Posts Tagged ‘Wales’

Wales (In Retrospect)

Posted: October 28, 2012 in Lifestyle
Tags: ,

Okay, so I’m almost ready to put Ironman Wales completely behind me and move on for good…almost.  But then I received my official race photos in the mail the other day and I’m having some fond flashbacks.  Now, let me first warn you:  I am not one of those pretty triathletes and I’m not likely going to be called upon for any calendar shoots anytime soon.  However, these photos do bring back those specific moments in which they were taken, rather vividly in fact.

Swim: 58:31

I know, I know, what the fuck?  Told you I wasn’t pretty.  Goggle marks under my eyes and, hey, who looks good in a freakin’ neoprene hoodie anyway, right?  But in my defense:  this was taken only a few seconds after exiting the water at Goscar Rock on North Beach and checking the time on my stop watch.  The 58 minutes definitely has not registered in my brain yet judging by the expression on my face.  I’m probably still mid-panic that I missed a turning point or a buoy or something.  Another second or two after this was taken, I began the looooooooong climb up the pathway back to the main road and another 1.5k  run back to transition to fetch my bike.  Good times.

 

Bike: 6:57:21

This shot – which I totally don’t disapprove of by the way – was taken while giv’n ‘er up the monster “Heartbreak Hill” at the 100k  mark.  It was a totally an up and out of the saddle climb the whole way.  This photo was definitely taken on the first ascent up that bitch of a hill as the second climb, which came again at 170k,  I wasn’t looking so, well, motivated…let me tell you.  I was still feeling relatively good at this point and loving the crowd interaction.  I was working hard on staying ahead of the pack that I had been working to stay ahead of for the past 30-40k and catching the next group of riders struggling up just ahead of me.  I was also beginning to show the first signs of desperation at not having found the ‘Special Needs’ area yet.

Run: 4:03:22

Here it is, the finisher’s shot, well, the only one I’m going to share with you anyway.  Even with just a few meters to go the whole experience was very surreal.   I knew I should have been making a better effort for the camera by waving my arms, punching the air, or doing a victory jig, or whatever, but, truthfully, I just wanted to get across the line and STOP.  Period.  Here you can see the four different colored arms bands that marked each lap at the top of that God-forsaken climb up Narberth Road.  Considering how much pain I was in at this exact moment, I don’t really look that bad.  Okay, maybe just a little…

Anyway, that’s it folks.  It’s over.  Kaput!   I’m moving on and getting with the new plan.  No more looking back, eyes forward…forever forward.

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It’s been nearly four weeks now since the big event and ‘Operation: Get Fat and Lazy” has been in full swing since then.  The first week after Ironman Wales, my spirits were still riding high on my accomplishment and I enjoyed simply touring around Tenby and London and seeing the sights with Kelly and my father.  I was still sore and bit broken but, mentally, I was A-okay; never better in fact.  I was enjoying the downtime after having spent nearly every waking minute of every day for four long years either planning, strategizing, scheduling, and preparing for a single date circled on my calendar.  For the past 12 months alone, I literally ate, slept and shat Ironman.  It consumed me…totally.

Now, at first I was loving all this downtime so I was all:

YESS!

However, being home now, not to mention three weeks further along in my idleness, I am beginning to feel very differently.  Now I’m more:

For fuck sakes already, just make it end.

I can’t say I’m still riding that same high from a few weeks ago.  In fact, I’m feeling rather sucky.  It’s true.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying spending more time with my family, attending more social functions, staying up later at night, sleeping in on weekends, reconnecting with friends, flaunting the new tat, and whatnot, but there’s another more sinister element to as well.  Beyond these things, I’m experiencing a sense of loss.  I have little energy or motivation to do anything else other than veg out with the cats, eat peanut butter sandwiches and watch hours of crap television in my comfy chair.  Seriously, when you waste almost an entire hour thoroughly engrossed in the life and times of ‘Honey Boo Boo’, you know you have a very real problem.

