I'll try NOT to write a novel with this one 'k?!
Race day - 3 (Thursday)
Evening. All was well. Decided to look at the inner tubes from my previous weekends 3 * punctures.
Puncture was in exact the same place!!!!
Rip of tyre
Rip out inner
Check current inner - no new whole
Look at wheel - can't see anything wrong
Can't do anything as bike shop is shut till the 'morrow....
... and go to sleep (panicking)
Race Day - 2 (Friday)
Wake up - remember about the back wheel issue...
Wait until the bike shop opens
Go to the bike shop - get them to check out wheel.
They see no problem either
They fit a new inner tube and tyre
They reinflate the wheel
The wheel holds true
Eventually get on the road to head for the Somerset/ Devon borders. Get caught in lots of Friday evening traffic after a couple of accidents close the motorways ... yawn
Get to the campsite. Meet up with Suzanne and Nick (met them at La Santa earlier in the year). Pitch tent, eat food, go to bed... and FREEZE..... ;o)... Thought "isn't it June - why is it so cold" .. be thankful of packing wooly hat!!!
Race Day -1 (Saturday)
Head down to the lake for 9am and get registered. Get given transition bags, numbers etc etc. Decide not to bother with open water swim and head out of the venue (too many nerves) and go back to the campsite for a quick spin on the bike instead.
Bike holds true (final phew!), back at the site Nick and Suzanne are diligently putting numbers on bike, wetsuit, swim hat, track pump, transition bags etc..... so I join in the fun.
Whilst at home I had pre-packed what I thought I needed in my transition bags (I hadn't realised until I read it that, rather then having kit by the bike in transition, you have a swim-bike bag and a bike-run bag which you put your kit in - this gets stashed in relevant tents). So unpacked and repacked into the relevant bags added a few extras (like spare socks in run bag, vaseline, ibroprofen etc). Have some lunch then pack the car back up with bike, transition bags and head back to the venue for racking, bag hanging and the compulsory race brief. No great shakes with that, take a wander around transition and some of the run route - spy the size of the hill coming out of the swim to transition (approx 400m and quite sharp!)... the starts of the hills to come.
Got back to the campsite where my support crew; Sarah, Simone and Sanna had arrived!! Put down the tent and moved into our new abode (a caravan!! what luxury!!). Headed to the pub for an early dinner - I refrained from beer and had a nice meal of spaghetti bolognese! YUM! Refrained from both a pint of beer and pudding! Told the girls I really needed an early night, proceeded to gossip for several hours and hit the sack at 10pm!
Alarm went off at 0330 (!), luckily I woke up at 0329 ;o)...... Made a nice cup of tea, trying to creep (as much as you can do) around the caravan! Jules had recommended 10 slices of bread and jam.... Made five slices... ENOUGH! I couldn't jam any more in!!!
Headed to the car with my final packed white transition bag (this one had post race clothes etc) at 0415 and watched the outside temperature dial go down from a chilly 7.5degrees to 5 at lake side... it was cold.... and to set the picture; first lights of dawn were appearing, bright but cloudy skies forming, mist hung over the lake - like the proverbial dragon's mist from days of King Arthur!
Headed into transition to load up the bike with water bottles, check the tyres etc. All too soon it was time to get into my wetsuit. We got carouled in transition and herded like lambs down to the lake. The ground was freezing underfoot. Everyone's feet were red with cold - the ambient temperature of the lake was warmer then that of the ground! 1000 wetsuit clad mad people headed into the lake and floated out. Without warning a hooter sounded and we looked at each other and realised... we were OFF!!!!
The joke of it is - this is the only flat bit of the course!! With a mass in water start of 1000 people I decided not only to take up the offer of a "novice" green cap but to also start wide to the right. Thankfully! Whilst it wasn't the most punishing of starts (compared to Lisbon) it was a while before you got clear water. I stayed well out of trouble to the right, although fear this may have led to a bit more metres in the swim! LOL...
