The outcome can’t be guaranteed – Ironman Wales 2017

TriHarman-Norfolk has some incredible lady racers who take on the toughest races out there.  Through the last year we have seen Tracy working towards taking on Ironman Wales.  We know how hard she worked and while we love to report the successes such races don’t always go to plan.

Here is Tracys report, one thing can be guaranteed this is not the end of her triathlon story.

Preparation and planning

After finishing Holkham Outlaw Half in 2016 I had really enjoyed the experience of the whole day and was full of confidence. So of course all I wanted to do was a full Ironman.

It took a few months of convincing my training partner, Jason, that an Ironman was a good idea, and we begin looking at possible races. We both wanted to do an Ironman as we had already done an Outlaw. Ironman Weymouth became our venue of choice…..then it was re-launched as a 70.3 only event. Choices now are Ironman UK or Wales. July seemed too close, so as IM Wales is in September the decision was made.

The planning; accommodation, travel, support group, time off work and training; what equipment is needed, areas that need attention, which plan to follow, injury management, long runs, long rides, bricks, fuel and nutrition take over your life. IM becomes the main topic of conversation. Anyone who hasn’t done an IM will be thinking ‘this wouldn’t happen to me, I would ensure I maintained other interests’……people who have done IM are thinking ‘yes it would, and no you won’t!’

My weakness is the swim. Four years ago I couldn’t swim. In those four years I have taught myself and I have managed to develop every bad habit you can think of! So I set out to find some swim tuition. This is where I met Teresa and Mark. The camera footage proves I’m as bad as I suspected, but the improvement after just 6 weeks is unbelievable and I wish I had taken this route far earlier. I will admit the lessons were hard, and on many occasions I felt as if I was paying someone who was trying to drown me, but the gains were worth the pain and if anyone is thinking about doing some one to one training with Teresa or Mark I would say go for it!

I buy a turbo trainer from eBay to ensure I am able to do some focused bike training through the winter months. My bike is set up in my conservatory. It’s freezing when I enter and resembles a sauna when I leave. On a positive note my bird of paradise plant flowered this year for the first time and I can only put this down to the high humidity conditions it has enjoyed throughout the winter!

All our B races are picked to coincide with our training plans in the build up to the BIG day.

Sea swims start at Sea Palling. The Sea Palling Seals swim every Sunday at 08.30 and Monday evening at 18.00. They are a very friendly and welcoming bunch if anyone fancies trying out the sea. I found the condition of the sea varied greatly, it could be mill pond flat one day to (what I considered) very choppy the next. There is something about swimming in the sea though that I have grown to love, apart from the seals they unnerve me a little. A positive I take from this is there are no seals at Tenby.

Our training plan is mapped out with a gradual increase in intensity. We have a couple of little setbacks; Jason has a hamstring injury that won’t clear up, so all running for him stops. We think this is down to his rugby playing history and lack of flexibility. Just as his ‘niggle’ clears up I develop an Achilles’ tendon complaint. It wouldn’t trouble me too much running, but I would suffer for days after a run. Some eccentric exercises and stretching do finally clear this up. Looking back I think this injury was the result of an incorrect seat height on my bike. In hindsight I wish I had paid more attention to bike fit, and is something that I am going to address for next season.

Spring arrives and we are able to start cycling on the roads. Studying the Tenby bike course we know we need to focus on hill work. The pinewood climbs route is the best we can find and laps of this are completed weather and work commitments allowing.

Fiona and me book a midweek break in July to Wales, with a view of taking a trip to Tenby to have a look at the sea, course and booked accommodation. When we get there I am pleased. The sea is flat, the sun is shining, LCW had just passed and it is clear the town gets behind the event, the accommodation is on the run route. Big thumbs up all round, everything looks good and is going to plan. Being there makes me feel excited and ready to take this on.

September arrives quickly. I feel we have gone from counting months to ticking off days in a flash…..

….and before you know it we are on our way. There are 12 of us. Me, Jason and our support group.

We aimed to arrive in time on the Friday to allow us to register, but due to traffic hold ups this didn’t happen. Not a problem because there is plenty of opportunity to do this Saturday morning. Friday evening we have a wander into Tenby so Jason can have a look at the sea, where we register, race briefing and the expo tent. Fish and chips are collected for the crew and we head back to our house to eat and go through final preps.

