So late October saw me take part in my last race of the season, Ironman Miami 70.3. Chosen as a holiday location initially and due to injuries earlier in the season it became a race destination by accident. By the time I decided to enter the race was full so I entered as part of the corporate challenge event (for a small fortune!) and this gave some interesting benefits! The main one being a special transition area…. Closest I will ever get to the famed blue carpet!
Race morning came and it was hot! The race started at 7am and it was already 26 degrees, unsurprisingly it was a non-wetsuit swim, as my start time approached I was starting to feel increasingly apprehensive and nervous! It was at this point that I started to fully consider the task at hand in the conditions and suddenly felt unprepared! I perhaps was unprepared for the climate and conditions for the day but training had been going well and I needed to focus on that.
Soon enough I was in the water and it was like a bath! Not the cooling experience I was used to racing in the UK. We were soon off and I felt like I got a good start and was soon passing slower swimmers from previous waves. Sighting was difficult and there was a noticeable current even though we were in the sheltered waters of the harbour. The landmarks around me didn’t seem to be moving very quickly and at times I felt I wasn’t moving at all! Judging by the swim time you’d be forgiven for thinking that I spent some of the swim floating on my back enjoying the sunshine but I can assure you I was slogging away the whole time.
Eventually I emerged from the swim and ran back to the blue carpet – lovely on the feet but unhelpfully positioned as I was a considerable distance away from my Age Group competitors and as such had no idea on where I was positioned heading out onto the bike. For the first 10miles I felt good and was in a decent rhythm again making good ground on slower riders from earlier waves. Overall the roads were of a decent surface and nice and wide. This turned out to be a good thing for all the pros and fast men heading back into town in drafting packs – clearly the draftbusters were busy somewhere else! Soon the heat was getting to me I drank plenty in bid to keep well hydrated and on reflection perhaps a helmet with vents would have been a more informed choice! I have never put my head in a microwave before but I would liken the sensations on the bike to doing so. I took fuel at the second aid station but really couldn’t stomach the taste fortunately I collected water too so stuck with that. I could feel my pace dropping off as I got back near to town and wondered if I would make it back. In a bid to stay concentrated I tried to focus on the road signs but they were very blurred I tried not to get too phased as I don’t have the best eyesight at the best of times let alone when I am flogging myself in 95 degree heat!!
I have never been so pleased to see a transition and I was delighted I made it back the feeling of momentary elation was short-lived as I soon remembered I had a half marathon to run!! Chris was waiting for me near my racking point and told me everyone was struggling with the heat and this gave me a renewed confidence. I accepted the offer of some sun cream – my skin isn’t renowned for its bronzing qualities (they marker pen your age on the back of your calf and I think the photo below shows off how well I tan!) and headed off on to the run. I was determined to be more disciplined with my pacing and set off on plan by mile 3 the pace was slipping and I was working far harder than I should have been to keep it. The pace started to slow and my goals soon were revised to that of survival and to keep moving. I was soon having to take fluid and ice at each aid station and just kept moving – slowly. When I got to the end of lap 1 (right back at the transition and finish line – Which I always think is cruel!) I saw Chris again who said that I was going really well, think it was more a case of optical illusions in that I was just moving a little quicker than those around me! Eventually I make it over the line feeling elated and awful in equal measure.
One thing the race organisers did do well is give competitors a card so that they can pass to a supporter to collect their belongings from transition so without hesitation I dispatched Chris to gather my bike and other paraphernalia, I think he was happy to do this as it means we head back to the hotel as he had been waiting for so long for me to finish! Back at the car I check my phone Coach Chris has text to inform me from the tracker that it looks like I am sitting 4th in my age group but that there is a guys name in the top 3 so perhaps it wasn’t such a bad day after all. I then break it gently to Chris that we will perhaps have to wait for the presentations; I soften the blow buying the beers!
It turns out the girl in second was disqualified so I finish officially second in my Age Group and get a qualifying spot for the 70.3 World Championships in 2015.
The day is then topped off with Chris making a surprise marriage proposal at dinner that evening – the cynic in me thinks this is a very calculated move on his part by taking full advantage of my delirious state after the day in the sun!!
Big takeaway learnings: