Swim – Try not to drown, try to swim in a straight line.
Bike – No solid food, 12 gels in a bottle mixed with water, ride on feel mostly keeping an eye on the Garmin, spin up the hills and get down and as aero as possible on the flats and downs.
Run – No walking except for the hill at the back of the campsite and feed stations, run on feel, keep form and technique correct.
I listened carefully for the wind when I woke up on Sunday morning at 4.30am and heard the tent flapping gently in the breeze, no rain beating down on the canvas just the faint sound of Rob making my breakfast. Another incredible turnaround by the Great British Weather.
See here for some pithy pre-match analysis:
I just wanted to get through it, I panicked at the start because the water was so cold and I couldn’t get acclimatised, Gary calmed me down nicely and after the national anthem finished and the gun didn’t go off I started my race. The start wasn’t too rough as I’d positioned myself quite a long way back, but in a better position than last year (i.e not 400m left of everyone else.) After about 200m I realised I’d not started my Garmin so after a brief moment of confusion between which button was which the clock started ticking on my day. The first turn seemed to take forever to come, so I settled into a rhythm and tried not to think about it. After the 2nd turn I got caught by a couple of people in the wave after me and then they kept on coming, I knew then that I was pretty slow! After the cramp last year I was terrified of it returning this time and the temperature of the water made it even more likely, but keeping my legs still seemed to stop the onset. I thought I’d swum in a reasonably straight line, but the GPS and the timing chip don’t lie. Can’t feel bad about it, my shoulder’s been a problem for quite a while, but I’ve hardly made the effort with swimming this year so I don’t have anyone to blame but me! 45:40
The 400m run up the hill from the lake to T1 never gets any easier, especially when the water makes me so dizzy, but I was relaxed after not having cramp in the water and feeling pretty good about what lay ahead. I didn’t bother with the jacket and only half heartedly tugged the arm warmers on as I was so confident that Exmoor’s weather would not let me down! 8:41
Riding up hills all winter has paid dividends, coupled with the knowledge of the course it was always going to be my favourite part of the day. Spun out of T1 up the 3 mile climb to the start of the lap nice and slowly, no dropped bottles this time and started to take on nutrition. Once out on the lap itself I got nice and aero, and made sure I took a swig of gels every 20 minutes. The first half seemed to fly by, I caught Rob about an hour in and had a quick chat with him before cracking on with the 2nd of the big climbs. At the top of the 3rd climb there were a few hundred supporters lining the road, as I came up to the top of the climb my legs were telling me to sit tight and stay spinning, my mind had other ideas and told me to pop up a couple of gears and power up the hill past them, it’s what they want to see! It’s what they came out for! Not me taking it easy! the mind won and I climbed out of the saddle and tried to make it look as effortless as I could, in my mind I was Alberto Contador, in reality more like Albert Steptoe. Towards the end of lap 1 I was noticing a bit of pain in my lower back / glute on the right side, which is was from being aero for long periods which I’m still not entirely used to so I found ingenious ways of stretching out on the downhills where I was freewheeling to save time getting off the bike and stretching. 2nd lap was reasonably uneventful, slightly slower than the first, but that is to be expected. I lost my top cog, again, just after the 3rd climb of the lap, it’s been causing problems for ages now and been fixed 3 times so I’m thinking I need a new bike. Rolled into T2 feeling pretty good with sub 4 hours, got off my bike and my legs felt ok! 3:55:36
Greepers! Clever little laces that you don’t undo or do up, just a little toggle thingy, unfortunately you are supposed to loosen them off first. Oops. 4:39
This training stuff really works! I’ve been running on tired legs all year with runs coming on a Sunday after Saturday’s long bike and although this is exceptional, I felt pretty good, unfortunately this led to an idiotic 5.34 for my first k! I think the excitement got to me, I’m generally running an average of 5.30m/km on long runs with 24 hours rest and a lot less climbing. I started to feel really sick for the first part of it, but I’d promised myself no excuses so I sucked it up and got on with it. Water and Coke at every aid station, walk through them to take on the fluids and then back on with running. The only exception to this was the big hill at the back of the campsite. I heard someone refer to it as the concrete mountain, perhaps slightly hyperbolic, but not by much. No walking allowed aside from that. Thw whole run went surprisingly quickly, a lot quicker than last year and that’s down to being mentally prepared for it I think, I have put in the hours running this year and learnt to deal with it, especially the hills. The problem with Wimbleball is that it’s very difficult to keep a rhythm, it is so up and down that you can’t keep a constant HR or pace easily so plans seem to go out of the window! Knocking 21.41 off my run over a year is pretty pleasing. I know I can do a whole lot better too! 2.23.00
Race time 7:17:36 a 47.29 improvement over last year!
On Tuesday I felt a bit deflated and like I didn’t want to race at IMUK, but some encouraging words from the coach and I’m back focussed on it. I decided to put less pressure on myself and now is not the time to go back on that. I have worries about IMUK, being mentally prepaared for the run, cramp in the swim, nutrition, but all this is natural. I have great support around me from Russ for the technical stuff and my family and friends for moral support. I know no one cares how long it takes me to complete the course and I don’t (as much) anymore, but I am well equipped to do it now, and confident that I can achieve it. I said after Wimbleball last year that there had been a “paradigm shift” in me, and after a gluttonous off-season I was worried that I’d misjudged it, that I was the same old person I always was. The truth lies somewhere in the middle I think and this quest for balance has taught me a lot, I am never going to have the discipline of a top professional, but I don’t need to, I do this for fun! so I am going to extend this journey out a bit, I don’t need to achieve everything now. A 47.29minute PB and an Ironman finishers medal should be enough for this year. I can’t make any promises for next year though, with a baby on the way I said I’d take it easy, but there’s already talk of another trip to Wimbleball in June with Gary and Rob, and I’m running the Brighton Marathon and I got an email through about holidays the Alps the other day….