On September 9th I completed Ironman Wales in the beautiful Pembrokeshire countryside in and around Tenby in Wales. It was the conclusion to training for roughly a year for this event and using Apple Watch series 3 as much as possible (you can read about my experience on that throughout this blog)
It was a big day. Here’s how Apple Watch summarised it:
854 Exercise Minutes (this seem short, but may not have included walking parts on the marathon - see below)
19 Stand hours
58.45km (this should exclude the bike but seems high without it?)
There are a couple of anomalies there, though I am not concerned too much as it’s summary data for the whole day rather than the event (and is not really actionable from a training point of view).
Looking at those calories though it probably goes some way in explaining why I was feeling quite hungry for a while after the event and I used it for justification for just one more piece of cake (for at least a week)
And I picked up 11 Awards, from a new Move Record (those 11.5k calories), to running and swimming records, to 400% move goal, and a stack of others. Coolio.
Here’s are those same stats in a video - just watch those rings spin!
Is that a World Record?
I’m sure someone may have, but just out of interest, has anyone recorded more than this in a single day on Apple Watch? Or am I world champ? If no-one responds within 7 days of this post I’m claiming it - that’s the law.
How I recorded the day
Here’s the summary (using Apple Watch Series 3, this was days before Series 4 was announced)
Apple Watch Workout App for the Open Water Swim. I then exported this to Strava and Training Peaks using the HealthFit app.
Wahoo Elemnt Bike computer for the Bike ride, which syncs automatically to Strava and Training Peaks and then imported back into the Apple Activity app using the RunGap app (which also updates the rings)
Apple Watch Workout App for the Marathon Run. Again exported to Strava and Training Peaks using the handy HealthFit app.
Read through the entries on this blog to find out more about using Apple Watch this way, or post a comment below.
Here are my comments on the event together with the Strava and Training Peaks records.
The swim felt great - it was an “Australian Style Exit” as they say, which basically means you swim one lap, run along the beach a bit then swim the second lap. The sea was relatively flat and the swim relatively quick for me (1h 17m).
After the swim at Tenby you have to run up some zig-zag stairs from the beach, find your shoes, remove your wetsuit (or pull it half down), and then run about one km to the transition where your bike is at the other side of the town.
My peg with my shoes in happened to be quite close to the top of the zig-zags which meant a barefoot run to them, but it was fine and I was feeling strong at that point. I removed my wetsuit to leave me in my lycra clad Tri-Suit, slung my wetsuit over my shoulder and ran to my bike. On the way I had my first real taste of the amazing public support at Tenby and was delighted to be able to spot my family cheering me on.
Nervous Anticipation, incredible people
While waiting in the queue to start the swim (it’s a staggered start based on your anticipated time which avoids a mass start of 2,400 people all fighting in the water to get some space) I chatted to a few fellow contestants.
The atmosphere is one of nervous anticipation, many are first timers, but there’s a lovely feeling of support and an acknowledgment that everyone is in the same boat (not literally obviously, that would be cheating). And that was born out during the event, with many moments where contestants become instant friends and offer support to others. I tried to do the same where I could. It’s hard to explain but it’s not the race battle you might expect (and which I think you see in shorter races), everyone knows that this is going to be a tough day, and everyone wants you to get through it.
I spoke to a chap who is in the Royal Navy and had just returned from a submarine mission, spent some time at home, then come to do IronMan Wales and would then get back out in the submarine the following week. Wow. Talk about keeping yourself busy.
And I spoke to a woman who looked a little nervous. Turns out this was her first IronMan, and incredibly she had a medical condition which meant she was left with only a tiny bit of her intestine left. She couldn’t eat through her mouth, she had to take it in through a hole in her chest. During the ride she planned on stopping periodically to do this. And she was doing the race in memory of her mother who died recently and her consultant who “keeps her alive”. That put things in perspective a bit (and a lump in my throat). I made a mental note of her race number, then instantly forgot it (though it was in the 400’s) - I haven’t been able to find out how she did so far (if anyone knows please let me know). When I was in the 14th hour running up a hill, thinking about what she was going through and was still doing this event gave me some motivation.
There are some incredible people in this world, doing remarkable things.
After the swim and the 1km run to get to the bike, I felt pretty good. I had taped some key times and locations to my top tube, and I was hitting them pretty well, until about 90 miles when I lost a bit of energy for the last 20miles or so.
That might have been how I fuelled, or it could have been mental strength (thinking I should take it a bit easier before the marathon), but either was I was about 20mins behind my planned time of 7hrs 30mins. I wasn’t disheartened though, I felt pretty good.
On the bike, the famous Tenby support was everywhere, and that was followed up in the run.
Support Analysis (yes really)
The support in Wales is great: people camp outside their homes and pubs and party all day, cheering you on. You have your name on you race number so everyone shouts you out as if they have know you all your life - it’s great.
Happily (for you), during the many hours and mins on the bike and while running, I had some time to do some analysis of the support which I present to you now in a handy chart, together with incisive notes.
The young, and by this I think I mean in their twenties or teenagers, are the most enthusiastic but they take a little while to really get going. And they get much more enthusiastic as the day goes on. This may be related to quantity of alcohol being consumed, I’m not sure, but by the afternoon they have very loud music playing and have coordinated chants and dancing. Later in the day when it’s getting dark the support tends to drop off a little, and they may have gone elsewhere or inside, though the speakers will still be playing music from the garden. I loved this support!
Mum’s generally maintain a high quality of support throughout the day, clapping and providing loving enthusiastic comments such as “go on Ian, you’re doing great” smiling at you as you approach - it’s lovely!
Dad’s tend to be a little more reserved in their support, though still offer heartfelt comments, typically in a lower voice just as you are passing them. “Go on mate” they say, and sometimes they will extend that to “You can do it”. Wonderfull!
I add older people because I loved some of the comments as I went passed. You get the classics “well done young man”, and polite applause of course, but my all time favourite was “You’ll sleep well tonight!” Indeed! Hearing these comments brings a smile to your face and keeps you energised.
Joking aside the support is so great during this event, you come away thinking I didn't know I had so many friends who really wanted me to succeed. It honestly feels like that.
I was lucky to have family and friends too who provided incredible support, popping up on corners I wasn’t expecting them to be at, and even making banners in my name. Just amazing.
I still find it sort of unfathomable that I actually ran a marathon after that tough hilly ride and the sea swim. Though run is a bit of a misnomer, its a hilly run and that means most people indulged in at least some walk/run.
It’s a four lap course and I actually ran the whole of the first lap with zero walking, but as I started the second lap, I noticed the chap in a black and white tri-suit who I saw run/walking in the first lap was still level with me, which made me think twice. Was I just wasting energy trying to run up the steeper bits (Yes)
Anyway, I actually enjoyed the run, though it was much slower than planned and accounts for most of the time lost over my target finish time. Hey Ho, by that time of night it’s more of a mental strength to keep going at any pace, and it’s easy to say to yourself, let’s just get to the end now and bugger the time. That’s sort of what I did.
And then it’s all over
It’s a great feeling crossing the line and into the arms of your family. And considering I had been up since 4:30ish, covered 15hrs 33 mins of exercise and 226km in distance I felt surprisingly good.
After a couple of days recovery I settled into a corporate rowing challenge using a Concept2 rowing machine which I’ve been logging with my beautiful new Apple Watch Series 4. And this weekend I began a bit more cycling and running again.
However at this point I’ve not decided what my next event will be. Whatever I select I’ll be using Apple Watch series 4 to train for it as much as possible, and documenting the journey on this blog.