Friday, 17 July 2009

IMCH race report... and the next step...

Ironman Switzerland 2009 according to Helen (Turton) Williams...

It's a long 'un....

As I registered for my last* ever Ironman event on the Wednesday prior to race day I was reminded once again of just how fast time goes. A whole year has passed in which I had entered Lanzarote & Switzerland as a Turton, completely forgetting that for both races we would be married & I am in fact now a Williams. Lanzarote officials changed my name for it's race but in Switzerland I was to race my last Ironman as a Turton. I started this triathlon journey as a Turton and my OCD likes to see me end it as a Turton. As I write this blog, for the first time in 5 years I have no Ironman events entered (it's a little odd) but I start my new chapter of life proudly bearing the Williams name and I look forward to entering it into a variety of shorter distanced races.

*Last as in the last in the next few years. There is a possiblity that the Three Musketeers, Tom, Myself and Sam the Triple Ironman may return to Lanza for one more blast when we're 50!

Race day morning...

With the alarm set for the un-godly hour of 3.45am I was surprised to find that when the alarm went off I had indeed slept incredibly well. The hardest thing to do on race day (apart from the 3rd lap in the marathon) is to actually force breakfast down. Firstly, it's silly o'clock. Waking yourself up to put yet more food into your well rested and tapered system is hard, especially when the nerves are kicking in and you realise the feat that lies ahead. Trying to avoid having too much fibre I managed a bowl of Crunchy nut Cornflakes and a white bread roll with jam.

It's actually the day before that gives me the jitters more than the actual day. On the day all you can do is well, race. The day before you can panic, worry, wonder, wait, wait and wait a bit's the worst day of all.

So arriving at transition at 5.15am I had loads of time for a calm prep. In Switzerland the transistions are all like normal races. No swim to bike, bike to run bags to deal with, just plain old kit by your bike. With 2000 people entered, transistion is a big old place. With so many people you would think it to be a noisy place but actually the atmosphere and sounds of Ironman race day are amazing. Not the sounds of voices but the buzz of anticipation, anxiety and excitement fills the air as the sun slowly starts to rise it's head. The most obvious noise is that of rustling bags and the pushing of air being forced into thin black race wheels, followed by the psst of the pump being removed. I can hear them now, that sound for me is race day morning. Loved ones gather staring through the wire fences watching like we're animals in the zoo. But isn't that what we are for that moment in time? You go to see animals in the zoo because they're special, different and as all 2000 people tinker and touch their race machines that's exactly what the spectator has come to see.

The swim... 3.8km

Always a place of anxiety for me because my last few IM's have been brutal and have affected my times a little. Switzerland was changed to a deep water start which is just the worst but wading in with Tom (who consequently NEVER gets touched) I knew my nerves were on the wane. No point worrying now, you can't get any closer than in the thick of it as you are a minute before the starting horn goes! As black neoprened clad arms and legs begin the swim out to the start line I know I'm in for a rough one. One last glance between Tom & I as we know the next time we see each other will probably not be until the run. The hooter goes and the chaos begins. Arms, legs, toes up your nose, fists on your head, hands pulling you under, pulling you over. Breathe to the left side, people...bloody loads of them all wanting the same bit of water I've got. Breathe to the right no different. For the first ten mins or so I'm in survival mode, fight, fight, fight and don't forget to breathe. Don't give an inch. Someone's bloody big toe has kicked my goggles off. Trying to empty and re-adjust them is scary as I see the thunder of the hundreds of arms and legs behind me all thrashing towards me. I swim hard until I discover a moment of calm I've found a bit of clear water & I get into some sort of rhythm until I get to one of the main buoys and it's like trying to fight through a packed nightclub to get to the bar, no-one wants to give their place up but they do want to kill you if you pass them!
A two lap course with an Aussie exit meant I had our amazing friends & supporters to look forward to seeing & look out for as I clambered out of the lake over the island. The KJ's are easy to spot, firstly they shout the loudest and secondly they stake their claim on land with the St Georges flag daubed with LEEDS THE RELIGION, bloody marvellous! Off I leap into the crocodile soup for the second lap and things are a little more strung out thankfully, although I still get my goggles knocked off again as I approach another buoy. Just pleased to be out of the lake alive and with my features still arranged in the same order I was born with I run into T1.
1:03 on the clock.


