All For A Tattoo
Ironman Copenhagen 2017
by Fiona Towell
All for a Tattoo
Ironman Copenhagen was my first (and last I hasten to add) Ironman.
10+ years ago when I joined the club I heard about Ironman from Joe Hurley and Tom May, the only two at the time that ‘did them.’
I remember vividly thinking ‘Really? – you swim for two and a half miles, cycle 112 and then run a WHOLE marathon? Why would anyone want to do that? What on earth is the point? And even if it IS physically possible it can’t be good for you, surely?’
At some point in the last 5 years (not sure exactly when it was and it certainly wasn’t a definitive point) as I did more swimming and cycling initially to keep me fit for running; I gradually came to accept that Joe and Tom weren’t ‘superhuman’ and began to realise that with the right training it MIGHT actually be physically possible for someone as slow a runner as me to do it. The only constraint was finding the time to train, or was it ..?
So with an 8 hour window opening up in my life last September with the disappearance of the school run I made the decision to go for it. It transpires that time is not the only constraint imposed when one embarks upon ‘The Ironman Journey’
(they all call it that – I now know why)
Turns out that not only do you have to be able to swim, bike and then run for rather a long time, you also have to have a degree in Ironman Prep: this degree involves a bit of Maths, Home Economics, Psychology, Logistics, Mechanical Engineering, Geography and last of all but certainly not least, Nutrition; the bit that can make or break it for you.
Having entered the race and read the rules (always a good start) I quickly realised that my cycling was nowhere near strong enough to make the 9 and a half hour swim-bike cut off at Copenhagen. I knew my swimming could improve slightly but in a triathlon it’s all about the bike in relative terms. I enlisted the help of a fabulous coach (J.C.) that Christmas who accepted the mission of turning me into a 15 mph average 100 mile cyclist over the next 7 months! (The minimum I needed to make the cut off).
Fellow Clubmates Glen and Jon went on that journey with me too and they will have their own tales to tell about how they made it to the line but rest assured none of them EVER go to plan in an Ironman.
They both jumped in the lagoon with the pink hat brigade and Carmel (for those of you that know Carmel there are many other stories to supplement this one).
I hung around with Chris for the green hats turn. Every 6 seconds another 6 of the 3000 are released to run to the sea 🌊 to begin the bun fight…
I had no watch for the swim so could only guess how I had done but was pretty confident I’d hit my 1hr 30 target. Now to make that first road closure cut off on the bike …
On the day my bike time was 7:32 having served a 5 minute drafting penalty, (huddled up out of the rain in the penalty tent with the naughty boys – That bit was fun!) and stopped another 3 times (No, I couldn’t go on the bike! – Yuk and double yuk! But that’s what ‘they’ do!) It’s a close call for a 15mph cyclist and a puncture can be the end of your Ironman. Sadly one of our little group missed the cut off by 10 minutes and my heart goes out to her.
With a closely knit four and a half lap 9k route on the run it made for lots of support from fellow Ironmates and it was Glen I saw first lolloping along : so nice to see him on what must’ve been his 3rd lap, it wasn’t long before he slapped me on the shoulder on his way past as he galloped off to collect his red band – yellow first, then green, then blue then red): I picked my green one up ten minutes behind him (or was it yellow 😃) !
Anyway, at that point it was daylight and I was trotting and still smiling … let’s move on a couple of hours:
Drenched through from yet another deluge with a blue band still to collect and stumbling my way along in the dark I am questioning my sanity. Bee (Carol Boyd) sidles up alongside, her long 15+ marathon legs have a slightly faster trotting pace than mine so I urge her past me and on towards a red band. 5 minutes later I have deja-vu as she grabs my shoulder again ‘feeling sick’ she says. This is just plain tough. I decide to stick with her now as she stops intermittently to wretch by the side of the road. Together we trot on chanting we’re off to get a red band, we’re off to get a red band to the tune of the yellow brick road asking those we pass if they’d like to join us in our quest. They all do!
It’s dark and the puddles can’t be avoided but at least the rain has stopped. The Marshalls marking the bumps in the cobbles have all dis-appeared and twice we stumble into the unlit chain marking the route. The lap bands are just up ahead, a RED one for me … Whoopee! A park run and a run for a coffee to go … That’s when my hip gave way from underneath me and it was Bee’s turn to support. We linked arms and battled on breaking into a run when the spasms sub-sided and then lapsed back to limping onwards …
NO-ONE can beat the Americans when it comes to making a fuss, and the atmosphere as you approach the Ironman finish chute is just fabulous. 1k beforehand you hate everything and you especially hate coke and hi-5 and ‘bars’ and grubby toilets (nope, still couldn’t do it – will never be a pro) did I say hi 5 👋 ‘cos as well as the drink you also feel like punching the next kid with their hand out because it feels like they’re mocking you for not having the energy to lift it, let alone slap it with a smile 😃
But with 200 m to go you forget all that …
You can ‘ hear’ the magic carpet before you can see it. We’d chatted about the finish line cartwheel the day before and nearly crippled ourselves practicing it. At 25 miles we decided it wasn’t a good idea but like all bad ideas 💡 it seemed like a good one again at 26.2 miles to Bee so she completely underestimated the rain’s power to make us all lose our grip and landed splat on her face to raucous applause. I settled for the much more sedate forward roll and limped over the line…