Ironman European Championship 2008

0400 Shawn’s alarm went off.  I looked at my watch and it said 0300 so told Shawn to go back to sleep, as I drifted off.  Earlier that night he was not going to set his alarm because I had set mine, luckily he had changed his mind.  It really was 0400, Shawn shot out of bed, I had not bothered to put my watch forward the day before!  Phew!

Breakfast consisted of Sugar Puffs and Muesli, 2 jam croissants, orange juice and coffee.  I then had a bottle of energy drink and a banana.  Back to the room to sort out last few items.  Drinks, P20 sun lotion, lube for chaffing (No help from Shawn) and swim bag and timing chip on leg.  Just about to leave the Hotel (Yep we were out the room all set to head towards the bus). “Shawn, have you got your chip I can’t see it on your leg?”  “Yep I think it’s in my bag I will check” said Shawn.  We ended up going back in the room to find his chip beside his bed.

We then had a short walk in the rain to the shuttle bus pick up.  I quickly grabbed a seat whilst poor Shawn had to stand.  We then had a 20 min drive to the Start area of Ironman Germany 2008. People were chatting and excited on the bus, I was sitting quietly thinking about the day ahead.  At 0520 we arrived and got off the bus. The weather was still wet but it was getting light as I looked out over the transitions area at 2400 bikes all covered in red plastic. What a sight, we were now there almost ready to go.  We checked on Shawn’s bike first where he just sort of stared at it in a bit of a daze not sure what to do first.  “Drinks and tyres” I said and wandered off to find my bike.  Right time to concentrate, drinks on bike, Nunn tablet in water or was that two Nunn tablets?  I borrowed a pump and checked my tyres.  Well that’s it.  Too early to lay out shoes, hat etc.  Maniacally checked things many, many times.  Ok, enough now, decided to do a bit of filming to calm my nerves. We met up to walk the transition from the swim and to learn the position of our bikes.  It was still only 0600 so we sat down and chilled out whilst everyone else was rushing around.

0625 into wetsuits, handed in white bag for end of race and took a slow walk to the hill above the start.  The Pros start was at 0645, we were off at 0700.  I sat on the hill trying to relax and not talk – most other people were standing chatting – 10min to go and we walked to the waters edge and I wished Shawn luck. He entered the water I waited a few more minutes. 8 minutes to go and nervously I entered the water.  A short swim to get to the front and centre and I felt fine, nervous, excited and ready to go.  I positioned myself dead centre on third row – thought I might as well make it exciting!  Helicopter overhead and the seconds were counting down, a large cheer, and then the gun went off.

Swim went well, a few kicks and nudges then a bit of clear water then trying to find faster feet to follow.  HR was 153, goggles good, HR perhaps a bit high so I slowed a little and relaxed into the swim.  The swim was in two halves with a 30 meter run between, it was quite nice after 33mins swimming to have a jog and see the crowds before plunging in for a slightly shorter swim loop.  I really enjoyed the swim not really pushing it but following feet.  As I came out of the water at the end of the swim and saw the clock 1hr 0min and 50odd seconds I was very pleased.  Transition was fun, long run up the hill, all carpeted with huge crowds, top half of wetsuit off (mainly for the crowd) as I ran out the water then up the hill. Wetsuit completely off at top, run into transition and straight to bike.  Hat, glasses, top, socks and bike shoes, grab bike and GO!

The first part of the bike course was a 12km stretch into town where the first of two laps began. On the bike I was aiming for 5:30, saving enough for a good run.  The bike was great.  My only worry was mechanical problems, punctures or crashes etc. The crowds were large and vocal and I was high-fiveing kids who had large red blow-up hands.  The atmosphere and support through all the towns was phenomenal! I was averaging 21mph, feeding gels or bar every 30min taking small sips of energy and drinking water with Nunn.  I was really enjoying this and I shouted at the drafters as I zipped past them.  Then a large group (15 riders) were in front and I was catching them, a draft buster had just stopped someone from the group and was still keeping an eye on them. I caught the group and keeping well clear of any wheels started to overtake them all.  As I got to level with the front two the draft buster on his motorbike overtook me and was trying to stop the whole group.  I shouted at him and slowed a bit, tried to explain that I had nothing to do with it, all other riders had then stopped, I put my head down and peddled away keeping my fingers crossed that I would not get DQ’d later.  Towards the end I was getting fed up with the gels and bars but managed to keep the intake up.  The last 10km I was spinning more easing up ready for the little jog that awaited me.