Spirits are high. We are both injury free and feel we have prepared the best we can and you can feel the nervous excitement in the air.

We are up early Saturday to register, put bikes in transition, sort out our bags (this is new to both of us, but not too confusing so after checking, and rechecking we are satisfied all we need is in the correct bags) and attend the race briefing. Chrissie Wellington attends the briefing and gives us all a motivational talk (and tries to plug her book…..which she will be signing at the expo, if you are interested….) and says ‘control the controllables’. She says this because the weather forecast is bad…..Rain with wind gusts of over 40mph. I push this out of my mind and focus on my race plan of one discipline at a time. The swim is buoy to buoy, the bike, station to station and the same for the run. I feel confident.

Sunday morning we, and significant others were up at 4am (support crew had decided to join at a more socially acceptable hour!) with a view to leaving the house at 5am to walk down to the start. I manage a good breakfast of porridge. I am lucky in the fact that whatever is ahead of me or on my mind I can sleep. I am also lucky that my breakfast is delivered to me in bed!

The walk down into Tenby is quiet. There are lots of people walking towards the town but everyone is clearly in their own thoughts and race plans. The weather is ok, cloudy, dry and little wind, better than expected.

Swim

A few final good lucks and good byes and we are standing in one of the swim pens. The amount of people lining the streets at this time of the morning is unbelievable and we slowly start to snake down to the start line. The professionals started at 06.55hrs with everyone else doing a rolling start from 07.00hrs. We continue to shuffle forward and at this point still can’t see the sea. My thoughts are what is the sea like? I know from Sea Palling how much a slight increase in wind can make a difference to the sea condition and I am hoping that it is not rough…….

We get to the point where we have to rack our shoe bags. Tenby requires a 1km run from the sea to T1, for this you can have a bag with run shoes. In mine I have trainers, a bottle of water to rinse sand of my feet, a bottle of water to drink and a flannel to wipe face and feet with. This is a little rushed as you have lots of bags and finding your little hook is not easy when people are coming passed to either start or find their hooks. Hooks found we carry on down the slope towards the beach. The sea looks ok, full of people, but ok.

On the beach, a final good luck to each other and we are in the water. At race briefing we were told we could wear booties as the sea was cold, neither of us have these and we were concerned about the temperature, but when we hit the water we both went ‘this feels warm!’ Quick splash on the face and we are off.

I settle into my stroke ok. This is something that I have had issues with in the past, to the point where on one race I mostly did breaststroke as I could not get my face in the water! No issues here, straight into front crawl.

Now my goggles are full of water. I try to ignore it. I push it to the back of my mind and focus on the person next to me. I like swimming next to someone as I use them to pace my stroke.

The goggles push themselves to the front of my mind, so I stop and empty them, back on and pull tight. It makes no difference as soon as I put my head in the water they are full again. I look to the buoy, revert to plan and think ‘just swim to that’.

I get to the buoy the same time as the group behind me and it is very congested, so I take it wide and look to sight the next buoy. I can’t see it, because of the goggles you are thinking…nope…..because of the chop! It has suddenly become very rough. I empty my goggles again, pull them on a bit tighter and off I go. At this point I am not sure I will make it to the next buoy, but I do. Turning back towards the beach, empty google’s, pull on a bit tighter, head down and aim for the beach. Lots of thoughts are going through my head…how long has the first lap taken me, can the goggles be tolerated for another lap? I make my mind up that if I hit the beach in under an hour I will go back in….

I’m on the beach, I check my watch just under 1hr 4mins. Right there at that moment I decide to stop. I have never not finished a race before, and sat here right now I can’t believe I did stop, but I did.

I picked up my shoe bag, and informed the officials I was out. So, that was it. Months of planning and training all end with a 1.2 mile swim. I met up with Fiona, walked back to the house and showered. Showered, dressed and feet on dry land I started to question my decision. All the thoughts of the preparation, training and support with no result hit home. I’m not someone who gets upset, but there were a few tears, but one of the team was still out on the course. So the new focus is support him over the finish line, and he will need it as the weather now is terrible. As described by Lucy Gossage, it’s ‘biblical’!