So, to my 2011 A+ race, and actually it was my lifetime A+ race, as I had never been the 'full distance' before.
Ange had planned well (as usual), and booked us into a nice, big looking modern house, right on the steepest part of the run route. Mum, Sue & Dave were due to arrive on Saturday morning, to complete the Ironhouse.
We arrived into Tenby at lunch time on the Friday, to find our 'nice looking' new house was a palace!!! Huge rooms, including a utility room for the bike/kit, and playroom for the little men.
With the weather looking changeable at best, and all the talk about possible swim strife, I registered, met up with a guy called Ian (from Porthcawl), and we headed up to the race briefing to meet up with AD and Pete, to hear confirmation of the distinct possibility of a swim location change to North Beach. Then, after almost finishing kit prep that night, it was an early to bed. Saturday morning, and Activity Wales called it - we would practice, and race out of the North beach, complete now with a 1km run to T1..!
Swim practice lap went well - approx 1000m. in the same directions as the race lap would go, and I got around it in about 22 mins (not timed).
Myself and Jamie headed off together, and finished a minute or so apart. On the turn off the 1st buoy, it got quite choppy, but the current was in our favour, and it was a heck of a confidence booster, especially after the LCW swim debacle back in June.
After meeting up with Family Devoy, we strolled down to rack up the bike, have a sit down in town, onto the (second) briefing, to confirm the swim revisions, and then back to have my pre-race meal, and to mentally 'walk' through the day.
Sunday 4.45a.m. the alarm sounded. Guess what, didn't need it. So, game-plan commenced at this point, with porridge, coffee & brioche, washed down with High5 Zero.
Ange kindly woke with me to drive, and drop me off right at transition. It was still dark at this point, and blowing like crazy. I dropped off my white bag, and headed off, focussed and alone, to the North Beach, only to find Ange Nige, Andrea & Jack were already there! This was a very welcome and calming surprise, and I then had time for a quick warm up in the crazy surf (which killed one of the generators blowing up the 'Ironman' finish arch, - which duly deflated!)
After a great rendition of Gwlad, the gun went off bang on 7a.m., so I started the Suunto, and waded straight into the sea, (unlike hundred's of other who legged it maybe up to 250 metres along the sand before getting in!) As I got straight in (because I really wanted to ensure I swam/raced the full distance), there was no madness at the start. Joy!
I quickly, and calmly got into a nice rhythm, and the first buoy was soon upon us. At this turn, it got a little bumpy, but no major 'contacts' were made, and then we headed down the 900m. stretch to the lifeboat station. It got quite choppy here (as it did in practice), but again I feel there was a helpful current behind us.
At the final turn for the shorter stretch back to shore it got much calmer, almost 'lake like' (the headland doing it's job nicely for us here), and after body surfing the final 50m. or so, I was out in 33 mins! This was a fast time (for me), and I happily waded back in for a similar, if a little slower second lap, mainly due to the rather large waves for 400m or so after the second buoy. The second lap was definitely much more choppy than the first, and a little lairy at times. It was at this point, I swallowed most of the salt water that would come back to haunt me later on...
Out of the water in the official swim time of 1.07.43 - ranked 677 out of 1287.
After finding my transition run shoes on the newly placed extra racking on the zig-zag path up out of North Beach, I was off and away on the 1km run to the Rectory car park, and T1. At this point, I was urging myself to stay focussed and calm, maybe too much so, as after getting all kitted up for the monster bike, my official T1 time (including the extra 1km run) was a far too relaxed time of 19.35 - ranked 1077!!!! Still, there is now a (minimum) 'free' 10 minute gain for next time, (at Lanza hopefully).
My main mantra's for this now infamous bike leg were 1) to ride up all climbs seated, with no attacking them -as is sometimes my idea of fun, 2) - to eat, eat, eat and eat. I set off in really good spirit, with the awesome crowds helping set the tone
Nutriton loaded on was - x7 ZipVit ZV8 energy bars, x6 Gu gels (inc x2 caffeine boost), x2 packs of ZipVit ZV10 energy chews, x2 snickers, and a 2100ml. mix of High5 Zero & High5 Extreme caffeine boost drinks. Not consumed at end of bike was x 1 ZV8 bar, x1 pack of ZV10 chews, and the snickers bars.
Now unlike last year's UK 70.3 bike report, I am happy to be recording the fact that the bike leg was just that. A measured, incident free ride. The only points of note were - stomach cramps to the lower left side of my abdomen, which I am convinced was a combination of the sports nutrition assault to the stomach, coupled with the sea salt swallowed in the swim.
These stomach cramps eventually passed after about 4 hours or so, after a toilet stop that was to try and relieve these pains, rather than out of neccessity.
Other points to note was the support out on the bike, especially in Narbeth and the area. It was awesome! Cow-bells and throngs of people all 'funnelling' a little bit on the main street through Narbeth made that climb non-exsistent. Also, to see the Cuthbert, Selwyn & Devoy posse on the very quick descent into Tenby on both laps was heart-warming...great noise!
