IRONMAN REGENSBERG JUNE 17TH 2012
BY ALAN BARDSLEY
To complete an ironman was always a dream of mine, after watching with fascination footage over the years on television and on You Tube it was always lurking at the back of my mind coming to the surface every so often.
After a couple of sprint triathlons, half marathons and marathons etc the seed was planted in my head by fellow Cobh Tri Club member Robbie Doherty. Ironman training on my own I would never have attempted but with a training partner the prospect of completing an Ironman became real. I think I speak for Robbie as well when I say the training, strategising, sorting out the small details was a lot easier when you had someone in exactly the same situation as you. We really helped each other on our journey, if we arranged to meet at Cuskinny at 6.00am we were both there come rain, hail or sunshine notching off another training session or marking the end of another weeks training.
Ironman is as much a mental journey as a physical one, it takes you to places in your head you thought you’d never be able to go, you’re definitely stronger afterwards.
Ironman as a race is not that difficult, you are racing against nobody except yourself, any pressure you feel is self inflicted, I was never going to be in the shake down for a spot at the Kona World Championships so I approached the race with a sensible attitude and it certainly paid off, I can honestly say I enjoyed the race, where else would you rather be at about six in the morning standing on a beach with 1300 other lunatics.
The training is relentless, six days a week with the long cycles and runs taking place at the weekends. Mondays were meant to be my day off but I used to go to Norma O Driscoll for deep tissue massages. I’ve often finished a session with Norma and have been more shook than any training session I have completed. The upside of this is I had a new pair of legs for the weeks training ahead. A big thank you to Norma for keeping all my injuries at bay, keeping me going, when the body was physically stressed to the limit.
Travelled to Regensberg on the Thursday prior to the race on Sunday, the bike arrived intact and I checked into the apartment, sorted out all the gear, made all the necessary lists I would require for each segment of the race. My wife, Annette and eldest daughter, Charlotte were arriving on the Saturday, would I be glad to see them, they would be a welcome distraction to going over the same detail time and time again hoping you haven’t forgotten something.
Drove out to the lake on the Saturday had a short swim, the weather was absolutely boiling, about 32 degrees Celsius, Robbie and myself declared to each other “ we’re absolutely f**ked if this is the weather for tomorrow”. We were used to training in a balmy 2- 7 degrees, we had visions of collapsing during the run.
Morning of the race got up at 4am, slept fitfully, when you set an alarm call why are you generally always awake before it? Managed to eat some food, went downstairs, met Robbie and we proceeded to get the bus to the transition area for the start of the race.
This is what it all came down to, after nearly 8 months of constant training and planning, here I was standing on the beach ready to take on “The Ironman” and see what challenges it threw at me during the day. To get to the start line is an achievement in itself, to stay fit and healthy for the duration of the training programme is fantastic, everybody arrives with some niggle or strain and just prays it won’t raise its ugly head.
Consumed a bottle of Powerade and an aqueos gel, shook hands with Robbie, wished each other good luck and said see you on the other side.
The gun went for the start of the race and we all descended into the lake. I went in about halfways between the front and the back and this proved to be a good decision, despite a bit of argy bargy and finding it hard to get a rythmn going for the first 700 metres, everything settled down, most people were sensible and realised this is going to be a long day and there was no need for bloody noses.
Enjoyed the swim, kept aerobic at all times, just kept stroking it out as I’ve done incalculable times in the pool, +/- 5 minutes to your swim time will make very little difference when you’re putting in a 12 hour shift at the office. Exited the water, I was happy with my time, I had not pushed hard and felt fresh.
Into the bike transition area, slipped off the wetsuit, applied all the necessary Vaseline/suncream and off I went. All I can say about the bike is I felt it was long and I was happy to get off it. This wasn’t due to any particular reason other than 6hrs 25 mins is enough cycling for one day. I didn’t push very hard on the bike, stayed on the drops during the big descents, no point being a superhero and crashing out, this day was all about finishing the race, there would be other days when the pedals wouldn’t get a rest.
The cycle race was 2no. loops with a long 20km stretch back into Regensberg, the support was fantastic all along the route.
Into the run transition area and as I said before I was only racing against myself, this mindset was very important for the whole race, I put myself under no time pressure and I knew once I got off the bike segment I was going to finish my Ironman adventure even if I had to crawl over the line.
Changed into my running gear, applied the necessary vaseline and nipple patches, set the garmin to run and then sat down and enjoyed 3no. jam sandwiches and a cup of tea from my flask. This was like heaven, you wouldn’t believe how nice they tasted after eating rotten gels and powerade drinks all day long. I spent approx 16 mins in T2 which is excessively long I know, but I was dressed for battle, had food in my stomach and was ready for road. Came out of transition saw my wife, Annette and daughter, Charlotte went over for a brief chat and then set off on the last leg only a marathon to go.
I can honestly say I thought I would find the run more difficult, it was 4 loops around the streets of Regensberg, a beautiful city with great support all around the course for the athletes. There were plenty of water/fuel stops throughout the course, the water sponges and ice cubes really kept me cool as the temperature peaked about 28 degrees during the marathon. I stopped every loop, stretched the hamstrings, loosened everything out and off I would go again.
After completing 4no. loops I turned the corner to see the finishing chute in the distance, spotted my wife, Annette and daughter, Charlottte. Charlotte handed me the tri-colour and with it held high I crossed the finish line to the famous “ Alan Bardsley you’re an Ironman”.
My race was over, I had fulfilled one of my dreams, what a great day, both Robbie and I completed the Ironman, we were both in one piece and we had our wives and families around us to share the moment.
A special thanks to my wife, Annette and family for filling in all the time I was away training or missing from a family function/event. I would also like to thank everybody who helped me, offered support/advice and for their encouragement along the way.
Yours in Sport,