This is an email I received from one of the F4L Triathlon Coaching athletes, Stef Economides, who completed his first Ironman recently... with his permission, I thought I'd share his experiences... Enough time has passed for me to have done a little reflecting on the past 10 months and in particular, the past 6 or 7 days.
This was a long, eventful, painful, enjoyable, incredible and pretty much unbelievable journey from start to finish. For heaven's sake, 10 months ago, I could barely swim 100m without nearly drowning! Riding a bike for 180km and THEN having to run a whole marathon, oh and having swum 3.8km beforehand....Nah. However, I stuck to the plan (mostly anyway ) and guess what? It worked and not only that, it worked in bucket loads....
This might be quite a lengthy email so are you sitting comfortably?!
So difficult to know where to begin but I guess the easiest is the most current, which of course is the whole Kalmar trip including the preparation and the time I was there.
In my preparation for the trip, I wrote everything down for each part of the race, exactly what I was going to do each day, what I needed to buy, when I was going to do everything and most importantly, what I needed to pack for everything. Swim, Bike, Run, transitions, how many gels in each bag, what I was going to wear to walk to the start, etc. It all seemed quite unnecessary until of course I was there and my head was swimming with other stuff. It would have been so easy to forget stuff, but I didn't forget anything.
The whole travelling thing from home to Kalmar was well organised so I didn't have to lug all my gear around too much. It was however dogged with a lengthy flight delay, car hire mix-ups (their mistake), road closures and last minute sat nav failure! Still quite stressful despite all the preparation.
The next morning there was a practice swim at 7am which I went to. There were a lot of jellyfish, lots of scary seaweed and the wind was strong making it quite choppy. It was all excellent practice and I left the 1500m loop in a little over 30 mins, which was quite amazing for me and a fantastic confidence booster. I registered, went back to put the bike together and went for an hour ride, which I used to get to know the area better. All good. Made some more notes and bought a couple of last-minute things like CO2 which can't be taken on the plane.
Friday, woke up with two massive mosquito bites (don't laugh). One on my left ankle where the timing chip goes and one one the top of the right foot. They were huge and itchy and not ideal. I also woke up with a parking ticket for apparently parking on the wrong side of the road. This took me about 3 hours to sort out and I didn't need the added stress but I didn't have much to do today anyway other than an hour ride and 15 min run, oh and to pick my wife and friend up from the train station that eve. The ride went well and the run was ok. The knee held up so we were game on! Racked the bike, dropped my bags off, picked up my wife, showed them around the town and went to bed at about 8pm. Bites were throbbing and I never got much sleep. I don't suppose I expected to really but it wasn't ideal.
4am start, breakfast and down by my bike at 5.30am....with a flat front tyre. No dramas. Changed it and pumped it up and then a minute later, it banged! Another flat! Plenty of time left but I went to the bike mechs who diagnosed a tear in the rim tape and put some insulating tape over the section, and another new tube. Still managed a 5 minute warm-up swim before the water got too crowded to do anything effective. The wind was strong and the water really choppy and I had decided to go left to keep out of the way. This planned worked but it was very, very crowded nonetheless. Lots of argy-bargy but I wasn't phased and by lap two, things had spread out quite a bit. It was really choppy though and I've never swum in anything like that before, but I felt fine. I just got a bit bored after 3km and wanted it to end!
Very pleased the swim was over and that I'd made it, I went slowly into transition with a loo stop and then realised what I was doing and sped up a bit! Thankfully the front tyre had held and I was on my way. Strong, strong headwind for the first 50km and masses of support. I actually made a point of smiling at people and giving them the thumbs-up . There were lots of competitors that didn't, but these people had come out to cheer us on and they were definitely worth a smile back in appreciation, if only because they cheered you on even louder when you did! Anyway, it made me feel happy and relaxed. 150km in and my right hand tri bar broke. The arm pad was now rattling around loose and the bar was only just hanging on, but it was still useable, just. Anyway, after about 10 more km, I hit a bump while I was changing gear (arm not on the rest) and the arm pad flew out onto the road! I wasn't going to stop, go back and pick it up so finished without it. It was fine.
Finished in "sub-Gold" standard on the bike which was amazing and I wasn't really pushing it. (borrowed Zipps are the way forward you know! )
Transition into the run saw me stop for a very lengthy pee (I was desperate on the bike but didn't want to stop!) and I was on my way. The support was quite incredible, especially but not exclusively in town. Unfortunately, the wind had died down a bit and the sun was strong and it was quite hot. However, I never walked. I was planning for between 4hr and 5 hours and started well but the lack of run training I had done started to tell. I never got tired or lacked energy, I just couldn't keep the pace up. I walked at the aid stations just enough to get some fluid in and then as I said, just kept running. Unfortunately, I had to stop for 2 pees and a number 2 too but that's all part of it. Finishing was quite, quite amazing. If I'm honest, I would say that I was disappointed with the run and very disappointed not to get under 12 hours but bloody hell! I said before that bronze would be to finish, silver would be between 13-14 hrs, gold would be 12-13hrs and I nearly got Platinum!!
It's worth saying that even if I say so myself, my nutrition plan worked to absolute perfection all the way through. It was well thought out, researched and tried and tested and I was never hungry, lacking in strength, energy or anything close. I was also never full-up or bloated (maybe a bit bloated on the run). At the finish, I wasn't even very hungry. Just ate a few choccies, two bits of water melon, some water and then a small slice of pizza, and it was fine.
I learned that things WILL go wrong. It's all part and parcel of the whole thing and the more prepared you are in everything, the more in control you are. I don't think I ever felt out of control, or more to the point, I always felt calm and IN control. Getting the 2nd puncture was close, but generally it couldn't have gone any better than it did.
I won't bore you with any more stuff Paul, but the bit you will be interested in is the thank you.
This was a long, eventful, painful, enjoyable, incredible and pretty much unbelievable journey from start to finish. For heaven's sake, 10 months ago, I could barely swim 100m without nearly drowning! Riding a bike for 180km and THEN having to run a whole marathon, oh and having swum 3.8km beforehand....Nah. However, I stuck to the plan (mostly anyway ) and guess what? It worked and not only that, it worked in bucket loads. So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! for everything you've done over the past 10 months or so. It's been brilliant working with you and I just now need to decide what my next event will be, Abu Dhabi aside of course! I do already know my aim though, is to continue to improve, go faster the next time round and keep sticking to the plan!!!
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