Not often do I put up a race review – but on this occasion – I think I should whilst its still fresh in my mind – and something for me to read again – next time I have an idea of entering a race like this!!
I’ve often thought that triathlons are a little bit biased towards the bike and run elements with the swim only being a small part of the whole race – which is a shame – as I quite like swimming. Many years ago I had the idea of putting on an event that would equal out the sports a bit more – but never quite got round to organising it all. Fortunately somebody else did – and the ISOMAN was created. The idea behind the event is that it equalled out the distances of all the 3 disciplines. So rather than a 1 hour swim and a 5 hour bike and a 3 hour run in a typical Ironman – its more of a 3hr-3hr-3hr event.
So I thought I’d give it a go. The bike I knew I could manage, running a marathon is always going to be hard – but again – I’d done it before – so I knew I could do it. The swim – well that was whole new territory. I like swimming – but this was a big challenge – in fact a 7 mile (11.2km) challenge. Far further than I have ever swam before. Longest swim up until that point was about 5km.
As the weeks counted down – it was suddenly dawning on my – how big a challenge this was going to be! Could I even swim that far! The week before the race – I had all the usual pre-race worries – is the bike OK – I don’t want any mechanicals on the day – every muscle in the body is aching – have I pulled something? There must be an injury – somewhere – almost as if I’m trying to find an excuse before the race has even begun! Last 24 hours – mustn’t eat anything unusual – must drink lots of water – have I got everything. Must rest – can’t rest – trying to think about everything I need to do in the next 24 hours.
Race Day arrives – up at 04:30 for a quick breakfast and mug of tea. Leave the rest of the family asleep in the hotel room – hopefully be seeing them later in the day – once the swim and bike is out of the way. Get to transition – how many times have I been here before – I know what I have to do – I’ve done the training – now I just need to go out there and race! Its a fabulous day at Arrow Valley Park – the sun is coming out – the lake is very calm – and there’s lots of neoprene clad athletes – all thinking the same thing – I’ve only got to get in and swim 7 miles!!!
Into the water – keep calm – no point sprinting off for position in the race – I’ve got to pace myself – so set off at a nice steady pace and soon get into a rhythm. A few similar paced swimmers around me – so decide to stick with them. Its great to finally get going – this is what I’d been waiting for. Sun is coming out – so bright – can’t even seen the buoys – but just try and keep on the toes of the guy in front. 1 lap in about 25mins – think yes that will do me – more or less the time I was hoping for – off we go for a second lap. 2nd lap – decide I need to keep my energy levels topped up – so stop for some banana and flapjack at the jetty then off again. All of a sudden it hits me – the enormity of this swim – I’ve only completed 2 laps – 2.8km – and I’ve got 6 more to go!! Thats still a long way to go. The whole field is well and truly spaced out now – nobody I can swim with – this is just me on my own now. The next 5 laps – seem to get harder and harder. I am getting slower – my arms are aching – and I need to keep taking on food and drink every lap. Lap 6 being the hardest mentally – just forcing yourself to keep going – knowing that you still have a 100km bike ride and a marathon to run afterwards. I’m already tired, I’m zigzagging along between the buoys – struggling to keep turning those arms over – the lead swimmers have actually lapped me! Can I do this? The swim is usually the bit I enjoy the most – but this – this is just too much. Finally I get to the last lap – and any worries I had about not finishing just went – psychologically – the thought of it only being one more lap – is amazing – I get a new burst – I still might not have been very fast – but now I knew I could finish this swim and get out on that bike. I knew the time was going to be slower than my predicted swim time – but at least I now knew I’d be able to get to the end… The clock showed over 4 hours when I step back out of the Lake – a whole 45mins slower than I thought I’d be.. but then I never really knew for sure – feeling a bit down – as I was hoping to really smash this race – and already my goals were out the window.
All I could do now – was get on that bike and get back on track. Into transition and pleased to see that there was actually still a lot of bikes there – so maybe I wasn’t doing so badly after all! A hilly start to the ride – but soon got into my aero position and started turning those pedals over – was looking to average around 30kmh – but lots of ups and down along the route – so again – just tried to ride as fast as I could and most importantly refuel – ready for the run… It was very quiet out on the roads – hardly saw any other riders – the field was so spaced out after the swim – think I caught about 5 or 6 during the whole 100km. I had practiced my fuelling strategy so many times – I knew what I should eat – but why is it on race day – all the things I can normally eat – I just can’t stomach? I just fancied a pork pie or a sandwich to be honest! Gels, flapjacks, energy bars – just weren’t doing it for me. Tuc biscuits at the feed station did the trick – and I was back on track again – pace dropping a little bit – but it was starting to get really hot – so had to keep drinking – didn’t take on enough water at the feed station though. I knew the family would be wondering where I was – as my times were at least an hour behind what I’d hoped for – but all I could do was just race as hard as I could.
Get back into transition and there are Lisa and the kids to cheer me on – a welcome site. Also great to only see about 10 bikes in transition area. Getting a bit dehydrated in the heat – so take on plenty of fluids at each drink station – and quickly get into my race pace. Those brick sessions really helped – I soon got into my stride and felt really comfortable heading out onto the run. Really flew through the first 10km and hoped I could keep it going. New I had to take on energy drink as well as the water – but just couldn’t face it or stomach any food.. Then half way to the run – it hit me – me energy levels were once again depleted – I’d left it too late – the last half of this run – was going to be a battle of survival. Just got to keep running – if I can’t run – jog – if I can’t jog – then walk – if I can’t walk – then crawl (luckily didn’t get this far!) – as long as I kept moving towards the end. Took on some fruit and that did the trick. Was starting to stagger a bit at the start of the last lap – Lisa looking more than a little concerned for my wellbeing – but I couldn’t give up now – one more lap to go – there is something about that phrase that spurs me on – Ellie starts to jog alongside me and then we are off on the last lap. Great to have some company – and Ellie really keeps me going – she ends up nearly running 7km of the last lap with me – just to make sure I get to the end. Finally with only 2km to go – realisation that I am actually going to finish it – makes me just keep on running. Will and Hattie join Ellie and we all end up running together for the final 400m – so great to have my family here supporting me – the finish line is in site – and I am officially an ISOMAN. Amazed to have finished 8th overall. Well done to everyone who took part in this event and to the organiser Gary Jarvis, all the fantastic marshals, and of course all the other competitors who took on the challenge. Harder than Ironman – but Fairer – I think someone once described it – I’d agree with that!