Double Iron weekend
This time last year I entered the triple continuous Enduroman (triple ironman) and went into it with a colossal amount of training under my belt. I hadn't long finished my 30 half ironman distance triathlons in 30 days so I was fit as fiddle and my body was well and truly conditioned to the task ahead. It was a tough but enjoyable 54 hours of non-stop movement and I was very happy to take 3rd place.
I enjoyed the event that much I decided to enter the double this year as they weren't putting a triple event on but even if they did I think it still would have done the double just to do something different. I’ve done a double distance iron before up in Snowden for the Double Brutal but that really is on another level when it comes to toughness well, the clue is in the title…….Brutal, and that’s exactly what it was.
The double continuous Enduroman is also tough & brutal, these thing aren’t meant to be easy; it is based at Avon Tyrell in the new forest which is a perfect setting for the event. Like last year the weather was absolutely perfect but running up to the event it was touch and go whether it would be raining with 20mph winds but thankfully the conditions were just right. The thought of doing a double ironman in howling winds, rain and cold doesn't sound appealing in the slightest but then I guess it makes you even more of an ironman for sticking it out.
Friday morning I woke at 5am and my head was going 100mph knowing that I had to remember lots of things to pack for the weekend. For those who know me that’s a big task as I forget everything. One thing at a time now Pritchard boy, food and nutrition first, then swim stuff, bike stuff blah blah and strangely enough it all started to come together nicely. I have big plastic boxes, which separate each discipline so I know what’s in what box as I label each one that way it keeps it more organised. I have smaller plastic boxes for my nutrition, medical and electrical stuff. I know it all may sound a bit anal but from experience of going to these events if you’re not organised your hire van on the way home will have stuff thrown all over the place with half eaten food, wet wetsuits and towels, lost phone chargers etc and when arriving home holding on for dear life because of the state of your body the last thing you want to do is clean up a van. To be honest you don't even want to clean out the back of the van even when it’s organised because you’re in that much of a mess but it has to be done, tri kit and bikes ain’t cheap so everything must be looked after.
I was ready, my kit was ready and all I had to do was pick up the hire van and pick up my brother who very kindly agreed to support me for the weekend and drive me to and from the event. Driving home from an Endurance event is NOT a good idea especially when you've been up for hours on the go, its quite simply a recipe for disaster so always get someone to drive you home or stay at a hotel for the night.
We left Cardiff just in time to get to Avon Tyrell for registry at 7pm and to check into the manor house so I could get my head down and get some sleep as I wasn't going to be getting any for a while.
Saturday morning my alarm was set for 6.30am (I never set alarms because I don't sleep very much and usually awake at 4/5am but just incase) and we went down to the van, which was parked in the perfect spot for the bike & run loops and we started to get things ready for the 9am swim start. My head at this point is all over the shop loosing things, remembering things, panic, nerves and butterflies of the many hours of fun & games that was awaiting me. The most important thing for me before any of these events is food & nutrition. I had a massive helping of Huel, bananas and 45 mins before the off a load of pre-kadged and I was ready to go.
We made our way down to the lake, bumping into familiar faces from last year’s event and various other endurance events saying our hello’s and starting to get ready. At this point I was excited and nervous in a good way and always a little emotional too. There was a long road ahead and it began here, I got a hug off my brother to wish me luck and dive bombed into the 13 deg water. I normally just slowly dip in to get used to it but why prolong the pain………get on with it. The countdown started and off we went for 4.8 miles of swimming. It’s not like your average ironman start swim where there are thousands of people trying to swim over you, getting booted in the nose and near enough experiencing what it’s like to drown (laughter). There were 19 of us so the start was rather pleasant and there was no fighting for position because lets face it your in there for 4.8 miles so there’s plenty of time to find your pace and position. I felt pretty good in the water, swallowed a bit mind but I felt comfortable and only really started to feel a little tired for the last 5 laps. I stopped twice to re-fuel with some Huel and a banana and before I knew it I was out.
