Borris Viaduct

Borris Viaduct
Borris ViaDuct

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Ironman Week

So, there is a 4am on Sunday mornings now, who knew?

The past year I had prepared in so many ways for this day, pool swimming, sea swimming, signing up for wild sea swims to prepare me for sketchy conditions, endurance biking, turbo biking, hill climb biking, grass running, sand running, nutrition tweaking, heart rate monitoring ... But silly o clock arising? Nope. Getting 8 hours sleep before an event, my biggest of the year, my biggest ever? Nope. No time to dwell on that now - I needed to be ready to leave by 4.30 to get to Tenby for 5 to be happy with my transition set-up by 6 to head down to the beach for 6.30 to be ready for a 7am swim start. And hopefully after 2.5miles (3.9km) swimming, 112 miles (180km) biking and 26miles (42km) running in god knows how many hours of hard slog, I would be an Ironman. Who needs sleep anyway!

The previous week had been a bit surreal. 1st of all, going down to almost zero activity this week was unnerving. I'd heard all about tapering related niggles and paranoia, but was only starting to experience it now. Odd little bits of tension in my calfs, echoes of my shin injury earlier in the summer making themselves known, very odd pains in my feet. When I went to see Vicki for my now ritual pre-race massage, the Wednesday before the big day, she explained this 'phenomenon' in very clear way to me: the past year I had been constantly obliterating my larger muscle groups (quads, hamstrings, lats ) in training, and pain of constant recovery and rebuilding of those muscles was demanding more attention than anything else. So now I was finally giving them a rest, my smaller quieter muscles were having their say. Sorry guys, I thought I'd been listening!

I was expecting more anxiety about race day at this stage. Maybe I was feeling prepared. 2 Sunday's before race day, I had went out and cycled the full 112mile ironman bike course with my workmate Jon. Everything felt good that day - nutrition, energy levels, effort levels - and it was the easiest 100miles I'd ever cycled. Running after this kind of distance finally felt like a possibility! I had similar good vibes after my last big swim and run of the year. Yes everything was falling into place...

But that wasn't it. I'm a worrier at the best of times, and I was worried that I wasn't worried. I think there was actually too many other things going on that week for me to freak myself out on any given one of them. 
1. I had to wrap up two big projects in work concurrently as I was off on holidays for 2 weeks after the event.
2. I had guests coming to the house for the weekend, to camp, and all were coming at different times; lunchtime Friday, midnight Friday, lunchtime Saturday, evening Saturday, and wasn't completely sure who was coming.
3. My bike had been dropped back in for a service on Wednesday before race day. It had gotten a new chain and rear sprocket from its pre race service the previous week, but now the chain was not matching with the worn front sprocket and slipping on the hills.
4. I had to fix my wetsuit!! A large tear had appeared under my zip pre Solva swim and had been getting bigger at subsequent sea swims. I was worried about the wetsuit catastrophically failing on race day as I put it on, and not being allowed to swim. So much so that I even had a back up wetsuit lined up courtesy of another workmate, Mark. The whole process of fixing the wetsuit involved pre tacking and letting dry for 6 hours before sticking and leaving 24 hours to dry. And I was running out of time windows to do this!
5. I had to be in Tenby for various parts of the ironman process and various times. I wanted to register as early as possible, which for me meant Thursday evening, I had to go to a mandatory race briefing on either Friday or Saturday evening (Friday was preferable to free up Saturday, but didn't work out like that due to work commitments), and I had to drop in my bike into transition between 10-11am on Saturday morning, along with my race day kit organised into cycling kit and running kit bags respectively.

Sooooo.... Somehow all these many potential stresses got jammed in the doorway into my psyche and as far as I could tell I was remaining calm. To try and describe the chaos of the week leading up, it's probably best to break it down into bullet points....

- walk my bike down to office to get picked up by bike shop for new front sprocket  (they're good like that)
- they don't have parts in stock so I order them for next day and keep bike in the office

- rotten nights sleep, barely any.
- parts still not delivered to bike shop yet. Hold bike back for another day 
- cycle to Haverfordwest and back on hybrid for pre-race deep tissue massage, last bit of physical activity before the big day!

- parts in, bike picked up. Barely delivered back before I have to run out to get to Tenby for registration. That's bike sorted anyway!
- actually went to a special screening of 'Escape from Alcatraz' on the fortified St Catherine's island in Tenby after registration - a welcome distraction!
- back home late, and took the opportunity to pre tack my wetsuit for repair in the morning

- 6am start, finish wetsuit repair and put under weight for next 24 hours.
- try to get through work stuff so I can take half day when parents arrive and make it to race briefing in the evening. Fail in doing this, meet my parents for lunch and resign myself to having to go to the race briefing on Saturday evening.
- meet parents after work, introduce to housemates & landlords etc
- get back down to office with my housemate Alex to pick up my bike
- decide against packing race day kit bags and preparing bike for racking. Will do in the morning before racking!
- head down to town for a meal with my parents in the confidence that Pembroke will be much quieter than Tenby on Ironman weekend. Nope, jammers. Luckily a gentleman I had helped out on one of our sea swims, Norman Edwards, happened to be the owner of the Kings Arms Hotel and Bar and and went out of his way to sort us out with possibly the best table in the house. Had never experienced this kind of return on 'paying it forward' before - thank you Norman!
- landlord Paul and housemate Alex join us for drinks and I have 1 - 4 pints of Guinness too many, depending on how you look at it!
- get back at a respectable hour, but wait till 1am for sister Eadaoin to arrive, and from some minor catching up chatter don't end up in bed until 2am. 

- 6am start. Wander around blindly for a bit, maybe I got up too early!!
- slowly start accumulating stuff together for kit bags. Deliberate for ages before putting anything anywhere.
- bike kit packed as follows; helmet, peak cap, sunglasses (with lenses changed for overcast day forecast), arm warmers, leg warmers, snood (Monday nights cycle had me paranoid about Sunday morning biking temperature), bike shoes and socks (had wondered about leaving shoes clipped in on bike, decided against it), race number attached to race belt.
- walked in circles for a bit. As productive as it sounds
- charge garmin! Jesus, don't forget that!!
- run kit packed as follows: runners with locked laces, running socks,  visor, lighter jacket in case it is really grim when I'm running, 4 energy gels
- didn't have to bring it in this morning but put new lock laces on spare runners to pack into T1 bag (as, uniquely in this triathlon, you had to run a mile from the swim across  the town to the transition area) and packed my wetsuit, goggles, event swim hat, anti chafe stick, and anti fog spray into race day bag
Race day gear. A surprising amount!

- quick prep on bike, clean and oil bike and chains, clean tribar mounted hydration tank, load up tribar mounted salt tablet dispenser, brakes good, gears good, tires good.
- wander around a bit more. Convince myself I forgot things. Recheck bags. Recheck again. Wander upstairs a few times and forget why. Wander downstairs a few times and forget why. Commit myself to loading stuff into the car before I need to commit myself somewhere else.
- into Tenby just before 10. Drop bike into transition, after getting picture taken with it for added security. Drop bags into transition tent, a glorified cloakroom with central seating area, and numbered hooks for cycle kit bags on one side, run kit bags the other. 
Racked and ready to go. Kind of. Well... not really...
- Get timing chip on way out of transition area. My precious. 
- pick up personal needs bags for run and bike in registration tent. More bags. Yay
- have manically quick organised group transition tour, am none the wiser.
- go back and check bike again. Brakes good, gears good, tires good.
- meet a few familiar heads outside of transition, chat a bit, worry out loud a bit
- bump into Heather Rees who was 3rd female at the Long Course Weekend 2 months previously. Was familiar with her as we both had ramp starts after he swim and I had been in her mini peloton for the 1st 40km or so of the long course bike

- back to Pembroke in time for picking up JJ and his fiancé Maria from the ferry. Lunch, (actually breakfast for me, oops!) and more introductions . Give a JJ a quick mini tour of the local roads so he can make some site seeing plans the next morning with Maria, and work it around the closed roads.

- back out to Tenby, so my growing supporters group can familiarise themselves with the event hub while I attend the race briefing at 5pm.
- race briefing mostly a waste of time except for one important piece of info: The swim start will now be a rolling start based on predicted swim times, as opposed to a 2100 person mass start. That's actually a relief. I could cope with both, to be honest, but the rolling start would be safer and less chaotic.
- rendezvous with everyone at the cafe vista, which arguably has the best terrace view of the swim course. Paul, who has travelled all the way from London, meets us there.

- back to Pembroke and my housemates Alex & Flo, and landlords Emma & Paul, have been cooking up a storm! Thank god, I had no idea what the plan was for dinner, so many things going through my mind!
- make my race day brownies, while dinner is being prepared.
- after an absolutely smashing dinner, I unfortunately have to ignore the post dinner chatter and continue organising my race day nutrition. Two bottles of energy drink for the bike cages, and a bag of brownies, a bag of haribo and some spare salt tablets for the crossbar pouch (which I still had, and was going to out on the bike in the morning). 2 bottles, 1 energy, 1 water to fill the hydration tank on race day morning. 2 replacement energy drink bottles and replacement bags of brownies and haribo for my bike personal needs bag. Bag of brownies, 2 mini bottles of energy drink, and tube of salt tablets for the running personal needs bag. Phew, done. Only..... 11pm?! WTF?
- am wired to the moon at this stage.
- go through strava data of Long Course bike. Give estimate times of arrival for Pembroke, Carew, Saundersfoot and Tenby so family can travel to various points of the course for support during the day using the park & ride facility.
- finally in bed by midnight. Restless, probably not asleep until 2.

- rise and shine at 4am. Kollath breakfast.
- Into race kit, with day clothes over then realise I forgot to put on my heart rate monitor, let's try that again.
- recheck remaining bags and generally wonder if I have everything.
- EVERYONE else getting up too to get ready to come in for support. Wandering around like zombies.

- into Tenby 5.15am, load various fuels onto bike. Check cadence and speed sensor is registering on garmin watch. Brakes good, gears good, tires good.
- get changed into Wetsuit, spray goggles etc, stuff hat into wetsuit, Bodyglide the hell out of my arms legs and neck, now as slippy as a fish !
- walk through tent, familiarise myself with kit bag locations in relation to tent entry.
- walk through bike racking area, familiarise myself with bike location in relation to approach. 
- check bike one last time before heading over to the Cafe Vista to meet the family. They've only gotten themselves the best table in Tenby to watch the swim!
- head down to the beach with Paul who gets himself a good spot for photos and helps me with my wetsuit.
- barely get into the water for a warm-up swim, clean out goggle, get water into my wetsuit etc, before getting called out into the start 'pen'.
- I head to the sub 1 hour zone - The fastest group, just behind the pros.
- 6.40 am. 10 minutes to pro start. 20 minutes to my start.

and breathe.