Filled with a combination of nerves and excitement, we packed up what seemed like half our lives into the car and set off for Wimbleball lake. A relatively up eventful car journey later, we arrived at the Ironman 70.3 UK event site, registered and picked up our race numbers and timing chips and say farewell to our bikes in T1 before having a bite to eat (jacket potatoes obvs!) and a look around the expo to see what we could spend our money on… It turned out to be nothing as there was no wifi or mobile signal at the site so no one could pay by card! After the race briefing where the course was descibed as ‘gently undulating’ yet also the toughest Ironman 70.3 course in Europe we listened as they explained about drafting, littering etc. and before we knew it, it was time to head off for the evening. First stop was Taunton for more carbs- pizza this time, before heading to our hotel in Wivlescombe to get some sleep before the 4am alarm.
Race morning arrived after what felt like a rather refreshing sleep and we were up, showered and munching on porridge ready to leave for the lake just after 5. A bit of a traffic jam getting to the lake but we made it and were parked up by around 6, time to join the toilet queue, quick check of the bike then drop ‘street wear’ bags and change into wetsuits before the procession of athletes down to the swim start at 6:30. Standing waiting to walk down I was surrounded by athletic looking men, being one of only 50 women in the first 750 strong wave which was rather daunting! A few minutes to kill on the shore line before we were told to get in, just as we got into the lake it started drizzling, a quick kiss and ‘good luck’ for Simon then after the national anthem we were off!
The lake was fairly warm, and really clear. I set off steady, drafting occasionally but managed not to get caught in the washing machine melee you hear about at Ironman starts. I had clear water for most of the swim and came out of the water around 28:30, 3rd in my age group! #nailedit
The run (jog) to transition was uphill, naturally, and a real quad burner! I was happy to see I’d beaten Simon out of the swim 🙂 After picking up my bike gear bag I took a minute or so to dry my feet, slip on my socks and shoes, helmet on and run out to find my bike.
Out onto the bike course the drizzle persisted, as we climbed for the first few kms, and cyclist after cyclist overtook me… I need to work on my bike! (And yes, Simon was one of them) the drizzle turned into real rain, and the climbs continued. To be honest they were tough, but not unmanageable and I started to enjoy myself despite being freezing and soaked. There was one particular spot that was a little scary- a steep descent followed quickly by a sharp left turn, one of those ‘squeeze your brakes for dear life and hope for the best’ jobbies. I survived the first lap and set off on the second, the rain was now really coming down and felt like needles! 42 miles into the bike and about 3:15 total race time, which meant I was on for around the 6:30 mark (awesome!), the sharp descent appeared again… With freezing cold hands I gripped my brakes as hard as I possibly could, trying desperately to slow down to make the corner… The next thing I know I’m heading for a hedge, through the hedge and landed on my head and shoulder in a heap, face down in a field. I started screaming, crying, sobbing… A burning pain in my right shoulder and up the side of my neck.
It took a couple of minutes for the first marshal to get to me, she was lovely. My first thought was ‘I hope my bikes ok so I can carry on’, I even asked her to stop my Garmin! Shiverring like nothing I’ve ever experienced I lay on the ground sobbing for about 15 minutes until the paramedics got there. They were lovely, asked me if I could move hands and feet, which I could thankfully then rolled me onto a spinal board and onto a stretcher into the ambulance. Warmth, finally! After an examination, it was felt that my neck and back were ok and my helmet was removed and I was allowed to sit up. I kept asking if I could carry on… The answer was a resounding ‘no’. My helmet was cracked, thankfully it had done its job, and my head was bleeding- a definite no no to continue. More tears and disappointment, not to mention the pain in my right shoulder, and we were off back to the event site. My race was over.
Back at site it really hit home, as I sobbed histerically as I was brought out of the ambulance into the medical tent, hearing the cheers of the spectators and seeing the finish line I should have been running down a couple of hours later. Once in the tent I explained my story again, was checked over by the doctor and told to go to a&e when I got home for an X-ray of my shoulder. Arm in a sling I was allowed to go.
I waited at the finish line for almost an hour as it was just over 5 hours since the start of the race so Simon should have been finishing soon. Seeing all the finishers running down the red carpet made me so sad. They kept coming, but no sign of my boy! Then suddenly I saw him striding across the spectator area the other side of the finishing chute. His race was a disaster too, his gear mech snapped clean off on the ascent up the first hill on the second lap (at least I’d made it further than him hehe). He’d had to pull out as it was irreparable. Turns out he’d been waiting at the run out from T2 to see me, but hadn’t obviously, so checked the medical tent and they told him I’d gone. Reunited at last we couldn’t help but laugh, it just wasn’t our day!
A trip to a&e later, nothing is broken, just a sprained A-C joint and a fair few cuts and bruises. No swimming or running for a while for me sadly and with 8 weeks until Copenhagen I can’t help but panic a little! At least I’m ok, my helmet saved my life, it could have been a lot worse.
But hey, Ironman 70.3 UK you and your hills may have defeated me this time, but you couldn’t break me and I will be back to finish you!
A battered, bruised, but determined triathlete x