Rachel Brothwell Ironman Barcalona 2018…what were you thinking?

I still can’t answer that question….

From starting Couch25k in March 2105 my only plan was to get fit. After suffering a mini stroke in October 2014 and following a 6 month recovery I decided I needed to get off my backside and do something.

So how did I get from ‘I need to get fit’ to ‘I am an Ironman????’.

Well Kerry Padley has to take at least 70% of the responsibility for this. Having only wanting to run the Scunthorpe 10k in an hour, she then talked me into doing a duathlon. A couple of training sessions later she thought it then appropriate to persuade me into a triathlon.

‘Never swam in my life’ were the words I said, to which Kerry responded ‘You have 8 weeks to learn mate’. Oh brilliant. So off I went to the pods to have adult swimming lessons. So three sprint triathlons, an attempted half iron distance later and nothing since September 2016, we are now in October 2017. With my finger hovering over the ipad not sure what I am doing when I press Pay Now. That’s it I’m now entered for Ironman Barcelona 2018. My partner Steve had already entered as had Ric, Emma and Stuart. Training commences now.

Setbacks with injury had been my biggest problem with training since Brigg sprint in 2016. It seemed endless one after the other. After what seemed forever and with the help of Andy Coulson I began to make progress. On to my first race, Outlaw Half. Well not much of a race. Should have been a DNS not DNF. Knocked out in the water after 150m. Gutted. It took me some time to refocus on the bigger picture. My biggest problem was getting back in the water which did prove difficult but I began to settle back into my training. Being self coached I had to discipline myself to do the training. I knew what I had to do to get me to the start line.

Wow 12 months goes so fast….

Barcelona Ironman 2018…. so excited now. When Ironman roll in town they declare a party. What a fabulous environment to be in. Everything from registration to start line was so well planned. Never experienced anything like it in my life. After registering and collecting kit we proceed to the expo. OMG I am going to be spending a fortune in here. Bikes racked on the Saturday along with bike and run changing bags. No nerves or anything just excitement.

My only goal was to make the cut offs and finish the race.

Race day…

Where did the storm come from? Can you believe it. We pick an Ironman that has reasonable weather all year round and race day comes there’s a monster brewing. Absolutely poured it down from 7am. It was a wet, windy and cool on the 1 mile walk to transition and the start line. Everything was soaking. I decided beforehand that I would have full kit change in transitions. I had no pressure on myself to be the fastest so I could take my time.

Changed into swim gear and wetsuit on. Walking down to the beach to get into our swim pens we caught a glimpse of the sea. Oh my days. The storm had caused a 5ft swell. Not only was it going to be a rough swim but getting into the water itself was going to be problematic. I kept calm. Stood with Emma and Steve. We decided to tag on the back of the 1.05 swimmers hoping for a bit of drag, Ha jokes on us. Hugs and kisses and we were off. Rolling start was brilliant and I hope they introduce this in all races. It was only 4 people every 5 seconds which helped with entering the water massively. I quickly got into my rhythm. I had previously been advised by Mr Cannings to stay slightly out wide as to avoid being hit. Invaluable advice. The swell was immense. I don’t mind the choppy water but this was something else. I had entered the water at the same time as Steve and Emma but had no idea where they were. The current constantly pulling you was tough to swim in but it was the same for all of us. The second buoy came fairly quickly, 100m to the next buoy and then two laps of Hatfield lake to get home.

Just get out the swim, that’s all I kept telling myself.

The last 1600m were mental. We were being constantly pushed towards the shore and fighting against the waves. All technique out of the window this was just survival now. I could hear the music and compere on shore and so I hadn’t far to go now. Getting out will be easier than getting in I thought. Hell no, took me 3 attempts to catch a wave in. Running up the beach I had no idea what time I’d done or anything. Stopped my watch as I entered the tent 1.17. Perfect! So pleased with that time considering the condition of the swim.

I grabbed my bike bag and headed for the changing room. Full change. Full bike kit. I wanted to be comfortable. Never ridden 112 miles on the bike and certainly not in one go. Transition is fairly long from swim exit to bike exit. I just took my time. No point in me rushing I had over 6.5 hours on the bike to do. Undulating with 2 climbs is how I would describe this course. There’s is nothing flat about it what so ever. Others would disagree. First 3km were slow as we had to be sat up on our bikes. It was a very tricky road, very narrow with lots of hazards. DQ for anyone seen on aero bars. Out into the main part of the race. Road surface was fab until the rain came and it came. Caused minor flooding on the flat part of the road, even the pro leader came off on the wet surface at a roundabout.

