To date, I am still asking myself these questions however the presence of an Ironman medal in my medal locker suggests that fantasies and dreams really do come true.
Ironman Wales for me, has been phenomenally epic, a truly wonderful experience full of just sheer enthusiasm and lust to absorb every possible joyous moment.
For most, an event of this magnitude would induce fear, panic and doubt into many but no, not me. I felt honored, grateful and privileged to be there on the start line in Tenby. There were no negative thoughts, no doubts, just unwavering belief in myself that the 9th of September was going to be a super awesome day.
For those that saw me swimming, cycling and running throughout the course of the day probably saw me smiling, grinning and laughing. I absolutely loved competing in my first Ironman. If you throw yourself 100 per cent positively at something and embrace what comes your way, you will have a fantastic experience regardless of the scenario.
Don’t get me wrong, it was tough, brutal and unrelenting but as the saying goes, competing in Ironmans isn’t meant to be easy, this is what I signed up for and focusing on the negative thoughts wasn’t going to help matters.
I was told to keep smiling and high five as many people as I could because it really does help. The energy from the supporters was unbelievable, the happiness of the younger cheerleaders as you acknowledged their support with a hello and a high five was fulfilling, the positive vibrations emanating from the crowd turned you into a giddy emotional mess but most definitely propelled you onwards and in most cases on the bike ascents – upwards.
There isn’t much that I can say about the course that hasn’t been said before – Its hills, hills and more hills, they just keep on coming. The only flat bit of the course was the swim but Mother Nature had to throw in quite a few swells on the second leg to ensure we didn’t have it easy.
The swim was just lovely; the temps were a balmy 16.5 degrees. As soon as the klaxon sounded and we funneled into the water, there were no shrieks at the briskness of the sea which certainly helped easing into the swim strokes without having to gasp and soothe the body into a nice rhythm.
I placed myself at the front right of the pack with all the super-fast swimmers. Now, for anyone who knows me, know that swimming isn’t my strongest discipline but I had a plan. As I stroked and sighted I went wider than I normally do to avoid the initial scrum and ruckus that accompanies most swim starts. After 500 meters, I gradually got myself into the slip stream of the faster swimmers and took full advantage of their draft. First lap and out onto Aussie Exit, quick look at the watch – 36 minutes – Yeeeeeesssss – another lap like that and I’ll be delighted. I was rewarded with roars of support from the Wicklow Tri Bettys who had made their way down to the swim finish.
Lap two was very much the same, got onto the toes of a group of swimmers, avoided the jellies and flailing arms and before I knew it, I was out of the water in 1 hour 15 minutes. The massive swells on the second lap took me places I didn’t really want to go, 4km in total but the importance of sighting can’t be underestimated and I corrected my course accordingly. To say I was ecstatic was an understatement. It was my fastest time for that distance in open water and I survived the washing machine of an Ironman Swim. Again, the Wicklow Bettys were in full voice and I high fived them all before making my way up the zig zag and onto the 1 km run to the bike transition.
On my way to the bike, I saw my Mrs C and gave her a big wet hug, cue instantaneous power up and off I went again through the streets of Tenby amazed by the early morning crowds that were 5, 6, 7 deep of people. It was a surreal sight and you could do nothing but smile and wave.
On arrival to the T2 bike tent, navigating your way past the throngs of bodies changing into bike gear was an achievement in itself. Finally I found my blue bag and took my time to get the heart rate down, get some fuel on board and get my comfy warm gear on. It was gonna be a long day in the saddle. Safely on the bike, out I went to take on the mighty hills of Pembrokeshire. Once out of the shelter of Tenby, low and behold the wind. Yes the wind welcomed us and encapsulated many with its lukewarm grasp. However, a great piece of advice I got was not to fight the wind, just embrace it and cycle conservatively, navigate the hills up and the technical downhills safely. I also managed to enjoy the spectacular scenery as well. 7 hour and 20 something minutes later I found myself being chased into Tenby by a Leprechaun from Ballymena telling me I was doing Ireland proud. Again another surreal moment to tell the kids about – Did I ever tell you about the time I was chased by a Leprechaun.
The dismount from the bike won’t win any awards for elegance and class but the legs were moving nicely and I managed to rack my bike in an orderly manner compared to my previous attempt at Tri Limits Tyrone where I knocked over about 5 top of the range speed machines but that’s a another story for another time.
The transition from bike to run was a little smoother and uneventful as the transition from Swim to Bike. The 5 minutes spent changing and preparing myself for the marathon ahead went something like this – Well done Damo – You Can Do It!!!
And out on to the run course I went. I was able to find my run legs and stride quite quickly and was feeling confident. How long that would last – not very long but only because the run course had 4 laps of 1500 meter combined elevation so any plans of my fastest marathon were soon put to bed and tucked up along with my other hopes and aspirations. The first big ascent up to New Hedges was mentally taxing but cue Jessie and Bobby Coyle waiting on me half way up the ascent. Our apartment was situated along the run course so Jess was able to track me and be there for me when I needed. Seeing the ones you love does wonders and lifts you so miraculously. Knowing where they would be drove me on in the knowledge that I would see them again later on. Jessie doesn’t like sweaty hugs but she was doing a great job taking one for the team. Bobby didn’t care, he was just happy to see his Daddy.
Go Team Coyle.
At the turnaround point, it was time to take on lots of crackers and flat coke and enjoy the downhill sections into lager lined crowded streets of Tenby town. Making my way into the bottom half of the town, I could hear the chants of OOOOOLE - Ole Ole Ole – OOOOOle – Ole. Surely that couldn’t be the Wicklow Tri Bettys. Turned the corner and low and behold there was Karen, Julie, Gill, Fiona and Noelle. These girls need no introduction, their cheer-leading skills is the stuff of legends and you couldn’t help be inspired and motivated by their positive energies. Every time I passed them was like getting new batteries and I think the other athletes were blown away by their vim and vigor also. My fellow athletes were commenting to me that I was very lucky to have support like that. Let it be said, that the WTC Bettys truly embody the culture and spirit that is the best tri club in the world.
Lap 4 of 4 – the red, blue and green elastic lap bands had been obtained. Now the yellow bands had been slipped on and it was time to bring it home. The feeling among many was that, the last lap was significantly faster than the previous three. It’s that subliminal feeling from the universe that you are almost there, it is within grasp, and all the training hours in the pool, on the turbo trainer and on the Tilley track have paid off. I was congratulating myself all the way to the finish line and I got emotional on seeing Jess and Bobby knowing that the next time I would see them I would be an Ironman but to them I already was.
The glow of the red carpet was beckoning me; I spotted the Wicklow Bettys and near killed them all with the biggest hug I could muster. I danced and jigged my way towards the Big Red M DOT
“DAMIEN COYLE YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”
I stood on the finish line, arms reaching into the starry night sky – PUUUUUURE JOY
Dan Brennan had finished just ahead of me and it was brilliant to see him and share the celebration of what was a remarkable day with him. Dan is a classy athlete and I was delighted for him that he had put manners on the Dragon again after the washout out that was IM Wales 2017. We both executed our plan and now those glorious medals were hanging proudly from our necks.
There are loads of people I need to thank again and yous know who yous are. My gratefulness can never be fully expressed enough to quantify just how much it means to me. The messages of support from my amazing family, friends and Wicklow Tri Club have been acknowledged and will never be forgotten.
To Mum, Dad and Larry – hope I made you proud.
It’s been emotional.
Love You All
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