After being lured into competing in the RAF’s sprint triathlon at Brize Norton, I foolishly accepted an invitation to take part in the London Olympic distance triathlon on 11th September.
This was a challenging race, but worse was to come, in a moment of weakness I agreed to sign up for the Ironman triathlon in Nice which would take place on the 12th of June. An Ironman triathlon is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle and a 26 mile run.
I put together a training programme which began on 11th Dec. The timetable was relentless particularly during the latter stages where we were required to train between 2 to 3 hours a day. The training was intermittent but I was happy with my progress and felt ready for the event. We were assisted with a grant from the Sports Lottery which covered travel and accommodation. Arriving in Nice did nothing to settle the nerves, with temperatures of around 35°C and thousands of competitors polishing their expensive bikes. However, the atmosphere was great and the event was incredibly well organised which helped put our minds at ease. The 2 days before the event were spent taking care of the necessary admin; familiarising ourselves with the format of the race and eating pasta at every available opportunity!
Race day began with a 4am alarm call, followed by an eventful walk through the centre of Nice just as the night clubs were emptying. There was a great party atmosphere as we lined up on the beach for the start of the race and soon after sunrise we dived into the Mediterranean. The swim went better than planned and I made it into transition in just under an hour. Having performed better than expected in the swim, I was amongst some strong cyclists and I did my best to keep with them, but this was to be short lived. After 14 miles we reached the foothills of the Maritime Alps and the next 4 hours were spent cycling uphill. With 1800m worth of climbing this was definitely the hardest section of the course but the views from the top were spectacular and the downhill ride was as exhilarating as any roller coaster. I returned to the transition area and began the marathon. The run route was 4 laps along a coast road. The first 3 miles felt relatively comfortable but the heat and a lack of food and water quickly caught up with me. My progress slowed to a walk as I took on around 1500 calories and about 3 litres of water in 20 minutes. This combined with the knowledge that Cpl Sean Kilkenny was rapidly catching me gave me the boost I needed. Sean soon caught up with me so my pace increased to what felt like a sprint. By focusing on the next aid station and running through cold showers at every opportunity I managed to maintain a steady pace eventually crossing the finish line in a time of 10 hours and 49 minutes.
The whole experience was unforgettable and I have some excellent memories of the highs and lows both in training and during the race. With the right guidance and a lot of training an Ironman is very achievable and I would recommend it to anyone. Cpl Mathew Nowicki