Ironman Wales as seen by an Ironwife!

There’s something special about Ironman Wales.

Vickie and Dai Woodsford are a husband and wife team in many senses of the word.  They work together running a dental practice and in supporting each others fitness goals, competing in personal challenges. Below is a guest blog from Vickie on her Husband’s performance at IronMan Wales – Tenby 2014. 

There’s something special about Ironman Wales.  I’ve been to many an Mdot event, a Challenge or 2 and non-franchise iron distance events like The Outlaw.  Whilst they all have their merits, there’s no denying Ironman Wales has a certain “Je ne sais quoi”!

Being semi-iron myself (needed to drop that one in) I felt far more part of the whole weekend this time around, though I resisted entering the chopper “finishers shirt one-upmanship” competition.  There weren’t many Everest Marathon finishers t-shirts about so frankly I won anyway (sorry – had to drop that one in too – iron-inferiority complex – all about the ironmen now, I promise)!

Driving down on Friday afternoon, the bike porn on the M4 setting the tone for the weekend and getting us both in the “race face” mindset.  Why on earth does she need her game face on I hear you ask?!  Iron spectating/supporting is a skill in itself.  It requires the stamina of an ox, the planning skills of a battalion commander and the 3 pit stops to charge your iphone!

On arrival we dumped our stuff and headed down to the beach for a recce swim.  I joined in with this despite my reservations about the dinner plate sized jellyfish pics that had been doing the rounds on twitter.  What a beautiful evening.  The sea was rolling, fairly warm and thankfully stinger free!

Saturday it all kicks off.  The ironmen and women register in their droves and head down to the enormous transition to rack bikes and hang up kit bags.  There’s not an awful lot an ironwife can help with at this point and experience has taught me to keep a low profile when the stress levels ascend.  So leaving the 4 competitors in our cottage with re-heating instructions for the lunch I’d made, I spent a most enjoyable Saturday cycling part of the bike route and spending the afternoon in the pub!  Dai (my ironman) has raced Wales before and I know how hard it is.  I’ve cycled the route before and have died a pedally death on those relentless hills but Saturday’s ride brought home to me just how tough a course this really is.

Race morning – alarm call at 5am.  Ironmen (and women) off to transition for last minute tinkering then back to the house for essential coffee, pit stops and wetsuit wrestling.  Having so many friends racing makes the race morning ambience electric but in a fun, banter kind of a way.  So much more relaxed than when you’re pulling on the neoprene alone.  They were ready to be iron, they were off!

Down to the swim start.  Atmosphere indescribable!  The voice of Ironman, Paul Kaye, building the anticipation and excitement amongst crowd and competitors alike.  I came over all unnecessary and emotional as the klaxon sounded!

You can’t see an awful lot in the swim.  Everyone looks the same in their wetsuits, although Dai is notable for his Grizzly Adams beard, so after enjoying the spectacle for a few minutes it was time to hot foot it across Tenby, put the kettle on and take a cuppa to T1.  Cottage position is all-important for this race!  We were able to loiter a mere 5m from our front door!

Into T1 – out again, onto the bike.  His strength, so I can relax a bit.  There’s a 6-hour hiatus at this point where all you can do is keep your fingers crossed and keep refreshing the screen on the iphone tracker – then recharge its unbelievably crappy battery!  So after watching all the other 13 friends we had racing safely on to the bike, it was time for a bit of socialising, brekkie and warming up!

A fab hour spent seeing them all crack through Tenby on the way out for the 2nd bike loop and like groundhog day, it was back to T2 for bike in, run out.  That’s when all the fun begins as an Ironwife and by fun I mean the enormous stress and sweating!

Coming out of T2 Dai was all smiles and whilst he went out and back to who knows where, I took my opportunity to set up my run position at Cr@p Towers.  For those of you that haven’t heard of the triathlon club sensation sweeping South Wales, Dai and I are proud members of the most fun Tri club there ever was. Cr@p tri is where its at for fun and camaraderie in your racing.

The support on Cr@p corner was sensational, the guys had painted Tenby pink (much to the dismay of the locals), we were cheering and ringing cowbells like Netherlanders on the Dutch Corner of Alpe d’Huez!

“He looks really strong” one of the cr@pppers remarked.  “Do you think so?” I answered “oh good”.  Unfortunately I suspected something was up.  I’ve been watching Dai run for many moons now and I could see he didn’t look comfortable.  He has a nasty habit of smashing the first half of an Ironman marathon and somewhat fading in the second, so I hoped at this point he was merely being tactical and sensible.  That’s what I hoped, so very much.

By lap 3 it became clear my suspicions were spot on.  The wheels had come off.   As I flippantly declared “We’re hitting Bognor Regis rather than the Big Island next year”, inside I was devastated for my Ironman.  Dai is beyond dedicated to this sport.  He trains hard, never coasts, never misses a session, never moans about tiredness or aching and so, in my (admittedly biased) mind he deserved a result that reflected his effort.

Ironman is a cruel mistress in that when something goes wrong it’s nigh on irretrievable and hours rack up before your very eyes.  Nevertheless, finish he did, with a smile on his face, high fiving all the waiting hands along the finishing chute (except mine – we’ve had words).  He was surprisingly philosophical about the whole thing, knows what went wrong (fuelling/nutrition) and has taken it as a valuable lesson.  I doubt (I know) I wouldn’t have been so sensible in the face of the same situation!  Still, he’s not beaten, next year is already booked and paid for!  Roll on Tenby 2015!