Zone 3 Latest News

16 November 2015

Tyler Butterfield Answers the Question: What is Kona-Committed?

14 October 2015

Happy ending 2015! One last trip to Spain for Louise Fox

Spain has always been kind to me in my racing career - and I was back one last time for the European X-Duathlon in Castro Urdiales.

This inaugural championship was an exciting event to finish my 2015 season - as it is brand new on the ETU calendar no-one really knew what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to find a proper MTB course, not just riding round some grassy fields as you can sometimes get in the UK!

I'm glad I arrived a few days before the race so I could get in (and recover from) a few practise laps on the bike course. It was deceptively tough - with a 3km climb averaging 10% gradient straight out of transition! Two sections were so steep or tricky, I suspected most athletes (including me) would be walking. This was then followed by a 4km fun but rocky descent back to transition to be repeated 3 times. The field was also a complete unknown attracting elite Spanish mountain bikers and even former Olympic medallists, as well as top road duathletes (would they be any good on knobbly tyres?) and a few familiar names from Xterra. With no clear favourite, I believed I had a shot at the title; and certainly planned to race it to give myself the best chance of getting on the podium!

Castro Urdiales is also a lovely town for an autumn break. I've been swimming in the sea every day to relax, even on race day (as I'm so used to Xterra, it seems wrong to start any race without a swim?!)

I wish I had done this in my tri suit right before the start to cool down, as it was super-hot (at least by British October standards) for our 4pm race

As the time approached, the sound system was cranked up - along with the atmosphere and adrenaline, supporters lined the course, and we were called up to start! The first run set a quick pace this race doubled as the Spanish champs and the national rivalry was tangible! I knew what was coming on the bike though, so I did my best to stay in contention without burning too many matches. I was suffering too in the heat (27* with no shade) which is often my limiting factor on the run. I knew the course passed some showers on the beach, and was hoping to take a 5-second cool-off before T1, but the showers had been taped off - gutted! I kicked myself for not leaving water in my transition box to tip over my head - as unusually there would be no aid station on the bike (I decided my electrolyte was best saved for drinking not showering!)

I headed out on the bike in 4th place, still struggling with a high core temperature up the first climb. I just had to pace myself and maintain concentration - I was relieved to find I rode further up it than most before pushing! Just before the top I witnessed - as if in slow motion - the girl in 3rd place tumble backwards off her bike and down the slope... Quickly checking if she was OK, I reminded myself keep focussed so you don't do the same! Finally (yes finally!) we reached the top and the welcome descent. Only now could I start to get my body temp back down to something cooler than 'so hot I feel cold and shivery!' The descents were a lot of fun - rocks, mud, puddles, a few hidden ditches that caught people by surprise and had athletes flying over their handlebars, or in my case gaining a little more air than expected!

After lap 1 I had moved up to 2nd place, but with a couple of strong bikers closing the gap behind. On the second lap, the lead age group men began to pass, but I was also pleased to note I was overtaking some elite men (who'd had a 5 minute head start) and lapping some of the AG women (who'd started 10 minutes behind). This actually made it more interesting having to pick lines, yet the course never got too congested - my main concern before the start.

By T2 I was in 3rd place but with the 4th lady tailing me into transition. The final run was only 3km so it was time to all-out empty the tank! I hoped that a hard effort out of transition - up the climb to the clifftops - would be enough to put off anyone giving chase, and I was relieved to open a nice gap. Great, I can relax, I thought, with wobbly legs and burning lungs (which are used to running 10k not 3!) but just then I caught sight of 2nd place 200m or so ahead...

Can I close that down with only a mile to go? Well I know for sure I will kick myself if I don't try! With 400m to go, just before the steep descent towards transition, I caught and moved into silver medal position, and then I noticed the penalty box... There were so many numbers on there - too many to take in at speed with my overheated and confused brain, so I skidded to a cartoon-style halt to double check! I'm 99% sure I'm not listed, and 3rd place is right behind me so I set off again quick trying to sprint but my hamstrings didn't like braking suddenly and aren't responding! I don't dare to look behind but just push on as hard as I can to the finish and hope for the best...

My effort is rewarded with 2nd across the finish line - and now confirmed - the European Silver medal!

