Triple ironman

Monday 13th - 8am.

This time last week i was in bits, I put both legs on the floor from my bed and attempted stand up. Attempt is a good word for it as it wasn't a fully successful mission from bed to toilet due to all over body soreness along with shattered legs and ruined feet. I made it to the toilet then I had to attempt the big one……….my stairs (laughter). Walking down them was a complete no no so I walked down them backwards ready to make breakfast and spend my day fuelling and resting after spending my weekend competing in the continuous triple ironman.

So lets go backwards: Wednesday 1st June, I started my prep and gathering everything I needed for the long weekend at the Enduroman festival of endurance. Prepping for these events is mental, so many things to remember it drives my mind round the bend and I constantly get the “what have I forgot” feeling. I start a notes page on my phone about 2 weeks before the event and every time I remembered something I would write it down so when I started my prep I could tick it off. In order of organisation it's swim stuff, bike, run and nutrition all in 4 huge tupperware boxes so it's all in order and I know where everything is. This year nutrition wise I made a beetroot and potato casserole, beets to oxygenate my blood and potatoes for carbs and because a casserole is wet it's easier to get down my neck. I also took enough bananas to make a monkey jealous but I’d say my best choice for my nutrition this year was Huel and Kadged muscle supplements. I struggled last year when doing the double brutal to get any food down my neck, not because I didn't want it it's because I couldn't get it passed my throat without gagging. Anyone out there who competes in these events know how extremely important it is to eat at all times to fuel the body. Without food you ain't going anywhere and it's pretty much like a car without oil or petrol, you are rendered hopeless. Endurance events are eating competitions too so food is a very important player at these events and not just food the RIGHT food too.

 

Huel has everything the body needs in liquid form (https://huel.com/) and I added Kadged muscle BCAA’s, Glutamin to it and just chucked it down my neck and carried on trucking. There was no waiting around for food to cook it was literally into my shaker, shake it and drink it and keep moving although during the night time bike I ate my casserole hot as it was pretty cold from 1am till 4am so it warmed me up a treat.

Thursday morning and I go and pick up my hire van courtesy of Dawsons van rental in Caerphilly who were very kind and gave us the van FOC. I drove it home and started packing ready for the trip to Enduroman at Avon Tyrell, excited at what was to come. We parked up and for the first night we stayed in the manor house so we could get a decent sleep before the 9am kick off the following day. We arrived pretty early so we went into the closest village for some food before it was time to sit down for the race brief which was at 7pm. My coach, Mark Whittle had arrived as we got back from the pub so we all went to the race brief to listen to all the rules which are of course very important. There’s so much to take in at these brief’s my head cant take it all in but its there loosely in my mind so I have a little idea of what's going on and if not then it doesn't hurt to ask others which I normally find myself doing.

We got our heads down and woke up and started getting ready for a very long 3 days. As I woke the nerves hit me and my belly was doing summersaults. I tried calming myself but it just wasn't happening and I think it's one of those feelings that you just have to deal with, it's a big deal and years of training have helped get me to this position in the first place and in a few hours I'm about to go on a journey i’ve never done before and if anything it's pure excitement of going into the unknown. 

I get my wetsuit on and headed down to the lake ready for the swim. We had 20 mins till the off and believe me they were a long 20 mins!! I saw a few people and said hello and I also saw Claire (brutal events owner) who also competed, we greeted each other, but, at this point I just like to keep myself to myself and keep focused on my first job which is complete this 29 lap 7.5 mile swim. 5 mins before the race all 18 competitors jumped into the water ready for the off. The lake looked great and the temperature not to bad although a little cold at first but I knew as soon as I got going it'd be warm enough to be comfortable. 

 

The countdown begun and off we went. My usual swim start negativity kicked in with breathing problems, claustrophobia, people swimming over me etc but I'm experienced enough now that after a few laps this eased and I got into a nice rhythm. After every lap you had to pass through a jetty and shout your number so that they could write your lap down. My swim was going really well but started to get really bad lower back pain which really did my head in but there was no way I was going to put my hand up and quit. The plan was to stop every hour to feed but I enjoyed myself that much to begin with I stopped at an hour and a half and downed a shake of Huel and a banana and off I went for a few more laps. All in all I had 3 feed stops and got out of the water in second place with a time of 3.41 hours which i was really happy with. 

