Sunday September 8th 2013.
Having entered the race online just 2 hours before entries closed, my approach to it was markedly different from 2011, & Lanzarote in 2012.
Main difference being, - only 'officially' having a lead time of 12 weeks from entering to racing.
In all, the training was closely based around a blend of the plans used in '11 & '12, and now, with the 'fear of the unknown' feeling removed in the lead up to this race, I enjoyed the training somewhat more, and it may have led to a more relaxed attitude, which, to this day I am not sure was a good thing.
Having arrived at Tenby fairly late on the Friday evening, after a convoy with fellow racer Richard Harris, my Iron experience didn't really start until the Saturday morning, and it turned out to be a tricky/frustrating race eve.
After registering early on the Saturday, it was back to the caravan for last minute checks and kit packing.
As usual, with a JC Iron Race, lessons were learned, and the first one was that Zipp's valve extenders can prove to be very unreliable.
During the final bike check, as usual, I ensured the tubs were taking in air normally through said valve extenders. An issue with the front wheel - no air would go in.
So, (as usual), I removed valve extender, turned it round to release a little pressure off the threaded top end of the valve. This worked just fine (as usual).
Then, on attempting to replace the valve extender into the rim, and screw back it onto the valve, it was......squeaky bum time!, - the valve had shifted about 2 mm to the left, thus preventing the valve extender to be screwed back onto it. Slight sweat on at this point.
So, fast forward 4 hours, and after spending 3 of those hours at the Continental mechanics' stand at the expo, the old tub was ripped off, after a huge 'man vs glue' struggle, a new Conti tub was taped on (with the quite awesome Conti valve extender system fitted), by the very helpful 'tub guru' Shelley, and the job was a good 'un. The seriously calm, effective, and downright amazing service I received from Peter, Matt Scott, and the rest of his Pembrokeshire Bikes crew, was second to none.
Nothing was a problem. A rare thing these days.
This led to me being the absolute last person to rack his bike, with the race referee berating me quite formally.
|NO-ONE here....except me!|
Things had to get better.
Race morning was, as always, a nervy affair, but all orchestrated well with ironwife Mrs.C right at my side.
After picking up Rich and ironwife II Ange, we were driving through the narrow Tenby streets in the dark, right up to transition.
After a rather prolonged wait in the expo area, we all trudged the kilometre or so to North Beach.
I'm not sure Ironman Wales got this timing exactly right this year, as there was easily 500+ athletes still bottlenecked up on the road above the swim start at 6.52a.m.!
This led to a rather swift 30 second thrash about in the rather warm water, before dashing back up into the starting pen, just in time for a great rendition of Gwlad.
7a.m. - gun goes, and its the sight that makes Ironman special - 1600+ people all trying to swim in the same direction, at the same time.
|all good to go|
On reflection, just seeing the first buoy was difficult, and it seemed to take quite a while to arrive at.
I had no real bumps out to that first buoy, and the 'lazy river' effect of being dragged around it, was strangely calming.
People were still trying, (and failing) to swim around it, but I just went with the flow.
As in 2011, getting from buoy 1 to 2 seemed, by far the most pleasurable stint, and sighting off the lifeboat ramp, makes it all much easier. On rounding the second buoy, where it did actually get a bit feisty, the home straight, and using Gosker Rock to sight off, always gives a mental lift.
Lap 1 split of 38.41, which, for my predictable pace, was pretty much bang on.
Lap 2 was a similar experience to lap 1, and again, strangely, it was a little bumpy around the 2nd buoy.
But having said that, a second lap split of 40.54, and a swim split of 1.19.45 was fine with me.
So, opportunity knocked for T1, and I was keen to destroy the very poor 19 mins I posted 2011.
I decided to fully remove the wetsuit on the climb up out of North Beach, and did just that at the very first chance I had. By the time I pulled my shoes on, and stuffed my awesome Zone 3 wetsuit into the supplied bag, I was up and away through the town, and the amazing throngs of noisy supporters.
My T1 planning worked nicely, and I was away, and on the bike in a much more respectable 12.02.
I chose to wear a long sleeve compression top for the bike, with no jacket. This, as I was to find out, was going to lead to another lesson learned,.... the hard way.
|*that* compression top|
The bike had been suffering with a fractionally loose head-set leading up to the race, and so a week before I left for Tenby, took the bike to be checked over. I got some fairly shoddy service, after an absolute guarantee to replace the headset bearings (which never happened).
So, after a 're-setting' of the original bearings, I was then 'guaranteed' that this wouldn't cause any problems.
Not the case.
By the time I had reached Angle, I was forced to stop at the aid station, only to discover the headset was loose again. This was not good for the mind, especially on seeing all the ambulances/crashes in that area, just minutes before.
I pushed on, and soon, it was the weather that came to take my mind off the loose headset.
I think it was roughly about 30 minutes or so before I got to Narberth, that the weather got nasty.
Wind was not the problem here, but cold, torrential rain. Visibility was quite poor, running water on the lanes was quite twitchy, spray from anyone up ahead....all these issues were 'do-able'.
What was not 'do-able' was the serious drop in my body temperature (torso).
