Stealing a phrase from Juliet Elliott 'if there's fun lurking in the pain', you almost certainly find it in spades at Wimbleball. Having grown up on Dartmoor, the extreme nature of this Ironman event had always appealed.
I had shied away from such corporate branded events for sometime. They seemed too much about the commerce and not enough about the individuals. Preferring less obvious events such as Cotswold 113 & Monster Racing where you find enthusiasm for personal triumphs at all levels. A club mate concerned she wouldn't make a cut off time at Cotswolds emailed an enquiry recently and received an atypical response from a race director - 'as long as you don't stop for a Sunday lunch we'll be here for your finish'. Happy to say I am returning with almost half the Hoddesdon Tri Club in 2016.
So why Ironman 70.3 Wimbleball? Fear & curiousity. Mention entering this race and you get 'Oh' in response. Followed by - you have been to Exmoor?! Answer yes, the Endurance Life Coastal Race and I still have vertigo. But that is often what I am looking for, a race that I will fear and respect in order to knuckle down and get the best out of the training. Doing something you didn't think you would be capable of.
In an abject failure of my pledge to stay upright, a crash at London Triathlon wiped out a few weeks of swim training (I ran out of talent on a damp corner, hit the tarmac and gained an extra stamp on my St Johns loyalty card.) It also knocked my confidence back on descents, corners in fact anything but climbing in the wet. So Wimbleball delivered on 50% good times!
So I approached the race trying to avoid the IRONMAN tents, hype, athlete swagger and keep a lid on my nerves at lack of preparation. But I admit the atmosphere was electric and infectious. It was clear the respect for the course, and I knew how good it would feel if I could make it. And god it delivered.
The torrential rain I had feared came, and at least that encouraged me into the lake. Mass swim start was scrappy but I kept out of trouble. And straight out of the 1.9km swim and 'Welcome to Exmoor' it's the 400m sprint to T1! The bike was twitchy due my previous crash - I got a few sympathetic cheers of encouragement on the steep descents and was never so keen for the crushing climbs. My hands froze nervously to the handlebars in the wild conditions. 56 miles of some serious internal dialogue to woman the f up. But it was all possible knowing that my club would be online stalking - just waiting for that timing chip to show I was in safe off the bike leg. And thanks to hanging back on the bike my legs were grateful for it on the run. And here I defrosted. There were some dark times on this half marathon but pretty sure I made one guys' race handing him a spare Jaffa Cake. Yep I was damn happy with the fuelling strategy - Ella's fruit pouches to start, coconut water, flat coke, bounce balls, cliff shot blocks and then the long chain short chain complex carb beauty that is the Jaffa.
And the atmosphere as we raced into 6 hours+ was awesome. Different to all my recent racing this was all about finishing, and nothing about personal bests. And it was a huge tonic. I came in just over 7 hours, and over 1h30+ a regular half ironman but ecstatic. This race hurt, and I loved it.
Now what the hell do I find to replace this? Or am I going to have to go back?