I entered IM Weymouth late in November 2015 having completed in a couple of 70.3 races that year and been inspired by following a few others on their IM journeys (Matt Hutchings being one)
Fast forward to 11 September and having followed a training plan I got from an online coach (Simon Ward Athlete Training – highly recommended if like me you had no structure in your training and use to work commitments aren’t able to get to regular Trisurrey sessions), I had done >420 hours of training over the 10 months, covered 6,000km on my bike, 1,100km in my trainers, 200km in the pool and was ready to get to the start line of my first full distance triathlon – Ironman Weymouth… I had also recorded a number of PBs in training events through the year and arrived in Weymouth feeling good and ready to go!!
In the weeks leading up to the race I studied various online materials and triathlon books (The Triathletes Training Bible by Joel Friel was particularly good) and made a race plan, kit lists, race week and race day timetables and a race week and race day eating plan!! Doing all of this meant that I was able to relax in the build up to the race and was also better equipped to deal with the unexpected challenges that presented themselves as I already knew where I was supposed to be and when with contingency time built in…
I had a good support team coming to the race with me and they were as excited as I was. My wife and 3 young kids were hoping the sun would shine so they could play on the beach while I ran up and down, and my parents and in-laws were excited to be part of the event and see the grandkids. We hired a large house in the middle of town near both transition and the finish line which meant I could do my thing and they could come and go as they wished. We were also able to cook the food we (or should I say I) wanted to eat in the build up making things nice and relaxed!
We arrived on Friday afternoon so I could register and go to the race briefing and made for an easy Saturday. On Saturday kit was organised, morning swim done, quick ride to check bike, leg loosening jog done, bike racked and generally enjoyed ourselves by the seaside (it’s England so it rained all morning… Everything normal!!). Also enjoyed bumping into fellow Trisurrey IM racers Rupert Greatwood and Paul Weeks in the transition tent as we were racking our bikes and kit.
Alarm set for 4:30am on race day, up, eat (porridge and peanut butter bagel… Really beginning to miss fibre in my diet by now…) and left the house to head to transition. Skies were clear if a little cool and it looked like it was going to be a good day weather-wise! I arrived in transition at 5:15am to find a flat front tyre (lesson: don’t do a shake down ride on the day before the race in the rain…), however, because of the detailed planning I’d done, I had time in hand to find a spare tube, fix the issue and get in the queue for the loo before the swim start (another lesson: have extra spare tube in your race bag so you don’t need to use you race stash before the race has even started! And another lesson: take your wallet to transition in case you need to buy emergency inner tubes. Luckily the folks at Pembrokeshire Bikes saved the day, many thanks!).
Lining up in the swim pens before the start the atmosphere was building. The sun was coming up over the white cliffs across Weymouth bay and the beach with nearly 3,000 others clad in neoprene was a special place to be on a beautiful late summer morning. The rolling swim start made for a stress free first few hundred metres and the sunrise seemed even more spectacular at sea level!
I settled into a rhythm and found that I was moving past people effortlessly and swimming well within myself. The sea was calm and the first turn buoy came quickly. I was pinched in on the inside at the buoy and used a little more energy than planned getting round turn 1 but otherwise all still good. Turn 2 was different and I ended up in a scrum with my goggles being knocked off. Bugger… That’d never happened to me before and I found out it’s not easy to swim breaststroke legs, head up, refitting goggles in the middle of a turn 2 swim scrum!! Nothing I could do about it other than get them back on, find my stroke again and get my heart rate under control again. The half way point came and up out of the water for the Aussie exit remembering to walk, not run, and get back into the water smoothly.
At this point the 70.3 athletes left the swim and it became much more peaceful affair. I was able to find some feet and my rhythm and got round the rest of the swim without incident. At the first turn buoy on lap two we started to lap the tail ender 70.3 athletes. Having a friend who struggles with the swim I thank my luck stars that swimming comes to me naturally as it has to be demoralising having athletes lap you before their half way point…
Swim done in 1:07 -> 7 mins quicker than anticipated and without over exerting myself! All good. Great to see my wife, Dad and father-in-law behind the barriers shouting encouragement 🙂
Into T1, find blue bag, swim kit off, bike kit on, bag re-racked, bike found, out we go. Sun is up and shinning by now and conditions for the bike are looking almost perfect! Have to keep reminding myself to stick to my race plan -> NP: 200w, IF 0.65-0.70, let power drift up a bit on the hills and down a bit on the descents. Eat and drink ever 30 mins…. All feeling good!!
The end of lap 1 on the bike came quickly and the 70.3 athletes peeled off to the right and suddenly the bike ride becomes quiet. Half way round lap 2 it becomes lonely, rarely seeing other competitors but this makes it easier to focus on my power numbers, eating and drinking. Plus, as I’d done nearly all of my training alone it was familiar. And the sun was still shining and I was feeling good, all still on plan!!
