It is getting really close now, with just 9 days until the big race. I don’t normally get nervous before races, but this seems like such a major event I am really feeling it this time. Last week I wrote about some of the potential issues with the race, and I realised after it could sound a bit negative, so I though I would write a bit more about why I am excited for next week:
Ironman! – Let’s not beat around the bush, Ironman is a big deal in triathlons. Love ’em or Hate ’em, the ‘World Triathlon Corporation’ (the owners of the Ironman brand) have helped raise this sport into one of the best known forms of athletics on the planet, and created events many people (including myself) spend years building up to in an effort to earn a medal with that little M-Dot logo above. Yes, this is a ‘half-ironman’ or ‘70.3’ (due to the number of miles covered) but the fact is it is still official Ironman, which means loads of people, great support and even television coverage. There are ten times more competitors than my other middle-distance race last year, and I am sure that will translate into an even better day.
Celebrities – Last week I might have given the impression I was not happy about starting behind the ‘elites’, but the reality could not be more different. Yes, it is a bit intimidating, but how many other sports do you get to race alongside (well a fair way behind…) your heroes. It is a bit like having a game of 5-aside with David Beckham. Ok, but it is better than say Mo Farrah in the Great North Run, as there are a lot less competitors and hopefully no one will be overtaking you whilst juggling. Other notable names I understand are competing include Emma Pooley, Will Clark, Lucy Gossage, Gordon Ramsay and (apparently) Jonathan Ross! I guess my bike will look even cheaper next to theirs…
New Event – This is a brand new event, the fourth official Ironman in the UK and only the second 70.3. The other one which takes place in the West Country is reputedly one of the toughest in the world due to the hills, whereas this is supposed to be a lot flatter and quicker – most likely the reason why it sold out in just 10 minutes! It is also much closer to where I live, which is my excuse as to why I am doing this one over the other. The fact it is a new event means a lot of people are going to be interested in this race, which makes it all the better to be part of it.
Good Weather – Having had one of the dullest starts to the year I can remember weather-wise, we have finally had a bit of sun this week, and we are told this should last for long enough to make the race a dry one. Having previously raced on the warmest day of 2014 I am not actually looking for it to be hotter than the sun next weekend, as I don’t really fancy the dehydration and extra tiredness it brings. The main thing is it does not look like rain, as that is a real pain on the bike, and frankly depressing on the run. A bit of sun always makes the day better!
As for the course itself, I have now had a chance to scope some of it out. The swim looks like it will be great, in a large lake / reservoir with shelving sides, and a single large loop around. This is great, as when you have to swim loops you inevitably get caught up with others meaning even more chance of distraction or injury; see for example the river swim in the Chatsworth Triathlon last year. A big open water swim also puts some (faster) people off, and given that the swim is the only area I guess I am just above average, I need all the help I can get! Whether or not it looks quite as nice as the above picture, which is apparently of the start line, I will find out soon.
Another great thing is the fact that the bike course will take place on closed roads. This is fantastic news, as trying to race at a decent pace alongside traffic feels a bit like that course on Mario Kart where you have giant lorries passing by you every few minutes! Some races I have done have been on private land such as Dorney Lake, which are car free but very small and loopy as a result, but this is a full 90 km single loop, which will include nice flat roomy dual carriageways to get down on the tri-bars and build up some speed.
The final part will be the run, and as yet I have not actually seen the course, but to be fair running is the one you can get away with just turning up. By that time I will also be that tired it won’t matter where I am, but having seen the outside of the estate where this part takes place I have high hopes. And then the famous Ironman finish chute, which always looks great. I am sure it will be a great feeling to get to this point, and certainly something I will remember for the rest of my triathlon career and beyond.