“Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, welcome to Ironman Wales, the toughest ironman in the world!” This was the opening line from the pre race briefing on the Saturday, this made me gulp a little, not sure if it is the toughest as Lanza would have to up there with a shout, but as an official Ironman race its one of the hardest.
Way back in January when I had to cancel my plans for the double IM, I started looking around for something else to do and with Jo committed to Outlaw, something latter on in the season looked to be the way forward and Ironman Wales was selected.
Fast forward to Friday 14th September and a seven and a half hour journey down to Tenby (stuck behind the Tour of Britain) saw us checking into our hotel and a dash across town to register.
I got a nice shinny rucksack with the M. Symbol everywhere, inside this was all my transition bags, lots of flyers for stuff and a small ceramic brick, which I still haven’t worked out what it’s for. Quick look round the expo and bumped into STIL who commented how fit I was looking!
Out for some food and meet up with Button Mushroom, Slagiatt and Mouse. Back to the hotel to start sorting the transition bags and nutrition out, slept quite well which is a little strange as I generally take a few days getting used to a different bed, the hotel by the way was in the best possible location as it over looked the swim start on North beach and the run passed the hotel 3 times each lap, the hotel was a little dated but would recommend it to all just for the location, Barley and Schmunkee also had booked the same hotel.
Saturday saw me getting lots of text and Face book messages of support, which I have to say made me quite emotional. A quick wonder round the town centre and you felt the atmosphere starting to build, having done the Outlaw the last 2 years I thought I would be used to this but this was a branded Ironman and the events just don’t compare, the atmosphere was way more intense, the athletes looked far more fit and trained than usually, in fact the whole town was behind this, all the shops had Ironman Wales flags either flying outside or up in the shop windows, everything around town just seemed to be adding to the atmosphere as people where milling around town and you started to see people starting to take their bikes to transition.
Popped over to the expo again to get some gels for the bike and a quick chat to Cheerful Dave, nipped back to hotel to collect bike and bags and then of to transition, took me ages to actually get to rack my bike and bags as the entrance to transition had lots of people around and spotted Rachel (Sprocket) so had a long chat to her and then moved further along and stopped for a chat to Iron Pingu, then managed a quick chat to Jenny (who we meet at Eirias Half) who also mentioned how fit I was looking, which shows the last 3 months training have been pretty full on and the extra I was carrying have shifted, anyway, finally managed to rack the bike after having to had it photographed and then wrapped up in a plastic cover, backs put way in transition and then back to hotel to chill and watch them towing the buoys out to mark the swim course.
Had a bit of negativity but after Jo giving me a talking to that went. Off to the race briefing and a chat to Iron Tractor Boy (sorry it didn’t happen on the day for you), race briefing done, pickup up Jo and Jordy and try to find somewhere to eat, it seems everyone competing and their families where all in Tenby trying to find somewhere to eat, saw this chap running after us waving frantically, who turned out to be Hokori, really great to meet you, you day will come.
Back to the hotel and watched Dr Who (just for Jordy, honest!), lights out at 9 and drifted off to sleep soon after.
Alarm wakes me up at 3:45, then again at 4 and once more at 4:15, quick bath (the shower in the hotel was crap), first layer of bodyglide around nether regions and neck. The hotel had put on a light breakfast of cereal, toast and coffee which was a welcome change from a ham, cheese and pickle baguette. Picked up my iPod and went over to transition to unwrap and check bike, quick chat to Slagiatt and Button mushroom and finally caught up with Bobby Nobby then back to hotel to start the fight between me and my wetsuit and have the final toilet stop, another layer of bodyglide on, wander down to the start and put my hang my shoe bag up (there is a 1K run from the swim exit to T1), last hug from Jo and Jordy and then onto the beach, spit into the goggles, hat on, goggles on, listen to the welsh anthem, pee in wetsuit but it doesn’t come out the legs, it just sits round my middle, fantastic.