We walked up to the van to go and get ready for the bike. I had a wetsuit on over a hooded vested wetsuit and I was still cold and shivering but at the same time trying to dry myself properly to slip all my bike lycra on to get going. You know that feeling when your skins damp and tight bike kit just doesn't slip on properly anymore and its just a fight to get dressed??? Well, it was a bit like that except in a car park and in a rush to get going.
Eventually I was kitted up and ready to spend quite a few hours in the saddle for the 224 mile journey which consisted of 11 mile laps. You leave base (where the timing matt, office, crew are) by riding over the timing matt (we have timing chips on our ankles) and head out into the new forest for an 11 mile loop then cycle back in and over the matt again and back off for another lap until you've completed the 224 miles.
I love cycling and I’d say it’s most probably my strongest discipline at the moment and what with a new bike and wheels I was really looking forward to my time in the saddle. After riding the course last year I really like it and this year the only slow part of the course was the first downhill section into Burley because of a head wind but the rest of the course was fine. After swimming for two and a half hours it does take a while to get your bike legs back to normal and I’d say it took me a good 2 laps before I started to feel comfortable and ready to put some power into those pedals. I’d also arranged to meet Trigg (my brother) after two laps at base to fuel up. We had the perfect set up, I’d come cycling through and shout my brothers name as he had the van window open and by the time I’d gone over the timing matt and making my way out onto the course he’d be there with my food that I’d asked for then I’d hit the road. Every 11 miles at base I’d eat something, which is VERY important. These endurance competitions are also eating competitions because if you don't eat then you wont be going very far, it’s like driving a car on no petrol or oil. Feed regularly and good food too helps a great deal. My choice of food for my bike ride was a mixture of bananas, Huel, Primal pantry bars, dates, avocados and my liquids were In-Kadged and Hydro-charge from Kadged muscle supps and I found the above choices perfect for me. In the past I always had the “I’ll be ok” attitude to having food on the go and every time paid the price and ‘bonked’. This was the first event where I ate a decent amount of food at every lap of my cycle so much so I almost went through a whole bag of Huel.
I’m charged and I’m in the zone, my mind is full of positive thoughts, at one point there was tears, I was loving every moment, the weather was great my endorphins were kicking right off and I was constantly telling myself to “go easy, go easy there’s a long way to go yet” but sometimes it’s hard to discipline yourself when you have a clear downhill road ahead and your stuck in the aero position on your TT bike so once or twice I put 80% into my pedals for that rush of speed and it felt so frigging good.
In the back of my head I knew coach would be telling me to slow down. Just as I got back to base Trigg said Mark Whittle’s (coach) words to me “tell him to slow down” (laughter) he was watching the live feed on the internet so he could see my split times……..caught out!!
A great afternoon was had on the bike and it was slowly edging towards night-time. High viz vests on, lights on and jackets on because at this time of year it does get really cold in the new forest at night. There are no street lights on the roads apart from when you go through Burley the rest of the roads are pitch black so good strong bike lights are a must to see as far into the distance as possible because horses, cattle, deer and all kinds of animals walk freely on the roads and you don't want to be hitting one of them. The deeper it got into the night the colder it got and because I was so tired and run down I was feeling that cold even more so I grabbed another jacket and gloves off Trigg at one of my food stops and headed off for my last 4 laps. It’s a very lonely place in the new forest at night and I was about to find that out. I changed gears and my chain decided to get tangled up in my derailleur so much so it was unfixable. I picked up my phone to phone my brother as I had a spare bike and due to the cold my battery in my iPhone went flat so had to wait until another entrant came past to see if they could help and it just so happened to be Anthony Gerundy aka TC (Ledgendry ultra endurance athlete) and thanks to him he phoned someone back at base to tell my brother what had happened and to drive to where I was to swap bikes, thanks for that TC. If I'm honest it was a massive punch in the teeth for me as I was really going for it and I was feeling really good and was holding 2nd place throughout the bike race and then this happened and I was gutted but hey, that’s life and these things happens but I did spit my dummy out though (laughter).
