Ironman Wales

Posted: September 28, 2012 in Races
Tags: , ,
  •  3.8k swim, 180k bike, 42.2k run
  • Chip Time = 12:15:27 (click to see official Stats  – search ‘Nash’)
  • Category Place = 85/237 (M 40-44)
  • Overall Place = 457/1600 (M 40-44)
  • For the IronmanLIVE Race Report Ticker click HERE  (check out page six!)

When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.  

(Joshua 6:20)

I think most people initially choose their Ironman event based on the degree of challenge, the promise of a fast time or the opportunity to set a new Personal Best or, maybe, its overall popularity and promise of fan support.  Me?  I chose my particular Ironman solely based on scenery.  Yes, it’s true.  I chose Ironman Wales because it promised to be pretty.  I confess.

Pre-race briefing

It wasn’t until two or three weeks after last year’s premiere event (by which point I had already pressed the SUBMIT button on the registration page), not mention the months leading up to today’s challenge, that Wales also earned the new reputation of being the “TOUGHEST COURSE IN THE WORLD”.  So besides the beautiful countryside that is the Pembrokeshire National Park that I had signed up for, I was going to be on the receiving end of a royal ass-kicking of a lifetime.  Needless to say that fear is a wonderful motivator to train in the off season and I have already documented my efforts to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead in Tenby.  I forced myself to kick endless kilometers in the pool anticipating a tough open water swim; I dragged a tire around my neighborhood while running to build up the leg strength to cope with the hilly marathon; trained long race simulation days to emulate the pain and discomfort I was bound to deal with; as well as spending more hours in the saddle of my bike than I care to remember.  Hell, I even made peace with peeing myself on the bike rather than stopping.  So let’s just say it’s been a long, painful year.

After walking around Tenby for the last few days it is clear that if there is anything other than long, steep hills in the area, I haven’t seen them.  And given that Tenby itself sits atop a bluff overlooking the Celtic Sea and Atlantic Ocean there is more than enough wind to go around.  Still, I tried to put these things out of my head as best I could, as well as all the other uber-fit athletes galloping around town in their fancy neon runners or zipping by on their billion dollar flying machines.  I remember full well how I felt last year in Cancun watching these seemingly professional types warming up and the doubt that began to creep in as a result.  I also remember these same guys by the side of road puking their guts up and praying for their mommies, so I just blocked it all out of my mind this time and instead focused on my own pre-race strategy which is: do as little as possible and hydrate my ass off as if my life depended on it (which, in fact, it may).

Who looks nervous?

I only really experienced one glitch in the whole program, in that I hadn’t planned on my last pre-race meal for the night before.  I figured I could just find something healthy and carbo-licious in town but that didn’t turn out to be so easy.  By 7:00pm, everywhere was either packed to the rafters, no longer serving food or not really having menu items adequately suitable for Ironmen.  I settled for a Steak and Guinness pie in the end, but I’m sure that decision wouldn’t exactly be endorsed by any professional.  Anyway, after getting back to the guesthouse, I laid out my morning breakfast (two croissants with cream cheese and jam, a granola bar, a banana and a bottle of E-load mix), had a cup of tea while watching ‘Cats with Boobs’ on the television (crazy fucking Welsh), before switching off the light and proceeding to toss and turn all night until my alarm went off at 4:15am sharp.

Fortunately, there wasn’t much to do in the morning apart from eat, poop, hydrate, lube up and affix my Ironman tattoos.  I must say, though, there is quite no other feeling in the world like putting on your official Ironman tattoo.  Up until that point, everything is very surreal like none of it is really happening.  But when you put on that official number (620), it becomes very real very fast.  If I was nervous before, I was downright terrified at that moment.  But I used the opportunity over breakfast to reread my journal entry from the day before [see:  September 15th, High Street – Tenby, Wales (5:10pm)] and I began to settle down inside while Kelly made the last of her own race day preparations.  We left the guesthouse at 5:15am and proceeded up the street with my white swim bag along with about a dozen other bleary-eyed athletes all making their own way to the transition area.

