All ironman events, whether that be a full IM or 70.3 have their highs and lows as you will know if you?ve watched any coverage of any event on the television or live and this for Mounts Bay Harriers would be no different.
Phil McNevin, Andrew Hickson, Helen Webb, Yvonne Watkins, Kyle Kearey, Mike Johns, Susie Taylor and myself had made it to the weekend of the race, an achievement in itself as poor Shay and Nige had fallen along the journey and had pulled out.
We drove up on the Friday to our accommodation, a small hotel in the middle of Wiveliscombe, about 9 miles from Wimbleball lake, there was no way I was camping this year! Andrew and I met at Exeter services so we could find the hotel together, whilst there we thought we call Phil to see if he was on the way ? yes he said ?I?m just going through Camelford? – CAMELFORD to get to Taunton! Don?t ask!?
We drove straight to Wimbleball Lake to register, the weather was atrocious, heavy rain and gusting winds, we were directed into the fields to park ?10!! You can imagine the state of the fields with 1500 cars driving on them – I know it was ?10 for 3 days and it goes to charity but that twice as much as last year (3 days is also about how long it will take me to clean my car after bringing most of the grass, mud and sheep shit away with me)
We checked in and received a page of stickers for bike, hat, pump, supporters, a red, blue and white bag, timing chip and strap, 70.3 IM holdall, race program and a placcy bike cover and swim hat (must be cutbacks as it was poor quality compared to previous years)
We had a quick look around the expo, with Tri UK obviously being the main dealer ? you could buy a new bike for the price of a small Carribean island, but you could pick up a few bargains, ?20 for a new IM trisuit, t shirts 3 for a tenner etc, I managed to find some toe covers for my bike shoes, we also bumped into Kayliegh Newstead from St Austell who was also supporting with her other half
The weather was still rough and the mud was deep! The bike cover was gonna be the most useful freebie!
Arriving at the hotel Helen and her partner Phil were already checked in, as were Yvonne, Karen and her son Nathan and Kyle, Holly and little baby Amber – Mike and Gill were staying at another B&B nearby and Susie Taylor and her other half Steve were in a youth Hostel ? best thing about our hotel was it was also the pub and a restaurant ? price wasn?t too bad ?225 for a double room, 3 nights including brekkie (so ?32.50 a night each)
That night I wasn?t feeling too smart and came down with some sort of bug, didn?t affect my appetite tho? as we all ate in the hotel, surf and turf went down well ? that night tho? I couldn?t remember having carrots with it, if you know what I mean
Saturday morning, an early start, we all met for breakfast, Kyle, Phil , Andrew and myself thought we?d take advantage of the chance to have a quick swim in the lake ? so off we went, meeting the others later on site to rack our bikes and sort out our kit to go into the coloured bags ? the weather was getting worse! Forecast was that it would clear on Sunday for the race ? but what if it didn?t?! What to pack in the bags? you weren?t allowed back to them after checking them in, so in went wet weather gear, spare socks etc – bike racked, bags checked in, ready to go? Um……….Swiss also now wasn?t feeling too smart! And I didn?t know which end to plonk on the toilet first!
That night, back at the hotel, we all ate in the restaurant again, pizza for me and an early night for everyone ? whilst we were there, a young guy turns up with an amazing bike! Electric gear changer etc the works, we all thought ?oh yeh, all the gear no idea, more money than sense etc! But a nice looked a nice enough chap, his girlfriend looked OK as well, a pretty fit couple ? he wheeled his bike back in a moment later, numbers attached ? no12! A pro! Um take it back the no idea perhaps- he spoke Spanish and we worked out he was called Mikel.
That night for me was the worst, fever, sick, stomach cramps, frequent sit downs on the loo, not a lot of sleep, so the alarm didn?t really need to sound at 4am as we had arranged to meet for breakfast at 4.15 ? top respect here to the hotel who had laid up a special room for athletes and supporters with a microwave, fruit, orange juice, cereal and a toaster ? we were joined by 3 other atheletes, no sign of Mr Pro tho?
I felt like death! But 3 immodium, 2 ibuprofen and 2 codrydromol and I wasn?t gonna forfit my entry fee much to the protest of my dearest wife Sue.
