I debated on writing this for a while. I don't want it to come across as selfish but thought it would be interesting to write about the journey to Iron Man from the other side ie the other half of the one actually doing the event.
My husband has wanted to complete a full distance Iron Man event for as long as I can remember. He is very methodical and likes to look into everything in finite detail and understand fully what he is taking on. So he decided that this journey would be over a number of years and would work up from literally doing no exercise to getting into swimming, cycling and running.
This is a total full circle journey because when I say he did no exercise before he really didn't and was almost forced into it due to an ongoing issue he had with his leg that required him, following medical advice, to lose weight and keep active.
As I know only too well getting into fitness is slow and it is hard. It takes time, perseverance and patience. It is a rocky road and not always smooth sailing. He started with his first 5k and completed it in a time of 49 minutes (his PB now is 21 minutes 25 seconds). The cycling he took to pretty quickly and as his times from triathlons show this is his strongest of the three disciplines – he is now a qualified cycling coach. The swim was also slow to start and 6 lengths would be the absolute limit.
Over a period of just under 3 years he slowly worked up his fitness and distances for each discipline whilst battling with his leg issues. He helped set up Romford CC and also joined Havering Tri and the support, advice and encouragement from both is second to none.
Before he would take on the full distance he decided that he would first complete a number of half distances. Four 70.3 distances, or middle distance, triathlons later as follows:
- Outlaw half Holkham – 5 hours 51 minutes
- Iron Man Weymouth – 5 hours 58 minutes
- Iron Man Dubai – 5 hours 34 minutes
- Outlaw half Nottingham – 5 hours 11 minutes
he was ready for the full.
We set off on a very very very long drive to Austria. This race had been recommended by a very close friend who had taken part in it twice before and a group of us were going with 6 taking on the challenge.
Now lets talk about the training. Before he took on this challenge he asked me if I was ok with it? I found that odd at the time as I have always supported him and vice versa and of course I said yes, but I don't think either of us realised how much that meant we would not see each other. That is not a criticism but the reality that if you take on something like this, and you train for it seriously, then you need to be prepared that the hours needed will make a difference on your life. You hear about people saying they are a triathlete widow and I understand why.
Now I run and cycle but I am not at the same level as my husband (he is so much slower than me ha ha) so there is not much training we can do together, however, we did try to plan our training so that we had some time together still but it was literally Friday (aka date night which was more realistically the night we fell asleep early together at home because we were both exhausted) and Sunday afternoon depending what long rides we had planned.
It is tough. There is no getting away from it and if anyone thinks its actually a walk in the park and much easier than I am making out then fair play to you but I would probably disagree.
Training per week comprised of approximately 17 hours. This is on top of a full time job, having a family, dog, an almost non-existent social life and never cutting the grass (I had to get that in about the grass sorry).
The other side is the mental, or emotional, side effects. You are tired, you are grumpy, you constantly doubt yourself, you are anxious and you inevitably take it out on those closest to you. But it's not personal it is just a consequence.
The event itself is long. There is the travel, registration, swim practice, setting up bikes and test rides, activation sessions of short swim/bike/run to keep the muscles active. There is an early start on the day with most starting from 7am. There is a cut off anywhere from 15 to 17 hours depending on the event, as some vary slightly depending on the course, and so that is realistically the amount of time you could be waiting/supporting/cheering/checking a tracker every ten minutes to make sure the person you are there for is still moving and everything is ok.
For us race day started with a 4am alarm, breakfast, shower and on the road for 4:45am. Bikes were racked the day before and so after lots of layers of sudo cream (those who know will know why) tri suit was on under a tracksuit and day bags (containing items for post race) were put into bag drop. Wet suits and swim hats were put on followed by nervous kisses, wish of good luck and goodbyes through teary eyes saw my husband heading off to the swim start. Most of the time the athletes will go to an area that spectators cannot get access to and so we headed to as close as we could get and I managed to see him once more before he went into the water. It was a rolling swim start so you don't really know how long someone has been as you are never entirely sure what time they entered the water. He completed the swim in 1 hour 14 minutes and was running to the transition area (about a 500m run which seemed quite long but hey ho). On to the bike which was two laps of 56 miles and saw big smiles from him – this was his happy place as a friend quite rightly said and he was there for 5 hours 24 minutes.
Back into transition and then on to the run which was laps again for 4 hours 26 minutes. All in the sun.
Now anyone who has been to an event with me knows I am loud. I sound like an old fish wife. If I am there to support then you will know about it. Anyone who has done an event with my husband will also know he stops whenever he sees me to give me a kiss. He will also stop to check friends taking part in the event are ok.
I stood by the swim exit then ran round to bike out. As it was laps I stayed there before he went out on the run. By moving around the course I saw him 7 times, which put my mind at rest that all was good and hopefully helped him too. The final positioning is on the finish tunnel and ten minutes can seem like hours. When you see the person you are waiting for enter that finish tunnel the emotion is immense! I cried, he cried, he finished and I carried on crying. Friends gave me hugs and tried to calm me down but once I started crying I couldn't stop. I was very proud and also might get my husband back! Bloody Iron Man (joking) although I did see an Iron Man tshirt that said 'in 140.6 miles I get my husband back' – it made me laugh.
My husband completed his full distance Iron Man in Austria in a time of 11 hours 19 minutes and I couldn't be more proud. It makes it all worth it.
My husband is an Iron Man. I am tired and emotional. I think its called balance?
He is now thinking of the events he is doing next year, I didn't want a holiday…….