Ironman Wales (Prologue)

Posted: September 26, 2012 in Races
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Considering that this particular blog site was originally started nearly two years ago in an effort to chronicle my transitional journey from a (then), ‘Stoner Triathlete wannabe, to that of a legitimate Ironman, then that would also make this post the ultimate final chapter; the Iron ‘coup d’etat’ so to speak.  Of course, the journey will continue on but that original lofty goal has finally been achieved.

I am an Ironman.

Now, knowing my love for a good story, I made great efforts to chronicle this final experience in as much detail as possible, not just to prolong the whole adventure, but more to give you as much of firsthand account of the whole trip as possible.  So this particular prologue details the actual trip to Wales itself, up to and including the day just prior to the actual race itself; an experience I was fortunate enough to share with both my father and my girlfriend, for whom it must be noted, has become as much an important part of this journey as any.  I really couldn’t have managed any of this without her.  The much anticipated race review will come shortly afterwards once I finish making sense of it and successfully put all the memories and emotions into words.

September 12th, Lester B. Pearson Airport – Gate C34 (3:00pm)

Waiting to board at the airport. Glad somebody is getting some rest…

And so the whole culmination of a four year commitment to endure the ultimate ass-kicking of a lifetime along the Welsh coastline begins today in an airport lobby, as well it should I suppose.  The whole week has been one of mounting stress and last minute things to do, as it is before any significant journey.

My major stress has always been getting my bike into the bike box.  I did finally, in the end, manage to strip down Lucille so she fits comfortably in her bike box, but not before I had to take her into the shop to assist with getting her pedals off; epic fail on my part there.  Now, if I have learned anything through this experience it’s that NO ONE should ever have to endure watching bike techs go through the process of loosening tight pedal bolts…it’s not pretty.  There’s my $2,500  carbon fiber chariot – i.e. my baby – with her crankset strapped to my chainstay with leather stirrup thingees, the frame literally groaning and creaking from the pressure being exerted on her while my tech throws his entire body weight into them in an effort to unhinge the bolts.  The pushing, the pulling, the moaning, the groaning, the huffing and puffing, it’s like watching somebody give birth.  I wanted a cigar and a stiff drink once he finally managed to get them loosened off.  Thankfully, everything after that was relatively easy.  Wetsuits and running shoes just don’t offer the same kind of stress, that’s for sure.  Just plop them in a plastic bag and stuff them in a rucksack and, Bob’s yer uncle, you’re ready to roll!

Welcome to Cardiff! Wait, what does that sign say…???

So two sleepless night later, one brief argument with the KLM flight attendant over weight allowances and overage fees, and here we all sit in Gate C34 waiting for our Flight 692 to board.  Oh, and I wasn’t able to keep a small set of Allan keys in my carry-on luggage for fear than I make the fold down tray on the seat ahead of me really wobbly or something.

My dad is already asleep.  Glad someone is relaxed enough to be enjoying themselves.

September 12th, Lester B. Pearson Airport – Gate C34 (4:20pm)

In the past 60 minutes or so, I have peed, like, twelve times.  And not the little nervous tingle kind of pees that wouldn’t fill a shot glass either, but the total tsunami tidal wave of urine kind of pee.  I am choosing to chalk that up as validation that my pre-race hydration strategy is in full effect.  Hopefully, I’m also not voiding myself of all the other important things I will need in my body like precious vitamins and minerals, salt, and, maybe, my prostrate.

September 12th – Flight 692 to Amsterdam (6:45pm)

Take off was a bit rough, but successful in that we didn’t end up as a fiery ball of fuselage at the end of the runway.  Maybe that’s why the onboard television screens are showing video clips of women and puppies frolicking on a beach somewhere.  I have no idea what this video has to do with KLM, Amsterdam, Holland, or whatever, but if it keeps us from panicking as the pilot fights to get us airborne then so be it.  Maybe I should request a copy to play in my hotel room the night before my race.

Another curious observation:  on a flight to Amsterdam, there is not a single hippie-type to be seen on board anywhere.  No even so much as a dreadlock or a hint of patchouli.  WTF?  It’s a plane full of complete squares.   Part of me was kind of hoping there would be special brownies served as a mid-flight snack and maybe a bong building workshop, or a few sing-a-longs to Peter, Paul and Mary tunes at least.  But, so far, nada.

The stressful drive to Tenby….