The event was well attended by media, with photographers and TV crews wanting to interview us, the race compere quizzing us over the tannoy (always slightly off-putting to hear your own voice echoing out across the arena!) I would have loved to have stayed to cheer in all our GB age-groupers at the finish, hang out and possibly even sample a recovery beer... but all of the elite medallists were immediately whisked off to doping control.

I was to discover that producing a urine sample straight after a hot and dehydrating endurance event, is almost as gruelling as the race itself! Only 2 hours racing, but 4 hours and 5 bottles of water later (enough to make me feel truly sick) - it was a greater relief finally filling that 90ml beaker (after 3 attempts) than it had been crossing the finish line 4 hours earlier! But its great to see anti-doping being taken seriously here.

We were allowed out, under escort, for the medal ceremony (all the ladies were still struggling to produce samples at this point!) but sadly missed all the AG awards I was disappointed not able to support all the GB medallists and athletes who cheered so enthusiastically for me. It was a bit surreal standing on the podium under all the spotlights - I defo need to practise my champagne popping technique though - could anyone spot the rookie?!

It was awesome to be able to end my season on such a high, and the inaugural event itself was a great success which I look forward to see growing in the future. Next year's venue is already set for Transylvania - which sounds like a proper adventure! I'm told its a great established race course, so whether you want to try something different to benefit road tri training, or just aren't a keen swimmer and looking for additional races to add to your duathlon season - I would defo recommend this event. It is in my calendar for 2016!

Be sure to follow @LouFoxTri on Twitter to keep up to date with her training and racing throughout the 2016 season!

8 October 2015

Reviewed: Zone3 Evolution Swim-Run Wetsuit by Triathlete Europe

Swimrun seems to be a new growth sport and with the likes of Xterra it’s tapping into the growing demand to get outside into the wilderness where a TT or road bike just can’t take you. With 3 large Swimrun events in the UK this year and already double that amount planned for next year the question on most people’s lips is “is it worth buying a Swimrun wetsuit?” Traditionally people would take a knife to a standard wetsuit cutting above the knees and the elbows but with top-end suits now costing over £500, who is going to do that and do you want to compromise your enjoyment by using a low end less flexible suit?

From seemingly nothing on the market there’s now over 5 different manufacturers with Swimrun specific wetsuits and more in development; it would seem there’s a whole new piece of kit out there to be purchased – but is it worth it?

Unlike a standard wetsuit test, you can’t slip this on at the local pool, give it a whirl and get a good idea on how it performs; so we tool the  wetsuit to the UK’s toughest Swimrun event Loch Gu Loch and put it through its paces properly.

Firstly, the Evolution is design from first principles as a Swimrun suit and we think that’s extremely important. Some manufacturers have rushed a first generation Swimrun suit to market based on existing products. As such these offerings have missed some of the innovations seen on the Evolution and have just as importantly left some redundant features like a rear zip, which in our minds puts this firmly at the front of the field.

The Evolution comes in two parts; the main suit and a pair of 8mm calf sleeves. The specification and feature list can be found here but to recap there’s a full length front zip, a big zipped and easily accessible rear pocket on the outside of the suit and 2 small internal pockets for carrying things like gels or a mandatory compass and whistle. These seemingly small features make a huge difference and negate the need for an extra bum-bag or towing a dry bag for the likes of gels or bars and your map. The biggest advantage is that rear pocket, its one of those features that just work and will likely be on all Swimrun suits in a couple of years.

Let’s start with the calf guards because as simple as these sound, they are miles apart from what other manufactures are doing and just shows the Swimrun specificity of this design. These are 8mm thick so high buoyancy to counteract the drag from wearing shoes. They would also for short events remove the need for extra floatation devices like a pull-buoy. We tried these out in the pull and used them instead of a pull-buoy and they weren’t as effective; but saying this they have become a great swim aid in their own right. If you’ve ever tried the hell that is band-only swimming then this is a halfway house; they give an excellent workout if used as a pull-buoy helping to engage the core and promote a better swimming position. Within a Swimrun race they also provide excellent protection from the scrub and rocks. We both finished Loch Gu Loch with scratches to the front and back of our knees but nowhere else.