Line up at the back, then the cannon goes and we all run into the water, the levels gets to my thighs and I dive in, quickly into my stroke, bang, take a kick to the face, swear, back to my stroke, take a punch to my side, back to my stroke, to the first dingy at which we had a slight turn and everyone stops front crawl to do breaststroke, why? Back into my stroke again moving well can see the first buoy in the distance. I am swimming well and in a group of people, which is a bit strange as usually my swimming is not great, get to the first buoy and once again everyone seems to stop and do breaststroke round the buoy, can anyone explain why, you then head for the life boat station and this comes into view quicker than I thought it would, to the next buoy, turn and head back to beach, out of the first lap, run along the beach and back into the water, check my watch 40 minutes, oh my god, this is good, bit quieter on second lap but still swimming well, sighting is brilliant and no swimming off line, round the first buoy again and thinking about my time, to the final buoy and then head back to the beach aiming for the blue Ironman arch, get to the point when your hands are dragging the sand along the bottom, try and get up, fall over, get up again run out, over the timing mat, check watch 1:22:09 a swim PB by over 4 minutes, result, maybe the swim might have been a bit short but conditions where perfect.
Up the ramp grab my shoe bag, small bottle of water in bag to rinse the sand from feet, dry feet, socks on shoes on, wetsuit top half pulled down and begin the run to T1, see Jo and Jordy outside of hotel and throw shoe bag at her, well caught, shouted “PB Swim”.
Arrive at T1, grab bike bag and my own transition angel appeals (Iron Pingu) “what do you need?” take out from bag what I need and Iron Pingu packs everything away for me and then puts my bag back. Pick up bike and on mount line get a shout from Button Mushroom who is just coming in transition, start the bike and straight away start getting shouts from crowd “Go Pirates”. My T1 time was 15:16 which includes the run from the swim. Leave Tenby and notice the wind has really picked up and the first 30 miles are all into the wind, catch Slagiatt after a couple of miles, great swim from him, quick chat and I’m on my way again, the words from a friend saying take the first 60K easy ringing in my ears, past one poor bloke who had crashed and was being treated by paramedics, this served as a reminder to me to not drop the concentration.
My speed was going OK but was still trying to ease into it, got to the first proper hill and up that no problem, past the army barracks and the 2 tanks at the front, complete with the squaddies clapping and cheering us past; signs out saying this are live firing range! Better keep moving quick, the road condition here was not great but my new tyres performing well, you then get to see the people a few minutes in front of you as they are coming the other way and spotted Barley and a quick pirate shout between us, then cycle through the dunes and the full force of the wind hits you as you crest the top of one of the dunes and nearly takes you off the road, the road is very narrow and the first proper climb that involves you getting out the saddle, up this no problem, down to the first feed station, drop one bottle and pick a fresh one up, then you are on the road and you came see the riders a few minutes behind you, big shout to Button Mushroom and Hokori.
The wind is now at its best as its behind us the course is undulating and I’m loving it, 37 miles comes around and I’m a third of the way in, still riding well and enjoying it, one thing that I was starting to notice was that on the down hills I was catching more people and I would be passing them still freewheeling while they were having to pedal, just shows how good the Continental grand prix tyres I had on where.
At approx 56 miles I made my first mistake of the day, having read reports from last year and spoke to loads of who have done the course, I was expecting a monster, I started to think the bike course isn’t all that, how wrong I was. It also started raining at this time; I was cold and very wet.
The bike course is one long loop of 72 miles and then a shorter loop of 4o miles that joins the first loop for the last 20 miles, if that makes sense, so the first 52 miles is OK undulating with a couple of hills but really nothing to keep you awake at night, the last 20 miles of the loop is hell on wheels, the hills just keep coming and are relentless, there are some named climbs, Wiseman’s Bridge and Saundersfoot being the 2 that people know but, it’s the other ones that take the toll, one after another after another . After you have finished the first loop you know that the hills you have do again and they start to get inside your head. That said the support on course is fantastic, you pass through some villages and in them all it was party time and through Saundersfoot it felt like a mountain stage on the tour de France with the support, but also the quite country lanes that take you past a remote farm house and there are people there supporting. Finished the first loop and started the 2nd, the wind once again driving into us and making progress hard, the hills this time seemed to be slightly steeper and slightly longer, I know that this was in my mind but there you go, plus the thought of having get up Wiseman and Saundersfoot again was playing on my mind, my average speed was also starting to fall if only a small amount and I was starting to do the maths to make sure I would beat the cut-off, hill after hill and I was suffering but it’s not a knitting club, I got to 96 miles and I had just over 2 hours before the cut off and could afford to do 8 miles an hour and still make it, got to 100 miles and still hurting but still moving, at 103 miles I had under 10 miles left and loads of time in the bank but my speedo seemed to not counting the miles any more but this could have just been in my mind, then finally after the last climb out of Saundersfoot you start the descent back into Tenby and ride down the side of the run course, then you see the sign pointing you towards transition and what’s there? Another little pig of a climb, out of the saddle again but this is for the last time. Into transition and as if by magic my own transition angel appears again, “Great bike SA, what do you want me to do?” Noticed Barley still in transition and wonders over “Hey SA, so are we having a smackdown run then?” he asks, bring it on I reply, I ask Iron Pingu to phone Jo and let her know I’ve finished the bike and just about to start the run. Bike time was 8:07:37 and T2 time was 4:39.