All packed and ready to go! I think…

We arrived at transition with approximately 3000 other athletes, spectators, supporters, volunteers and staff.  This too is an incredible experience as everything is lit up with flood lights and there is definitely a buzz in the air.  You can literally taste the nervous excitement amongst the throngs of people as everyone is either preparing themselves for battle, fussing with their bikes and making last minute preparations, squeezing into their wetsuits, or just milling about taking it all in; the whole time the announcer is counting down the minutes to ‘Go time’ over the sound system.  I didn’t have much to do other than check Lucille’s tire pressure and turn in my ‘Special Needs’ bag for the bike before seeking out Kelly to help me get into my wetsuit (yeah, it’s a two man job).  Afterwards, I gave her a final kiss goodbye, shook my dad’s hand for luck and marched off to join the other 1600 athletes for the final march through town to North Beach to get this crazy train underway.

Swim: 58:31

Pace: 1:30/100m

Division Rank: 31/237

Overall Rank: Place: 188/1600

Getting suited up for battle. Hardly like the knights of old…

The pre-dawn march through the town along the medieval wall has to go down as one of the most memorable experiences of my life, as thousands of spectators had already lined the road to cheer us on with well wishes and words of encouragement.  As you make your way, people wish you well, pat your back, offer you a motivational high-5’s, whatever, it’s exhilarating.  It’s like a politician working the campaign trail; shaking hands and kissing babies.  It’s rather like how I imagine being sent off to war might feel like.  I remember feeling very pleased with my last minute decision to bring running shoes for the swim as it is a little over a kilometer back into transition along a hard paved surface.  Thank Christ!

Within 10 minutes or so, after tying up my shoes in the provided yellow bag along the ramp from the beach, I entered the water of North Beach for a bit of a warm-up as is per custom.  The water was freezing (as I expected) so I was glad I had also decided to wear a neoprene hood under my swim cap despite how silly it made me look.  Hey, no one ever said that triathlon was glamorous.  While in the water, I did something I have NEVER done before: I peed in my wetsuit. Yes, I know, I’m a bit disappointed with myself as well.  It wasn’t so much the nerves as it was having been in my wetsuit already for nearly 20 minutes after chugging my pre-race formula on the march down to the beach.  But, whatever, I peed and it wasn’t so bad…almost pleasurable even.  At least it gave me a brief respite from the frigid water anyway but, by that point, we were all being called out of the water and herded to the starting line.  T-minus five minutes and counting…

Last embrace before “Go Time”. Doing my best “Stay Cool!” here.

I’ve already mentioned how anxious I’ve been for the swim at North Beach after watching those YouTube videos from last years’ race of vicious 11’ swells literally hurling athletes on the beach.  But that anxiety has also motivated me to get to the pool three times a week in the early hours of the morning to work on my kicking and stroke to be as powerful and effective as possible but, thankfully, the waves didn’t look so bad this morning; calm actually.  Sweet!  With three minutes or so to go, I positioned myself smack dab in the middle near the front knowing full well that it would be brutal going, but I didn’t do all those workouts just to take the easy way out near the back.  ‘Go hard or go home’  has always been my personal philosophy for the swim.  Pacing comes later on the bike and during the run, but I try to give it full gas during the swim and that was the plan today as swimming has become my strength of the three disciplines.

Moments before we started they played the National Anthem of Wales (which is a curiously calming thing to hear just prior to the melee that was about to take place in the water) and I took in the view of the huge crowds of spectators lining the bluff up above the beach along the High Street in Tenby.  Very cool perspective indeed.  After the National Anthem had finished, they cued up the “Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na…THUNDER!”,  one of my favorite pump up tunes so it couldn’t have better timed.  All the other athletes seemed to appreciate it as well as we responded with hoots, cheers and roars as everyone started to go through their own psych-up routines.  Lovely!  The energy was simply electric at that very moment, yet I felt eerily calm and composed.  It was like everything was happening in slow motion; everyone poised, hands grasping the stop watches on their wrists, ready to charge, then the canon erupted (well, it was more of a pathetic, innocuous puff than anything, rather than the total explosion you’d expect to hear from such a menacing looking weapon) and everything immediately erupted into chaos as 1600 athletes charged into the water.