 

With a muddy face I went straight into the showers which were right next to the lake and then up to my van to get changed ready for the 336 mile bike leg of the race. The weather was pretty warm but still I was a little chilly after spending so much time in the water so I dressed for the bike with plenty of layers so that I could warm up. Off I went to attack the first of many 11 mile loops and what a decent course it was. Plenty of flat and decent climbs to make it a decent enough course for 336 miles of riding, this is easy to say at this point but when your 200 miles in your mind knows every bit of that course and you look at things so differently especially when your exhausted. 

 

The first 100 miles I felt great and was getting on fine and to make things better there’s enough wildlife to check out whilst you're on your ride so much so there are horses that park themselves on the road and don't give two hoots at whats coming towards them along with cows, pretty mental sights. To be honest I didn't want to go charging into a horse or a cow as we all know who’d come off worse. At one point I almost came off my bike because there was a pheasant in the bush next to the road and the thing let off this almighty screech (never knew that's what noises they make!!!) and I almost flew off my bike (laughter). Lap after lap after lap and it can become a bit monotonous after a while so your mind picks up some mental things. A bird had got run over by a car and on every lap it slowly but surely kept getting eaten by something and before you knew it it was just bones.

Jeff from bigmoose had turned up so I had him and Whittle on support after every lap finished. Day was going into night and it felt really peaceful and quiet and I had a smile on my face, it felt like just me, my bike and the countryside and it felt good and I was in a good place. However, I knew from when doing the double brutal last year when the darkness hits it becomes very cold and lonely apart from the odd competitor dotted here and there. It’s at this time many people fail and I knew this was where the first fight was gonna come and it did at about 4am. Once again I was hallucinating but this year I saw the Coliseum which looked great, I kew it wasn't and it was just my tired body and mind playing tricks on me but I enjoyed what I saw until I got closer and realised it was what I expected it to be, which was a tree!!

The road was moving, the trees too and there were humans in fields and dotted along the road but it wasn't real, and in seconds I woke up heading towards a bush at the side of the road. I’d fallen asleep on my bike and woke up just in time so decided it was my last lap and i was going to get 30 mins sleep. My knee was really hurting so much so it was hard to put pressure on it to turn my pedals and this began to worry me but I had to keep trucking. When I woke up I was cold, exhausted and in pain but after one loop of the bike I was back in the zone. Someone told me I was in the lead on the bike for a few hours; although being in first place lifted my spirits and it's always nice to know you're leading the pack, I knew there was a long way to go and I wasn't in it to win it I was in it to finish and position is nothing but a bonus.

I can't remember how many miles in I was but it was about 8am that I started sleeping on my bike again and drifting off all the time but there was no way I was having another sleep. I didn't realise how bad I was until another competitor pulled up besides me and told me i needed to go for a sleep as i was all over the shop. It was a case of keep trucking, keep shaking my head and I’ll soon come round and luckily enough I did and carried on with my race. 

I now had 2 laps left, I was super stoked and I was buzzing knowing I’d almost finished the furthest cycle I'd ever attempted. It was a really good feeling and gave me a huge boost so I went for it big time, my average lap was 52 mins but, adrenaline pumping, my last lap was 40 mins which is not bad after covering so much ground! It was at this moment when it dawned on me how incredible the human body is and how resilient it is. After about 24 hours of riding a bike and 336 miles later and in 3rd place I jumped off the saddle with a big smile. My gooch was also over the moon to be off that saddle and the poor bugger wasn't in good shape either.

 

I brought my bike to my support team and began to get into my running gear ready for 79 miles of running. It was a good feeling to be off the bike and to start getting my trot on so I fuelled up and began the first of my 72, 1.1 mile loops. I was tired from the bike but mentally I had to get a few miles in the bag before I went to sleep and I managed 9 miles which was my aim leaving me with 70 left to go. The good thing about the run was that our support vehicle was en route so we had to pass it on every lap which worked a treat. I jumped into my sleeping bag and went off for another 30 mins sleep. I woke and felt like I was on another planet. My right knee in tatters again so I had an ibuprofen and limped the first lap back until i got warmed up and got a good race on. I knew that the next time I went for a sleep it was going to be for an hour so I focused my mind on 5 laps at a time and knew it was a game of mind over matter as my legs and body were really starting to get tired.

