With 25 minutes to go before the start, I was ready to go but suddenly very nervous, and wanted to go home. Then I saw Dad and forced a smile for a photo and started to feel better.
All the competitors walked down to the water to the sound of ACDC’s Thunderstruck, which changed the nerves to excitement, 10 minutes to go we were allowed into the water to acclimatise, and when the horn sounded I was settled and ready to go.
A nice steady swim of four laps, round the islands of Dearnford’s lake. I walked the Australian exit each lap whilst having a quick drink of water and wave at my adoring support crew. This meant I ended up with an entourage of 3 slower swimmers who drafted me round the second half of each lap and then jogged away from me out of the water, only for me to repass each of them during the first part of the lap. I did try drafting them once or twice but found them too slow or their feet too wayward. So I just plodded on at my steady pace repeating the passing and drafting for each of the laps. Twenty minutes a lap, bang on schedule, on to the bike by 8:30am after a nice steady transition.
The roads were very quiet early on but my pre-race nerves continued as I needed the loo almost immediately as I left Whitchurch but as each feed station had a portaloo this was no problem, 60 seconds later I was back on the way. I passed the Bickerton Poacher at 9:15am, but there was no support crew there yet. Using a camelback to drink from may have meant I drank too much water, as I needed the loo again at the second feed station, and when I rode straight into lap 2 at 45km I wished I had another stop as I was bursting by the next feed station. This became the story of the ride as whenever I didn’t stop to wee, I very soon wished I had. It lost me very little time as the marshalls would replace any bottles whilst I was in the loo and was soon back on the road again. My supporters began to arrive at the Bickerton Poacher by car and by bike, a few with cowbells to start with, then by lap 4 there must have been over 10 friends and family to cheer me past. I kept to my plan of riding steadily, so was happy to stop with them and fill up my camelback or pose for a photo before pushing on.
I was bang on target for nutrition, eating and drinking what I needed to get to the run in the best shape possible. Lap 1 – 100 minutes, Lap 2 & 3 – 105 minutes and Lap 4 – 109 minutes bring the bike to an end in just under 7 hours.
On to the run after a quick change of clothes and to reapply sunblock. I felt good running at a steady 7 mins a km for the first few but sticking to plan of walking out of each feed station taking water and High 5 and not running again until I drunk it all. First time down the road to Tilstock the loo stops continued which was much trickier on the run as there were no portaloos on the course but with the road closed and the last few of the half distance competitors finishing there was usually a quiet spot to jump into the verge.
I can’t remember if it was lap 1 or 2 but as I returned up the lane from Tilstock, my support crew had swelled to over 20 people nearly 30 and as they recognised me coming round the corner the cheers went up and was quite overwhelming as a ran through the tunnel of noise.
This picture was just one side of the road and there was a fair few over there too.
The support was awesome and my Dad started a trend of people running down to Tilstock with me to keep me company and have a chat. By now I didn’t really care about the time, I knew I could walk to the finish so long as I felt OK. Only minor stomach aches just after eating something, so I just stuck to water and High 5 each time, bolstered with the odd gel, half banana or packet of crisps (to quell the salt craving). The 4th lap was slow, with even a 10min km (without even walking) but I knew I was heading home and the pain seemed to subside as I headed back down the lane for the last time.
I finished surrounded by the kids running with me up the finishing funnel to the cheers of my awesome support crew and the loudspeaker booming out my name. Just under 14 hours and 35 minutes. It was a fantastic feeling.
With such a small field and names on every race number, you felt you knew all your fellow competitors by the end of the race and wanted to make sure the handful of racers still on lap 3 as I went home to bed, got to the the finish. Especially those who had been suffering from early on in the run. Gladly they all did, before the midnight cut off.
So the secret to my success? Not sure there is one. I think I have shown anyone can do an Iron distance Triathlon. Don Fink’s Be Iron Fit book has a 30 week programme which I pretty much followed and it’s that which made the race as painless as it could be, but if any one thing made this possible it’s the support of friends and family cheering me along the way not just on race day but coming with me on training runs and rides and for that I thank you all.