Here is what it all looked like:

 

It’s worth mentioning here that, apparently, overnight, a bloom of jellyfish had decided to take up residence near the beach between the start at the first turning buoy on the course, therefore, the course had to be slightly altered last minute.  As such, we were required to swim out straight 500m, around this invasive obstacle then take a sharp left towards that first turning buoy.  Let me tell you, 500m is not enough distance to allow 1600 individual competitors to space themselves out suitably prior to making a significant adjustment in course and it was absolute madness.  I was kicked, punched, elbowed and swallowed more mouthful of salt water than I care to remember , and I’m sure I gave as good as I got too.  Once successfully around this first turning point it didn’t really let up and swimmers began to panic while some just stopped altogether to regain their senses after being elbowed or kicked or whatever, so I decided to go wide and at full bore to get around as many as possible to avoid a similar congestion at the next buoy.   I’ve never been one draft anyway, so I just veered out and went for it.  I am pretty sure that a few others followed my lead as I kept feeling hands slapping my feet for the next few hundred meters or so.  By the time we reached the next buoy, most of the madness was pretty much behind us and I could better establish a decent rhythm, however, my adrenaline was soaring now.

Dawn at North Beach, just prior to the swim start…

We next turned right at the buoy for the long back straightaway to the next turning point back towards the beach; approximately a kilometer away.  Thing was, now that we were more out in the open water the swells had picked up significantly and began making things a bit hairy.  At one point, I tried to sight the next buoy but only saw a huge wall of grey coming towards me.  Shit.  Okay, no worries; don’t panic.  I tried again, this time at the top of the next wave and was able to see not only the next buoy but the whole distant harbor and cityscape of Tenby in the distance and it looked as if I was still on target for the turning buoy where others had seemed to have lost their course.  Inside I was, like, all “YES!”  And so it went sighting every few strokes at the top of the swells and past the coastguard ships, lifeguards, other swimmers, etc., until I had reached the second buoy and rounded back towards North Beach again to complete my first loop.

And we’re OFF!

Now, against popular swimming convention, I breathe to my left on every stroke.  I know, I know…*gasp*.  But this also happened to provide a pretty cool opportunity to view the hordes of spectators up along the picturesque bluff in Tenby proper.  This will be another favorite memory of the day.  Again my adrenaline spiked and I increased my pace towards Goscar Rock until I hit the beach ready to start my second loop.  Usually, when I exit the water I’m fatigued and a bit disorientated but at that moment I felt fantastic!  I remember listening to the usual splashing and sloshing of water as I approached the beach, and the sudden explosion of a crowd going wild as I emerged out of the water and sprinted – yes, sprinted – around Goscar Rock and then performed a few dolphin dives to get past the few other swimmers I had reentered with and then rejoined the washing machine.  It was marvelous.

The melee along the back stretch. I’m in there somewhere…

Part of me at that time thought that I might be going too hard too early and that I should slow down and pace myself a bit better but, hell, I felt strong and my confidence was soaring with each passing wave so I made the mental decision to keep pushing it.  By the halfway point of that long and back stretch, I started to overtake slower swimmers.  Holy crap!  I knew then that I must have been going at a pretty good pace and again I thought about slowing it up a bit, but, fuck it, let’s keep going.  By now, I had established myself into a group of three or four swimmers (I was third in the formation) in a drafting line heading into the last buoy, which we all rounded together neatly in turn.  Once we were clear and heading back into the beach to finish the last loop, I sighted the exit arches, pulled out of the formation, and made for the beach with everything I had left.  And that meant kicking!  Kicking like I have never kicked before!  As I passed the lead swimmer, I felt him veer over behind me and I stepped up the pace again until I could no longer feel his fingers on my toes.  I could begin to hear the crowd cheering again and I was still feeling great.

The long ramp back up to the High Street to begin the long run back to transition.

