Race Report: IMUK: My First Ironman
Race Date: 04/08/13
Race Type: Ironman
Performance: Ecstatic 10/10
My first Ironman experience could not have gone any better. It exceeded all my expectations. The whole race week felt like it lasted for ages and it wasn’t until the Tuesday after the race when I was on my own that I finally had chance to reflect on the event and let it all sink in.
I went round in 11:31:50 and was astonished to obliterate the originally planned 13 hour mark when I began this project. I simply stuck to the plan and enjoyed the experience. It all came together and I had beyond the perfect race, a rare feeling no doubt, so I’ve been savoring every moment. Even when I went out for dinner the Sunday evening after the race a chap in Manchester shouted across at me and could tell by my walk that I’d just done IMUK and offered his congrats.
The week leading up to the race came around very quickly and heightens every sense in your body. Random injuries occur, the bike just isn’t in perfect order and – as my Irish girlfriend would say – you become “minus craic”.
I was consciously trying to relax and forget about the weekend, but it consumes you so far in advance (when they take £400 off you at registration) before race week that this week actually feels kind of normal.
I tapered with a swim session and a 6 mile run and switched my eating attention to white bread, white pasta and cake. A premature indulgence to get the simple carbs & sugars on board two days out.
I had massage and a final chat with my physio and coach Paul Savage who answered a lot of stupid questions of mine and also loosened the legs up nicely.
Friday registration and bike racking went smoothly, but it is worth baring in mind the stress of all this. There is actually a lot of driving involved and a fair few nerves and excitement at each transition the day before. So, I turned to cricket. The Ashes were on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra Radio so I had that on in the car and as soon as I heard the stress and chat among the other competitors ‘The weather isn’t good for tomorrow’, ‘What tire pressures are you running? Do you have enough spare tubes?’. This was background noise I didn’t want to hear and mess with my head, so I simply put the headphones in and listened to more cricket as I racked and hung my bags. It’s compelling listening when England are smashing the Aussies and at the same time you are leaving your beloved bike in a field in Leigh for her first night away from home.
I felt quite relaxed on the morning of the race also. I got a lovely card from said Irish girlfriend which she told me not to read until I was getting out of the car at the start line. She stayed in bed naturally. It’s a strange feeling even when you say ‘goodbye’ knowing you’ll see them in a very different context later that day. Moody and irritant to sweaty and euphoric in a matter of hours.
Swim 1hour 07minutes:
There isn’t really much you can say about the swim? It wasn’t as brutal as I had anticipated, with not too many arms flaying and I tried to start as near to the front as I could. The water was warm, a reported 22C, and despite going slightly off track on the second lap after the Australian exit, I felt strong and in control, never panicking and pushing when I felt I had the energy and had the space to do so.
Bike: 6hour 02minutes:
I had been lucky enough to train on the course so I was familiar with the route. Sheep House Lane 3 times was always going to be tough, but I managed to hold a good pace and beat my predicted time by a good chunk. I later took into account my training rides had been on my aluminium Specialized Allez Sport road bike, with a 1.5l camebak on and I had been riding a hillier and longer route. I had hoped to complete in under 7hours, so be closer to the 6 hour mark I was more than happy.
I had one low point, when my hips began to strain and I was about 70miles into the ride. It was tough mentally to keep the mind on the game and away from the pain. I just told myself ‘it was meant to hurt’ as its an Ironman and to just ‘shut up moaning about things, it’s too late now’. I tried to think of every motocross track I had ever ridden on, in chronological order, to take my mind off the pain and put it somewhere where I associated with success and nostalgia.
Nutrition wise, I began with 2 bottles of Lucozade and once I had the first one out of the way I kept taking water bottles from each aid station and continued to sip on the second Lucozade.
I had 7 SiS Go Bars (65g), grazed on a bag of Jelly Babies and took a Salt Stick tablet every hour.
Run: 4hour 12minutes
I took a gel in T2, just sucking on it while I was getting into my running shoes. I was very relax through both transitions, just walking through and concentrated really hard on the order of things I had to do. I was very deliberate and didn’t waste any energy. I kept both transitions to 5 minutes and never rushed myself to a panic.
3 miles in to the run I wrote off any ideas I had about a 4hour marathon. I had gotten off the bike thinking I could now go around sub-12 hours and just hold it together on the run. Then from nowhere my running legs appeared! I settled into a good pace and made sure I took on fuel – water, coke and a gel at each and every aid station & Bananas every other station.
I identified two places on the course that I could target, breaking the run up. The town centre where my family were and also back out at the beginning of the loop where the lap bands are handed out. Two places to aim for where I could gain either encouragement from some familiar faces or tick off another checkpoint passed with an arm band. I broke the race down into 4 x 10ks and having not been over 12 miles in training, I was heading into the unknown from thereon.
Coming down the chute and on to the red carpet was a great feeling and one I shall never forget. The legs just never gave up on me and I managed to hold out for a time that I am immensely proud of. I surpassed all my training PB’s in the swim, rode over 100 miles for the first time ever and also ran my first half marathon and full marathon!
See all my pics from IMUK here