It sounds good doesn’t it! What a weekend.
I can honestly say, hand on heart this was one of the most fun weekends I’ve had racing in a long time.
I entered on a whim a couple of weeks before and maybe that’s key. Not enough time to get worried about it. Just enough time to get really excited. I guess it kind of took a lot of the pressure away too – I knew I’d be able to swim and bike well, but I also knew I hadn’t done anywhere near as much running as I’d like to have done before an Ironman marathon.
So there was a big unknown as to how much of a sufferfest the run would be – which meant in my head the main concern was finishing, not whether I’d be first or fourth. So come race week I felt just like I did before my first Ironman. Nervous, excited and raring to go. Ready for a smashfest!
Ironman UK has always held a bit of a special place in my heart. It was my first ever Ironman when it was down in Sherborne in 2006. I did it on what I thought was a very swanky, red Specialized allez with brakes on the handlebars, no tri bars and no idea how to mend a puncture. And I ran the run in padded cycle shorts as I didn’t know there was a ‘no naked transition’ rule. Bad idea…. Despite some excruciating chaffage I loved it from start to finish, chatted virtually the whole way round, and dad has always said nothing will ever be as good as finishing that first one.
Never did it cross my mind that 7 years later I’d be winning Ironman UK – it’s funny how life turns out.
In many ways, my race last weekend wasn’t so dissimilar. I was just as emotional as I was before that first one walking down to the swim start. I was just as excited as we were lining up to jump in. I wasn’t too concerned about what anyone else was doing, or a finish time, was simply doing my own race. And I enjoyed the whole day just as much.
In a nutshell, I think I was just having a good day. My swim was very good for me – I suspect it was a minute or two short but regardless I was much nearer the pro men than I had expected to be and it felt very controlled and comfortable. I know I’ve worked hard on my swimming this year, so it was great to be able to prove to myself it has paid off at least a bit.
The bike was awesome. I felt fairly confident that I would be able to ride well – it’s a tough hilly course which suits me so I knew if my legs turned up I’d enjoy it. And riding my Vitus and Lightweight wheels fast is something I truly love. It’s the first time I’ve had a bike which seems to fit like a glove and on a good day it sometimes feels like it rides itself.
I’d thought I’d be riding round with some of the top age group men so was surprised to be completely on my own for the first lap, and then just riding past the slower riders on the second and third. Fortunately, I’d put my Garmin to lap every 10 miles and had set myself a somewhat arbitrary power cap to check I wasn’t going too hard at the start (watt watt watt watt watt). So for the first 50 miles I felt like I was holding back but I knew I was riding a pace I could sustain that wasn’t too fast or too slow. No need to be impatient. And then my Garmin died! So I rode the last 60 miles with no speed, no company, no distance markers, just myself. Thank heavens it was a lapped course so I had some idea as to how far in I was! I even started talking to myself to see how hard I was breathing. It felt easy, almost too easy, but equally I knew I was riding away from the other girls and not being caught by the age group men.
When was it going to hit me? When I got to T2 with an 18 minute lead the TV crew came and interviewed me and I think I said something along the lines of, “It’ll be a bit embarrassing if I’ve ridden too hard to run!”
So onto the run and I still felt good. OK. Make hay while the sun shines, tick tock tick tock. This was the bit I was worried about as I just hadn’t done the run volume and bricks I’d usually do before an Ironman. You do 10km into town and then start 3.5 10km laps around the town centre.
As I came onto the laps I met Stephen Bayliss who was on his second lap – of course I was only on my first.
Me: “What number are you?”
Me: “Wow, keep going Stephen. Bella’s second too”.
And then I kept running with him. Mmmm, I’m running with the second man. This isn’t right!
Me: “I think maybe I should slow down, I’ve got no idea what speed I’m running”.
We dropped the pace a little bit for a couple of minutes or so, and then I actually ended up running away from him. Again, early days in my run – he was much later in. All I could think was ‘when on earth is it going to hit me?’.
Anyhow all in all I had a decent run. It was MUCH hillier than I had thought and I had a tough 10km from miles 14-20 with a horrible stitch and a portaloo stop but other than that I was running well and comfortably. I’m not sure running slower would have made it any easier – I was in a rhythm and just stuck to it. The slower you go the longer it takes and all that…..
Anyway, all in all it was a fantastic weekend away. The support in Bolton, both from spectators and other competitors, on both the bike and the run was absolutely brilliant, despite the rain. I enjoyed getting to know the Ironman UK crew and always LOVE the Kayeman’s MC efforts.
And I can now say I’m Ironman UK champion – woop!
Thanks, as always, to my sponsors. Each and every one of them has texted or emailed me to say well done which means a huge amount. And big thanks to everyone who called out my name on Sunday – I heard you all and that’s a big part of what makes racing fun for me!
Congrats to Jo, Amy and Bella who finished 2nd to 4th, especially Bella for toughing it out and finishing on a tough day for her. Respect.
Time for me to get ready for the next one – Ironman Wales in 5 weeks!