As I exited the water, I was more or less on my own about 20 meters ahead of those other swimmers behind me.  I quickly scanned the digital clock above the archway and it said 58 minutes and change.  I was shocked and double-checked my own stop watch and it agreed…I had completed a sub-60 minute 3.8k swim.  AWESOME!   I was thrilled.  And, dare I say it, I still felt great as if I could keep going.  I used that momentum to carry me up the ramp to my yellow shoe bag, quickly put them on and started making the long way (most of which, of course, was uphill) back to transition.  Every inch of the way lined with spectators all congratulating us and urging us to keep going.  Only one word could describe it:  WOW!   My T1 time (11:15) as you may expect was a bit long, but given the long run, I’m still very pleased with it.

Back at the tent, I stripped out of my wetsuit, donned my riding gear and bike nutrition, picked up Lucille and beat it back out on the course again.  Everything was going smoothly and I felt awesome, but the ass-kicking was only just starting.  In fact, it hadn’t even started yet…

Bike: 6:57:21

Pace: 25.9 km/h

Division Rank: 81/237

Overall Rank: Place: 449/1600

After leaving transition, we rode out of town along the same route we had just run in from the swim along those medieval walls (which I would see much more of as the day went by).  Difference was, I had to remember to stay on my left as you do when driving in the U.K. and that takes some getting used to.  Fortunately, there were others to follow until we had reached the outskirts of town and we began to head out into the countryside towards Angle.  Also important to note was that I had made the split-second decision to leave my arm warmers back in transition as I was still riding the euphoria of a great swim and it wasn’t particularly cold out (yet) so it didn’t seem much to matter.  Secondly, I was only carrying three hours’ worth of nutrition as I had planned to pick up the final three hours’ worth at the ‘Special Needs’ stopover somewhere on the bike route.  Regardless, I was riding, I was feeling fine and everything seemed to be turning over great.

The mount line for the bike course.

I spent the next 30 minutes or so just finding my pace before I started taking in any food or water just as I have trained to do.  So far, everything was going according to plan but there was still a LONG day ahead of me yet.  I began to pass some other riders, remembering to pass on the right (not to mention call out ‘on the right’ for a change) and stay within 10m of the other riders.  I was pleased that things weren’t as congested and grouped together as they were in Cancun last year; so I began to adjust to the bike and settled in for what was inevitably going to be my longest ride yet.  Fortunately, there was a lot to look at and admire through and between the townships of Manobier, Lamphey, St. Petrox and Castle Martin; rolling hillsides, quaint country houses, pretty meadows full of grazing sheep, remote country pubs, manicured hedgerows, etc.   I was definitely getting my fill of scenery.  Everything was like something out of a Thomas Gainsborough painting with rural country-types along the route like the guy off the Led Zeppelin IV album cover.

When we got to Angle the landscape shifted to that of the beautiful Welsh coastline as we rode along ever-narrowing passageways past rocky ledges and outcrops, sand bars and grassy knolls…I was loving every minute of it despite the fierce headwinds that were threatening to blow me off the road entirely.  More than once I felt that ‘wobble’ as Lucille battled a sudden crosswind that would appear from around a sharp corner or from behind a tall hedgerow.  It was also coming into Angle that we arrived at our first major climb.  It didn’t pose much of a threat at the time but it was a good foreshadow of things to come, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

Crowd support up “Heartbreak Hill”. I’m sure I didn’t look quite this happy…

Likewise, as we passed through Angle we arrived at our first aid station so I topped up my aero bottle with water (as planned) and tossed the empty bottle to the local kids at the side of the road as we left the downtown core.  They clearly loved all the freebies and I doubt any child will ever go without a water bottle in Angle for a very long time to come; they’ll probably be passing them down through the generations.  And so it went through the townships of Pembroke (which featured a live band), Creswell Quay, Narberth, Princes Gate, Summer Hill and Saundersfoot; all of which lie within the famous Pembrokeshire National Park and all of it was gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

However, beginning at Creswell Quay (the second half of the first loop) the terrain began to change dramatically.  Suddenly, we were going uphill…a lot.  Over 2000m in total over the 180k to be exact!  Yes, the ass-kicking had really begun in earnest.  And I’m not talking about little climbs here either; I’m talking about steep, steady climbs that really punished the quads.  Given that they were usually winding with lots of blind corners, they just seemed to go forever.  Often, you’d think you’d finally reached the top and then you’d go around a corner and see that still continued to rise off into the distance.  It was heartbreaking.  At least when you can see the top you have something to focus on – a goal – but these winding pathways gave you none of that.

