Race number #3070
We awoke Saturday in our caravan park about 4 miles from Weymouth and transition to armageddon. High winds, nil visibility and torrential rain battering our thin walls, if an Ironman’s tough this will make it impossible! All thoughts of a quick shake down ride and a dip in the sea went out the window. The only brightness on the horizon was that, it would brighten up in the afternoon, fingers crossed. Into Weymouth to register and pick up family and was immediately soaked, an English seaside town in a tempest is not my idea of fun. Registration done, my final big meal was next on the agenda. we decided on an oldie world pub near the campsite that looked ‘nice’, The Bridge Inn. Ordered a pasta bake with extra chicken, it was revolting! Microwaved mush, perfect I thought, no fibre, packed with easily digestible carbohydrates. By this time in the afternoon the rain was beginning to subside, so back to transition to rack the bike. As I am an All World Athlete, I was lucky to have my bike near the pros and easy access in and out of transition. Ironman were also using a new system with your blue (bike) and red (run) bags being on pegs next to each other in one of two tents. One tent for the full and one for 70.3, Weymouth was the first Ironman event in Europe when both the full and 70.3 started the race together. Racking done, I then travelled across Weymouth to race HQ and where the finish line was located. I arrived for my race briefing just as the 70.3 briefing was finishing, seeing my brother, his mates and the very chirpy Helena, which was great. Slaps on the back, wishing all a good safe race, into the race briefing, where Ironman wound up the emotional notches and got everyone pumped up for the race in the morning! Back to the caravan to contemplate an early night. Thank goodness the Paralympics were on, that kept me entertained and not stressing too much about the job to come. Ten thirty bed and a glass of milk to keep my blood sugar levels up. I did get some sleep, I think? Alarm call at 04:00, I was buzzing, breakfast, porridge, rhubarb jam, milk protein shake, banana, an energy wafer and green tea (I’ve been starving myself of caffeine for the past week, so when I took a caffeine gel on the bike, it gave me the necessary kick up the arse). Leaving at 05:30 we had to get to the car park near transition before 05:45 as the roads were beginning to be closed. Into the car park, pay by mobile, no change, did not work, not going to stress! Into transition, about an hour to go before race start, wetsuit on, white bag (street clothes) onto the truck, done. Walked down onto the beach and where we exited the swim, where there was a table to deposit glasses, which I retrieved once I had finished the swim. The swim start was a rolling start, athletes were asked to seed themselves based on estimated finish time. I decided on the 40 minute or 1 hour 20 minute marker. Approximately 2,800 athletes joined the throng with the usual pumping house music and Ironman compere shouting into his mic. Looking out over Weymouth bay that morning, we were greeted with perfect conditions. The sun was slowly rising over the Jurassic coast cliffs, little fluffy clouds, the sea was millpond calm and a translucent blue, water temperature 17 degrees. At 06:50 the horn sounded, pros were off, 06:55 age groupers were rolling into the sea. The advantage of the rolling start, is that you get space to find your rhythm. The water was lovely, all the club open water swimming kicked in, use the buoyancy of your wetsuit to your advantage, relax and enjoy. Visibility under water was pretty good and I kept thinking about an article I’d read a couple of weeks prior, about pregnant male seahorses being found in Weymouth Bay, I think they were avoiding me! Two circuits of the 1900 metre course, with an Aussie exit between laps (short run on the beach). Out of the water in 1 hour 16 mins, happy with that! Up and over the beach and along the sea wall we ran to transition, wetsuit off, into my cycle gear, helmet on, grab the bike, out off transition, I still can get quicker! Onto the bike course! The bike course was two 90 km loops along the Jurassic coast, going inland through the Puddle villages and beautiful Dorset countryside (when I had the energy to look up!). A challenging course with over 2000 metres of climbing, but nothing we couldn’t handle, given our Hertfordshire hills training rides on a Sunday morning. This was the first time I’d ridden a TT bike over this distance and my strategy from