Monday 23rd May
My apologies at the lack of blog for the last 2 days, I have been a good excuse, I promise!
Zhenzhou I AM AN IRONMAN!!!
I did it! I actually did it!! I swam Plant City 2.4 miles in the sea, biked blearily 112 hot hilly miles and then ran Kallithéa 26.2 miles just for good measure and crossed that finish line with the biggest smile on my face, completely gobsmacked at my time! 13 hours and 16 minutes…I wasn’t last, in fact I was nowhere near last!
Let’s rewind back to Saturday morning… you all have some catching up to do! The alarm goes off at 4.30am. My support crew out of bed before I am! I quickly heat up my breakfast and force it down before my mind has chance to wake up and let the nerves kick in! It almost works…I get my porridge down in super quick time but the nerves come as I am halfway through my banana, those last 3 bites of banana were not easy to swallow but I shovel it down. I will need all the fuel I can get for today. I get my shorts and sports bra on, pull on my hoodie and flip flops and get ready to leave! I turn around and my support crew are all there, decked out in printed t-shirts ready for their day of cheering me on! They look fantastic and I am really touched by their efforts, I mean them coming out here was already amazing but I can truly say my support crew have been the best! We head down so I can go and pump up Channing’s tyres and do last minute transition checks. All too soon we are stood at the top of the beach and I am getting into my wetsuit. I might look calm on the outside but my inside is going into a panicked melt down…I am not sure my 12 visits to the toilet this morning were enough (the red lantern of priority was mine!!) I look out over the sea and give myself a little talking to…I can do this!!! Big hugs all round from the support crew and I make my way down to the water for a quick dip prior to the start.
I dunk myself in and remind myself that it is the same sea I swam in the other day, nothing has changed except a few more people will also be joining me for my morning swim! My support crew get a great spot on the little run-through between swim laps so I know where to look out for them and I walk to take my place at the start. It’s here that I note being a female competitor pretty much makes you rarer than a unicorn. There are far less pink swim hats to orange ones. I feel pretty special at this point! I also feel pretty sick with nerves! The klaxon goes and we are off! I get into the water and tell myself to relax, I only need to swim and I can do that! I mostly avoid the bun fight, stick out to the right and relax into my rhythm. I am doing this, I am on the swim of the Ironman course and I am doing it!! The first lap goes by without too much trouble and I am soon running through the “Australian exit” to my second lap, high-fiving Mark and getting cheers from Lisa and Ian on my way through…a quick glance at my watch shows me that my time is on track too…I get back in for my second lap and as the field has spread out a bit now, I can stick closer to the rope. I get a kick to the face at the first turn but it doesn’t faze me, I am on my second lap and over halfway through the swim…woohoo!!
Calm and relaxed I finish the swim and run up the beach, my watch suggesting a time of c1hr 17mins. I grab my transition bag and head into the tent. Wetsuit pulled off (I pretty much covered myself in glide this morning so it would slide off easily), vest on, feet rinsed, socks and shoes on and a good scoop of aseos cream (this is a real thing!! I thought it was a joke too! Utmost be Spanish for ass butter!!) shoved into my shorts and I am ready to go. I run out of the tent, deposit my bag and shovel a banana in. Then head for Channing where, to the cheers of my support crew, I quickly load my vest with my gel bottles, race belt on, sunnies on, helmet on, and me and Channing are on the move to the bike mount line. And having spent about 7 minutes in transition, we are off!!! I am on the Ironman bike course with my good friend Channing! Let’s go and enjoy our day together, riding around Lanzarote! Heading out of Puerto Del Carmen, some of the cross winds are pretty brutal but me and Channing settle into a good rhythm and get going. It’s a lovely day, windy but the wind keeps me cool. Every half an hour I take a good swig of gel from my bottles (caffeine on the hour, regular on the half hour), I keep drinking energy drink from my drinks bottles and I also nibble on an energy bar every hour, it’s crazy how quick the time passes just by remembering to do all this!
At one stage my chain comes off…it wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t riding my bike with oil on me somewhere! I quickly get it back on and get going again! Luckily my hand is easily cleaned by wiping it on my damp sweaty shorts!! Nice!! I then need the toilet. During the race briefing, they promised there would be toilets at every feed station…this was LIES!!!! There were no toilets to be seen. I left my mark on Lanzarote in the Timanfaya national park at the side of the road! Needs must!! The climbs seen easier than when I was here in March, which makes me happy. Clearly those brutal sufferfest workouts on the turbo actually worked and were worth torturing myself for! A quick stop at the top of the biggest climb at Mirador del Haria for a top up of aseos butter and energy drink and bars and I am well over half-way now! I look down at the message on my headset “Go hard or go home” I can do this and I am doing it!! I fly down into Haria and battle up the next climb to Mirador del Rio, that’s the toughest climbs out of the way…and now there is a nice long downhill stretch where I hit 46mph, whilst clinging on for dear life at the cross winds! Soon enough I am heading back into Puerto Del Carmen, I hear Ian shout on one of the last roundabouts where he has set up “Welsh corner” with his flag but I didn’t seen him. I was too focused on getting back as the time on my watch was making me happy that I had smashed the bike course! 7 hours and 17 minutes on the bike! Yes!!! I do see Lisa and Mark though and give them a wave as I fly down through the town, they are exactly where they said they would be!