5.10am and we were there! The weather had improved! The wind had dropped, OK the sun wasn?t shining but it wasn?t raining, yet! Bike unwrapped, tyres inflated and checked, bottles filled, gels and food taped to bike, tri suit on, chip on, wetsuit on, ready to go! My great tri buddy Dave Pell had turned up to spectate and came over to wish me the best, I think I was so high he must have thought ?what the hell?!?!?? we bumped into the Trilogic crowd, Juliet, Viv and Phil also before we all congregated to be led down to the lake together ? Juliet looked like she was going swimming in the south pole, but being a s skinny as my own wife I know where she is coming from!
We all had a group hug, talked through where we would try and place ourselves for the swim and down we went to the lake ? Mike managed to get the commentator to shout out Mounts Bay Harriers for the world to hear!
7 o?clock, on the dot, 1600 swimmers started to swim! Kyle, being the swimmer he is, positioned himself at the front ? and at the end of the swim stamping his authority on the swim coming out in 12th place! Beating many of the pros!
The lake was cold, many people chose to wear 2 hats, as I have already said the quality of this years hat was poorer and therefore thinner, poor Susie Taylor suffered more than most and had to get rescued, severe hypothermia put pay to her race as cramps and confusion and therefore panic as the body starts to shut down and divert blood to the vital organs to sustain life!! Scary stuff! I?m pleased to say that after spending some considerable time in the medical tent she is recovering well and already preparing for her next challenge! Sue is a tough cookie as I?m sure you all know being a 2 time full Ironman finisher and age group winner ? take some time out Sue and come back stronger!
Our MBH support team were in fine voice, Mrs M, Phil, Helens other half, Gill, Mikes wife, Karen and Nathan, Nancy and Charlie, who had stayed in Taunton overnight just to come and support, driving up from their successes at Sticker, Holly and baby Amber, Steve and Nicky (Susie Taylors husband and daughter) the Pell family, Kayleigh Newstead and many others who know the MBH crowd ? Thank you all of you!
There is a cut off for the swim of 1 hour, I?m pleased to say the rest of all made it in time.
The 400m run up to bike transition is tough and it?s preferable to decide what to do when you get out of the water ? choice 1, wear wetsuit as it is and run to transition (wouldn?t recommend this one) choice 2, roll wetsuit down to hips and run topless to transition (the most preferred choice) or choice 3, strip wetsuit completely and run up with un hindered legs (the less tiring, but hardly used)
Anyone who does this event for the first time BEWARE, it?s daunting running into T2 dripping, cold and then trying to remember where your numbered hook is with your cycling kit in it ? there are 1600 other blue bags! Running into transition, after meticulously walking through it the day before, my hook was empty!!! Someone had moved my bag! I shouted NO BAG and this apologetic chap appeared holding my bag 381! He picked up the wrong one in error! No worries, what part of 381 didn?t he understand? Still could?ve been worse, I only lost about 20 seconds, seemed like 2 minutes, but about 20 seconds it was
Bag emptied onto floor, a nice chappy appeared and offered to strip my wetsuit and grabbed my wetsuit, tugging at the legs to free me ? what he did tho? was to drag my ass about 5 feet along the grass, whoa! Tri suit partially ingested I kindly said I?ll do it myself! Sifting through all the gear I opted for socks, calf guards, arm warmers, cycle shoes (not on bike as didn?t want to get socks wet) gloves, glasses (amber lenses) and yes, you guessed it, plonkers cycle helmet!
Out of the tent and onto bike ? 1600 bikes all in rows! I knew how to find mine as it was in line with the last portaloo, somewhere I knew very well!
Out the field, mount after the line and off we go ? here?s some advice ? if you can?t mount with shoes on bike DON?T DO IT! Select the correct gear to be able to pull away in on a narrow, slightly uphill start and…………….you don?t have to mount just after the line!!! Walk along a bit ? the number of plonkers who lost shoes, fell off, couldn?t get going as in too tough a gear so fell off! And just generally had no idea!
I felt for Phil Miles, North Devon Tri who appeared to puncture not 10 metres after the mount line! I soon dismissed this feeling as he came shooting passed me 10 miles later after fixing his flat!! Well Done Phil!
The first part of the course is just manic! Punctures, mechanical failures, bike bits e.g. tubes, tools, glasses, bike computers, bottles, pumps spread all over the road ? another piece of advice here ? do not expect a small piece of sticky tape to secure everything to your bike for 56 miles of wet cycling!