A little slower than I'd hoped. Hold a stick in front of you, stare at the top of it as you spin around a few times then try putting socks onto soaking wet feet..that's what T1 is like. The spectators glued to the wire that surrounds the transistion zoo must have a laugh watching folk wobble around like new born deer. Helmet on, glasses on, nutrition in the back pocket, socks on (after a few wobbles) bike shoes on, bike in hand & off I run...
2 mins 37.

The bike... 180km

The course in Switzerland is pan flat for the first 30km as it sends you round the lake before turning left away from the lake and you disappear over a few hills (more drags really) then you're rewarded with some fantastic downhill sections and more flat as you come back along the lake before the last climb of the two loop course. Not the fastest IM course but certainly not the slowest. My cycling this year has come on in leaps and bounds and I know I'm capable of at least a 5:35 bike split. Not today however. My aim was to evenly ride 2:50 for each loop, turning it up for the second if I could. I hit the first lap in 2:51 (including two wee stops) and I was dead on target and feeling good. My biggest worry was never the bike, it was more about what has been happening to me in the latter stages of the run so I decided to change my nutrition strategy on the bike. I didn't eat anything for the first 40mins after coming out of the swim and then I only sipped on a little Nuun (salt replacement drink, no calories) for the next 20mins or so. Then I ate when I wanted it. Consequently and to no real surprise I struggled on the second half of the second lap being over taken for fun and wondering what on earth had happened to my legs?! I had a brief chat (mostly about the horrendous drafting we had witnessed) with Emma (our very own Leeds and Bradford Pirate) who was having a storming bike. Unable to keep her in sight she pedalled off into the distance with ease as I chomped on as much Powerbar as I could with no effect. After my last wee stop at the penultimate feed station on the bike I decided I was in need of something drastic. The only thing that could help me now was caffeine and sugar so I hit the coke. I've avoided all caffeine in previous races due to my temperamental stomach issues but I was down on time and energy, had nothing to lose and needed something to pick me up. I feared for myself on the run. Having no energy for the last section of the bike certainly made me wonder what on earth lay ahead of me.

T2...1 min 55

Running into T2 I saw Mark, Debs and the KJ's, as I ran past them with my bike they asked if I was okay (they knew I was down on time.) I shook my head and stuck my tongue out, I didn't know, I really didn't know... pockets emptied, trainers on, cap on, glasses on, tick tock out of T2.

The run...42.2km

Those first few steps after a long bike are odd. It's like someone's swapped your legs for a set of Willy Wonka's Umpa Lumpa's, they feel short, stumpy (thankfully not bright orange) but truly like they don't belong to you. Until I reached the first feed station I was deeply concerned that I was in for a few hours of pain. Having had coke at my last feed station on the bike I knew the wrong thing to do would be to avoid it or save it for later on the run. I tell you it's amazing. Coca-Cola is a wonder drink, rocket fuel, a miracle. A few minutes later and I felt amazing. Holding myself back and really enjoying the tick, tick, tick of my feet as I ran over the lavender garden and out onto the first lap. I had my planned wee stop & salt tablets after the first hour and maintained my even pace. The first two laps are always easy, the third lap is where the mind games begin and things can start going wrong. As I started my third lap I saw quite a few people around me walking. They were a lap ahead of me and walking. It's oh so easy for that to happen as much as you don't want it to. The marathon is really where the test of the day lies. Have you gone too hard on the bike? Have you gone too hard at the beginning of the run? In training it's all about the bike...on race day it becomes all about the last 10km of the run...can you run it?! I had a bad, bad spell of stitches at the turn around point on the Lake on lap three and hoped this wasn't the signs of my usual demise into puke and poodom. I still felt good though, my legs still wanted to run. I held onto it refusing to give in (thinking of how hard Jevon fought to keep one foot in front of the other when he felt awful) and the stitches went away. More coke, more water and still running. I turned for my last lap and was struck by them again. They forced me to stop dead but after a few seconds of stretching I was running again. I knew then that I was going to be fine. Yes the stitches were a little debilatating but they weren't stopping me from carrying on running. A few more stops to stretch them out and tick, tick, tick I was away. Tom & his pa were on the course, Tom proud of his 9:28 spurred me on for the last lap, I couldn't wait to celebrate his amazing time. Running towards the finish chute not feeling like death is just the best feeling in the world.

