UK Ironman 70.3 – 2013 by Martin Silvester

After 16 weeks of training effort, eventually race weekend arrives, excitement builds, perhaps a few nerves as its been such a focus and the before you know it it’s all over. However, on this particular occasion it did not rush by. The weekend or the race. Especially the race.

Wimbleball is a 3 hour drive from my house, but add in the top speed of my VW camper and its 4.5hrs. And it’s knackering to drive the van, so I set off on Friday morning to the campsite. My biggest concern was how would my electrical items hold up without a charging point (no electrical hook ups in the van) Kindle, iPad, iPod, portable speakers, phone. The list was extensive. So much so I adopted a rotation policy to avoid draining all batteries. This was probably my most successful achievement all weekend – returning with some power.

I arrived Friday evening, parked up, set off to register and then rushed down to the practice swim. We had been warned the lake was cold. It was. Very. Add in the chop from the force ten blowing across the lake and it didn’t go too well. Psychologically I decided I’d need to do two laps, just so I could confirm my first impression that it was unpleasant. I was right. It was.

I had planned to do a bike shake down ride on Saturday, but as it decided to continue blowing a gale and added pissing rain to that, I spent the day in the van faffing with race kit (including packing, Un packing and packing again) all the kit I had. The weather was forecast to be bad. I racked my bike late on then went on to the race briefing. Lots of people looked a bit shit scared basically, whilst there was also a fair bit of the nonchalant expression of just a day out. I adopted the wonder if it will rain expression.

Also killed a lot of time by reading Wisdens Cricket Almanac and continuing the rotation policy on the electrical entertainment. I also had no phone signal and one place for wifi which was patchy. Ten blokes standing in a car park waving a phone or ipad around to get some data was a joy to watch.

Race Day

And so race day dawned at 5am. It was dry and the wind had died down. Thank you! Usual breakfast of porridge followed by a strong coffee and then perhaps the most important “pre race dump” nothing quite breaks the tension of race day than a good shit.

I faffed about with my bike a bit – connected the Garmin, disconnected it and connected it again, set my power meter up and then got changed to head down to the swim. I had an interesting chat with a random stranger about how they should have put matting down on a gravel path as running across it may hurt our feet. I also made a mental note of a tree stump that I would most likely stub my toe on. Funny to worry about such things.

The swim passed without significant incident. It was extremely cold and I was surprised standing on the bank that the buoys seemed a very very long way away.

Exiting the swim, you have a grassy up hill run to transition. This was my first attempt at any running for over three weeks. So far so good. It felt sore but acceptable. I put socks on in transition and a gilet. That was the sum total of my warm weather gear. But at this stage no rain.

The bike course at wimbleball is legendary. And I soon found out for good reason. It climbs from the off and keeps rolling for the whole lap. There is little opportunity to settle into any rhythm, so the advantage of a power meter is significant. I felt good and as a wave had gone off before us, I passed a lot of people. I found it necessary to remind one of the relay boys (wearing football shorts and socks) that drafting is not aloud. Riding an inch away is defiantly drafting. The rain came at the mid point of lap 1. Light rain at first.

Light rain soon became heavy, then torrential. Conditions were very bad, add in steep descents on carbon wheels and its a nightmare. The cold really started to hit me and my knees started to feel it. The low point was taking a bottle and not being able to squeeze it into my speedfill because my hands wouldn’t work. This was turning into a tough day out.

I’d had a target of about 3.05 on the bike. This passed with a few km left to go. I entered transition after 3.15. I also noticed I felt wrecked. Cold, tired wet through.

I spent a bit longer in transition, mainly trying to get wet socks off and dry ones on. A volunteer helped me. Nice touch. I ca,e out not really knowing if my foot would hold up to the run. This would be the hardest bit of the race.

And so it turned out to be. I had nothing left for the run and my foot was sore from the outset. Add in the mud, wet grass and hills (it’s hilly – not rolling, hilly) and it was a pretty dismal ordeal. I adopted a run/walk strategy early on.

Running the hills added too much pressure on my sore foot. All I could do was reset my goal to needing to finish. Position didn’t matter. Strangely, once I accepted this, it became easier. My finish time would be just that – no target, just get through.

And so I did. I finished in 6.18. A full hour over my last 70.3, an indication of how much harder Wimbleball is. It deserves its reputation. Crossing the line I remembered the advice of “for Christ sake smile will you” so I also adopted the triumphant arms aloft pose.

And that was it. Ticked off the list. UK 70.3 done and in what was my best time all things considered. Slower than I wanted to do, but actually that didn’t matter. I had the finishers medal.