So I was stuck. I had nothing left on me to sort this out. I needed a new tyre and inner tube. I was in a very bad place. Very bad.
I was just about to take my shoes off to start my run to the maintenance tent, 7 miles away, when two guys came cycling the other way. They were both local guys watching the race. They pulled over asking what had happened. I started to explain, but my words weren’t really coming out properly. I was really panicking now, and was so angry and upset. I was worrying about stupid things. I was thinking of my mum and how she had come all this way to watch me race and now I’m out of it!! I was thinking of all the people who had come to support waiting there for me on my second lap and how I’m not going to be there for them. I was thinking of everyone who had sponsored me, and helped raise money for LATCH. The guys must have sensed the state I was getting myself into. What they did with me was amazing. They were so calm, they reassured me that everything was going to be ok. They told me to start stretching whilst they took my bike from me. They told me to get some food and drink down me, and continued to reassure me. This is exactly what I needed. They had given me things to focus on, which distracted me away from the complete mess that I was. It worked. I did actually start to calm down. I started to regain focus.
So far with all this going on I had lost about 45 minutes from the race. My muscles were starting to cool and I was not even close to being able to continue on. I asked one of the guys if they had a phone, and would it be ok to call my wife. I phoned Katie. Obviously she was shocked to hear off me, especially ringing from an unknown number. I explain things. And I say that I’m going to try and sort it out, but ‘bear with me’. I said that I was with two guys and that they were helping me. I asked if she could share this news with the other guys.
My journey was NOT going to end like this!!
The men helping me lived in Tenby, so their houses were only a few miles away. One of them left to head back to his and grab some spares, but the road closures would prove to make this a difficult task. The guy that stayed with me (I won’t name him, just in case he wants to remain anonymous), phoned his wife. He wanted to speed things up as he could see the mess I was in, and I had already been stationary for a considerable amount of time, I was getting cold and cramp was soon to set in nicely. He asked his wife if she could go into the garage and grab a tyre and inner tube and drive it to us, but again, access was going to be extremely difficult if not impossible!
So we are both there, waiting. I’m feeling like the most unlucky and lucky athlete in the race. Time is passing by now. More people pass through, the number of athletes start thinning, I start to get concerned about cut offs. I start to work out all the different times in my head. Things aren’t looking great. By now I had lost around 90 minutes!!
There was no sign of his other friend or his wife. I was thinking what I was going to say to Katie. How do I tell her that ‘I’m done’ ‘I’m out’.
Just as I’m thinking this through. The guy starts taking off his wheel. I ask him what he’s doing? He said ‘I’m giving you my tyre and inner tube, your race isn’t ending here, your finishing this!’. He effectively made himself stranded to help me out!! I could not believe it. I’m not an emotional person, but I actually choked up. This blew me away. What an amazing thing to do. Amazing.
So we put the tube on, tyre on, wheel back on. Pumped it up. Checked, double checked, triple checked. It looked good!! I had a working wheel back on my bike!! I gave the guy the biggest hug I have ever given a guy, thanked him about 20 times, and he told me to ‘get on your way, you got a race to finish!’ I said my farewells, and he said that he would see me at the finish line!!
(I just need to add, as I have had rightly pointed out to me. This could have/ should have ended in a disqualification. To be fair one of the maintanence marshals had stopped, saw all my broken repairs, and attempts, and said that he will try and get some more up the road. He didn’t mention penalty at all. To be fair if I was competing for a Kona slot, or position, I would have waved the white flag. I was literally in survival mode for what I feel was the right reasons.)
So I was off!! Back on the road!! Now if I said everything was fine I would be lying. I had just shy of 40 miles to go, roughly 2 and half hours of cycling, with no spares at all! After what I had just been through it’s safe to say I could NOT clear my mind of it!! It was the most anxiety provoking 40 miles of my life!! To make matters worse a lot of those 40 miles head out through lanes and areas where support is non-existent. I had no chance if anything else happened.
So I put my head down. Kept my legs spinning. And counted down those miles. Mile.By.Mile.
My legs soon got back into the game. They were feeling okay. I started to make up good time, I was working my way back. Embraced the hills as they came at me. I edged toward mile 90, hit Narbeth which was awesome, back to some civilisation!! Felt so welcoming!!
Mile 100!! Amazing!! I knew I had those final few hills to go and then it was downhill into transistion.