Zone 3 should really consider selling these calf guards as a standalone product for those not able to stretch to an entire suit and also as swim aid, far better than core shorts in my opinion for promoting real core muscle engagement.

We tried the Evolution suit in 2 sizes, Medium and Medium Small.  Both fitted very well and we opted to leave the sleeves intact for the very cold Scottish water. Both of us were incredibly impressed with the amount of warmth provided by the suits consider the amount of 1.5 and 2 mm panelling and we noticed no restriction in either running or swimming. I’ve found that in swimming with a wetsuit getting the position of the suit around the shoulders is the most important factor and I was very pleased that despite unzipping the suit fully and with runs of up to 10 miles the suit stayed perfectly in place without any readjustment needed at each swim leading to quick transitions and efficient swimming.

Both of us finished the event with zero chaffing, we deliberately added no lubricant on the neck or anywhere else to show-up hotspots; and there were amazingly none. One of us had a trisuit underneath the other just running underwear covering around 8km of swimming and 47km of running with not the slightest rub. That’s extremely impressive and something to be mindful of if doing a Swimrun event in sea water. I don’t think this lack of chaffing would be possible with a suit that still had a rear zip.

Loch Gu Loch took us through all types of terrain and the suits held up well to the punishment, in particular the calf guards. My suit got a superficial scrape along the shoulder and sleeve where the neoprene is only 1.5mm thick but structurally sound with any damaged more cosmetic than anything, considering the trees and scrub that we passed through I was surprised there wasn’t more.

The Evolution Swimrun suit is a true Swimrun suit; designed from the bottom up with all elements of the sport taken into consideration and a worthy investment for those drawn to the sport. As well as being the perfect Swimrun suit, it also looks pretty flash too. At Loch Gu Loch around 50% of competitors using a Swimrun specific suit were sporting the Evolution.

The Zone 3 Evolution is so good that my race partner is now considering using it as his primary triathlon suit for 70.3 and below due to its great fit and comfort – although I’m not sure he’ll get away with using those 8mm calf sleeves!

Courtesy of Triathlete Europe:

5 October 2015

Loch Gu Loch, swimming, running and a tale to tell!

I first came across the slightly mad cap sport of SwimRun after spotting some pictures of the famous OtillO race in Sweden in an article somewhere, about the world’s most extreme races. Something grabbed my attention, people emerging from the sea clad in shorty wetsuits with paddles and pull buoys, running across some pretty rough looking terrain onto the next swim with a team point to point format and a great background story. I knew I had to give it a go.

Fast forward to late 2014 and I hear rumours of a new event in Scotland, with the same team behind it that brought us the Celtman. 8km of swimming, 47km of running in a point to point race based around Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. A good friend Stuart Macleod has also been out to OtillO this year, he’s done an event or two and from his reports I knew this SwimRun thing had to be done. Stuart agreed to race with me and show me the ropes, to be honest I could not think of anyone I would rather do the event with so it was amazing when he agreed. It was a long wait but Sep 26th came round soon enough.


I had a lot of fun along the way to the event trying different kit, techniques and getting lots of strange looks running around Ambleside or the Coniston fells in a wetsuit. Blair also set some interesting and challenging SwimRun specific swim sets for me, involving very little legs and lots of paddles. Part of the appeal is the sport is so new there really are not hard and fast rules about kit and training, it’s still developing but very quickly.

Team training wise, in true Half Arsed Cowboy fashion, me and Stuart had a quick chat on the phone a week before and then met on the lawn outside the Highland Club the night before the race, fully clad in race kit and went for a run. We figured the swim bit could wait for the morning, there would be 8km of it after all. I knew then we were in for an adventure and no matter what happened we would have a great day together, we both wanted to race hard but it was about the experience rather than the outcome, a good place to be as a team.


The race starts with a ferry ride to Urquart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness, a fitting start for the race. Stuart is a little disappointed we are not heading out on a stinky open topped fishing trawler, the ferry is a little comfortable for his liking and is even serving coffee. Pre-race banter is great and catching up with friends from various events and meeting others passes the time. Tales of 10 degree water fills the ferry, a piper greets us ashore as we head down to the water’s edge for the race start. I am one of the first to test the water, its cold but that’s what we signed up for. A 3, 2, 1 count down and the race is off!

