Sunday, 20 July 2008

Race report, reflection & the future...

Ironman has certainly got a way of getting under your skin. Go and watch one and oops... just like Jo & AKJ (see above pic) the very next day before you know what's happening you're in the registration tent with a pen in your hand and a fistful of pennies and BINGO, you're life for the next year is about to change forever...bloody marvellous. I never thought I'd see the day when Master Kendal-Jones signed up to be an Ironman. His sister Jo, we knew wouldn't be able to resist. I can't wait, really truly can't wait to be part of their Iron journey. So AKJ & Jo you're going to love and hate us over the next year but most of all the journey will be one you'll never forget. Live it...

So, the race... the reason for 50 weeks of solid training (and blogging) how am I, how do I feel and what's next...?

Arriving in Germany on the Tuesday before the race allowed us both a little bit of Ironman free space before everything went nuts with registering, riding the course, eating bowl upon bowl of pasta and generally milling around other athletes. It was nice, we could almost pretend we were there on holiday... well almost. Sharing a small hotel room with two wetsuits, two bikes and enough tools and equipment to keep the Tour de France on the road for a month kept our mind on nothing else but the task in hand.

As we blogged daily through Iron week I'll cut to the chase and go straight to race day.

It's quite difficult to explain about race day in Ironman. There's always a buzz in transistion before races at most races but there's a totally different air and buzz in Ironman. It's heavy with the usual anxiety and tension of 'what if's' mixed with confidence and the desperate need to use the loo 'properly' before the gun goes. The air is heavy and the buzz is different because I'm sure it's full of the hopes, dreams and journeys of approximately 2000 people's varied Ironman training paths. And that's why it's hard to explain the feeling in transistion when you're there with 2000 other people but you feel like you're on your own. I pumped up my tires, checked the bike over and stocked it with energy drink and fuel for the ride, placed my swim to bike bag where it was accessible, walked the route from entering T1 so I could find my bike easily and checked and re-checked everything was in working order. I did it all completely unaware of a single other person in there. I was focussed and I was ready... oh, and I was scared!

Walking away from the bike knowing the next time you see it you're actually in the thick of it, the meat of the race about to begin is a nerve racking feeling. I found Tom and with our wetsuits in hand we went to a quiet patch of the transistion area where Tom's Mum, Ray and Aunty Les with AKJ and Sam were all waiting on the other side of the metal fencing. Kisses and wishes of good luck through the mesh like animals in the zoo we walked (tearfully) hand in hand down to the start. It's a huge incredibly overwhelming feeling. I wanted Tom to have the race of his life, he wanted the same for me, it was all said in a tearful look and a squeeze of the hand, words completely unneccessary.

The swim.

And there I was toe in the water. How many times I'd written in the blog that before I knew it I would be standing on the start line in Germany with my toe in the water, and in a matter of moments the day was going to happen with or without me. I started my watch a minute before the gun went as I wanted to be ready to just get out there and swim like my life depended on it without worrying if I'd started my watch or not. 3, 2, 1 the gun goes and boy oh boy was I in the thick of it. I've never been so brutally savaged in a swim before. I felt like I was fighting not swimming. I got kicked and punched in the face repeatedly, my goggles kept getting knocked. I couldn't find a single spot of clear water. Black arms and red hats flailing all over the place. I swear people were just panicking left right and centre. Some brute of a bloke even decided to grab my shoulder and push me under water as hard as he could. I was gob smacked and annoyed and after swallowing half of the water I stopped, treaded water and like a meercat looked for anywhere that wasn't covered in fighting seals. I had to just get on with it. I know Ady said he had a very similar experience. Luckily Tom had completely clear water for his whole swim. I think I have radar that glued me to huge packs, sending me straight into the middle of them for much of the swim. I decided to stay wide and swim well away from the buoys and the people just to keep as clear as possible where possible. I was amazed to get out of the water and see such a great time. I know I'm swimming well but I hadn't expected 57mins (although I think the swim was a little short) but I would still have come in under the hour which was a huge boost for me as I ran up the carpet and out into T1.

The bike.

The weather was perfect for us, a little bit of cloud cover and very warm and dry and as I bombed out of T1 preparing myself for the 112mile onslaught to begin I was just ever thankful that I'd gotten out of the swim, firstly alive and secondly in such good time. The bike's a strange beast for me. It seems to be governed mostly by how confident I'm feeling on the day. Technical courses tend to be more stressful for me and with only a few tight corners on the course (and a great piece of last minute advice from Jo Carritt) I felt okay about it. I'd decided to try and keep my nutrition to more liquid than solid to see if that would help my stomach digest it easier. The first lap I can't really remember much of to be honest, except for the cobbles which they name 'The Hell'. I'm sure they put them there for comedy value for the spectators. My Profile Drinks bottle (which is a bottle designed to sit in between your tri bars) was practically full both times round (you'd think I'd have learnt my lesson after the first lap.) PowerBar energy drink was thrown absolutely every where as I rode over the cobbles, my legs and face covered in it. If Jeremy Beadle had popped out I wouldn't have been surprised! I saw our clan of spectators, Yve, Ray, Les and AKJ with the Religion (an England flag with 'Leeds the religion' written on it) and it's such a pick up when you hear voices and shouts of those who you know, and you know they're really there for you. Passing Pauly P, Ozzer and the speedy Eekster made me smile because EK had the race programme out and was shouting stats at me as I passed on the first lap. 5th girl in my age group, I was doing well. I did fade though and I didn't really feel completely on it. I was looking forward to getting off the bike. In hindsight I think I didn't quite take on board enough fuel. 5hrs 41 mins on the bike.

