After two years of failing to finish an Iron Distance race whilst representing GB 2016 was going to be my year … or was it??
In December I sprained my ankle which later was found to have damaged the talar dome and cartilage, this resulted in me having an operation on 21st March, then spending 8 weeks on crutches non weight bearing and then 8 weeks no impact whilst been able to cycle at least. Not a great start for training for an iron distance race, I had my first post op run of 2016 just two weeks before the race was due to start.
Poznan – luckily for me two other club mates, Louisa and Peter were both also competing in Poznan but in the middle distance race, this meant we could scope out the transition and race venue together. Lovely city, with a great tram and bus system meant it was easy to get around.
The race itself –3.8k swim – 180k bike – 42k run – the previous few days the sun had been shining and temperatures were in the high 20’s today seemed a little overcast with very little wind, great for me for race day. My start time was 7 am along with all the other competitors in the ETU champs, we had watched the Pro men and women set off shortly before, we were herded into the water and told to go to the start line some 100m out. The water was a little murky but dead calm and not too warm, things were looking up. A large Firework crack meant we were off, the first few hundred metres were a bit like a washing machine, but after that it I found some open water and tried to spot the markers buoys. It was a simple one loop course, on the rowing lake. Before I knew it I was out and into T1 – looking at my watch 57 mins, something wasn’t quite right must have been short course, we were later told that the far buoys had been placed incorrectly meaning it was only a 3.1k swim.
Through T1 and out onto the bike – first a short dogleg section to the main loop where we had to endure an out and back 4 times on predominantly pan flat roads with just slight inclines and declines, just over 50m ascent per lap. First lap I was flying clocking 22.5mph average, probably in hindsight pushing a little too hard considering the lack of training. Second lap and I was still feeling good, average speed dropped a little to about 22mph for that lap. Onto the third and my lack of endurance showed with my lower back beginning to hurt due to the aero position on the bike, I kept having to stand up and stretch out and less time on the TT bars, 21mph average. Last lap was definitely tough the wind was stronger and the sun was shining, it was quite warm, couldn’t hold aero position much at all and struggled through with 19.5 mph average, at this point I was glad to get off the bike. 112 miles in 5hrs 22mins – average speed 20.9mph, happy with that.
I handed my bike to marshal and hobbled towards T2, slightly delirious, a marshal asked if I was ok, to which I replied fine thanks ankles a bit sore though, I grabbed my bag and headed to the change tent to put on my trainers. At this point I decided it was a good idea for a lie down, so I did on the bench, again the marshal rushed in and was slightly concerned, I put his mind to rest and put on my runners, after a few mins and a quick sip of water I was out onto the marathon.
From the off I knew I was either going to walk the marathon or just do a short run and not complete it, I didn’t want to aggravate my ankle or hinder its repair. I set off jogging for about 7 mins, I was then going to walk for 3 and see how it went, it didn’t… I knew then it was going to be a long day, with a great swim and bike I could still knock out a decent overall time even if I had to walk most of marathon. I continued walking mainly with the odd 500m or 1k run and slowly the laps passed by. At the turnaround point you had about a 1k loop through the cobbled town square and up a cobbled street, the support was amazing, hundreds of people cheering you on whilst eating and drinking (yes each lap I ran this bit). On the third lap I was overtaken by Louisa who gave me shout out as she romped off into the distance towards her AG win in the middle distance race, this lap I almost walked completely, my ankle was sore and I just didn’t have the endurance in me to push hard. The last lap of four and the end was in sight, I knew if I ran a bit more I could get the marathon done in 5hr 30, this would get me in around 12 hours. The other GB athletes were great and gave me encouragement as they passed me. The finish shoot was fantastic, after heading through the cobbled town centre and street you hit the top of the hill, then up and through the fountain on the red carpet to cheers and shouts from the crowd, I had done it, after 2 years non finishing I had finished my third Iron distance race, 5hr 19mins for the marathon.
So in all I was thrilled to have finished the race because my previous two attempts had been failures but more so because I had done it off the back of 2 weeks run training, 8 weeks on crutches and basically very little endurance training. The time was a new PB for me 11hr50mins, not what I had hoped for back in 2015 when I was planning it but I will take that considering the last six months.
What a great race venue and a great race that Challenge put on, I would definitely recommend both the place and the race. Thanks to Peter & Louisa for transporting my bike and for the post race food and drinks the following day ;).