Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Welsh Ironman by Jon Shepherd-Smyth

I would just like to say a huge thank you for all the support over the last few months. The text messages and phone calls have not stopped and it means so much.
Completing Ironman is the greatest achievement of my life and I can't wait to do it again next year in Tenby, Wales. The support was out of this world as thousands and thousands of people from all over the world lined the streets to support the athletes. It was just breathtaking, kids high fiving, fire stations and police crews with their doors open blasting music at 5am before the swim. I was proper shitting it, 2200 people all about to swim for one buoy in the sea.
The Welsh National anthem was played at 6.55am before the gun went off to signal the start of a 2.4 mile swim. It was a mass start from North Beach in Tenby where everyone made their way into the sea and start a long but enjoyable day. The waves were shocking and many of the athletes kept swimming off course because sighting was practically impossible due to the waves coming at us every 2-3 seconds. In addition to this, it was absolute carnage with people swimming over each other trying to hit the first buoy. After the first lap things settled down in terms of athletes battering each other but the waves got worse and I kept swallowing sea water so it's safe to say that when the swim was finished I was a very happy man. About 5-6 people apparently turned round before getting into the sea and decided they were not going to take part? The most expensive beach standing experience ever eh. Out in one peace (phew) I managed 1 hour 30 minutes on the swim admittedly not my strongest discipline.
I was relieved to jump on the bike after a 1 kilometer run from the beach to transition. I felt a bit pissed about the 1km run before the race but it actually warmed my legs up ready for the bike leg. The Wales Ironman bike course is renowned for being extremely hilly and it certainly was just that. For 112 miles there wasn't a single mile of flat road, which would allow you to settle into a comfortable pace. It was simply up or down all the way and the crowds were unbelievable. There is three hills in particular on the bike course the were 16% plus and we had to do them twice, with one big loop of 69 ish miles and then a second 42 mile loop, which was the hilliest part of the first loop. On the major hills there was only enough room for bikes to go single file and it was honestly like being in the tour or the Olympics where they are doing big climbs. The training in the Lakes, which my training partner insisted on us doing having done Wales before certainly paid off and coming off the bike I felt surprisingly fresh. I managed 6 hours 16 minutes on the bike, which I was pleased with. Now for the last bit of the race - the marathon.
I started the 26.2 mile run in good spirits as I felt fresh but felt mindful that the proper pain was yet to set in so I took it easy aiming to build as I ticked off the miles. The run was four 6.5 mile loops starting in Tenby town Centre heading out of town, which consisted of 3 and a quarter miles of incline before the same distance of decline back into town where the streets were again lined with thousands of people. Each time you completed a loop you got different color bands, which indicated what lap you were on. Safe to say that when I saw people with more bands than me I wanted to grab their bands off them. On the second lap the inevitable pain set in and I started to struggle, badly. Everything hurt and people all around, regardless off what bands they had on were struggling with the never ending climb out of the town Centre. I decided it was time to do a bit of walking because I was actually walking up the hill faster than I could run up it and slowly but surely with a walk to run strategy I got myself onto the final lap of the run where I would collect the fourth and final pink band. One problem was that I had to climb that bastard hill again for the fourth and final time but I was on the home straight and I saw my training partner who bollocked me for walking so I ran for the entire last lap. When back in the town the crowds saw that pink band, which meant one thing, in a few minutes I can call myself an Ironman. Marathon 4 hours 12 minutes.
Total time: 12:18:00, 38th in age group and 319/2200 athletes. Made up.
To those who have done Ironman, I can't recommend this race enough it was amazing. Definitely returning next year, without doubt.

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