The Swim – 3.9km (2.4 miles)
The great thing about staying so close to the Expo was I didn’t have get up too early on race day. With my bike and transition bags racked the day before all I needed to do was eat my porridge. The alarm went off at 5am which is just about reasonable, although not sure my sister thought so and she was my designated hand holder to walk me to the start, a job she has done many times and is very good at. Ian and the rest of the family would come along a bit later before I got in the water.
Adi and I walked up to the expo area with Declan and quite a few other people staying in our hotel. As we walked along the river we could see that the river was much calmer than previous days. We were told in the race briefing that some locks would be shut for us which would slow the current down. I wondered if this was a joke but my Dutch friend Tessa assured me they than can actually do this 🙂 The big barges we had seen sailing down the river were thankfully nowhere to seen either.
I popped into transition to check my bike. I had racked it very early on the previous day and it was easy to find. Now it was surrounded by 1800 other bikes – looked again for a landmark so I could spot it easily in T1. Second lamp from the end, second row in – that should do it. I also put my bike computer on the bike. Well, actually I forgot to do this but fortunately found it in my swim cap ten minutes later and had enough time to rush back and put it on the bike. Ok, drama over. Let’s swim.
The swim was a rolling start, unlike my last Ironman in Zurich which was a mass start of two waves with 1000 people in each – like a washing machine for 90 minutes. This time should be calmer. The line to get in the water started off at 7.15 and took longer than anticipated, around half an hour. But it gave me plenty of time to check my wetsuit was comfortable and to chat to other athletes – I love this bit. Two girls I chatted to were in the military and were doing an all female crossing of Antarctica next winter. One of them was doing her first triathlon – but they were young and fit and would be fine. They also cross country skied 🙂 – Hey I do that…..lol!
Just before entering the water, a man tapped me on the shoulder “Did you do the New Forest Half?” Yep – it really is a small world. In fact Declan kept bumping into people from other Ironman races he had done. It seemed to me that he had camped next to half the field at one time or another 🙂
I loved the swim. Enough space to swim properly, a straight up and down course, easy sighting and bridges to go under so I had an idea of distance travelled. I could also see my family (and hear them!) on the river bank, and they could see me because of the pink flash on my wetsuit. Also my yellow hat. Only the woman wore yellow hats and out of a field of 1800 there were only 160 of us!
At the half way/turn around point is the Australian Exit – where you leave the water briefly run across some ground and get back in. Not quite sure why it’s called this and google has come up with many answers. Anyhoo, our exit was underneath the Government Building and pretty cool. I felt great when I got out of the water and skipped across the mat before diving (falling) back in. We had swum up river with a gentle current against us and would now swim back down with a little assistance.
I got out of the water after 1hour 16 minutes (Adi and Ian timed me) and ran up the ramp and along the mat to T1, on the way I saw my friend Tessa cheering loudly.
I’m very fortunate to have the best support of any athlete. Not only my wonderful family and local friends but a whole online running community, who follow and cheer my every move. Occasionally (actually quite a lot) the online girls come in person and for this race weekend I had Tessa, from the Netherlands, Celia from Brussles and Andrea from Germany all come along. They even brought their lovely husbands and Andrea brought her baby too – who had to get his first passport for the occasion! Saturday we hung out all afternoon in a cafe at my hotel chatting about the race and catching up with life. On race day Tessa and Cels were there cheering me on. Baby Jan went back to Germany with Andrea and Rene and followed online.
Tessa and Cels did an ongoing race report with pictures on my running forum and it was wonderful afterwards to look through and read all the comments. I also knew that throughout the race my friends at home would be following (or stalking – looking at you Tara!) online every time I went over a timing mat. It’s very encouraging and keeps me going during low moments.
So into T1 for my first change. I had worn my cycle shorts under my wetsuit and swim bra so just needed to put my cycle top on with my nutrition in my pockets and my shoes.
I found my bike ok – mainly because due to the rolling start pretty much everyone else had gone… and out onto the bike course.
The Bike – 180km (112 miles)
The bike course had changed from the previous year’s race to incorporate going across the border into Belgium, the only information I had leading up to the race was the basic map on the IM website. So Ian cycled the bike course for me on the Friday – this meant I could see his Garmin files and he could report back on what it was really like. He declared it a slow course. Uneven road surface, hills, false flats and many many twists and turns. Ian didn’t have much weather but I did!