Riders began to bunch up on these climbs as the pace had slowed down considerably.  I had fallen in with a group of five or six other riders (all of which it is interesting to note, were riding road bikes with clip-on aero bars or, in other words, bikes more apt for climbing) and we began to joke back and forth about what kind of total sadist must have designed this course as we had to see any real descents.  I mean, seriously, how much uphill can there possibly be?  Eventually, we did get a few descents but they were few and far between, and even then, because they were all along winding roads with sharp blind corners you couldn’t really get any real speed established lest you end up careening headlong into a stone wall, car or another rider.  The trade-off was that these climbs usually ended up in the next town where the entire population had turned up to cheer us on.  ‘C’mon lads!’, ‘Giv’er a go now!’, ‘Atta chap, almost there!’  as well as lots of other words of encouragement that I couldn’t exactly make out given the thick Welsh accents.  Whatever it was they were shouting, it was all appreciated and gratefully received by all of us let me tell you, especially as the day was about to get even more challenging.

The transitional abyss the morning of…

The warmth of the early day was beginning to fade and the sky was beginning to turn a nasty shade of grey.  I began to regret not bringing those arm warmers with me.  I climbed, and climbed, and nibbled on my Shot Blocs and climbed some more, including a particularly cruel 60-per cent grade ascent at Saundersfoot, approximately 2k in length (at least it felt that way anyway), aptly named “Heartbreak Hill” by local cyclists, and I tried to focus on the thrill of what I was doing and feed off the energy of the amassed crowds.  I particularly enjoyed throwing out the high-5’s to local kids who had turned out along the roadway by the hundreds.  As best as I can imagine it, this is what stages of the Tour d’ France must feel like and I loving it all, even though my legs clearly were not and beginning to show the first real signs of fatigue from all the climbing.

Eventually, the inevitable happened and it began to rain.  Not a downpour per se, but one of those heavy relentless mists that permeates absolutely everything and chills you through to the core.  Yup, really regretting those arm warmers now.  Furthermore, I had officially run out of my race nutrition.  Double fail.  First, the 90k mark came and went and no Special Needs; then 100k…nada.  Then the 120k mark came and went and I officially became worried.   Similarly, other riders also had no idea where this elusive ‘Special Needs’ stop off was either as, clearly, I was not the only one that missed it.  Riders were asking the volunteers, race officials, other riders and even spectators but absolutely nobody had any clue.  Frig!  By the 125k mark I reached my critical mass and knew that I had to come up with a Plan B, which was, eat anything people offer you as I still had another loop of those brutal climbs to go.  I still had two bottles of back-up E-load with me and I used that, but I also began to accept power bars and snacks at the fueling stations along with my bottles of water.  I know this wasn’t exactly a smart strategy and, in fact, was rather risky but I was hungry and rather desperate and also knew that I needed something to keep going…never mind the marathon afterwards.  The C2MAX bars weren’t bad, but they were really hard to open and at one stop, I fumbled and lost it mid-pedal and the crowd responded with the appropriate ‘Oooo!  Awww!’  as it dropped unceremoniously to the ground.  Fail!  I did, however, become quite the pro at getting in whole banana halves by pinching them off at the stem and squishing them into my mouth.  Slowly, the hunger subsided and my energy stores rose but it did little for the cold and I was still freezing my ass off in the rain.  Seriously, wind, rain, hills, it couldn’t have been any more of a Welsh experience had I been kicked in the head by a sheep.  But I am tough if not resilient and the fact that the crowd had seemed to double in number along the roadways despite the brutal weather was more than enough to keep me going.  The Welsh are affable people to say the least.

