Why Ironman? I don’t really know. I know I wanted to one day but when I was unsure. It was only when Conor and Dave were talking about it that made me think about it more. Conor had arranged little meeting after swimming one night to fill us all in on Austria. I remember sitting there thinking if anyone saw me here they’ll laugh how could she possibly do that?
Why Austria? It seemed silly not to as the guys had been there before and knew the place and course. All I had to do was book where I was told. So after some thought I handed my credit card to Conor, then the nervous wait for text if I was in or not. So on the 30th June at 2:15 Conor text to say YOUR IN. I still have the text.
I didn’t want anyone to know so apologies to anyone I told back then that I hadn’t signed up. Now I had to try and act normal and train away. After completing the Wicklow 100km, Sligo Warrior of the Sea (6km sea swim) was next and then the Dublin marathon in October. So there was reason behind all this long stuff. Now I just had to put them altogether.
I signed up with Eamonn and he assured me that he would get me to the finish. There were many doubts but Eamonn always believed in you. Happy Days. I started my training in November. November and December was to get a base of training. Then the hard training started in January. Some people think it’s a great advantage to working in a leisure center as I get free gym membership which is one less cost to think about but when you arrive at the pool at 7am swim for your 1hr to 1.5hr swim set then do full day’s work and more and then to hit the treadmill for your 1hr run plus weight some nights I wasn’t actually leaving till 9.30pm so been in the same place all day was abit of a pain.
There were mornings when I didn’t want to get out on bed sick of going to and from work in the dark and not much else to life. The windy and wet cycles alone. I did cycle with the lads for a little bit but at the same time they were getting faster and didn’t want to slow them down. So pulling yourself out of bed on a Sunday morning when there was no work to go to but couple of hours on your own was tough. I remember one cycle when I’d been out for 4hrs and had to run off the bike for 15mins I came home lay on the floor in a heap everything hurt there was no way I was going for a run finally got off the floor got shower and lay on the sofa for the rest of the day still in pain and exhausted. How was I going to do an ironman? These were the questions that went around in my head for the rest of the week. I’d get really pissed off if I missed a session or slept it out. I tried to stick to my plan 90% of the time.
To change things up a decided to train from my mums for a couple of days just rather than going into work on my day off. She was going to work one morning and I was going off on the bike. We both returned about the same time 4hrs later I think and I went to get changed for the run before I left she said I don’t think you should go for that run I think you’ve done enough today and you look awful. Trust your mammy to tell the truth. I think I shot her a look which said enough and out the door I went.
Running is my weakest area I’ve a bit of a love hate relationship with it. Although my running is slow it has improved since January. Setting a few PBs at races was a great boost for me throughout the year. I wasn’t too worried about the swimming as in I knew it wouldn’t bother me not in a cocky way but I’d get through it and wouldn’t be tired after it weather it was wetsuit or non-wetsuit. The bike I really enjoy and the downhill the faster the better. I’ve learnt quite a bit about my cycling throughout this year. Cadence is key I wonder who told me that
So time to board the plane to Austria. The couple of days before the race were busy with picking up the bikes, registration and getting your stuff ready for race day. Registration was weird still couldn’t get my head around that I was doing this. I was now tagged with an Ironman band and therefore everyone knew who the athletes were. I have lost 2st in weight with my training and this was an extra bonus to the training but when your surrounded by skinny fit athletes I just felt 2st too heavy again.
The morning of the race I was fairly sick with nerves not sure everyone knew it but there is a photo Andy had taken and I was as white as a ghost. I didn’t sleep too much the night before and with a start of 3.30am I think the last time I checked the time was 1am. Met the lads for breakfast and got some slagging for my tinfoil sandwich wrapping. I had practiced cheese sandwiches all winter so that was on the menu for race as well and few Nutella ones. I had it all worked out how many were going in each special needs bag, bike and run bag. But with a moment of panic this didn’t work out (more on that later).
Swim 3.9km. (Estimated swim time 1hr20 – actually swim time 1hr13)
My swim start was at 7.15am. I headed down early to drop off street bag and head to the lake. Nerves were starting. Do I need to go to the loo again? Wetsuit was half on. I had just been so thought I’ll be grand. Walking through the hall as I had seen numerous times on you tube but yet it’s now my turn. I was welling up at this stage thinking what am I doing? Really why did I take this on. All these thoughts and muttering away to myself.
