I chose to race Ironman Wales again because I loved the support last time, and I thought I would be able to make an improvement on my time with someone coaching me, as I was attempting to qualify for Kona. My coach, Mark from ITT has had me working hard this year!
Last time I had a real wobble before the race so this time I pre-empted it by doing 20 minutes of hypnosis every day in the week leading up to the race. It must have worked because I managed to sleep pretty well in the week beforehand and I was feeling very relaxed. By this point I had given up on qualifying anyway, as I knew there were some really strong cyclists in my AG so I just went out to do the best I could, and this also helped my relaxed frame of mind. Its important to have a goal, but also its important to be able to let it go.
On the Saturday I racked my bike first thing, then went to a car show in Narberth, (my boys have got obsessed with car spotting!). In the afternoon we took them back to Tenby to run in Ironkids, met up with a few of their school friends and then it was back home for an early night.
For breakfast I had pre-soaked oats with some granola on top. Patrick got up to make me a cup of tea which was appreciated, he was feeling excited too, he has been so supportive of my training this year so he was keen to see what I could do on the day! My mum picked me up at 4:45am to drive me down to Tenby as she wanted to watch the swim start. She left me in transition with my headphones on (I had a nice saved playlist to listen to), so that she could get a good spot down at the beach, and I went to sort my nutrition out on the bike. The only slight panic I had was when I took off my timing chip to put my wetsuit on and put it in my bag, as I was doing it I thought “remember to put that on again”. I then got chatting to a woman who was doing her first IM and picked up my white bag to hand in, as I was getting to the front of the queue I looked down and remembered my timing chip so I went to the side and had a rummage in my bag, and couldn’t see it, I went back to where I was standing, it wasn’t there either, logic told me it was in my bag, but at the start of Ironman your brain is not quite working as it should. I tipped out my bag and finally found it in there, so with relief I handed my bag in to Jan (who is going to Kona this year) she wished me luck and off I went to line up for the swim.
The Swim. Garmin data here
In the lead up to the race I had been trying to avoid obsessively checking the weather (very hard) as it changes so frequently and can send you on a rollercoaster of feelings. The swim in 2014 was tough and got a mention several times in the briefing but when I had been down to Tenby earlier in the week things were looking promising. On race day the water looked perfect, so calm and still, you couldn’t have asked for better conditions. The other thing that was different, was the rolling start, we lined up according to our estimated times, (I went for 1:10). As I was lining up I looked to my left and saw Justin one of my coached athletes, we had a chat and I wished him luck then we made our way down past the mini transition to hang up our running shoes.
They started us off for the swim about 10 at a time. It was so much better than a mass start, as the swimmers around you were of a similar ability and there wasn’t the usual scrabble around. It also meant I got to chat with my mum a bit before I started, she was standing above me outside the cafe. I haven’t been doing a great deal of sea swimming this year as it can compromise your swim fitness if you sacrifice pool sessions for the sea, but I have done some big sessions in the pool so I was feeling pretty confident and wanted to push it a bit more than I have done in the past. I used a 2 beat kick the whole way to save my legs a bit and give me the cadence that I needed to swim well. I looked at my watch after the first lap and saw 30 minutes something, this gave me a big boost and I kept up the pace into the next lap, I actually swam the second lap faster than the first, maybe it was those few barrel jellyfish that I saw!
T1. Garmin data here
T1 is a long run up the ramp where you put on your run shoes, and through the Tenby streets with a lot of people cheering you on. I removed my wetsuit and put on my trainers then ran up and had a gel with some water. When I got in the tent I just had to put my nutrition in my back pockets and get my helmet on.
The Bike. Garmin data here
I was sticking to power on the bike and the first few miles I was just settling in with a lot of people passing me then having to drop back to stop from drafting. You can feel that everyone is excited to be on the bike on the first section of the course, and it is a rolling section so easy to get carried away and go too hard. I started my nutrition strategy of eating every 20 minutes, I had clif shot bloks, clif bars cut in half and some Skratch lab fruit chews. I had an alert set on my garmin for 20 minutes as its easy to forget to eat otherwise. I also took a salt tab every hour. When I got to Pembroke I started up Daniels hill, and Kirsty, then Stephanie passed me. They are both local, both strong cyclists, and both were in my age group. I let them go and carried on sticking to my plan. When we got to Angle I looked out for them coming the other way and didn’t see them, so I knew they couldn’t be too far ahead which was a relief. The section up from Carew is a long slog but I also knew that when I got there my family would not be far away. They were in Narberth for the first lap, with their dinosaur support!
