Ironman Wales – DNF

The Build to Ironman Wales

So after 24 months of none stop training and 3 previous Ironman I was finally prepping for the final one of the year and possibly the next couple of years as I’d planned a bit of time away from full distance due to work commitments. My training since Ironman New Zealand was going great i’d completed a number of warm up races and achieved PB’s in all races including Ironman UK which I was happy with, 2 weeks recovery and then starting to build for Ironman Wales was the plan. It started relatively well completing my planned sessions although they were tough and then about 4 weeks from race day during a long turbo session I suddenly started getting a shooting paid down my left glute and into my hamstring. Physio consulted and it turned out tightness in my back was causing piriformis to aggravate my sciatic nerve. I soldiered with sessions although I took them a bit easier in hope that it would help me recover. 2 weeks from Ironman I had a 100m Time Trial entered as my last big session and although I was nervous I was excited to get it done and start my taper. 50 Miles into the race I had to pull out with the pain in my glute becoming even worse so back to the physio and this time I had some chiropractor, acupuncture and electric shock treatment to try and release the strain in my back and help blood flow to allow it to recover but told no cycling or running. Monday before Ironman I went back for another session and was told it is getting better but not 100%, I asked the question ‘Can I race on Sunday?’ to be told it’s advisable not to as the Bike/Run will almost certainly cause me to be injured again. I had a decision to make, scrap the trip all together and recover or attempt it and if I get off the bike just walk the marathon knowing it could make me worse but I had it in my head that I have all winter to recover properly.


The Decision was made ….

In my mind just starting was good enough to me, if I get through each discipline it is a bonus and if I get to the finish it is a miracle! The days leading up I was told no running and hope for the best so two light turbo leg spinning sessions were my taper for the big day. Friday came and the long ride to Tenby started, an email was then sent from Ironman to warn competitors to use shallow wheels and no disc wheels as the wind expected would make it dangerous, luckily I’d packed multiple sets so I was prepared for all options. The atmosphere in Tenby for registration, racking and welcome meals was electric, dare I say it was even better than Bolton & New Zealand!! I prepped my bags for the worst of conditions with multiple rain jackets for each discipline and some warm weather gear knowing it was forecast for some tough conditions. Bags hung and bike racked I headed into town for something to eat to use my Welcome meal voucher (they offer vouchers for £12.50 to replace the big get together). I headed back to the holiday home which was opposite the swim start and had an early night. Up at 4am for breakfast and a walk back to transition to put my water bottles onto my bike ready for the race. Had a chat to some other competitor about wheel choices and noticed the majority of pro’s had opted for 30-40 mm max compared to the normal 60-90mm that they would use and most had 40-60mm on the rear but a lot of AG athletes had not listened to the warning or weather conditions and discs and 60-90 mm wheels were seen all over. Due to the expected rain also I’d opted for my Alloy rim Fulcrum racing 0’s which are a great lightweight climbing wheel and perfect for awful conditions. I then left transition and headed for the timing boards for the self seeded swim start. This was an amazing experience as everyone queued up next to the five arches car park next to the castle turrets and at 6:30am we all started the long walk down through the town towards the swim start. As we got close to the harbour I could hear the echoes of the welsh national anthem which gave me chills then a loud raw as the pro men entered the water. I was not far from the ramp down to the water when they started so I knew it wouldn’t be long until I was hitting the water. My Transition 0 trainers were taken off and put in my bag and I racked this on the ramp as I walked past my number then it was Game On!!!

Mmmm Salt Water…

I Crossed the start line, started my watch and ran to the waters edge to jump in, the first thing I thought ‘well that water is salty’ which I don’t particularly like but today I had other things on my mind (would my leg hold up?) I had so many random thoughts going through my head during the swim but I remember when I was bilateral breathing I noticed the line of swimmers were roughly 10-20 metres either side with no definitive line to the first turning buoy. After turning I remembered the briefing which stated ‘sight to the original life guard building’ so I headed in that direction again while breathing I notice the lines people were taking were really wide but I kept my own way which took my close to a parked up boat (guessing they didn’t get the memo to move it). Turned to head back to the beach and reached the shore after 41 minutes a quick shuffle around gosford rock and back into the water. This time though they had life guards lining the way near the top buoys and guiding people back into the correct lines. I had a few tussles with other people but nothing too serious. This lap was definitely harder due to the conditions worsening and it becoming quite choppy although I reached the shore again in under 1 hour 30 mins which I was happy with. Some things i’d done in the swim differently to Bolton was that I never kicked until the final 100m of each lap. 1 to conserve energy and 2 I have felt my glute and lower back ache when I have done longer sets with loads of kicking so I thought it would be good to rest it a bit.

