Immortal Half Iron

Immortal Half Iron
19 May 2015 Janine

This photo sums up my day! Hugging the nice medical lady that helped me on the course, with a few tears and a medal slung around my neck.

Highs n Lows
As I wheeled my bicycle back to my car at around 4pm on Sunday, through the picturesque grounds of National Trust’s Stourhead Estate, a few people asked me: ‘good race?’

Since they were probably asking to be friendly I simply said ‘oh, highs and lows!’ and spared the details of tears, cramp, vomiting up seaweed, peeing on the roadside and more unmentionables. 
Today I am prouder than I can possibly have imagined to say that I am a half ironwoman. I learned that that finishing is even sweeter when it’s tough, and that having support from people who love you at an event that tough makes everything soooo much happier.
I had a strange feeling this week that something would happen at the race. My housemate asked me how I was feeling about it on Thursday eve, and all I could really say was ‘like something’s gonna happen!’ I just had a niggling feeling that it was going to throw something at me that I wasn’t expecting. My preparation was all it could be under the circumstances of how busy I am right now. Good hydration, eating well the night before, although in hindsight I should probably not have had salmon and al dente sweet potato the night before the race. I had no less than 8 energy bars, a pack of shot bloks and a gel to get me through the 70.3 miles that lay ahead of me. 
Lakeside, ready for the 7am off


Mum and Dad said they would like not make the swim as it was too early, but here’s a photo, taken from Mum at 7.10am, that says the opposite!



At 6.48am, I was standing in a crowd of 200 wetsuited men (mostly), early morning sun shimmering on the lake, plenty of people visibly shaking and breathing into their hands in the crisp air.  As we wended our way into the lake for a mass start, the eeriest music ever started playing out of giant speakers and a girl announced ‘uh I feel as if I’m going to die!’ which probably voiced many a thought as we all shuffled on the jetty towards the 14 degree water, music chilling our nerves more than the cold air itself. 
Once in, thankfully the music switched to the baywatch theme tune with its appropriately selected lyrics ‘I’m always ready I won’t let you out of my sight’.  That cheered me up as I lay on my back acclimatising to the water. 
3-2-1! And off we went. 1900m of weedy, murky, buoy weaving, foot flinging and unfortunately a lot water swallowing fun ensued.  A lot of it. 
I’ve nailed the nerve routine now. They always arrive. And I always say hello. I know what to do now when the fight or flight kicks in during the first 100m, first of all I always listen to it, and feel an immediate sense that I can’t do this! And then I remember that this is the usual routine and tell myself to ‘hang on in there, you know this will pass’. I focus on breathing out through my nose under the water. I push it out with force, it regulates me. I then imagine I am just having a nice swim in a pool or a lake that I know, just for fun, and try to forget that I am in a race surround by 200 other bodies frantically finding their own way and going through their own private and submerged journies. It works. A deep breath. A sense of calm fill me. By 500 metres I’ve found my rhythm, and by 1000 – damn, I’m enjoying it! By 1000 I can even start taking in the views around me as I breathe, remembering technique and finally, pushing past others with an extra kick and a relaxed breath.

I ran out of the lake 109/200. Not bad. The grass was icy cold and I couldn’t feel my feet at this point. I’d been in the lake for around 40 mins, although it felt more like 20 at most.

As I started the bike leg, I felt something wasn’t settling and I didn’t want to eat or drink. I’ll usually settle into 10 mins and then drink, and eat by 20 mins. I noticed that 35 mins had passed and I didn’t feel able to take anything in. During the first hour from that point, I forced a cliff bar down, which almost choked me in its dryness, and I finished almost an entire bottle of fluids with Osmo active hydration. My stomach rebelled. Cramps came, at first softly, and continued to worsen and stay put until I was groaning and wincing. By mile 18 I was almost ready to cry. I stopped for pee which didn’t help. I was slowing, and every single one of the 100 people that I had beaten out of the lake all sailed past me on the two lap course that lay ahead. At mile 35 ish, I was pulled over by a couple of medics and I sat in their vehicle being offered tea which I declined. I cried a lot and they made me breathe deeply for a while which must have helped. My abdomen was like a balloon and every cm of it was raw and painful. All I could say was ‘I have to go… I don’t want to miss cut off’. I asked them what time it was, and worked out that if I was to make it, I’d have to leave there and then and average 15MPH which may not be an easy task in my state. I got back on my bike, and just peddled. I gently sipped water, I couldn’t eat a thing but I eventually felt able to chew up a shot Blok and that really helped me to get through.

I passed two girls on the final 8 miles who both missed cut off. I was the last bike in to make it. Position 184th out of 200 starters.

If I wasn’t going to come LAST in the race, I really had my work cut out for me!

My parents greeted me on the lawn as I dismounted my bike. I was so happy to see them. I had cramps! I said merrily. I didn’t think I was going to make it! I stopped for a picture. I knew that since I had made the cut off time, I was going to make it. I had three hours to run a half marathon. My half PB is 1.37 so I felt that this was the easy bit.

Tired smile

Seems that I had already made it into position 183rd before even leaving T2 where I almost got DQ’d for getting naked and changing into my running bra! Turns out that is not allowed! Oops. 
I really enjoyed the run. I felt strong aside from my achilles aching a little bit. I chomped my way through the remainder of the shot bloks, and even drank the most delicious torn strawberry milkshake flavour gel on the last lap which tasted like rainbows in heaven. I am definitely investing in those for my Ironman run! The cramps disappeared.  My three laps were really even, around 40 mins for each one. My overall time was around 2:10 including a stop at every water station. I thought that I’d make under two hours easily for it, interesting to see just what a difference the race so far had had on my legs, although I am sure that had I not had such a tiring bike, I may have been able to step it up a little more. 
On the run I was relaxing. I knew that a sub 7 was going to happen. In my head the laps weren’t as long as they were in reality. 4.something miles doesn’t look that long on a watch, but in reality at an average of 9.5min miles, that’s a fair whack. The fact my parents were waiting for me on each lap made all the difference. I was excited to see them each time, and planned what I’d do that time, maybe a high five, a big smile, time for a hug perhaps? 
I saved the hug eventually for the end. The final lap meant that I was able to wend my way up to the finishing chute amid cheers of those who had packed up their transition already and their families. As I approached, my mum and dad waved from the top. I high five my Dad on the way though, and as I went through the finishing line, the medic who had soothed me back to health on the course was there and gave me a big hug. A few tears flowed, and then I lay down, star-shaped on he grass. I felt exhausted, and on top of the world.
Mum paid for a 20 minute massage for me, and then cooked the most delicious roast chicken that night. I felt thoroughly looked after and loved! My recovery physically was speedy, but I was left with a feeling of concern for what lies ahead in Bolton. My family are all worried about the Ironman, but I do honestly feel that without the cramping issues that I had, I could have done the full distance itself on Sunday. I’ve trained and I’m ready. The problem for me is that the exhaustion brings out all manner of anxieties for me until I’ve slept it off. The aftermath of the race is always a race in itself ti get sufficient fluids and food into me to aid a speedy recovery as much as possible.
My first half iron was eventful, but boy was it worth it. My parents being able to come along and see it was very special, and my Mum dragging Dad out of bed at 7am to catch the lake swim was a massive effort! 

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