Ironman UK 70.3 Wimbleball 2012

‘Hands up all our Ironman virgins’ said the commentator as Michelle and Bev hold both my hands up!  We are walking down to Wimbleball Lake, mud squelching through our toes and in my case, with my brain in neutral to keep myself calm.  What on earth was I doing?

Turn the clocks back to the end of last year.  2012 is a big year for me and I wanted to do something special to remember it by.  On a nice gentle run in the sunshine I had this fleeting thought of wondering how far I could swim, cycle and run and my thoughts turned to what I was going to race next year.  Well of course the last person to speak to about attempting a long distance triathlon would be our very own Jeannie who went on to assure me that Ironman 70.3 UK at Wimbleball, aka ‘The World’s Toughest Half Ironman’ was within my grasp – my husband thought I was stupid!  Unfortunately that didn’t stop me entering and confessing what I had done to him a couple of weeks later!

So as many of us have already found out, entering on-line is the easy bit.  What comes next is hours and hours of swimming, cycling, running and panic.   With a full time job and a family, time isn’t the easiest commodity to find, but with the use of early mornings, lunchtimes, a turbo in the living room and a running machine in the garage, I had to make the best use of every minute that I had.

So the first half of 2012 was spent counting down the months and weeks until 17th June.  Disaster nearly struck when after 8 months of good health and uninterrupted training, 3 days to go and a meal out left me feeling decidedly under the weather and instead of travelling down to Exmoor on Friday night, I went to bed instead.  Thankfully I woke up on Saturday feeling better and although not 100%, was determined to get to the race.

Saturday was spent breakfasting with Jo, Dave and Josh, then it was off to register, rack bikes, work out what to put into each of the 3 bags we were provided with that are put into the 2 transition stages, checking and rechecking that I had put everything in the right bags and attending the race briefing.  Unfortunately we didn’t have time for ‘Iron-Prayer’ but believe me I had done enough praying – especially to the weather Gods in the midst of the wettest June on record!

Well my prayers were answered and Sunday dawned cool but dry.  Off we went wearing our wetsuits and wellies (can you ever get enough rubber??) to the briefing area.  Apart from Matt, we were all in a new second wave and whilst we waited, the minutes seemed like hours.  At last we were called to go off to the lake so Dave, Bev, Jo, Michelle and I headed down with lots of hugs and words of encouragement.

The water was absolutely freezing and my feet and hands were hurting but I still managed to laugh when Dave told us that he was enjoying warm water.  The commentator then said that there was 5 minutes to go to the start and there was a collective groan although I’m not sure I managed that as my hands were so painful.  Either he changed his mind or it was some kind of sick joke, but then he started counting down and we were off.  Suddenly my hands didn’t feel so bad and it was a pleasant surprise to find that I could not only see my hands, but could also spot feet ahead of me.  I spent the next 1.2 miles chasing toes and had an excellent swim, spoilt only by managing to take in a mouthful of water as I stood up which rendered me unable to breathe whilst being held up by one of the helpers with the encouraging words ‘barf if you need to love’…

I regained my composure and managed a swift trot up the hill up into transition to find my bag containing my cycling gear.  This area felt bizarre, rather like a busy railway station rather than a transition area during a race and I was surprised at how relaxed it felt.  Change complete, it was out to the bike stands to find my faithful steed and out onto the first of many hills.  Unfortunately out on the bike and following my attempts to swallow half of Wimbleball Lake, I felt pretty grim and knew that I was looking at survival rather than being able to push on.  The temptation to get off and walk the hills as others were doing was so great, but I’m proud to say that completed the whole 56 miles in the saddle.

Whilst others jumped off their bikes and ran into transition, all I could manage was a slow walk.  Having felt so bad on the bike, I felt that a run would only make matters worse so I had resigned myself to the fact that I had done most of the course and made the T2 cut off time by over 30 minutes that I should feel pleased with myself on what I had achieved.  However I started the run slow and steady and actually felt a bit better.  Following the example of others, I allowed myself to walk uphill and run downhill and before I knew it, I was on the second lap and appreciating words of encouragement from Dave, Michelle, Matt and Julian (sorry if I missed anyone else who called to me but with your name on your number everyone is calling to you).  At this point I realised that I was going to finish, and taking on some Pepsi (which I usually hate) in the second lap, I perked up and my third lap was the most comfortable and probably the fastest part.   A sharp right hand turn and there it was, the most amazing sight – the red carpet with the big timing gantry over the top and better still, my family and fellow WCT members at the finish.  Hugs, tears, smiles and lots of photos – awesome.    Words aren’t enough!

As my age group was a small one, I decided to go along to the roll down ceremony.  Now this race is an age group qualifier for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships to be held in Las Vegas later this year and the roll down as I soon learnt, is the process of offering places to the top finishers in each age group.  Although Las Vegas wasn’t an option, the 3rd placed lady accepted the race so as 4th, I just missed out!

I heard someone mention recently that triathlon is the best individual team sport and I wholeheartedly agree.  I only got to the finish line because of all the excellent help and advice I received and the many hours spent with Club members swimming, cycling, running and eating bacon butties.  To you I offer my heartfelt thanks and am scared to mention you all by name in case I miss anyone out but you all know who you are!!!  However special mentions to Sarah who helped me to be in the best shape possible and of course to Mike G who not only helped with my swimming, but provided me with the training plans and encouragement without which, I doubt it would not have happened.

The biggest thanks must go to my family.  Allowing me the time to train was the biggest and best 50th birthday present I could receive and it was all worth it to see your faces at the finish line and something for my children to remember always.   XX

A virgin no more………….

Caroline