I don’t know where to begin with this blog. I’m totally gutted about a race where I should and could have achieved so much more.
When I had finished I was embarrassed. Finishing meant nothing to me. My expectations on the day were not to win my age group – I always knew 12 months of training would not close the gap on the top guys – but I expected to be around them. With the numbers I had put out in training over the past year this was a real and achievable target.
However my build up was rubbish and at 5 weeks out from the race my heart rate was all over the place and during training I knew I was in trouble. I had pulled out of Ironman Wimbleball 70.3 with a virus – sinus problems, lethargy, stomach issues etc and the final week of my taper I did very easy sessions that felt far too hard. I told nobody the real story – not even my closest confidantes – and this was a grave mistake. I did casually tell a few people I didn’t feel great close to the event and they told me to take the foot off the gas but I didn’t really listen. Because when you cannot admit to yourself that you’ve made errors then why would you tell others? Or even listen to them?
I accept full responsibility for the awful race on Sunday 20th of July. I massively sold myself short of what I’m capable of. I was so obsessed with being successful and beating everyone and I didn’t listen to my body when it was clearly struggling after I returned from a training camp I went to in the French alps. My mentality is always to attack off the front and I never took one easy day in the mountains. Big, huge mistake! I had done over 40 hours of cycling as hard I could without any real rest and I came home and carried on with the same mentality. My immune system was shot, I got ill and I had no time to recover before the main target for the year. I had burnt myself out.
I tried to sleep as much I could leading up to the race in the vain hope that I would recover. But in hindsight I was past saving.
Writing this annoys me so much as it’s totally my fault and I messed up. No one too blame bar myself.
But this is an easy trap to fall into. And I’ve realized this is my personal “Achilles heel”. Many top athletes suffer burnout and are out of action for long periods because they do not recognize the signs of over training and continue to accumulate the micro trauma over long periods until the body just gives up. This can have a catastrophic affect on the body both physically and mentally and can take weeks, months or even years to recover.
I have always been able to put in massive volumes in whatever I do and last year I went from being a non runner to doing 2.45 marathons within 7 months! My previous conditioning from rowing had given me a foundation to build on and I made huge gains. So I thought I could just kept upping the volume and turning the screw. It had always worked for me before but this time I had asked too much of my body. And it’s a lesson I will never forget. I now know that rest and recovery are as important, if not MORE important, than the training itself. So I need to learn how to sit on my arse J
Anyway back to Ironman, the night before Ironman UK I was asleep by 7pm I never suffer with nerves at all and even though I was far from a 100% I’m still confident in my ability to suffer and get through anything that happens. So I get to the start line at 4.30am with full focus and confidence as all I can do is control the controllables. Little did I know then that the thing that was within my control – rest and recovery – had caused me all these issues in the first place. You live and learn.
I always knew my swim would be average at best but I was convinced on previous training form that bike was promising and my running was strong. I would eat people up on the bike and and run through the rest – well that was the plan anyway!
My training was putting me on for a 5.20ish bike and I knew I could run at least 3.20 for the marathon. But my real aim was 3.10 off the bike.
The swim was done in a very mediocre time but with hardly any swimming at all for a year 1.13 was not too bad.
Then we get to the bike – I got on it and within 10k it was not happening. My legs felt like crap but I thought I’ve felt like this before and after an hour on the bike I’ve picked up – but not today and I slowly got worse and worse.
At the race briefing myself and Keith Saunders who came 2nd in my age group had a chat and said if the race went to shit or we were unlucky and never achieved what we knew we were capable of we would pull the pin and do Ironman wales. This conversation flew into my mind at 80k when I started vomiting every time I drunk fluid or ate an energy bar but I just could not bring myself too stop. I worked out in my head that as long as I kept drinking sugary power drinks even if I vomited up half of what I drunk I would still keep something in me. I could not push at all on the bike and I had to sit up to get out of the aero position to help with the cramps. People were just flying past me. I was fuming. I was literally just coasting the bike to try and get on the run as best I could. But the cramps got worse.
I got to T2 in 5.48 – how I do not know as I never had my foot on the gas at all which just annoys me again as I could have gone so much faster.
So onto the run. I put my trainers on in T2 and I knew it was going to hurt me but me being me I tred to run at 3.10 marathon pace! I managed all of 5k then bang – the vomiting is back and with the worst stomach cramps I’ve ever had. I was running/power walking past aid stations drinking coke just to get something in me but the vomiting just got more aggressive. I thought now I’m in big trouble. I made a decision at 10k, just before getting to the loop, that there was no way I was stopping. The finishing time became meaningless and it was just survival to the line. Or I would pass out trying.
So I looked at my Garmin for the last time and saw a 6 min K and thought wow I never knew my watch had that number on it. After that I didn’t check my watch again until the end.
I’m not going to lie I felt gutted. A whole years training running thousands of kilometers for this day and now I’m walking and being dropped all over the place. The only highlight was getting to mile 24 with a guy who also was on his last lap and he looked at me and said “If I told you I could run a 2.37 marathon would you believe me” and I looked at my Garmin and saw 3.50 then looked back and said NO J
I got to the finish with a run of 4.08 and a total time of over 11 hours which is embarrassing for me. I went straight to the hospital tent and I was 3 liters dehydrated and needed fluid ASAP but they discharged me after 2 hours.
I was absolutely shot both mentally and physically sitting in that hospital bed and cannot tell anyone how I managed to complete an Ironman on nothing more than fumes. I used half my nutrition on the bike and not one gel or bar on the run. I’ve learnt a lot of lessons from the day both about my attitude to training and ultimately how I need to change. You learn from failures and setbacks and very little from successes. Next year was always my target year for Kona and this year was about training and closing the gap as much I could on the top guys. Even though Sunday was devastating I know I’m getting physically stronger and I can close the gap even more next year and become a wiser athlete in the way I train leading up too a big race. I never really had the intention of doing Ironman UK again after this year as I am now allowed to travel abroad. But I have unfinished business and I have signed up again for 2015. I did not do myself justice and am determined next year will be a very different story. Try, fail, learn, repeat. Success is a very simple formula but you have to learn from your mistakes.
I would just like to thank Craft UK and Serco for their continued support with activities and helping kids through sport.
Thanks for reading and until the next time…..