It was a lovely course for an afternoon social ride with friends but it was a hard course to race. My bike skills weren’t really up to fast sharp turns, so I lost a lot of time slowing down at each one and there we so many. Turns out I’m much better at turning left than right… every right turn I groaned and had to try and remember where my leg position was supposed to be and where to transfer my weight ( I could almost see Ian rolling his eyes at each turn – he’s trying to help me with this skill and I’m a slow learner).
I wasn’t the only one having trouble, I saw at least five people who had come off their bikes and were being attended to by medics or helpful local residents and many riders also suffered punctures.
The hills were fine, but the false flats were draining. There were two laps and each lap brought with it some weather, heavy rain for a while on the first lap and squally winds on the second. Plus, just in case it wasn’t hard enough there were 500m of cobbles to negotiate as we passed through the town on each lap. I was pleased to finish with all my teeth and my arms still hurt at the end of the day from the juddering.
But there were many great things about the bike course. My new bike was awesome, there was a 10km flat well paved section along the river that was very fast, I saw Declan on the second lap when I stopped for a snack – he stopped for a quick chat and to check I was ok, even offering me his arm warmers. There were some really cute goats that I thought were statues the first lap and had moved by the second lap lol! The scenery was very pretty, we got to go over the boarder into Belgium and the support and marshalling was great.
Each time I came through the town I saw Tessa and Cels cheering and holding up a Go Paula Green banner, shortly followed by the family with another banner and I saw Annemarie and the boys out at Eijden out on the course which was a lovely surprise.
I was also pleased with my nutrition plan – stopping every hour for one minute to chow something down. Two marmite pittas, a chia bar, a wafer bar and a few salted nuts with sweeties mixed in. I also grabbed a couple of banana pieces from the aid stations as I rode by and some coke – coke really tastes good in a long distance event – really hits the spot.
112 miles is a long way and by the time I had completed it in a pretty slow 7 hours 50 minutes I was very happy to get off my bike, now I just had to complete a marathon…
The Run – 42.2km (26.2 miles)
Geting to the run is a bitter sweet moment. As a back of the pack athlete I’m pretty relieved to have made the bike cut off, so feeling happy, but as a not so good runner I have to get my head around the whole running a marathon a thing.
I set off feeling tired already. My legs didn’t hurt which was a good sign, in fact I had no aches or pains at all. But the fatigue affected my breathing and before long I felt quite uncomfortable in my chest. Not enough to stop but it certainly stopped me running for too long. I knew I had enough time to run/walk it was just going to take a while.
But this gave me even more time to enjoy the amazing support on the run course. It was almost as good as the London Marathon. The streets were lined with people cheering, live bands played, drums were drummed and so many people held parties outside of their houses. It was amazing.
On each lap I saw Tessa, Aldo, Cels and Mark jumping up from their table at the cafe when they saw me, high fiving and waving the banner. I saw Annemarie in lots in a few places around the course and my family who were hanging out on a pretty little green with Declan’s boys – Adi waving pompoms and Zoe and Heidi ringing cow bells. My Mum and Dad, Ian and Antony checking I was feeling ok. On the second lap I asked Zoe if she had her inhaler which she didn’t but by the third she had run back to hotel (good job she’s a runner now) and got one for me. Two puffs and I felt so much better – not faster, or even able to run more, but way more comfortable in my chest. It was a relief.
My run took six hours but I was fairly consistent around the laps and as I knew I was going to be slow anyway I took the time to high five little kids, dance as I went past the band and hug some of the athletes that I had met throughout the last few days and of course have the odd chat with Declan who always stopped to check I was ok. I quite enjoyed it.
Each lap you get a different coloured band for your wrist to mark another lap done. The first lap is spent with serious band envy as you see faster athletes with an arm full of bands. But by my the fourth lap I knew it was nearly over. I thanked as many groups as of people as I could – many of whom recognised me each lap, like the lovely lady who took my hand each lap and ran me over a tiny bridge, and I smiled a lot which always gets an extra cheer 🙂
Each lap you run right past the finish shoot and have to keep going, until the last lap when I could turn right and run through the cheer leaders with their pompoms. I could hear my family and friends cheering like crazy and I could hear….
PAULA GREEN, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!
Event 35 – The Big One!