It started getting dark so we had to put our head torches on as we were running through the woods and there were tree roots everywhere. The amount of times I tripped and almost went head first was unreal and how I stopped myself from doing so I don't know!! Lap after lap after lap I knew every tree, I started talking to myself then I started seeing things again and I knew it wasn't long before I had to go for that sleep but I wanted to get to 40 laps before I hit the hay because I knew the weather for the next day was going to be very hot. When I stopped to feed I couldn't stop for over a minute as I’d get so cold that I’d shake uncontrollably; so my feed stops were quick and sharp. I got to 39 laps and couldn't reach the 40 I wanted so got back into my sleeping bag at 5am and set my alarm for 6am so I'd have a good hours sleep.

Alarm went off and Whittle came in and told me to get up and off I went for another 34 laps which would take me to the finish. After about 3 laps I really started to warm up and I felt really good and I really put the rockets on. I was buzzing, I was loving it and I was going for it so much so I kept telling myself to slow down as it'll catch up with me but I didn't listen to my brain. I then went and got my headphones and stuck Motorhead on and ran around that lap like a headless chicken. I quickly felt my legs getting heavier so it was time to wake up and start taking my time. I took my earphones off after only one lap (laughter). I started craving pineapple so Jeff and whittle started prepping me chunks of it and it tasted like heaven and gave me another good boost.

I knew I didn't have long to go until I finished the triple and I began feeling the excitement in my bones, I was really tired by now and my legs were full of lactic acid and my gooch was in a terrible state as it was still rubbing from the bike ride and it was very painful. I was at walking pace and then one of the organisers walked up the hill with me and we got talking and he said I was doing really well so i thanked him. I asked how many laps have I got left and he told me 10 and that I was in 3rd place, I laughed because I thought he was winding me up but he assured me it wasn’t a joke. I’ll be honest I was so stoked it picked me up a treat and I got a good pace going. Like I said earlier, I was happy to just finish but position is a bonus so I just kept up my pace to keep me in the 3rd place position. Ahead of me were Graham Smedley and endurance legend Josef Rokob (I was reading Wayne Kurtz book about Josef before the triple as he was the guy who won the triple deca. 30 ironman distance races in 30 days). These two athletes stayed together until the last lap where they both agreed to race to the finish and may the best man win of which was Graham Smedley and Josef came 2nd (just 0.1 of a second behind him, well done to them both.

I had one more lap to go and in Enduroman tradition you do your last lap in reverse so you can pass your fellow athletes and give them all high fives on your way to the finish. I saw my brother on the way round and he gave me a big hug which made me rather emotional. I walked into the distance with tears in my eyes, I’d traveled many miles and I was really tired but buzzing and felt on top of the world that I was about to finish a triple ironman. I got to the top of the road ready to run down to the finish. I crossed the line after 54 hours and 6 mins delighted with myself. 

 

When it comes to endurance events like these it's people who support you that play a huge part in your success, the unsung heroes so to speak which are your support crew who are there with food, drinks and moody demands from a tired athletes to help you get to the finish. A big thank you to Mark Whittle, Jeff Smith, Chloe Smith, Tania Smith for supporting and my sister in law Annie and Mia for buying me a fruit pastils lollypop when i was craving something cold in the blistering heat. And last but by no means least is my fiancé Ciara Dunne who has to listen to my barmy ideas and for supporting me whilst leading up to these events and when I'm in suffering mode. She may be in Dublin but the joys of FaceTimeing her whilst on the bike and run picked up my spirits along with the emotional phone calls. 

Thanks to everyone at Enduroman events, great event, great location and great support. Gutted its your last event but congrats on everything you've achieved. 

Whats next??? This year I have 70.3 ironman in Dublin Aug 14th, Dublin marathon 30th October.

More to follow, watch this space...!

Chow for now

Pritchard