Del Williams’ race report from the Ultimate Half Ironman in Whitchurch, Shropshire.
So the seed was sown for this distance back in the wonderful Mallorca triathlon training camp back in April (small plug – it’s a brilliant week, and highly recommend anyone with a slight interest to sign up now!). I was lucky enough to have a brilliant and crazy French lady as my roommate, and as with so many brilliant ideas, pillow talk quickly developed into ironman and half ironman distance events (She was training for the full event) and her contagious enthusiasm got me thinking…..not sure how I got any sleep that week, the two of us had way too much energy to be sharing a room together.
Little more than a few weeks after returning from Mallorca and a few coaxing emails from another wonderful lady I met in Mallorca, Speedy Sue (as she become better known for her impressive speeds up the hills on her bike) and I somehow managed to find myself signed up for my first half ironman distance triathlon. (The dangers of the internet…..in the comfort of your own home ridiculous things can be committed to)
So the UK ultimate half triathlon was the event, in sunny Shropshire in August…..apparently a fast flat course…..not so flat as it materialised but this is a minor detail.
So with a bit more than 2 months to train, I set about with trying to be disciplined with a good mix of running, swimming, biking to occupy my weeks. The big bike rides on the weekend were key, followed by a fairly sizeable run afterwards, great when the weekend social activities were curbed, not so easy to achieve with hen do’s and weddings on weekends were thrown into the mix, but remember the nutrition training is as important as the run, bike and swim parts, so on these weekends I took on plenty of carbs to compensate for the lack of exercise.
One of the best bits about living so close to a hub of likeminded “athletes” (I use the inverted commas for myself) is that there is never an excuse not to get training, there was always someone keen to swim, bike and run, so there weren’t many hours of lonely training to be endured, the Wednesday night duathlons and TT’s were fantastic, and one of the highlights has to be a glorious sunny weekend bike ride with brilliant company and where Sheehan showed his puncture repair skills off in phenomenal form. (Top tip, always bike with a Sheehan)
So after loving nearly every minute of the training, race day was finally here……did I feel nervous, strangely not, I was most concerned about those things out of my control, such as bike mechanical issues, yet some bike maintenance revision meant I was as prepared as I ever would be for any mechanical failures.
Any pre-race nerves were quickly put to one side, when the accommodation for the weekend was like a sketch out of an Alan Partridge episode, (any fellow Alan fans think static caravans, unexpected potent gusts, chocolate mousse) so an evening of belly aching laughter meant off to bed, almost forgetting what I was even doing in Shropshire.
Race morning – top support team in the form of Kelly and Annette, and fellow competitors Owen, Speedy Sue and Paul, meant it just felt like Mallorca again, just maybe a little cooler, and without the guidance of the top coaches (another top tip – any event you do, the more people you know doing it / supporting it, the better; it makes it feel like a social event and not a big scary race event!)
Then the serious stuff started……the swim, three laps of a not too weedy lake, but with all of the half distance competitors starting together (the full ironman distance started 2 hours before us) all of the laps felt pretty washing machine like, I only took a few punches to the head, and only dished a few out, but it was actually not a bad swim and managed to get into a reasonable rhythm, straight out into transition, and I bumped into Speedy Sue, she was only minutes ahead of me, the race was on, I knew if I could keep Speedy Sue in my sight on the bike, I could pip her on the run, so that’s what I set out to do.
The bike ride was pretty undulating, not welsh hills, but certainly rolling Yorkshire Wolds type of territory, which did make for an interesting ride, albeit tough at times, especially with the wind, but with Speedy Sue in sight I kept my head down and legs moving. I had practiced my nutrition a few times on the bike, taking something on board every 25 minutes, and this was working well on the day. One of the down sides of this event, the ride was on pretty busy roads, so if you are a nervous cyclist, you would probably have hated this event, if you are ok with traffic, then it would have been fine. (I only had to give the w*n*e* sign once to a particularly dangerous Mondeo driver which in 56 miles wasn’t bad)
So into T2, and Speedy Sue was still just ahead, remembering to pick up my drinks bottle and taking a couple of energy chews on board at this point (as per the plan) went completely out of the window, in my haste to get out of transition and run Sue down; I caught up with her and over took within the first mile. By about mile 6 I was starting to suffer, I needed juice, so a very quick drink station stop, and then I carried on (I’m sure there was a plan to carry a small drinks bottle to avoid this…….)
Miles 8 – 10, were particularly enjoyable, a very fine looking gentleman kept over taking me, followed by me over taking him and so on for a few miles, I later found out that this fine gentleman was in fact Josh Lewsey (former English Rugby player and now head of rugby for the Welsh team) clearly if I had known such eye candy would be at such events I would have signed up years ago 🙂
(Me “pacing” English Rugby Star Josh Lewsey)
Lovely rugby players aside, brilliant team support from Kelly and Annette meant that even though I was thinking “this is a tough run” the sound of the girls shouting my name made me smile and I was getting such a boost of energy every time I saw them, the photos make me look like I’m having a whale of a time (which “ this is tough” feelings aside – I was!!)
The two lap run, on mixed grass and road, made for interesting running and plenty of opportunity to see supporters, and before I knew it, it was all over.
I finished it! (Which was objective number 1) there were no dodgy toilet accidents (objective number 2 – you hear and I’ve seen a lot of horror stories) and I did it in 6:36 (which placed me third in my age category) so all in all a pretty brilliant day.
Would I do another event of this distance? Most definitely! Did I eat a lot of cake – of course, I still am
Time to start thinking of the next challenge……..