So the lovely relaxing weekend away in the Cotswolds came. Me and Katie had been looking forward to a weekend away. I was able to sell it based on it only being a short race, ‘it will be over by mid-day, and we will have the rest of the weekend to do whatever you like’!!
Here’s my girl enjoying the lovely view from our balcony.
Training had gone well, I knew I had the fitness in me for each of the disciplines individually, but the doubt was there as ever when putting it all together. This was to be the longest race I had ever done to date!! It was a huge milestone for me, and a great chance to gauge where I was in my training for Ironman Wales.
In the lead up to the weekend I was doing my customary hourly checks of the weather, and it wasn’t looking good. There was a storm coming in! And pretty much peaking whilst we would be racing!! Great. I hate the rain!! Strange I know for someone who lives in Wales and only gets one day of summer each year, but I’m just not the biggest fan of it.
So we packed up the car. Dropped the dogs off. And headed off to the Cotswolds. We booked into the Four Pillars Waterpark Hotel, it was in a fantastic location and the facilities were spot on. The hotel is about 3 miles away from the start line, and the actual bike course takes you past the hotel (in case you fancy going back for a lie down).
Now this photo unfortunately isn’t reflective of the view we had whilst there, but I can imagine it being even nicer should the sunshine show its face.
So we had a little plan arranged. My brother was planning on leaving bath (where he lives) to come and watch ‘as its close’. I had warned him it was a particularly early start (6am!!) but he said he would set his alarm and get there asap. My step brother Craig was also heading down, he lives in Gloucester, and was going to meet us at the start.
So as we settled in to the hotel and had a look around, the evening was upon us rather soon. We decided to take a quick drive around the bike course before heading to the lake to register etc. The bike course looked amazing, flat and fast, one little hill but nothing too much to worry about. Weather was looking ok at this point but forecast wasn’t good.
Got my race number, my start time, had a quick nose of the lake where the swim was and then part of the run course before heading back to the hotel. Got back to our room and went through all my pre race checks. I had planned to use this race as a bit of a ‘practice’ for my nutrition. I was planning on this race taking between 6-7 hours, so this was going to be new territory for me. I had packed a few gels, some jelly babies, two drink bottles and a bag of salted new potatoes. All my other kit seemed in order so good to go.
Head down. Crap sleep. Alarm goes off 04:30… why oh why do I do this to myself!! Look out the window and the weather is minging. I judged this by not being able to see the other side of the lake that was there the day before. It was pissing it down.
Anyway, we got our stuff together, packed the car, quick bit of cereal, I managed 2 weetabix and half a cup of tea. And off we went.
The queue to get into the car park was fairly long, but the marshals were doing a great job of squeezing everyone in nicely to make things easier for later on. We were a little behind time and I actually thought I was going to miss the start of the race. So we had to rush to the start line. Craig was there, looking fresh and happy to be up standing in the rain at 05:50. I was in wave 5, so luckily didn’t miss my start, two waves had already gone by the time I got there. Whoops.
There was no sign of my brother and no mention at this point, so I thought I would most likely see him getting out of the swim. I said my farewell’s to Katie and jumped into the lake for a quick acclimatisation. Ooooff… it was fresh. That woke me up!!
Quick count down and we were off!! The swim was lovely. The lake was fresh water, the wave starts kept numbers steady and I was lucky enough to get into a nice rhythm on the feet of someone a little quicker than me. To be fair I stayed there pretty much the whole way around. I was very grateful for the tow, and came out of the swim feeling ok and in good time!
Into T1 for a quick change and to be fair this was a bit clunky. I had to put my heart rate monitor on, so I could gauge what zone I was in, I was hoping to stay in zone 2 for the duration of the bike. This was mistake number 1, it didnt go to plan at all, firstly it was extremely hard to get on when wet and cold, and then I had to faff about with my trisuit and getting that up over my shoulders and zipped up! I lost a lot of time in T1 for no valuable reason, but a good lesson learnt. I set off on the bike with just my trisuit, I left my jacket in the bag as I saw others not wearing their’s, so thought I would follow suit. That was mistake number 2.
Within a few minutes on the bike I was freezing!! I was absolutely drenched!! So much so that the heart rate monitor I had just spent 5 minutes putting on wasn’t working, as it ‘doesn’t work whilst swimming’ and I was effectively in underwater conditions.
