If I go back to Saturday this was me in the Castle Grounds at Tamworth overlooking 1000's of people welcoming the Olymic Torch.
It was good to be distracted and afterwards I drove up to HPP to rack my bike and have a look around. I took the opportunity to check the other bikes there. There was some serious value racked up. My Merida, with its foul language message taped to it, looked like a kids bike in comparison. Some serious athletes were going to do some serious speeds! They were checking this and spinning that and messing with tools and stuff. I pressed the front and rear tyres and thought 'yeah that should do!'. It was ready!
I raced home, saw Poppy and the family, soaked up the 'good lucks' (some of which had a hint of doubt to them) sorted my kit bags and nutrition and was in bed asleep by 8pm.
Ken, Poppys dad, picked me up at 4am. I was tagged, bagged and fueled with porridge, banana and wholemeal toast and marmalade. The drive went really quick I just had enough time to scribble a few messages on my legs.
We got to HPP at 5am and was greeted by this sight - now those of you that know me well will know a sunrise or sunset of quality reminds me of my mom. I don't believe in omens but this was a spectacular heart warming sign.
So now it was game time. I said thanks to Ken as I entered the competitor area. Took a moment to absorb my surroundings and went and got my wetsuit on. The organisation of this event is phenominally good in that everything is taken care of which meant I could take my time and stay relaxed. Weirdly no nerves no butterflies I was chilled and ready. I was focused purely on swimming out to the first marker. That was my only goal at that stage. All the other competitors were friendly, joking around (loads of them knew each other), everyone helping squeeze each other into their wetsuits. I chatted and was beginning to enjoy rather than fear the look of shock on peoples faces when I told them this was my first triathlon.
We all got into the water which was a perfect temperature - still no nerves - and after 5 minutes of bobbing about we were off! Nearly 1000 people in a race against each other and the clock to swim 2.4 miles makes for a fantastic spectacle. There is bumping and kicking and pushing but its all people just trying to get swimming. I was near the middle of the lake keeping a support rower in my sights to keep going the right way. I couldn't draft as everyone was too quick but that didnt matter. I changed my swimming style from a breathe every two strokes to a breathe every one stroke and it felt great. By half way up the lake I was flying along, feeling really confident and reminding myself that this was all the work my arms had to do today.
I circled the first marker and turned for home at the second. Target one done now it was the home stretch. To my right were two women being drafted by a man. The womens stroke was the same rhythm as mine so i focused on keeping them in my eyeline alongside me and powered, yes powered, down to the finish line. To give a bit of perspective I had never swum with others, I had never swum more than 2 miles in a pool and never swum more than 2000m in my 3 open water training swims. I was out of the water in 1hr 35mins! This was much better than I had hoped and I had loved, beaming smile type loved, every minute of the swim.
Unfortunately I wasn't quite ready for the effect doing that has on the body. I got out of the water and I was all over the place. Completely pissed without being pissed. I walk better after 10 pints of Strongbow. I must have looked like Bambi to the Outlaw staff that kindly sat me down and whipped my wetsuit off! I managed to get into transition and got my cycle bag and sat down! I took 22 mins in transition (apparantly the longest of the day) purely to get my bearings. I necked a 750ml SIS rehydrate type formula, ate 3 pieces of bread and marmalade, put my suncream on (forgot my face hence the red nose I am sporting today), got my cycling kit on and when I knew I was ready I went off to get my bike.
I was on the bike just before 2 hours which was great. All I had to do was maintain 14mph ave for 112 miles and I would get a crack at the marathon which you have to start by 10 hours 30 mins! I started on my food bags. 6 in my pockets. 1 per hour (or between food stations). Each bag containing 3 Criff blocks (big chewy energy loaded sweets), 5 Jelly Babies and a SIS Berry energy bar. The idea being that this would give me the carb load I need while riding and keep my energy up for the run. Some people refer to 'bonking' when their energy drops (although i take that to mean something completely different) and once its dropped you can't get it back. The food is complemented by SIS sport drinks loaded with Hi5 energy gels (sickly horrible things but neatly disguised in juice). Sadly their effect is less easy to disguise. In my case it was the shits!
Lonely ride out to 1st feed station (at 15.6mph ave I might add!) and had to stop for a shit! I had to apologise to the nice lady that held my bike for the terribly offensive writing on my handle bars but she didnt seem to mind. Out on the 1st loop which had the only 'real' climb on the ride then a great downhill section then stopping again at the same feed station (yes I had to go again!). This time as I rode off one of the staff who had read my bike the first time shouted "good luck and dont be a c@@t!". Made me chuckle.
Now this is around 44 miles. Ave down to about 14.6mph but the dodgy stomach troubling me. I had passed a couple of riders but I think they had then dropped out so getting to the 2nd loop that you loop twice I knew I was last. Luckily it meant that everyone on their 2nd lap gave me company on my 1st. Still with me?
