21st August 2005
Report by Karen Ayers
I'm not sure how to describe my feelings since completing the IM. At first, I didn't feel at all as I'd expected. I was pleased that I'd finished, that my time wasn't too bad and that I wasn't last, but I didn't feel as excited or as pleased with myself as I'd thought I would. I just felt as though I'd finished another triathlon! I was slightly disappointed with my time, which was ridiculous because my main aim was to finish, but secretly a part of me thought I could do under 15 hours. It's taken a month for me to feel good about what I did and to feel really pleased that I finished and lived to tell the tale!!
I didn't sleep much on the Friday night but managed to sleep soundly on Saturday night. Something I never do before a big race! I only woke up when my alarm clock went off at 4am on Sunday morning. I managed to force down my Oats-So-Simple and a cup of tea. Bruce got up with me and was more nervous and anxious than I was! We drove the three miles from our B&B to Sherborne in the pitch dark and queued to get into the Castle grounds. I still didn't feel nervous.
I went into transition to check my bike, pump up the tyres and put a couple of last minute bits into my Bike and Run bags then found my CPT friends and had a chat before we changed into our wetsuits and watched the thick mist over the lake! We watched and waited. The 6am start didn't look likely!
At about 7am we were ushered down towards the lake as there were rumours that the mist was clearing. Unfortunately it descended again and was thicker than before! Our early morning breakfasts and hydration plans were taking effect and we had to go back to transition to use the portaloos, not an easy task in a wetsuit! I managed to find my family and friends near the swim entry point and went to speak to them several times. Thanks also to Stuart's family for providing caramel Rocky bars while we were waiting!
Eventually at around 8am we started entering the water. I took a few minutes to look back at all the wetsuited, capped, bodies entering the water behind me and realised I was taking part in something special, it was quite a spectacle.
There was a false start when someone in the crowd blew a whistle and those at the front had to be called back! I'd started my stopwatch but hadn't moved! Without much warning at all the foghorn sounded and we were off. It wasn't as chaotic as I'd expected and I was pleasantly surprised to be able to swim without getting too bashed about.
Everyone seemed to be heading wide of the buoys, which had been my plan to miss the melee, so I just continued swimming with the buoys just to my right. I managed to swim in clear water for most of the way. Sighting was easy because of the buoys all the way up the centre of the lake and because of the direction of the sunrise I was able to breathe bilaterally all the way around. It was fairly busy around the turn points but again not as bad as I'd expected.
I swam comfortably round the two laps and was very pleasantly surprised to be pulled out of the water in 1:15. 15 minutes quicker than I'd expected.
I headed for transition and accepted the assistance of a wetsuit stripper. Unfortunately she had long finger nails and put them straight through my brand new Orca Predator wetsuit. I had to shout 'Stop' very loudly. I was really upset but determined to try to put it behind me and not let it affect my race. I grabbed my Bike bag and headed into the changing tent where there were nude bodies in all shapes and sizes!
Changed into my cycling gear, grabbed my bike and to the cheers of my family and friends ran to the mount line. Managed to mount without any problems and headed out of the Castle grounds to start my tour of the Dorset and Somerset hills!
As I'd had such a good swim time, it was very busy for the first lap but I was soon being dropped by all those I'd started out with! As I climbed the first hill out of Sherborne, I heard someone shouting 'Is that Karen?' and was cheered by Ruki. There was a lot of support on the bike course, mainly I guess because it was such a nice day. There were crowds in most of the villages we passed through, especially outside the pubs, and everyone was making lots of noise, clapping, cheering and in some cases calling out names. It was wonderful.
The first feed station came as a bit of a surprise, I wasn't prepared as I hadn't seen any warning signs. Managed to dispose of my bottle quickly and grabbed some Gatorade. The Gatorade bottle wasn't easy to drink out of and it was so diluted I thought I'd grabbed water by mistake! After a couple of hours I couldn't face eating whole bars at a time, so nibbled throughout and took half a banana at most feed stations.
I had to make several 'loo' stops, one stop to put my chain back on and one stop to adjust my saddle. After about 4 hours the backs of my knees, at the top of my calfs, were aching and I decided my seat was slightly too high. I dropped the saddle and it felt a lot more comfortable.
