When choosing an ironman location Brazil was an easy pick for me. Golden sands, clear waters and limited hills. What I ended up with was 45-degree sun, heat stroke and losing my bike.
It all started this side of the water. TAP (Air Portugal) were flying me from Manchester to Lisbon, then change planes to Fortaleza. I had booked in advance and had also booked my bike box on the plane. Three days before departure I received a phone call from TAP to explain that the plane to take me from Manchester to Lisbon was too small to fit my bike box through the luggage hole. I explained that my bike box was 1200 x 800 x 300mm, to which they were adamant wouldn’t fit through their opening 1000 x 1000mm wide??? I spoke with three individuals from TAP, and none of them could understand that my bike box would fit if they fed it in lengthways!!!!! To make sure I didn’t have to leave my bike behind, I was instructed to deliver my bike to Manchester airport the day before so that it could travel on a large plane then join me in Brazil. Needless to say that when I arrived in Fortaleza, my bike was not there! Inside the box was my bike, run kit, helmet, swim gear, shoes… I was two days away from race start!
One thing I learnt very quickly was that in Brazil no one speaks English. Trying to explain the importance of the bike box was impossible. They finally found it waiting in Portugal, it didn’t make it on my plane, and I was told that due to customs and baggage handlers not working over the weekend, it would take three days to receive it. Distraught, angry and upset I had to inform Ironman that I wouldn’t be competing in the event L
I went back to my hotel and cracked open a beer! All that training and dedication had gone to waste not to mention the financial expense. Four beers later my phone went off. It was TAP explaining that if I got to the airport now, there might be a chance that they could get the bike off the plane (landing in 2 hours) and get customs to work late on a Friday night to allow me to take the bike away. I jumped in a taxi and shot off to the airport customs hanger.
The hanger was just a steel structure, it had a front to the building but the back was completely open and just led out to the runway so planes could drive in and be undercover while unloading… not only planes though also Mosquitos and bugs!!!! I sat on a bench from 8 pm covered in flies, until it started getting cold, covering myself with a sheet and a spare jumper. It was impossible to sleep, but I just waited and waited until finally at 5 am… there she was!
It was 24 hours before the start of the race. I emailed Ironman and started getting my things together, I knew I had to sleep during the day and get water/food on board ready, but I wasn’t bothered. I was racing, and that’s all I cared about. 5 am the next morning and my bike was racked, I was ready, and the race started. The swim was warm and therefore a none wetsuit swim. The water was beautiful and so clear you could see the ocean floor 20m below us. As I got out of the water, you could straight away feel the heat. Even though I applied factor 70 sunblock the sun got to me on the bike, and I burnt everywhere. It drained the strength out of me, and as I changed my shoes in transition for the run, I could tell I was in trouble. I sat down to compose myself for 5 mins as the room was spinning and I felt very light headed. Soon enough I was over a big black bin throwing up and shivering in cold. The organisers came over and told me I had to stop for heat stroke but as they turned around, I thought to myself ‘no one’s stopping me after this far’ so I ran out of transition and on to the run course. The medical team followed me for about 1km but soon realised that I wasn’t going to stop. My marathon time must have been over 5:30 and I hated every second of it, run-walking after about 13miles. The sun was still blistering, and the ice I was putting down my top and hat was melting in seconds. Finally finishing in 15 hours, this is my slowest and most painful Ironman to date, but I’m glad I did it!