Today I should be writing about my experience of Ironman Santa Rosa. On 25th July 2020 I had planned on taking part in my 5th Ironman, but this race is yet another casualty of Covid-19. So instead today I reflect on my Ironman Journey to date, what I’ve learned, and what the future holds.
My First Ironman
I remember being so nervous starting my first Ironman in 2016, Ironman Weymouth. I had been wanting to take on this challenge for a while, but never committed. I had recently got my first bike in over a decade, and hadn’t swam for years. It was after I sprained my ankle I decided to use the time to get ready for an Ironman. I entered the event whilst I was injured, for the following year, I then had a target to work for.
I did not train half as much as people think you need to, as I balanced the training with my life, and for me the training was not a priority in life. I got to the position that I was confident swimming the 2.4 mile distance, 112 mile cycle, and I knew once I got to the run I would be OK. The bike was and remains my biggest weakness, as I can keep going, but not at any real speed.
Race day was amazing, I was nervous, excited, in pain, exhausted, absolutely destroyed, but I did it…
My Favourite Ironman
I entered Ironman Kalmar 2017 prior to completing my first Ironman. Confident? Stupid? I just knew I would want to do more, so I got myself an entry ready. I am so pleased I did, Ironman Kalmar is just amazing. The whole community embrace Ironman, they love it, and this love for the event makes the experience so special. It is the same weekend as Ironman Copenhagen, which is apparently another great event, but speaking to those who have done both, Ironman Kalmar takes top prize.
This is the first time that my kids took part in Ironkids, and an unforgettable family experience. The course is known for being flat and fast, which was part of the appeal for me. On race day it was very high winds, and locals commented how it was much harder than normal. The swim was very choppy and the long flat bike felt like uphill when cycling into the wind, a strange experience.
The Ironman without a Swim
Whilst cuddled up on the sofa in Kalmar I was looking ahead to 2018. Ironman Hamburg was released in 2017, and if I had not booked Kalmar this would have probably been my choice. So I booked Ironman Hamburg 2018. This was supposed to be another flat and fast course, but to be honest, everything went wrong for me in Hamburg.
It started off with nerves of a non wetsuit swim, but then the swim was cancelled. It meant I actually covered a longer distance with a run replacing the swim, it also had a different impact on the body, as usually your legs are rested on the swim. It is bad enough it didn’t end up being the full Ironman experience, but I had a mechanical on the bike and did the majority of the bike course with my back break on (believe me this made it tough). I stopped to try and fix it, but I couldn’t work it out, so I just persevered, making it slow and tough.
My Hardest Ironman
I looked for another fantastic event, and stumbled across Ironman Vichy 2019. This was a flat and fast course in 2018, and one I could not wait to complete. After booking they announced a more scenic route, with a much harder bike which was far from flat.
I accepted that this would not be my PB I was aiming for, but I considered that the bike would be the hard bit. I had entered this race intentionally based on the probability that it could be a non wetsuit swim. This scared me in Hamburg and I wanted to face my fears, this is something that still makes me nervous, but I never want to shy away from challenge.
I remember the nervousness and long wait getting into the water, thoughts of anxiety running through my head, and thinking whether I will be good enough. I had built up so much pressure wanting to improve my time. Then when I jumped in the water I had a panic attack, something I’ve never experienced before. Literally 5 minutes into the swim the life boats came over and asked if I was OK, I had to send them away and just float for a bit. It took a lot of self composure to get going and get through it, but I did get through it.
The bike was hard as expected, but after my swim, I was just glad to be taking part. I know longer cared about time, I just enjoyed the event. When I got to the run I knew everything would be OK. I didn’t see my family until the second lap, and I couldn’t keep back the tears.
My next Ironman
Unfortunately I cannot make the rearranged event for Ironman Santa Rosa. It is being held in October 2020, and there are a number of factors. First and foremost the kids will have just returned to school, and I cannot justify taking them out. This is supposed to be a huge holiday as a family, and I cannot go without them. I also cannot justify the expense, I have lost so much money from cancelled events abroad and I cannot pay more out now, especially when at present we can’t even fly to USA.
I am disappointed to hear that Ironman Santa Rosa 2020 will be the last event in Santa Rosa, so I am never going to be able to complete this event. However, I am deferring my place to the new Ironman California in 2021. So this is probably going to be my next Ironman experience. I am gutted to not be completing one this year, but it can’t be helped. I had considered taking part in Ironman Tallinn, and would love to take part in 2020. Unfortunately the date does not work for family as literally first days back at school. As this is closer I could potentially go alone, but not knowing anyone there would not be any fun. If I had someone to go with, or meet there, then I would consider it, but it seems 2020 was just not meant to be.
For now I’m trying to stay positive. It may feel like I’m running through long grass at times, but things will get better. We all need to stay positive and look to the future.