After months of training it was time to make the trip over the Pennines to Manchester Airport as the beginning of the end approached. The journey to become an Ironman would be over as raceday was in 3 days time.
So arriving at the airport we made our way to check in with paperwork in hand to be greeted by the welcoming checkin girl, handing said paperwork over the happy go lucky girl informed us that our flight had departed 3 hours prior to our arrival!!!! Hmmm this put us in a bit of a pickle, booking through Nirvana to take all the stress out of the journey there I stood stress levels increasing rapidly. A couple of quick phone calls and a very very helpful Jonathan at Nirvana and we were on the move from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 where I was assured he had checked us in on line but we’d need to cover the cost of the bikes. No dramas, into Terminal 1 to checkin a quick brief to the lady at the desk who nodded in agreement that she knew all about my predicament and all that needed to happen was to pay for our bikes to be transported over at the ‘Help Desk’. Help my arse. I walked over and again explained my situation to a so called woman behind the desk, may have been a man who knows either way I was there to pay and be polite. She assured me she knew of who I was and that i had to pay for my bikes, Brilliant were all singing off the same song sheet. Oh Wait she declares ‘computer says no’ im sorry we had this sorted myself and 3 others were to board the plane with 2 bikes and all that needed to be done was pay for the bikes to be taken. Computer says HK not HB it needs to say HB I dont know what HK means.
So by this point lise is laughing at me as i attempt not to be one of those over enthusiastic passengers off airport documentaries, This thing behind the counter which i cant bring myself to charm(its like an inbuilt safety feature i have to be horrible to chicks!!) carries on by saying I need to speak to cargo about it. No dramas how can I contact cargo, whats that you can do it. In my head I was yelling ‘well f@#kin do it you dizzy cow’ but I politely asked for her help on the matter in hand and contact cargo……£320 for your bikes and they’ll be there in 3-5 days because your not travelling with your bike!! I KNOW im not travelling with my bike you wont let me. Time for another call to Nirvana who after a five minute wait managed to get the computer to change at which the thing behind the desk was only to happy to let me pay for our bikes and see us on our way. If I see her again I’ll send her to cargo!! And so we boarded our flight with only a 30 minute delay. At this point I have to say Nirvana were awesome, after reading the small print I realised they had no obligation to get us on another flight but did so only at the cost of our bikes!
Arriving in Zurich the transfers to the Hotel was seamless and this reassured us why we’d paid a little extra to have the hassle removes. The other thing that struck me was it was boiling hot! This was to be the constant, even when it chucked it down with thunder so loud the vibrations set off all the alarms at the car garage it was still red hot, 4am….red hot, you get my jist.
Friday was registration day and again we were shuttled to the event site and for once in my life I was gobsmacked. The Expo was huge, shops for everything you could possibly imagine, bike porn that would be classed as the playboy of bikes, and everything on the edge of a crystal clear lake where you could swim without a swarm of Health and Safety signatures and cosignatures and NOK Details. A few laps of the expo and an abundance of freebies later and it was clear that the entry fee for Ironman was not wasted. After registering we took the bikes out for a pre race set up check just to make sure id have no excuses come race day.
Sunday came after a relaxing Saturday, after racking on Saturday at which point a photo was taken of me, my bike and my helmet for security reasons which was referred to on a database when I came to leave after the event (Added for you Paul). A nervous set up of my transition area and off down to the swim start we went. Back, left was the advice for the slow lads on the swim so back, left it was.
Thing is the back left soon became the middle as everyone had the same idea!! So the plan changed, after the Swiss national anthem the pros were off and it was decided to count to 5 after the claxon so we’d be at the back………Off the claxon went and no one behind us moved they all had the same plan, ohhhhh f#*k it off I went in to the fist throwing, elbow dropping, kung fu kicking 3.8 km swim. To me this would be the worst bit of the day, my plan was always just to get through it and if I had to put a time on it 1hr20 would have been it which I arrived at by doubling my HIM time and adding a couple of minutes. The swiss passenger boats paid little regard to the swimmers creating huge wave which were a good laugh trying to swim through and exiting the swim in 1.21 and dishing out more digs than I received I was happy.
In and out of a steady T1 making sure I had all bases covered and out onto the bike, I dropped my rear mounted water bottle after 4km nice but other than that one word…Beautiful. An amazing route lined by thousands of people all the way round..Hopp Hopp Hopp everywhere you pedalled. I passed two blokes, bikes trashed and both on spinal boards and neck brace and random people sat head in hand crying as their Ironman had come to an end be it by lack of preparation or crashing out. Spinning comfortably through my first 90km lap I encountered my first issue on the bike. I carry my nutrition in a pocketed race belt. Never in training had my bars melted together to create a mush of wrappers and bars ..nightmare, nothing I could do except grab nutrition at the feed stations so I went from eating every 15 minutes to every 35-40ish.
Climbing the beast for the second time to shouts of ‘kill the beast’ was a lot harder than the first and I realised my aero helmet wasn’t the right choice on a red hot day as I was literally dripping with sweat. With 40km to go I noticed I had stopped sweating, not a good sign. I felt OK but knew that its one of the first signs of heat stroke so I eased ever so slightly on the bike. 10km down the road and I made a wrong turn on a clearly signed/marshalled turn and I blamed the guy in front who it turned out wasn’t part of the race. This was another small sign I was losing concentration. Just a few kilometres to push and I’d be sub 6hrs on a 184.2km ride having aimed for a 5.50 at 180km I would be happy with 6hrs still leaving my with a sub 11hrs goal coming in with 6.01 I was pleased!
Into T2 where a fellow athlete quickly asked to borrow my Vaseline, you sure mate theres only 1 place that’s been as he dug into my tub of vas and I couldn’t help but laugh.
Then out onto the run in searing heat and after 3km I was averaging 7min/miles far to quick. 7.55min/miles and a 3hrs30 marathon and a sub 11hrs would suit me fine all things considered. My foot was killing due to tendonitis and I soon realised that a marathon after a swim/bike like that cant be bluffed. I think I could bluff a marathon but this just couldn’t be done. So at 21km I was hitting my goal the heavens opened and cooled us all off and all was well in the world. I had a word with my foot and told it the only way its stopping is when it crosses the finish line and so we worked in a painful harmony. 22km came and as I don’t do things by half I ran up to the wall and not content with hitting it I headbutted that thing so hard it sent me dizzy and forced me to re-evaluate my times. Decision time, do I continue and risk passing out but if I don’t pass out I will be a sub-11 Ironman or do I slow down and make sure I become an Ironman.
As I write this an Ironman you know the choice I made, I chose then and there to become an Ironman today and next time run myself into the abyss if necessary to hit my ‘A’ time. With a ‘B’ time of under 12hrs and a ‘C’ goal of finishing I was happy crossing the line to hear “Lewis Purcell you are an Ironman” to which I had a beer and was duly drunk. So on my 28th birthday with a 4.01 run 30min outside my target run time and in 11hrs33min I became an Ironman and will be rescheduling my birthday for a date when I can sit down, chill out and have a beer. Not swim bike run the hardest triathlon I have ever done (out of the whole 6 I have done!!!).
I am in the yellow swim hat!
Written by Lewis Purcell