There is also something of interest to some that is worth adding here: yes, I peed myself.  If not for the temporary warmth it provided, than for the fact that I knew it was going to instantly washed away by the rain…so pee I did.  I am not proud but I regret nothing.  Besides, by now I was over 140k into the most challenging and difficult ride I have ever attempted and I felt that if I stopped now, for any reason, then there was good chance I would be able to continue so I just let loose.  By now, this late into the course, the riders were very stretched out so I was more or less riding on my own.  That meant enduring all those grueling hills a second time all on by my lonesome.  It also meant trying to descend those harrowing downhill with wet brakes, which, if you have not tried it, it’s pretty scary business.  I witnessed many riders at the bottom of hills who must have learned this the hard way as they lay in a crumpled pile of bodily carnage, and more than once I had to give way to oncoming ambulances.  It was hard going to say the least!

The good news was that riding on your own also meant that you got all the crowd support to yourself, and there was a lot of it!  I might have given up on several climbs had it not been for the awesome motivation of roadside spectators who would often run alongside me and offer words of encouragement.  This was never more important than the second time ascending that epic “Heartbreak Hill” that came again at 170k (the first ascent was at the 100k mark).  Now the crowd had ballooned to hundreds and they were lined up three deep with only enough room for me to ride up the middle of the road.  “C’mon, Tezza!  Pedal it out, mate!”  one guy urged me as he ran alongside so close I could smell the ale on his breath.  The infamous Solarerberg climb at the Challenge Roth has nothing on the people of Summer Hill.  God bless the Welsh.

Finally, the rain let up and with only few kilometers to go and with one last steep climb back into Tenby I would be done with all this.  I admit, I was ready to be out of the saddle.  My quads burned, my buns ached and I was wondering how in the hell I was ever going to run 42.2k.  Energy-wise, I felt okay, but my legs felt completely mangled and mentally, things were beginning to churn around.  When I hit the bottom of Greenhill Road leading back into Tenby I gave it one last hard push to pass the few remaining riders in front of me.  They were all the picture of perfect agony (as was I no doubt).  But soon it was going to be over, well, the bike portion anyway.

I know from my training rides that I am very capable of managing this distance much faster but, given the extreme challenge of the hills and weather, I was quite pleased with my time as I rode under the digital timer again back at transition.  I dismounted fine, racked Lucille and double-timed it into the Transition tent.  Inside the tent, it was like a bomb had gone off.  People looked absolutely shell-shocked.  No doubt they were all cold, wet, and doubting their ability to continue (again, as was I).  A nice girl named Katy sat in front of me as I changed into my running gear and asked if I needed any help.

 “Sure, how about a new pair of legs?”  I joked.

“Nah.  Those ones seem to be doing just fine, mate”,  she replied.

And like that I was off out of transition again and on the move in just under 5 minutes leaving the others behind to deal with their own demons.

Run: 4:03:22

Pace: 14.8 km/h

Division Rank: 85/237

Overall Rank: Place: 457/1600

The run course through Tenby (past a pub, of course)…

As you exit from the transition tent onto the run course, you are instantly greeted by about a thousand spectators all going ballistic.  It’s an incredible moment and makes you temporarily forget about the dead feeling in your legs.  Fortunately, much to my own amazement, ‘ol Thunder and Lightning felt, well, okay, and began turning over quite smoothly with minimal resistance.  Excellent!  Moments upon entering on the run course I saw Kelly and my father by the side of the road and I think my exact words were:  “that hill course sucked!”  as I knew that they had to have been waiting for me for a while by now.  Not exactly poetic, but truer words were never spoken.

I knew immediately that I was establishing a pace quicker than might have been advised given that I still had a long way to go but, truthfully, I was feeling strong and energetic so why not go for it a bit?  Besides, it’s hard to hold back when there’s a crowd that size all cheering for you and I was totally in the moment, I admit.  The course first led us out past those same medieval walls we had passed a few times already and then out past North Beach, before, fuck!  Another hill!  And not just any hill, but a soul crushing 5k stretch up Narberth Rd towards the nearby town of New Hedges.  In fact, this run course, in itself, has been labeled one of the toughest run courses in the world.  I was determined, however, to make it up this beast without stopping and my legs seemed to be holding out fine so I led the small group of runners that I had left transition with up this monster past the feed station to top.  I was totally consumed with being in a “race” now and was determined to not give up any unnecessary time to anyone else while I still could.

From the IronmanLIVE website!

