Well, that was ok.
It seems such a long time out there but then it’s over in a flash. This is my third Ironman ever and it did go by quicker than the others, which is great as doing one is becoming less of a big deal.
It was the first Ironman I’ve actually prepared for and ‘raced’. No doubt I can go harder breathing-wise, but my legs need to catch up first! I had a real race on my hands with Ele in the final part of the run, which I loved in a way as it meant I dug in in places I didn’t want to, and found out I could run a quick last 5km with no last-minute fuel or working legs. I was also ready for a sprint finish! My mind was positive in the latter stages when the flow had long gone, and I was mentally sharp and up for it, which bodes well for the future. At stages in my life when 3rd has been slipping away I have consoled myself with “well 4th pro will be ok too, after all they are very good”. I tried that tactic out there and straightaway my other brain (for I have many) said “4th will NOT do whatsoever”, so that’s a nice change.
I loved feeling great for 12 miles of the run. I was bounding along like a newborn lamb in a meadow, and think I took around 40 mins for first 10km, but it felt fluid and easy so I wasn’t going to slow down, you know, just in case that was the right pace! I have no problem that I slowed down: that was inevitable and nothing to do with energy levels, just muscle destruction and unconditioning. I have been really struggling with a neural impingement which has meant my calves lock up after a mile or so of running, stemming from my back. It meant a stop/start affair in New Orleans and Texas back in April, and I couldn’t run at all at Stafford 70.3. Training for the past month has been either stop-start long shuffles of 5 min plus km’s (with 1-2 tempo sets allowed once it released after an hour or so), or very short interval work, giving the legs time to depressurise between sets. And some x-trainer running. All closely monitored by Alex Drummond from the Drummond Clinic. He and his wife Gill along with our new triathlon project Charlie (she’s 16 and already knows she wants to be an Ironman – watch out World), came up to help out and what a difference it made on the day. We also did a 12 minute group jog the day before the race and I had no pain! Crazy to think that one day I was delighted with 12 minutes pain-free, and the next I would be galloping along a marathon at a pace I’ve barely touched all year. Often though, you can just sense when your injury isn’t there any more.
We believe we have got to the bottom of the problem too so hopefully I can run free from now on. Sub 3 off the bike is certainly my number 1 goal in the future, or at least, what I want to do the most! (The bike should probably be priority, but we’ll get to that).
Swimming has come on leaps and bounds since Dubai in Feb when I couldn’t find the way and lost 7 minutes over 1.9km. What a loser! It’s improving despite doing less and less of it. I am spending most my time in open water through the summer so it’s very specific and lots of front crawl. Sometimes in the winter club swims we do kick sets and drills and whilst it does no harm, I need to be practicing sighting, drafting and swimming in my wetsuit/speedsuit – it’s different ballgame completely. I’ll never be a lead swimmer but I was 3rd out the water and will be happy to maintain that whilst I work on improving my bike and building back my run.
The bike: I wouldn’t say I’m a total weakling, but the girls are now super strong (both Ele and Lucy have gone sub 4 hours for 100 miles and are on the UK “top 10 ever” list just for cycling). This side of the sport has definitely moved on from back when I were a lass racing in 2007 (I still am a lass, btw). The problem is with cycling, I just don’t quite get it deep down. Lumbering around some manmade metalliferous contraption for hours on end. Whoever thought of racing a bicycle? Why only two wheels? What if a squirrel jumps out of the hedge? I don’t mind it, but it’s not something I plan to do much of when I retire. I tried to do fake smiles on the bike to make me feel happy but they didn’t work and I just looked like a weirdo.
Work to do on the bike, both physical and mental.
And with bicycles comes mechanical issues. I was absolutely rigorous with pre-race servicing and checking and re-checking that everything was tickedty-boo, but it’s always a gamble. A dropped chain that got caught up and wedged between the thingy and the bitty, and suddenly my race was looking like it may be over, just like that. When I gave the final mighty tug and it came free, I did a quick hallelujah and tried not to harbour my stroppy feelings. I had lost significant minutes – it could have only been 4 – it may have been 10: it felt forever! But at least I was still in the running for a payday. I wasn’t ready to stop and I wanted to try out my running.
Coming off the bike I had about 10 minutes to make up on Ele, and quickly got that down to around 3 minutes by banging out a few 3.55-4 minute kilometres. Why couldn’t I run like that in my Half Ironmans this year?! It’s so odd sometimes.
The gaps kept coming down, but at a slower rate, as I slowed and the more seasoned Ironman girls in front held. I went past 3rd with about 10km to go. I pulled away but a bit of a slow patch saw her come back to within 30 secs of me. I saw Alex for the final time with 7km to go. “You need to unleash your inner Tiger and you must do it now” he said. “Oh dear me” said I, “I don’t know if I have any Tiger left”. But I did!