I would train on more hills and I would probably work harder on the nutrition…however even with these mistakes made I still managed to raise over £1500 for charity and complete it.
Will I do another – I really want to complete a full distance IM before I am forty – time will tell! I hope this will inspire some to take up triathlon and others just to support those who do but regardless good luck in all your efforts