ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championship, Fredericia, Denmark. 5th August 2001 (Ironman distance)
For a couple of years I had been dreaming (again!) of trying to make the GB Age Group Team for Long Course (LC) Worlds. One of my lifetime ambitions was to make the Team…the very last place in my age group would be a lifetime achievement for me. However, I knew based on my talent and ability that I needed to narrow the probability….a LOT. So I reckoned on waiting until I made it to 40 years old and a new age group and (hopefully) a little less competition. I based my first Ironman race 2 years from my 40th with this in mind…it would give me 2 years and hopefully 2 Ironman races to see what times I could achieve. I knew in 1999 that Worlds was to be in Denmark and the fact that it was to be Ironman distance was such an incredible attraction. My first Ironman race (Ironman USA) went pretty well but I knew I needed to improve my time and was aiming to go just under 12 hours in Ironman California 2000…however all did not go according to plan in that race so I was left to apply with my slower time from IMCali. Then there was a lucky break…2001 was the year the ITU increased the maximum number of places for each 5 year age band from 12 to 18..maybe not everyone realised this…and so I made the Team as one of the 18. Of course the laugh is that after having been selected for the Team…I took part in Ironman California 2001 and went under 12 hours (11:54:32) some 3 months before Denmark.
For someone with my athletic talents (I remember always being second last in races at school) this had been a long hard road training for between 1 and 2 hours a day for over 10 years but it was an incredibly incredibly proud day to race for my country. What made it even better was that my youngest brother had made the Team in his age group too and my folks and one of my other brothers had all made the journey to Denmark to watch us. We are told that LC Worlds will never again be Ironman distance (it’s hard to imagine with the stand-off between the ITU and WTC (who own Ironman) how it ever got to happen at all). This was one special race.
Since the Danes were favourites to win both elite titles, there were plenty Danes out on the course giving support to their countrymen and women. While the swim was taking place, a lady was chatting to my mum, saying she had come from another part of Denmark to watch the race and she asked my mum why she was there. My mum said that she had 2 of her sons racing for Great Britain….how cool is that? Anyway, there were jellyfish out there and a nasty current when swimming the long far side of the rectangle. As usual I was nearly last out the water…
Iain and I traded places on the bike (which means I pass him when he stops to pee…) and although the course was predominantly flat, neither of us was feeling great…we had lucked out with the hotel we were staying at since it was on the bike course and my family could sit there and watch us speed (well then maybe not!) past. Both Iain and I had a projectile vomit issue at around 70 miles into the bike…hoooooeeee 3 foot sideways onto the roadside yuk! We are still analysing the reasons for this and have no obvious conclusion although it might be said that it WAS Ironman after all…and these things well…they just happen. This threw our nutrition into chaos. At T2 I couldn’t get the tape to stick to my feet since I had run up the muddy (dry) hill from the swim finish to bike transition (lesson learned…never do that again!) and spent forever in the tent. Loos. Denmark. NO. NONE. One could easily be traumatised by the Scandinavian approach to ‘having to go’…so I did, in full view of all spectators.
The run had a nasty hill up onto the top of a grassy embankment and in true Ironman style I ran up it only once, on lap 1. Iain came storming past me at the end of lap 1 as I settled down for the long haul. Lap 2 was hard and lap 3 was a nightmare. The food was errrr weird….bread, raisins, potatoes….I couldn’t stomach much and demonstrated that Coke can both go down and come up with apparent ease. I could see that 12 hours was gone and on lap 4 the heavens opened and down poured the rain…I could see I was catching Iain but hey BFD this is Ironman what can you do about it? Autopilot is on…then OFF…you’re walking and shuffling and walking and looking at your neck cords thinking how cool is that red one (indicating you’re on your last lap!) and then I caught Iain a couple of miles from home…he acts like I’m not in trouble too 😉 we both agree that walking is required for hills and anything that looks like one. So we agree to start running until we reach a zebra crossing…as we walk and get close to the top of the hill I tell Iain that I think err rather I will, run it in from here (about 1500m) he says he can’t…so I leave him…had it not been the Worlds we would have come home together. I struggle to hold the run part but eventually I get to where the GB Team Manager has a Union Flag for each of us and I eagerly grab mine. I run round the corner and up the finish chute. Iain is 45 seconds behind me but I do not see him until we finish.
To race an Ironman for your country with your family there too. Life is good.