At the weekend, Newport & District Running Club’s Lauren Turley took on her first Ironman Triathlon, a huge undertaking for anyone to attempt for the first time. Here, she tells us about it in her own words:
I’m no triathlete. I’ve been scared of the deep end of the pool all my life, I can ride a bike, albeit not very quickly; but I am a runner. With that in mind I decided to go for a life goal this year of an Ironman triathlon: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run. I picked the only UK Ironman branded event – one of the toughest and slowest courses in Europe and apparently the world. All very sensible so far…
Training went well, taking up large chunks of any free time I had outside work, fitting it in at each end of the day. I re-learned how to swim, and avoided getting eaten by sharks at Alderford Lake (after 20 minutes of refusing to put my head under water and do anything but breaststroke). The longest swim in training was 2.4 miles, the longest ride was 100 and the run was 20. Thankfully I got these done before getting struck with a cold two weeks before. Panic really set in about whether I’d make it, but I took time off work and rested, going from doing a 17-hour training week to nothing for 6 days.
Then, very unexpectedly, I had to say goodbye to my incredible, loyal companion Ollie. You might have noticed him: the Clumber Spaniel plodding around Newport with me on walks. I suddenly felt there wasn’t any point to everything I had been doing, and still cannot believe what happened now. But I didn’t quit, I would do it for him. I turned up in Bolton on the 2nd July, registered, picked up my “I will become one” wristband, racked up the bike in T1 (transition zone 1) and tried my best (despite zero appetite) to eat some carbs. I should probably mention at this point that my partner Zach was also doing this with me!
A 3am alarm on Sunday 3rd July, some porridge and a shuttle bus to Pennington flash for the swim start. Not sure there will be more occasions that I’ll walk through a town centre wearing a wetsuit at that time of day… I stood in the start pens, absolutely terrified; the buoys marking the turning point on the two-loop swim course seemed to be so far away, and swimming in a melee with others around me had been worrying me the whole way through this. But AC/DC came on the sound system and that was it; off I belly-flopped into the water. I stayed wide of the pack the whole way around, and did the same on the second lap.
I came out with my limbs intact and shuffled to T1, where I wriggled out of my wetsuit and grabbed my bike. Then it was time for a scenic tour of Bolton and the surrounding moors on two wheels. To say it was lumpy was an understatement, but I had done a recce ride of one loop of the course a couple of months previously and knew I needed to take it steady. I spun my legs in the lowest gear up most of the hills, being overtaken a lot of the time, but it kept my legs as fresh as they could be for the next task. 3 loops is a little demoralising but the support on course from spectators and volunteers was amazing, and by the final lap I felt ready to run.
I donned my Nikes and sped off far too quickly, something that always happened on my brick runs in training, I presume from the bike cadence. After a 7-minute mile I decided I ought to slow it down a bit. There were aid stations (again with amazing volunteers) roughly 1.5 miles apart, and I chose to walk through pretty much each one for 30-60 seconds to pick up water, Gatorade and gels. The run course was described as hilly but to me it seemed more like a 1.5 mile gradual incline, descending back again with a 3 mile town run in the middle. 4 laps, however, was mentally challenging.
As I expected, the 3rd was the hardest, knowing I’d still got to do it again. By the time the final lap came I was still overtaking folks (a lot of people spent half the time walking, which seems a pretty sensible strategy to me, but being able to overtake really motivated me!). I picked up the pace for the final half mile and almost managed a sprint finish to the words “Lauren Turley, you are an Ironman!”. I finished in a time of 13hr46, slower than I had anticipated but by that point it didn’t matter, I did it.
I feel so lucky to have finished; 28% of those that started didn’t make it to the finish line whether it was mechanical issues on the bike, injury or not meeting the cut off times for each leg. I had a picture of Ollie in my tri-suit pocket, visible to everyone and he carried me through. The experience was incredible, and I’d do another, just maybe not that course! Or perhaps I should be sensible and try a half distance… but for now, back to running (when I can move properly).