Ironman Maastricht: YOU ARE AN IRONMAN
Well the day after Ironman Maastricht, a moment of reflection and a “brief” race report.
Firstly thanks to everyone for the amazing messages of support before, during and afterwards! I’m humbled and grateful,
My goal was to finish and feel I had done my training and fitness justice. First part to finish -> done, and hearing the words: YOU ARE AN IRONMAN was absolutely amazing after the ordeal that I went through…to be privileged to join a pretty special club is great and very special achievement.
Here’s what happened..
Swim start, smiling still
The Swim ( target time 1:10 – 1:15 actual time 1:03:13 )
Pre swim we had to position ourselves based on estimated swim time and then there was a rolling start ( no more congestion and mass start )
Having spent some time with my family before the start of the swim, the start pen was full so I ended up somewhere in the 70-80 minute group. This was further back then I wanted to be but there literally was no room to move forward so I accepted the position I was in and mentally prepared myself for the swim
On the water side, the atmosphere was amazing, lots of people spectating and the organisers were playing some really energetic and catchy tunes. I went from feeling nervous and intimidated to feeling energised and determined as well as looking forward to the challenge. Looking back on the pictures later I even manes a cheeky grin ( probably nerves more than anything )
When I was allowed into the water I dove in and swam wide into clear water straight away ( what a relief ) within a couple of strokes I found my rhythm and to my surprise started catching and passing people which was a novelty to me. This continued throughout, due to swimming in a big river there was plenty of space and although I didn’t have the chance to draft I felt “in the zone”. The first half of the swim was against the current to an island where there was an Australian exit which broke the swim up nicely. Then swimming back with the current was amazing, it literally felt like I was gliding through the water until the turning buoy after which we had a 400m swim against current which felt like swimming through treacle. It felt like the swim exit wouldn’t come closer and as a result I upped my swim stroke rate to try and make some headway. Despite what felt like a very long 400m, I exited the water in 1:03:13 which was a huge PB for me and a big moral boost ( I had hoped for a 1:10 – 1:15 swim )
In Transition 1, I changed into full cycling gear choosing comfort over transition speed and left feeling very positive knowing my strongest discipline was next. Having family and friends at the exit of the transition area cheer me on was a further moral boost for me.
Start of the bike, I stuck to my race plan, cycling to my power meter and well maintaining the power limits I had set myself in my race plan. I was passing people one after the other which continued up the first hill.
Then during the downhill as I was descending fast and shouting to let people know I was coming through the guy in front of me decided he had more right of the road then I had, he veered out wide, put his arm out and pushed me off the road and into the verge at over 30mph. I had no time to brake or react and the next thing I knew I went over the handle bars landing hard on my left hip with my bike flying over me and landing in a farmers field having clipped a barb wire fence.
All my tools, spare tubes etc were thrown off as well so when I got up shaken and in quite a lot of pain I had to start a treasure hunt for my tools in high gras so I could mend my bike. At that point I really thought my race was over and with that the end of my journey. Fortunately eventually help arrived, one of the volunteers was kind enough to let me text my family to let them know I was ok ( they were using the IM tracker so would see that I wasn’t moving ) and after about 45 minutes I was able to continue with a battered but still functioning bike.
Whilst I stood waiting I had a few energy gels and reading the words that people had attached to my gels gave me even more determination to continue. My goal changed into finishing no matter what which changed my attitude towards the race.
On my way again and the rest of the first lap I rode at a reduced pace as due to the injury sustained to my hip I physically couldn’t sustain the power zones I had trained in. Also my confidence was knocked as I don’t come off bikes, normally, in addition not quite knowing if there was any hidden damage in my carbon frame made me take corners more slowly than normal as well as being more conservative on the descents too.
Still I was making up places and catching people. Meanwhile the weather gods decided to get involved and after some light showers all of a sudden the heavens opened in biblical proportions, the rain was coming down so hard that quite quickly the road flooded with several inches of water. As there was no sign the rain would ease off, I half expected Noah to make an appearance in his ark to whisk us to safety. The rain washed a lot of debris onto the road and as a result my bad luck didn’t end there and despite of running all weather tyres with puncture protection ( which got me through 100s of training miles without issue ) I had 3 more punctures during the bike section )
I arrived back into T2 after 6:46:43 on the bike or in other words well over an hour and 15 minutes down on what I had done in training. Also new to me was seeing so many bikes back in transition as normally my bike is my strongest discipline and I tend to be back in T2 with few bikes ahead of me.
What put it in perspective was that my moving time was 5:24 so I lost 1 hour and 22 minutes in total due to the various incidents.
As I got of the bike, a searing pain from my left hip reminded me that I would be in for a long marathon, even jogging with my bike to my racking place hurt immensely. I estimated at that point that I had 8 hours to finish the marathon ( which is walking pace ) so I knew I would finish one way or another as long as I could keep moving forward. My family was standing just outside transition and having them cheer me on helped me mentally as I was in a dark place mentally knowing the magnitude of the task ahead.
Start of the run, my posture says it all, down but not out
Run ( target pre race 3:30 ) actual 3:55:46
I can’t quite describe how much the first 2 miles hurt on the run before I could finally find a pace and posture which were bearable. Eventually I settled for running at 4:40/km and walking the aid stations which I could just about manage.
Due to the fall and punctures my nutrition and hydration on the bike was nowhere near what I had trained for so on the run I decided to ensure I kept myself well hydrated and stick to things my body is used to taking on water and isotonic drinks at every aid station.
My no 1 support team of family and friends, kept me going and just for them I wouldn’t allow myself to stop running. Every time I passed they would run with me for a bit and cheer me on.
Also knowing the people at home watching and following my progress made me want to finish, one way or another. The marathon consisted of 4 laps of 10.5km with a section coming out of transition making it 42.2km.
First 10.5km lap done in 53 minutes, then the second lap in around the same time. At this point I allowed myself to walk a bit more in lap 3 ( there was one hill on the run course right after an aid station which I walked ) then starting lap 4 I maintained the same tactic breaking down the lap as follows:
10k this is an easy Sunday run I can do this
7k no excuses this is a short BRIC run, run for 3 lamp posts, walk for 2.
5k this is a park run come on
3k keep this up and I can break 4 hours for the marathon, there is people cheering us on so don’t stop now.
Last aid station to finish 1.7k this is just over 4 laps of the athletics track no quitting now!
Eventually the last square came into view where I picked up my 4th and last band, at that point I knew I only had 800m left which gave me a final adrenaline boost.
In the 500m I decided that I wanted clear space on the finishing carpet ( selfish I know but today was such a hard day ) so I ran for what I had left and just before I turned into the finishing chute I did mention to the announcer it was my first Ironman to which I got the reply over the PA system:
Stephan you are an Ironman!
And crossing the line finally put an end to the suffering I had endured since my fall. I still ran a 3:55:46 marathon to finish.
You are an Ironman!
As I stood across the line, only at that point did I realise what my time was, 12:04:30 I had lost track of time and it felt much, much longer than that.
I have had to dig deeper than I have ever done, endured more pain then I have ever put myself through however quitting has never featured in my dictionary before and I’m grateful it still doesn’t. The elation of finishing was overwhelming and quite frankly emotional ( yes still the day after )
Did I feel I did my training and fitness justice? No not really, I felt that I survived the day rather than raced it. Did I learn something new, yes definitely, could I have done better, i know that I wanted to do better…
Will I do another Ironman? Yes -> 6 weeks from now, Challenge Almere in the Netherlands, I will be back for more!