1.2 Mile swim, 56 Mile bike, 13.1 Mile Run.
Only after signing up on impulse, a week before the event, did I discover that the Exmoor-Wimbleball Ironman 70.3 is reputed to be one of the world’s toughest Half Ironman events.
A complete novice, my training prior to the event had consisted of morning swims in Hyde Park’s Serpentine, where I had built up my swim distance from around 400M breaststroke to 2Km front-crawl over the period of about 3 months.
I also cycle to and from work – which combined with my cycle to Hyde Park is a distance of around 12 miles / day.
To my shame I haven’t been doing any running of note for several years, and only recently re-joined BRR with the intention of competing in more running events.
It was with some trepidation, that I lined up at the at the entry point to Wimbleball reservoir with some 1200 other fellow competitors. At 7am, after a rousing ‘God Save the Queen’, we edged our way like ‘lambs to the water’.
My swim training meant that I was confident of making the 1hour 10 minute cut-off, and indeed, I finished the swim in just over 40 minutes, shaving a full 10 minutes from my anticipated swim-time of 50 minutes.
Exiting the swim, I felt strong enough to trot the 500 metres up-hill to the transition area and 10 minutes later I was away on the cycle leg, on a new bike, acquired only a month earlier and on which I hadn’t yet completed any sort of long-distance ride, let alone a hilly one.
The feeding station at 12 miles came surprisingly quickly, but I resisted the urge to pass without taking on food or drink. The half bananas being handed out came to be my ‘treat’ for reaching each feeding point on the ride and I would be beaming as I was handed one from the helpful volunteers at the feeding station calling ‘Banana!, Banana!…’
The steepest, longest, hill is Morebath Hill, some 6km in length with an incline of around 16% in places. Surprisingly, my legs felt strong and I found that by dropping to my lowest gear, I could spin my way slowly, surely but steadily to the top.
The summit of Morebath Hill was rewarded by a cheering crowd, a feeding station (more “Banana!, Banana!..”) and even better, a lovely long sweeping 2km of flat / decent to make up for the slow up-hill. I was now only 14km from completing the first of two loops of the cycle course.
At the half-way point, 45Km in, my hastily borrowed cycle computer told me that my average pace was 24Km/h. My target in order to make the bike/swim cut-off was a pace of around 20Km/h and it was at this point that I realised that I was going to complete the bike ride in time to make the bike/swim cut-off of 5 hour 30 minutes. With renewed spirit, I completed the final lap of the bike course just before 12 pm, making the cut-off with a full 30 minutes to spare J
I wasn’t sure what state my legs would be in as I demounted my bike and made my way to Transition 2. Amazingly, I found that my legs still felt fresh as I set off on the run.
The run comprises of 13.1 miles on mixed terrain of grass, gravel and tarmac. The route consists of 3 hilly circuits, one of the hills being particularly long and steep, which found many competitors walking up.
The decent on the other side offered no relief to me as I found it too steep and my legs too feeble to safely speed up. My strategy was to find a comfortable, consistent pace and hunker down for the long haul.
At each of the feeding stations, I took advice and walked to ensure that I was able to drink, rather than spill, the refreshment being offered.
At the 10 mile point feeding station, I allowed myself a “Banana!, Banana!…” as a reward for making it to the 3rd and final lap. Only 3 miles or ‘One Park-Run’ to go I told myself.
2 hours and 30 minutes into the run, the exit to the finishing line was upon me. I managed to complete my first half IronMan in exactly 7 hours and 27 minutes.
A wonderful day out in amazing scenery, I can heartily recommend this event to anybody considering it.