I am a big fan of learning on the job, it’s hard to simulate the added pressure of racing in training so I am glad to get this one out the way at the start of the race! In SwimRun it is usual practice to use a tether for the swims, so you don’t lose your partner. Stuart got us a great start, going out hard but as we settle down the cord get wrapped around my wrist, due to the paddle on my hand I can’t remove it! I tug on the cord, we stop and I managed to get freed up. Pleased to say it’s the only time it happened, experiential learning usually does the trick.


We come out of the water and find out we are only 3mins back on the race leaders, a bit of a surprise as I think we expected more. The first run is 9km with a very gradual climb through a forest track, game plan is to run hard on all the long sections to make up for time lost on the swims. We soon find the front of the race, Ewan and Stuart, Bonnie and Graeme, the banter begins. The German team of Andre and Burkhard soon join us, everyone looks smooth and strong and it’s clear this is where the race is at. It stays close for the next 4hrs, all 4 teams are pushing hard, its great racing. Slowly but certainly hard won, me and Stuart open up a small gap, which grows on 16km run section. We know the stronger swimming teams are coming back at us on the swims so we have to suffer on the long runs to gain time, but all the teams could run too! We never felt safe and had to keep the pressure on.

The journey this race takes covers a vast variety of terrain and landscape, forest, trail, tarmac and all the Loch’s have their own character, rocky shores, bogginess and island crossings. It adds an extra dimension to share this this a team mate, me and Stuart are focussed, hurting but enjoying every minute of it. The marshals at swim exits/entry points and aid stations are doing an amazing job too. We also keep coming across a loud guy flying round in a white van blaring what I think is Michael Jackson music who gives us occasional but welcome abuse.

At Loch Tarf, the 2nd to last swim and only 7km from the finish line, after around 6hrs30 racing its good news to find out we have the gap we wanted, it’s still tight but should be enough if we keep the pressure on. The Loch Tarf swim is awesome, short swims visiting and crossing the various islands, rough ground and the feeling that the finish is near. It finishes with a 30-40m of bog snorkelling trip and I can’t help but smile when the legs cramp trying to get out. Now only have a 6km run and 1km swim left.


This is where the tale becomes interesting, tired but still pushing hard we miss a direction sign, heading the wrong way now. It’s a while before we realise the mistake, no course marking for a while and we get that sinking feeling that we have blown it. It’s ok though, we can just get the map out, sort it and get back on track. Stuart’s reaction as he gets our map out of my pack is telling, it’s wet, soaked and unreadable. We have no idea which way to head but can see the Loch below, just maybe we can get back on track if we head for it. The trod we are following soon turns into a steep, rocky hillside, no sign of any paths, but we are pretty much at the Loch’s edge. Running soon turns to walking, then clambering and we are starting to cool down rapidly. We pop out on the rocky shoreline and can see the finish, but it’s at least 3km away. The shoreline is so rocky and craggy that we try swimming, it’s quicker to move but too cold as we have lost all our heat. Soon a boat turns up and we are back on the opposite shoreline in a couple of mins, freezing cold but happy to not be clambering anymore and trying to swim.

Not the end we would have wanted but the amazing thing is, it really does not matter. The best bit about this experience was racing with my team mate, sharing the highs and lows, suffering, smiling and working so well together in this amazing environment. So no matter what happens, you can’t take the best stuff away, we gave our all, missed a sign and that’s racing. We weren’t in it for a t-shirt or medal so all’s good and we have a story to tell that’s way more interesting than the usual race report!


So near yet so far but smiling all the way to the end, as it should be. The Cowboys will ride again, just like in the films.

Thanks to the Bonnie, Graham, Andre, Burkhard, Ewan and Stuart for the racing and smiles and congratulations to everyone who finished and attempted this tough race. Of course without the many marshals who gave up there time it could not happen and you guys made the adventure possible. I am sure this race will become a future must do extreme race in the future.

If anyone fancies a SwimRun adventure, there are some great events cropping up around the country so seek and you shall find.

Just a quick note I think important to add. The course marking was overall excellent and the event superbly professionally organised, me and Stuart were never in any danger and were very quickly located due to the GPS tracking provided by the race organisers.

