Shonsel’s first Ironman wasn’t an easy experience, but strength of will got her through it

Ironman Austria Swim Exit (finisherpix)

Exiting the water, things were going smoothly… (Photo: finisherpix)

Ironman was the reason I got into triathlon in the first place. The idea of swimming way further than I ever had, cycling longer than that any sportive I’d done and then running a marathon all in one day just seemed crazy – which I think was the appeal.

Me and Tom have both taken our time getting to Ironman, building up through the distances so that when we finally got to it, we’d be ready. Before the swim start though, I didn’t feel quite so confident. We found some space away from the crowds before we had to get out onto the beach at the start – I was full of nervous excitement and just wanted to get going.

The swim was OK for me. I didn’t get too beaten up – though there were some close calls – and sighting was really difficult even with polarised goggles. I came out of the water in 1:15, which was faster than I was expecting considering the navigation and the fact I’ve only ever covered that distance a handful of times.

I’m never one to rush through transition  – I’d rather be comfy on the bike than rush it –  so after my usual leisurely change I began the fast 180km route. By less than an hour in, I knew I was going to have a hard day nutrition wise. I felt sick after my first feed at half an hour and was getting stabbing pain in my stomach. I pressed on though and was overtaking plenty of people, especially when the road turned upwards.

Ironman Austria Bike (finisherpix)

A quick laugh as Kevin flies by (Photo: finisherpix)

Kevin came past me towards the end of the first bike lap and it was great to see a friendly face and know at lest one of my team mates was still out there with me. I kept trying to eat, but every time I did I just felt worse. Even so, I was only about 10 minutes slower than Tom on the bike and I didn’t feel like I’d gone too hard physically.

Half way through lap two, I saw Liz coming the other way, there was no time for a natter, but again, I was glad to see her – there was just the hubby to find now.

The run started OK, but the pain in my stomach and lack of energy were both becoming more obvious the longer I ran. I saw Tom just behind Kevin about 25 minutes into the run, and was a bit jealous of the company! I didn’t dwell on it though because the pain increased right until I was sick at around 25km in.

Totally depleted, walkers were overtaking me and it took me one hour and 10 minutes to get though a 5km section, which included a 20 minute nap on a bench. At that point I wanted someone to come and take me off the course and might’ve given up if it wasn’t for the fact I didn’t want to let the team down – I saw Kevin, Liz and got a hug from Tom, which helped.

Ironman Austria Finish (finisherpix)

Shonsel doesn’t really remember the finish too well (Photo: finisherpix)

In the end I was glad I didn’t give up – I think I must’ve been going a bit delirious because I remember shouting for Tom, but I then thought the quickest way to find him would be to run to the finish as fast as possible. I don’t have a clue how but I pushed hard through the last 12km without stopping at the aid stations, it was my fastest bit of the whole run.

I don’t remember the finish at all! The next thing I knew, Sharon (Kevin’s wife) was looking after me, then Tom was there feeding me pizza!

Considering the race had gone pear shaped nutritionally from almost the start, I was thrilled just to have finished, let alone to sneak under 13 hours.

I’ve told Tom to slap me if I ever say I want to do another! But I think I might actually end up earning that slap some time soon!