To make matters worse, I came down recently with a serious chest cold that I can’t seem to shake and I’ve developed a nagging soreness on the outside of my left foot that has left me limping around the house like a total feeb.  I feel like an utter shell of my former self and it’s getting harder to mask from the ones I love, who also happened to support me through all this Ironmadness in the first place.  I literally have no interest in swimming, biking or running, or anything else for that matter.  All I want to do is sit my chair, eat, and sulk. I know I’m entitled to a little downtime, but, geez!

However, as it turns out, it’s very common to experience a bit of a letdown, kinda-lost feeling after an Ironman. Some have gone so far as to give it a name: Post-Ironman Depression Syndrome (PIDS), or, disturbingly, AIDS (After Ironman Depression Syndrome).   Goodie.  I’m choosing instead to call it ‘Ironfunk’, which sounds infinitely cooler than PIDS or AIDS.  Whatever you choose to call it, it is very real and it completely blows.  It has been hypothesized that as a symptom of over-training, depression is your brain’s way of discouraging you from overexerting yourself again—in this case, doing another  Ironman—for a while anyway.  Symptoms include:

  • The feeling of something missing in your life.   Check!
  • Unusual grumpiness.  Check!
  • Sadness, like you have lost a best friend.  Check!
  • Bored.  Check!
  • Restlessness – still not ready to resume training.  Check!
  • Sudden mood swings.  Check-check!
  • Not Motivated.  Check-er-ino!
  • Increase in appetite.  Check-ar-ooni!

In essence, this overwhelming loss of direction has ultimately lent itself to feelings of aimlessness and despondency and I’m not digging it at all.  I’m missing the regular emails, the weekly social support and group sessions that were all once part of my all-encompassing Ironman training culture.  Teammates of mine are already back at ‘er with a vengeance training for their next event and I can’t even bring myself to put down the bag of chips; total ‘ipso ergo Dorito’.  This sucks!

I know at some point this all has to pass but I’m beginning to get restless waiting for my inspiration and motivation to return.  I want to begin going to the gym, but my lingering illness prevents me.  I can’t run because of my gimp foot.  I can’t swim yet because of the tattoo and I can’t even be bothered to cycle yet despite the beautiful autumn colors prevalent in my area lately.  Hell, I even broke out all the old albums from my youth and indulged in a total ‘woe-is-me’ Morrissey-fest one weekend.  The fuck?  How pathetic is that?  Seriously, what next?  Black eyeliner and knee-high Doc Martens?

I wish I had some answers here but I don’t.  This is a completely new and alien feeling.  It’s often suggested that I occupy my new found time – nearly 25 hours a weeks’ worth as a matter of fact – on my other hobbies.  But triathlon was my “hobby”.  I don’t collect stamps, or play video games, so what else is there?  So in lieu of these things I’ve made an appointment with my family physician to have my foot x-rayed for possible stress fractures, not to mention completing my big four-oh check-up.  Oh joy!  I’m also considering getting back into rowing for a while and maybe try and complete a half-marathon on the ergo-meter, or 21,097m (the standardized rowing half marathon distance).  I’ve also signed up for some spin classes beginning in another few weeks and I have begun trying to tentatively plan out my 2013 racing year and set some new goals to look forward to, even though there won’t be another Ironman in my future next year given that I want to accomplish something else first (details to come); Lord knows I think Kelly has earned the right to have me around a bit more for a few more months yet before I jump back on the Ironhorse.

I’m hoping this will all help snap me out of this current bout of the blues I’m experiencing…fingers crossed anyway.  Onward and forward.

Ironman Wales (Epilogue)

Posted: October 3, 2012 in Lifestyle
Tags: ,

They say that with every good story there is also an after story.  This is mine.  Likewise, it has been nearly two weeks of recovery, being lazy for a change and eating and drinking everything in sight, so this is also a way then to stop myself from going absolutely stir-crazy in the meantime.

The amazing Caldey coastline.

