Ironman Pula 70.3 Finish Line

Ironman Pula 70.3

Ironman 70.3 Pula

A channel swim doesn’t come out of fresh air, I’ve found that it’s an intense training regime that in many ways eclipses that of completing an Ironman 70.3. Here’s the sotry of that…

Looking back to September 2015 I was fortune enough to be able to take part in an Ironman 70.3 triathlon. This particular one was located in Pula, which is in the beautifully picturesque Croatia.

The training for this particular event was over a year, so a little shorter than my channel specific trianing, yet with it being a triathlon it did encompas three sports. Swim, Bike and ‘Run’.

I’d been riding my handcycle for a couple of years before taking on the idea of this race, yet the part that held the most of an unkown and challenge was the bike element of the race. I use the term race in it’s most basic form as in essence I was racing myself and the clock.

An Ironman 70.3, as mentioned, is made up of a swim of 1.2 miles (3.8km) and bike of 56 miles (90km) and a run of 13.1 miles (21km – a half marathon distance)

The swim was in the Adriatic Sea with a balmy temp of about 20C – if only a temp like that for a channel swim! Each competitor has  one hour and ten minutes to complete the swim, anyone not able to do this automatically ends their day there and then. The swim for me was really the easy part and being at the start waiting for the gun, surrounded by thousands of triathletes, many of which are clearly more than a little nervous at the prospect of a rough sea swim ahead. After some 35mins I was out of the water, heading to Transition One and my bike.

Pula Swim out of the Water

Pula Swim out of the Water

Getting out of the water and to T1 is usually the hard bit for me, luckily the water does help to keep me cooler and help with my mobility, but there was a longish trek up a slope to T1 where each athlete has 15mins on top of the 1hr 10mins to get out of T1. Aftter an elapsed 45mins I was on my bike and away on the hard bit, the 56 miles (90km) of the bike route. It was a challenge for a few reasons, it was 56 miles on a handcycle for a start, the temperature was starting to rise, it would get to about 29C in an hour or so. The route took in many climbs which added up to about 750m of vertical assent, which when you only have your arms to pull you up that gradient, it get’s hard work. The main challenge does come with the time though. Each athlete has 5 hr 30 mins elapsed race time to complete the bike. So I had about 4 hrs 45 mins to get this done, which was always going to be a challenge.

Mike on his Bike in the Pula Sunshine

Mike on his Bike in the Pula Sunshine

The great thing about Ironman triathlons is their friendly spirit, while the bike was hurting, the support from the crowd and the other athletes was the power I needed to get the job done. The shot above shows me having a much needed drink and another athlete coming up behind to pass me, luckily my swim gave me a headstart on the majority of the field. Interestingly it’s parts of the bike that really does give you time to doubt if you’re going to be able to complete this, as the other athletes passed me I was firmly towards the back of the race at this moment in time. So much so that the final feed station had closed by the time I had got there. Luckily I had plently of food and drink with me to see me the last 15 miles to Transition 2. Which was a fast mostly downhill run back into Pula, where my race Wheelchair awaited.

Mike Part way through the run

Mike Part way through the run

This is where the pain starts to hit home. Because I’ve still got feeling in my legs, the race chair hurts, with the relentless strain on my shoulders and arms over the last five hours I’m feeling it now. Luckily I’m able to soak up the positive vibe of the spectators, fantastic volunteers and other athletes, whom are in many cases really suffering. I do quickly start to catch and pass other competitors and am thinking a sub 1 hr 30 min half marathon is on the cards. It was at this point, while trying to push hard I managed to fall of a very high curb and out of the chair. Luckily a fellow athlete quickly helped me up and back into the race.

The finish was in an acient Roman Ampitheatre, think the Colluseum in Rome and you’re on the right track, a perfect setting for one of the most memorable sporting days of my life. The crowd, the many, many hours in the pool, on the bike and in the chair all culminated in a fabulous day.

At the end of the Race with the hard earned medal

At the end of the Race with the hard earned medal

Finished! Looking back over the pictures and recalling some of the story does make me realise it’s the end and the memories of the day and training that make the journey all very worthwhile. Add in some friends that I’ve made from this event and you’ve got a moment in life that makes life amazing. A finish time of 6 hr 36 mins, I’m happy with.

#mikeSwimsTheChannel #anythingispossible

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