July 14th 2019 is a date which has been etched on the minds of many of the athletes who are either coached by Peak XV, swim with one of our squads or who attended our IronmanTraining Weekend back in May.
At 6am these intrepid souls entered the murky waters of Pennington Flash to start the final part of their Ironman journey. An adventure which for some would end on the red carpet for others would end in disappointment, frustration and even a trip to the medical tent! In total Peak XV were following and supporting just over 20 athletes who we had been fortunate enough to share some part of their ups and downs leading up to D day.
Conditions on the morning were ideal, little wind, dry roads and temperatures that would remain in the low 20’s for the entire day. The swim start was quite a relaxed affair, gone are the days of 2000 people starting together in a frenzy where the water boils reminiscent of sharks attacking a shoal of minnows! First to exit the water was squad swimmers Cath Labrianidis who completed the swim just outside the hour. A few minutes passed and fellow swimmers Adrian Prendergast and Steve Hulme were pulling on the neoprene. Slightly further back Peak XV athletes Rick Lucas, Lizzie Underwood and Mark Dickenson had entered the change tent. After another short gap Craig Taylor, Carl Barrow, Phil Sutton, Martin Donnellan, Greg Kennedy and Ste Wood were all on 2 wheels. The award for the most stylish T1 must go to Lizzie who unveiled her nutritional secret weapon…sausage rolls and flapjack all nicely presented in Tupperware! All lizzie needed was lashings of ginger beer to really finish the meal off.
In the lead up to the race there had been much social media chatter about how tough the bike course was, in particular the unrelenting hills, leaving people to ask whether this course is the hardest Ironman. The jury remains out on this, but one thing was for sure completing the bike within the cut off time, avoiding mechanical breakdown and remaining upright was going to push everyone to their limits.
As the competitors munched into their gels and energy bars it was time for the real challenge of the day, finding the best place to spectate on the bike route.
One of the things which rarely gets mentioned when talking about Ironman is the major stress that spectators feel on race day. Catching a glimpse of loved one’s is no easy feat. The idea location has to have access to a pub (ideally with pristine toilets), be halfway up a monster climb (brings out the sadist in us all) have car access so that we don’t have to carry those deck chairs, cool boxes, home made banners, picnics and in our case PA system with portable generator. After weeks of pouring over the bike course map we decided upon setting up half way up the Holcomb Beast sharing this prime location with the enthusiastic Rammy Running Club. This spot gave us an up close and personal perspective on how the athletes were feeling and to identify which of the three type of competitor each person was.
Type 1: Focused Few: These are the guys and girls whose ambitions are way beyond just finishing. They are on a mission, nothing will distract them from the task in hand. No amount of “give us a wave” or “your looking awesome” will earn a response. Interestingly though there appears to be no relationship between their seriousness and their position in the race.
Type 2: Reluctant Responders: Not quite as “in the zone” as the Focused Few these guys can be coaxed into a thumbs up or even a wave. As a spectator these are the most rewarding athletes to cheer on. You feel that your efforts of having stood roadside desperate for a wee for the past 2 hours have paid off.
Type 3: Party people. Oh boy these guys are there to have a GOOD TIME. These sligtly deranged individuals are the ones who are riding no handed, waving, fist pumping and dancing on their peddles in perfect time to the rhythm of the music. Unfortunately these guys are also often seen free wheeling shorty after having gone massively into the red for our entertainment. However these are the competitors that we remember and who get the extra high fives next time around.
Anyway back to the race and word came to us that one of our own Craig had managed to fall off his bike going up hill and had at the very least broken his nose. In a spirit reminiscent of Terry Butcher Craig battled on as did those competitors who had one eye on the road and another on their watches. The cut off time for the combination of the swim and the bike is 10 and a half hours and for some this was going to come down to the minute. 10.30 passed and all our athletes had finished the bike, however for Ste his Ironman journey was about to end. Having missed the cut off time by 3 minutes the marshals refused to allow him out on the run. For someone who had put 110% into his training and having shown total commitment to his training this was heart breaking.
At the front of the race Cath was flying and moved into first place in her age group. The remaining Peak People were strung out across the 4 lap run, experiencing the usual highs and lows of an Ironman run. Each competitor locked in their own internal battle. Over the course of the next 5 hours each one of them would savour the elation of running onto the red carpet to hear those words. ‘You are an IRONMAN”
So that’s it for another 12 months. Once again 100% of our coached athletes made it to the start line, a record we are very proud of especially this year where the race saw an unprecedented number of competitors pull out before the race day. We will be soon recruiting the class of 2020 so please get in touch if we can support you towards your own finish line next year.