Midst the tears of disappointment, frustration and devastating result I shall try very hard not to dwell on the brighter, brilliant and more positive aspects of my Ironman adventure … travelling over in FIRST CLASS (Oh My Goodness HOW WONDERFUL AND AMAZING WAS THAT!!!), landing in Australia for the first time (a dream since teenage years) (did I mention that I flew First Class?), the adorable company throughout of my wonderful and magical eldest daughter, corals, snorkelling ……… these things are for another blog. I must try very hard not to mention the Great Barrier Reef, the tropical fish, sky rails, rainforests, the cutest koala bears EVER and, of course, did I mention that I flew First Class?
I will focus instead on the task that lay ahead (after my FIRST CLASS flight)!
Swim: 55:22 (1.9 km) – 1:12:55 (1.9 km) – TOTAL: 2:08
Bike: 5:05 (81.6 km) – RACE TIME: 7:13:18
Cue MELTDOWN!! Or, well, to be totally honest, the meltdown didn’t come until I met Caitriona on the way back to the hotel. At the moment the marshall informed me I’d missed the cut-off and he had to ask me to stop, my body said THANK YOU!!!! Having the decision made for me was one of the positives amidst soooooooooooooooo many negatives!
So what happened? Perhaps the reason this blog has been delayed a while is because I can’t say for certain. I don’t know! All I can say is that involved the swim, it most definitely involved bananas … and after that it was all down to lack of ANY fuel.
Breakfast was spot on. Breakfast has seen me through so many races I know it was right. Then there was that top-up banana an hour before the start time. Well, I’ve practised bananas pre-swim and never had a problem. Not so on June 14th. On this day the banana decided the limelight belonged to him/her and it was determined to fight back! Why? Nerves? I was pretty calm. Emotional? I got a bit flustered because I desperately wanted to hug Caitriona before I dived in and I couldn’t find her – but I DID find her and all was well, I took a deep breath and we were off. Fear? Nope. I’d warmed up, swum, nothing scary about the water. I was perfectly happy with that. So ……………. What? All suggestions welcome (please post below). Adrenalin? I’m pretty calm and wasn’t noticeably worked up (not that I knew, anyhow). Jet lag? Really? Who knows?!
Anyhoooooooooooooooo … took my place at the start line, perfectly happy running into the water, swam about 20 strokes, concentrating on not going out fast (chance’d be a fine thing!!), controlling my breathing and settling into my natural pace. It took about 20 strokes to realise that perhaps breathing should be a priority over pace – and I just couldn’t breathe! I started to breaststroke and attempted to slow my breathing down but EVERYTHING seemed constricted, it felt like my chest was about to burst out of my wetsuit and I couldn’t get any air past the top of my chest, which meant that essentially I was sort of hyperventilating and could NOT slow it down! After a couple of minutes I decided that if that was what my breathing was going to do, maybe I could adjust my stroke rate to suit it – as opposed to the other way round??? I know, I know – who DOES that??? But it was the only strategy I could come up with. Alas, it didn’t work (surprise, surprise!). On to Plan C. Wait. Slight problem. I didn’t have a Plan C.
Never mind. My stomach has a Plan C. Cue a new strategy. Lean on lifeguard’s surf board, retch, take a few deep breaths, swim 20-30 strokes. Repeat. For 1.8 km!
No, really! That’s how it was. His name was Heath, by the way (probably still is lol). He might have saved my life; he certainly saved my race! I didn’t think I was going to make it to the very first buoy! As it was, Heath didn’t move more than 3 ft away from me for the entire swim. He talked me through the lot, muttered a million platitudes and was a master at disguising his thoughts of me repeatedly retching over his lovely surfboard. He supplied me with fresh water and did my sighting for me – pointing out which buoy to head for next as my head was just spinning. As we reached the halfway beach turnaround he leant down and grabbed my wrist and looked at my watch – at which point he said ‘Awesome! Run! You can still make the cut-off!’ At which point I ran, returned to the water, swam 10 strokes and then properly threw up!! Hey ho, after that I felt soooooooooooo much better!! I managed to settle into a half-decent stroke rate and complete the swim. I was a little surprised that the timing for the second half of my swim was so much slower, but having said that the water had definitely changed by then. There was quite a big swell (compared to the first hour!), it was choppier and the current was a little faster.
