Monday, 4 July 2016

Mission accomplished

What a day yesterday was.  The Ironman European Championships with over 3,000 competitors.  Breakfast at 4am then a bus to the swim start.  I had agreed a strategy with my coach which was push hard on the swim and hard on the bike and hang on in the run as we weren't sure if my hamstring would hold up following the tear 5 weeks ago.
The swim was amazing and I was out of the water in 1hr 9min.  A PB by 4 minutes and it felt easy - the training had paid off.  Onto the bike and it was a fast start.  I was averaging over 30kmph and on the tribars 98% of the time.  There were some strong winds and on the exposed parts you had to work hard.  With 40 km to go (total distance 180 km) the rain came on chilled me to the bone as I was only wearing a sleeveless trisuit.  I knew I was on for a good time and came flying into Frankfurt finishing in 5hrs 54mins averaging over 30 kph - unbelievable.  Then the problems started.
My left leg was twitching uncontrollably and with cold hands I could hardly tie my shoe laces.  100m into the run I had to stop as I had cramp in my left (not injured) hamstring.  I stretched it off and at the first two water stops and took salt with my water which helped.  I was aiming for a record breaking 3hrs 59 mins marathon but by half way knew I wasn't going to make it.  My lower back was starting to hurt from being on the tribars for so long and it was altering my running position - I was starting to double over as I ran.  I was now walking the feed stations and knew this was now about survival and nothing else.  Thinking about the money I was raising for Maggie's spurred me on but I was really hurting.  Every step was painful in my quads and my feet and I was having to walk more in order to straighten up my back.  I'd stop, try and straighten up and push my pelvis forward then start running or should I say shuffling!  By the end this method lasted 50m before I had to walk and repeat the exercise.
I was walking 500m before the end and the amazing crowds were screaming at me to run - it's only 500m they said.  Felt like 5,000m to me.  But then you reach the chute heading into the grandstands which is lined 10 deep with screeming supporters.  Your name is on your number so they are all shouting encouragement. So stooped like Quasimodo, hardly able to look up I shuffled up the chute. I would love to have run into this arena as the noise was unbelievable.  Everyone likes to see someone struggling to the line so along with the announcer they were screaming encouragement as I staggered past the dancing girls.  I must have had 5 people run past me on that last 20m but it didn't matter I reached the finish line.  I tried to stand up straight for a picture but couldn't - the bells the bells I thought! Big heavy medal place around my neck, which didn't help, and straight onto a trolley with 2 paramedics and whisked away to the medical tent!
Attached to an IV drip and 2L pumped in and three holes made in my big toe to alleviate the pressure from the blood trapped there.  My team mates came and got me and took me home, but not before taking pictures!
I did say this was my last ironman and I meant it.  It was good to go out with a PB (by 45 mins) of 11:50 but had my training schedule not being affected through illness and injury I was hoping for 11:30.  But hey, sub 12.  I'll take that any day at 54 and my first Ironman in 4 years and I finished in the top third of my age category which is a good note to retire on.
It just leaves me to thank a few people, too many to mention, who got me across that line.  First of all there is you.  One of the reasons I write this blog is it forces me to do what I said I was going to do - I can't wimp out because what would I tell you?  Yesterday proved that point.  I could have (and some would say should have) given up half way through the marathon so thank you.
Then there is my coach Genevieve Freeman who put together the most amazing training programme over the last 10 months.  We started when I was injured and she adapted it to take account of my family life, work and other injuries that occurred.  Her believe and encouragement never waivered and she got me there.
My team mates at ATHelite are brilliant.  What a special, friendly bunch of people who cajole you into greater things.  Within days they will be posting the finish video of me with pictures of me in the medical tent but it's that kind of special humour that spur me on.  They may call me "Old Spice" but yesterday I delivered the result!  Back home they were all following the race on FB shouting encouragement to us online - we knew they be reacting every time we went over a timing mat and that helped me.
But behind every successful triathlete is someone picking up everything else including a lot of smelly lycra and listening to never ending statistics about my training.  Fiona Stewart without you I could never have done it so thank you from the bottom of my heart.  And while I will continue to take on daft challenges (it's in my DNA), no more Ironman. Now let's go and catch up on a social life.  I've got weight to put on!


  1. Well done. Tremendous effort. Awaiting news of the next non Ironman challenge. Shall we open a book on how long??
    Nick & Edwina

    1. Thanks Nick & Edwina. You've been great support throughout the whole journey. As for what's this space!

  2. Should that read madman or Ironman???

  3. That sounded really tough, especially after a very strong swim and bike.

    Well done. Rest and recover and enjoy the reflection!

    Alan Mackie

  4. You got it in one Alan! Thanks for your support.

  5. absolutely amazing derek. very proud of you. susan and mike wightman

    1. Thank you Susan & Mike. It's brilliant having your support.