Ironman Wales

Race Reports
Sunday 13th September 2015. 4am. My alarm goes off. And I'm instantly up, 
bolt upright. Today is the day I've been looking forward too as well as 
dreading since the day I signed up to it last December. The main reason I 
signed up to it in the first place was due to last year being a complete 
right off with having problems with my leg. No matter what I did, my leg was 
just not healing. But every athlete has their problems with injuries and set 
backs so I wasn't going to let this knock me down or put a stop to my 
running and goals. I heard that Ironman Wales was possibly going to be moved 
from Tenby to Cardiff and that this would be the last one. When I heard this 
I thought it would be a great goal to aim for and will give me a brilliant 
excuse to stop feeling sorry for myself and actually get out and get stuck 
into the training. This was all that was going through my mind as I was 
collecting all my stuff ready to make the walk from the caravan to the 
transition. I spent all of Saturday (the day before the race) checking and 
checking again, that I had everything ready for the race and everything the 
way I wanted it. I didn't want any excuses for something not going to plan! 
The walk was about 15-20 minutes. Felt a lot longer. And if I'm honest, I 
even got a bit emotional. Everything goes through your mind, the positives 
and the negatives. I knew deep down I did as much as I could training wise 
as well as having a new born and my other boy, also starting a new business 
and doing my best to get the mix right with it all. But I've never run a 
marathon before, I've only cycled over a 100 miles a couple of times and 
only swam 2.4 once. And that was in a pool! This was only going to be my 
second sea swim. So as you can imagine, the doubt was definitely playing on 
my mind. But I was happy that the rain was holding off, as I was keeping a 
keen eye on it the whole week building up to it and it said rain all day. 
But so far so good. After making it to transition and pulling myself 
together, I got to my bike and put all my gels and cereal bars onto my bike 
ready for the long ride ahead! I spent a good hour just going over my bike, 
pumping up the tyres and again, making sure there was no reason for it not to go 
smoothly. 6am, the 1km walk from transition to the beach commences. And now 
the nerves are really going and I just want to get started! I couldn't 
believe how many people were awake already and filling the streets. And it 
just got busier the closer I got to the start. Walked down the windy ramp 
and hung up my purple bag (has a second pair of trainers in it, ready for 
the 1km run back to transition) took a deep breath and walked towards my 
pen. I managed to do a sea swim a couple of months ago with Simon Norwood at 
the Ocean Lava triathlon and I managed to do around 38 minutes and it was 
half the distance. So I thought if I got into the 1 hour and 20 minute pen, 
I couldn't be far wrong. The sea was quite choppy but it could have been worse 
so I was again, a happy chappy first thing Sunday morning. 6:53am the Welsh 
national anthem plays, complete silence. I look around me and it's like I'm 
stood in an arena with people everywhere I look. 6:55 the pros are off! 7am 
the front of the age groupers make their way into the sea and its just a 
massive line of athletes jumping into the sea! As I'm running across the 
sand, I'm ready to go. I'm so pumped at this stage, I just want to give it 
everything and make all my family, friends and myself proud! I took the swim 
in six stages. One buoy at a time, and it was two laps. The first two buoys 
were wavy and then the swim back towards the beach was quick thanks to the 
waves carrying me back towards shore. One lap complete, I look at my time 
and for me, I seem to be well on target with a 36 minute lap! Feeling good 
and keen to get back round for the second lap so dive straight back in and 
crack on. The second lap was slightly slower at around 39 minutes. I didn't 
kick in the sea on the second lap, thought to myself I might benefit saving 
them for later on in the day and used my arms knowing they can have a rest 
on the bike straight after. I land back on the beach and I'm the only one 
who is taking off the wet suit on the beach. You can take it off as soon as 
you are out the water right up to when you get back into transition. But my 
tactic was just to get it off as soon as possible and try and dry off a bit 
before getting on the bike. Plus, I'd rather run 1km carrying a wetsuit 
than running in one! As I'm running through the crowds, I can hardly 
hear myself think. The support was out of this world and I've never really 
experienced anything like it before. I hear a "go Mark" from the crowd and 
