In Which There’s No Happy Ending
Friday 17th July
Leaving it late as always, I chose two days before the Ironman triathlon to try on my wetsuit that Ironman Tony had given me. It was too small. At least I had plenty of time to find a new one, eh!
Today was registration, race briefing and expo day. Myself, Sarah, Tony and Susan made our way to Bolton with Tony driving. We parked up at Reebok Stadium (Macron Stadium now) and found the registration tent. (Wasn’t hard, it was quite big.)
I handed over my I.D. and received my race stuff in this:
They also put this on me to mark me as an entrant:
Tony had told me I’d be able to get a bargain on a new wet suit at the expo so found someone selling them and tried one on. The only changing area they had was a tiny, tall tent, probably around a metre square, with nowhere to sit and nothing to hold on to. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried on a wetsuit, but that wasn’t ideal conditions to put one on… Even harder when I took it off and I almost went over, with the wetsuit around my ankles! Anyway, it fit and I handed over £82. (Checked later on the website and the same wetsuit was £189, so it was a bargain!)
Bought myself a race number belt and an official Ironman UK 2015 tshirt with my name amongst everyone else’s.
After that we went for food and I had a mixed grill. Quite nice too.
Saturday 18th July
I woke up with a stiff back. Must’ve slept funny. Hurt a bit getting down the stairs but wasn’t worried. Spent the morning getting all my kit bags ready. They give you four bags, one to carry your stuff there, one for between the swim and the bike, one for between the bike and the run and one ‘special needs’ bag which you fill with anything you might need when in the bike. As the bike was two loops, you went by the needs bag twice. I filled it with gels, cereal bars, cans of coke and ham and cheese croissants.
Went to Pennington Flash first where the swim would take place and the cycling would begin. I got out the van and my back was worse. It was a bit painful to walk. Ah well, I was sure it’d pass.
Here was where I dropped off my blue bag which contained my cycling stuff (helmet, gloves, shoes, gels etc) and racked my bike next to my number.
Got my timing chip and then we went to Reebok stadium to drop off my red (run) bag. I was still stiff and sore so after dropping off my bag I took advantage of one of the masseurs (not like that!) Told her where the pain was and she concentrated on that area. It chuffing hurt. I told myself I’d be back to normal in the morning, but I wasn’t convinced.
Home, then, and an early night (half 7!) as I was getting picked up by Tony at 3am!
Sunday 19th July – Race Day
All the months of training had led to this day. All the hours or swimming, cycling or running instead of being in the pub or asleep had led me here. To today.
I didn’t sleep well due to the pain in my back. It hurt getting out of bed and when I was getting dressed it hurt so much I let out a cry of pain. Decided to see how I was when we got to Bolton.
Tony arrived just after 3am and I told him how I felt. Sarah saw us off and we drove the hour to Bolton pretty much in silence. Parked up at the stadium where there was a bus taking people to the start. They were taking athletes first so I told Tony I’d get there and find a medical tent to get looked at. The bus was full of nervous energy and anxious faces.
Arriving at the swim start I went and had a word with a paramedic who prodded me a bit in the back of an ambulance.
“If you were just running a marathon today with this pain, would you go through with it?” He asked.
“Umm, probably not…” I replied.
“So you think you’ll run a marathon after swimming and then cycling 112 miles do you?”
“I… I don’t really know.”
He looked at me. “No, you won’t. You’ll end up causing lasting damage. I know it’s crap, but there’s always other races. Don’t do this one.”
I said “thank you” quietly and got out of the ambulance. I text Tony to say I wasn’t racing. I was gutted.
I met up with Tony, along with Sarah, Susan and Hannah and said I needed to go get my bag and bike. We walked back to the bus area as the announcer was shouting that Ironman UK 2015 had begun and everyone was entering the lake. It was a long walk back.
Busses weren’t transporting people back to the stadium until 9:30am so we asked at a hotel for them to call us a taxi. Not long later a minibus arrived with a taxi driving telling us to hurry up as, due to the road closures, he’d told the marshals that he had to pick up a pregnant woman so they’d let him through. On the way back he lied to every marshal to make sure we could get back through the road closures (bless him!) and he chatted friendly all the way.
I approached the entrance to where I’d dropped my red bag the day before and it was pouring rain. I could see someone inside the expo tent so approached to ask about getting my bag back. A woman came out. This is actually the conversation:
Me: I’ve had to pull out of the race and am wanting to get my red bag back?
Me: (repeated the above)
Her: You’ll have to find a race organiser.
Me: Where is there one?
Her: At the swim start.
Me: Is there anyone here I can talk to?
Her: THIS IS A RESTRICTED AREA AND YOU HAVE TO LEAVE.
Her: (actually ushering me out with her arms stretched out) PLEASE LEAVE THIS AREA.
Nice woman. (Is not the phrase Tony used to describe her.) We went round to the far side of the baggage tent to see if anyone was inside. There was, as it happens, a very friendly Welsh lad. I explained it to him and he said he’d ask his supervisor. I asked if it was the woman in the expo tent and he said ‘ah, you’ve met her then?’ I looked back at the expo tent and could see her looking over at us.
He told us that she’s told him we have to wait until about 12 o clock for my bag. 5 1/2 hours away. While we were chatting her voice came over the radio.
Her: ARE THEY STILL THERE? (She could see us.)
Him: Yeah they are.
Her: DO THEY LOOK LIKE THEY’RE GOING TO BE TROUBLE? (What?!)
Him: (confused) No?
Her: LET ME KNOW.
I thanked the Welsh guy and we went back towards the van. As we got around the other side, I saw a woman enter the tent area. She asked if we were ok and I explained. No problem, she said, I’ll get your bag. Before handing it over she checked it against my wristband and that was that. 25 minutes trying before she arrived, took about 2 1/2 minutes for her to sort it out. Cow from earlier watched us the whole time. Wish I’d stuck my middle finger up.
Drove home and updated my Facebook. Got lots of nice messages of support. Soon as it was an okayish time I started on the beer.
I was expecting to end the day as an Ironman, not recording a DNS (Did Not Start) but it wasn’t to be this time. So what now? Well, York marathon is just under 12 weeks away and I have no triathlons on the horizon. I want to start running again but my back is still killing me so can’t do that. Having a lazy few days.
Thank you to everyone for your support throughout this journey, all the comments and likes I get seriously motivate me, but obviously now it’s not ended yet.
It won’t be ending until I’m an Ironman.
(Cue Rocky-esq training montage)