I chatted to a cockney called Ron for a couple of miles and this kept me riding strong but the 2nd half of the loop was incredibly tough due to a ferocious head wind. It sapped my energy and having to stop at each loo for the necessary was really pissing me off! As I approached the last feed station on the loop Andy Holgate overtook me, shook my hand and told me to stay steady and he would see me on the run! How did he know he would see me on the run? Where do these triathletes get their confidence from? It is unbreakable. He then stopped to help a Pirate who was throwing up really badly and as I passed a cyclist sat on the floor needing medical assistance I was at 14.2 ave. I stopped again at the next feed station. A young girl probably about 10 offered to hold my bike but I had to politely refuse because I didnt want her reading the bars. As I sat in trap 1 of the portaloo I checked my watch.76mph into the ride, 14.2mph average. Another loop to do on my own this time before heading home and my belief (and I had, up until then truly believed that I could do this) just went. Fucked off in an instant. I sat there with a tear in my eye knowing I could not do this. I could not maintain 14.2 around that loop again on my own.
Its weird how things inspire you - there are a million things that can push you, help you, encourage you, give you a reason to do something but at the end of the day (the stars come out and it gets very very dark) it is only you that must believe and have the will to do it. Its all well and good thinking about the inspirations behind it but they dont pedal a bike. I was broken at that point. Without a doubt. I got back on the bike and soon passed the turn off for home with those around me turning right with 12 miles or so of the ride left. I, however, begin my second loop! Strength drained from my body. I couldnt control my emotions. I hated my bike, the weather, the roads, myself in particular for lack of preparation, lack of dedication. Why hadn't I taken this seriously? I've let so many people down and the doubters will be right!
I seriously thought about cycling back and withdrawing. The negative thoughts were overwhelming, this blog was written in my head - DNF, failure, 'gave up' all featured. The blog would include thoughts of feigning an injury or mechanical breakdown and would then just admit i wasn't good enough and hadn't prepared.
The loop was horrendous, i didnt see another cyclist, some of the marshals had gone, the food station people were still brilliant but I felt a fraud passing people shouting ' keep going ' or 'well done'. I underestimated the power and belief of the community I had got involved with. At that time I had lost my belief. The wind, the loop, my attitude meant that as I turned off the loop to head 12miles or so home I was fucked. I was on the small chain and easiest gears - I had no strength left in my legs and it was all I could do to pedal back. The motorcycle rider rode the last 10 miles with me. Making sure i was ok and guiding me back to HPP. He was brilliant. I on the other hand was down to 13.5mph ave and convinced my race was over. I was thinking I will be glad when they pull me and how on earth did I think I could do this in the first place. The task itself beggers belief. Mr Legg (PE Teacher circa 1985ish) was right when he said "Darlaston you will never achieve anything!" (paraphrased). Effectively i had resigned myself to 'well you gave it a go and thats the main thing' - anyone that tackles any personal challenge knows thats a crock of shit!
Then came two moments of clarity in what was a dark haze of personal misery. At the last turn of the main road before hitting the outskirts of HPP (probably a mile from HPP) one marshal shouted 'we're proud of you'. How can you not give at least a little bit more effort when you hear that? I then pulled into the grounds of HPP and heard my name being shouted very loudly from above. On the wall of the bike dismount area was Mrs Brightside, The Rugs and John Ogden. They were going mental giving it loads. I was overwhelmed. Mrs B shouted "are you ok?". I had heard her but I was in bits. I didnt want her to get an idea of mystate of mind so I just blew her a kiss. The staff took my bike and said 'you're in time' and I went into transition.
A huge shout from Mrs B & Co again (I think they were a bit suprised I'd made it out as I may have looked a bit wobbly getting off the bike) and off I went. Utter devastation just moments before replaced by a weird confidence and determination to run a marathon in 6 hours and 30 mins! It was surreal. I couldnt quite understand how the legs that couldn't pedal another turn felt strong and willing to run. No pain, no aches and a complete mental rebirth. I was on my way to becoming an Outlaw!
My marathon plan was simple. Plod. Slow and steady plod from station to station. They were a mile or two apart on the course so my race was one station to the next. I stopped at the first for water, oranges and a jaffa cake and then continued down the lake only to be suprised by my brother and his family cheering me on (it seemed the whole world was rooting for me!). I ran past the finish point where Mrs B and Co gave another huge cheer, the rest of the crowd cheering home the first female so the atmosphere was superb. I passed the finish and straight away had to stop at the next toilets again! Nothing was staying in me. Next food station was just water and jaffa cake for me as fruit going through far too quickly. As i headed out onto the lap on the bank of the river Trent I needed a toilet break again at the next station so I had water and crisps from then on and finally the toilet breaks stopped. Now, if someone had told me you can run a marathon on water and crisps I would have laughed before yesterday. If that marathon was after the swim and ride i would have suggested they were mad! Are crisps and water the gel free way forward?