Through the lanes I spin, starting to get excited. I remember thinking to myself as I was coming into wisemans bridge, ‘if anything happens now, I can run it from here’ what a mad thought. I was actually working out how long it would take me if I had to run with my bike from 10 miles out, from 7 miles out, and so on. Up wisemans hill, my legs are burning but I don’t care. I just want to get back safe and sound. I knew if I could get back to transistion, I would finish this race, I would be an Ironman!! Even if I had to crawl!!
Down into Saundersfoot and I see my family!! I can’t describe how amazing that was!! I bet it was amazing for them too!! Katie wasn’t 100% sure that I was back on track. I didn’t have the means to tell her. That was a really special time, it had felt like a lifetime since seeing them last!! Up those final few hills, my legs felt ok, I got such an adrenaline boost from seeing everyone I felt great. Up that final 3 tier hill, heart break hill and I knew after that it was just a descent back into Tenby!! Up and over and whizzing down before I knew it!! Into transition 2 and I was back on firm ground!! I had finally made it around the 112 mile cycle!! And boy, that was a cycle to remember!! It almost got the better of me!! Now just that small task of a marathon…. something I had never done before. The most I had ever run was 18 miles, and that was without a cycle beforehand. This could be fun.
So I quickly change out of my cycle kit, I kept a trisuit on underneath to make this transistion easier and quicker. Slip on my shoes. Grab some gels, and off I go. My legs felt like jelly. I must have looked really strange running because it felt like I was running how I was pedalling on my bike, it’s hard to describe in words, but I was kind of trotting, but definitely not in a good way, more in an uncoordinated way.
Anyway, I was making headway. Now this run is not an easy one. It’s pretty much 3 miles up, miles down four times. That’s it, I had to pass that finish line, the famous red carpet, 3 times before I could step on it myself!! Absolute torture. Just as you get to it, to turn 90 degrees and they send you back out onto the next loop. So up I went, my first loop, climbing up to new hedges, I felt average. But I must have looked bad. My best friend Owen, who is my regular training partner failed to even recognise it was me! He recognised the trisuit, but said ‘nah that’s not him, he doesn’t run anything like that!’ Yup, that was me. He also said I looked in a bad way, he said I had no colour to me and that I was about to flake. Luckily he kept this to himself until after the race.
It was great to get to new hedges, Katie was there waiting, along with other supporters and it was great to see them!!
I was feeling hungry, and for anyone who knows me, when I get hungry I need to eat quick, and normally a lot!! I knew they had set up a special area at the bottom by transition where I could grab special needs from one of my supporters, I had Katie to phone down to my mum to tell her to get some food for me.
So I made it to the turn around, they get you to go through a gate and receive a colour band, a different colour each lap so they, and you know how many you’ve done. From there it was turn around time and back down into town. This is a great section, nice and steady down the hill, into town and it’s absolutely bouncing!! Packed!! Absolutely amazing support. The times goes so quickly through here as the crowds just carry you. There was one major downside for me though, and this might just be a personal thing, coming into town meant I had to take in all the smells of the eateries!! The worst being chips!! I absolutely love chips!! I eat them everyday, and that smell of chips and vinegar sent me crazy!! I did actually find that really really difficult. But I had a plan.
Around the corner and heading for that red carpet!! Ahh ahh…. not yet. Three more laps. It was ok though as I could hear someone in the distance screaming my name like they were drowning at sea. It was my mum!! I have never seen her with so much energy, she was jumping up and down, shouting my name, with the biggest selection of food I have ever seen!! She was like a shop. Other people in the enclosure had a bottle of specific drink and some flapjacks. My mum was there with cinnamon buns, mars bar, fudge, ripple, galaxy cake they were coming out of nowhere!! I grab a mars bar and a cinnamon bun and wash it down with some water. I needed that. Desperately needed it.
Onto the second lap. I said to mum to stay there, I will have more next time around. Back up the hill, my legs are starting to move better now, but damn these hills are starting to feel tough. I must have been struggling because I was stopping at every station, taking on fluids and even started on the coke. It was working though, I could feel energy coming back to me. Plus I was still overjoyed to be off that bike, I knew it was just me, my trainers and the tarmac. I was going to do this!! Back to the top and I’m getting some reassurance from Katie and my friends, they say I’m looking better. Through the turnaround point, pick up my next colour band and back down into town.
The crowds carry me through again, all those smells come back, it’s torture. As I’m running through the town I hear someone shouting toward me ‘there’s my boy!’, it was only the guy who had saved my race and helped me on the bike!! I ran back to him and gave him a massive hug, thanked him so so much, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have got this far!! He shouted, ‘see you at the finish line!’