September 17th, Kingsbridge Guesthouse (8:45am)

I slept the sleep of champions last night.  And not in the figurative way either, if sleeping was in itself a unique discipline of triathlon this is where I’d be making my big move on my competitors.  I’m sure I didn’t even register so much as a heartbeat throughout the night; dead in every sense of the word.  However, overnight it seems like every muscle in my body has decided to rebel against the rest of my body and is now resisting all urges to move.  I’m walking like the Corpse Bride and the stairs here at the guesthouse are definitely not my friend today.  It took just about all my concentration and focused effort to navigate my way three floors down to the breakfast room to eat.

Yet, despite my prevailing soreness, I’m going to keep myself moving today and visit some of the sights we’ve so far missed here at Tenby, including the monastic Island of Caldey.  Yes, a relaxing day of slow scenic walks, shortbread, chocolate and lunch in an authentic tea garden seems to be exactly what the doctor ordered for this new Ironman.

The scenic walking path at the top of Caldey.

September 17th, Kingsbridge Guesthouse (8:30pm)

I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Caldey this afternoon; an island inhabited by an order of Cistern Monks (a branch of the Benedictine Order) since 1906.  Of course, its history goes back to the 6th century following the colonization of South Wales by the Normans.  Caldey is accessible only by boat from the South Beach in Tenby and gives full vantage of the rugged Pembrokeshire coastline I followed on yesterday’s bike ride.

Isle of Caldey.

While there we enjoyed the coastal scenery along the cliff path at the top of the island, ate some amazing fudge from the monks own Chocolate Factory that, truly, is God’s own recipe, and witnessed an actual Benedictine service in action.  Seriously, how many times do you get to see and hear actual Benedictine monks chanting?  It was absolutely gorgeous, even if it meant climbing another set of steep stairs to the balcony.  It was well worth it.  Of course, none of these will be my final or favorite memory of the island itself.  That claim to fame will forever belong to my father.

the view to Tenby from Caldey Island.

As Kelly and I were returning from the cliff path, we happened upon my father down in the small island village where we had arranged to meet him at the tea garden for lunch.  Of course, he wasn’t enjoying tea but instead leaning against a stone wall routing around in his pants like a truffle hog.  What the hell?  As it turns out he was trying to get some of his money from out of his money belt and having a hard go it of so that it was dropping all over the place and being scattered to all corners of the island by the wind.  Good lord help me.  Yes, for whatever reason, even here at a remote Welsh island inhabited by monks who, amongst other things, have taken a vow of poverty, my father still feels compelled to stash all his money in a money belt lest he should be lead into a dark cloister somewhere by some shady monk and rolled for his millions.  The fuck?

Ironfeast!

As a last order of business for the day, Kelly and I also successfully got Lucille back into her bike box without difficulty after dinner.  It seems that the monks may have brought us some good fortune in this regard.  Time for a celebratory dinner at a local pub somewhere and way too many pints of ale.

September 17th, Kingsbridge Guesthouse (10:45pm)

I am definitely not looking forward to the drive into Woking, Surrey tomorrow given that we barely survived the trip in from Cardiff a few days ago.  Making matters worse is that I made the fateful mistake of asking our guesthouse host for directions.  Now, it must be said that (in my opinion only) the Welsh cannot give directions to save their life.  In fact, no one in the U.K. is very good at it I suspect, and so the Welsh are just upholding their end of that reputation.  Never mind the thick accent that you practically need a translator for, I practically understand none of it.  Everything is simply “straight ahead”, which is rarely the case, given that there are about three zillion roundabouts with multiple exits providing endless opportunities to get lost along the way.  Oh, and everything is just “300 feet”, which could mean 3 miles, 30 miles or 300 miles…or, maybe, if you’re lucky, 300 feet.  Thank God we also have a GPS to assist us along the way and, hopefully, we don’t end up somewhere in No-Mans-Land, Scotland trying to get directions from a herd of sheep.

Not terribly excited about the drive to London.