September 12th – Flight 692 to Amsterdam (8:20pm)

Experienced the ultimate oxy-moron:  GOOD AIRLINE FOOD!  I know, right?  And, no, I haven’t been imbibing in too many complimentary in-flight cocktails (stupid hydration plan).  This shit is actually good!  Tonight’s dinner du jour includes a toasty roll with fresh butter, a delicious wheat berry and cranberry salad, and an amazing chicken penne.  Seriously, if this was available at a restaurant somewhere I’d probably order it.  Who knew that my pre-racing fueling would include airline food?  I’d better pick up a lottery ticket when I get home.

Putting Lucille back together. CRAP! What’s the ‘clicking’???

September 13th, Kingsbridge Guesthouse – Tenby, Wales (9:15am)

The trip yesterday from Cardiff to Tenby via our rented vehicle along the M4 was only slightly less stressful then, say, the Bataan Death March…but we survived.  Thank Christ!  It would have sucked had come this far only to end up wrapped around a lorry’s bumper outside some backwater Welsh town whose name I can’t even pronounce.  Note to self:  NEVER trust your jet-lagged father to drive in a foreign land immediately upon landing.  But nothing a quick stroll around Tenby, a plate of fish n’ chips, a pint of ale, and a long 18 hour sleep didn’t cure though.

September 14th, Kingsbridge Guesthouse – Tenby, Wales (8:45am)

Feasted this morning on what the guesthouse advertises as the “Full Welsh Breakfast”, including baked beans, fried mushrooms, stewed tomatoes, hash browns, sausage, a fried egg, and dry toast, all washed down with a cup of the strongest instant coffee you could ever imagine.  We’re more than ready now to do tackle getting Lucille back together again.

September 14th, Kingsbridge Guesthouse’s garage– Tenby, Wales (9:40am)

Shit!  Lucille seems to have sustained minor injuries while in transition to her rear derailleur.  I’ll have to zip her down to the bike techs at the Ironman Expo later when I get registered, then we can explore Tenby a bit more.

The ‘Esplanade’ (Tenby, Wales)

September 14th, Castle Beach – Tenby, Wales (11:15am)

Tenby is a cute place; narrow cobblestone roadways and quaint shops all enclosed by a terrific 13th century medieval wall which all provide one spectacular French Riviera-esque landscape from down below on North Beach where our swim will be held.  How cool is that?  However, this initial reconnaissance also suggests that the marathon portion of Sunday’s race is going to contain maximum quantities of maximum suckage for sure.  In fact, the only flat portion of this town seems to be the beach once you forget about the 300-400m ramp back up the embankment to the street.  Thank God I made the last minute decision to bring an extra pair of shoes for the run back into transition.

Crackwell Street from the harbor.

September 14th, Kingsbridge Guesthouse – Tenby, Wales (4:15pm)

Just got Lucille back from the bike tech and she is in perfect running order once again.  Went for a short run around the city just to loosen up a bit and everything feels good.  It was funny to know that here in the heart of old Wales, that one can either walk around in a full body wetsuit, or go out jogging sporting compression socks with neon running shoes and nobody will even bat an eyelash, much less get gawked at by passersby.  What other time or place in the world other than right here, right now, can one anticipate blending in while looking like a complete moron?  It’s quite the odd juxtaposition to see the stuffy-looking English locals mixing with your typical athlete over-achiever in the Victorian downtown core.

Busker along St. George Street.

September 14th, Kingsbridge Guesthouse – Tenby, Wales (9:30pm)

After our huge ordeal on the M4 getting here yesterday, we were happy to sucker another guest here at the Kingsbridge to drive us all to the mandatory athletes meeting and pasta dinner at the Carew Airfield.  At the meeting, they really liked to drive it home that Ironman Wales is now hailing itself as “THE HARDEST COURSE IN THE WORLD”, like, over and over again until it resonates in your very soul, especially with the 600 or so “Iron Virgins” such as myself.  I know my calves instinctively tightened a little each time they made mention of it.  What was I thinking when I chose this race as my premiere introduction to Ironman?  Geez, it’d be like learning to ride a bike on Mt. Ventoux.  I guess if I can survive this, however, I can survive anything.

Bridge Street (part of the marathon course).