Looking back, the 2 mantra's were also working nicely, though I did get a little behind with the eating plan just after lapping through Tenby to head back out on the second lap, and I stood up out of saddle for some small distances on 3 of steep ascents second time round.
I was still happy though, and even managed an 'attacking' pose for the start of the Wiseman's Bridge ascent for the second time.
After conquering Wiseman's & Saundersfoot for the second time, I felt really good, and was wondering if I had left too much in the tank....before I snapped out of such unreasonable thinking, to quickly remind myself that I was just about to enter completely unchartered territory.
So, the official bike time came out at 6.49.24 - placed 481 out of 1287, and almost exactly 1 minute quicker than the LCW sportive (which had much more favourable weather).
My T2 was again in a calm, measured fashion, to ensure I was ready for this hilly, multi-lap run. I posted an official time of 7.35 - placed 665 out of 1287, and again I suspect there is free T2 time to be nabbed for Lanza.
Now for the final, (and most feared part) of my first Ironman race. It was marathon time!! The goal for this run was, and always has been, to walk as little as possible. As it turned out, that goal was 95% met.
I took out on the run, only x3 ZipVit ZV8 energy bars for the run (as used successfully in long training runs), and relied on the aid stations for all fluids & any extras I might 'fancy', depending on needs.
I set off quite gingerly to let my body adapt to the new movements, and did some active stretching of my neck, back & arms whilst getting up to speed. As soon as this challenging run leaves the town of Tenby after about 1km, (right past a great view over the North Beach), the climbing commences, and it commences with the steepest part.
I retained my starting running pace for the whole duration of this first lap climb, with a view to possibly power-walking up it for 200m. on lap 2-4 to consume bars and gels. My mantra at this point was supplied by Ade earlier in the month - "do not worry about going fast, just do not slow down"
Our hired house was right on this part of the 'out' climb of the run route, so I was spoiled with very loud support from all my crew, with the extra bonus of Jon, Bri, Tom, Cerys, & Anneira, who had come down to watch and support, but especially from Charlie & Jacob, and their thunderous '...go Daddy go!!' chanting. Boy! that helped on every lap.. Lump in the throat time.
Just into this first lap climb, I passed Ade for the first time, he was coming back down the hill, and he spontaneously supplied me with my second run mantra..."Be patient Jas", was the instruction, and I heeded that advice to reap the rewards.
As the run went on, I just repeated every thing from the previous lap, by walking the aid stations, taking 2 cups every time - either coke & water, or gatorade & water - only sips were taken though, and I didn't ever take down more than a cup full. I tried a couple of salty biscuits, but struggled to swallow them on the move.
On reaching the special needs aid station at the end of lap 3, I took my fuel belt from Ange & Nige, who had kindly waited there. It contained x1 ZV8 energy bar, & only 2 out of the 4 flasks, filled with High5 Extreme Caffeine boost drink. I also scoffed a couple of jelly beans, and a couple of cubes of home made fudge.
On getting to the turn point on the fourth lap, was the point that I realised my legs were not going to fail, and I duly put the hammer down for the swift, and final drop back down into Tenby.
Right throughout the run, I was also playing the 'turtle' to Jamie's 'hare', and I was reeling him in, but he managed to keep a 6 minute lead at the end, by nailing a stronger bike leg than me. His parting shot as we passed just before the end was a yelled....'you're gonna be an Ironman'
Close to the end, whilst dropping back off the headland for the last time, I could hear the crowd and the 'welcome committee' on the Esplanade, and after grabbing my last (white) lap band, I rounded the corner with a fellow competitor on my shoulder. This wasn't going to work down the finish chute, so I sprinted hard to get to that chute alone. I did, by five seconds, to post a run time of 4.11.35 - placed 475, which is 8 minutes quicker than my 'stand-alone' marathon PB at a flat New York in 2004.
Flying up that red carpet finish to a whole load of awesome support, it was seconds later that I heard those words..'You, are an Ironman'
The final (and genuinely unexpected) official time was 12 hours 35 minutes and 50 seconds.
I was placed 468, out of 1287 starters, and was placed 93rd in my age group, out of 246 starters.
I was feeling absolutely great at the end, and quickly got through the finishers' tents to meet my amazing support crew....all 14 of them.
There were 3 reasons for my success on this awesome day. Firstly, my coach Ade Jones, who has closely mentored me from January, right up to the day. (and who posted a powerful 10 hr 31 min time at Tenby to finish 72nd!!!) Secondly, I actually nailed 95% of the 8 month training plan, which included a 5hr 10min half distance A- race, and thirdly, and most importantly, my amazing wife Ange, and my two sons Jacob and Charlie, who put up with all the training when I really perhaps shouldn't have been training.
No flashy kit will help a successful Ironman schedule quite like a fully supportive family.