So I was out on the bike and trying to settle into things. The weather was actually the wettest I had ever ridden in, and trust me when I say this, I have ridden in some wet, windy, stormy, hurricane like conditions. The wind was actually ok, in fact very little, but I’m sure we had about a months worth of rain with 3 hours!! I was about 1 hour into the bike, speed was looking good, averaging about 21 mph, energy levels were feeling good, even though I hadn’t eaten anything!! (Not part of the plan). Then I realised that my hands and arms were actually stuck in the position they were in. I had actually lost any movement in them. They were effectively frozen stiff. Oh dear. Then I started seeing people unfortunately on the side of the road either with a mechanical or just not feeling well. As I was getting further into the race, more and more people were pulling out, getting foil blankets out of their cycle bags to wrap around them. By this point my mind was doing 101 mph, I’m an over thinker at the best of times, but now I was starting to panic. I had no foil blanket. I had no phone. I hadn’t eaten. And I was frozen stiff to my bike like the scene of dumb and dumber. I could not move my fingers to change the gears. I had no option but to plod on, almost thinking that if I pedal harder I will be warmer and finish quicker. Winner winner. So on I went!!
Conditions don’t actually look too bad in this photo, but I guarantee you both me and the bloke behind me are frozen stiff in those positions. Damn it, he has chosen a more aero position than me!!
I finished lap one, Katie was waiting to shout her support, I could hear her a mile off!! I might have to start wearing ear muffs you know. It always nice to hear the support from her, it gives me a top up of energy!! Onto lap two of the bike and I knew I had to try and take some food on. I had a gel. And about 15 mins later I tried a potato. They were soggy, salty mush by now, I had one bite and I was done. I just couldn’t stomach them. I decided to ditch them as I must have had close to a kilo of them on me, haha.
So all in all my nutrition didn’t go well. The rain continued and I just kept my head down and counted to 10 repeatedly, knowing that when I got back to T2 and started to run, I would soon warm up. Believe it or not that actually seemed really really welcoming at this point. A half marathon after this wet 56 mile cycle seemed delightful!! There’s something not quite right with that statement is it. Anyway, the miles went by and my timing was looking ok. Few last long straights and I was back in T2. Katie and Craig was there cheering, still no sign of my brother? Katie hadn’t heard anything. He will be here soon. Maybe I will see him on the run course, maybe certain roads were closed or he’s got lost?
I got into T2 remembering that I had packed a spare pair of socks. Mmmmm dry socks. That seemed like luxury at this point. I had one problem though. I couldn’t get my socks off. My fingers were that cold and numb I wasn’t even able to get a sock off. Pathetic I know. So I was stood in T2, everyone rushing around me, and I’m rubbing my hands together visciously to get some feeling back in them. I finally manage to get my socks off and dry ones back on. I slip my trainers on, good job I have elastic laces!! And off I go. Couldn’t wait to warm up!!
Onto the run and things did get better. The rain finally eased up, and my body started to regain feeling!! It felt awesome. Surprisingly my energy levels were feeling ok, I still hadn’t taken much food or drink in, but I just kept plugging away. The run was three loops of just over 4 miles with a mixture of road running and trail running. There were parts where the trail became quite tight, single file infact, which made it difficult to pass people. I didn’t mind this to be honest as steady was the theme of the day!! The support was really good, especially given the conditions. Each lap I passed Katie and Craig, and each lap I was realising my brother is most probably lost in the Cotswolds somewhere, most probably in a pub as it’s coming up to midday, haha. The run felt comfortable, last few miles clocked on by nicely, a few more tight corners and it was down into the home straight!! I’m running down the red carpet, and who do I see. My brother!! He made it to see me finish!! Woohoo!! He never fails to make me laugh. Apparently he had caused carnage and drove up the course which was blocked off, ended up leaving his car up on a side verge. But he made it!! Through the finish line, grab my medal, t-shirt and goody bag, and off to grab some grub!!
All in all I really enjoyed it!! The weather was a little poor for the bike, but it cleared up, and it didn’t stop us anyway. Lots of mud all over me. Back to the hotel for a relaxing spa and a soak. I took things steady as it was my longest race ever!! I was into new territory and that always makes me a little apprehensive. I didn’t fancy a trip to any of the local hospitals. Katie wouldn’t be amused.
Here are my official finish times and splits for anyone interested.
We had a lovely weekend away the three of us. Katie is less sensitive with me these days paying more attention to my bike. But to be fair we left the bike in the room as we enjoyed the rest of the weekend, in the spa, some nice food etc.
Back home and I was straight back to my training. The Cotswold 113 had given me the confidence boost that I needed, but I knew that Ironman Wales was a totally different ball game. Not only are all the distances doubled from this, but the bike and run are extremely hilly!!
So off looking for hills I went!! Bring on Ironman Wales!! This was set to be a big occasion, my mum and step dad were flying over from Australia to come and watch, over 15 of my family and friends were coming down to watch. Nerves were building and I was having my doubts, but I stuck with my training and believed in the plan I was following. Day by day it was getting closer!!
I. Was. Shitting. It.