I nearly run over the man with Channing as he goes to take him from me in transition. I then run down the road, grab my bag and head into the tent to switch to run gear. Helmet, shoes and socks off, another quick rinse of my feet for the leftover sand from this morning, fresh socks, trainers and my cap on and I am ready to run. 5 minutes in transition is all it takes. I am officially on the Ironman run course. I can hardly quite believe it – as Lisa and Mark will tell you! My comments as I see them for the first time on the run were something along the lines of “f*ck me, I am actually on the IM run course!!” I relax into my run and remember Heather’s words of keeping a steady pace and not going off too fast. It is hot. Really really hot. And there is no respite from the sun. Here starts the game of running from yellow t-shirt people to yellow t-shirt people. These are basically the water and feed stations. The volunteers all wear yellow t-shirts and shout various things to you as you are going past “aqua, water, energy, cola, banana, plantain…” I walk through the feed stations so I can drink water, pour a load over myself and grab some ice to carry to try and cool down as I run. The sun is just relentless…I begin to see the yellow t-shirt people as saviours! I love these yellow t-shirt people, they are amazing!! I hate anyone with a blue band and utterly despise anyone with a blue and a red band! A blue band is earned by completing the first lap of the run – 13.6 miles and a red band is earned by completing a second lap 6.3 miles. I continue on…my big toe is hurting and it feels like there is something in my shoe but I won’t let it stop me and the miles are ticking off steadily. I am finally on my way back in on the first loop and I see Ian. He is cheering me on like crazy and that gives me a great boost!
Here are more yellow t-shirt people! Bring on the water, a cup goes over my head and a drink some from a second cup. I then realise that the copious amounts of aseos butter I put in my shorts must still be there. The water mixing with it, now makes white stuff just leak through my shorts and run down my legs! No-one said doing an Ironman was attractive but even so!! I keep running and plodding on. At the next set of yellow t-shirt people, I make an attempt and rinsing my shorts with a cup of water too…that looks slightly better. Ian is on his bike so he continually rides past me and down the road where he stops to cheer me past him and take pictures and then does it all again! This is a great help!! Soon enough (or just over 2 hours later) I am back to running past Lisa and Mark, half of the run complete. I head down to near the finish and collect my first band! I have a blue band!! Hooray!!! Now just 2 smaller laps to go. I head back up and past Lisa and Mark where they hand me 2 energy gels…I get one down and then some water from the yellow t-shirt people to wash it down with. I am fed up of gels now! I carry on to the next yellow t-shirt people and I see they have orange quarters. My love for them increases even more! Water over the head, an orange quarter in my mouth, a quick sip of water and back to running again. Then I see Ian! Every step is a step closer to the end! And so it continues…I pass so many people on the run who are just walking. I am not going to be beaten. I can walk the feed stations but that is it…no matter how much it hurts!!
Finally I am heading down the chute to get a red band! I final lap to go! I can do this! I think I am on for about 13 and a half hours but I am tired. So tired and it hurts. I tell myself to just keep going, keep running from yellow t-shirt people to yellow t-shirt people! It is also great to see Lisa and Mark as I head out on my last lap and say to them “I’ll see you at the finish!!” I am getting cheered by strangers in all languages because I am still running and not walking! One man tells me I am looking strong! Soon I see Ian and he keeps me company with his ride, stop, cheer, ride, stop, cheer…it makes me smile as I hear the ticking of his bike as he comes past me! As I get to the turn point on the final lap, I look at the clock there. It says 12:46:23. If that’s right, I have just under 45 minutes to basically run a park run and come in at 13:30. I can do that and relief washes over me! I can do this! I am going to finish and become an Ironman! I have the biggest smile on my face as I count down the last 3 miles. I even tell myself that I can walk up the 2 short hills on the way back to the finish. But when I get to them, I don’t! I am not giving up now! I ran this far, I will run to the end! The cheers increase as I get closer and closer, I have 2 bands and I am on the last mile! The feeling is amazing, there is nothing like it! I hammer it down the finishing red carpet – there is a great video of me (thanks to my epic support crew)! The biggest smile on my face, “Girl, look at that body” is the song that is playing and I look at the clock 13:16:23…I can’t quite believe it! I have smashed my expectation massively! And I cross that finish line!! What a feeling! The thought of it now, as I re-live it to write this, brings tears to my eyes! I am an Ironman!!! A medal is placed around my neck and a man shakes my hand. I can’t stop smiling. I then get wrapped in foil and head to get a print-out of my time, along with my finishers t-shirt. Reality then starts to hit…I DID IT!! I ACTUALLY DID IT!! I am then crying. So deliriously happy! It’s crazy!
