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Ironman Maryland Recap

After the smoothest journey I’ve ever had, I knew something wasn’t right. The bike had arrived fine, the hotel was perfect, the cycle shop next door had all the bits I needed. The car was ok, body felt good, weather was dreamy. 

Before I knew it, I’d slipped across the Atlantic unnoticed by friends & family and I was cruising along to Maryland ready for action. 

452A9345Caught up in the excitement, I made a pretty poor set of decisions the next morning. I’d woken up early, around 5am cause of the jetlag. Spent a few hours working before waltzing down for breakfast. The usual chores slipped by. Breakfast, car pick up, shopping, drive to Maryland. I arrived around 1400, had some food & set out to do my sessions for the day.IMG_6971

I thought I’d planned this carefully to adjust to the 30 degree heat, smart move? What i’d managed to ignore was that my double session was starting at 8pm UK time, on day 1 of America. A time when I’m usually tucked up in bed in the UK.

A few spicy run intervals, bike ride out on the course, off to the shop and back to cook dinner. Before I knew it, we were on 8/9pm USA time and I was cooked.

Barely functional I went to bed to sleep it off. Wednesday I felt great. Registered, hit out some good hard sessions. Swim & bike with intervals, and I was ready.

IMG_5215But it had all been a bit too much for my already tired body, and by Thursday, I’d got a runny nose and a groggy head. I spent most of the day in bed hoping that I’d clear up. Though when Friday rolled around, I was like death warmed up.

I went through the normal motions, racking, transition bags, nutrition planning, super green risotto. But I felt truly awful. I had to come to terms with the fact I’d spent all year chasing a result circumstance now wouldn’t let me achieve. It was a difficult 12 hours.
The alarm went at 4:15am, I was up. Full of cold & achey from three days of rest, I knew I was in for a long day. We bumbled down to the start, I felt sick, my body wanted to be in bed, my mind wanted to be on the sofa. I couldn’t comprehend doing an Ironman.

6 minutes until the start and I still wasn’t in my wetsuit. We were away from the starting pens, me seriously considering the points it was acceptable to have my first DNF. Did I even need to start?

Vicky pulled me together. “We haven’t flown to America for you to watch a race you could have done. Off you go.”

33637f1f-e293-4299-8e6a-3a8e3772a903So a quick 3 minutes later, I was in the pen. Far from ready, but there.

The canon went, the tension snapped and it was on. The bang whipped the life back into my body, and I knew why I was here. 

I’d flown to Maryland to work as hard as possible for the day. Regardless of pace, so I was going to do exactly that.

IMG_9084Into the water and it was punchy. I couldn’t be bothered with this. Knowing that ending myself on the swim would only offer me a few extra minutes I tried to save the matches and enjoy myself. Quickly remembered I hate swimming so at least focus on one of the two goals, therefore stick to saving the matches.

Under the first timing mat everything was going alright. I knew I was off the pace but still felt pretty ropey, though on the plus side there’d been no jellyfish. As the thought crossed my head so did a nice long tentacle. The initial soft touch was quickly replaced with a ripping sting. Jellyfish Joe had come for dinner. Ouch.

Round the next part of the loop, I got a few more high fives from Jellyfish Jenny and her mates, this didn’t do much for my already erratic swimming stroke. 

Out the water in 1:06 and ready for bed. Face stinging. Nose blocked. Bike waiting. Time to see what the legs had. 

I knew still carrying the illness I wouldn’t be able to respond to many moves. So it would have to be stick to the game plan, easy 90km before reassessing. Easy jack. Easy. 

Through the first 10km and onto some clear road, I felt like I was moving well, though I suppose that’s what happens when you come out of the water in close to 1:07. In the first out and back I saw the leaders going the other way, I was 10km in and they already had 12 minutes. I knew I was going to have to let this one slide. 

_MG_2104Hit 20km and that’s when I knew I was in for a long day here. My heart rate was high, my legs were hurting and the power wasn’t where I wanted it to be. We’d only made it 30 minutes down the road! 

I thought I could hold this power until the end of the bike, though I knew it might erupt 100km down the road. I just had to trust the training and know that if there is one thing I can do, it’s to push the pedals for 180km. 

It certainly didn’t take 100kms for it to blow up in my face, though by half way I’d ridden through some slippery looking guys. I was making good ground but i was paying for it. This wasn’t helped when special needs was 10miles further than it was meant to be meaning my legs were peppered and there was no magic juice waiting to fill them up. 

IMG_8116Sounding like an 8 year old with an empty slush puppy, I was being constantly reminded that the hydration system was empty, as was my body!

Special needs. Carbs. Electrolytes. Legs?

The carbs lasted the remaining 75kms, the legs lasted the next 5. I was desperately fighting to stay anywhere near the target we set, clinging onto any hope of a sub 9 dream. 

Rattling along the over congested roads was quite strange. I was moving through people like stop signs but I knew that they were 3 hours behind me in the race. I couldn’t seem to make any time on the people I was actually chasing. 

At around km 140 the legs truly fell off. To this point I’d managed to flatline a power I might have been happy with. There was now one focus, get to T2 with your eyes open. 

On the way into town I overtook one more guy, though he looked in a worse state than me, a truly impressive feat. Even on the 2 mile straights there was no trace of any athletes heading back into town. I knew I couldn’t be leading the race, so my general rule of thumb is assume 10 are ahead. Seems to work. 

As I turned the last corner a little old guy in his deck chair with a beer shouted “4th in, good job” and I knew he’d single handedly just ordered me to finish the race. The DNF was now even less of an option.

Off the back into transition. Blurry eyes, head throbbing, legs nowhere to be seen. There was now only one job left. Jog and don’t stop jogging, ignore the watch, just listen to the body and keep moving forward.

IMG_9122There was no way I was catching the three guys ahead as I was already in survival mode. In fact, I don’t think I’d have caught a sloth crossing the road. My legs were ruined, my head was pounding and everything was starting to shut down. But there was no way I was walking any of this marathon; not again. 

Before I’d even hit the 10km mark it was a struggle to put one foot in front of the other. I was in a dark place, fighting tooth & nail to not quit. I didn’t want to know how I was doing, I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to get myself to the finish line.

At the start of the second lap I got the news. I had a 10 minute lead but 3rd was closing in. Was kona calling? Who was ahead of me? Nobody had come past at that point (still unsure how) apart from the eventual race winner.

IMG_9120I was crawling. Walking the aid stations, trying to get some nutrition into my failing body. I wouldn’t give up the fight.

I battled from start to finish. Never gave up. Crossing the line I was satisfied. Not the result or time I wanted, but under the circumstances, all I had and more. And I can’t ask for more than that.

Crossing the line to the news that I’d hung on to win the age group and take 10th overall in a time of 9:13:52 still hasn’t quite sunk in. One of my best results to date, on a performance I feel was slower than my race in Germany! Though Kona ticket punched, I certainly won’t be complaining!

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I’ve had the last week to reflect, take some time away and really come to terms with my 2019 season. Overall it’s been a difficult year, but it’s taught me a phenomenal amount about myself, my resilience and exactly what I want moving forward in both triathlon and otherwise.

452A9033I’ve had some really promising results. I didn’t quite achieve all my goals, but I set myself high standards. I’ve already set my 2020 goals, picked my races and began to formulate an attack. I’ll use this next period to rest, recuperate and refocus. Before hitting winter hard and attempting to come into 2020 with a bang.

452A9046I’ve had some amazing support this year, and I wouldn’t have been able to get back to my feet without it. I owe a lot of people gratitude, and I’ll forever be grateful for the part they play in my journey.

But for now, where’s my beer?!