Tuesday 30 June 2009

Ironman France

Been swept away the last couple of days with the events of Ironman France.

Tried to get an early night Saturday ahead of Sunday's race, but had a terrible night. Was still awake at 1am and was getting up at 3:45am. I was feeling nausious and had tummy aches. Was sure it was just nerves but turns out I wasn't the only one feeling that way.

4am and the porter didn't want to let us in for the pre-arranged breakfast. He was insisting it was 4:30am. So we just sat in the restaurant and ate our own food and left at 4:30 to make it to transition for 5am.

The organisers tried to seed the swim start. There were nine pens set up in the start area. The pros were in the middle. To the immediate right those capable of 55mins, to the left those capable of 62 mins and then progressively slower and slower out to the two sides. That just didn't work. I finished the swim in 1:00:10 in 169th place and there were more than 170 people in front of me in the 55min pen. I'd stood at the back of that pen thinking I'd tag onto the back of those going faster than I but ended up swimming through them. That slowed me down some what.

My pulse at the start was really high. 118bpm just standing on the beach. Matt and Andy's was 80-90. I figured that was nerves and tiredness. Once out on the bike on the flat opening 20km I took it really easy to try and get my pulse back down to 78-80% as 90% was too high for a long ride. I lost a fair few places there. The first climb was the steepest, though shortest after that I was really needing to find somewhere descreet for a comfort stop. I lost more time here whilst I preoccupied seeking laybys. It was at this point that John Roberts came past me. He didn't spot me. Matt had already seen me and patted my back in swim to bike transition. So that meant two team mates ahead of me.

I found a layby climbed the bank sorted myself out. So pleased I'd putted my emergency toilet paper supply in the pocket of my cycle jersey and hoped that was the lot. As I climbed back down to my bike and was heading off Gareth Walker passed. He shouted a greeting and checked I was okay. I caught him, chatted and went ahead for a bit. A little later he caught me and asked if I was aware of the straw hanging out of my shorts. I had a bit of a descent chasing Gareth before hitting the main climb and my area of strength. I wasn't to see Gareth again until my final lap of the run.

The bike course was fabulous. Stunning scenary, great climbs and some wonderful descents. Found I was overtaking lots of people on the ascents and generally keeping up with people on the descents. As the ride progressed I got stronger and stronger. The infinate energy drink being supplied at the aid stations was working well and the pain aux chicken (though we think it might have been veggie chicken substitute) that I'd put into my special needs bag was really pleasent at the 70km point.

I was amazed at the end of the bike to discover I'd managed it in under 6 hours. I was still on target for time around 11 hours, so long as I had a very good run. It was soon very obvious that that wasn't going to happen. I ran to the first aid station took some water and some coke that I tried to drink from cups whilst running and just ended up pouring them down my front. I decided at that point I'd walk through the aid stations whilst drinking. Then into the first shower. The water was so cold when it hit me I couldn't stop myself shuddering. There was an official photographer there and I so hope that he caught that on film. I then found Matt Spillman stood in front of me. He shock my hand, passed on his congratulations and said he was beat due to a tummy bug. What a sportsman. He wasn't down and out and was going to walk the marathon rather then quit and didn't begrudge me or anyone else being able to pass him.

I managed to run the whole of the first of the four laps of the run, but it wasn't long into the second lap that I opted for a walk run approach. I'd speed walk 100 strides and then run 400 strides. Slowed me a little but meant I was keeping a steady pace. I was still opting to run through each and every shower until on the second half of the second lap when the water just wasn't draining from the road. My feet where now socked. Each foot strike squelched. From here on in my feet started hurting. I could feel blisters forming. Then I was sure there were bursting. Running was hurting my thighs and my feet. Walking was really hurting my feet and just drawing out the challenge. My calfs though were good. I'd bought some compression calf guards in the expo before the race that I'd had on from the swim (I'd been wearing them under the wetsuit). I had no problem there and often I'd have twinges in the shins or tightness in the calfs. Wondering if full compression tights would be something to test next time.

The out and back nature of the course meant that you saw each of your team mates twice per lap so long as you could spot them amongst the other competitors. I was the only one wearing the bright read Tri-Anglia colours and with a bright red Diss Duathlon Tube on my head as a bandana made me very obvious. Matt and Andy were always shouting my name and words of encouragement. Hollie, Lynsey and Andy's parents were chearing from the side lines and there was plenty of other support from other spectators.

I was getting concerned that I hadn't seem Simon Edye all day. I'd seen some cyclists laying in the road receiving medical attention, plus there'd been a couple of other ambulances. I'd also not seen Jan, Simon's wife spectating. If I'd spotted Jan I might not have been quite so concerned about Simon. I was really hoping that he hadn't come a cropper on the bike. I was also hoping that as I was slowing that he wasn't about to come breathing down my neck. I know John was still about 20 minutes ahead of me with Matt and Andy about 20 to 30 minutes behind. I found Gareth again on my final lap of the run. He was on his first, though it might have been his second. He'd had a mare on his bike. He'd managed to split a tyre. He fashioned a repair of sorts then went back to a mechanics point that he'd passed two miles earlier and was fortunate that they had a spare tyre to give him due to another competitor dropping it. He then suffered another puncture on his other wheel later in the race.

When I got to cross the finish line I was very relieved to have completed what had been a challenging day, and it was brillient to be greeted by Katie who'd been a volunteer helper all day. I was very happy just to go find somewhere quiet to lay down with my feet up and a couple of bottles of Rego (recovery drink) waiting to find out what had happened to everyone. My feet weren't in as bad a mess as I'd thought - they were shrivelled up as if they'd been soaked in water for ages which they had but they weren't bleeding.

Found I'd received a text from Simon. Due to illness he'd been pulled off the course at 90km and bused back. He clearly wasn't all right but I was so pleased he wasn't injured. Matt had perked up after his second run lap. Andy had vomitted on the bike and I'd had a bad night and some bowel trouble on the bike. John was the only one I didn't hear from. Figure we all ate something bad the previous day. I'm blaming the chinese of Saturday lunchtime which I'd nearly refused to eat. Live and learn.

John Roberts, 686th, 11:23:43 (s=1:05:13, b=5:44:05, r=4:23:01)
Rob Lines, 828th, 11:38:17 (s=1:00:39, b=5:59:55, r=4:23:42)
Matt Spillman, 1213th, 12:18:12 (s=1:00:01, b=5:58:34, r=5:06:16)
Andy Atthowe, 1326th, 12:30:16 (s=1:06:45, b=6:24:42, r=4:47:20)
Gareth Walker, 2125th, 14:40:36 (s=1:03:40, b=7:53:46, r=5:26:33)
Simon Edye, DNF (s=1:13:52)

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