The end... 11:15.00,5

So that was it, that was my last IM. Even with the bike split I'd hoped for I wasn't in the running for Kona. Those girlies out there, they've upped their game and I ain't fast enough to play with them. But I've loved my journey, a journey I'd always planned to put to bed about now. I've achieved more than I truly ever thought possible. I've learnt to swim, I've learnt to ride a bike and I've learnt to run off a bike. I've also learnt an incredible amount about myself, some good, some bad. All of this through a triathlon journey, I'd be mad to give it up, so I don't plan to. But I do plan to concentrate on different things now, like my husband, my business and much shorter distances :) The people I've met, the friends I've made, the things I learn, that's living, that's life!

Huge thanks as always go to the Kendall-Jones clan for their incredible endless support and their two amazing daughters, Jessica & Eleanor. To the Family Ladd, Jo I can see it won't stop here ;) Flappy, on the day you gave your all and you can't ask for anymore :) Charlotte you should be incredibly proud of your ma & pa x
Triple Ironman Spaniel who we have journeyed with since day one of that fated surfing trip in Lanza Bonanza. We've come a long way together we three and long may we travel together still. x
To Deb & Andy Scott who have been through the toughest of times with the recent loss of Joel. You're both amazing and Andy I have a feeling your IM journey won't end here either!
Emma & Mike. Cheers for the shouts Mike and it was great seeing you on the course Emma :) well done on a fab race :)
And to Jevon, who gave me a word to take around with me on race day. I used it, I wore it out, & if it's okay with you I'll keep it...thank you x

Throughout the whole IM journey Tom & I have been very lucky to have the constant love of his family. Mum & Ray, ever present in person or in spirit, every time I ran over a chip mat I thought of you both huddled around the computer in Framlingham waiting for the times to come in, thank you forever.
To Brian, Tom's pa who has become embroiled in the triathlon world and done so with much gusto and love, thank you too, it was great to see you out there x
My Ma, Bob & Jonny who just think I'm a little bit nuts, I know you're proud. x
My husband who amazes me with his spirit, his talent and his love... every day. This... it's all because of you and you're crazy notion that 'we can do that'!!

And of course to everyone I know who takes their time to say good luck or offer me words of wisdom and care... I've taken all of those words and thoughts with me on this journey and I've used them, thank you, I really couldn't have done all of this without such great friends and family.

So it's the end but not the end. I'll still blog, the content may change but the person hasn't so as long as you're interested in the ramblings of a Geordie then I plan to keep this going and I haven't given up triathlon just Ironman, time for me to become Tom's Ironman coat holder, hey I don't mind how I get to Kona just as long as I get there ;)

The same goes for my picture a a day which you now have two weeks to catch up what are you waiting for...go on they're all here...enjoy...

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end"
Seneca (Roman Philosopher)


Rob Bane said...

Love, love, love your blog entry, even though I tracked you on line and knew the result I was urging you on as I read through the section. Awesome, awesome achievement.
So glad to hear the blog's continuing. Hopefully see you around.

Khara Mills said...

I've said it all already. Great blog H and an even greater race, HUGE congrats on an amazing Ironman journey and here's to the next chapter...
Khara xx

Russ said...

Congrats on a great race. A good way to close your Ironman career! (For now!)

See you at IMUK!


Debra said...

I just about held it together reading Tom's blog but dissolving about now, we are all so proud of you and will great to race with you in some shorter events, after all it is you and Tom who inspired us to enter the crazy world of triathlon and we are so very glad that we did so and so very sorry that we didn't sooner

Another fabulous performance in Switzerland and so glad to hear that at long last your stomach held out on the run - very well done all round

Anonymous said...

You're quicker than I'll ever be and have given the Ironman everything and stayed sane. I'd call that a result.

Ady Stott said...

Top bombing H. Looks like I might have to join you on the shorter stuff next season too. I'll fight you for the wheels!

Jevon said...

Great work H. What a journey it's been. You've been truly inspirational and I know you've found out so much about yourself. Well done and see you soon for a bike ride to Betty's or something equally scrumptious.

H said...

Thanks for your amazing positivity, you're all very much part of the journey and it's meandering path x
Long may it continue for us all x

Anonymous said...

WOW, Great post, don't mind admitting it was lump in the throat stuff! You are a true inspiration. Well Done.

H said...

Loving the journey Hoppy :) Thanks for your comments. x