see my family in the corner of my eye and give them a fist in the air. 1 
down, 2 to go. I'm always slow in transition but I'd rather be a minute 
slower than rush. 112 miles on the bike is going to take long enough. Never 
cycled that far in one go before and wanted to make sure I was ready to face 
it. Helmet and shoes on, I'm ready. I run to my bike and face the noisy 
crowd once again. Cycle through the town, give my family a smile and head 
off! I set myself a goal for the bike , and that was to do my best to keep 
the Garmin average pace over 28km per hour during the ride. Luckily I had a 
week down in Tenby before the race and I knew the first hour of the route as 
I've ridden it twice during the week. I knew it was possible to start fast and 
just try and maintain it for as long as I could. The first 2 hours were 
going to plan. A couple of hills but nothing my training hasn't covered. I'm 
keeping an average of 30km an hour and feeling good. Was taking a bottle of 
water at every feed station and wanted to make sure I stayed hydrated as I 
knew from speaking to others, that you are eating and drinking ready for the 
marathon that was waiting once this 112 miles in the saddle was over. I got 
to 90km, the half way point and then that's when the hilly course kicked in. 
The second half of the bike leg was relentless. If you weren't going up, you 
were going down. And the ups were hard work! And just before all of this, 
again I see my family, my very own support crew, outside Kiln Park (where we 
were stopping) shouting and screaming my name. As I passed them I punched 
the air with delight as I felt strong and I was going well. Seeing them all 
got me emotional again. Crying up the hill back out of Tenby, trying to pull 
myself together. It meant a lot seeing them all stood there. I was actually 
doing this and and so far so good. Completing the race was getting closer 
and closer. Managed to calm myself down and concentrate back to the race 
plan. Head down and spin the miles out. They have their very own "heart 
break hill" and this one is 16% and goes for about half a mile. And you do 
it twice! I had to do a zig zag method to get myself up the hill as it was 
too steep for me to go in a straight line! And it was also from this point 
that my chain was coming off. It came off about 6-7 times in total during 
the race. I was advised to get a new chain ready for the race and it was the 
first time I've been out on it. No idea why it kept coming off, it could have 
been because it was new and needed "bedding in" or because I put too much 
oil on it but it seemed to be every time I went to the lowest gear at the 
bottom of each hill it would come off. So after it came off several times, I 
found a technique to stop it happening and still manage to get to the bottom 
gear. I had to get to the highest gear possible, drop the front cog to the 
smallest and then work the back from top to bottom and do this before I hit 
the bottom of a hill ready to get myself up it. Didn't mind doing this as it 
was working and didn't mean I had to keep stopping. Also, no idea how many 
times is normal to stop on the bike section when doing 112 miles but I 
stopped 3 times to take a leak! I knew i was taking enough water on board as 
I didn't think I would stop more than once. I thought I'm better off being 
safe rather than sorry. Other athletes couldn't believe I taped 8 cereal 
bars to my stem on the bike. But I wish I taped more on! I got to 5 hours on 
the bike as I was out of food. So I now had to stop for food as well as 
water at the feed stations. Which again I didn't mind as I knew I would 
need the energy. Another hill I have to mention is in Saundersfoot. Again it 
was a 16%, if not more hill climb. But this one is special. It was like 
something off the Tour de France when you watch it on television. There is a 
tiny gap between hundreds of people, screaming and shouting and making as 
much noise as possible. You forget that you've already done a swim and 
plenty of miles on the bike before hitting this hill. You get a massive 
boost of energy and adrenaline and from nowhere I smash this hill. All 
thanks to the supporters. No lie. It was special all day but Saundersfoot 
was another level. And then it was downhill for a mile or two back into 
Tenby, ready for lap two! Coming back to transition was a lovely feeling. 
The cycle was nearly finished and it was time to get myself mentally 
prepared for a marathon. The last mile on the bike I took nice and slowly. 
No real reason why, just wanted my legs to get ready for some running so used 
the downhill into Tenby to my advantage and stretched my legs, loosen the 
shoulders and shake my arms out. Got off the bike and ran into transition. I 
did the bike leg in 6:31 hours. I was shocked and over the moon with that 