At the top of Narberth Road, there was a turnaround and then the course would sharply to the left and up another stinking hill to the place where we collected our arm bands to mark the first lap (of four) before starting the long descent back into Tenby.  I’m not sure what was worse, the climb into New Hedges where my calves ached and my energy was instantly sucked from my body, or the long descent back into Tenby where your quads were absolutely punished with the hard pounding inflicted by going downhill.  It was a total Catch-22 in that regard; going uphill was harder to maintain your pace but easier on the body, where going downhill was easier to establish a decent pace but also extremely painful.  I chose to suffer on the downhill and used the opportunity to pass other runners who were also, obviously, suffering.  But, hey, at least it wasn’t raining anymore.

Once back in Tenby we ran up and down the cobblestone city streets of the downtown core where we were greeted by bands, townspeople, blaring speakers outside pubs, and your name being called out repetitively as the crowds soon became very familiar with you as you passed them on multiple occasions. It was brilliant.  Outside a corner pub on St. Julian Street I even performed a quick little boogie much to the celebrating pub goers delight, albeit, at the time I didn’t exactly have the moves like Jagger.  But no one cared and the crowd erupted and a few girls even danced along with me before pushing me on again.

Cool flags atop the medieval wall along the run course.

I can honestly say, that were I had been dreading the marathon portion, I was absolutely loving every minute of it.  During my long training runs here at home out into the countryside, I am always by myself with only the occasional chipmunk or rabbit and the ever-present pounding of foot on pavement to keep me company.  In short, it’s lonely.  But here there were literally thousands tracking and applauding your every step and it was totally exhilarating.  I often used this constant motivational boost to press up hills, overtake other runners, etc.  It was brilliant.

It wasn’t until approximately the halfway point on Narberth Road where I even felt the need to take my first break by walking through the aid station to nibble on some crackers and flush them down with some Coke.  I kept going, see-sawing back and forth with other runners both up and down the hills, high-5-ed more kids, made jokes with the locals about catching the leaders, and just generally enjoyed being in the moment and doing my best to forget about the pain in my legs.  I thought about my teammates who have been an ever-present source of inspiration; I thought about being back along Thunder Bay Road that I’ve run along a zillion times at home; I thought about little Brooke at the ‘SunRype Tri Kids’ event and her own personal quest to finish; I thought about what I was going to celebrate with when this was all over (a huge ass lamb kebob).  It’s funny what your brain occupies itself with when you’re suffering.  Once, while back in Tenby, I stopped to grab a quick kiss from Kelly by the side of the road and that was enough to get me back up that damn Narberth hill to grab my third armband and back down again.  One more lap to go.

The home stretch…

I decided to push the last lap as best I could.  I knew I had fallen of my original pace but I was pleased that I was doing much more running and only walking through aid stations.  Most importantly, I was moving.  FINALLY, I got my coveted pink armband signaling my last lap.  By this time I was in agony and it was harder to ignore the constant ache in my quads.  I did my best to keep my pace and once exiting the medieval walls of Tenby, I was allowed to go left to the finishers chute along the Esplanade instead of right back onto the course again and towards that hellish hill.  I could have kissed that race marshal as he waved me to the left and actually thought of doing so.

The next 300m or so were a total blur.  I had been dreaming of that moment for the past twelve months since I embarked on this whole Ironman crazy train and here it was finally taking shape.  Four years of blood, sweat, and tears.  Four years of early morning workouts, long bike rides and torturous runs.  Four years of discomfort, blisters and chafing all leading up to this exact moment.  The final steps were surreal and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a bit choked up over it all at finally getting to hear those six magic words:  “Terry Nash, YOU are an Ironman!”

It didn’t register at the time, but I had completed my first ever marathon in 4 hours and 3 minutes, far better than I had ever imagined possible under the circumstances, and not a single blister to show for it (other wounds, most assuredly, but no blisters).  Upon crossing the finish line I was immediately greeted by the Mayor of Tenby who shook my hand and congratulated me and I think my only breathless response to him was: “wow”.  I limped over to the sidelines next where I was greeted with a big hug from Kelly before being escorted away again for a quick examination.  Almost immediately I was overtaken with the chills and every muscle in my legs began to seize up, but I couldn’t have cared less.  In all honesty, I felt better than I did after my half Ironman in Welland back in June.

