Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Iron Distance - 14th July 2012

After completing the maracycle I had no plans to do any more events as I was getting ready for my wife due a baby at the end of July. All things changed when on facebook on July 8th after completing his own iron distance, I congratulated my good friend Eamonn Sheehan on his facebook page, to which he replied Fella why dont u sign up during da deca, they have 7 days to go, do the 12th or 14th or 15th and I’ll stay out on the course and support as much as i can until ya finish, thats a good deal ;p Uve been training, u can swim, had a few long rides lately and ran a marathon not so long ago, mind over matter, u can do it!”

My friend Eamonn -

This got me thinking. I had initially no intention of doing a full distance this year. The babkins was due this month and I had recently completed my last race on this years checklist – the maracycle.

However, the idea of doing a cheaper and local iron distance event was very tempting. Especially as part of the entry fee was towards Cancer Focus Charity and I was familiar with the race course area having now completed two half iron distances there and also due to the fact that Eamonn quite rightly pointed out that I can cover each of the discipline distances.

On the other hand, putting a long swim, long cycle and maracycle all together in one go is another thing. I decided mentally to try to forget about that part. You have to have a good mindset sometimes when facing something that may be cumbersome. I have discovered this year especially that sometimes what you ‘don’t’ know, sometimes can do you great benefit and does you no harm! if anything it can prove benificial. Every time I thought about doing a full distance event I pretended in my head that I was merely doing another half ironman.
I tried not to think about it further than that and this worked very well for me. I knew that I would be out for most of the day. If i thought about strategy and nutrition etc too much I knew this would have freaked me out. So I decided the days leading up to it just to go with the flow and enjoy it as much I could. I kinda thought that I could try to do as much as I could and if I give up during it I would treat this event as a dry run for doing a full iron distance next year.

The other reason why I wasn’t so sure about doing the event was because things lately have been not the best. My nanny had recently passed away on 30th June and just before going into the event on 7th July my Uncle Terry had taken seriously ill with heart failure and was in a coma (passed away later on 18th July). With these things on my mind and also the worry about my wife due soon (23rd July) things were a bit hectic to say the least. I decided then to have a think about doing the event for a few days then sign up. After a few days contemplating I decided to sign up for the event that weekend on the 14th July.

Pre-race preparation with regard to following a training plan was nonexistent, however I had some base running experience from the half ironman in June and some cycling experience from the recent maracycle so I knew things weren’t that bad.

The Big Day

On arrival in Dungannon all things were pretty quiet as I arrived just after 6am with not a soul to be seen. The three deca guys i think stayed in tents and caravans on site -

I chilled out and checked out my bike and set out my race gear in the white transition tent which was beside the field car park. After 6.30 me and few other guys got changed in the tent and got ready for the swim. When chatting with them I found out that not all the guys were doing the full iron distance. Some were only doing the swim. The way the decaman 10 day event was running was basically that anyone could do parts of the event on certain days or do a full iron distance if they wanted. The three guys doing the deca (Robert, Keith and Andrew) would be doing the full distance every day for ten days.

Here is a picture of Robert and Gerry Duffy (Gerry completed  his first and won last years UK Decaman )

You could do a relay team event if you wanted. The course itself was pretty close nit whereby the swim was on the lough, the cycle would be 12 laps of adjacent road and the run would be 41 laps of route adjacent to the transition area beside the lough, there would be little chance at any time of being lost. The other benefit was that if you needed the loo or extra fuel, you were always close to transition. On the downside the run especially would become very monotonous as it was 41 loop laps.


We entered and started at 7am, however we were told just before the start off that we would only being doing 5 instead of 6 laps of the lough as the water temperature was slightly colder than expected at 14 degrees. If 15 degrees or higher we would have been allowed to do the full 6 laps, so to be exact we ended up only doing 2 miles instead of the 2.4 miles.

At the start of the swim I stayed with the pack of 6 guys for the first couple of laps however over the next couple I began to drop and eventually at the end I was dropped to the last out. The swim went okay. I used the group in front to keep me right ‘sighting’ what direction we were going, however in the later half I had to at intervals stop and take my goggles off to see where the next bouy was to see if I was going the correct way.


