When my boyfriend told me he was thinking about signing up for an Ironman, my first words were… “You are mad”. We had only just finished our first sprint triathlon. We absolutely loved it, but I thought this was a massive jump up.
Aaron started training with Martin to get ready for the Ironman, and I decided I’d get back training properly… just for fun!!
After a month or so of Aaron gently suggesting that I sign up too, I bumped into Katie, also with Focus on Fitness. After a chat with Katie about Ironman, and her experience, I was thinking that maybe I might like to do one… her words were ‘if you are doing the training, it will be hard to watch Aaron on the day”…. After another month of humming and hawing, I finally signed up myself. Fear of missing out well and truly kicked in. Race booked… there was no going back now!
I quickly set up an appointment with Martin to start training properly. This was January, with the Ironman in August. I am not sure what Martin thought when I came to him first… having only completed my first sprint triathlon 6 months previous, but he didn’t seem phased, and was happy to help me on my journey!
With a plan in place from Martin to get me to the Ironman, it was time to properly get my head into it and get all the sessions done! There was something to do every day, which I really enjoyed. It was great to have proper structure to my training.
I was already going to swimming lessons with Eoin Lyons, so felt in a good place for the swim, although I needed to get used to the open water once the weather warmed up. It was the bike that was going to be the biggest test for me. I had done a 160km cycle 2 years previous, but wouldn’t say I breezed through it. With little cycling since, I couldn’t imagine running a marathon after completing a 180km cycle.
My first big milestone in training was completing my first marathon in Barcelona. It was an incredible experience, but I did have a few moments from 32km on where I wasn’t sure how I was going to get to the finish line. I managed it with a few tears, and words of encouragement from Aaron, and was absolutely thrilled with the results… 3:48 wasn’t too bad for my first marathon. I gained valuable insight from this run too, learning that even a few seconds too fast per km can make such a massive difference. As Martin says… stick to the plan!
I also did the Rosslare Olympic Triathlon and the Dunmore East Hook or by Crook Sprint Triathlon. The more race experience I could get, the better.
Martin also set up a trial half Ironman which was brilliant, and really brought my confidence up. I have to say I loved all of the training… up to the last month or so!
One month before the Ironman, I was ready to get it done. The training up to this point was great, but with the longer bike rides and runs, my time was no longer my own and I was so ready to get to Copenhagen and the start line!
There were a few other Focus on Fitness people that had signed up, so getting to do some training with them was great, it really helped with the longer sessions!
The Build Up
Thanks to Martins advice, we arrived in Copenhagen 4 days before the Ironman. I had issues with my bike when we arrived so having these days to get it sorted were essential.
It also gave us time to get in our last few training sessions, getting to run around some lovely lakes in Copenhagen… in the rain! We also got to get our last swim in where we would be swimming for the race in 2 days. This was great, as I could prepare myself for what was ahead, and be aware that I would be swimming with the odd few jellyfish that were floating around. The forecast for the day was lashing rain and wind! As we got closer to race day I think we were checking the weather app every hour.
As soon as the expo and bag collection opened we headed over to get this sorted… we also fell into the merchandise trap, and bought all the Ironman merchandise available, first timers ay?
That evening was spent sorting out our run and bike transition bags for the big day… and then checking them again and again! By the end of that evening we were confidant that we had everything we need for our transitions.
The day before the race we made our way over to drop off our bags and bikes. It was all getting very real. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, eating, and getting ourselves prepped.
We had an early rise of 5.30am to get some food into us and to make our way over to the start line. We were so lucky to have friends come over to Copenhagen to cheer us on, so having them there to help us get ready was brilliant.
Checking the weather that morning we were lucky for the day. Some sun for the morning, clouds for the cycle, with the rain creeping in for the run… very little wind though, which I was thrilled about!
The atmosphere around was electric as we made our way down to the start line. We bumped into Karen, Julie, and Bernie from Focus on Fitness too, so we were delighted to be able to start the race together. The nerves were creeping in but having the others around to keep me calm was brilliant. Julie’s last words before starting were… “Never, ever, ever again” which made me and everyone else around laugh a lot.
