Almost a year of training and build-up came together in a single day of racing and I can’t believe it’s already been a month since I became an Ironman! Here’s how it went…
I chose to stay in a villa with my TVT friend Emma, plus two guys Charlie and Matt who’ve taken part in a number of ridiculous challenges this year, culminating in a full Ironman.
We arrived three days before the race, giving us a chance to see the whole build-up of the event and really soak up the atmosphere. The town was buzzing with anticipation for the first ever Ironman race to be held there.
Walking through the transition area as they were building it we were surprised at how far it was from one end to the other. Transition times would be interesting! We collected our packs and browsed the merch tent for a few souvenirs, before dinner at a restaurant in town.
The next day we did our food shopping for the week, four Ironman athletes in one villa called for a heavily overloaded trolley! We cooked breakfast and then headed out for a ride on part of the bike course. We cycled about 60km, stopping for an ice cream at the top of the one hill! It was so nice to go back and relax by the pool at our villa in the afternoon.
That evening we attended the welcome banquet on the beach, just another part of the build up to this iconic event. The 10km Night Run also took place, so we watched that and supported our runners before heading back to sort out all our kit ready to rack our bikes the next day.
We turned up early, racked up and then went for a quick dip in the sea (which was lovely!) before the race briefing. After the briefing we met up with the rest of the TVT crew for a group photo on the beach, had a couple of drinks and caught up with some of those who’d come over to support. Everyone was excited and couldn’t wait to get racing! Back at the villa we cooked a big dinner of pasta and had a fairly early night ready for a 4:30am alarm on the big day.
Waking up the next morning we were all in our own little worlds. We each had our own tried and tested breakfast and preparation routines. There wasn’t a lot of chat going on during that time.
On arrival at transition we dispersed to finish setting up our bikes. I promptly managed to let all the air out of my rear tyre with the help of one of the less than adequate pumps in transition and found myself begging a fellow athlete to use his pump to reinflate it. I decided not to bother touching my front tyre.
Once everything was set in transition we could get our wetsuits on ready for the rolling swim start. Most of the other TVT competitors were already by the beach so we joined them and headed down to the start. The atmosphere was electric with the sun just coming up, loud music playing and huge crowds of athletes and spectators milling around everywhere. I could not have been more excited to get started, the sea looked calm and inviting, conditions were perfect.
At around 8am we were off! Bounding out into the waves I realised that running in the water was one of the most exhausting things I could possibly do, but it was so shallow for a long way out that I couldn’t start swimming until I was close to the first buoy. I felt strong and found myself passing people almost the whole way. I knew I should have gone in the faster pen!
The Australian exit at just over halfway was a good chance to get a sense of the crowds and give my arms a little break, although the shallow water posed the same problem as at the start. I finished the swim really strong and I didn’t know at the time but I was the first TVTer out of the water! I was over the moon with my time of 1:01, particularly for a sea swim!
The run from swim exit to transition was about 600m during which I dropped my hat and goggles somewhere. I was more upset about the hat 😦 In the changing tent I got out of my wetsuit, lubed up, splashed on some sunscreen, all the while trying to gobble down a cereal bar, put on socks, shoes and helmet before picking up my bike and running another 600m to the other end of transition.
I was out on the bike course! The scariest part of the race for me, not because I thought I might struggle or fall off, but because I was terrified of a mechanical putting me out of the race altogether. I took it nice and steady, remembering to eat and drink enough. I was being constantly overtaken for at least the first lap, but being strong on the swim I’m used to that. The only hill on the course wasn’t too challenging, but I knew the second time around could feel very different.
I enjoyed spotting other TVT kit coming the other way on the out-and-back course and it was good to shout a few encouraging words as they flew past. A lovely tailwind brought me in from the first lap, at least I could look forward to that next time. I started overtaking people about halfway through the second lap, in particular I seemed to pass a lot of people going up the hill for the second time. This was evidence of my trademark consistent pacing, I’d left enough in my legs to power up the hill again!
There were some very dull flat straight sections where I found myself singing just to pass the time, the field had really thinned out and I only saw one or two people on some stretches. About 30km from the end I started feeling lightheaded and really hungry, so I ate my last energy bar, drank some energy drink from one of the aid stations and immediately felt better. Now where was that tailwind? Ah yes, it had now turned into a fierce headwind! For the last 15km I had to push hard through it, which would have been tough at the best of times, but after 165km already in my legs it was excruciating.
I was so happy to finish without a hiccup! Now for the 600m hobble through transition to get ready for the run. A quick shoe change and a few gulps of energy drink and I was off. I obviously forgot to remove my second pair of cycling shorts, so as soon as I came to a bin I took them off and chucked them. I definitely didn’t need any more material to chaff on!
I stuck to my plan of running at a sensible pace and walking through every aid station. I had to stop three times on the first lap to go to the loo! I settled into a comfortable pace, being careful not to speed up every time I passed some of the incredible TVT supporters. The push they gave me really was amazing, I don’t think I could have done it without them.
On the second lap I started to feel hungry. I hadn’t planned to eat anything during the run, it doesn’t make sense, but I had to give my body what it was craving, so from that point I took bananas and apples from most of the aid stations as well as water. I saw a fair few TVT racers out on the run course and high-fived when I could. It definitely gave me a boost!
Towards the end of the third lap it started to get dark. My legs were feeling heavy, the mosquitos were out in force and the course became more and more sparse. I could finally pick up my 4th wristband and I actually started overtaking more and more people on the last lap. I’d slowed down slightly, but perhaps not as much as a lot of people.
I was about a mile from the end when I suddenly realised I was going to do it. I was about to become an Ironman! That last mile seemed to go on forever, but I still managed to find some energy to embrace the red carpet. The crowds were so loud! I tried not to go too fast so that I could take it all in, but with the excitement building it was surprisingly difficult! I held back at the end to allow a few other people space before I took a running leap across the finish line! I am now an Ironman! No words can describe that feeling. I genuinely expected to cry as soon as I crossed the finish line, but I think I was so full of sugar and endorphins that elation was all I could feel at that moment.
I was wrapped in a silver blanket, checked over quickly and waddled over to have my sweaty photo taken. I spotted Charlie, Emma and a few other TVT shirts already in the finishers’ area. I could barely move, but I was absolutely buzzing and couldn’t believe what I’d just achieved. Everyone was in a daze. I managed to get changed and sit down to assess the chaffing and aching muscles.
I spoke to my parents and a few of my friends who’d been tracking my progress online. It meant so much to me that they were keeping an eye on me! And so nice that they were almost as excited as I was! It really was overwhelming.
It was about 3am when we finally got to bed, still on a high from what had just happened and fearful of how we would feel the next day.