The Ironman Experience – Post-race Musings

The day after the biggest race of my life I enjoyed a lie-in.  Well, 6.30am is a lie-in when you are used to getting up at 4.15am isn’t it?!

I sat in the lounge of the flat we had rented for the weekend and reflected on what had happened.  I picked up my iPad and began to look through the support I had received by social media, email, text and phone over the previous 24 hours.  I was completely dumbstruck.  Totally and utterly touched emotionally at the number of people who had taken the time to send a message, to support me, and to watch me cross the line on the live Ironman web feed, even at such a late hour.

I had messages from friends and relatives in Wales, England, France, Malta, Australia and New Zealand.  Almost everyone I know had been behind me and proud of my achievement.  Yet I had felt deflated as I crossed the line.  Now though, I began to feel pride and emotion as I tried to reply personally to every comment and every message, thanking every single person for their thoughts.  I couldn’t believe how much people thought of my achievement and I really needed to thank everyone as best I could.

Monday evening around Tenby with Uncle Derek & Auntie Lorraine!

A few weeks further on, and I began to take stock of what I had accomplished.  In 9 months I had gone from a complete amateur, completely lacking in knowledge and understanding of endurance sport to having completed a long distance triathlon.  Regardless of the time it took, I had achieved a rather large goal and it was slowly beginning to sink in….  I had gone from a non-cyclist at the start of the year, falling off because of the cleats and sweating profusely as I pedalled hard uphill in a tough gear, to someone who could now cycle 112 miles and then run a marathon….  I had gone from struggling to swim 100m without pause for breath to completing over 2 miles in a rough sea, having only started swimming in open water just 3 months ahead of the Ironman.  I had upgraded from a decent runner who could do 10K easily enough but soon tired, into a multi-marathoner…. And most importantly I had learned how to put several sports together in a row, understanding transition and heart rate, and the importance of discipline at every juncture.

Just listing these accomplishments here again gives me goose bumps when I truly understand what I have done and remember the efforts and courage that underpinned every stage.  I have never really understood why people looked at me and admired my dedication, but maybe I am starting to…

Amazingly, my achievements this year seem to also have inspired others which I has also shocked me but also made me puff my chest out just a little more!  Several people have suddenly talked about entering their first triathlon, and even seasoned participants have asked me for advice about how to approach an Ironman, picking my brains about a “clean transition” or how to build up training over the months preceding the main event.

Bought the kit...

Bought the kit…

My Ironman-store induced bankruptcy has also brought attention from passers by who notice my jacket (or hat….or top…..or bag…..!!), which has become a conversation starter with unknown people in all kinds of scenarios – in café’s, in the street, or giving blood!  Some of these people have already become new friends and all wanted to congratulate me, with many also asking for advice, or even a training plan to complete the event themselves.

To inspire people in any way makes me feel quite amazing.  I certainly hadn’t expected this kind of attention but to be a role model for any fellow human being is a remarkable sensation and I feel obligated to help wherever I can!  My only concern is that I keep my feet on the ground and don’t push my own ego onto others – the journey towards an endurance sport goal is a very personal one, with numerous ups and downs along the way, and whilst support from outsiders is vital, the individual must be allowed to feel every success and strain themselves.  I certainly know how I look back fondly on my journey and remember the emotions – raw at times – and now can feel a warm sense of achievement!