Patrick gave me a questioning thumbs up and I smiled and gave him a thumbs up back, he must have seen Kirsty and Stephanie going through and was checking that I was feeling ok. In New Hedges I picked up a special needs bag with 2 bottles of Skratch hydration and some watered down torq gels in a bottle and was on my way for the second lap. As I had been going up the hill from Saundersfoot I felt pretty strong still so I tried to push out a bit more power on the second small loop, when I got to Templeton I caught up with Ellie, and we had a quick chat up Templeton hill. My support group had moved to join their school friends in Templeton so I was looking forward to seeing the boys. When I got there everyone was relaxing in their chairs as I had told them to expect me at about 2:30 (apparently it was 2pm when I passed through) but I still got some great cheering! After Narberth there are just the two steeper hills at Wisemans Bridge and Saundersfoot until a coast down into Tenby, as ever there was fantastic support out there. There were a few people pushing their bikes up Wisemans bridge hill this time around though! The weather on the bike was also perfect, a light breeze and a good temperature.
T2. Garmin data here
I was faster in T2 this year, but still felt like I didn’t want to run after I had sat on the bench and put on my running shoes. I picked up an extra race belt which had my SIS gels on which I find are a bit easier to stomach on the run.
The Run. Garmin data here
When I started running I felt really relaxed, I looked at my pace and realised after the first lap that I was doing sub 8 min miles. I had hoped to average about 8:30min miles. After last time I had thought that was realistic, but thinking about it now I had been running pretty well on the lead in to the race, so maybe I was a bit cautious with my estimation. I had a look of disbelief on my face as I high fived Patrick and told him what pace I was doing! I carried on aiming for a gel every 20minutes and salt every hour, but I was getting a bit scrambled with remembering if I’d had a gel or not. I had a few left at the end, and didn’t get round to my caffeinated ones, but every aid station I was alternating water with ISO.
On the second lap on the way up to New Hedges I overtook Kirsty, I was looking out for Stephanie but I didn’t see her, but I must have overtaken her at some point. The support on the run course was fantastic, people were screaming at me that I was running really well, and I was feeling very good. On the 3rd lap and around 35km I started to feel a bit less excited and had stomach cramps, I was starting to think to myself “this is ridiculous!” I tried to remember my hypnosis app and kept repeating “dig deeper” in a calm voice over and over. I knew my pace was dropping but also knew that I just had to hang in there and get one last lap finished. When I was near the finish I had a quick look at my total time on my watch, I was aiming for sub 12 hours and thought that 11:40 would be pretty good for me, as I looked I thought it said 11:40 which I was super happy with.
I turned left for the finishing chute, after I crossed the line I saw Dai who was congratulating me and I turned to look at the clock to ask him if it was right, as it said 11:16, he said yes it must be, and I checked my watch again which said the same! Funny how your mind can play tricks on you like that. I went into the tent and had quick chat with Dave before finding my family outside, I still didn’t know my position at this point but was so happy with my time that I didn’t really care. The kids were pretty tired at this point so we made a fairly quick departure, I had to make a couple of toilet stops on the way back to the car but apart from that was feeling ok. On the way to the car Sam checked the results online and said I was 1st in my category, (I still didn’t believe her and had to check again at home!)
The journey home was pretty awful, I was suffering from stomach cramps and couldn’t wait to lie down. I was doing a lot of groaning and had to close my eyes for a lot of the journey! When I got home I got in the bath then afterwards managed to eat a bagel with salami, then I felt a lot better. My aim for this race was to qualify for Kona and the next day I was offered a slot, there was only one slot for my AG so I really felt like I’d earned it.
Before the race I had chatted with Patrick about whether I would accept or not, he gave me his support, but we have had a challenging year this year and a challenging one coming up, but fortunately we can talk about it and we’re looking forward to travelling to Hawaii! I really wouldn’t have been able to achieve this result without the support from my family, my husband, kids and mum, and also from everyone out on the course (Sam thank you for the great photo’s)
I felt very well prepared with my training thanks to Mark. I looked back on the sessions that I had done in the lead up to the event and knew I had done the work necessary. It all came together on race day to exceed my expectations, and I had a PB in all 3 disciplines, knocking 50 minutes off my previous time.