I did the first climb not far into the bike and it turned out to be the longest drag ever. Chuff me. Even when I saw the 500m to turnaround point sign I thought they had got their measurements wrong…lol. I saw Steve coming down as I was going up so relieved he’d had a good swim. Back down was a headwind all the way so little respite as I had to keep peddling. Descending down I saw Stuart coming up. I shouted ‘why are you behind me?’. As he came down the hill he passed me saying he struggled in the swim. Well he wasn’t struggling on the bike that’s for sure.

As I was descending down my alarm seemed to constantly go off every 10 minutes to drink and then every half hour to eat. Let the first feed station go and continued to next. Got off stretched my legs, refilled my water bottles and went for a wee.All good. Long straight road back to half distance. That’s when I heard them. Faith and Paul. Stuarts’ sister and brother in law had flown out to support him. We had met a couple of days earlier for a practice swim and they became our unofficial photographers and vocal supporters for the day. Screaming my name as I went up the drag, round the circle and back down for the second half. Their voices certainly lifted me.

Second lap was identical to the first albeit a little slower. I knew I had made the cut off with plenty of time to spare so began to steady myself knowing I had a marathon to do shortly. Skipped the first feed station again as I had enough fuel and fluid to get me through to the next. Once again I saw Stuart, Emma and Steve on the bike, hadn’t seen Ric but told myself he’s a beast on the bike he will be long gone. Yelled and gave them a wave. Brilliant that I had seen them. Second feed station came quickly, stopped again and followed exactly what I did the first time.

Had a really good feeling from then on. I was 27 miles from transition.

Wow 5 ½ hours had gone so quickly. I felt myself smile. I was loving it. I had the last of my food before heading back into Calella. Support crew were on hand, well I say that. 8 floors up in Stuarts’ hotel, recharging phone and camera batteries etc.. I hear my name been screamed from the balcony. What a lifting sound that was. I was almost home.As I arrived in transition the sun decided to come out. I grabbed my run bag and went into the changing room, all change into run gear. I had my run bottle and food in pockets and I’m off for the longest run I have done.

The sun felt fab. Having mostly rained on the bike it was very welcome. Before I was even past 1K I heard the familiar ‘Rachel’ being screamed by Paul and Faith. Happy smiles, so pleased to get off the bike and in plenty of time. First 2K was mainly acclimatising my legs to the run. Little loop took me past the entrance to the red carpet, only 3 big laps to go. As I ran past I heard an unfamiliar voice shouting me, looked up to see Ric. Chatted for a couple of seconds to make sure he was ok before leaving to continue my run.

Three big, boring loops to go. 10K in felt nice and steady. Found my 11min/mile pace quickly and promised myself every aid station I must walk, take on water and food then go again. Just after 10k the storm arrived again and it absolutely poured it down and it didnt stop. First lap seem to go quick. Crossed paths with Emma and Stuart and shouted well done to them. Hadn’t seen Steve but thought he will be around somewhere. In my head I’d promised myself the next time I got to Ric’s position I can have a biscuit. Just another little goal to aim for. Second lap came and went. Stopped again at Ric, ate my biscuits and also took the little stones out of my shoes. new I needed to as I knew I had another 8 miles to go and didn’t want to cause myself any problems. The rain just didn’t stop and as the sun set over the ocean the temperature began drop and rapidly. As I approached the far end turnaround point I was 7K from home. 7K was nothing on a normal day. I began to get tired. I wasn’t particularly losing energy, as I knew I had fuelled correctly, I was just tired. It had been a long day from the 5am wake up call and now I was on the home straight. It still continued to bucket it down. I could hear the music in the distance. Not far. Saw the lights I knew I was nearly there.

Omg I’ve nearly done it. I’m nearly there. Kept repeating those words over and over. I ran towards the expo and saw the 42K sign, just a bit more. I passed people coming the other way, they had another lap to go. I wasn’t last and I was heading down the red carpet. To be honest the last stretch was all a bit of a blur. All I could see was the finish. No celebration as I crossed the line, just a hand over my mouth, dumbstruck as to what I had just achieved.

Time meant nothing to me. My goal was to meet the cut offs and finish. Steve met me on the finish line. He had waited around until I came in. I was so elated.

That’s it. I AM AN IRONMAN. I couldn’t be prouder of myself.





I loved every minute of it. Will I do another one? HELL NO.

I have nothing more to prove to myself. I just did it and that’s what it was all about.