Extreme temperatures in the week leading up to the race heated the usually cool Lake Allier to near swimming pool temperatures and all week there were rumours that it will be a non-wetsuit swim and this was confirmed when it was officially measured an hour before the race.
We’d both done the distance in the pool a few times so were still confident of completing the swim and well within the cut off of 2hr20min. My worry however was having to empty goggles or getting a cramp as I’d tried treading water very unsuccessfully without the additional buoyancy benefits a wetsuit gives.
Expecting to wear a wetsuit and planning to wear full cycling gear on the bike and a full change to comfortable running wear also meant neither of us took a trisuit. There weren’t many competitors wearing just speedo shorts or a flowery cossie.
It was a rolling start with your time starting by your chip as you dived in to start so we were able to both wait and then start together. We both found the swim much harder than expected with Mary exiting the water in 1hr 45mins and me 12 mins later. I’d being doing 1hr25min in the pool so was dismayed to see nearly 2 hours on my watch. I still don’t know why, though my Garmin said well over 4km, which is probably down to poor sighting. As I went through transition I saw Mary’s bike had gone and I was both shocked (I’d been consistently faster in the pool and open water lately) and relieved.
The bike was two loops out into the beautiful French countryside past sunflower fields, through forests and old villages – all the way the locals came out to cheer. We both had strong bike legs and began moving steadily up the rankings. It took 40 miles until I caught and passed Mary and pushed on to finish my bike split in 5hrs 35mins with Mary coming in in an excellent 6hrs 10mins.
I started the run strongly and had to deliberately slow myself as I felt so strong. It was 4 laps along the river esplanade and through the town, each time returning to the race village before heading out again. I completed 2 laps (halfway point) still on schedule for my pre race target of sub 12 hours total, despite the slow swim. However the heat played its toll again and the next lap took me as long as the first 2 combined as I became sick, dizzy and unable to keep any fluids down. I knew Mary would be consistent as always and she passed me at the 17 mile point as I was staggering along!
Mary continued on to record a 4hr 19min marathon and cross the finish line in a fantastic total race time of 12:31:50. Fantastic time for anyone, let alone (and I’m not being rude) a 54 year old woman in her first Ironman, with a non-wetsuit open-water swim and in extreme temperatures! I can’t praise her enough.
I recovered slightly and managed to finish strongly for a run time of 4hrs 57mins and a total race time of 12:50:07.
The whole project, from planning to do it through to the post race party, was a fantastic experience and we’d like to thank everyone who offered advice, trained with us and supported us.