As we started to near the end of lap 2 my mind started to move to the run. I’m not a natural runner. Whilst the swim and bike come relatively easily to me, the run is different! But I was looking forward to finding out how what I’d experience on my first run over 26km…ever!
The end of the bike came in 6:24, about 6 mins faster than I had estimated. However I’d gone a little over my power plan with an IF of 0.714 but figured it was only a little bit…. So I was now feeling pretty pleased with myself, I’d eaten and drunk well, I didn’t feel too tired and I was just over 10 mins ahead of where I thought I’d be. I headed out onto the run reminding myself to watch my pace and not go too fast too soon… I
As I left T2 I heard shouts of ‘go Brad’. One from my left and another from my right. To the right was my family cheering me on, who was on my left? Trisurrey!! Great to see some unexpected supporters in the crowd!! Thanks Matt Hutchins and Gail Gurton for you encouragement, a great weekend of triathlon racing and supporting for you!!
The sun was still shining and as I ran down to the first turn protected from the wind by the sea wall it was pretty hot. But at the first turn and up onto the sea wall there was a nice breeze, conditions were good for a run and I settled into 5:30min/km pace.
The support on the run course, particularly the part that went through the town centre, was immense! So many people urging you on, reminding you you are doing something incredible, telling you positive things… Just amazing!!
2.5 run laps down, things are getting hard. Pace is slowing (5:45-5:50min/km) and I’m feeling really nauseous. My run nutrition plan was to take 1 cup of water and 1 of coke at every aid station. I struggle with gels on a long run and had stopped eating solid food in the last hour of the bike. I started to skip the coke but the nausea kept getting worse. Nothing for it but to take a walk break to get heart rate down to let some blood get to my stomach to digest what was in there… This was a mistake. I’d run 20km and I couldn’t get going again. I walked a large part of 20-30km… I also noticed at this point that some athletes were just finishing the bike. I may have been struggling but they had so much more ahead of them than I did…. My heart went out to them. I as I neared the finish chute on that lap I could hear other athletes finishing and the finishing MC revving up the crowd. It made me feel really emotional and cemented my determination to get there.
It was about now that I noticed my fellow Trisurrey racers. Paul Weekes flew by me on the run looking strong and I saw Rupert coming the other way looking like I felt.
My target before the race was to finish in 12:xx. I had no benchmark for the marathon, I didn’t know what would happen past half way. I really wanted to finish it in 4:30 but didn’t know if this was realistic. I started doing the maths as I shuffled on. If I could up the pace, run for a bit, walk for a bit, I might just make my sub 13 hour target. But I also didn’t want a 5 hour something marathon… I needed to go faster. As I neared km 30 the nausea was subsiding and I was finding a second wind. I managed to keep things going and started to feel amazing once I had my yellow band on (collected on the last run lap). Just a few more km’s to go!! The sun was setting now and the spring returning to my step.
Rounding the corner to head onto the red carpet was just a fantastic experience. The field had thinned out and I had the red carpet to myself. Emma, the kids, my parents and in-laws were all there, smiles and cheers. I ran over to them, stumbling on the railing, hugged the all, gave Emma a kiss and said thank you before running over the finish line. I’d made it, achieved my objectives and heard the words…. “Brad Lintern… you are an IRONMAN!!!!!”. Just awesome! I feel emotional right now writing this. And I’d made the end of the run in 4:55 and with an overall time of 12:35!
Into the Pavillion with my medal round my neck to get my finisher teeshirt and recovery food… Dominos pizza!!! Just what the doctor ordered!! What a high!!
* If you do the training consistently you can complete an Ironman (I’m proof!)
* Pre-race planning was time well spent (puncture in transition)
* Taking the challenges in your stride is all you can do, don’t let them phase you or knock you off track (goggles!)
* Don’t worry about things that are beyond your control (weather)
* Revel in the support from the crowd, use their energy (atmosphere at Ironman branded events seems better)
* Pacing and nutrition are everything (I feel I’m a long way from perfecting this, give it attention!)
* Savour the finish line experience – it’s simply awesome!!
* Take time to reflect on the scale of the achievement – it hasn’t sunk in for me yet
I loved the Ironman experience, the training, the camaraderie, the atmosphere, the race, the pressure and the challenges. A few years ago I was not an athlete, I was overweight and had very high blood pressure. I’m proud of how far I’ve come and what I’ve managed to achieve. A 4:55 marathon is a time some would be happy with in a standalone marathon, however, I’m annoyed at myself that my plan went wrong and I walked so much of kilometres 20-30….. Things to refine should I ever do it again!!
For anyone who is unsure whether they should do an ironman/ long course race, I can’t encourage you to take the plunge enough. Commit to it, prepare properly and it is a fantastic experience. Not many people in this world can call themselves and Ironman!
Thanks to my wife and kids for putting up with me and being so supportive, Trisurrey’ers for insights and support through the year, and all the other people who have contributed in some way to helping me reach my goals.
Next up, time out and a good think about what to aim for next year.