Two weeks on from Ironman Wales and a lot of reflection has been done on the event and the journey I have taken so far. Only 18 months ago I took up Triathlon after swimming to a National level in the pool and Open Water. I was looking for something that would fuel my passion I have for sport and exercising. I did a couple of Sprint/Olympic triathlons on a borrowed road bike in 2018 and competed in my first 70.3 event in Weymouth and gained some amazing nutritional support from Komfuel.
After competing in this event I felt inspired, motivated and had begun to believe that I could have some success within triathlon. Over the winter I begun training with Cycle Specific in South Wales, and using watt bikes and the amazing depth of knowledge they had I went from strength to strength on the bike and continued to work on my run!
A lot of winter work, a few races, a running injury and an upgraded bike I was suddenly about to toe the line in my first long distance triathlon at Ironman Wales. In the build up to the race I could say that my preparations were far from perfect. I picked up a IT band injury in the summer that took me off running for about 8 weeks (one of the most common new runners injury- which is exactly what I was). Aside from this, I rehabbed hard, I did the training in the pool and spent as much time in the saddle as I could to ensure I was capable of completing the Iron Distance to a good level!
The day before the race I travelled to Tenby early, picked up my registration numbers and transition bags before heading to the briefing. Following this it was back to the car where I spent a good hour faffing around getting trainers, helmets SIS gels etc into the correct bags before taking them to the transition and racking my bike.
On the race morning the process was made simple for me, Komfuel had provide me with everything I would need to keep me fuelled for the whole day! I filled my bike bottles and special needs bottles with Precision Hydration, Squeeze 11 SIS Gels into an aero bottle and broke up Clif bars ready to take on the bike.
I was standing on the beach listening to the Welsh national anthem when I took the time to think through what my plan was for the day. My aims were to race from the front and use my strengths, and make sure I keep to my fuelling plan. 5 minutes after the Pros start the age groupers were let off into the water. Using my strength pulled away from the age group race and went in search of the slower swimming pros. “47:03” the commentator shouted over the speakers as I exited the water! I had swum the quickest time of the day, out splitting Dylan McNeice by 24 seconds. It was a crazy experience coming out of the water and having such incredible support from friends and family as I headed to transition!
A 1km run from the beach to the transition later I grabbed my helmet and number, found my bike and set off at a strong pace looking at my garmin, but really just trying to calm the heart rate and start on my nutrition. It was a surreal experience on the road as in the first 40km I had some of the big pro names such as Skipper and McCrystal pass me on the decent down into freshwater east. During the bike I was getting time splits off my coaches letting me know my position in the race. I knew that Nathan Ford was going to be right at the front of the race; he’s a Kona finisher and a very experienced iron distance age group racer. When I was getting splits to him of 7 minutes and 6.5 minutes early on in the race, I took motivation to keep pushing myself and ensuring I was getting fuel every 20minutes. Over some of the big climbs at the end of the first lap Wisemans bridge and Saundersfoot the support was incredible. Both sides of the hill were littered with everyone’s friends and families. The support gives you strength; it numbs you from the pain and fatigue that you are beginning to have and really allows you to push the pike over the tops of the climbs. Just past this I managed to pick up my special needs without any drama (two replacement bottles and 3 extra gels) and descended into Tenby to start my second loop!
As I was getting splits on this lap I was aware that Nathan was closing on me, however, I was still extending the lead in my age group (25-29). A balance of expectation I continued at the same intensity and saw Nathan make the pass before we reached Narberth but knew I had to stick to my race and not empty the tank to go with him. The rest of the ride was pretty much auto pilot, keep drinking, take no risks on descents and get back to T2.
As I entered T2 I saw Nathan running out, the announcers informed me as well as any spectators nearby that I was the 2nd Age grouper off the bike (5:24 bike split). I racked the bike, changed shoes, changed my number belt for one loaded with gels and set off on the run. I knew this was going to be the challenging discipline for me as I was simply undertrained due to injury and being so new to triathlon. I put one foot in front of the other worked where I needed to, walked some of the feed stations to ensure I got some fluids on. It was probably one of the darkest places I’ve been ever in a race! I persevered and knew that I was losing places in the age group race but I had to keep moving. Crossing paths with a number of athletes and giving each other encouragement really shows the strength of the Triathlon community, everyone was suffering, but it was a joint suffer. As I ran down the red carpet at the finish, I gave a few high fives to friends and strangers, blew a kiss to my partner Emily and threw my hands in the air to cross the line.
I finished in an overall time of 10:06 with a run time of 3:45. I placed 4th in my age, 11th amateur athlete and 27th overall. Ironman Wales was truly an Epic and brutal race and my expectations were just to complete this challenge to the best of my ability on the day. To find out it was enough to gain a slot for the 2020 Ironman World Championships in Kailua Kona,Hawaii was just the icing on the cake!
The 2020 season planning is now underway with KONA being the big goal next October. One thing is for sure; In Kona, nutrition and hydration will play an even bigger and more important role than it ever has.