The day I became a Viking…

Early morning on the day of Ironman Haugesund they updated their social media to say “don’t worry about the weather forecast, water temperature or thunder… A true Viking conquers everything”…

And really this trip has been one big adventure, filled with adversity so I feel like I have well and truly earned my Viking status!

I flew out on Friday 28th June, had a very easy morning by all accounts, made my flight in plenty of time, had breakfast at the airport, got chatting to some other participants on the plane… All good. Made the connecting flight in Oslo no problem! The arrived in Haugesund, bike was brought out! Winning! Seeing my bike arrive is always a huge moment of relief… Then waited for my case… And waited… And waited… No case!!!

I always pack my race essentials in my hand luggage- wetsuit, trainers etc, things you couldn’t really race without… But on this occasion I didn’t… I was travelling solo and didn’t want a 3rd piece of luggage to deal with so my race kit went in my main suitcase… Then my main suitcase didn’t make it to Haugesund when I did!

Spoke to the airline rep at the airport, she took my details and would try to find it! By the time all this was done there were no more taxis at the airport! But there was a bus… But I had no cash and the airport was tiny and didn’t have a cash machine! I was super grateful to a guy I met on the flight, as he waited with me to try and find my luggage and bought me a bus ticket so I could still get into town!

Headed to the Expo to register and spoke to one of the Ironman team leaders to try and work out a plan for what I would do if my race kit didn’t arrive! He spoke to a lovely lady from a local tri club and she agreed that if my kit didn’t arrive she would arrange for me to borrow a wetsuit and tri suit from the local club… not ideal as I had packed full changes of clothes for each stage but it was a really generous offer and would mean I could still start the race, I would just need to buy trainers, race belt etc…

I spent the evening building my bike and stressing about my lack of kit… I also went to sleep still wearing the previous days contact lenses and make up as all spares and toiletries were in my case!

I got up on Saturday having been awake most of the night and called the hotel reception to see if my kit had arrived… Sadly not… I was pretty stressed by now and had an awful headache, this wasn’t how I had wanted my race prep to go.

A little while later I headed down to breakfast and asked the receptionist for she would kindly call the baggage company and see if they had located my case yet. They had!!!! It had made it to Haugesund and would be delivered within the next hour! I nearly cried! I was so relieved!!!

Case turned up about 9am! I was so excited! I packed my transition bags and then headed to the race briefing. After the briefing I took my bike out for a test ride… All was working well, then I had a nap to make up for not sleeping the night before.

Later in the afternoon I headed to rack my bike and kit bags, met up with a few other UK based athletes and we all had dinner together!

Alarm set for 4.30 I had an early night!

Up in the morning, had some breakfast – unusual for me as usually I struggle to eat on race morning but I was surprisingly calm?! Maybe all the previous stress had meant I had no more stress left!

Headed down to the swim start on the shuttle bus, the morning was gorgeous and the lake looked lovely as the sun rose… Really calm and still… Sadly this was not illustrative of the day to come!

Lined up for the swim start and headed down to the lake. There was no water acclimatisation allowed and this worried me a bit as I don’t cope very well with cold water and it usually takes me a while to acclimatise, but there was nothing I could do other than head into the water with the other athletes and hope for the best…

The water was cold, but actually not as cold as I had been expecting. I should have swapped my goggles lenses for clear ones, as by now a storm was heading in and everything was dark. I panicked, struggling to get used to the water temp, I couldn’t get my breathing sorted, everything was too dark, the water was gloomy, I kept trying to get into my stroke, then panicking and doing breaststroke with my head above the water… Other swimmers went past, I tried again, I couldn’t do it… I looked around for a water safety marshal, I didn’t think I’d be able to settle my breathing was erratic, I wanted to get out… The safety kayaks were too far away for me to easily get their attention and I didn’t want to give off the impression of being in danger, I kept trying to get swimming, and eventually just before the first turn buoy about 800mtrs in I settled into my swim stroke and got moving ok, time to get this swim done!

Then all of a sudden bright flashes came over the lake, it was disorientating, and took me a few minutes to realise it was the lightning from a thunderstorm causing the flashes… Then it started to rain, really heavily, massive rain drops that bounced into the lake and off my body.

At the closing and awards ceremony today the race organisers said this is the first time in 8yrs working on an Ironman event in Haugesund that he has had to deal with a thunderstorm and lightning! He said he was watching the storm and was about to make the call to get all athletes out of the water when the storm passed over. Only to return later when the bike leg was underway.

Out of the swim, I got fully changed into bike kit, but I’m not really sure why I bothered?! I didn’t stay dry for long at all. The roads were already very wet from the storm during the swim… then shortly into the bike leg a new storm arrived. More thunder, more lightning and more bouncy torrential rain! This rain hurt when it hit your skin, the roads turned into rivers, and the turns and descents became slippery! Oh joy! By about 30miles in I was tired, soaked, cold and not having the best time, I got off at a feed station and went to the toilet, but I had to get moving again quickly as I was so cold! The first lap of the bike passed too slowly for my liking, the course would be beautiful in nice weather I am sure, but in the wind and the rain I was not having fun, down one descent that went over a bridge over open water at the bottom I was talking to myself out loud as I struggled with my bike handling… telling myself the wind was forecast to reduce in the afternoon and the 2nd lap couldn’t possibly be as scary as the first…

And actually I quite enjoyed the first 40 miles of lap 2, the wind was less aggressive and the torrential rain had stopped with only minor sections of drizzle, there were also less athletes around as the 70.3 group had done their lap and the roads were quite empty making the cycle easier. I got off the bike briefly at an aid station at about 70miles, just to stamp my feet a bit (they had lost feeling in the cold and the wet) and I ate a bag of mini cheddars I had had in my jersey – all the nutrition I had put in my bento box had soaked to mush and was inedible!

At about 90miles I was struggling… I haven’t done much long distance training this year, the cold and the course was starting to take its toll on me… Once again talking out loud I told me legs to get moving! Not long left on the bike… But I really did find this last section tough.

When I got off the bike I felt rough… I hadn’t eaten or drunk enough, largely as I had been holding on to my bike for dear life in the wind and rain, and also because the course had plenty of turns, ups and downs, there weren’t really many ideal roads for snacking!

My 2nd transition took a while… my hands were blue and had swollen massively, knuckles had turned white. I put on long running leggings and a long sleeved base layer… I hadn’t come this far to get pulled out of the run with hypothermia! I took a peanut cereal bar from my transition bag and walked towards the run course hoping my legs would come back to life soon. I walked the first 2km very steadily, trying to eat my bar and get moving…

Eventually I managed to start marching at a brisker pace and tried jogging down and declines and walking the uphill bits… 4 laps to go on the run course! My walk felt far more efficient than my run so I marched! Hand up as high as I could trying to get some of the swelling to go down! I saw some of the athletes I had had dinner with the night before and it was fab to have friendly faces out on course… I was managing to cover 5 miles per hour with my fast walking strategy so I decided this was quick enough, I would rather finish having walked the run, than try to run it and not finish. Although miles 15-24 definitely felt like a very very long way!!!

What felt like forever later (but actually only 14hrs 38mins since I started) I was running under the finishers arch and could not have been prouder to get that medal!