Id finished the swim in a time of 1:23, 13 minutes down on my 2012 time, but the swim course here at Ironman wales is a sea swim so I was quite happy with that given the rough waters slowing me down, getting out of the water and running back to get on my bike I felt a numbness on my face and initially thought nothing of it. Once on the bike I felt the pain go from my face to my neck, as id just swam 2.4 miles i thought that maybe id been hit in the face?
It was a cold morning and ten miles into the bike section it started to rain hard, freezing cold rain, we were on a twisty downhill section when I heard a loud bang, followed by me losing control of the bike. Damn, a puncture in a Race.
My race bike has carbon wheels which generally use a type of Tyre known as tubular, they are actually glued onto the wheel in a process that usually takes 2 days for the glue to set, they are renowned for their puncture resistance, they don’t even have an inner tube and the whole tyre needs to be discarded and a new one put in its place.
I did have a spare tyre with me thankfully, so set about changing it. I think due to a combination of the cold temperature and rain the glue on the tyre had set to what felt like rock. I just could not detatch the tyre off the rim of the wheel. My hands were still cold from the swim and that numbness on my face was beginning to concern me now.
I needed some method of heating the tyre and glue up to get the tyre off, so I started walking. I found a house 1/2 mile up the road and knocked on the door and they boiled me a kettle of water.
Its always nice talking to people during the race, you are a bit of a rockstar when you race in an Ironman, its an amazing feeling, recounting the distances you are covering, the usual questions are.. “all in one day” , “where do you get changed” and my favorite, “but why?”
I carefully poured the water over the tyre and the tyre came off, but it completely removed all of the glue from the rim, this would mean that the new tyre would slip on the rim during breaking and might fall off during hard cornering.
Trying to put the cold new tyre on was an unbelievably hard effort, everything was cold and it was still raining. Then came the fun of pumping up the tyre to 140psi with a very small hand pump.
The house owners could now see my complete despair, it had been 40 minutes since the puncture happened, it must have been 500 people had got past, which put me near the back. Its heartbreaking, I was honestly on the verge of breaking out into a loud cry.
I think my face was going red trying to pump the tyre up when the lady of the house tried to help by bringing me a foot pump for an inflatable airbed, which in case you don’t know, wont work! but it made me laugh inside and lifted me, I had a tyre, a loose one anyway, and maybe I could finish this race.
I set off again, daring not to use my back brake and having to go slow around the corners, around a coastal route of wales, this was going to be a long tentative day, and it was, it was late afternoon when I finished the 112 mile bike route, not far from the cut off time when the organizers pull you from the race. at least the sun came out and I thought that the run could not go wrong. I was wrong, immediately after starting the run I had severe stomach ache, it was awful, it never went away. the late night revelers of Tenby were looking at me in pity as I staggered through the town on each of the 4 laps that make up the marathon, it got dark and started to rain again.
I finished a few minutes under 16 hrs, 3 hrs slower than my best effort the previous year.
It had been a long day, I collected my medal and went to bed, not realizing that id just accomplished something far greater than my previous races. I could have given up, but didn’t. That medal was mine.
I was later told that my neck and face pain was from being stung by a jellyfish.