Jake’s Ironman – Part two: Race Day

Jake-Gough-ski-instructor-verbier

In our last blog Jake – our fitness expert and ski instructor – had been training for his first (and possibly only) Ironman.
This blog continues his story on the day of the Copenhagen Ironman race and how his training paid off…
(If you missed it, click here for Part One)

Race day – swim, bike and run!

My start time was one of the last because I put myself at the back of the swimming pack – due to my belief that my swim would be fairly slow.

Arriving at the bike park/swim start in the morning was actually ok. I thought I might be really nervous but I wasn’t. In fact I was excited!

The music was blaring out, there was an incredible energy about the place and everyone there seemed focused. Ready to try and put their months of training into practice.

And then suddenly I was at the front of the rolling start for the swim… Three beeps… run towards the water and dive in!

The swim began

The first part of the swim was great, I loved it and felt very relaxed. There were spectators on the bridges above cheering and everything was going great. I felt comfortable.

But then, after about 2km, I started to feel very weak. This had not happened in training, why now? Then I realised I’d overlooked something obvious. Breakfast had been at 0500. I hadn’t been able to stomach much and now I was paying for it.

I’d had a couple of bananas just before but for me, and training to your personal threshold is key, this wasn’t enough. I hadn’t eaten enough and I hadn’t trained myself to eat early.

But never mind that – I wasn’t giving up now!

I made it out of the water and stumbled into transition. This was the worst part of my day – I took ages and my stomach was doing flips. Eventually I got on my bike and left for two 90km laps.

Biking for 180 km

The weather was really changeable by now, it was sunny, then windy and for a long while very rainy! Considering this the support along the route back into town was amazing as there were loads of supporters.

The course was a mix of flat terrain, hilly sections and urban windy roads. I executed my game plan well here, my heart rate stayed low and in the heart rate zone I wanted for most of the time apart from some hills.

Fortunately I didn’t get a puncture like loads of people. In fact, for most of the ride I felt great. Towards the end as I got back into the city I felt myself starting to flag – but that was when it happened…

A bit of background is important here – because it wasn’t just me in Copenhagen, two friends were due to do the Ironman with me but sadly one of our group, Tom, had to drop out the day before due to injury.

However his loss was our gain as he magnificently organised friends and family to locations just before we arrived to offer support. To have supporters there just when I was feeling a bit low and starting to suffer at the end of the bike was amazing! They were holding signs, offering high fives, whooping and cheering. It was immense!

Getting to the second transition was a relief but I was buoyed by the support. I’d definitely had enough of cycling after 180km, so I left my bike, got my running gear on and trotted up the ramp to the Marathon!

The run – 42.2 km from the finish line

Running through Copenhagen was a great experience, the crowds were amazing, the constant music was electrifying (Eye of the Tiger and Thunderstruck were big favourites!). And the support from friends was fantastic.

The rain returned and I, along with everyone else, was completely soaked but the end was in sight now.

My legs ached, my body was tired but I was determined to get across the line. In fact when you finished you didn’t just cross a line, no this was the IRONMAN, so when you finished you ran along a gangway lined with spectators cheering and screaming and you were greeted by an MC calling out ‘… you are now an Ironman’, cameras were shoved in your face and more music blasted out.

Except when I got there the guy just to the side of me went to lift his arms and promptly smacked me in the face!

So I sprinted past and I remember nothing but crossing the line, getting my medal and then talking to my friends who’d fought their way across the crowds to meet me.

The Ironman experience

The race had been amazing, tough and difficult but in reality it was an honour to take part. The different types of people there amazed me.

The obvious ones were the professional athletes who had amazing physiques and were super fast. Load of racers were in amazing shape however some people looked overweight, some were much older, some did not look like they trained much but all of them shared one thing and the one main lesson I learnt:

Unless you are competing at elite level then your body shape, size or weight doesn’t matter so much.

It is your mental strength that determines largely how you will race. The variety of people taking on the challenge was inspiring.

The Ironman was an amazing journey, from the training to the actual race. Of course there are things I’d change, like doing more training earlier, practicing transitions better and learning to ride eating whole foods – rather than just bars and gels.

However, overall I’m really happy with my race and how it turned out.

Would I do it again…er, not sure about that one!

Finally, a very big thank you…

Whilst this was an amazing experience for me, I’d also like to say a big thank you to everyone who donated so generously and helped me raise over £1,000 for the charity Bloodwise – who do amazing research for Leukaemia and Lymphoma.

You’re all amazing.

Jake’s Ironman – Part two: Race Day