I chose this race because I saw it come through Narberth the first year it was on, and enjoyed supporting it. I never thought I’d do an Ironman, as I thought it was ridiculous, but after watching it I was hooked on the idea.
I registered on Thursday afternoon. When I went to bed that night, I think it hit me what I was doing. I usually sleep really well, but I was up for most of the night working myself up into a frenzy. I tried sleeping in the spare room, relaxation techniques, listening to music,etc, etc, but none of it was working. Finally I went back in our bedroom and Patrick managed to calm me down so I got 3 hours of sleep. On Friday I went to Haverfordwest and had an easy swim, I asked my mum to have the boys overnight, and went to the race briefing at Carew.
I slept much better, we watched a film to take my mind off things, and I had loads of tricks up my sleeve in case I didn’t manage to sleep. I also packed my bags which was probably a bit of a weight off my mind!
On the Saturday I racked my bike, and had a pretty easy day. In the afternoon we took the boys to Ironkids in Tenby, where they did a run around part of the course to the finish. Then home to bed and another early night to prepare for an early start of 3:50am.
I had my breakfast, picked up Mat at 4:20am, then drove to Tenby. I put my bottles on my bike and checked my tyres, then went to apply sudocrem etc to my rear in the portaloo. Unfortunately I forgot to lock the door, so I apologise to the man who walked in on me!! We all walked down to the start, I was chatting with Matt and Duncan, 2 other first timers, we were pretty nervous, and I tried to do some deep breathing to calm myself down.
The Swim. Garmin data here (division rank 14th, gender rank 37th, overall rank 434)
I started on the edge again, in the same place as I did at the long course weekend. I knew it was choppy as it was all people had been talking about for the last 24 hours, but I thought, I had been out in worse! It was hard work going out to the first buoy, someone grabbed my arm at one point, and knocked me a bit, but not too bad a start. It took me quite a while to get into a good breathing rhythm, because I was trying to breathe only on one side to avoid getting waves in the mouth. I was breathing every one, to start with, but managed to settle into, every 4 and then 1. Up to the first buoy I just focussed on sighting and breathing, after that I tried to get a draught but everyone seemed to be scattered and the chop was making it hard to see where people were. I just kept in a rhythm and felt really good that I was actually in the sea I also started to visualise the whole day. The second lap was much of the same, we got a big cheer as we ran out of the water, then up to the mini transition.
T1. Garmin data here
I stripped off my wetsuit, and looked at my swim time, which was slower than I’d hoped, but I knew that the conditions had made it hard for everyone. My bag was near the bottom, so easy to find, I grabbed my bottle of drink. I had a small sandwich in my bag but didn’t feel like eating at this point. I may have swallowed too much seawater! There were loads of people out on the course already all cheering as I ran through Tenby. I got my bike and cycle jersey (filled with food) and was out on the bike.
The Bike. Garmin data here (division rank 6th, gender rank 22nd, overall rank 484)
The wind was behind us on the way out of the bike, and I kept having to slow myself down, what feels easy at the beginning of a bike leg does not feel as easy at the end! However my plan was to push a it more on the bike than usual because looking at past results I think I have been too cautious on the bike. I can definitely say that I was not too cautious this time. I was aiming to keep above 137 watts, which is in zone 2. I started to eat, and made sure that I picked up a bottle at every feed station. I used NUUN tablets in my water, I had my rice cakes and sweet potato cakes for food, I also had some dark chocolate as a treat! The bike was epic, and so great to see so many familiar and happy faces out on the course. I cycled for a bit along the Ridgeway with my friends dad, (Nigel Merrony, first in his age group and qualified for Kona), we were both trying to keep to a power zone, so taking it easy up the hills. The section that I had dreaded along from Carew to Cross Hands flew by, as there were so many people along there, it turned into a bit of a party atmosphere among the athletes and we pulled each other along, someone was chatting to me most of the way along there.
I had family and friends supporting in Templeton and Narberth, there were also other friends dotted about the course, and with nearly every crowd I heard a shout of “go Celia!”
Going out on to the bike for the second lap was slightly more subdued. I had to get my head down a few times to zone out and keep to power. I had “relax” written on my water bottle, and I kept reminding myself to do that. There were still lots of people out supporting, of note, the Coleman family and Nick Brown of NBCC who was at St Brides Hill telling me to keep it sane! (the crowd at St Brides are in the road, making a lot of noise, so it is very hard to keep your head and not go way over effort on that section)
I was soon back in Tenby, slightly concerned that I now had to run a marathon! But telling myself not to think of that yet, and that it would just happen.
T2. Garmin data here
I flew into T2 with my feet out of my shoes, literally, because I fell off! I should have come to a stop really, before trying to get off my bike. I had a few scrapes but nothing too bad so I picked myself up, racked my bike and grabbed my running bag, ((socks, shoes, visor (to hide under) and energy chews))
The Run. Garmin data here (division rank 4th, gender rank 11th, overall rank 256)
As I started the run, it felt hard. I thought it wouldn’t last though as the first part of the run is always difficult, and I eased into a pace of about 8:30 minute miles which was the lower limit of my target pace. I had no idea what my bike split was at this point so I felt a bit low about my run speed, but in my head now I just told myself to keep going and I would finish it. I walked through the feed stations, and drank water I had one energy drink, I think my mind had gone by this point because I wanted to alternate between energy and water, but I kept going for water. My stomach was not feeling great so maybe thats why.
Once you have run through transition you start out to New Hedges, which is a slog uphill. I saw Alex (Merrony), and family, and they all cheered for me, then it was up to the first turnaround to get my first band. A huge morale boost, as there is a crowd at the top cheering every time someone gets their band. You then run back through the streets of Tenby and there was loads of support. My family, Sam, and Sian, Mel and Clair, and the Caygills. It helps to break it up knowing where people are going to be and trying to smile!!
After the second lap I suddenly started to feel lots of pain! My quads were really sore, and it was now not so easy running downhill, or uphill, or on the flat! I gave myself permission to walk but really didn’t want to because when I did walk the feed station on the way back up to New Hedges, it hurt so much more to start again. I managed to keep going and on the last lap I walked on a couple of sections. All I had to do now was run back through Tenby and down the finishing shute.
I couldn’t really pick up the pace now as I was shattered, I just carried on and was elated to be on the red carpet. I saw Patrick and Milo, so stopped to give them a big kiss. Then through the finish where I was offered water and someone removed my timing chip.
This race is fantastic, especially if you are local to the area, knowing the bike course really helped, and thanks to everyone out there who was supporting. Also all the athletes who supported each other on the run. I had an epic day, and have written a bit more about it here, as I ended up in the medical tent at the end!
Full Results here