the get go was to pace myself conservatively, leaving myself energy to run a marathon, easier said than done. I had to get my nutrition right, eat or drink every 20 minutes without fail, making sure my glycogen levels were constantly topped up. Bonking was not an option, once in that dark place there’s no way back! The first circuit felt like an eternity, whether it was my deliberate pacing, time went slowly and I was determined not to over cook it. Athletes screamed past me (caught them on the hills though!). I did have two moments of genuine fear, first was on a steep long fast descent, the bike’s rear wheel started shaking and weaving uncontrollably, I thought I was going to fall off and it pushed me violently towards a hedge at speed. I feathered the rear brake and brought the bike back under control, but it really shook me up and I thought that was my race over. I now understand I got a speed wobble, maybe some of my learned cycle friends can explain why that happened and how to avoid in the future? Second, was descending towards Weymouth, about 5 km out, a gust of wind picked up a spectators parasol, which flew over the top of my head, missing me by inches! Second circuit, much more in control, better pace, the sun shone, felt slippery in my aero position, enjoyed the ride. Sweeping into Weymouth and transition, how were my legs going to cope with a marathon, which I’d never run before? Transition 2 was straight forward, out of my bike gear and into my Hampstead Triathlon shirt, shorts and shoes. The run course was 4 1/2 laps, 26.2 miles, 42 km. Along Weymouth Bay sea wall, promenade, looping back round the harbour and through the town. I looked at my watch after the first kilometre, which read 5 min 35 sec per kph, I though no way I can sustain this pace for four plus hours. However, my legs felt good, the crowds and my family support incredible. It just kept supplying me with energy and I kept going. Lap three was the toughest, as I passed my longest ever run, I focused on maintaining good technique, refueling and smiling, as people shouted my name in encouragement. I started the run around 16.00 in bright sunshine, I finished just after 20.00 in darkness, I weird feeling as the sun went down and air temperature dropped. The last 10km was a bit of a blur, I kept telling myself, I’m going to do this and started running faster. Around the harbour entrance for the last time, music blaring, commentator shouting, I dashed onto the magic red carpet, down the chute, I should have taken more time, but I was so full of energy and the noise of people cheering, lifted me into a place I’d never been before! Across that finish line, arms aloft, punching the air, I AM AN IRONMAN! 13 hours 12 minutes 1 second! The mayor of Weymouth, placed my medal round my neck, kissed me on both cheeks, that was it, it’s over! It was funny, after I finished I felt emotionally neutral, I picked up my finishers shirt, draped a silver blanket round my shoulders, tried to eat something and stretch. My quads were not playing the game, so I shuffled outside to find my family. I heard my daughter Olivia, before I saw anyone (she did have the loudest voice in Weymouth that day!). Falling into my wife’s arms I completely fell to pieces, the emotion of the journey that we had both been on, this last six months, so blessed with life in general as the outcomes could have been so different. Proud to complete my first Ironman 140.6, thankful and grateful to all the wonderful people that have been on this journey with me. Thank you!
Here’s a brief overview of my nutrition during the race:
Before swim – SiS gel, salt stick tablet
Bike – Approx 2 litres of Hi5 4:1 drink, 6 SiS gels, 2 caffeine, 4 normal, 1 packet Shot Bloks, 5 salt sticks, 3 halves banana, 3 halves Powerbar energy bars
Run – Sips of alternate water and isotonic at feed stations, 4 gels, 2 bites banana, 2 halves energy bars, 3 salt sticks, last lap and a half exclusively Pepsi
My wife Christine was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer at the beginning of this year, I am so happy that she’s now been given the all clear from cancer. Please take a minute and read our story, we’ve been raising money for Ovarian Cancer Action https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/RichardBMiller and we want too thank everyone for their generosity, who have donated!
Ordinary people, extraordinary goals!
Richard is a level 3 personal fitness trainer, level 2 BTF triathlon coach and one of the first certified Ironman coaches in the UK