So after a 1:49 swim and a transition of nearly 11 minutes I was on my bike and pedalling with 2 hours on the race clock and it was only 8am. A pirate lady had got on her bike just before me and we played a little bit of cat and mouse on the way round the lake. I have never got on very well either running or cycling with company, enjoying my own space. I finally broke away and was free to fly/potter along. Once round the lake I saw my raucous support crew cheering me through the tight corners and out onto the open roads.
I wasn't feeling especially good, my stomach felt bloated as it was in 2012. I'm still not sure if it is ducky lake water or air that I'm swallowing and I felt very uncomfortable at the start of the ride. I was making decent progress, the wind was light and the weather good. The course was very similar to that of 2012 but had undergone some tweaks. First off we headed out to Car Colston, this was only maybe 12 - 15 miles in and in the previous edition I had been greeted by Luke and then the rest of the gang, but with the reroute I thought I would beat them there this year, which I did. Through I went, staying relaxed and seated wanting to conserve my energy. I was being passed by the odd biker who had come out of the swim behind me, it didn't knock my confidence, more pepped me up because there were people around me. In 2012 I stopped at a portaloo after 30 miles and barely saw a soul afterwards.
The first official split came at 16 miles and I was through in 1:02:44 and averaging 15.4mph. Very early days but well in excess of the 14mph needed to make the cut off. I wasn't feeling quite as strong after the first go round the southern loop and 38 miles in, just over a 3rd of the ride done. I was already trying to break it down, a quarter done a 3rd done. Although enjoying my own space, this far back in the race was a little too lonely even for me.
I was now heading out on a pretty busy road on the way to the Northern loop. During the ride there were quite a few of those speeding warnings 'Thankyou 14mph.' I did manage to hit a downhill one at 24mph which was a bit more like it. As I headed down this long busy road I was seeing plenty of the fast boys coming the other way having done the Northern loop but thankfully there were still a few of us trucking on for the infamous Oxton Bank. I had done it in 2012 but didn't remember it as particularly scary and even managed to take a guy over going up it, but that year the Bank was much earlier in the ride when I was riding strong. This year it came around 50 miles in when there was some fatigue in my underprepared legs.
Memories do fade and Oxton Bank was actually quite a tester. I brought out the granny gear though and spun my little hamster legs around, I did have to get out of the saddle in my lowest gear just to keep myself moving. Strava has a segment on the steepest bit of 0.4 miles and an average gradient of 7% I make it having 11.1% at its steepest. I averaged the meagre speed of 6mph. I still found Leonard waiting for me at the top, we had been bouncing back and forth through the ride, me and granny a little stronger on the climbs. Leonard stronger on the downhill and flat.
With Oxton Bank done, the rain began to come down in earnest. I was slowing noticeably now and the rain and traffic was in marked contrast to the dry, quiet country lanes of the first loop. I was just keeping my head down into the wind and rain and using my low gears way too much. My big gear only getting some use when I was on a downhill, showing you where my bike fitness is. Strava has helped me out again and has the Southwell loop measuring at 18.4 miles and I averaged 13.4mph.
Off the loop and onto the busy road heading back towards Car Colston, I didn't spot any landmarks on the way down and so the road seemed to go on forever. I lost it mentally here in quite a big way. The culmination of lots of different things just got on top of me. I was cycling pitifully slowly, the rain was coming down harder and I was soaked through, the rain was washing the sweat into my eyes and I really didn't feel too safe riding in the gutter with fast moving traffic going past. A number of riders I had seen earlier went past me and a new one called Amanda. These guys had all whipped out the ponchos and my poor lightweight yellow jacket was waiting patiently for me back in transition. I just wanted it over and Car Colston couldn't come fast enough!
Analysing it afterwards it was actually a gradually downhill but I wasn't feeling the benefit in my own little world of my discomfort and self pity. Finally, mercifully familiar points appeared. More smiling marshalls, absolute troopers each and every one of them. Every feed station was noisy and enthusiastic, all my water bottle grabs went surprisingly well. The marshalls on their own at lonely roundabouts were smiling and just a few kind words really roused my spirits. But my heart had gone out of it now and the 'keep smiling' 'well done, keep going' were outweighed by the demons telling me I'd done it before, telling me I had 8.5 hours more exercise in the rain before I got to become an Outlaw a second time. Do you really want to go through all of that? I spent the hour or so in the lead up to Car Colston weighing it up and the answer that I kept coming to was no I didn't. My cheer squad were in position and in good voice when I passed, but I gave the signal that it was all over. I talked it through with them, and a few cyclists passed as we were chatting which was nice as I wasn't last but I just couldn't face the 2.5 hours needed to get me round the southern loop and home again.
My bike splits from my Garmin look like this:
10miles - 38:23 - 15.63mph (section), 15.63mph (overall)
20miles - 40:46 - 14.72mph, 15.17mph
30miles - 42:05 - 14.26mph, 14.87mph
40miles - 43:41 - 13.74mph, 14.59mph
50miles - 39:20 - 15.19mph, 14.71mph
60miles - 41:22 - 14.50mph, 14.67mph
70miles - 47:19 - 12.68mph, 14.39mph
77.34miles - 34:43 - 12.69mph, 14.17mph
It looks worse than it is, obviously not showing wind, rain or gradients. I think the last loop would have suited me better than the northern loop, but there was definitely a fade be that mental or physical.
Lauren my wife was worried I would have regrets and I told her I didn't. Even now two days later I don't regret my decision. My only regret is that I failed myself so abysmally in my training. I could have made it to the end of the bike, I think I would have made the cut-off and been allowed to begin the run but I was pleased to go out on my terms and still in one piece.
I love the enormity of the challenge of Ironman, but I just haven't found the commitment to train for one properly, and when you don't they come and take a great big bite out of your butt. I will get all the pieces slotting together and produce an Ironman training and race performance I can be proud of it, but it might not come for years. I intend to stay fit be that with running or something else physical and when I feel ready I will fully commit to the monster that is an Ironman. Hats off to all those who have completed an Iron distance race, you are all mental and especially well done to the Outlaw class of 2015, it was a toughie.
Thanks to my wife Lauren, Mum and Dad, Luke and Amber, Jan, Dan and Henley the dog. You were all great supporters, sorry I couldn't finish the task and really give you something to cheer. Also thanks to all the Facebookers and texters who have helped pick me up when I've been feeling really flat. I have done over 100 races and this was my first DNF, it hurts, but it's not over. We go again.