UK ironman 70.3, Wimbleball

I woke up before my Alarm sounded, about 4:50am. Despite the very warm day ahead, it was quite cold in the early morning. I managed to get myself a cup of tea and a granola bar for my breakfast. Doesn’t seem like much but I knew my stomach would be unhappy during the swim if I had more.

As all the transition kit had been checked in yesterday all that was left for me to check was my tyre pressure and chain. Leaving my bike, sure that I could do no more than worry about it, I headed back to the tent to suit up. Once the wetsuit was zipped up I dropped off my after-race clothes in the transition tent and headed down to the start line.

Getting into the water was a relief – it was considerably warmer than standing by the lakeside! The scenery was stunning, a rolling landscape stretching out to the rising sun. The atmosphere was brilliant. Here we were, fifteen hundred participants, bobbing up and down in the water, quietly, with our own thoughts about what lay ahead. The crowd started to sing God Save The Queen, which at first seemed quite odd, but as more and more people joined in it sounded great and the excitement in the atmosphere rose. The singing ended and a horn signaled the start of the race.

 

I had unintentionally ended up near the front line. My first time in a triathlon, my first time in a mass start open-water race, and I was right in the thick of it. The first few tens of seconds were okay; then the columns and rows of swimmers closed in. Arms were scrabbling at my back whilst legs and feet were kicking my arms and sides. Luckily I only got slapped in the face once! After the first buoy things calmed down a little, the water all around me was dense with swimmers but we seemed to all have our own little plot.

I could feel the extra speed resulting from such a large body of people swimming in unison. On the whole, my first experience of a triathlon swim was exhilarating, the time passed very quickly and before you could say ‘Tee One’ I was out of the water. I surprised myself, 1.2 miles in 39 mins 34 seconds!

1.9km swim complete!The first transition (T1) involved running 400m to a tent to collect my blue (for bike) bag. An event volunteer helped collect the bits and pieces out my bag whilst I got my wetsuit off. Equipped with my glasses, gloves, pump, helmet and shoes I grabbed my bike and was quickly climbing the first three miles out onto the main bike loop.

I could describe the bike course in two words: very hilly. I can also describe it in three words: very very hilly. It apparently contains no less than fifty-two hills. Yikes. At first my fears were not confirmed, as after initially climbing for a few miles, the course seems to undulate mildly. almost half way round the loop there is a steep descent with a ‘no overtaking zone’. Coming down this hill drives home the altitude you’re going to have to climb to get back up and do it again.

The first of the steep hills was at approximately 20 miles, and it hurt. Crawling up in my lowest gear, turning a very low cadence, I wondered how I would manage a second time up! Not long after this a second and then third climb hit. At the top of Haddington Hill (I think that’s the name) there was tremendous support from spectators. I felt like I was on a mini Tour de France climb. Once this hill was behind, there were a few more undulating sections, but nothing too steep. Then the first lap was over. Onto number two.

On the second lap I did make it up all the hills without stopping, without walking, so I can confirm that you don’t need a triple to complete this race… but it would make it a lot more comfortable! The second trip up the steepest hills (about 14%) left my legs quite sore which didn’t bode well for the run. The last three miles descended towards Wimbleball lake and over a bridge spanning the reservoir. I crossed the dismount line and headed into the second transition (T2). The cycle took 4 hours and 18 minutes, much longer than I had expected and had left my legs worse than I had hoped.

I spent about seven minutes in T2, applying sun-cream and visiting the bathroom (probably too much information there!) then headed out onto the run course.

The course was composed of three laps. The lap covered varied terrain from single track dirt-tracks, tarmac and grass. Keeping with the theme set by the cycle, it was hilly. there was one decent hill near the start of the lap which then led down to the reservoir dam. The first few miles were terrible. My stomach was complaining loudly, I had to stop and let the feeling pass. Once I hit the second lap I was feeling fresher, getting up to my normal training pace. I was passing people every few seconds, this gave me quite a boost (even if some were a lap ahead of me!). During the third lap I lost the enthusiasm and adrenalin from the second and had to stop briefly on the dam due to a stitch. Telling myself that there was only a few miles left, I got going again with the stitch still burning in my side.

As the temperature continued to increase I made my way towards the finishing line, which I crossed after 1 hour and 54 minutes of running. This is the slowest time I’ve ever run a half marathon by far (my PB is 1hr26mins), but I didn’t care, I was finished, and it was ******* hard.

I raised my arms to the sky celebrating as I crossed the line in 7 hours 7 minutes and 3 seconds. I then ate a pork pie. [How’s that for an anti-climax!]

So… in short: this took much longer than I anticipated but I’m happy with my time as I now know how difficult the Wimbleball ironman 70.3 really is and believe the race organisers when they say if you can do Wimbleball, you can easily do any ironman 70.3.

Swim 0:39:34 (646th)
T1 0:08:27 (887th)
Bike 4:17:53 (1038th!)
T2 0:07:24 (1067th)
Run 1:53:46 (328th)
Overall 7:07:03 (831st) – 114th in the Male 25-29 category.

The night before

I’m lying in my tent. I smell quite smokey as Mark felt that camping required a fire – 20 matches later he finally got one. I should be sleeping as I have to get up in six hours to jump in a lake.

That’s right, I’m at Wimbleball lake and tomorrow is my first ironman 70.3. It’s the toughest of it’s kind in the world (unkown to me when signing up of course). The swim starts in deep water, the cycle has fifty-two hills climbing a total of 1750m and the run is three laps of an undulating course. My time expectations have evaporated, replaced by uncertainty.

I found organising my transition bags rather stressful – always sure I was forgetting something. Running events are much easier on the mind, just turn up in trainers, shorts and top. This afternoon I was worrying about tyre pressure, chain lubrication, energy bars, glasses, gloves, sun cream, bike stickers, elastic shoe laces, cycle clothing, race belt… phew. And most of all checking that everything is in the right coloured bag and on the correct rack… paranoia was setting in, I must’ve checked each bag a dozen times before leaving them.

It’s all done now, so nothing to do other than get some sleep. Goodnight.

Up down up down up up up

Altitude

Up late as I’m still getting ready for my journey down south. As I sort out my bike gear my mind keeps wandering to the ups and downs that I’ll be suffering early Sunday morning. See that inlcine at about 35km and 75km? That’s a 14% grade hill… and I’ve got a double on my bike. I’ll make it (I think), but a triple would make it a hell of a lot more comfortable. Didn’t think it was worth the effort getting one fitted to my bike for one race… Edinburgh’s just not that hilly!

ThisĀ  is really the only part of the race that worries me. We’ll see soon if it breaks me or not…

Almost aluminium-man

In eight days I’ll be floating in a lake at 6:30am in the south of England, waiting. The following six to seven hours will see me swimming in a mass of swinging arms and legs, cycling up and down and up and down a number of hills and finally running my way to finish line. Then I’ll be half an ironman. I’m wondering if the experience will make me want to embark on training for a full one? I’m hoping not, but then again, do I want to remain just a half ironman? If you go by atomic mass in the periodic table- an aluminium-man.

I’ve only been training for twelve weeks so I can see myself doing more half ironman races, with more training. I’ll probably pick a much flatter races than the UK one!

Somewhat surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed swimming in open water. Something about feeling swift and efficient in the water, it’s quite a different enjoyment from running and cycling. Have been looking into Total Immersion method of swimming – seems to be working for me!