T-shirt in hand, I see a man handing out cans of drink. He offers me a can of coke, which I accept and drink it. It tastes like liquid gold. I try to find Channing but the tears in my eyes mixed with dried on sweat make it difficult to see and a lady helps me. I park Channing further down by bike check-out as I can’t take him until I also have my transition bags which I need to collect from the beach. I just start to step onto the ramp down to the beach (my legs not so happy at this) and I am grabbed into a big by Lisa and Mark…the tears start again and we are all crying! Lisa hands me my phone, which she tells me has been going nuts and I explain I need to go and get my bags. They want to get them for me but they are not allowed. I gingerly walk down to collect them before heading back up to get Channing and then meet them again at the exit. Mark takes Channing and Lisa takes my bags and we head towards the apartment, looking for Ian. I try to call Heather but her phone is off…I leave some form of a blubbering voicemail, I am not even sure what I said! Then I call my tri-wife and just cry down the phone! I make a start on the stair climbing back to the apartment, I need to keep moving because once I stop, I won’t be able to move again! I get up the first set of stairs and then Ian appears! More hugs required! My support crew are very brave to be hugging me! I am soaked in sweat, it is dried onto my skin and clothes, and I probably stink too!! But they don’t seem to care!
I get into the apartment and sink into a chair. They are offering me everything. Strangely I don’t know what I want…my tummy is feeling rather sick. I ask for a cup of tea as I am getting cold and move to go and clean my teeth as the gels and energy drinks have left my mouth feeling furry and sticky and horrible! Heather then calls me…she is at a wedding reception, I start crying again! I am such a girl! She is then crying too! I made her proud!!! Yes!!!!! I sit to drink my tea and try to nibble on some crisps. I don’t want anything sweet. So despite not having cake for what feels like forever, right now I don’t want any! I call my mom to let her know I am still alive and start to read some of the messages I have received. It all feels a bit overwhelming! I am in shock! I still can’t believe it! I am also getting cold and decide I need to have a shower. Lucky Lisa gets the job of helping me out of my kit and into the shower. I think about sitting in the shower but quickly come to the conclusion that if I do that, I won’t get back up again! I wash my hair and all the sweat and grime off my body and then wrapped in a towel I go and sit on my bed. Then I just can’t move. I was full of good intentions to go back down to the finishing line and cheer in the last hour but my body has given up. I pull on my pjs and get into bed. Mark and Ian head out for supplies and I request a bottle of full fat coke, the can earlier being so amazing I want some more!! They also return with pizzas and beer. I start on the coke and then ask for some pizza! Here starts the ribbing that they got 2 pizzas between the 3 of them and now I am eating in, despite saying I didn’t want anything earlier! They give in though and hand me 3 slices. I eat them and then a fourth and drink 2 glasses of coke and my tummy feels a little better.
I can now start reading all the messages and notifications on my phone! All I can say is thank you to everyone for all your kind words and comments. They are amazing!! I still can’t stop smiling! Ian heads out to cheer in the last hour and soon Lisa and Mark head to bed. Whilst I am tired, I can’t sleep! Can you be too tired to sleep? Also, drinking coke before bed probably didn’t help matters! I nod off for about an hour and then wake up needing a wee. I am also hungry. Really hungry! I gingerly hobble to the toilet where sitting down and then getting back up again isn’t so fun and then on to the kitchen to source food. I raid the crisp stash and take a big bowlful back to bed with me, along with a recovery shake. A 3.30am midnight feast for me!! Yum! At 5.30am I am on the move again…back to the kitchen where I obtain rice pudding and rice cakes to take back to bed. This hunger is insatiable! At 7.30am I am making tea and toast, then I have peanut m&m’s!! It’s all so good!
Ian wants to head out and swim a lap of the IM swim course so I offer to go with him and sit on the beach as he swims. The walk down the stairs takes a while but I make it and I enjoy sitting on the beach having some peace and quiet. It’s strange to be at the spot where it all began yesterday morning. It feels like so long ago! I rest my head on my knees and I think I might have dozed off briefly. Ian’s swim complete, we head back to the apartment and I get my Ironman towel (I can use this now I am officially an Ironman) and sun cream and head down to the pool. I don’t plan on moving for the day! Snoozing in the sun and refreshing dips in the pool are all that I need! I try to ignore my hunger as I don’t want to climb the stairs back to the apartment but Ian takes pity and heads up to make us both a giant sandwich! It doesn’t last long!! A day of lazing around in the sun is bliss.
Soon it is shower hour, then time for a quick toast with some bubbly before heading out for dinner! We are going for steak and chocolate cake! Yum!! I finally put my finishers t-shirt on and we start the walk to Lomo Alto. First things first, I have the 85 stairs to go down. It turns out that walking down them backwards is the way to go! The 10 minute walk takes me about 25 minutes, I am on a go-slow this evening!! I order a cocktail and then prawns and mushrooms followed by steak! I can’t wait!! I devour the prawns along with the cocktail. This is bliss! Then the steak arrives…I have been waiting for this! Another round of drinks also arrives! I make a start on my steak…but oh no! Tiredness is kicking in. It hits me like a freight train! I can’t even finish my steak. I am no longer an invisible ironman…I am a yawning tired mouse…
I don’t even have chocolate cake…we walk back (the support crew taking the mick out of my tired sorry state all the way back) I crawl up the stairs, pull my pjs on and as soon my head hits the pillow, I fall asleep!