The run.

Flying into T2 a helper was there holding my bike to run bag for me and I ran into the tent emptied it out, got my trainers on, dashed into the loo for what felt like the longest wee in the whole world then onto the carpet and with only 26.2 miles to go I was going to be an Ironman. I passed Yve, Les and Ray on one side and then Paul, Ozzer & Ek on the other, Sam was lying on the floor with his camera taking arty pictures and I felt elated knowing I'd survived the swim and the bike and now here was something I knew... the run was my world. What I hadn't bargained for about 800 metres down the road were the incredible stitches that I had. I couldn't breathe properly and I was really worried that I was going to have to walk the whole marathon, a truly daunting thought. I stopped (something that really surprised me even when I did it.) I stretched thinking that over 5 and a half hours crunched over on a bike was bound to be the cause. I ran a little and stopped again. I ran (shuffled) the first 5km not enjoying it in the slightest and then all of a sudden I came into my own, my stitches subsided and I felt great. I was able to take on a bit of banana and water at every feed station and I grabbed cubes of ice to crunch on the way and sponges to soak my head and clean my face. Now I was ticking along nicely. Like a little metronome I just tick, tick, ticked the rest of lap 1, lap 2 and the beginning of lap 3 and then the bad man came and gave me my stitches back and stole my running mojo, replacing it with lead weights for my legs and the devil sitting on my shoulder. One foot in front of the other, don't stop, no matter how hard it is, the pain will end, the finish line will come, just keep moving forward... like a mantra for the last lap and a half. I'd wanted to run just under 4hrs but my time slipped in that last 10km a result no doubt of it not quite being my day and not enough energy taken in. 4.09 for the run. These are all things I'll take forward to the next one. As I crossed the bridge taking me closer to the end for that last lap I prayed that Tom had had a fantastic race and I couldn't wait to see him in the athlete's garden at the end. Running onto the carpet as you start the finishers shoot is just the best feeling in the world. I had done it, I'd finished and my bottom lip was going (mainly exhaustion but also pride) I'd broken 11hrs - 10hrs 53mins and everyone who'd come to support us had fought their way into the finishing chute to see. The finishing medal was hung around my neck no sooner than my toe was in the water. I'd blinked and the day was done and the results of what kind of Ironman shape I was in for Germany 2008 were there in black and white. 10hrs 53mins. A time I'm extremely proud of.

The end.

Three hours in the medical tent, a drip, five cups of liquid and a whole load of vomiting and you still couldn't stop me from being happy with how I'd done. I knew I was as far from Hawaii as I was the moon but I did myself proud because the day was a battle and a battle that I won. On the right day and with more knowledge (having now done 2 Ironman races) I know I can improve on that time, but that's for another day. July 6th 2008 shows how good I was on that day. What I learnt from that day shows how much and where I can improve. I'm more than happy with that.

I've always said that as long as I do my best then I'll be happy. If my best takes me to Hawaii one day then that's fantastic and that's a great goal for me to aim for. If I never make it but I always give my all then I'm still a winner. Germany took me to places in myself that I'd never been to before and I'm really proud of how I raced. I wasn't even close to qualifying for Hawaii, the standard in my age group was very, very high but you have to be in it to win it and I put myself in there, now I know exactly where I am and where I'd have to be if I wanted to make it. At the moment I'm not good enough but there's still room for improvement, so who knows?!

Lanzarote on May 23rd 2009 followed by Switzerland on July 12th 2009 should sort the men from the boys and then I think it's time to think about a family and new adventures.

Congratulations to Ady, Ironman Pauly P (who did his first Ironman in Austria) you were both fantastic, to Jevon, our good friend who we met through the triathlon community, you trained like a star and you raced like one a huge well done for your amazing pb and time of 10.42 in Austria. And to Ben G who raced in Switzerland in what sounds like hideous conditions.

You're all brilliant.

To quote Buzz Lightyear..."To infinity and beyond..."

H. x


Anonymous said...

Great race and report. It's all about Lanza now you two.

Why did you let Andy sign up for Ironman? That means I have to do Tough Guy now. I made a silly bet while watching you kids - watching IM can make you say silly things. I never dreamed he'd sign up - b*stard!


Jevon said...

H. Great race and a great year behind it. Am looking forward to sharing the journey over the next year and, in particular, to at least another legendary training day :-).
Well done.

H said...


I'm laughing out loud, in fact I may giggle all day to myself and don't know what I'm looking forward to the most, watching AKJ do Austria or watching you & Sam do Winter Tough Guy, roll on 2009 it's gonna be massive!!!!

Really looking forward to another season as we pluck our way through another Ironman path, what will it bring???