Travelling to the sunny southern climates were Becky, Maurice and myself, and then from Wales was my brother Henry, and completing the team was my Mum from Bridlington. It’s been fantastic to have such encouragement so I thought I’d do a quick report to share what happened.
At 8am on Sunday morning Henry and I were out somewhere in the freezing fog covering the Chiltern Hills, cycling along on what felt like slow tarmac through the ups and downs and out and backs, trying to get round the 112 mile bike course. The race had started at 6:30am with a 2.4 mile swim in the Thames, covered in morning mist made for a spooky start. But now the bike was fully under way and the thin lycra tri-suit was not nearly sufficient; it was freezing. Hunched up over the aero bars and wheezing like old men. A few hours later the sun finally came out, thawing hands and toes, and so with sunglasses out the race was on.
It was Henry’s first ironman triathlon. He was dreading the swim but it turned out to be the most manageable part of his day. The bike was hard for everyone and he had a few moments of nearly hitting the wall. But the thought of pretzels at the aid stations of the run kept him going to T2.
My pre race target of a 5hr bike was out the window almost from the start, it was not going to be a fast day. Much respect to the few riders who broke 5hrs, I was just happy not to lose any places. My swim was the usual 1hr04 and on the bike with all the out and backs I’d lost track of position, but coming into T2 I got a good shout from Becky which encouraged me that I was doing ok.
And out on to the run. All the training, all the early starts and late nights through the winter, all the early season racing, eating right, drinking fluids, keeping strong, flexible…. It all comes down to this moment, running out of transition for the final 26 mile run, have you got the legs to race or is it going to be survival?
Henry ran a 3:30 marathon. His first iron distance triathlon, a brutal bike course, and then he smashed the run. I saw him on his first lap and he looked happy, fuelled by pretzels and the thought of post race Pizza he finished strong in 66th place with a total of 11hrs25 and 18th in his age group.
Earlier this year I raced Challenge Vitoria, which I’d hoped would be the race where everything came together. It didn’t happen and the run was survival. Coming off the bike and into the run at Henley the legs felt magic, the four laps of the run course went by and apart from a few low moments I felt strong all the way. I managed to run 3:09 for the marathon and finish in 9hrs39, but most surprising was to finish 6th overall and the first age grouper.
So one of the best weekends racing for both of us, and we’re grateful for the support team with us on the day and encouraging us from afar. It took Henry a total of 4 hours after finishing to bring up the topic of what next! And I don’t think he meant pizza.