Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Cousin Iron Man

Shortly after bravely falling off an Alp and reconfiguring his facial elements my first cousin Wynn's son, Sion Fletcher-Rees, decided that the best thing to do would be an iron Man race. Of course. Just the job after a near death experience. I'm not sure what the precise distances are but suffice to say there is a 16 hour time limit. What follows is Sion's race report.

"Ironman France, Nice, 27th June 2010

Wake up on race day at silly o’clock in the morning, due to being just after the summer solstice it is already light. Eat a snickers and throw on the clothes that I had prepared. Start the mile-odd walk down to the start line, other athletes and their families and supporters are doing the same. Half of the walk is along the promenade des Anglais, where the marathon will be later, with a view out over the calm waters of the Mediterranean. The buoys for the swim are now inflated and seem very far away.

Get to the transition area, a last little look at the bike, though not much point as I have no tools with me, then comes the exposure. I take off my shorts and t-shirt revealing only speedos beneath, it seems I am the only athlete from 2700 who decided that a wetsuit was unnecessary. Apply some Vaseline to parts that I believe may rub during the swim then join the slow procession of worried men (and women)heading for the start line.

Standing on a beach now, hundreds all around me. A nervous word here, a half laugh there. The PA announces the ever-decreasing time until it all begins. Nothing for it now, already committed, just have to try and follow it through.

The air horn goes, within seconds the water is a mess of limbs and bodies. It is a case of wading until knee deep then lean forward and start to swim. The water is cold, not a real cold like English seas, but enough to cause shallow breathing. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe, stroke stroke stroke, breathe, try to get control of breathing and all of my limbs. Moderate success. The field starts to disperse a little, fewer hands pulling at my legs, no feet in front of my face. Reach the first buoy, 1km done, getting into a rhythm now, soon I have gone through the corners and heading back to the shore.

I decide that it would be a good idea to have a pee in the water, though there is ages of swimming to go. Too stubborn to stop, so attempt to go on the go, as it were. Fail. I reach the beach, with the help of a volunteer pulling people out and stagger through a checkpoint and go back into the water. I know it must be only 1.4km to go now. Then only 600m. I try peeing again to save time on the surface and eventually manage it without stopping. Hooray!

Out of the water and into the transition area, change and go.

Start of the bike leg is cautious, trying to make sure I don’t burn myself out. After 35km it feels like my whole abdomen will seize, then thankfully there comes a nice long steep climb for me to concentrate on. Overtaking lots of people, pain disappears. Keep overtaking, uphill is clearly my forte. All our race numbers have first names on them too, so start to play a game against myself guessing the nationalities of other riders. The Tierrys and Gastons make it too easy though.

Uphill finished, rinse some gravity aided travelling, tucked in on the tri-bars, as fast as I have ever ridden, fantastic. Back to Nice. The final section is alongside the marathon route, with lots of people on it. It seems long considering I have to do the distance eight times. Shit.

Start running. There and back four times. I ran for almost a lap and a half then start walking with occasional runs. Got de-motivated by figuring that I could complete the course within the 16 hour limit if I walked the rest of the way. Coming back during lap 3 I decide that I should run again, to see what the time is at the end of the lap. Almost 12 hours. Decided to go for sub 13 and ignore all the burning in my legs. Found other people to follow as pace setters. Cross the line after 12:55:45. Elated."

Obviously, one wonders what calamity might have befallen Sion had he not had that Snickers bar for breakfast ... Stupendous achievement in my view. I cannot begin to imagine how one even thinks of doing this sort of thing, let alone how one actually does it...

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