Claire Howard – #thetrilifereporter – month 4
After four months of training, priority race weekend is here and I have to say excitement definitely trumps nerves!!!!
How did I get to this point? The point being me deciding that taking part in IRONMAN 70.3 Staffs would be a good idea! Pretty much a year ago to the day I was completing my first ever triathlon…… low key, sprint distance with a shorter swim of 300m and that was it…… I was hooked and have never looked back since. 2016 was always going to be a year of endurance events for me, Paris marathon and the 3 peaks challenge were already in the diary so when the guaranteed entry into the middle distance event came up through my triathlon club I thought why not?
And here I am…… settled into a beautiful old farmhouse B&B on the bike course with seven other Tunbridge Wells Triathlon Club team mates (all new to this distance) ready to race in 36 hours time.
Jump ahead to race day and it’s an early start with the alarm set for 4.30am. Surprisingly I slept really well and was awake before the alarm anyway. Race day nutrition plan kicked in (huge thanks to Ed Moffatt who was so generous with his time and expertise when fueling correctly for this distance) with my usual breakfast of a peanut butter and banana sandwich on white bread washed down by water. Thoughts of “Right let’s do this!” filled my head and the minutes quickly passed as my 7.15am start time arrived. Waiting in the swim pen I felt like I was part of something pretty special. IRONMAN officials describe race day being like Christmas morning…..didn’t believe it in the briefing but stood there at the start I had well and truly bought into that feeling now! I couldn’t wait to get started!
Water was a warm 20 degrees and as I completed my first ever rolling start I found it pretty easy to settle in quickly to my usual steady open water swim style……. I actually felt at ease and dare I say enjoying it! Clear water and enough space around me to keep doing my ‘thing’. Chuffed to bits I beat my estimated swim time by 1 minute, so far so good.
T1 was a lengthy 8 minutes….toilet break was required…..couldn’t face 56 miles on the bike without one.
The bike course was pretty ropey for the first 10km. Torrential downpours over the past couple of days had washed a huge amount of debris across the narrow lanes. Foresight meant that my sister in law Anna and I had driven that section of the course so knew to take it steady and I passed around 10 athletes already dealing with punctures. I was initially concerned about being surrounded by other bikes, there were 2500 competitors taking part but we quickly spread out and soon after the first section the road was in better condition and I could get my head down and crack on. Elevation was around 2750ft over the distance which is nothing compared to what I’m used to back home and dealt with any hills without trouble. I was ticking along nicely when with 20 miles still to go the heavens opened and it was torrential…..taking care around sharp corners (unfortunately not everyone took this action) I finished the bike section with an average of 17mph. Hoped completion time 3.5 hours, actual time 3 hours 19 minutes. Get in! Come on legs……don’t fail me now!
T2, 5 minutes….. really have to work on those. Another toilet stop, definitely required after around 2 litres of electrolytes. Bumped into another club member Sam, was a real boost to see him and we had a quick natter as we dried off and changed into socks and trainers. Farewell and “see you out there” I was off.
The long bricks in training had gone really well and my plan was to keep it steady in the first half then build my speed. Due to niggles and illness I hadn’t managed to complete any 21km runs during training so was unsure what i was capable of at this stage. The support was immense around the 3 lap course and mix of terrain kept thing interesting. I was loving the run and actually confirmed this by saying it out loud to myself and anyone else who was close at the time! Lap 1 felt comfortable and fully expected to take a dip in lap 2 but my legs just kept going and I was feeling strong…..couldn’t believe it! Massive boost as I started lap 3 and I sped up giving myself a mental pat on the back for not slowing to a walk on the 1km long hill I had to climb 3 times. Last time up it and then I was flying down, through the trail section on the Shugborough Estate and then the finishing line was in sight! Somehow still finding extra speed in my legs I went for it to the line and that was quite simply the best feeling I have ever experienced in an event! Utter euphoria! With my family and spectators cheering me across the line. Estimated run time 2 – 2.5 hours, actual time 1:56.01….. you are kidding me…..how did I managed a half marathon PB??????!
I revisit my initial question…..How did I get to this point? This is how; a hugely supportive husband and wonderful children, an amazing club who have welcomed me so warmly and encouraged me right from the start of my triathlon journey, super friends who have simply asked how I’m feeling or joined me on training sessions, a huge amount of time dedicated to focused training and of course thetrilife for coaching me so expertly that there was no way that I wasn’t going to be prepared for this challenge.
I really don’t know how long it will take me to come down from this high…….