Back on track and weaving through the town, around the corner and toward that red carpet, I can hear that drowning person again, my mum still jumping with energy having spotted me, fair play to her, she was on a mission of her own. Because I had picked the mars bar last time, she thought I might want the same again. So she had been back to the hotel, stocked up her tuck shop and had all the selection back on sale!! Awesome!! I grabbed the same again. Walked a little whilst I ate through the cinnamon bun, people in the crowds were laughing as I had my hands full like I was setting in for a full on meal. But it was good, I was actually feeling better with every loop that goes by.
Back around and up the hill for the third time. Nothing too eventful this time. The hill feels that bit harder, the light is starting to disappear, less and less people are in the course, keep going, keep moving, one foot in front of the other, come on. Through the turn around and back down those hills. The atmosphere in town is starting to change slightly, with the light going, it’s almost taking on a party/ celebratory atmosphere, the streets are still absolutely packed. People shouting, cheering, singing. It was awesome. Back toward that red carpet and I make that turn for the last time. I run up to my mum, grab my last few snacks off her. I say to her ‘6 miles to go mum, I feel ok, I’ll see you at the finish line….. oh…. do me a favour? (As I’m running off) … grab me a large curry and chips!! Loads of salt & vinegar!!’
Up that hill for the final time, I stop and thank all the marshals and support staff for doing an amazing job all day. Up to the turnaround, this was my favourite part of the run course, I loved getting my bands and going through for the final time was amazing!! Four bands on my arm, just over three miles to go. I took some time to stop here too, this feed station was mainly manned with children from the school opposite the station. They had been fantastic, their enthusiasm was great, so I thanked all of them for helping me through. I then said my goodbyes. It was a one way ticket to the finish line!!
Back down the hill and through the town. I could feel my excitement building, and with it my pace. I was coming alive, I flew through that town for the final time!! All my family were at the finish line at this point, so I was on a mission. Around all the twisting and turning through the town, toward the sea front, I make the turn to the right and there it is, the final stretch. The famous red carpet. I run up, I can’t even remember what was going through my head, I remember it feeling really really bright, spot lights beamed into my eyes. I’m running up the red carpet, high fives to the spectators cheering.
The guy on the microphone…. Simon Davies…..
YOU……. ARE……. AN……. IRONMAN!!!
The best feeling in my life!! All that hard work over the past two years!!
Going from watching the backside of someone during a festival (because of the pain of standing) to running up the red carpet of an Ironman!!
It. Felt. Amazing.
Across the line, and all my friends and family are there!! I run up and give them all a big hug, I get my medal and they usher me into the tent to keep warm and get some food. I get my finisher t-shirt, tuck into some amazing pizza, and head back out to see my family.
My mums waiting there with my curry & chips, and everyone congratulates me. Now it wouldn’t be a story without my brother in it!! The boy did well, not only did he make it to the early start, he made it through the whole day!! And knowing him he wouldn’t have been further than a few feet from a pub at any given time, he suffers from awful thirst. Being a few feet away from a pub for 13 hours and 42 minutes is impressive!! It’s fair to say he was getting more enthusiastic with each lap that went by!! He even kept the balloon for as long as he could!!
We all head back into the hotel to keep warm and have a drink.
The day wasn’t over. There were still people out on the course, grinding away at the miles, edging closer and closer to that red carpet. I had a quick change and put on some warm clothes and joined the crowds at the finish line to watch others come across and finish their journey!! It was so emotional to watch all these people finishing, it felt amazing. What an amazing event to be involved with, what an amazing achievement.
The best is yet to come though. Read this.
Ideally an early night should of been on the cards, but there was no chance of sleeping until that last athlete was over the line!! Lots of people still waiting, it had gone midnight by now, we had heard that there was one remaining athlete out on the course, they wouldn’t know if he had made the cut off time of 17 hours until he crossed the line, because of the rolling start he may have been later starting the swim. He comes up the red carpet escorted by bikes, a massive cheers from the crowd, across the finish line. A short wait in anticipation, before he is congratulated on becoming an ironman!! Amazing.
So that was it. The day was done. An amazing time had by all. We were all nackered by this point so it was off to bed. Out. Like. A. Light.
We wake up in the morning. Have breakfast. My wife turns to me and says:
‘I’m really tired, do you mind going to get the car (from the other side of town) and driving home?’