Ironman Fraser

TriPurbeck’s official first Ironman was crowned (or something like that) at ironman Wales earlier this month. Here is Peter’s view of the race…. makes me tired just thinking about it […]

TriPurbeck’s official first Ironman was crowned (or something like that) at ironman Wales earlier this month. Here is Peter’s view of the race…. makes me tired just thinking about it – awesome.

IM Wales 11 Sep 11

 I don’t usually bother with the weather forecast, and I don’t usually recce bike courses using Google Maps — as an old man, I am still unclear how to use all the different buttons. Come to think of it, I don’t usually recce bike courses at all. However, once the Swanage triathlon in August was over, my thoughts turned to the very first Ironman Wales, and I thought I should make an exception.

Although they say forewarned is forearmed, preparation does have a downside. You may learn too much about what is in store. And when what’s in store is the Ironman Wales course, and some rather windy weather, this will not exactly fill you with good cheer. The phrase “too much information” comes to mind. Samantha eventually banned me from talking about wind speed, the Beaufort scale and tidal stream. On-line reports from the Long Course Weekend in June (three iron-distance races of swim, bike and run held at Tenby on successive days) were a little harrowing, and tales of rip-tides, strong currents, and swimmers being swept away did not fill me with joy either. So, as I headed off to Tenby (only just avoiding being blown off the Severn Bridge) the spring in my step was replaced with the gentle tread of a condemned man. Luckily, I was driving.

Small groups of athletes wandering around town with course maps, looking over the run to New Hedges shaking their heads, and lots of gossip about cancelled swims, Ironman Duathlons (they have done one before, apparently) and so on occupied the next 48 hours. That, together with packing three changes of clothes, some sandwiches, a flask of coffee and three cream teas into my bike bag, helped to pass the time. My favourite exchange of the week was as follows:

Me: “Do you know how they ran the IM Duathlon in New Zealand in 1996?”

Answer: “Er………Ready, steady, go? …….But I’m guessing.”

Race day dawned early, but not exactly bright at 4.00am when the alarm went off. Hurricane Katia had moved to Weymouth for the Bustin’ Skins race, and the good news was that our swim was on! The location was moved to North Beach, 1km from transition, because the planned South Beach was too dangerous. But what’s 1km (in 226) amongst friends? The mood was upbeat, the sun came up and the Welsh National Anthem (impressively sung by a competitor!), thousands of spectators and a helicopter added to the Big Race feel. The hooter went off with a bang (and a mixed metaphor) at 7am, so off we all splashed into the shallows…….

I will discreetly gloss over the next few (well, not so few) hours. Reassuringly, the swim course went very close to the lifeboat station. Two reasonable 1900m swim loops, a long haul to T1, steady as she goes, and off on the bike. Crumbs, it really is windy! Crikey, it really is hilly! Crikey — windy! So — very hilly! Flippin’ heck! ….and assorted repetitive thoughts. Back to Tenby at last. Oh dear, another lap to go?!……

At that point I realised that Einstein was wrong. He said that nothing travels faster than light. Plainly he had never seen a pro triathlete on a bike. Neither have I, incidentally — I have heard them, but have not seen them. Does this mean that at the event horizon, sound may actually travel faster than light? Interesting……you can now see that it was a long day on a hard saddle.

A Norwegian I had met the day before passed me. He had told me that his big concern was the run course. He was number 7. I wonder if he knew he was lapping me? He might have realised, as he passed me at Mach 2 downhill into Tenby on his aero bars. If he had gone any faster, he would have needed clearance from air traffic control. Until the sonic boom hit me, he was completely silent……but I think we connected telepathically. I caught some of his thoughts:    “Not so windy…..not really hilly……”

Spectators were out in force at every town and village, and on most of the hills we had cowbells, cheering crowds, and a Grand Tour atmosphere. Everyone — marshalls, volunteers, weather men — were really very inspiring. This was, perhaps, just as well.

And lo, so it came to pass that I found myself in T2, putting on my trainers, ready for my first marathon. Our Aquathon slogan — how hard can it be? — came to mind. It had taken me some time to get there, and I was rather happy to find myself (hopefully) about to achieve something that I have thought about, off and on, for a long time. Although things can go wrong on a run, you can’t drown, and you will usually not get swum over, have your goggles pulled off, get smashed in the face, fall off your bike or have a crash, any number of punctures or a broken chain. These risks of racing are in the past. All you have to do is very simple. You put one foot in front of the other, quicker. This I managed, more or less.

Some time that evening — I forget quite when, even though I was wearing two watches — in the pitch dark, pouring rain and approaching gales, I completed the fourth run lap and found myself running down the Esplanade to the finish. The crowds had gone and, hours before, so had my misplaced hopes of a fast time in my first IM race. But I really did not care. I crossed the line, the commentator welcomed me with that well worn phrase, I got the medal, and was efficiently escorted by the wonderful volunteers into the athletes’ post-race area, and given fish and chips!

 There is a limited amount you can say about a long race. It starts, hopefully it finishes, and there is quite a bit of angst in between. You cannot predict when, where or how the IM angst will hit you, but hit you it will. It might be this that makes it such fun. Either way, sitting post-race with the other athletes, inevitably talk turns to burning topics of the moment. What did you think of the race? Will you do another? Will you come back to Wales next year? And, most importantly of all, would you like some more fish and chips?

About Ade

What ever your goals in life may be, there is always time to achieve them. You might want to lose weight, run your first 5k, or improve your personal best, whatever your specific goals are you can achieve them with structure, time management and determination!