time. And wasn't completely knackered. Which is the main thing, or else it 
would be a long 26 miles. A lovely middle age lady volunteer sits me down 
and makes sure I'm okay. Asks me if I want anything and she would get me it. 
I took my helmet and shoes off and put my running trainers on and put the 
cycle gear in the transition bag and handed it to the lovely lady. She gave 
me a hug and said "go do yourself proud." Might sound daft but at the time 
of the race hearing that is exactly what you want to hear. A stranger has 
complete faith in you that you can go out there and get the job done. I 
shook her hand and said thank you, and replied "I'm off to make my family 
proud now!" And with that being said I ran out of the tent to all the 
shouting and screaming again. The first mile or two my legs were like jelly 
and felt heavy. But calmed myself down, got into a pace and rhythm I was 
happy with and kept with it. It was 4 laps. Full of hills and horrible 
straight roads where you run to a cone and back down the straight road 
again. Was brutal. But the miles were ticking away one by one. Funnily 
enough I saw customers of mine who have come to me for carpets. They were at 
the half way point. They cheered me on every lap, and again seeing them also 
gave me a boost. They were stood right at the point where you get the colour 
bands to represent how many laps you did. Running is my strongest 
discipline. I spent the whole run picking off people. It helped me get 
through it. Nothing better than passing people, better than being passed! I 
even ran past Oliver Simon, a pro! He was walking on his final lap. Not 
every day you are running faster than a pro during part of a race. Get to 
the 4th and final lap, I see my family again, take a sip of the flat coke 
that's supplied and punched the air and shouted "SUB 12 ON THE WAY!!!" At 
this point I'd been on the go for 10:45 hours and I knew something terrible 
had to happen to stop me reaching this goal. I had 6.5 miles left to run. 
The hairs on my neck stood up, I put my head down and dug deep. My left knee 
was starting to burn, it was playing up the week before doing the race but I 
wasn't going to make a big fuss of it as there was no way I wasn't going to 
get the job done. My left ankle is starting to swell from all the pounding 
on the Welsh roads. Passed my customers at 3 miles to go, gave them a high 
5, thanked them for their support and cracked on. Get back into Tenby, 1 
mile to go. The crowds are getting louder and louder as they can see you are 
on the home straight. That and they've been drinking all day! Can't blame them. 
I see the carpet. The pain disappears. It feels like a dream. You are 
running down the carpet with the supporters going nuts and all you hear is 
"MARK LAMONBY, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" I've been dreaming of hearing those 
words for 10 months. I cross the line. I'm too tired to see the time I did 
it in. The mayor of Tenby tells me my time and shakes my hand and says "get 
in!" I get into the recovery tent, and I ate anything I could get my hands 
on. Ginger cake, fruit, pizza and pretzels. As much as I could eat. I 
shuffle to claim my finishers t shirt and head on out to see the family. I 
was so happy to see them, again got emotional. I couldn't thank them enough 
for supporting me throughout the day. Not only for supporting me from the 
crack of dawn and following me round all day, but for the whole build up to 
getting me on the start line in the first place. You can't do an event like 
this on your own. It's a team effort. And I'm lucky enough to have a great 
team behind me. I had high hopes for myself and like to set goals that seem 
stupid at the time, but, if you don't have stupidly hard goals to reach it 
wouldn't be fun trying to reach them. For example, I was doubting whether I 
could complete the race 12 hours beforehand. And I would never have believed 
that I would do it in 11:38 hours. Not in a million years. But I did. I'm a 
sub 12 hour ironman Wales athlete. And it feels good! I'm already thinking 
to myself, 40 minutes quicker and it would be good enough for me to qualify 
for Kona! The World Cup of ironman. So goal 1: get myself into a GB vest. 
Goal 2: get myself to Kona. Stupidly hard goals? Time will tell Smiling face with smiling eyesThumbs up sign.

3 thoughts on “Ironman Wales

  1. Well done Mark, that was amazing. I hope you are recovering and are having a well deserved rest this week. I am sure you will achieve your goals, you are definitely determined enough!

  2. Fantastic performance, Mark, and a brilliant write-up – even a flinty old northerner like me was becoming emotional reading your report. You are a star.

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