As I stood on the beach listening to the PA blaring out “Thunderstruck” it was hard to believe I was about to start my first Ironman which I had entered a year before. Where on earth had 12 months gone? The nagging question was had I done enough, in the right balance between the three disciplines, the next 13hours or so would tell.
With the rolling start underway and me self seeded in the 60 minute swim wave I crossed the start line and hit the warm, clear waters of the Mediterranean at 8:25am. I settled into a really comfortable pace and started to focus on a strong technique and not pushing too hard or easing back too much. The swim headed towards the lighthouse before turning back towards the start point. I was picking off a steady stream of swimmers constantly, and I resisted the urge to look at my watch, I went purely on feel. Soon enough my feet were hitting the coarse sand and the first discipline was done. 3.8km in 58:16, I cant complain about that!
Heading into the huge marquee that serves as T1 I picked out my hanging bag with my cycle kit in it, dried my feet, then a light dusting of tack and on wth the socks. Shoes, helmet, sunglasses and race belt soon followed, and the wetsuit etc went into that bag. I trotted back out into the sunshine to pick my bike up. I had spent a lot of time thinking over my ride strategy, particularly the choice of bike. From speaking to others the bike course is really fast and an out and out TT Course. I wasn’t confident what shape I would be in having spent in the region of six hours on a TT bike, so opted for a road bike, on the premise that I would rather sacrifice time on the bike course but feel ok for the marathon, in the end I am 100% sure my choice was sound. I was religiously taking salt tablets every 30 mins as well as water and energy drink throughout the ride. The bike course is essentially two laps out and back of 76km then a shorter lap and back to Calella. I settled into a comfortable pace, my aim was to hold at 30km/h, and not get swept up with the riders passing. With the wind behind me on the return legs I was holding at 33-35km/h easily but dropping heading into the wind to 26-27km/h. I was still happy with this as it would give me a 6hrs approximate bike split. Paul Munday caught me 85km in the bike leg, with Jared Roberts catching me at 120km in, I was really pleased to see them both going strong, and I knew it would always be a matter of time before they caught me, so wasn’t phased at all by this. I rolled back into T1 in 6hrs 11mins for the 180km bike leg. Things were going perfectly to plan, but would they last?
It was a relief to be out of the saddle, so after racking the bike and heading back to the marquee, off the hook came my run bag, with the cycle gear going into it, drying my feet again, a fresh dusting of talc, clean socks, and some more vaseline around the undercarriage and other areas. It was time to head out on the run. I had been on the go for just under 7hrs 40 mins, only the marathon to go now. Stuart Clark had planted the seed in my mind to run between feed stations, and mentally just think about running to the next, with the reward of a short walk and nutrition awaiting me. Then run to the next and so on, not to think of it as a marathon, just a series of 2km runs with a short walk in between. What a gem of advice!! Before I knew it I was seeing Tina at the end of the first lap, only two more to go. Even the warm rain that had started didn’t dampen my enthusiasm and knowledge I would finish and join a very exclusive club. Just after midway, I did take a longer walk, but that was to preserve my legs for the final push, all the time it was a step nearer the finish. I was constantly working times out and I knew if I could keep on with the run/short walk, I could exceed my target time (which I had kept to myself)
Running through the side of T1 for the final time, I was on the last 2km, and if anything my pace increased! Next came the expo area and the noise of the finish line. I had been told it’s a finish like no other, that was an understatement. I hit the red carpet and a wall of noise, thumping music and cheering crowds. Time to soak it up and enjoy my first experience of the Ironman Party. A high five from the two announcers on the red carpet and the words that I had waited to hear on the PA “Ian, you are an Ironman” Tina was waiting at the finish chute but I couldn’t hear her over the wall of noise. 12hrs 44min 02 secs. I had hoped to be in the 13-14 hr bracket, I was elated, on a massive high.
Beer, shower and a post race massage then out to meet Tina, for a very emotional reunion for us both!
It was an incredible experience and something I will never forget. My advice to anyone considering it is this…… Do it, ask for advice and take it on board, and above all plan your race and race your plan. After all, anything is possible!