Heading up to buoy one was a laugh, breathing either side I figured I was a bit closer then I should have been to the right hand bank, then looking to the left thought "phew" as it looked kinda busy over there! Spotting about every 8 strokes was pointless - all I could see was mist, arms and spray and figured "well everyone's heading in this direction so I'll carry on going!" Obviously a little bit of a traffic jam at the left hand turn buoy then off to turn two (the course is kinda triangular) ... again did not have a clue where I was headed apart from perhaps towards that single green bush on the lake side!! This leg I think was slightly shorter and the swimmers had started thinning out a bit (in terms of width of swimmers! Still busy as hell!).... Turning the final buoy I still felt very relaxed, wasn't putting a great deal of effort in, just concentrated on swimming long and relaxed. Had one angry moment when I guy (or woman but suspect a guy) decided to hit me, I wasn't too impressed given the amount of space so shouted an obscenity in the water!! I'm sure he/she didn't hear that (it would have been a load of bubbles), but it did make me feel better!
Finally got to the swim exit, just about the time when I was beginning to feel a bit cold. A helper undid my velcro and handed me my zip-pull..... and then I waddled up the hill into T1!
Some 400m hill rep in wetsuit later... I grabbed my blue bag and headed into the transition tent. I can honest say I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING for so long! If I didn't know any better I'd have thought I must have sat down for a bit of a snooze, blow dry the hair that sort of thing!! Anyhow, didn't do that but did get my arm warmers on, bike top on (Wes/ Akshay - It was my "Atlanta Cycling" jersey!!!!), tried to get as much grass off my feet, socks on, shoes on and waddled off to my bike!
It was still very cold on T1 exit. Although glad of the arm warmers, my feet quickly hit the frozen mark! This was the subject of much chatter between us! Straight out of T1 have a slight climb then a short down hill before climb, climb, climbing - which set the tone for the day.
In the first few k I saw a few people whose day was already over. One guy's nice carbon stead was in two after a crash, a girl was beside herself in tears at the side of the road. ... but then the climb stopped you looking and got you focused! Having made it to the "top" section of the course I found myself being continually overtaken (or so it felt), I didn't feel disheartened by this as I just told myself it was ok as I'd beaten them in the swim!!
So I knew this was going to be hilly. But is there any need to put in over 1600m of climbing in a half ironman ;o) Well it made it challenging!!!
If I'm not mistakien that means we climbed more then the height of Ben Nevis - which is not only a mountain but also the highest on in the British Isles. Still I had trained on hills and the idea was to try and finish the bike having not got off the bike at all. Well I didn't get off the bike on the hills (there were plenty of peeps walking up the beasts in the second lap - the average gradient of one hill was 14%!) but did need to get off during lap 1 for a porto-loo break!
Just as I thought I was drying out about 3/4 through lap one (not from the port-loo break I may add in case you read that wrong lol!) ...the heavens opened and it really lashed it down. Oh British summer weather!! So we all got wet and cold all over again!
There was great support on parts of the course - had my own support crew based at the campsite on course. Alas, we hadn't sync'd our watchs up - so when I said I thought I'd be at the site about 0830 on lap one, well they missed me by about a minute (apparently!), and there's me thinking they were still in bed in the caravan! Anyhow, second lap had my full support out, and then further up the road a work colleague and friend, Lesley, who had come all the way down with her husband to cheer me on (how FAB was that!)
Oh I did get followed (stalked) for a couple of k by the TV motorcycle crew - so will be watching out for the TV coverage to come out - really I (well my arse) has got to be on it!!!! ;o)
Had a nice final few k whizzing down the hill to the lake and T2, one cheeky little climb at the end and I was done... WHOOOP!
Much better time, particularly given I decided I needed another break of nature! There were people here to take your bike off you and also help you with your change bag (repack it etc). They were like Angel's appearing! I've no idea who helped me, think it was a lady (but can't be sure)...... I knew in T2 I had plenty of time to do the half, knew that even if I had to walk it all that I had the time to do so before the race cut off.... I knew leaving T2 that come what I was going to finish. I was in no hurry, I had plenty of time!... .Leaving T2 I remembered the promises I had made "I won't push it", "If I feel bad like Lisbon I'll walk", "If my foot hurts I'll walk".... and remembered the final voicemail words from my good friend Katharine "Karen, don't forget to put your sensible head on!"....
