Ironman and going back to school

September saw a re-visit to Tenby for Ironman Wales. Originally I wasn’t planning on doing it this year but to take part in IMUK 70.3. But with injuries playing up, I pulled out of Wimbleball and transferred my entry to Wales in September to give myself hopefully some time to recover and train. Little did I think about the timing of my new plan which then meant that I was now doing IM Wales just 6 days before taking on the River Dart 10K swim.

Friday 14th September saw Jeannie and myself travelling to Tenby. All checked into the B&B which was on the cliff top above South Beach, off we went to register into the event and a mooch around the Expo. Whilst Jeannie was buying something from one stand, the next one had me pondering over a new wetsuit as mine has always felt too tight. Quickly tried it on and with 50% off meant that the credit card got another hit!

 The following morning, I got out to test my bike after the journey over and was able to take in the sunrise over the beach. Time to test out the sea and decided I should at least try my new wetsuit even though I wasn’t going to used it for the race. Sea was beautiful, clear and great temperature to swim in. Swam a shorter version of the course and the wetsuit felt great! Rule No. 1 broken – Don’t use new kit for a race. The rest of the day was leisurely with a small amount of club advertising on the beach! Evening meal of cod n chips washed down with Stolford Press was probably Rule No. 2 broken as well!


Race morning was here and transition was a buzz of activity with everyone being held back so a ‘Parade of Athletes’ could walk through the town to North beach. After realising my transition run bag hadn’t been numbered, I had to hunt down a marker pen. Getting to the beeach just in time, I got to the left side of the pack, the cannon went and we were off. Started to head out to the first buoy to be shortly stopped by a canoeist as the course had changed so we had to swim straight out to a boat about 100m out then turn left towards the first buoy! Afterwards was told that this was said in a beach brief while I was getting a pen! So a bit of time lost but no dramas and just got on with it. Swim went well, a fair about of biff along the straights but around the buoys it was contact free. Swim finished in 1:04 which was an improvement of nearly 9mins from my Outlaw swim in July. Now for the run up the cliffs and through the town to T1.


Before the start, I knew it was going to be hard on the bike as my back had been hurting all night and with pain going down my left leg during the swim. During most of the bike, I basically had a dead left leg along with backache. This lead to copious stops to stretch it all out, including bike marshals stopping to ask if ok. It caused me to stopped for nearly an hour combined during the ride and it got to a point where I’d had enough of the pain, wind and rain. I decided the next marshal I’d flag down and withdraw. Time passed but was carrying on and before I saw a marshal, I had changed my mind to carry on for the last 25miles. Back in transition, I started the run. After getting feeling back in my leg on the 2nd lap was able to pick the pace up a bit and actually finish 10mins faster than last year even with a lot less training!


On the other hand, Jeannie had a good race where she posted a 1:06 swim (hooray, I was ahead at some point unlike last year!), 6:48 bike followed by a 4:08 marathon to finish in 12:17 which was a massive overall improvement from her time last year by over 39mins. This unfortunately wasn’t enough to retain her crown but came in strong to finish 2nd in her age group.


With only 6 days to recover, Saturday 22nd was the River Dart 10k. Like all endurance events it’s good to get a good sleep the night beforehand. Going out in Bristol wasn’t maybe the best idea but hey it was a good night. Driving down to Totnes started to make me feel I was back at school. As like all those years ago achieving my 25m, 50m, and 100m swim badges, today I was aiming to get my 10,000m badge! Having not swam more than 4k in one hit before, it was going to be a new experience and challenge. But hey, you didn’t expect me to train for it did you??

 The swim started in Totnes and follows the river downstream to Dittisham. Obviously when entering the event, I put in mile time that would have been when I was fresh and not just 6 days after finishing an Ironman so I was placed in the fast group! Two friends were also doing it and we heard the water was below 12 degrees and will be fresh when you first get in. Some were adding an extra layer but as I didn’t have anything else to wear, my plan was if getting cold swim faster!


Floating aid stations were placed at about 3.5k and 7k where drinks and jelly babies were on offer. The plan was to go at my usual pace (aka my only pace!) and try to keep it steady with a target time of beating the 3hr mark. The going was good as the first 5k was swam in 1:14 but by the time I got to the second aid station I could feel fatigue kicking into my shoulders. With the river now a lot wider, you had to contend with a few unexpected waves and shallow water over mud banks which made Burnham sea water pretty clean, more mud balaclavas than moustaches!  The last 1.5k seemed to last forever as shoulders had pretty much had it but finally got to the shore only to pass a good few to the finish! Proof that swimmers can’t run out of the water! People had commented that the flow gets stronger as you get downstream which annoyingly this year hardly had any and nothing compared to previous years.

It felt good to finish, chip time was just under 2:54 and finished 268th out of 650 finishers (800 entries). Not bad under the circumstances and considering my Garmin was showing that I had actually swam just over 10.5km. Afterwards in the queue for some hot chocolate, was asked if I was cold just wearing a t-shirt when they had numerous layers on! Not when your used to be on a bike by now was the response! Oh and had to laugh when a girl said she couldn’t understand that when at the aid stations, the water felt warmer!!! It was a good event and always seemed to be safety support nearby throughout the route. It would be good to try the swim again but next time would be good to see how much faster I could be without doing anything the weekend before! So another swim badge received but this time there wasn’t a Wham bar afterwards like when in school.


by Julian Hodge