My running felt fine and i was really enjoying it. Running with all the other competitors was great after such a solitary ride. What was also great was after lap one getting a big shout from Matt who had come up to support. I've never seen anyone as excited as he was. Straight away he said "you've done it Sid, you've done it!". This after only 8 miles of the run. His enthusiasm was infectious and he ran a lap of the lake with me pointing out how the last 16 miles or so were easy. The hard work was done. I had to agree with him as i felt good and strong and I knew I would finish!
I saw Karl & Nichola too. Karl ran with me a bit and Nichola got some pictures. Karl was clearly anxious that I should pick up the pace to make the time but I reassured him that my plan and pace will see me home in time (lucky 'cause I only had one pace - plod!).
Here are my lad and nephew running down the back straight with me. George shouting "Go on son! 'cause thats what you shout at the telly dad!"
I was last during the run and that was fine with me. I never had a single doubt during the run and felt strong throughout especially at the end of each lap when Mrs Brightside ran down the lake with me. She knew I would do this and her confidence in me is unwavering. I was going to finish but I do this for a reason. Not only is it an expensive form of self harm but it raises thousands of pounds for Birmingham Childrens Hospital. I missed my opportunity to publicise this at VLM and wasnt going to make the same mistake again. At the end of lap one proper I pointed out to the announcer that this was my first triathlon. "your first Ironman?" he asked. "No my first ever triathlon" I replied. He told the crowd they went mental and it was Hi 5's from the staff as I went on my next lap. He had the crowd going for me next time round and this time I pointed out it was for BCH. Crowd more mental (i think drink may have played a part by now!) and I was buzzing.
I set off on my last lap. As I passed the changing tent a huge shout of 'Go on Sid' followed me. I raised a hand of acknowledgement and thanks and plodded on. I congratulated every runner going the other way to finish as I headed out. I thanked every marshal and food station staff. The sunset over the river was spectacular and the bike marshal introduced himself and said that as the last competitor he would guide me in. This was quite an emotional mile or two particulalry the staff at the feed stations giving it loads and staying out till the death. As I turned at the top of the river and headed in I passed Nyut. A vietnamese fella walking to save his legs for the lap of the lake. My plod was only just quicker than his walk and as the bike marshal moved between us making sure we were ok I could hear him a few metres behind me. I ran past the feed station overlooking the lake and had a cup of water. I collected my last wristband and thanked the staff for the day and plodded up the lake with various different marshals running and talking to me. At the last feed station my last cup of water and a walk to the 25 mile marker.
Two marshals then brought me in. One of them asked about my shirt and my fundraising. As I told him he took out his mobile phone and text a donation. These guys were magnificent! It was pitch black by now. A Pirate girl ahead of me caused a huge cheer as she finished and the lights at the finish began to get nearer. I'd be lying if I said I wasnt feeling very pleased with myself, I knew the reception was going to be brilliant but I didnt expect what I saw. When I saw the sign 'Turn Left to Finish' I welled up with joy. As I hit the finishing straight I couldn't see the finish, just a crowd of hundreds of people forming a human tunnel all shouting 'Sid'. I applauded them and the staff and did my best to sprint through to the finish whilst Hi Fiving them all. It was great to run through the finishing tape. I didnt need to remember to smile as I was beaming already and I was then straight into the arms of a wholly relieved Mrs Brightside. She was in bits and whilst she hadnt travelled 140.6 miles she had, emotionally at least, taken every stroke, pedal and step with me!
At that was that! Somehow and from somewhere within me I dug out an Ironman finish to become an Outlaw! Along the way I had gained the support of the crowd, strangers were texting updates to mates who couldnt be there, Mrs B's phone, FB and Twitter had been on fire all day with people after updates. John, Matt, Greg and Rox stayed to the death and came to congratulate me at the finish. I have gained some very good friends and been introduced to a wonderful community of people. People that have a deep seated confidence in themselves and others. If society reflected the community of triathletes that I witnessed on Sunday then the world would be a far better place. No need to bring back National Service - make Ironman compulsory for everyone!
I applaud the staff at Outlaw for a superb day. Organised by competitors for competitors. They couldnt do enough for me from encouragement, help, answering my daft questions to getting me to HPP off that ride and running me down to the finish straight.
I applaud the supporters who made it to HPP, many of whom were there from 6am to 11pm to give the shout, the cheer, the applause to keep me going and everyone that got caught up in this event back home constantly checking the updates, Twitter FB etc to find out how I was doing.
I applaud the competitors that got in that lake at 6am that morning, each one about to undertake a personal journey of highs and lows submitting themselves to a huge test from the ultra fit athletes racing a PB to the shortfatbald wannabees bringing up the rear!
I applaud my family and friends, particularly my Ironman Widow, for putting up with me through this journey, helping me train (when I did), giving me advice and giving me the strength to succeed.
On July 1st 2010 I went for my 1st real training run for 20 years. On July 1st 2012 I completed my first Triathlon to become an Outlaw Ironman. Don't ever let me hear you say you cant do something....you've been warned!