In Part 1 yesterday, uniquely successful Olympic and World Champion athlete Rebecca Romero recounts details of her Ironman debut. Here she takes us all the way through to the conclusion of this gruelling experience…
As I approached the 112th mile and second transition of the bike section I was hugely relieved. I’d spent nearly 5hrs 45mins in the aero position and my body was screaming at me to get off and straighten up. In transition I realised that I was bent over and pretty much stuck in bike position.
I slumped on a chair reluctant to do anything in a hurried fashion and braced myself for the fact that the run was going to feel rather uncomfortable for a while! . Having stopped, tiredness crept in and the enormity of the next section began to dawn on me. “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to do this” I whimpered in despair to the volunteers who were helping me with my bags. As I let out a big sigh and trotted off to run a marathon they raised my spirits by telling me I’d do great!RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Journey To Become Ironman
Gradually I felt my back straighten up and my legs began to loosen. My body expressing relief it was doing something other than hunching over handle bars. For the first few miles I skipped along at a comfortable pace. But I was hugely uncomfortable with a bloated, painful stomach and feelings of nausea.
It was to be expected as it’s hard to consume the quantities of fluid and food that’s needed and digest it whilst doing exercise. My body was making sure I didn’t force anything else down it by making me feel ill. Ideally, during the first hour of the run I should have been taking in lots of energy and fluid but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t feel like I was lacking in energy so I made the decision to consume nothing more until I felt better.
It wasn’t until the 6th mile that I started to feel more comfortable and resumed a steady intake of energy gels and water. By this point my pace was no longer comfortable. The course had taken us along a canal and up a super steep hill which I pretty much had to crawl over the crest. It was like someone had taken a sledge hammer to my legs. ‘Bang’ – they blew big time and their working capacity was reduced by about 25%!
There was still a huge distance to go but I tried not to think about it. My legs were only capable of doing what they were doing, I had no control over making them go harder and I accepted my slower pace. In order to protect my hip which I feared would be my main limitation and prevent me from reaching the finish, I ran with a shortened, higher stride rate. The feeling for most of the run was not a feeling of propelled running, but more of a ridiculous shuffle which at times felt like my feet were barely leaving the ground. But I was going to do whatever I had to do to keep going whilst being sensible about my pace. Crossing the finish line in a slow time was preferable to trying to run faster, which would only gain me a few minutes, but jeopardize finishing at all.
Waves of bad patches came along which required a lot of focus and concentration to battle through. During easier moments it was nice to focus on the masses of spectators who lined the course and carried us through the run. Exchanging words, shouts or waves of encouragement with other competitors and spectators spurred me on and helped distract from the fact I was running a marathon! The real struggle came in the last 6 miles.
By that point you’ve come so far and the end is in sight, but there’s still a huge amount of effort required which, by this stage, feels exponentially harder. My overwhelming memory of closing in on the finish on this Ironman event was of feeling no pleasure or delight whatsoever! Trance like, as I placed one foot in front of the other in a bid to get closer and closer to the finish line, my thoughts went to those many people who had exhibited great adoration for this epic endurance event.
I thought of those athletes who had seemingly developed an addiction to Ironman having completed multiple (up to 14 in one case) Ironmans in their lifetimes. “WHAT is fun about this?” I thought to myself. “WHY would anybody want to do this again and again?” I vowed right then and there with increasing intensity as each mile passed, that I would certainly never be doing another Ironman ever again. In fact I vowed I’d never ever set any more physical or athletic challenges again.
I began day dreaming of a normal weekend where I would no longer be forcing myself to go out training, but instead have a warm and cosy breakfast in bed, reading the papers and operating at an altogether more leisurely pace. Aaaah bliss! The thought of the finish line representing my passage from dedicated, goal-driven athlete to ordinary lay-about spurred me on.
The Finish Line
I thought the finish line would never come, but when it finally did it was exhilarating! Suddenly the pain and the lack of energy dissipated and extreme joy and elation hit me as I rounded the final corner and ran up the finishing carpet high five-ing the crowd. I had done it. I had completed an Ironman.
I heard the announcer shout those special words “You are an Ironman” and I raised my arms in celebration as I ran under the finish clock reading 11hrs10mins. What a fantastic end to this challenge which I’d only started seven months previously armed only with an intention and a total inability to swim or run properly.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to complete it let alone finish it in a respectable time. Completing it in this way and seeing the hundreds of other competitors achieve their dream too shows the Ironman motto ‘Anything is Possible’ really is true.
Never Say Never
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt however, is to never say ‘never’. Ironically, after celebrating my achievement and eagerly embracing a life of bacon and eggs in bed and a stroll down to the pub for a Sunday lunch, followed by a rewarding afternoon snooze, the dream bubble of my new life of sloth and comfort was resoundingly burst… It turned out I’d finished the Ironman 6th overall and 2nd in my age group. This has qualified me for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii! But what an opportunity and what an honour to have a participation slot to take part in the biggest and most coveted Ironman event in the world. So my aspiration of lazy, hazy Sunday afternoons were to be put on hold for a while longer as one final collossal effort was was demanded from my body!
To read Never say Never. My first Ironman! Part 1
Read more from WatchFit Expert Rebecca Romero.