September 19th, the Garibaldi – Woking, Surrey (11:30am)

Survived the car drive yesterday with little incident.  In fact, it was rather fun.  Eventually you get the hang of driving on the right side of the car and on the left hand side of the road, and even begin how to read the cryptic road signs.  Total winning!  And how does one celebrate such success?  By hitting the booze with reckless abandon for the next 9 hours straight, that’s how.  Hey, it’s not that I’m a regular drinker but being back in an English pub with my old boss from eons ago when I live and worked in a London pub(s) for the better part of a decade, well; let’s just say that some habits have not been killed off completely.  I’m just chalking it up to part of a successful recovery strategy:  eat and drink everything in sight.

I’m walking less like a zombie today and more like someone trying to walk with a pants load today, so my legs are definitely beginning to loosen up a bit.

September 20th, the Garibaldi (12:30pm)

We dropped the car off at the Enterprise dealership yesterday at Heathrow airport yesterday (which was not as much fun as the drive into Woking the day before).  Heathrow is an absolute labyrinth of roadways, roundabouts, intersections, thruways and every other conceivable means of confusing helpless visitors and passers through.  Eventually, we stumbled (quite literally) across the right place and ditched the car for a more reliable means of transport: the London Underground.

That’s not to say, however, that the Underground doesn’t present another whole set of challenges for us, namely, navigating my father who has the mobility and street smarts of a baby deer just learning to walk these days, through the densely packed streets of London proper without him being swallowed by the masses and lost to the annals of time.

Clock Tower, Big Ben, whatever you want to call it…

On his “To Do List” (which, by the way, was like pulling to teeth to get from him) was to see Big Ben, the Parliament buildings, Westminster Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.  All I which I have seen ad nauseum already, of course, but I was excited to share these things with he and Kelly.  Plus, I was curious to see just how I remember about getting around London.

Where Kelly seemed to enjoy herself fine enough, apart from a few pending nervous breakdowns regarding losing my father, my dad seemed to be as impressed with the London sights as passing a wet fart.  It’s so hard to read him.  Upon viewing Big Ben, you might have thought he was perusing the Lost & Found board at the local Sainesbury’s for all the vested interest he showed.  At one point, he sat with his back to the Tower of London failing to have seen it, instead preferring to look at a stone blank wall in front of him simply because it had “Tower of London Café” written on it.  “It’s not very impressive is it?” he remarked casually.  “Umm, dad, turn around”.  Seriously, how does one miss an entire castle?

I guess the highlight came when he asked our Yeoman tour guide where the escalator was to get to the top of the White Tower and then being informed that such “mod cons” weren’t exactly part of William the Conqueror’s blueprints back in 1078.  Good one dad!

September 21st, the Garibaldi (10:00pm)

We dropped my dad off at Heathrow today for his trip home.  We have arranged for someone to assist him upon landing at Schiphol Airport to ensure that he makes his connecting flight and doesn’t end up in Mumbai or something:  “Good day, Meester Nash.  Do you fancy a curry, sir?”

Piccadilly Circus

I enjoyed spending the day with Kelly showing her around my old stomping grounds as well as all the trendy, popular parts of London; all on foot.  On our whirlwind tour of London, we saw: Ealing Broadway (where I used to live and work), Buckingham Palace, St. James Park (where we enjoyed a nice picnic), Piccadilly Circus, the British Museum of History, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Chinatown, Soho (in the rain no less, minus the werewolves and plates of beef Chow Mein), and Oxford Circus.  Where my legs feel much more alive today, my feet are suitably sore from all the walking around on hard stone surfaces.  Geez, you’d think they’d invent soft tiles sooner or later in London, but it’s great to be back and I’m impressed with how much I remember of getting around.

It’s some Chinese take-away from down the street and early to bed tonight; forgetting the ale for a change.

Covent Garden

September 22nd, the Crown – Knaphill, Woking, Surrey (10:00am)

Good news!  My father has arrived at home successfully and not ended up at the latest seat cushion in a remote airport lobby somewhere.  Thank God!

We got treated last night to a proper curry dinner at Asiana here in Woking, courtesy of Debbie (my former boss and current host at the Garibaldi).  In case you didn’t know, curry is the traditional dish of the U.K. (forget about your bangers n’ mash and fish n’ chips, etc.).  Curry is simply the shit here in the U.K.; literally and figuratively.  God knows that after a few pints of Guinness before bed to boot, I’m extremely lucky I didn’t gas Kelly in her sleep last night.  You know, I’m absolutely loving this whole eat/drink recovery strategy!  Pity it has to end eventually.