I did the two Dorchester laps in around 4 hours and was really pleased with how it was going, maintaining just above 16mph average speed. Bryan Rhodes, the lead man, flew past me on his second lap as I was on my first! I headed back towards Sherborne and the two laps north of the Castle. This section was tough, with a couple of really steep hills that seemed to go on forever. I somehow managed to 'lose' an hour on these two laps and my speed dropped drastically to around 14.5mph.
A couple of the feed stations had run out of Gatorade and at another I had to wait while a bottle was filled up for me. I knew I was falling behind when I saw people I'd come out of the swim with finishing their second lap as I was just starting mine, but I kept pedalling!
I got back to the Castle in 7:59, very glad not to go over 8 hours for the bike! My computer read 113.96 miles! So either I did an extra two miles or the course was long!
I grabbed my Run bag and went to sit down in the female changing area. Had a complete change of clothes and reluctantly set out for the marathon.
Bruce and Matthew were just the other side of the fence and called 'Smile for the camera'. I think I replied, in a very friendly and enthusiastic manner 'F@*? off' !! I think I also told Bruce to sell my bike!!! There were some CPT supporters (Phil, Frances and Ruki) further along and I managed to jog past them and out on to the road. My family were waiting just outside the Castle and Mark, my brother, ran along side me for about 200 metres. A couple more CPT supporters (Berit and Theresa) were just around the corner and ran a short distance with me. I was then on my own for about 20 miles!
The run course was just torture at the end of such a hilly bike. I managed to jog most of the way to the half way point but knew I was in trouble from my saddle being too high on the bike. I was aware of a growing pain in the back of my knees. I just concentrated on reaching each two-mile marker and ignoring the miles beyond. I saw all my fellow CPT Ironmen heading back on the marathon as I was going out! I was pleased to see they were also walking at times.
After the half way point I managed to run downhill for another mile but after the 14 mile marker I walked (marched) all the way back to the finish. I tried running a couple of times but couldn't so gave up trying as I was just getting cross with myself. By about 16 miles the sun had completely set and it was pitch black. Most of the run course was on dual carriageway, with one lane coned off. This was very unpleasant in the dark, running towards cars doing 70mph with their main beam shining straight into your face.
About five miles of the run was through country park and woods. This was very scary, walking on my own and crying as I went! There were no lights and no marshals. I wasn't worried about people in the woods, I thought the trees were coming to get me! I wasn't even sure I was going the right way some of the time!
I couldn't face any more Gatorade on the run so stuck to water and had a couple of gels. I tried to eat some more banana but had overdosed on banana during the bike and rejected the last one I tried to consume! A kind man along the way gave me a red jelly baby which made me very happy!!
I thought the hills were never going to end but was determined to keep marching. I managed to keep going at about 4mph. At about 23 miles there was a footbridge over a dual carriageway. I had to cling to the railings and drag myself up the steps, walk along, then cling to the railings again to go down, two feet on each step to get to the bottom safely!
I was really pleased to see two familiar faces coming towards me about two miles from the finish. Bruce and Matthew (my husband and son) had come to find me. Matthew was getting concerned about me! They walked with me, trying to coax me into running again but I wasn't having any, and told them in no uncertain terms!!
Apologies to my CPT friends and supporters who stayed to see me cross the Finish line. I did hear you shouting your support but I was concentrating too hard on getting to that Finish to acknowledge you. Your support and encouragement was, nonetheless, much appreciated and I wasn't deliberately ignoring you!
I did manage to jog very slowly to the Finish but didn't have the energy to lift my arms to cross the line. I was just relieved it was all over in 15:39:47.
I queued for a massage while Bruce went off to see if he could find me some proper food. Just as I lay on the massage couch he came back with food, so I had a massage while eating chips and a hot dog!! According to my HR monitor, I had burnt off nearly 9000 calories, so it was justified!
We cheered the last man over the finish line, who sadly missed the 17 hour cut-off by 1:45, had hugs and kisses from family and friends (Bruce, Matthew, Mum, Helen, Adam, Colette, Phil, and Phil T) who had stayed to the bitter end and then headed back to the B&B for a restless couple of hours sleep!
Apparently, Bryan Rhodes, who led the race throughout to win in 8:42, said it was the hardest Ironman course he had done and he was 40 minutes slower than he'd hoped. I was only 40 minutes slower than I'd hoped, so took great consolation from this!
It's definitely a day I'll never forget, especially now I've got the tattoo to prove it! It's a story I'm happy to retell to anyone and everyone, so please stop me if I'm repeating myself at any time!
Thanks to everyone who helped get me through, you know who you are!