The GB Half Ironman Championships
it was an early start. The alarm went off at 0330. First thought was ‘how fresh do I feel’ from the devil on my shoulder, counteracted by a more calming ‘give yourself a chance to wake up!’. Normal routine, downstairs, cup of tea! It was still pitch dark! I could make as much noise as I wanted as Katie (my wife) and Freddie (son) had slept at her parents as they live quite close by and were all coming to watch. I took advantage of the situation and started to sing – LOUDLY! Outside it was pouring with rain… I had weather checked all week and considered wet race conditions inevitable. I had already told myself, ‘whatever the conditions its the same for everyone’. Rain or shine it was going to be warm…
I arrived at race HQ at 0545 in good time for my 0655 start time but knew everything would take a bit longer to set up in the rain as it always does. I didn’t do my normal 10 min run to warm up as I figured the pace intensity would be slightly reduced for a half ironman distance and I’d be taking the start of the bike slightly easier. I got into my wetsuit in accordance with Coach Musty’s prescribed ’30 mins before start time’ and enjoyed the warmth it provided my muscles.
As with any long distance race the bigger the race the bigger the pre race jitters! Can I make it all the way around? Have I done enough training? Perhaps I will just take the swim really easy, and in this particular instance ‘WHY AM I DOING THIS”. Then with the timing of a top comedian my thought was met by the voice of another competitor who said to his mate, “do you ever ask yourself why am I doing this” to which I actually laughed out loud. My pre-race anxieties were tempered and I was ready to go. I almost shook his hand!
A beach start, the water looked choppy but it was the same for everyone. The music was pumping and it was my last race of six and I was seriously up for it whatever the weather.
Usual scramble at the start of the swim and once I had my adrenaline under control I settled into a decent rhythm. First lap 950m in 18 mins – not great but I had told myself sub 40 on the swim be ok so as not to put too much pressure on myself. The swim is my next focus for improvement.
By the time I got out of the swim (38 mins) I knew Katie and Freddie wouldn’t be there yet but I kind of pretended they would be to give myself a bit of an adrenaline boost to spurr me on for the bike. Yes! A one in a thousand chance of finding my bike and I did. 2 laps on the bike starting with an easy first 20 mins to allow my body to adjust. Then I opened the taps a bit and was pleased with the speed/heart rate I was sustaining. The only disappointment on the bike was the volume of traffic on lap 2!
I always like to think that every race has a special moment. This race had two. In this instance and ironically following a spurious marshall DQ at my last race was with a “draft buster” on a motorbike. As he pulled along side me I was in full aero position dripping with sweat and rainwater and I quipped “Alright there?” He tilted his visor upwards and responded “still raining out there?”
“Yes mate” I spluttered, “Any chance of a tow?”
“Go on then son” he said in as cool as Clint Eastwood kind of way.
So I jumped on his rear wheel and he afforded me my memorable moment with what was probably less than a ten second tow but made my race all the more memorable.
The second came in the form of my mobile fan club repeatedly driving by on the bike leg. Mother and Father in Law whom I adore and Katie and Freddie. ‘Come on Gerry’ in unison, gave me goose bumps! I thought of coach’s sound advice ‘Gerry keep your emotions in check until the last 10K’.
I was chuffed to bits with a 2 hour 28 minute bike leg and feeling relatively strong was looking forward to enjoying the half marathon that lay ahead. As I came into rack my bike I was shocked to discover there werent many bikes on the rail – wow I’d done well!
I was greeted by my son pawing at the transition fence shouting ‘go on daddy’ repeatedly. Freddie is three and with my wife doing the same my heart melted. More adrenaline.
People were flying past me, even at my best I wouldnt keep up with most of them, but they were much younger than me and I was in control of my own race. After about 20 minutes I managed to settle my pace at around 4.30per km in line with my aspirations and then I felt my legs come to life and I was running faster and faster, gobling gels but not water, I’d done that on the bike aplenty.
In the last 10k I allowed my emotions to speak out but not to the detriment of losing focus on the next guy I wanted to overtake and now I was over-takling thick and fast and it felt amazing.
In the last 1k I looked behind as I could almost feel a presence and was met with the stare of a runner from Team RAF picking up the pace behind me. Having lost my podium 3rd place spot in Cambridge by 20 seconds I wasn’t letting anyone past today. I upped the pace to within touching distance of vomiting! Crossing the finish line in just opver 1 hour 30 on the half marathon and a 4.42 race time cheered over by my family felt incredible. I grabbed my finishers tee shirt, screwed it up into my face and had ‘an emotional moment’. What a fantastic season, I’ve loved it. I’ve felt like an athlete!
14th in the National champs exceeded my wildest expectations. I can’t wait until next season!!!