Thanks for the amazing write up.
I think Ivan and I probably both thought that as the marathon is such a low key portion of the ironman most of the other club members wouldn’t really be too interested in our tales but I’ll put a few words together to try and describe just what its like to complete an ironman triathlon.
Both Ivan and I embarked on our training around New Year having entered the ironman event at Henley for September 18th. It should be noted that at this point Ivan was a novice swimmer and I couldn’t do the crawl at all !!
We were already ok at the running department; both of us having ran 5 or so marathons. We started out by training on the bike whilst supplementing that with the club run on Wednesday nights and the odd half marathon at the weekend (Stockport 10, four villages, Wilmslow, Chester ) gradually we built up the endurance to a point where we were entering cycle sportive events which are basically well organised bike rides usually over long distances of at least 50 miles and up to 120 miles.
We both then started swimming lessons with a company called ‘swimtime cheshire’ and after 6 number 1/2 hour lessons at £20 each we were both swimming brilliantly, money well spent!
We then both did Edinburgh marathon in May and started to practice open water swimming at Salford Quays on Saturday mornings which is also very well organised.
I took a week off work and cycled from lands end to John O Groats in a week which definitely made me a stronger rider and we both entered a few mini and Olympic triathlons one of which, Llandudno, cycled up the Orme 3 times!
In short, prior to the ironman we had each done the 3 ironman distance disciplines but never on the same day. After 9 months of training we were ready to tackle the ironman (and stupidly we now realise we picked one of the toughest courses on the circuit. The Henley ironman swims in the Thames then takes the bike out into the Chiltern Hills for 112 miles of cycling and with 6000ft of ascent en route! )
After registering and placing equipment into the transition areas on the day before, the following day then started with a 4.45 alarm call which enabled us to arrive at the start point at 5.30. It was dark and only 5 degrees when we first got into the Thames for 1.2 miles upstream then 1.2 miles back downstream and to be honest the swim in the Thames wasn’t pleasant and later gave Ivan a tummy bug! Then it was out onto the bike on what was a very tough 3 lap course and I think we both underestimated just how much the 2.4 mile swim takes it out of you prior to the bike. The numerous feed stations were excellent dishing out water energy drinks and gels as well as bananas and oranges.
The support from the crowd and the people of Henley who’s small town was cut off for the day with all the bike route being on closed roads was unlike any race I’ve ever done before including London marathon. It was phenomenal and like having all your friends lining the route. After around nine hours we were both exhausted by the swim and bike but trainers were on and the marathon about to commence, which was a mixture of roads tow paths parks and fields round a 10.5k course which you repeated 4 times. The cut off finishing time for Henley was 16 hours whereas ironman UK at Bolton is 17 hours but that still meant we both had 7 hours to complete the marathon which you can do walking if you have to but we both shuffled round the first 2 laps without stopping. The third lap I was absolutely shattered and making do with a run walk shuffle strategy. After passing the start line for the final time though, as well as being in pain for the last hour or so I managed to get back running again, thinking to myself its just a 10k to go.
Someone said to me on the last lap, is this your first ironman? I said yes and he said enjoy the finish.
With the ironman taking so long, the finishers arrive at the finish one at a time and everyone receives a heroes welcome, high fiving the crowd on the way to the line. Very special.
It was tough and they don’t call it ‘ironman’ for nothing plus at between £300-£400 entry fee they’re not cheap to enter but I’m hooked now and looking at doing 2 next year and getting the finishing time down