Boy, was I glad to get out of that water!!!!! I actually did the swim in 2 hours (bloody miracle). The 8:18 seconds was the time it took to launch a quick hug in Heath’s direction – alongside a massive THANK YOU!!
I was a sort of greenish colour when I got into the tent. The euphoria of having actually made the cut-off was short-lived. The ladies who greeted me were amazing and literally undressed and dressed me – while I tried not to think about having to get on a bicycle!
I did my very very best to smile as I exited T1. I looked like shit but I was actually feeling positive by now. This was something that simply had to be done. I got on my bike thinking that I would just settle into a ‘regular’ pace and give my body a little chance to get itself together. I tried unsuccessfully to drink a little water. I figured that even if I had to play catch-up later it was more important initially to give my stomach time to settle so that I could then focus on the job in hand. I pedalled, remembered to look up and absorb the beautiful coastal scenery, I tried to relax and tell my body all was ok. Body wasn’t in listening mood.
Cut a long story short, hills felt like mountains and I watched my average bike time go down and down and down as the inclines went up and up and up. By the time I’d reached the first turnaround and beginning of the second loop I’d thrown up half an energy bar and avoided the energy drink I had because it was making me feel really queasy – which I wouldn’t have minded had it actually reached my blood stream and given me some ENERGY!! I was so desperate for energy. My legs felt great, my head was still battling with positives and ignoring little voices and I was simply praying for a hit of energy – even a small one!
As I made my way back up to Port Douglas on the second loop I was accompanied by the sweeper bike. I’m sure he was lovely but I feel I must apologise for the names I was secretly calling him. Eventually, he couldn’t sweep slowly enough and he buggered off for a while haha
Coming into Port Douglas for the second time the marshall chugged up alongside me and told me I had four and a half minutes to reach the turnaround. I did my best. With the help of the marshall on the microphone and the crowd – who were all counting down for me – I made it! I actually laughed. It was quite funny. My stomach didn’t appreciate the humour. I came out of Port Douglas and thought ‘Come on! All the way home!’ … Mr Sweeper was at the roundabout on his phone doing various calculations. ‘Twenty minutes to the next aid station cut-off’, he said. ‘Come on! Keep that pace and you’ll make it!’ he said. ‘And drink more!’ he said – as he whipped my water bottle out of the cage, pootled off on his moped and returned five minutes later with a full bottle. Bless them all, they did everything they possibly could to get me through this course bar getting on the bike and cycling it themselves.
A fairly brutal headwind thwarted my efforts to make that 20-minute cut-off. I felt like I was cycling backwards – and the cramps in my feet were UNREAL!! I don’t know where the cramps came from but they were agonising. I have a completely amateurish theory (I know NOTHING about cycling) that they might have been a result of my using the aero bars that I’d originally had no intention of using? In actual fact I used my aero bars for a LOT of the bike course. They were easy, comfortable and the position suited my stomach. I just wonder if the position then altered the pressure on my feet – maybe changed the position my cleats should’ve been in? I could be totally making this up in my head, but ……………….. it passed the time!
I was escorted into the wagon of shame at that 75-mile mark – having missed the cut-off by 6 minutes. I finally had time to feel sorry for myself and notice how upset and uphappy my stomach was – and it was the longest journey ever – brightened up only by the man sitting opposite, who informed me that he’d been BEHIND ME IN THE SWIM!! Oh My God! I didn’t come last!! Lol
I don’t think I need to detail the meltdowns. Unfathomable thanks to my beautiful daughter, who mopped up endless tears and annoyingly kept saying ALL the right things (love you)!!
Massive congratulations to all the athletes who DID finish. I’m very proud of ALL of you (special mention for Keith Jackson and Chris Stainer) … even if I didn’t applaud and smile and jump up and down as ‘XXX YOU ARE AN IRONMAN’ wafted up endlessly into my hotel room, which was directly over the finish line. I was not going to be allowed to forget!! Haha
But don’t think I begrudge you any teensy weensy millisecond of your incredible achievements! You are both just incredible athletes and I am so SO happy that I WAS able to see you both across the finish.
As for me ………………….. hey, I’m uninjured. That can only mean one thing. It’s time to fight back.