Resilience in the face of adversity, to slay the dragon or be slayed!
Ironman Wales – Tenby September 15th 2019
Race Summary Swim (3.8km) 01:23:31 Bike (180km) 07:16:43 Run (42.6KM) 04:05:25 Overall 13:07:38
8th in age group
Let’s start in reverse.
The atmosphere in Tenby was off the hook, never experienced anything quite like it!
As we ran the marathon through the narrow winding streets, the noise could be deafening, especially as I passed Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas. I felt honoured to share the streets with Gareth, who was competing his debut Ironman and raising HIV awareness, chapeau!
Young children would challenge me for a race, I lost every time, my legs were shot. Great fun as the sun was beginning to set, the smell of fish n chips and the beer was definitely flowing.
My plan was to finish before they switched on the street lights, didn’t quite make it. Running down the red carpet in the darkness in blinding red light, hearing your name over the tannoy, arms aloft, good way to finish! I was then interviewed for TV, legs wobbly and probably talking nonsense. So if anyone saw me, please let me know?
The bike course was awesome, genuinely picturesque, good road surfaces, varied terrain. 180 km with 2400 meters of climbing, a challenge for the best riders. Towards the end of the two laps, the climbs at Wisemans Bridge and Saundersfoot seriously challenged the legs. The support out of Saundersfoot on Heart Break hill was incredible, grand tour style. I rode my Giant Trinity TT, felt comfortable and fast and really pleased I can now hold the aero position for the majority of the ride and then run quickly off the bike. Unfortunately I did witness some sketchy behaviour, resulting in one very nasty multi bike accident at speed and someone badly hurt where the emergency services closed the road, halting athletes and us having to squeeze one at a time past an ambulance.
So to the start, you train for months, you’re in the best shape of your life, pre- race preparation was perfect, you’re in the zone with your race face. Descending the zig zag onto the beach with 2,300 other athletes, hearing a rousing rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was spine tingling. The sun was up, bright and low over the sea, the water was calm, as we edged forward on a rolling start. Into the sea and it’s go! Sea was clear and the temperature nice. Finding a front crawl rhythm, felt calm and in control. Then bang, fifteen
minutes into my swim, from nowhere I get kicked in the face. Someones heel struck the bridge of my prescription goggles (I’m very short sighted), in a split second the bridge broke in two and the goggles fell off my face. I sat up instantly, muttering expletives and confusion as swimmers swam into me. First thought was, that’s it I’m done, I can’t carry on. I then swam to the closest rescue kayak and grabbed hold, to clear my head. I asked the guy to have a look at the goggles and he confirmed they were broken. He then asked what I wanted to do, as long as he was not helping me move forward I was okay. Do I abandon and get taken to shore or carry on? I was about 400 meters into my first lap, still 1500 meters to go (swim total was 3.8km), which would need to be done without goggles. Stinging eyes, I could not see more that a few meters ahead, my mental map of the course and the direction of other swimmers being my only clue, which way to go. Resilience in the face of adversity, those rare moments where decisions need to be made, which could prove to be right or easily wrong. I had no doubt, I could do this and my confirming thought was, “I’d bought a souvenir finishers t-shirt, the day before, which I would never be able to wear if I didn’t complete the Ironman and I’d paid £28!”. So I’d better bloody well get on with swimming and complete the lap. A combination of breast stroke (horrible, gave me hamstring cramp), swimming crawl with my head up or crawl with my face in the water, eyes closed hoping I was swimming straight (at one point swam into a moored yacht!). I completed the loop, exiting the sea, I’m pretty disoriented. I ran up the beach to find an Ironman official and a desk where they keep spare items. An athlete saw my distress and offered his spare pair, thank you whoever you were! I was given a pair of ordinary goggles, put them on and back into the sea for the final 1900 meter loop. Still could not see much, but at least kept the salt water out of my eyes. Don’t remember much of the second lap, other than that I finished the whole swim in 1 hour 23 mins, which I’m staggered how I managed that, pure adrenalin. Swim over, we then had a 1.2km run up the zig zag from the beach, through the town to the bike transition. The rest of my race was a piece of cake! :O)
Reflecting on my day, I learnt a lot, not only my race craft but about myself. The following quotes I think are pertinent.
Plans are worthless, but planning is everything (Dwight Eisenhower), the ability to visualise the course ahead, studied the route and despite not being able to see, had the confidence to believe I was able to complete the swim. Expect the unexpected, be prepared, so in future I will be carrying a spare pair of goggles.
Resilience in the face of adversity, I took on the dragon and I won!
“ Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes” – Buddah
I have to thank all of those who’ve helped my journey!
My wife Christine and all the family, Daniel and all the awesome athletes at Hampstead Triathlon, Nick and team at Giant Camden, Gareth Pymm my cycle coach, Amy Pritchard who sorted my swimming out, Valentina (ValeofHealth) for new look nutrition advice and not forgetting Diggy! Thank you x
Ordinary people, extraordinary goals! www.buddyactive.co.uk