Quickest Transition In History…

So out of the swim and I ran towards the cliff face to head up the ramps, I stripped from my wetsuit here and put on my trainers and started the run into T1 (1km away). This was the first time I’d run in about 3 weeks so I was nervous so I took It steady, I found though that it was a similar pace to others after the swim so I was happy. I made it to transition and realised I’d left one piece of kit that i’d wanted in my car, o well bike gear on, and out to the bike. I started the bike a little nervous with the plan hold slightly less power than at IM UK with the lack of training recently so I stuck to this. I hit the 10 mile mark having had my chain drop on 2 different climbs. I carried on but after 10 miles I’d noticed the weather starting to worsen making the conditions bloody tough! It was either a cross wind or head wind that kept hitting and the gusts were 30-40mph so I might of left a little stain on my chamois pad. I made decent progress averaging 16.5mph until I hit Angle (the coast road and furthest western road we ride on). A small descent and the wind was blowing people all over the road I braked and took the descent as slow as I could whilst being blowing all over the road. But I knew the turning put and possibly a tail wind would be coming, but no it just turned and felt like a cross wind the whole way back. I noticed on my turn to Pembroke that as we passed farmers fields with gates the gusts would hit us and blow us across the road, I’d seen 2 people come off during a descent due to the wind and it definitely looked like game over, Luckily marshals were near by to tend to them.

Some like it a bit wet….

Then came the rain to make matters even worse at about the 30 mile mark the rain started coming down quiet heavy I descended into Pembroke and on towards the lap point for the bike and headed onto the large loop section. At this point due to the tail wind my average speed crept up to about 17.5mph which I was happy with. I plodded on knowing that the worst of the climbs was to come but hoping for better weather as the rain made visibility awful and I kept wiping my visor so I could see more than 10 meters. I felt good until Carew however this is were things changed, I hit one of the climbs and realised every time I put any sort of power through my left leg I was getting pain again, at the top of the climb I stopped with the aim to try and stretch out but this didn’t even make a dent, I free wheeled down the descent and just plodded up the next couple of climbs thinking to myself If I carry on and make the run I can just walk although being only 50 miles into the bike this was a tough task. I carried on and noticed my average speed dropping further and further each hill without the ability to ride down it properly it nose dived. I was down I was depressed and I won’t lie I had tears forming under my visor but no one could tell, I just thought if I carry on through the pain I can then walk for the rest of the night. I started thinking I can’t let everyone down who have sponsored me for the 3 or let my family down or Martha so I stopped and took some extra strength paracetamol and continued by my mind wasn’t in it. I couldn’t think of anything but my ass being sore (And not in the good long bike type of way haha). After the climb out of Narbeth I turned on to some small country lanes and noticed some signs for oil and was taken back by how much was on the floor thinking this clearly was deliberate this left a sour taste in my mouth thinking how some people can endanger peoples lives without a care in the world. I rolled down the climbs still and plodded up them mainly using my right leg for power and my left to go through the motions with no pressure. My aim now was to get to Tenby to the 2nd lap start and get cracking in hope I can get round before the cut off as by this point my average speed was rapidly dropping.

Heartbreak Hill….

So I plodded on and headed towards Saundersfoot which is known as Heartbreak Hill with this nickname being a true definition. Prior to Saundersfoot though there is a short sharp climb which has a nice 18% warning at the bottom I started this and was a little nervous I aimed to ride as much as possible but could barely manage a few hundred meters before I would need to put pressure on my left leg and knew I couldn’t continue like this. I dismounted the bike and walked up the remaining of this climb which people offering encouragement but it was already game over for me. I got back on my bike to carry on back to Tenby but I knew deep down I couldn’t carry on the way I was going. My final hour on the bike I was Averaging 11mph which I knew having 40 miles still to ride it would only get worse and I knew I wouldn’t make any cut off.

There’s always a positive…

After getting back into Tenby I headed to transition and withdrawn from the race, upset at not getting to the run but I knew deep down it was the right thing to do. I was taken to the medical tent and was seen by the amazing medical team who checked me out and issued me some lovely drugs which eased my pain walking back through town. Upset I didn’t tame the dragon but with the worst possible build to any race I’ve done I was happy I had a semi decent swim, I was able to scout the bike course in horrible conditions ready for next year.

My aim now is to do 1 ironman next year and finally complete Ironman Wales. I am disappoint it wasn’t my year but what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!