On July 10th I completed my first ever half-ironman! I had been training properly for about seven months, having done a marathon, half-marathon, three normal triathlons and a number of 100km+ cycles. However in the two months leading up to the event I had done very little running due to a slight pain in my knee that I didn’t want to exacerbate, so I was not properly prepared for the final run section, which was a half marathon (21.5km).
The event was held on the beautiful grounds of Hever Castle in Kent, about one hour south of London. Due to the early start time, I had to go the night before and camp over. I caught a train down to Hever station and once there noticed another person getting off the train with a very fancy looking triathlon bike. As we cycled to the castle together he introduced himself as Andy Greenleaf. I asked which event he was doing and he said he was also doing the Half-Ironman. Then I asked him what time he hoped to get and without a pause, he simply said “Oh I’m going to win”. I thought he seemed a little over confident but just smiled and laughed. We ended up camping together that night and chatted a bit about various events we had done.
The swim (1.9km) went better than expected, as it was the furthest I had ever swum in one go. During training the longest I had managed was only 1.5km. There is common theory that it is usually easier on the day of an event though, as the crowd of other swimmers creates a current that helps to pull you along. I finished in just under 40 minutes.
I felt pretty fresh getting on the bike, but with 92km’s of cycling ahead of me I knew I had to take it easy. Unfortunately the bike course was very hilly – nothing especially steep, but continuous and rolling, which is sometimes worse. Needless to say I was pretty worn out by the end of it, but I took a short rest, had something to eat and felt a bit better.
This didn’t last very long – about a quarter into the run I started to feel my energy running out. All the muscles in my legs were in pain and I slowed down to a slow stumbling run that wasn’t much faster than walking. It didn’t help that the run course was mostly over grass and dirt, like a trail run, and also very hilly. I stopped a few times to stretch and ate and drank as much as I could at the re-fueling stations, but nothing helped. I just hadn’t done enough run training. The last half an hour I can barely remember, I think I was getting delerious. Using what little mental will power I had left I managed to ignore the pain and push on through. As I crossed the finish line I collapsed on the grass and rolled over, just in time to see Andy Greenleaf on the finishing podium, getting awarded the winners medal.
As a result of my lack of training the run took me a long time and so overall I only finished with the rather slow final time of 6 hours and 49 minutes, but it was my first ironman event so I was pretty happy just to finish at all!