Barry, the NHS and my first Ironman
There are certain events in your life time that will stand out forever; your first Ironman is one of those events.
My journey began after watching Ironman Wales in September 2014, I was in awe of how tough the course was, and how hard core the athletes were to even contemplate completing it, I was staying with a friend local to Tenby at the time, so as I jogged home to her house, I started thinking whether or not I could ever do something as crazy as a full Ironman.
A few weeks later and after many hours of witty banter from the Welsh contingent, of why Ironman Wales was for me, I found myself signing up for Ironman Wales 2015. I remember the “morning after the night before” vividly, had I really signed up for Ironman Wales last night? I wasn’t even drunk, what have I done!
It had that strange mix of horror and excitement all rolled into one, so much so I didn’t tell anyone for a few weeks, figuring if I didn’t mention it out loud, I hadn’t really signed up…..and then I figured, time to man up Williams and go public.
So the remainder of 2014 was spent planning and booking various triathlons, sportives and reading books on how to get Ironman fit, so when 2015 finally came around, I had a clear plan on how to tackle the monumental challenge of completing an Ironman. As luck would have it, I managed to get a ballot place into the London marathon this same year, so it all felt a little bit like fate and that 2015 was my year of “going big”.
I have many things to thank Ironman training for……getting a bum that could just about carry off a pair of Kylie gold hot pants, allowing me to justify another trip to the cracking Mallorca tri training camp and Barry….ah the wonderful Barry.
The “old boy” as my old bike was affectionately called had done me proud for 10 years, but getting Iron fit, started me thinking it was perhaps time I upgraded, so along came Barry, the new wonder bike, and so the love affair started with Barry. My new found love of Barry meant the cycling training never felt a chore, any excuse and I would be out on him, so top tip for Ironman training……find a Barry J
When they say that an Ironman is a journey, they weren’t joking; the training is brutal and at times can be pretty antisocial. Many 5am get ups and weekends spent being selfish, putting training before beer and partying, which is why you really need to love what you are doing or it simply becomes a chore.
I made a point of keeping my training really varied, which kept it enjoyable, which meant I absolutely loved the training and missed very few sessions…..that was until the Kidneys decided they’d find some Ironman strength bugs.
So a rushed admittance into Scunthorpe Hospital and being there for close to a week at the start of August, put my ironman dreams, what I thought, to be over; all my hard work had been wasted and I would have to bow out gracefully.
If I am honest at the time, I wasn’t that bothered. Nothing like a stint of ill health to make you put life in perspective, I’d given the ironman training a good go, so what if I dropped out, health is way more important, and nothing like time in hospital to make you take a good look at life and what is important.
Time for a quick plug to the NHS – they were amazing, they get a lot of bad press, but I cannot thank them enough or praise the care that I got in Scunthorpe hospital high enough, they were fantastic. If I had an “I love the NHS” cycle jersey I would have worn it for the Ironman.
So after this minor hiccup and a few weeks convalescing, I felt strong enough to get back on Barry in mid-August, and my stint in hospital hadn’t seemed to affect me too detrimentally…..in fact I appeared to have come back stronger, so I decided let’s at least start Tenby and see how we get on…… So race day approached.
Being Welsh, the only Ironman I was ever going to consider was Ironman Wales, mainly because they sing the Welsh national anthem on the beach, what a way to start a Sunday morning, and I won’t lie, the experience bought a tear of pride to my eye on that fresh September morning as I stood there in my wetsuit with fetching red swim hat waiting to start the challenge of my life.
So the rolling swim start began, from the shore the sea looked reasonably calm…..never trust the look of the sea from the poor view point of the shore line. Swimming out to the first buoy and it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t just the bike and run route that were hilly, the sea was also “hilly” in Tenby.
I remember looking up to sight where I needed to go and just seeing a wall of water, yup it was choppy, but from my various sea swims during training I had learnt to love the chop of the sea, so I settled in and swam the swim of my life, emerging after 1:30, and feeling happy.
No Ironman is easy, but Tenby has a reputation for being tough, so the additional 1km run from the sea to T1, was a lovely little warm up for the marathon later on…..in true Del style, my race tactic thoughts here were possibly unconventional for the “average Ironman athlete”. I was mulling over my options of “do I take the wet suit off at the sea side and run through town in my bikini” the logic being, this will probably be the only time in my life I will legally be allowed to do this and have people cheer at me, but probably making the run harder as I carry a wet heavy wet suit over my shoulder. I’m sad to say I let “athletic sensible head” take over, so ran through town in my wet suit…..what a missed opportunity.
An Ironman transition is like no other triathlon, quite civilised, in a big marquee, the options to get fully changed, (being careful not to accidentally go into the naked man area rather than the naked girl area…..) before heading out on the 112 mile bike ride. In transition I saw a few familiar faces, a few hello’s and then out to Barry I trotted.
Welsh weather is notorious for being wet, and the days leading up to Ironman Wales were miserable and the Monday after Ironman Wales was miserable, but the Sunday…..glorious!
So with the sun out, I headed out on Barry to enjoy the 112 mile bike ride with close to ~ 7700 ft of elevation gain, the welsh countryside doesn’t disappoint, stunning views, some awesome hill climbs and the crowds of supporting people is phenomenal.
You feel like you are on the tour de France or some famous celebrity, people lining the streets shouting words of encouragement, the huge crowds as you cycle up “heartbreak hill”, even more so as a female, the number of shouts I got for “wow it’s a girl” then a huge cheer was phenomenal, you just couldn’t help but beam from ear to ear and lap it all up
8 and a bit hours later I was in T2, a much quicker turn around this time, less chit chat and I was out on the marathon run, 4 x laps of the area around Tenby town, including about 1500 ft of elevation gain (the Welsh love the hills) before the end would be in sight.
Lap 1 felt great, lap 2 and 3 were tough; legs, heart and lungs all felt good but the poor guts felt not so good, wanting to avoid a Paula Radcliffe moment, I slowed it to a fast paced walked and took the opportunity to have some more chat time and to really soak up the atmosphere again. It truly is amazing, the support, the fellow competitors, the stewards, so many lovely people, and the beauty of the 4 lap course, you get to see fellow friends competing, who are faster than you, for a little smile and wave. I won’t lie though, it’s easy to get obsessed with looking at the lap bands on others arms, “I’ve got none, he has 3…..” It would be very very easy to move into a dark place on the run, so keeping focused, keeping smiling and keeping the legs moving is absolutely essential to bring this final stage of the event home.
After realising I had probably spoken for quite enough time and I felt good enough to trot again, I picked the pace back up, and by lap 4, I finally let myself think……I’m going to do this, I am actually going to complete an Ironman!
Running up the red carpet to finish, with the words “Delyth you are an Ironman” was amazing, the smile on my face says it all, I was greeted by an equally ecstatic German man “we’ve done it, we’ve done it” and he was right, I chuffing well had done it!
The support I had from my friends on the day and leading up to the event was phenomenal, I felt very humble to have such a great network of people around me and I cannot thank them enough.
I always said, one Ironman would be enough, silly comment in hindsight, I loved every minute, I can clearly see areas for improvement, chatting in T1, resulting in close to a 20 minutes transition is an obvious one (and no I wasn’t distracted in the naked man area…..) and any excuse to get out on Barry, I suspect this won’t be my last.