Out on to the run, it’s a 4 lap affair with the first half mile being in the run out of town, you start to climb for 2 miles then a flattish mile, then 2 miles back down, then another mile zig zagging the small streets in the town centre, the support in the town centre was the most amazing thing I think I have every seem, with your name been printed on the number every was screaming your name and supportive comments “go on Quinton” “ go Pirates” you can do this Quinton”, problem I had was my legs didn’t want to, I had put so much into the bike that my legs really didn’t feel like they wanted to run, so I struck a deal with them, power walk the uphill’s (there are a lot) run as much flat as I could and run all the downhill’s. I had worked out that if I could each lap in 1 hour 30 minutes then I would be on for a 16 hour finish. The run was hard but was helped by the smattering of pirates on the course and the support and high 5’s we give to each other, I dug in when I had to and ground out the run, you picked a coloured band up each lap until you had 4, which then meant you could finish, so you start band envy of others that have more bands than you, I think the run was a tad short but you can only race the course put in front of you and then I had 4 bands and rounded the final turn and started the run down the esplanade, there was a marshal at the start of the finish cute and he said “There’s no one in front and no one behind you and this lot are waiting for you to finish, give them something to cheer” the wall of noise as you start on the carpet to the finish makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and I was in a different world the noise the lights, people clapping cheering, shouting cameras flashing, it was like I had won the Olympics, the Tour de France and the World cup all rolled into one, arms up massive cheer from myself and I was finished, the mayor then put my medal round my neck.
Run time 5:22:52
Total Ironman Wales time 15:12:29
Off to get my t-shirt and a hot pork roll, tasty.
Pick up bike, bags etc and walk back to hotel for massive hug from Jo and Jordy, even though it still wasn’t 11 o’clock the hotel bar had closed, so dumped all my stuff in reception and went to the nearest pub that was still serving for a celebration pint!
I have a load of thank yous to people who have made this possible
Gareth (STIL) – For the constant nagging to get me out on the long hilly, I wouldn’t have finished without these.
Scot (Egoman) – For constantly challenging me to “make it happen”
Iron Pingu – My transition angel, amazing what a friendly face in transition can do.
Nick (Iron Rose) – The final race instructions and mantra kept me sane on the day.
Andy (Iron Holgs) – for the always supportive text messages.
Dawn (Hope) – For the most amazing FB message, gave me the strength and belief.
Sarah (Iron Muffin) – for popping up on the run course so many times, you never stopped smiling
Des (Horse) Dave (Razor) – for the training ride up Sheephouse Lane, unbelievable support.
My dad – for missing his birthday, because I was so wrapped in IM and him saying the best birthday present I could give him was to race well and safe.
Carolyn (Colourin) – Circles not squares, inspired.
Schmunkee and Mouse – for looking after Jo and Jordy for the day
Gary (The Count/10” tall man) - for calling me a bucker when I wanted to quit after my bike broke, making me think I’ll show him.
Jaffa, Horse, STIL, Dave TES, Slim Shady, Cake, Ridgeback Max – who all offered me their bike or to pay for the repairs to mine when it broke it looked like I might not make it.
Jordy - You know
Jo – you have always been there with the right words at the right time – love you.
Onwards and upwards to the next challenge.