So Tenby was fun.
After the crazy long journey down which seemed to take at least twice the 3 ½ hours it actually took I registered and wandered around the mean streets looking for a man I met through the internet, his wife and her parents as we would be staying with them. Got to love the crazy world of triathlon.
Everyone was lovely and we couldn’t have been made to feel any more at home if we had tried, short of walking round in my pants but not sure anyone could have taken that sight. Saturday came and went only highlights being a swim practice which was interesting (horrible) and watching the Ironkids event. It was great to see so many kids charging around and getting great encouragement from everyone.
Everything racked away and bags put on suitably compact pegs for the early Sunday fun. Headed to bed full of the biggest bowl of pasta and meatballs I have ever seen and hopeful of a decent nights kip. It didn’t come as I was visited by the demons of dreams. This involved me thinking I had forgotten all shoes for the event when I came to get on the bike, crashing on the bike because it was still dark into a field and not making the swim cut off. That said I was awake before the alarm and eager to get going to transition to bottle up the bike and mentally prepare for the walk down to the beach and the carnage to come.
The parade took so long that by the time we had reached the top of the ramp down to the beach they had officially closed the swim practice. I attempted to get at least my feet wet but was told I had to go back. So I ended up pretty near the front towards the left hand side – I would say it was planned, but it never is – the location always just sort of happens. The waves were crashing in but I didn’t give too much thought to how bad it looked – the stunning sunrise caught my attention more. So much so that I didn’t hear the national anthem or the hooter /cannon but only realise we were actually underway as people started running ahead of me into the water.
Straight from the off it was rough and tough and a bit of a fight – no spare space despite having the entire sea to play in and the waves and tide were meaning more bashing than I have normally had even at outlaw. I couldn’t find a rhythm, couldn’t sight very well and generally just attempted to survive what has happening. Usual thoughts of what the hell am I doing this for came and went and I figured I couldn’t be the only one struggling along more than usual.
It took for ever to get to the first buoy – sighting was tough but I figured I didn’t swim to far from the course as I was constantly in a pack of people. The turnaround was carnage people had stopped and some were thrown clean into the buoys due to the waves. I gave it plenty of room and probably lost a chunk of time attempting not to get punched. I managed to find some clear water coming back across the long drag but going across the tops of the waves was tough and meant a constant rolling effect, like swimming in a moving ball. The turnaround again was a scrap but then we seemed to fly back to the beach making use of the tide.
The run out was longer than I was expecting but good to hear some tunes and plenty of crowd support – a quick check of the watch and was surprised and happy to see 32 mins something– well ahead of where I thought I might be given how tough I found it.
I thought the 2nd lap would be easier, I knew what to expect and figured I would be at last be able to find some space – it wasn’t – everything from the first loop seemed to be tougher on the second loop – including a complete lack of space. I was getting constant smashes to the face from the waves when attempting to sight and breath and knew I was taking on more water than normal – especially up my nose which led to a great deal of throat clearing and burning nostril’s.
Due to the lack of space people increasingly bumped into me, I had a couple of clacks to the head but fortunately the goggles moved but didn’t come off. Also had someone grab my leg and pull me back so they got a nice kick when they tried it again. I don’t get why people do this – I don’t and I don’t understand what they think they are going to gain from it. Going across the long leg seemed again to take forever and I didn’t seem to be making much progress, just counting down the time till I got to touch dry land. The waves if anything had got worse and people were being picked up and dropped on to others due to the course layout.
I have little sea experience and zero in anything approaching rough seas, but I had the overwhelming feeling that I wouldn’t want to even be on a boat in that weather, let alone swim in it too much longer.
God it felt good to start the walk / jog up the beach to the ramp and to find my shoes. The original plan went out of the window to strip the wetsuit off and carry it so I instead got the trainers on and started moving upwards and pulled the wetsuit down as I went and left it around my waist for the 1km run. The support through the town was crazy – still managed to see sue shouting at me and gave her a quick thumbs up as I ran past. My wife is vertically challenged but makes up for it in vocal ability.
Found my stuff and set about getting naked in the world’s smallest tent surrounded by a unusually large number of ginger men doing something similar. Read the message of support from Sue and Zoe and made sure I had everything I needed.
Plodded off to find the bike and amazingly remembered where it was – out through the town and another thumbs up to Sue but by this point I could feel something not especially right in my guts. As soon as I got down on my aero bars it felt massively full – like after one to many helpings of Sunday lunch full. Figuring it would pass and taking advice from Paul Kaye at the briefing I only sipped water for the first 30 minutes on the bike and waited for it to clear.
It didn’t – long story short by the time I got to Angle I was a bit of a mess. The ride itself at that point was lumpy but good fun, reasonable speed was maintained and I passed a fair number whilst the usual rockets / trains hammered past. The wind helped as well but at the turnaround from Angle it was a bit of a slog. So I had to make use of every portaloo on route and the emergency supply of gut blockers wasn’t helping at all. I attempted to force feed fuel in but it wasn’t staying in for long. As the route got tougher the more the sickness happened and by the time I got to the two steepest climbs of the route I knew I was in pretty big trouble. Both are manageable and I knew I wouldn’t fly up them, but I could hardly pedal at all and it took everything I had to not get off and walk.
The supporters throughout the course were crazy – from tractors with sofas on, to devils running on the hills, to live bands and tiny villagers decorated to make you feel like you were in deepest darkest France on a tour stage. I have never been made to feel so at ease in an event and the humour and support really was fantastic. God knows why they are thinking of moving it to Cardiff after next year.
At the top of Saundersfoot, after the tour de france style climb, and at the point that the first long lap ended was another feed station. As I approached I knew I had to stop to use the facilities again and stop I did. A women (turns out a retired nurse) instantly asked if I was ok and I said I was struggling but planned to continue. I disappeared to the toilet and sat there for a bit while the world came out of my nether regions again. I must have taken longer than I thought as the volunteer came and asked if I was ok. I wasn’t.
I came out shortly after and she asked if I wanted medical assistance. I asked for 5 minutes to see if I could keep a banana in before troubling the emergency services. I sat down by my bike at the side of the feed station and saw hundreds of people come flying by – it was horrible. I puked the banana and water I was sipping back up and agreed with the lady for her to summon assistance. She wrapped me in two blankets and forced me to keep sipping water. When they turned up I was told I was dehydrated, hypothermic, had high blood pressure and low blood sugar. Other than that I was golden.
They never once told me I had to pull out – they advised I did but it was ultimately my decision. It took a good 5 minutes for me to finally agree to a lift back to the start. I was suitably gutted about the situation but also felt guilty for wasting the paramedics time when they could be dealing with someone who had come off or had a proper accident, although I knew the next section of road was downhill so I was also concerned if I fainted I could have been crashing into a wall, better to live to fight another day and all that.
So back to the medical tent right next to transition so whilst I was carted in on a wheel chair and then put on a drip I could hear everyone coming in and heading out onto the run. If I had had any fluid left in me at that point I think it might have come out of my eyes. They reassured me that I had made the right decision and as soon as my readings came in line with normal I could go. It seemed to take forever and a fair few people were brought in whilst I lay there wrapped in one of those sexy space blankets. Finally they said I could go as long as I promised to not do too much for the rest of the day. I couldn’t get hold of Sue so I got my bags out of transition and walked very slowly back to the digs hoping someone would be in. Turns out they weren’t – they were waiting for Andy and me to come in from the bikes.
So I sat there in my sweat and puke covered kit on the door step and watched people run past on the course, literally 3 feet away. It was completely and utterly soul destroying and I would quiet simply have preferred to go anywhere else in the world. I couldn’t be arsed to cheer or clap – not even the leaders and was tempted to just abandoned my gear and go and sit on the beach and pretend the event wasn’t happening behind me.
Eventually they returned and I got let in to have a shower and collect my thoughts. I had an emotional cold shower and a lie down to attempt to sleep off the situation. When I am ill my body shuts down and I tend to sleep. Trouble was as the course was under the window sill it was noisy and my anger levels rose to the point that it was counterproductive. I was lying here when I should be out there ‘running’ my way to being an official ironman. I have no idea how long I was lying there for before something made me snap out of it.
It changed when I heard the shouts for Andy as he ran past underneath where I was lying. In my selfish world I had completely forgotten about Andy – I hadn’t seen him since the beach – I was waiting for him to go past me on the bike but because I didn’t see him and because of my mind set of self-preservation I had forgotten about him. I have known him off and on for about a year and followed his progress closely, had some good laughs at the outlaw half weekend together and he invited us to stay with him at Wales. A true gent, albeit with shaven legs, he was on the final leg of a 3 year journey to becoming an ironman.
I wanted to show my support for him and give any encouragement I could, so I made my way down to watch and applaud and shout and hurl abuse at him. He was doing really well and well within the cut offs and as Tenby is unique you can cut through alley ways to watch the run course all the time so that’s what I did – he was so in the zone so much that I doubt he saw me most of the time and the first time he looked at me I don’t think he realised it was me. I don’t think I have seen anyone more determined to finish an event.
I was still pretty numb to everything and feeling rough still, so I had an ice cream, downed a 2lt bottle of fanta, which always helps and we walked to the finish chute as we knew he was on his last lap. This was the part when it got to me. I have never seen a finishing chute in full swing apart from when I have been finishing. This was different and akin to self-harm for me. We got a good spot to see everyone come in and waited for Andy to arrive. My mind set was destroyed now. As soon as he was over that line I was off back to bed. My thoughts of jealously seemed toxic so I moved back from the barriers to let everyone enjoy the moment. Then out of the darkness, in shimmering red with a pink glow stick round his neck he appeared a vision of happiness without a glint of pain in his eyes.
Whilst delighted for him I was jealous – I wanted my moment, I wanted the famous phrase, I wanted the big screen, I wanted the applause, I wanted to be called an Ironman.
Deep down I knew there and then I would be back to Tenby.
In the days after I have toyed with entering other Ironman events but I don’t want to just tick the box to become an Ironman – I now have a score to settle with Tenby and I can’t settle that anywhere else but by doing the event again and making it the target for next year.