Windsor Castle

We visited Windsor Castle yesterday as well or, rather, we walked around Windsor Castle without actually going in which was totally fine by me given I’m still moving like my grandmother. Instead we walking along the ‘Long Walk’ for, like, 50m maybe, sampled the local pasty delights at a nearby Bake Sale, toured the St. John the Baptist Parish Church, checked out the local shops along Peascod Street, and stopped for ice cream at the Bachelor’s Acre public park.  We even happened along a local Running Store and Orca warehouse which, for whatever reason, was well hidden in some remote alleyway under an overpass.  I guess fitness and triathlon are not extremely popular in Windsor.

Afterwards, we even navigated our back to Woking via the London train system; without incident even.  We’re totally blending in like locals now, except that I’m still walking like a zombie.  Yup, we’re totally on par with Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, John Cabot or any other famous English explorer…kinda.

Peascod Street, Windsor.

September 23rd, the Garibaldi (12:15am)

Last day in the U.K., and experiencing a typical English weekend; Sunday papers, roast beef at the pub, Sky Sports on the television, and more than enough pints to keep me giddy.  This is about as English as the Queens tits.  Oh, and speaking of tits, it seems that the tabloids have finally run their course with the whole ‘Boobstock’ scandal involving Kate Middleton.  Seriously, I now know more about the future Queen’s jubblies than I ever cared to know about.  What passes here as “news” is shocking and wouldn’t be suitable to line birdcages anywhere else.  Also passing for “news” lately, is Lady Gaga’s cheeky attire at her recent Amsterdam concert, photos of Robbie Williams’ new kid, Liam Gallagher’s 40th birthday celebration, and cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell’s recent displays of “bicycle rage”.  Honestly, how is any of this considered newsworthy?  I’m starving for real information from the outside world, or anything that might resemble itself as global interest.

September 23rd, the Garibaldi (5:30pm)

We’re winding down the last few hours of our vacation before our flight home tomorrow.  By this point, we’re all stocked up on souvenirs to bring home.  What does an Ironman bring home from vacation you ask?  A jar of English mustard, a tube of pickle spread, several huge ass bars of Dairy Milk, Roundtree Pastilles, a package of Hobnob biscuits, two bottles of real ale, and a can of beans.  Real big spenders we are, right?  Booyah!  So there’s nothing left to do now but relax and pour as many last pints of ale down my gullet between now and morning.

Ironbooty!

September 23rd, the Garibaldi (10:30pm)

Evidently, I am shit at British trivia and a walking shame to my medieval history degree.  Personally, I blame it on the multiple pints of Guinness as it, clearly, does nothing  to enhance one’s brainpower to deduct the logical or work out basic general knowledge questions.  At least Kelly was good at being the ‘Team Secretary’…I just sucked.

September 24th, Heathrow Airport – Flight KL1010, Gate 21 (12:30pm)

All set for our return home.  Lucille has been checked in successfully and apart from a random searching of my carry-on luggage, we’re ready to fly.  It must be said though, that trying to explain why I might be carrying a wetsuit, or “rubber” as their unceremoniously referred to here, is a bit embarrassing.  Once the security agent pulled it out her expression changed from one of inquisitiveness to one of near revulsion as if she just uncovered some dark, perverted secret.  I can only imagine what was going through her head at the time, especially when she pulled out the matching neoprene swimming hood.

“Zonder Augurk, please…”

I’m excited and ready to be home again.  It’s been a wonderful adventure, but I’m ready to get back to the routine that is my life once again; the kid, the cats; the job; our life in Ridgeway.  It was nice to reminisce for a week about old times and visit my old haunts, but I am ready to put this chapter behind me now and march bravely on…happily and contentedly.

September 24th, Schiphol Airport –Gate F3 (12:30pm)

Worshiping at the Temple of Cheese – Schiphol Airport

What a cool airport.  The souvenir stands are either alcohol, chocolate, tulips, or cheese.  How awesome is that?  Likewise, the bathrooms smell amazing.  Yes, I know.  I was shocked too.  Oddly, there is no automatic flush or knob at the urinals in the Men’s room so that once you’re finished you’re leaving a fetish pool of piss behind you in what looks like a huge porcelain soup bowl attached to the wall.  Yet, the place has a fresh, pleasant fragrance and not the high noon at a ball game Porto-potty smell you’d expect to smell.  How fucking clever are the Dutch?  They’ve invented the “Stink Free” bathroom!

We’re delayed in Amsterdam, so we occupied our time sampling flavored Gouda at one of the souvenir kiosks.  Yummo!  If our layover was any longer than it currently is I can see myself leaving with a serious constipation problem.  But so far, I’m very impressed with this place.  Pancakes, free cheese, scented bathrooms, pristinely clean lobbies, gorgeous stewardesses, fuck, I could vacation here!

September 24th, Toronto Pearson Airport (10:30pm)

Our driver is nowhere to be found.  We’re tired, jetlagged and stranded at the airport.  Brilliant.  Regardless, we are happy to be home and we’re determined not to let this hinder our spirits for tonight we will be sleeping in our own bed, with our own cats, and I can dream the dreams of an Ironman.  Mission accomplished!

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.

Ironman Wales (Prologue)

Posted: September 26, 2012 in Races
Tags: ,

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.

Ironman Wales 2011 Race Montage

Posted: September 12, 2012 in Motivation
Tags: ,

Okay, so one more post before leaving on that big jet airplane this afternoon.

 

Lord, is this going to be an adventure or what?

New Challenge: Ironman Wales

Posted: September 30, 2011 in In Transition
Tags: , ,

Okay, folks.  After only a mere two weeks off my recent Cancun 70.3 adventure, I am already getting focused and amped up for next year’s ultimate challenge and the culmination of this particular blog:  Ironman Wales.

Here is the official event trailer:

 

Looks awesome, right?  Now for the really scary news…

By some accounts, Ironman Wales is being hailed as the new toughest course on the Ironman circuit.  Gulp!   I had originally chosen this event as it promised to provide a very scenic bike course along the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, but as one professional triathlete put it, “The bloke who designed this course is either incredibly fit or has never raced an Ironman.”   By another account: “I will not do Wales again, not because I don’t think it would disappoint but because it was so feckin hard…”

Three words:  Ho-lee-shit.

When you’re planning for an Ironman, basically the last thing you want to read in the race reviews from the previous year is that the swim conditions were more like the ideal forecast for professional surfers, not triathletes (in fact, on race day the surf rose to 11’ swells).  Not to mention the 40+ mph winds, endless hills on the bike course, and the ever-constant threat of driving rain.  Welcome to Wales, I guess.

To add another word:  Ho-lee-FRIGGIN-shit!

I must be some sort of glutton for punishment; a real sado-masochist sporting-wise.  Either that or I was totally born with the ‘stupid’ gene or something.  First, it’s dealing with the 94-degree heat and 100% humidity of the Yucatan peninsula and now it’s going to be the exact opposite side of the coin: cold and wet.  Why can’t I ever seem to find that happy medium somewhere in between?

But I’ve learned that I thrive on adversity and I have used this fear before to motivate me to train hard and efficiently and I don’t expect this experience will be any different and I plan on building to the same level of confidence that I did this year (mishaps aside).  In short, I’m going to train like I’ve never trained before.  I’m going to swim, cycle and run my ass off like a man possessed which, in fact, might just be the case.

Come this Sunday morning when the official registration for the event opens, I will be hovering over the keyboard anxiously with my Credit Card in hand ready to fork out the necessary moolah in order to kick start this whole crazy adventure into overdrive.  Stick around folks, as it’s going to be another exciting and painful year.

So, just for shits n’ giggles here’s a l’il taste of what lies ahead:

 

Wish me luck!  Bring it on!