We discussed afterwards something else we all noticed ? the number of high spec bikes, now I mean 4 or 5 thousand pounds a piece, with riders who just have no idea and can?t really ride, and one other disappointing observation the number of fast moving groups of cyclists ? travelling together, where were the supposed 8 motor cyclist marshals who were watching for drafting? Oh I know!I heard they were all parked up in a layby near the top of Haddon Hill!
30 miles into the cycle and poor Yvonne Watkins knee finally gave up, she says something popped and that was it ? after so much work with massage, steroid and pain killing injections the dream wasn?t to be this year, but get it sorted and come back again next year ? I do know how you feel! At least you weren?t in Florida! If you know where I?m coming from! As long as you have learnt something from the experience you will come back stronger, trust me.
The Wimbleball cycle is tough, there is no getting away from the hills, in my opinion there are 3 really tough ones, so if you are thinking of doing this race ? practice hills and more importantly practice running after hills on the bike! Feed stations on the bike are every 10 miles or so, and a huge well done to the volunteers who man the stations, they have it down to a fine art ? they shout, water, Gatorade, gel, power bar, banana, and you grab what you want cause you know exactly what you?ve got
The final 2 miles back into the lake is a welcome site, a chance to stretch your calfs on the final fast down hill before climbing yet another hill back into transition, you dismount, run into the racking, your bike is grabbed and racked for you as you run into collect your red bag with your run kit in ? this time it was there!
A quick off with helmet, cycle shoes, arm warmers, gloves, and on with cap and trainers and off we go! They had to change the start of the run course due to so much mud, it didn?t make it any easier! 13.1 miles of tough hilly on road, on grass, off road, gravel, mud, coastal path type terrain ? thank god for me there was a portaloo at every feed station as the Imodium had worn off and the stomach cramps returned with vengeance ? I was running on empty, whether Imodium prevents the stomach absorbing anything I don?t know but I had nothing, even flat pepsi wasn?t doing it for me ? I didn?t take note as copious amounts of Gatorade, water and flat pepsi eventually decided to exit my body ? I did my best ever impression Linda Blairs character out of the exorcist!
My walk, run, puke, S*^T strategy wasn?t going well as I eventually crossed the finish line in 6.02, a painful half marathon that took over 2 hours! but thankfully I?d finished ? miles away from my intended sub 5.25 ? but I?d finished what felt like the hardest race I had ever done, harder than my full IM and any marathon I?d ever run ? I started to shake pretty badly and was directed towards the athletes tent to ?get some food inside me? I queued for a cup of tea and to my amazement there was no food left!! Uh WTF I had finished in 319th position out of 1600 athletes and they?d run out of food?!?!? I know triathletes eat well but I really can?t imagine the finishers before me had polished off enough food to feed 1600! ?200 um, I feel an e mail coming on!
We all waited for as many as we could to finish and cheer on all the MBHers back in ? an emotional Mike Johns was soon followed by a happy looking Swiss
we did our best to cheer up Yvonne but words can?t always put everything right so soon after.
Bike and kit checked out and back we went to the hotel bar. Now no 12, Mikel the pro, soon came back with his super bike, to be met by the Landlord ? ?so did you win then?? he jokingly said ? Mikel replied in his best English spoken with a Spanish twang ? ?actually yes I deed!! And pulled out a huge trophy and a cheque for $25k ? you should have seen the hotel managers face! We waited for Mikel to share his success but no joy! He went up to his room and was not seen again till breakfast! And what does a 70.3 winner have for breakfast that gets him around in 4.25? A coffee and a packet of biscuits!! I kid you not ? perhaps that?s where we are all going wrong?
So sport can be a real buzz whether you win or lose, sport can seem really cruel, but you learn, lick your wounds and get on with it ? so……………..
Licking finished, entries have just opened for 2012! ?210 ? cheap hat, no food at the finish, toughest course in the world ? oh bugger it, where?s my credit card? Who?s in?
Full results and splits can be found here (will download excel spreadsheet)
Kyle ? 5.43.47
Andrew ? 5.56.01
Ian ? 6.02
Helen ? 6.40.45
Mike ? 7.59.52
Phil ? 8.10.21