The bike I was looking forward to. This year I have enjoyed doing the cycling during the maracycle and I decided to just do the bike portion at a moderate pace. I drank plenty and ate every half hour to 45 mins and even declined an offer of a ‘tow’ from a cyclist who came across me on the course on his weekend long ride. I said to him that I wanted to do the hills on my own and didn’t want to get the benefit from the draft riding behind him. He praised my efforts and we chatted for ten minutes before he headed off in another direction. I was out on the bike for most of the day and had a lot of time to myself. I had time to think about my nanny and my uncle. I knew they would will me on in true ‘Magee’ fashion and this helped me during any periods I was feeling low.

Marathon  5 hrs. 31 min

The run was the bit I wasn’t looking forward to. Not that I was over worried but I knew it was going to be a long time out there and eventually the day would take its toll on me. Initially when off the bike I took my time in transition and then started running. Looking back now I realize that if I had followed a proper training plan I would have done better on the run. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to maintain the non-stop running strategy I prefer.

There was another guy completing the iron distance, not sure what his name was but here is a picture of him I came across (on the left) (well done mate!)  -

I ended up by about half way during the marathon by walk, running with increasingly reliance on walking the more laps that I covered towards the end. Thankfully I never stopped but seeing that the three deca lads had to resort to run walks, this helped me a little bit and I never felt so bad (I tried to forget the fact this was the guys 9th Ironman in a row they had done, so no wonder they were walking at times! I have to admit these guys really inspired me and I got a real thrill when my good friend Eamonn came later and joined me for a few laps. This gave me a good lift as there were not that many spectators at the event, I think it was mostly volunteers and friends and family of the three deca guys. I alternated water and Gatorade during the run with using gels throughout.

Eventually my stomach started to suffer from all the sweet stuff I had during the day so I started looking out for some basic foods with no sugar but the aid station was lacking at this latter part of the day and I was lucky to get half a banana and a few pieces of caramel bar to keep me going. I eventually had to resort to running to my car and getting a banana and a few buns to keep me going.

As the day began to close I watched as the sun began to set over the lake. It was a beautiful sight. I recalled in the morning as I had been there since the sun had just risen in the morning, and now I was there as it began to get dark again. Although I had ended up walking quite a bit I was happy in realizing that I was probably going to finish ok. I was surprised that I didn’t suffer from any injuries and the weather throughout the day had been perfect.

As it got dark it ended up being just me on the run course with the three guys with only a handful of people around, with the day getting eerily quiet. They each had a few pacers with them to help keep them going and each time I passed I gave them the thumbs up in admiration. How they did what they did I will never know. Here is a picture taken of them the next day after completing 10 Ironmans !

Eventually I was on the last lap and I heard Paul from the race timing crew shout ‘last lap Philip, come on, nearly there’. I decided I was going to try at least to finish in style. I walked half of the last lap and ran the second half and ran through the finish line with a massive smile on my face. I was so pleased and my emotions were all over the place. As for time I later found out it was total time of 15hrs, 31 mins, 55 sec. I was so pleased I finished under the cut off time of 17 hrs!

Since the event my uncle has sadly passed away. I do believe however that both Nanny Magee and Uncle Terry were there with me on the day watching over me and helped keep me going through the darker periods.

Today it’s been a couple of weeks since the event and I have done a couple of short runs but nothing special. With all the stress of recent times I was on the smokes for about ten days but thankfully I’m off them again. As for what’s next, I have my biggest challenge yet to date. A baby! My lovely wife Caroline is due and any time now we should be ‘signing up’ for parenthood. I’m so excited, yet so scared; wish me luck!

Bearing in mind this might be my last blog entry for a while, I thought I would look back and review this year based on what I had planned initially. I had at the start of 2012 planned on doing a swimathon, marathon followed by the half ironman with a desire to beat my time. Unfortunately I didn’t beat my time in the half ironman, but I did achieve to get a PB on my marathon time and get just under 4 hrs. I also managed to do my first trail ultra 50k and do my first Dublin maracycle. And to top everything I even did a full iron distance! Yippee!

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