My brother turned up and I jumped onto my Giant propel road bike and got back on the road. It felt strange underneath me most probably due to sitting on another bike for hours on end but I soon got the feeling back and got on with the job ahead. On the bike route there are two cattle grids that we have to ride over and if your a cyclist you'll understand that they are horrible things that every time you ride over them it feels like your life flashes before your eyes (bit exaggerated but you get my drift) especially if you’re going fast and it’s raining (laughter). I had one in the distance and as I went over it my front light flew off! Luckily the light was still working but the clip that clipped it to my handle-bars was broken so I had to cycle whilst holding my light in my hand, as the saying goes ‘adapt, overcome’. To top it off my chain kept coming off when I changed gear to climb hills, it was all starting to get on my tits. I kept my cool, loosing my temper wouldn't help matters it would only use up energy I needed and as it was I spat my dummy out earlier so I just kept chugging on and crossed the timing matt for the last time at about 3am and then it was time to get ready for my 52 mile run.
If any of you have read my Endurance blogs before you'll know that I always get to a point where I start to loose my marbles and start tripping and generally have a bit of a “moment” which is due to sleep deprivation and exhaustion I suppose and it normally happens from about 2am to 5am and it still hadn't happened to me yet... This was until I took one look at one of the organisers/founders of Enduroman events Edgar Ette, I was speaking to him and he had that concerned look on his face as though what the hell was I talking about.
Next up was the run which is mad up of 48 1.1 mile loops around the grounds of the manor house at Avon Tyrell and I'm very familiar with the course from last year. It’s an off road run and goes around the swimming lake and passes the camp site where there are families parked up supporting one of their own, and everyone else of course, it then goes up around the back of the manor house and back to base where you walk over the timing matt again and it’s here where there are also a lot of supporters cheering you on which lifts you up no end especially when you’re struggling.
As I got my running stuff on (I forgot my head torch so had to use my bike light) I headed off not feeling very good at all and looking back at Edgar Ette’s concerned face. I normally walk the first 2 laps to get my running legs going after being on the bike for hours then get a good pace on. As I walked further it was then I started tripping and I could feel my eyes rolling at the back of my head. The next thing I knew I was in a forest surrounded by trees and someone getting out of a car, of course there was no such thing it was just my mind playing tricks on me. I told myself on my next loop as I passed my support van I’d put my head down for a bit and start again but I eventually snapped out of it and managed about 5 miles. However, I just wasn't feeling right at all, I couldn't get a good pace on and my bro told me to get 30 mins sleep so I did. I set my alarm clock but for some reason I woke a few mins before it went off and jumped out of the van to start again. I ran passed the van every lap and my running nutrition was bananas, the last of my bag of Huel, NUUN’s (electrolyte tablets you put in water), cold pasta with cold baked beans. Running after a little rest when your body had a little time to stiffen up was pretty hard but as my 8th lap came along I started to feel so much better. I still couldn't find that pace and feeling that I enjoy with running and then with 10 miles to go……..BOOM we had lift off. I felt great and I think all the electrolytes and pasta in my system finally kicked in and I was off. I’ll be honest, there were many times throughout the run where I almost chucked the towel in. The things going through my mind telling me just get in the van and go home, tell the organisers I'm done etc etc but there was something keeping me from listening to my mind. A classic case of angel on one shoulder whispering “go home, listen to your body” and the devil on the other saying “shut up you pussy keep rocking” and I’m glad to say the devil won……….he always does (laughter)
In classic Enduroman style your run goes clockwise but your last lap goes anti-clockwise so everyone knows you’re about to finish your journey and everyone gives you high fives on your way to the finish, everyone in the camp site claps you for your last lap of honour. I think that’s a nice touch for an event where each athlete pushed their mental and physical abilities to the maximum. I witnessed a 65 year old man run/walk 80miles this weekend and that kinda stuff stokes me out. He isn't at home with his pipe and slippers he’s out living life. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals all in one place all with a goal is always a good feeling, the positivity at the event this weekend was amazing. Bring on next year.
Thanks to the Ette family and staff for a great weekend. Thanks to Huel, Primal pantry, Kadged Muscle, CEP compression, Mark Whittle, bigmoose.
Thanks to my brother Trigg for supporting me.
Thanks to everyone who donated to my chosen charities it’s much appreciated. You can still donate on the site by clicking the donate button. Thank you
Whats next??????? I start training again Wednesday ready for October. I will reveal soon.