By the time I had got to Narberth, for unscheduled stop number 2, and quickly getting told by the mechanics that I should pull out, my apparel error had become blatantly obvious.
|the horror that was lap 1 of the bike|
At this point, after these very helpful guys had re-tightened the headset, and re-assured me the forks were not going to fall off the bike, 2 of them stood either side of me, and literally rubbed my torso vigorously for 2 minutes or so, threw a disposable plastic rain mac over me, and sent me on my way.
Those volunteers - heroes, and quick thinking race savers. Thanks guys, you saved my day.
I rode with this plastic 'wind sail' until I had passed through Tenby, and started on the second lap. That really did slow me up somewhat, but it was a necessary evil, and it raised my body temperature up to a point where I could go on without it.
I was now carrying 2 emotions - anger at the loose headset, and the shoddy service at the unnamed bike shop, and relief, that the guys up at Narbeth had revived my core temperature, and saved my race.
From here on in, the bike was much more enjoyable, and I managed to claw some time back from the 2 unscheduled stops, which had lost me approx 10 mins or so.
To record the bike split of 6.51.39, was probably not such a bad result, considering.
With the emotion of relief now forgotten, it was now the anger that was driving me, and I was very keen to at least have a good run after the below average swim, and completely un-enjoyable bike experience.
I set the tone, with a respectable T2 of 3.43, which included a minute in the loo.
With the bike fail still niggling at me, I decided to push on straight from the start of the run, which was not in the original plan.
I was carrying x 2 Gu gels with me at the start, and decided to hold on to them until the latter stages.
I stopped at most of the initial aid stations to pick up my snack of choice, which was the ritz crackers. I carried them along the way, and just nibbled very small pieces every 2 minutes or so.
|pushing it on!|
Due to the lap system on this rather tough, hilly run in Tenby, there is very much a nasty case of 'band-envy' on the whole of the first lap, and half of the second lap, and it really does irk to see someone 'sprinting' along with 3 bands ,and you have only 1, or even none.
But, as in 2011, I was able to push on, and maintain. This then provided me with actually, the first really positive phase of my day to date, and it gave me some pleasure to recall the hard L4&L5 interval training, which had provided me with the ability to maintain at this late stage of my day.
|going past the amazing 5 arches...again|
The support, especially on the run section of Ironman Wales, is frankly, humbling.
If you are not as lucky as I was to have an amazing family group in Tenby for the day, there is always noise & encouragement for all athletes of all abilities, from all of the crowds that make the effort to support.
Having said that, I was absolutely chuffed that my amazing wife & 2 little boys were there, along with my Mum, Dad, Barbara, Jon, Bri, Tom, Anneira, Carys, & the Woods' family. I thank you dearly for your support and encouragement. I can't wait to pay it back over the coming months when you race.
The noise, the cheering, the name calling, the cow bells, the pumped fists, and the overall passion given out around those small streets is quite amazing, and it makes you feel very special.
Special respect also needs to go to the area outside the '5 Arches' pub, where a huge bunch of the twitteratti were in fine voice. My amazing Iron family of Ange, Jacob, Charlie & my Mum, were in fine voice, along with the Harris Family (especially demon photographer Ang), Nige Devoy and his clan, Rich Lewis, Stu Bennett, Rob Warlow, & Martin Lewis to name but a few.
I also was lucky to be 'coached/driven/shouted at' by the unrelenting ultraguru that is Jamie Woods.
Hats off bud! Your passion was felt.
By the time I had managed to get the 4th (red) band on my arm, I knew that the rather tough Tenby run had been paid the respect it demands, and yet I clearly felt that I had run my strongest 26.2 to date.
The run this year had been confirmed at 26.2, as in '11 & '12, rumours had it that the course was short.
The last mile or so of the Tenby course, has to be the most pleasurable experience one could want from a long days' racing. You get extra loud shout outs (if that is possible), because you have the 4 lap bands on, and as the supporters know this, they give you a different type of shout out.
Not anymore is it........ 'Go Jase!', or 'Keep it up!', or 'You're looking strong!', but you now get afforded the sacred 'It's done', or 'You are home bud', or the seminal 'Round that corner for Ironmen only'.
This truly is what Iron memories are made of, and never to be forgotten.
Hitting the Esplanade up above the South Beach at Tenby is a very special experience, and the noise is just breathtaking.
I was so happy to finish so strongly after a rather testing bike, that I rather goosestepped up that finish chute.
And with an all time marathon PB of 4.10.15.
The official time of 12.37.24 ranked me 407 overall, out of 1600+ starters, and 47th in my AG.
I am happy with that, but the reality is that there were lessons learnt, and at least 20 mins lost to the bike issues/apparel mistake.
It is, at this point, imperative for me to stress a very important point that sometimes gets overlooked.
Whilst deciding to race, and then putting in the weeks and months of training for an event such as Ironman Wales, it becomes blindingly clear, that without the undoubted support and faith shown by my wife, and also the understanding of my beloved 2 little boys, it just would not happen.
I love you three very much.
|The A team.|
So, next time, I will do it properly eh?
There is always something to learn for next time, when you race Ironman.