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Ironman – I Hadn’t Even Heard Of Such A Thing

Ironman – I hadn’t even heard of such a thing until I joined tri club... I know... I always say, ..’you wouldn’t want me on your quiz team’.

I remember dipping my shoulders under the water of the swimming lane and chatting when I wasn’t supposed to and looking intently at a tri clubbers tattoo….’So’…I said..’so, that person has done half an iron?’ ‘No!!!’ was the reply, ‘that’s a full iron! ’ ..’but’, I said, ‘Where are the legs?!’ From that point I realised, this must be a turning point in my life. For years, I had been reading the Ginger Bread Man to each of our children, and suddenly my mind took on a further aspect.

I continued to do the things I love; running, swimming and cycling and then, like some form of conditioning, I found myself entering various triathlons. All of these I embark on as a pure celebration of life, because I feel so privileged to be alive and grateful that my body is able.

So... eventually, the seed takes after I clearly said, ‘no’. I found myself in the car with Dave and questioning this thought. ‘Well, it would certainly be a challenge!’ he said. OMG! I exclaimed.. ‘You think I could go for it!!’ Well… that was like a red rag to a bull. After telling a few buddies this thought and receiving a positive response, oppose to madness, I then roped, …no…encouraged them to come along and we’d ‘do it, somewhere warm, where the weather would be good ... little did we know that we’d be trailing through torrential rain for a fair portion of it!

‘You’ve got 4 minutes before the taxi,’ Chris points out, as I come running from the shower of our shared apartment for the 4 of us, with a towel wrapped around me and water dripping.

‘I know!’, ‘I’ll be ready!’ If only this flipping lycra, would glide on and not get stuck on my soaking rushed body! ’never mind’, I think …’I’ll stick my arms in the armholes, and the rest will follow’... If only…’CRACK! ‘ goes the zip, practically 2 inches past my knees. At this point I find myself sounding like Hugh Grant from 4 Weddings and a Funeral! ‘Shit bugger shit bugger shit bugger’ I exclaim, as I’m holding both sides of the tri suit as if by some miracle the two sides will join and become one, whilst giving our whole apartment a full frontal!’

Tell me what to do!’ I say. Thankfully Bee lends me her two piece tri suit to whom I’m entirely grateful. I did pack a spare, in case I had soiled it, as I had heard numerous stories but that was in the long-lost T2 bag!

So, here we were, walking over to the swim with this amazing welcome of a beautiful sunrise.

After all essential ablutions and using the queuing time to get to chat to a couple of my teammates and a few of the local international gals, my head is slowly realising that start time is approaching fast.

I change my mind and decide to ‘test ‘ the water 10 minutes before my wave starts. That is now two things, by the way, which were not in the plan; a new tri suit and a test swim.
To my surprise and horror, I find myself in a mild panic. I had never swum in the sea, and I felt a little queasy with the mild chopping of the water. This passed quickly, but I was still left desperately trying to find the right breathing rhythm. I got out, ‘ready ‘ for my wave to begin and knowing that I hadn’t quite sorted it out.

The beep sounded and in, each six of pink hats ran; apart from me. I was already full of adrenalin and walked into the sea, dipping my goggles into the water to clear the mist, which had previously been caused.

Eventually, after testing out unilateral and bilateral breathing rhythms with my stroke, I finally got my head together. It felt like I had spent far too much time faffing with the extra dimension of tipping the water out of my left eye goggle, but as I don’t wear a watch, I had no idea.

That helping hand waiting to assist you out of the water was gratefully received, and as usual, it’s always good to be pulled out of the water alive

So... I found my bag easily and stripped down ready for the bike. I remembered to retrieve the brioche cheese buns from T1 in their Tesco freezer bags and stuffed them down my recently given, tri shorts and ran for my bike, trying desperately to stop them sliding down my legs and occasionally pulling the Tesco bag from the top ….’Oh boy! I thought’, ‘this one isn’t going to be forgotten in a hurry!’

Eventually, I found my bike after running past it a few times, despite my previous thorough practice and turned on my bike Garmin, trying extremely hard to see what the instruction said, workout having my specs Luckily the motorbike marshal beeped me a few times before I would be heading in for him. Even I could see the funny side to this, alongside a small group of spectators close by

I had planned to eat my first brioche as a second breakfast, 20 minutes into the bike. The new storage area for the part eaten bun was now to be on the inside of my top. It worked pretty well, despite having to fish lumps of cheese from various parts of my vest. I guess this ended up providing me with some form of entertainment and multi-tasking as the bike journey progressed!

I managed to eat the second bun for lunch, with of course my energy gels (again, not planned) and a couple of bars.

The great hosting of drinks and gels certainly kept me reminded to fuel well; better, in fact, and more effective than ever in all of my training. Having a route planned by someone was also Godsend! I didn’t have any pressure in getting lost on the bike, as I always managed to do in training. (I certainly got to know the people of Bedford) ..The only sat nav I used was the one my dad passed on to me, which went something like this…”While you have a tongue in your head, you’ll never be lost.”(said in a great strong Irish accent)

We had been told it was sure to rain by midday and so it did! Big time!