Before I knew it, I was next in line to start. The start of the swim was something that always made me nervous due to the amount of people starting. However, I couldn’t believe how smoothly it went. I was doing it… I was actually swimming in an IRONMAN!!
The swim was in an artificial lagoon, so the water was nice and calm. I stayed out very wide so I would have space to swim at my own pace. Being out so far I felt like it was just me in the water, which really relaxed me. The sun was shining in my face too, so all was going well.
I took the swim easy, not pushing myself too much. The fear of blowing up on the run like I did in Barcelona was in my head throughout, and I never wanted to feel that again. The swim was great, and everything went really smoothly. I was ready for the bike.
In transition 1, while getting ready for the bike, I quickly ate a croissant filled with banana (thanks to Martin for this advice again), which was a life saver, as I had a bit of a disaster with my food on the bike!
As nervous as I was about the swim, it was nothing compared to the bike. Although I felt confidant that I could get through the bike, I was afraid that something might happen to my bike that I wouldn’t be able to fix… bike mechanics is definitely not my strong point. I am not 100% confidant that I could change a flat tyre if needed!
The bike course was a double loop, with a few ups and downs along the way. I met Bernie, and Julie on the cycle which gave me a boost at certain points.
The bike was going well, however, I was having an issue with my food. During my training I was having pita bread with nutella on the bike, which worked well to keep me fuelled, along with tailwind. However, I forgot to take into account that I always toasted the pita bread before eating them. So on the day… the un-toasted pitas were like eating dough! It was almost impossible to eat, and was turning my stomach. I had 2 snack bars which I ate, and had banana at the stops along the way to keep me going.
Lesson learned… make sure the fuel that you have on training sessions is possible when travelling and you don’t have the utensils that your kitchen does.
Besides the food issue, the bike went really well. I met Bernie for the last 2 km so was nice to finish the bike with her. Now onto the run!
Just me and the road… nothing to worry about except putting one foot in front of the other. The rain started to pour down now, but I didn’t care, it was actually quite refreshing.
The run was 4 loops around the centre of Copenhagen. When I started the run, I felt surprisingly fresh. Just 5 km in I first passed my cousin Barry, who was also doing his first Ironman. Having a quick chat to him while running was a great start. I passed the other Focus on Fitness crew throughout the run which gave me such a boost as well. Passing Aaron on each loop before he finished was surreal and kept me going, cheering each other on… it was an amazing feeling!
About 12km in I saw my friends ahead… one dressed as a lobster. This really made me laugh and gave me the spring in my step to keep going, and keep the pace up. There are no words to describe the encouragement you get from friends to keep you going and motivated. Rosie and Colm… ye are the best!!
Tim, Bernie’s husband was also there cheering us on. When I passed him on my third loop, I was really feeling it, and his words of encouragement gave me that final push… thanks Tim!!
On my fourth and final loop, I was really feeling it. All that kept going through my head was that if I got to the finish line I would never have to do an Ironman again. This kept me going… I had no plans to do another one! I was nearly there… the end was in sight!
The Finish Line
I was only 500m away from the finish line… I genuinely couldn’t believe it. There are no words to describe how I felt coming around the corner, seeing the finish line and all the people around cheering you on. I have never felt such emotion in my entire life.
To hear the words… Jo, you are an Ironman! I did it… I made it!
I stepped over the finish line, and got my medal. The tears were threatening to make an appearance… and then I saw Aaron waiting for me! That was it, I was a blubbering mess! All the hard work we had put in had paid off, and we both made it to the finish line. I was just so proud of the two of us, to have both accomplished an Ironman!
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever do an Ironman. It still doesn’t feel real 5 months later. My aim was to get to the finish line, I didn’t care about a time, so when I realised I did it in 12.39, I couldn’t have been happier.
Completing an Ironman has been one of the best experiences of my life, and my biggest achievement to date!
I can honestly say that I would not have gotten the result that I did if it wasn’t for Martin and his coaching. Martin’s plans got me out training every day, saw serious progress over the months, and helped me build a strategy for the day. Without his advice and expertise I wouldn’t have had such a great race day.
Without realising, since finishing I have referred to Ironman Copenhagen 2019 as my first Ironman… that could be a sign that a second one might happen at some point!