Got to the warm up area cotton wool in my ears and wetsuit fully on next the goggles. I have a theory once my goggle go on they don’t come off till the end as I think this helps with the fogging. So I got into the lake which was warm done a few strokes then out to join the other ladies for the swim start.
Next thing I heard over the loud speaker 45sec to ladies start Ciara and I look at each other and our watches going are we late? We weren’t but either way it was time to get moving. There was a mad panic to get into the start. 30seconds to go and the volunteers are rushing us to get into the pen. Literary as I got to the water’s edge found Ciara in time to say best of luck and the hooter went, start the watch and go. With such a quick start I didn’t really know where I was going (rookie mistake) I got sucked into a little group but they were too slow. I was trying to get out of this when someone kicked my hand ouch I thought and keep swimming. Then I felt my watch buzzing stopped looked at it and it was going into power save noooo. Hit start again and off I went again.
My breathing was a little off I was exhaling too hard and thought I can stop this now and relax or end up exhausted in 20mins. Time to get a grip and thought to myself I can swim the length of bray beach and back without any hassle this is going to be the same (there are many of these little chats with myself). Finally there was space and people had spread out. I passed a few men woohoo but they were doing breast stroke. Then it was tit for tat between another female swimmer and I. We were swimming at the same pace well she was faster in the end and I thought why try go ahead of her just sit on her feet and enjoy the swim.
First left hand turn yippee I’ve made the first 1200m then the next 500m another left. At this point I couldn’t see a thing with the sun. I stopped for a second and was going to take a different line when I see my swimmer go differently so had to work hard to catch up and get back on her feet. Next was the canal. I’ve mixed feelings on this it was longer than I thought and murky so didn’t drink any of it! I was still with my swimmer weaving in and out of people. The atmosphere is amazing though here. The cow bells and roars of people from both sides are mad. I could finally see the turn for the exit and the closer I got it was like the lights were gone out when I put my head in the water couldn’t see a thing and I was nervous of getting a kick in the mouth as there was lots of people now. Quick look at the watch and it said 1hr 9mins Happy Days indeed. I knew that this was not completely correct as I had to restart the watch earlier but still. Up the slip I went and well I was not expecting to be flung up the shoot with such force. I went flying took about 2 steps and hit the deck but all I could do was laugh and was picked up again still laughing. Now to run to the bike and get the wetsuit off.
T1 swim to bike.
Right find my bag and head to the tent. I’m not sure what I was expecting in that tent but probably wasn’t expecting to see a naked man making sure he was fully dry. Anyhow got dry and sorted for the bike. Had a quick bite of my cheese sandwich. Got the bike and off I went.
Bike (estimated bike time 8hr – actually bike time 7hr)
So here goes the bike. I think for most of the day I was just amazed at how supportive people were. Someone sent me a message the night before saying every time you pass a time chip remember we are watching. At the time of the message I felt pressure and oh no but when I crossed that mat I had a big smile knowing that everyone was cheering from home.
I went off like a bat out of hell. The smooth roads and the warmth in the air I was dry in no time at all. After my first hour on the bike I thought only 7 more to go. That’s all I kept doing knocking off the hours. I was taking in the scenery and thinking this is a lovely place to come back to with my camera. The aid stations were amazing the kids were so enthusiastic to help you in what you needed. The first climb came and went not so bad. I had stuck masking tape on the handle bar and had 20km, 30km and 65km written on it to remind me when I was getting close to the climbs so I’d be ready. The second climb grand got up that one without much effort. I think I was buzzing as the bike was going so well. Food was going down well drinking was fine I was nearly waiting for something. I had starting out with high5 4:1 bottle and plain water and a third empty bottle with more 4:1 which I did used and took a bottle from special needs bag. I think I took 3 bottle of water from aid stations also.