Craig Cunningham, my friend and previous LB Tri Club member who had been helping me with my plans, had said, “now decide if you’re going to stop and take your new bottle of Hi 5 or take it en-route ..” “Oh no. .” I said, ” I’ll stop. I’ll fall off, otherwise!” … ..Well, that properly changed! I even began to sign Hi 5 and swiftly took the bottle with thanks, just like a real pro, I’ll have you know!

In my haste, I forgot to use the loo and even if I had, ..thinking about it, the speed of my bottle exchange would have been wasted. ‘Never mind’, I thought…’I’ll go in the bushes’.

It wasn’t long before I realised that this was practically an impossibility; There were too many cyclists on my tail and not enough secure bushes. Then the rain started! ‘Bring it on !’..and there was my lightbulb moment! “I’ll wee on the bike!!”

This wasn’t as easy as you’d think... I learned to stop pedalling and let it all happen on the flat… I was drenched anyway and no one would notice
By 70 miles, I heard a squeaking sound. ‘Gosh’, I thought, (thinking it was coming from the bloke in front) that’s going to get on his nerves. I then realised it was me; my bike was squeaking and slipping gears. In my paranoia, I thought, maybe it was because I wee’d all over it, but then put that thought to the side.

Drenched and extremely happy, I had reached 112 miles all in one piece. I rode down the ramp to the underground carpark and gave my bike to the Marshall and collected my run bag where my lovely dry spare dry tri suit sat waiting for me to arrive.

I freshened up first in the loo, which felt like absolute luxury and indeed, at this point, a novelty. I splashed water on my face and particularly my left eye which was a little sore from my leaky goggle. Oh, and of course, a little application of lippy…aaah...

After a tiny chat with a few of the participants, off I headed up the ramp, mindfully ready to begin my run. ‘This should be interesting’, I thought’..’haven’t run for a while due to picking up a couple of extra injuries, like they were going out of fashion.

I hasten to add; I am so proud of my right foot which had only returned to running after a year, with one and a half hours of specific exercises twice a day for a few months, even on Christmas day. My thanks go to Diana O’Reilly and Dave Gosbee for their consistent work on me!

I’m greeted by Jon and Glen’s family, which was lovely, as I reach the top of the ramp. ‘Off I go! ‘I said as I picked a pace that I thought could potentially see me through 26 miles. The plan was to walk/run as that’s what I knew would save me from making my injuries worse.

Surprisingly, I was able to run a slow, steady pace which probably took me to just beyond half marathon distance where everything flashed up a red warning sign. My knee said a definite ‘no’ and I knew it was time to walk as fast as I could. For once, I thought, all that rushing around I do in my life has come to good use!I was on a mission. I told myself, ‘don’t think of miles, just think of time on feet!’

Interestingly, when you’re trudging through puddles in the darkness and hearing the Ironman announcements coming from that red carpet and then losing the sound altogether, it becomes a form of real mental tease. This is where I found that my life experiences and challenges were put to real use. It is amazing how you draw from these and use them as your strength.

I thought of each person in my family and used each of them as my inspiration. Likewise, this will hopefully provide them with the inspiration of how to push through in attempting to achieve their aims.

I thought of The MacIntyre Charity and how they helped Jonny and all of us so much. I must admit, I did well up a few times. I thought of all my friends who were excited by me doing this challenge, and I thought of Dave who I knew was demonstrating his own iron challenge back at the ranch.

I felt so happy to be able to take part in this challenge with some great friends and as I mentioned, it was a pure celebration of life. This was even more apparent, as I had bit of a scare a couple of weeks before Ironman which certainly put me off and yet kept me on track.

I was also so grateful to Craig, who gave his time in helping with plans and didn’t admit to being my coach until the day before when he texted to say ”coach called for a calming chat”. I’ll tell you, six months or more ago, I asked Craig if he’d be my coach as everybody else had one. I asked in jest as I knew he’d have a challenge putting up with my antics. I was right. He replied, “I’m not going to be your f******g coach! (said in his northern accent)

Despite this, he was asking me to email my plans each week and pretty much took over with clear overviews in sight. He is certainly a hard taskmaster as anyone who knows him will agree, but adjusted rightly when life situations arose.

John Ambrose and Steve Noble with their support and words of wisdom also paid off. Words in the past from Ian and Kathryn, Brian, Andrew and Colino of course, sprung into my mind and all at the right time!

The spectators were all amazing from ‘tapping the power board’ they held, to cheering raucously, “Leighton Buzzard!!!” “Carmel!!!” That surprised me actually, as I wondered how they knew my name and then figured it was on my bib!

There it was …finally, even after asking few peeps where it was, in case I missed a direction board. There is was…FINALLY. ..RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! IT WAS LAID OUT, WAITING FOR ME!

I remember standing at the foot of this amazing red carpet, which looked spectacularly bright in the floodlit darkness. I stood there, and I looked at the crowd, and I looked at the head of the carpet. I stood there, and I said to myself...” right, I’m ready. .I’m ready for you!-and I conjured up a run, which to me, felt like a top sprint and I crossed the line with pure elation which I could feel spreading across my chest and my face. It was amazing…. truly amazing……

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