It’s official!

I limped, quite literally, into the finishers tent a very happy man.  Usually, after I’ve raced I have very little of an appetite but, this time, I was ravenous and ate just about anything on offer.  First, I had a cup of hot tea and a big BBQ pork sandwich, then about a dozen little chocolate bars and a bag of prawn cocktail crisps (chips).  In short, I ate with reckless abandon.  I felt I deserved it.

Eventually, I had a much needed massage and collected my warm clothes from the recovery area and bundled up.  I collected Lucille and my transition bags, found Kelly and my father and made my way back to the guesthouse hand-in-hand extremely pleased.  Of course, I was walking like somebody with a huge pants load in his trousers and I didn’t care.  As I replayed the whole day in my head, I was already scheming about the next time.  Later, I showered, where every last chafing spot on my body was instantly revealed in a blaze of white hot agony under the hot water spray of the shower faucet, donned my finishers jersey, and made my way back out onto the course at the top of the street with Kelly to cheer in the stragglers still out on the course suffering in the darkness of night.  I eventually grabbed that kebob I had fantasized about and we made our way back to the finisher’s line to cheer in the last person on the course as is custom.

So the million dollar question is:  will I do this all again?  Well, after very little thought the answer is abso-fucking-lutely!  I’m hooked.  Nothing I have raced and experienced so far has ever come close to the complete and utter satisfaction of what I accomplished on this day.  Already, I was calculating what my time might have been without the wind, the cold or the endless hills.  Now that I’ve successfully conquered the “Toughest Course in the World” I’m ready to set my sights on the next Iron challenge.  It won’t be in 2013 as I have other goals I want to accomplish with Kelly first, but, come 2014 I’ll be back into full Iron-mode once again…just not sure where yet.  Florida maybe?  Penticton perhaps?  Who knows?  But I simply cannot wait.

A new addiction has definitely been born and I’m already strategizing how to get better, what to work on next, and what my next training steps will be.  So, yes, you can expect that this blog will certainly live on as the journey has not ended.  In fact, as it turns out it’s just beginning.  It’s a brave new world now and one that will inevitably be filled with more early mornings, more sweat, and definitely more blisters.  And, truthfully, I’d have it no other way.

I leave you now with an excellent highlight video of the entire day as something of a validation that all I have mentioned above really happened.

 

Lastly, click HERE  for an excellent gallery of photos from the race itself (including an excellent shot of the swim start at #23) courtesy of Triathlete Europe.

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Comments
  1. Carolyn says:

    YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! Hell yeah Terry. Congrats.

    I’m dying to know…. Are you gonna get the tat?

  2. mom says:

    God,I wish I had been there.

  3. Jeff says:

    dude I just came back to read this post again and and I don’t see my original comment. I don’t know if I forgot to press “post” or what but I want you to know I’m so proud of what you did and the way you did it and what a fantastic writeup you did to boot. I truly felt like I was there while reading your post and I had no idea it could be such an intimate experience between you and the crowd. So fucking cool is all I can say. You have every right to be damn proud of yourself. You didn’t just complete that course, you put your stamp on it and in the process made memories not just for you but for all of us who have been watching you on this fabulous journey. Well done my friend, WELL DONE!!!

    • Thanks Jeff! It was a momentous occasion and amazing experience to be sure. Likewise, your constant motivation, encouragement and over all interest in this adventure was an extremely important part in my being able to pull this whole thing off. so much so I’m not really sure I could ever accurately verbalize it to you. My sincere thanks and gratitude…and be sure to stick around for the next phase. Adventure is just getting started…

      Much appreciation, my friend.

  4. Mark Tickner says:

    Absolutely great read. I did the race this year and I remeber it almost exactly the same! Except I had bizarre and totally unrational obsession with the arm bands… I wanted/needed that pink one so bad that at the time I think I would have sold my house for it lol.
    Keep it up!
    Mark

  5. Theresa says:

    WOW! what an amazing experience!!!!!!! So proud of you!! Great video at the end!

  6. Great YouTube video from the BBC:

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