Thanks….
So many people helped me along my way and deserve my thanks.  I could not have made it without you!
Bérengère – cook, masseuse, psychologist to name but a few roles you have fulfilled this year!  You have been there every step of the way and I could never ever have done this without you by my side.  Thanks for all your support and understanding and for allowing me to pursue this dream.
Mam & Dad – your love and support knows no bounds and having you by my side from Paris to Tenby was fantastic.  The fact that you wanted to be part of this journey and help me on my way means so much to me and to share all the emotion with you was wonderful.
Alex & Mylène – Thank you for supporting me along the journey with so many messages of encouragement, and of course for being part of the experience in Tenby.  The banner you brought along showed me how important this was to you too and I’m so glad you were there with me.
Paul – finding time to train for such a large event is always tough but made far easier when you have a supportive boss who allows flexible working.  Thanks for this, your support in general, and also for all your work in helping me raise money for Owen.
The Demay’s/Panier’s – Merci d’abord pour tous les messages de soutien sur Facebook, c’était magique (comme Paris….) de vous avoir dans <<mon coin>>.  De vous voir entrain de me regarder à la ligne d’arrivée m’avait vraiment touché.  De plus, mon marathon de Paris est vraiment inoubliable…..
Pierre-Yves & tous les Chouteau’s(!) – Merci pour tout le soutien pendant cette année, et surtout pour la semaine de <<vacances>> et le programme d’entrainement!  La prochaine fois on va le faire ensemble PYC 😉
Training Partners – Mave, Corny, Andy Tom, Jan, Pete, Nick and others, thanks for keeping me company and taking my mind off the pain!
Cardiff Blues – Thanks for the support on social media throughout and also to Helen in particular for everything this year to assist me.  You’re a fantastic organisation with a great community spirit and I hope I’ve done you proud.
Cardiff – Paris Cyclists – What a great bunch!  I’ve found plenty of new friends to ride and laugh with.  Enjoyed meeting you guys and spending some of my year with you, and again thank you for all your support in the Ironman.  I look forward to riding with you again soon.
Colleagues – The Ironman took over my life, and you all knew it!  Thank you to all my work colleagues past and present, you have been so supportive and always interested and asking after my training.  Thanks for helping keep me motivated.
Coach Andy (Thornton) – Firstly, thanks for taking us to Paris via the scenic route and secondly thanks for helping turn me from a v1.0 athlete into a v1.2 athlete!  Still a way to go to make the v2.0 you spoke of!  Best wishes down under!
Jersey Sponsors – Paul Turner Sport, Dischro Creative, Bartholomew Hawkins, Parry’s Property, Sytner BMW Newport, Blake Morgan LLP, Mark Spiller Building and Roofing, Ottimo and Community Music Wales, thanks for all the support – not only did you help provide me with a great looking shirt to help promote the cause, but you also raised a very good amount to add to the total!
Donors – Thank you to every single person who donated to my fundraising this year, whether it was 2p in the bucket at Cardiff Blues or several hundred pounds online, you will have helped make a difference to Owen and his family.  I have met his father Huw since I completed the Ironman and the thanks I received was quite incredible.  Owen is an inspirational person himself, but his family are simply wonderful too.  They would all want me to thank you for your efforts in donating, and I would like to thank you personally too.

Tips and Tricks….

Temptation the very next day....

Temptation the very next day….

These will probably form the basis of another blog, another time, so if you do have any questions you would like answered then please send them to me and I will try to answer them

Perhaps the main thing I have learnt this year however is the importance of preparation.  Check your diet, get a gait analysis and a bike fit, see a physio and get a knowledgeable person to have a look at your swim stroke.  Before you head off down the path of an endurance sport, it is vital to ensure you have the right equipment for you, and that you are developing good habits so you minimise the risk of injury along the way.  The whole process takes time, and it is vitally important not to get ahead of yourself and push too hard too soon.

That said, I truly believe that this goal can be accomplished by pretty much anyone who wants it on their CV.  Ironman, and endurance sport in general is a battle against oneself rather than the other athletes. If you have the mental strength and desire to commit to the training programme, then you will achieve.  Good luck to anyone who takes on a challenge whether inspired by me or otherwise, I would certainly love to hear from you.

What next…?
Pretty much since I crossed the line in Tenby I have been asked when I will do my next Ironman!  The answer so far is “probably in 2017”, although we shall see….!  My focus is now on completing my Masters, although I will be competing a little next year!  Mave and I are signed up for the Stratford “Shakespeare” marathon in April and I am looking for some triathlons – probably standard distance and at least one half-iron (Ben Nevis Braveheart???), but nothing else is yet confirmed so watch this space!

One final thank you to you all for reading my blogs.  I hope you’ve found them interesting, enjoyable and informative.  You’ve certainly been part of my Ironman journey so I hope you enjoyed the ride!

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