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Welcome to Half Ironman Antwerp, Belgium - 2 August 2009

Here are a few photos and some short videos from my very first Half Ironman triathlon which took place in Antwerp. The distance of a Half Ironman is 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21km run.  I said to Gibbo that if I have a "good day" I should finished between 7hrs -  7hr 30mins, but more likely to be just before 8 hours. The official cut off was 8 hours and 30 mins. Well I'm very pleased to say that I had an "outstanding day" and finished in 6 hours and 21 minutes which was completely unexpected!  

I came out of the swim in 38:06mins (6:58 mins in T1), 3hrs 13mins for the bike (4:44 mins in T2) and 2hrs 23mins for the run.  The swim leg is by far the hardest for me and I knew that I just had to keep the arms swinging over and my feet kicking to get through it.  I was totally amazed when I exited the water and looked at my watch - I even double checked it in case my eyes were not focusing correctly. I was not expecting to go any faster than 50 mins. I could hear Gibbo on the side line saying what an amazing swim I had.  For the first time, the Antwerp Half Ironman organisers decided to do wave starts per age group, rather than a mass start for all 1,600 competitors.  This certainly made for a much more pleasant swim leg.  It was a long run from the swim exit to my bike in T1, but I didn't feel a thing as I was still so stunned with my swim time.  I made sure I took my time in T1, put on some warm clothes because it was starting to rain again and prepared myself for the 90km bike leg ahead of me.  

The bike course went out into the industrial area of Antwerp, so certainly not the most scenic.  The first 25km absolutely bucketed down with a fierce head wind.  However I was absolutely wrapped that I had a head wind going out, as that meant a tail wind on the way home - whoo hoo!  In all my training rides I could never go any faster than 3hrs 30mins, so to come in off the bike in 3hrs 13mins was awesome.  

Then onto the run.  In training, I made sure I had done plenty of runs directly off the bike.  My usual Saturday morning schedule was a 90km ride followed directly by a 10km run.  I always struggled in the first 5km to find my running legs, however on race day they came quite quickly and I was able to settle into the run nicely.  This is not to say I wasn't in pain though, for some reason I was not feeling very well in my stomach.  However since I was familiar with this feeling as I had experienced it before, I knew that I could keep going and it would soon pass with some more fluids.  After a bit more sports drink and a few more gels my stomach was feeling OK again.  Gibbo’s support on the side line was hugely important and helped me so much, particularly when the muscles were getting really very fatigued.  But I knew I just had to keep on going. And "going" I did - to finish my first Half Ironman triathlon, which was certainly an amazing, challenging and hugely satisfying experience.

the start of my big day
6.45am and ready for the 1.5hr drive to Antwerp for an 11am start time.  The day was not looking good even then, in terms of weather.

so much to think about
So much to think about and I haven't even started racing yet!

getting marked up
Getting my race number written on my arms at the Race Office on Sunday morning. At that stage I was thinking, oh my lord what have I gotten myself into!

show time
Looking very nervous while waiting to get started

          warm up time                     warm up time    
Trying to do some stretches to keep my mind focused

Click on image to play video on You Tube

 get ready

Herded and penned up like sheep for our age group wave start.  35 - 39 years were the light blue caps.

an we are away
Finally we are away, two groups in front and another two behind - all three minutes apart which made for a much more pleasant swim start than the usual mass start of 1,600 athletes.

getting ready for the 90km bike
Getting dressed for the bike leg in T1 -  I was hoping my bike clothes had remained dry from the down pour all morning.

video 2
Click on image to play video on You Tube

on the bike
Out onto the bike course sporting a big smile after a great swim and feeling ready for the next 90km ahead - even though it was bucketing down!

lunch for the day
This was my lunch for the day, a couple of Cliff Bars, a Go Gel and an Isostar Bar - yummy - NOT!
In the end I only actually got through half of it.

onto the run
My first of three 7km laps on the run - feeling pretty good considering the four hours of exercise I had already done.

Click on image to play video on You Tube

last lap
My last lap - 21km nearly finished, boy was I looking forward to getting to that finish line.

the finish chute - oh what a feeling
I made it! I couldn't believe it, I was about to finish my first Half Ironman in 6 hours and 21mins - a time that was way, way better than I ever could have imagined.

celebration time
Celebration time with my finishers medal.  After crossing the finish line I thought to myself, well that was not half as painful as what I thought it was going to be.

home james
Done and ready to go home - what an amazing experience!

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