After 12 weeks of training, thousands spent on getting to the beautiful zell am see, buying new bikes and kit and endless hours wasted planning, the day finally dawned. And it looked like rain. Typical.
During the night, I had fitful sleep, (expected) analysing all possible “could go wrong moments”. That and listening to “biblical” rain falling outside. Still, positive thinking, at least the predicted storm would be over before we got racing.
So, after a nice easy start and a leisurely breakfast (and a massive tension relieving shite) we headed off down to the start. A twenty minute walk in flip flops is in no preparation manual, but it certainly was a bonus as we arrived at a rather wet football field and paddled about. No obvious signs of tampering with my bags or bike (middle of the night stress thought) and I went into the changing tent of transition 1 to don my wetsuit.
With the stench of lubrication and neoprene in the air, I got dressed with a bunch of other men. @captain__slow talked me through his various planned changes – it was like hearing Liberace prepping for a night in Vegas. I’d gone for the Tri suit and that’s it for the day.
We headed down to the swim start and the PA system was in full swing. Booming, with an English speaking commentator. We found a few more Brits at the start, all looked as odd as us. The countdown began around 9.45, with 15 mins to go, (accompanying euro pop pounding out). This continued until 9.59, when it was announced that the gun would go off in one minute (wave 1, we were off twenty minutes later). The excitement built. 10, 9, 8……..4,3,2,1……”pop”. The most pathetic bang of a gun I’ve ever heard.
It was now time to go through and get into the water. Zell am see lake stretched out before me. I entered the water, pissed in my wetsuit (tradition, more on pissing later) and felt quite comfortable at the amount of space I had around me. Until I looked right. 300 people stood next to me. I had the shortest direct line to the first turn buoy. Shit. That’s a lot of people to come across at the turn.
After a glance across at a nervous @captain__slow, I focused. This was it. The countdown. Hoping they had fixed the gun. POP. Nope, still a kids toy setting us off.
The first part of the swim was ok, the beautiful clear water was a pleasure to swim in. Even an early mouthful didn’t bother me – it tasted like water, not the metallic brown sludge I’m more familiar with in the UK. I settled in to a reasonable pace, but then backed more and more aware of how many people were starting to be around me. It just got busier and busier until it was a full on battle. This lasted at least until the first turn. Not experienced that before, but then I guess not been in a 400 wave open water swim.
I came out of the swim in 35mins, not blistering pace, but happy enough. Despite my expression
T1 was uneventful – something new for me. I found my bags, got changed, found my bike. Ran out. All good. I decided the weather looked ok, so left my arm warmers and gilet behind………
I settled into the bike leg well, bike being my favourite thing I was really looking forward to the next 2.5hrs. I knew I’d pass lots of people, and that’s motivational. Half an hour in, my family were cheering my on by the roadside. It was going well, I felt great as I passed them, I waved and then settled back down on the Tri bars. All good.
Thirty seconds later the rain came. And it really gave it some. For the rest of the day, it pissed it down alpine style. I’d opted not to take out pressure in my tubs (I run 140 psi) and I had on my carbon discs, complete with cheap carbon brake pads. Yep – they don’t work in the wet. At all. The next two hours were bum clenching on every corner, and there seemed to be more and more. Hard to tell if it effected my time – I went into every corner a bit to fast, but equally lost time congratulating myself that I hadn’t fallen off.
A side note now on nutrition strategy. I had planned this meticulously. I had enough food taped to my bike to keep me going precisely to the 60g of carbs an hour. I stuck to it. I also stuck rigidly to the hydration regime. I was not going to bonk on this event. However, I neglected to adjust hydration to factor in cold and very wet conditions and not sweating. Two pisses on the bike (forced to do this on the flat as hit terminal velocity descending and hadn’t got enough brakes to control it) and then wait for it ……. Four horse size pisses on the run. That cost me 3minutes according to my Garmin.
Rather strangely @captain_slow and I rode into transition 2 together. He had passed me in a feed station (collecting yet more fluid) but I caught him up again. He’d done a good bike as I knew I had swum faster and he’d had his first outfit change in T1.
A rather nice chap helped me get my run kit on, mainly because my hands wouldn’t work after 2 hrs in the cold pissing rain. Getting a helmet into a plastic bag seemed insurmountable.
I left T2 with @captain__slow doing his Mr Ben routine in the private tent, flashing his know at a 16 yr old girl.
The run was always going to be grim. I hadn’t done enough with my Achilles troubles. I had broken it down into four 5km runs, with a bit more. 5km went to plan. Apart from piss number one. 5km two went to plan, pace as planned, apart from piss number two. 5km three the wheels came off a bit, piss three was accompanied by “oh dear I think I may shat myself”. 5km four was bad. Piss four plus hold down a chunder at the tree. 70.3 shuffle time. And that was it, four 5km runs. Oh, and the last 1km. Dismal. Dismal dismal shuffle. I had seen my family at the dead corner in town twice. I hope my son didn’t say why is daddy running so slowly.
And that was almost it. Finally I hit the finishing chute. I’d long given up worrying about my time, I wanted to enjoy the chute. @irontwiglet had said to me people often sprint to the line due to a feeling of euphoria. I didn’t sprint, but I ran down with a big smile on my face, the crowd noise was immense.
I crossed the line in 5hrs 12minutes. Well happy with that as I’d had 5.30 as a target time. Naturally I thought ‘hmm, could have gone under 5hrs if I’d pushed the bike or ran a 1.45 half, but in reality, it was my best time. And I certainly didn’t feel as wrecked as after the Marathon – did I hold back or not go as hard, or just prepare better.
A final note on Ironman as an organisation. They get a lot of stick for dominating the sport, but the level of organisation was amazing. I felt like I was treated so well, the helpers were all brilliant consider the rain they had to stand in all day. Well worth the money.
After the marathon I said never again. That lasted a few weeks until I came around to the idea again. After this – I was on the website that evening looking at next years 70.3 adventure. Majorca here I come!!!!