September 15th, High Street – Tenby, Wales (4:45pm)

T-minus 14 hours to go and my nerves have kicked into overdrive as I expected they would.  I’ve been nervous already, of course, but it was more of a nervous excitement.  This is pure fear now.  So far, the whole day as gone something like this: woke up, had breakfast, checked in Lucille and my transition bags (after the per-requisite 20 minutes of fussing, second guessing, etc.), did a little more site-seeing at St. Catharines Island, enjoyed a baguette, napped back at the Kingsbridge, cuddled, read a little and hydrated like it was my job.  Little to do now except to keep hydrating, stay off my feet and try to find my game face.

The South Parade (also along the marathon route)

September 15th, High Street – Tenby, Wales (5:10pm)

Found a cup of coffee and have located to a park bench overlooking North Beach where tomorrow’s swim will be held.  Other Ironman athletes are currently in the water at the last organized swim.  Me?  I’m stressing.  In fact, if stressing where a sport in and of itself I’d be the World Champion by now.  To say I’m petrified, well, it’s just not strong enough a word really.  I’m literally quite beside myself with fear although I’m doing my absolute best to give no outward impression of anything other than the perfect picture of cool, calm and collected as I sit here plugged into my iPod listening to Scottish battle hymns (Major Mackenzie).  I’ve figured out my now that this is just part of the process.

The view overlooking North Beach and Goscor Rock, where the swim will be held.

But let’s put this in some proper perspective.  Five years ago I couldn’t run walk around the block without risking immediate heart failure, much less jog around it.  I had self-esteem issues and my self-confidence was practically non-existent.  And, now, here I sit in Tenby ready to toe the line at the state of what has come to be known as the hardest Ironman course on the planet.  Best of all, I have an amazing girlfriend that not only adores me, but supports and encourages me throughout the entire endeavor.  That’s a pretty far cry from that fragile, damaged self-loathing image of a mere five years ago; 226 kilometers is nothing compared to the distance I’ve come on that personal development journey.  In fact, it’s nothing at all and if a little pain and discomfort at the end of tomorrow is the only price I have to pay, then I would do it all over again in a thousand times over.  Likewise, triathlon has brought some pretty amazing people into my life whose influence has assisted me in believing that I participate in all this madness in the first place and live.  How lucky am I?  Very lucky indeed.

No shit!

The most common question I get asked is: “How long do you think it will take?”  Where I am guilty of giving into this whole notion of time as the ultimate measure for success, I realize now that it’s all subjective.  Time really doesn’t matter much at all when compared to the accomplishment of just being here and having survived all those grueling long runs, lonely bike rides and early morning swims that it took to get to this point.  What is time when weighed against all the physical, mental and emotional stress I have endured to be able to even consider tackling something of this magnitude?  So instead of using time as my measure for success, I’m going to be more abstract and just try to remember to do my best despite what gets thrown at me and do my best to have fun throughout it all.  In the end, I’m not going to learn anything new about myself that I haven’t already figured out yet, nor is anyone going to be disappointed with me once I finish.  So why stress then as it seems kind of pointless in that light.

All registered! No turning back now.

Instead, I’m going to think about the things I’m looking forward to.  I get to participate in one of the most amazing sporting spectacles in the Ironman swim start; I get to experience one of the most beautiful, iconic landscapes in the world tomorrow on my bike; I get the chance to complete my first marathon with the full support of an entire Medieval township cheering me on; lastly, I finally get to hear those four all-haloed words that I dare not speak yet echoing over the microphone.  Why am I stressed again?  I just need to let it all unfold tomorrow, love it all and grow.

  1. Carolyn says:

    Can’t wait to hear the race recap!

  2. Jeff says:

    I couldn’t wait I had to check the website the day after you raced Mr. Ironman….your swim was world class!! When you said you finally learned how to kick you weren’t kidding!

  3. Hi Jeff! I am extremely thrilled with my swim indeed. I am also (as you will soon read I hope) equally pleased with both the bike and marathon segments as well, but I’m especially proud of that swim. All that kicking definitely paid off BIG TIME!

  4. Jan says:

    I loved the pre-race write-up! I enjoy “living it” along with you and “feeling” how you feel. The pics of the buildings were especially interesting in both the shape and six and colours. Thanks so much for those! I’m off to read your race write up but first know Terry, that I am most impressed with your tenacity and endurance in that in four short seaons, you have set a lofty goal and mastered it so wonderfully. Terry you are a true inspiration! BE PROUD!

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