I had cheese sandwiches and Nutella sandwiches. Nutella was just something to look forward to. I had a little bit of mix up with the sandwich though. Every time I went to get a cheese one from my pocket it was Nutella I guess I had put the wrong amount in the bags that morning doh. When I finally did come across a cheese one it was not that appetizing. Wrapped in tinfoil and been in my back pocket in the heat I came out more like a toasty sandwich. Into the ditch it went.
Along came the BIG climb a guy called Stuart from the UK said to me come on you can do it and I asked is this that big F**king climb he laughed at me and said yes but your well able and off he went. I thought I can do this just take your time and slowly does it.
The DJ at the top was playing Geri Halliwell Its raining men so I was cycling to the beat and I got to the top in one piece and was delighted with myself. Again it was big smiles and now for the downhill section. I love the downhill and this was no different. Flying past people and loving it. So the first loop was done and done much faster than I thought it would so I was ecstatic at this stage. The first loop had gone so well. My second loop was great too although the last 30km I found hard. There wasn’t as many supporters the second time round but I was grateful for the people that were still out there. Ended up having a bit of banter with two Irish lads one from Galway and another from Waterford. We just kept passing each other over the last 30km.
T2 bike to run.
I took a little longer here as I did a full change into my running gear I wanted to be comfortable as much as I could be while running.
Run (estimated Run time 6.30hrs – actually run time 6.39hr)
So here was my toughest part of the day. I started running and everything hurt so I walked a bit and then got running again I think this lasted for about 10mins. I then walked for the best part of the first half of the marathon. I did little shuffle runs. One thing I was so excited to get was the run bands yellow was first. Then it was hours before I got the second one which was blue. I thought the turnaround for on the first loop at the lower lake would never come I just seemed to be going further away all the time. Even though the run into the city was the shortest loop I found it the longest. There is a bell and money is donated every time it is rung well I was sure to ring that bell.
The aid stations on the run were great. I saw watermelon and though heaven. So after tucking into 2 wedges of it and enjoying it I then could hear Eamonn’s voice don’t try anything new on race day. I thought I’ve had it now I’ll be looking for the loo in a few minutes but nope all was grand. I was now more aware though not to eat too much of it so I switch to the salty crackers. I think this was the trick for me as I then started to run more and for longer stretches.
Going back to the lake for the second and final time I stopped at my special needs bag for blister plasters. To be honest I really didn’t want to take off my runners and socks I was afraid I’d take a blister with the sock (I got nine between both feet) but was ok and got moving again. It was easier to run than walk so on the plus I’d get there quicker. Finally I got my second band and was on my way home. Into the city for the last time. It was dark at this stage and running into the town wasn’t very well lit in some areas. This made it a little lonelier but then Dave arrived on route and was a great lift of sprits.
The last time a passed my run special needs bag on the way into the city I took it and through it into the hotel garden I was stay at which was right beside it. When I got to the hotel I stopped and changed my t-shirt wiped my face with baby wipes and took off my hat. I was 1km away for the finish line and with sheer excitement I ran all the way saying to myself ‘you’ve f**king done it you’ve f**king done it. Running down the finishing shoot was surreal the crowd was amazing and to see all the Wicklow Tri crew waiting to cheer me on was the best feeling too. Standing under the finish line feeling very proud I had made it I had done all the hard work and this was the reward. Hearing Corinna you are an Ironman is brilliant. Nobody can take that away from you. I made my way out to all the group and sat down still grinning from ear to ear. It was only when I stopped I realized how sore all the blisters were. But that still didn’t stop me going in search of my finishers t-shirt.
I now understand what people are talking about when they say ironman race is just a big training day. I couldn’t understand this comment but now I fully understand. It’s all the work is done in the 9-6 months before that’s the hard part.
Thank you all for the messages and words of advice. All were taken on board and appreciated. Never say never anything is possible. Everyone can do an Ironman I am proof that it can be done but what I will say is that you have to want it.
All I wanted was to finish I honestly thought 16:30/17hrs was going to be my time and to come home in 15hr20 was an amazing feeling. Get family and friends behind you. Some will put blocks in your way as they don't understand there will be people questioning why you’re doing it but just don't listen to them. Put all negative thoughts out of your head and just think positive. I broke the race into small pieces easier on the mind I guess. Imagine yourself crossing the line and having that glory for the rest of your life.