As Davey Black Triathlon Coach Padraig Purcell starts his transition from Triathlete to Tri Coach, we take a moment to look back on Paudie’s first ever Ironman race way back in 2012.
“After driving from Cork, Ireland with my wife Gill and my daughter Sophie, I arrived in Frankfurt on Friday evening the 5th of July. I had planned to register for the race on Friday evening then have a look around the Expo for a while. Saturday was set aside to go for a small spin in the morning before heading to transition early, then back in my hotel to relax for the afternoon and evening.
You know what they say about the best laid plans however! I missed registration Friday evening, then the expo was closed, and to top it all off, my daughter Sophie did not want to be hanging around!
I completed registration Saturday morning. The temperature was around 30˚C and sunny already! I had a wonder around the expo and spent €15 on a pair of socks for the race that ‘massage your feet as you run’ (they didn’t!). I took it all in and even got some pictures with pro’s and x-pros such as Faris Al-Sultan, the 2005 Ironman World Champion, and Norman Stadler, 2004 Ironman World Champion.
As the mercury climbed to 35˚C, I was convinced that it would be a non-wetsuit swim and I would then melt on the bike. Racking my bike in the Ironman transition made me feel like a pro. A volunteer took my bike and escorted me to my bike rack and assisted me with all my set-up, giving me some great advice about deflating my tyres as the heat could burst them.
Once the bike was racked I went for a relaxing walk and I almost ended up on a nudist beach – but that’s another story for another day. I went back to the hotel to chill out for the evening before the longest day of my life!
Sunday 7th July – Race day. Sleep was sporadic the night before with mixture of nerves and excitement. When my alarm went off at 4am, I had a hearty breakfast of porridge and any other carbs that I could stomach. After breakfast I went back to my room to get the best wishes from Gill and Sophie (Sophie was just 1 so it was not an option to bring her to the swim start as it was much too early).
As I arrived at transition the buzz was fantastic and the weather looked good. I went to my bike and made all the final checks. With the race start fast approaching and my nerves, excitement and emotions coming closer to the surface it was time to hand over my transition bag and head to the water. The support from all the marshals and early morning crowd was super but difficult to appreciate knowing what lay ahead.
I now find myself in the water and listening to an announcement that we are 30 secs from the start. I’m feeling nervous but confident as I know I’ve put the work in with my Coach Steve Davis and his triathlon training program Ireland. The start gun went off so did I. The swim was a 2 lap course with a small beach run between laps. The first section of the first lap was extremely difficult with people everywhere. I felt slow after lap 1 of the swim due to the crowded water, but I was pleasantly surprised to see my watch reading 40mins as I headed into lap 2. I finished the swim in 1:16 with thanks in no small part to Davey Black swim coach Francis Buckley.
Into T1 wetsuit off, bike in hand, helmet and sunglasses on and off I went. It had started raining while we were in the swim, but it was time to put he head down and tick off the 1080km bike ride. Coming out of T1 was a great feeling with shouts of support from the entire crowd, especially the Irish supporting.
The bike course was a rolling 2x 90km laps and the rain was relentless for the first lap. My focus on the bike was to keep my cadence and heart rate as steady as possible when I wasn’t going up hill. There are 8 climbs in total on the course and this is where most of the support was, even in the rain the course was lined. One of the climbs is up cobbles and is nicknamed ‘the nut cracker’ (I’ll leave you decide why, I have my own opinion). Climbing on wet cobbles is no fun as traction is very difficult and sometimes it feels like you’re not moving. As the second lap approached the sun started to break through and things started to look up. The second lap was tougher than the first because when the rain went away the wind arrived! The final 25-30km of the bike was into the wind and also had the toughest climb of the course. The support on the climb was amazing, it was like the tour de France. People 3 or 4 deep cheering you on and the gap of people to ride through got smaller the closer you got to the top and the shouts of ‘allez, allez’ and ‘up, up, up’ got louder! Having made it to the top of the climb it was decision time, push on for my target of sub 6 hours on the bike or ease off a little and save some for the run? That’s when I thought of some advice from my training partner Paul Walshe. Paul had raced IM Austria the week prior to me and had told me in the lead up to ‘do what you should, not what you could’ – great advice Paul. I finished the bike in 6:06, which was close enough to my target for me to be happy with the effort.
Into T2 and feeling like a pro continues as a marshal takes my bike at the entrance to transition. I found my run bag and headed into the tent to change my shoes and put on my €15 socks!
Now it’s time for a 42.2km marathon around a 4 lap course. The plan I had discussed with Coach Steve was if you feel good push because you won’t feel good too often!
The first push started as soon as I left T2 and again, the crowds were fantastic! Lap 1 and the start of lap 2 went to plan, but then my stomach started to gurgle as all the gels and hydration seemed to be taking their toll on my stomach. I had to schedule in a trip to the loo on laps 3 and 4 so I switched nutrition to bits of banana and flat coke and this did the trick.
Onto the last lap and I was struggling. The demons were in my ear telling me I wouldn’t finish, telling me I couldn’t finish. That’s when the crowd came into play. A group of lads from Nass tri club saw me struggling and really got behind me and gave me that extra bit of energy to push on to the finish line. As I crossed the final bridge for the final time it looked like I was going to make my target of sub 12hours. At this point I could relax a bit and start to enjoy the experience again. Finally I was going to run up the finish chute that I had passed at the start of every lap and get to see my wife and daughter. I stopped for a kiss from Gill and Sophie and then ran up the finish chute. After 11hours 55mins and 18 secs I was finally an IRONMAN! Now the decision, to get a tattoo or not?
Finally, I am the Ironman but it would not have been possible without the help and support of the following people; Coach Steve – when I met Steve it was taking me almost 11 hours to complete a sprint triathlon! I’m proof that his triathlon training program Ireland work! Francis Buckley swim coach – all those seemingly crazy drills have paid off, I was a very poor swimmer and between Steve and Francis I have, and continue, to improve. My training partners, Paul, John, and Aengus – it was always a pleasure to head east on the long rides, and Paul heading to Dungarvan at stupid o’ clock and making me ride 6km further than you! To all my friends and family for your ongoing support and understanding. Finally, and most importantly, Gill and Sophie. Thank you for giving me the support and strength to achieve my goal of becoming an Ironman. When I went to the dark places during the marathon it was thinking of you waiting at the finish line that got me there! I love you both so much and can’t wait to cheer Gill across the line if she ever chooses to complete a marathon!”