Heading towards the run transition the crowds were out in force.  I jumped off my bike giving it to a helper and ran to bag collection.  I was handed my bag my transition plan going through my head.  In to transition tent, empty bag on to floor, out fell trainers, hat etc BUT NOT MINE!.  Great!  Luckily there were helpers, I shouted that the stuff was not mine, my number was 1332 and the bag I was given was 1323.  The helpers rushed off while I sat and waited.  Finally got the right bag sorted myself out and set off for my marathon.  400 meters later and I was feeling bad, how the hell was I to run a marathon if I was feeling this bad?  I really wanted to stop and try and blame my DNF on an injury or something.  I took a gel with caffeine instead and slowly started to feel better.  The run is a four lap affair of 10.5km per lap.  My race target time was 10:30 so all I needed was a four hour marathon, I thought I should manage that.  I reset my watch, relaxed and I was off.  I started passing runners and I was feeling good again, sipping water at each aid station and taking my gel every 30min.  First lap in 50min HR 147 and feeling good.  If I could keep this up I could be on for a 3:30 marathon.  This would be my best marathon prediction time.  Wow that would make my time just sub 10:00.  I set off on the second lap feeling excited.  I still ran each aid station but slowed just a little.  During my last Ironman I died on the second lap.  This time I finished the second lap in 55mins and still felt good.  It was at this time I was aware that friends and family back home would be looking at the live feed and knowing where I was and how well I was doing. I knew some (well, 1 at least) would work out that 10hrs was possible.  So I worked out that if I could keep the 55min pace up for the next two laps I might just get 10hr.  Third lap started, just keep the same pace, feeling a little sick now, the gels were getting harder to stomach.  Quarter of the round and I really need to stop, I walked the next aid station, I tried some salt, an orange, a sip of coke and started running again.  Each aid station now became a walk.  I then remembered what an Ironman is all about and why last time I solemnly vowed never, ever to do another one!  I dropped my HR to 135-140 my pace slowed and legs felt as though they may cramp.  Each time I slowed to a walk for the aid stations and picked up again to run I had to do it slowly to avoid my legs from cramping.  Lap 1Hr1min.  Last lap – thank god –  I could now almost walk it and get under 11hr.  At this stage I was not sure of my overall time because I had reset my watch 5mins into the run. I was now aiming for a 4hr marathon which I knew should get me a 10:30.  Time to put it all out there (mistake).  I started the last lap well, only 10.5km to go so it couldn’t be that hard.  I would try and pick it up a bit.  I ran through the first-aid station pace quite good but by the second my body was screaming at me to stop.  I wanted to keep walking past the aid station, I was feeling sick and had dark edges around my vision.  I started jogging HR at 135.  Only a few km to go.  I walked the little uphill bridge only 1.5km from the end.  Walked the aid station 500m from the finish.  I knew I had done it, not sure of my time and not really caring at this stage.  500m of red carpet, massive crowd, music and cheering.  Now I was loving it. I turned the last corner and saw the big clock – 10:17 – wow, I shouted to the crowd, they cheered even louder, I jogged down the finish shoot arms outstretched and under the finish.  10:18:54.

I stumbled a little, was given a medal and taken to the rest area.  I was given a nice wet cold towel which was placed over my head.  I was asked what I wanted but my brain couldn’t formulate words so I sat down on a bench, a girl gave me some water and I was alone.  I sat down head between my legs towel over my head and cried like a girl. 15 minutes later I was still feeling very bad, I tried to stand but all I could do was stumble about.  I lay down and that made me feel worse, I sat up dry heaved and wanted my Mum.  I was expecting to recover and feel better, I knew I need food and drink but I could not manage to go and get any, or keep it down.  Luckily a doctor was then passing and saw me and called over a stretcher team and I was whisked away to the medical tent.  My blood pressure was very low, finger tips were numb and tingly, I felt really sick.  40 minutes and two bags of intravenous saline later and I was feeling much better and ready to find how Shawn was getting on. I was worried about him.

After ringing home to see if Shawn had finished I rushed to the finish shoot (Well hobbled) and started filming.  I rang home again and was told he had finished about 20min ago.  I hobbled back to the rest area to our meeting point.  I waited 30secs before I saw Shawn looking around.  Manly hugs were in order and excited debriefs. We set off arm in arm hobbling along happy as pigs in sh*t.  It was time to party.

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