So I thought "OK all I've got to do is a half-marathon.. what a laugh!"
So started off at a "I wonder if I can run" type of pace, and joined the course. This is a 3 lap "undulating" course, mostly off road. You enter the course kinda in the middle of it then head out one side of the lake to a damn, do a dead turn on that then all the way back, past this middle section and all the way down to the other end of the lake for another turn before heading back and zig-zagging the field by the swim start and starting it all again!
Hummm.... so I had decided already to walk the aide stations (there were three) and seeing what else I could do - depending on the foot! Jogged along wondering how I was going to do the run, saw the mile marker (gulped) thinking how am I going to do another 12 miles and then saw this beast of a hill in front of me!! Hummm looked ahead to see virtually everyone walking it... so I joined them! At least there was an equally steep down hill the other side!!
Got to the dead turn at one point to see Lesley and Billy had made their way from the bike course to this point! It was ACE to have support at such a remote part of the course! GREAT. Decided that these feed station would be where I grabbed a pepsi (note advertised as flat but was not!!).... I think I must have been blowing them a kiss in this picture!!
Headed back towards the lake, back off road and some undulating hills... these offered a nice little walk break!! Heading towards the other end of the lake (more "hills", although i'm sure they probably weren't that bad) I actually felt ok - finally warmed up and I think for the first time since I had taken my feet out of my shoes to change into my wetsuit, I could feel my feet! Joy!....This is heading towards turn two, obviously I'm having a little bit of a walking/ stretching kind of moment!!
Just as I was getting to the next dead turn I saw my personal support crew of Sarah, Sanna and Simone walking through some undergrowth to get to the course! It was great to see the guys down there too!
Headed back to start lap two and that blinkin hill.... It was walking up this for the second time that my right hamstring played a little joke on me... just as I was getting towards the top (luckily) it said "ha! ha! run or I'll cramp up" ... Humm how rude! Still off I trotted. Lesley by now had got the crowd down at the turn into a big frenzy so I had them all shouting for me when I got there! Obviously I stopped and took a bow!... Headed back and got back to turn two, the girls had gone but Mum and Dad had arrived!!! Hurrah! That was GREAT! So I stopped to give them a hug (as you do)
Caught up with the girls in the middle section of the course, lap 2 went by really fast.... still felt pretty much ok (I think it was all the walk breaks that saved me!) and thankfully headed out into lap 3 - beginning to feel pretty excited about finishing at this stage!
During lap three I came across a guy and we started jogging together, about the same pace. After we'd passed Lesley and that turn for the final time he said I could head off and that I had already really helped him out, to be honest though, it was great having some company.... so we got chatting some more and I said I wasn't bothered about the time - if he agreed to run on the flats and down the hills we'd walk everything that had a gradient over 1%! He agreed and we had a really nice jog really. Turns out he was a Doctor running for Leukemia Research having had a close friend having been diagnosed a couple of years beforehand. This is us having one of our "walk breaks"It wasn't until a k or so later that we actually introduced ourselves. So Martin - you were FAB company! It was really great having some company after so many hours of solitude! We stayed together until the very final stretch 200m or so from the end which was slightly up hill. I wanted to finish on my own really and I think Martin got that. So I jogged off.... rounded the finish straight with the girls egging me on. I crossed the line and just burst in to tears!
I was so overwhelmed that I actually really lost it for a second or two (maybe three or four). This has meant so much for so long I can't believe I've done it!
I was so relieved, chuffed to pieces, amazed... well you get the drift. Most of all I really REALLY enjoyed it. Not having goals other then to enjoy the experience and finish was key to the enjoyment factor I'm sure.
Having family and friends down there really helped too - I'm lucky to have such brilliant people in my life.
Needless to say I was more then happy to show my medal off!!!
As for this week.... I've done nothing but EAT! Including LOTS OF CAKE!!! LOL!