Last weekend was Challenge Vitoria. Another ironman distance triathlon and probably the main event for this year. The unspoken target for the day was sub 9hrs and a top 10 finish in the prize money. Unfortunately it didn’t happen. It didn’t happen by a long way!
Ironman is always a challenge, it’s never a race that is going to be easy. I’d pictured a reasonable swim followed by a solid bike and then smashing the run. Simple numbers; 1hr swim, sub 5hr bike and 3hr run. Total just under 9 hrs racing and a definite challenge but one I thought was reasonable. But as sometimes happens, the challenge presented was of a nature I hadn’t ever expected; sitting at the side of the road watching everyone whizz by and then unable to even turn a pedal round was certainly not part of the plan.
The swim was ok, I managed to stay with a few stragglers and not lose too much time, I swam 1hr04 which is way off the pace, but more worrying was that my legs were starting to cramp up during the swim, I had to stop twice to rub the cramp out of my calfs. Slightly worrying for this early in the day.
Running into transition and sure enough my legs just didn’t feel right, as if something was about to go ping. Turing the cranks coming out of T1 is usually my favourite part of the race, but this time it was agony, the crowd was cheering but everything in my legs was racked with cramp. I got some funny looks with whatever grimace I was pulling, it bloody hurt. A mile down the road and I was on the roadside watching everyone go by. Legs totally locked up with cramp.
And that was nearly it. Having travelled a long way leaving the family at home, having invested a load of time and money into racing, getting aerodynamic, staying strong, flexible, eating right, staying lean – and now I’m sat at the side of the road watching it all go by. Thinking of Maurice there was no way it was going to end there. I’d like to say I manned up and got on with it, which I eventually did, but it was not without a few howls and a few tears, I have never been in so much pain it was ridiculous, and knowing I had 111 miles left to cycle and then a marathon to run was just stupid.
But it had to be done, so back on the bike and fight it out. After much stop start and 2 hours into the bike things started to feel almost normal again, so having lost loads of time I just charged. It seemed like there was always someone in front to chase down, and eventually I was overtaking pro men, so I was into the back of the pack and working my way through.
T2 was quick and running out into the marathon the legs felt surprisingly fresh. But having put so much out in the second half of the bike the run was just survival. The laps went on for ever, 4 x 10.5km, I never want to go round those damn back roads again: each lap got longer, 47,48,55 and 57 minutes so I was clearly not having the great run I’d hoped for. I have never been happier to get to the finish. And never has beer tasted so good afterwards.
All in all it was a different day to what I’d hoped. I came 17th overall and finished in 9hrs47. Given that at one point it looked more like a DNF I am grateful for a finish so high up. And if satisfaction is to be gained from doing something challenging then today definitely ticked that box. The only thing that got me through today was the grace of God, I had nothing left, otherwise I would still be sat at that roadside trying to stretch out my bloody piriformis.
Thanks everyone for all the encouragement. The welcome home at the pier on Wednesday was more appreciated than you can imagine. All that’s left now is doing it all over again at Challenge Henley in September.