Ironman Ambitions with Paul Hayward

I have held back writing the final instalment of my Ironman journey, wanting to let what happened settle in and allowing for me to take it in. The night before Ironman Wales (Saturday 12 September 2015) was one of the hardest evenings of my life. I kept thinking "I have made it to the start line, this has to happen and I have to finish". However as I sat with my feet up (following Victoria Pendleton’s advice at the Oxford Half training day) the fear crept in.

What happens if I do not make the swim or I get a puncture?  We, I say we, but the girlfriend mainly, decided we should go to bed at about 10.45pm and try and get some sleep. “Try” being the operative word here. Despite sleeping well all week, the nerves and the excitement kicked in and I struggled to sleep or calm down. I just could not settle and I felt I had not been asleep at all when the alarm went off at 4.45am.

The walk to transition to put my bottles of High 5 and bacon bagels on my bike had to be one of the quietest moments I have shared with my girlfriend. Words just did not come easily at all. On checking my bike I felt my tyres, they felt inflated but then they did not. Did they need more air? I must have walked up and down transition three times checking them before deciding to leave them. I decided that if I made the swim then I would worry about it then.

On arriving to North Beach and hugging my girlfriend goodbye, I was still in a daze. As I said goodbye and “see you in 16 hours and 59 minutes”; she began to cry and the tears did not stop. I held her as tight as I could and all I could think was “I have to make the swim now”.

The swim was a “rolling start” and in between the sea of red hats I opted for the 1.35 - 1.50 wave of swimmers. I thought to myself that if I could go steady and make the swim then I should be in or around this time. In theory. As I stood there with my fellow competitors and the Welsh national anthem played, I could do nothing but stare out to sea. I had to swim round the buoys, twice and despite the music and the noise; time stood still and I felt very alone. It looked such a long distance and I felt that I was not ready for this.

I had learnt to swim, I had gone from someone who could not swim in my coach Scott’s eyes, to someone that could make it. If it was going to happen, it had to happen today and I went with my line into the sea. I stuck on the outside as I went across the sea to the first buoy. It had taken an eternity at the Long Course Weekend (HERE) and it was not getting any quicker this time around. On turning it I had made the first buoy and I was swimming straight to the RNLI jettison and then back to the beach.
On coming in from lap one the crowd were going mental and screaming and I looked at the clock - 1 hour and 8 minutes had passed. I had no idea what time I had got in the water but even if I did the same time I thought to myself that I was through on the basis of a 7am start. Madly the second lap became comfortable as adrenaline took over and I calmed down. I felt I did some of the best swimming I had done all year.

My Zone 3 Wetsuit was working overtime but giving me the confidence to push further and harder and I felt that I made the first buoy quite quickly, and then the second before turning in to the beach. On making the beach and climbing up, the music had stopped and Paul Kaye (the voice of Ironman) had gone, but I ran to the line - if I was going to fail then I was going to do my best.

All I could hear was clapping, screaming and cheering as I ran to the line. No-one was stopping me, so I thought I must have made this, I must be okay. I just could not believe it. I downed my small bottle of flat coke, put my trainers on and started running topless towards transition. As people cheered and screamed I just smiled and said “thank you”. My girlfriend, in her green Muddy Race Dryrobe, was smiling so proudly and I could have stopped then and cried. I didn’t as I was not sure how long I had, but I was tempted.

Ironman ambitions - Part 11

Inside transition I asked a man the time and he said “9.10 mate, loads of time”. So I thought to myself that I must have made the swim in about 1.50 or so and it was on! I managed to put all my bike kit on this time, compared to the Outlaw Half (HERE), and sink a small Chia Charge bar, before grabbing my bike and going. I had actually done it - I had made the swim and I had half a chance now of being an Ironman, subject to Wales’ roads and weather.

As I made my way out of Tenby across the first 70 mile lap of the bike course I could not get over the amount of people watching and cheering. Despite leaving Tenby and entering into Pembrokeshire’s beautiful countryside, the support remained huge, with people screaming and ringing their cowbells. As I watched my Garmin, I knew that I needed to average about 14.5mph, eat every half an hour and make it back to transition by 5.30pm (without my extra time for the rolling start) to make the cut.
Despite the sun shining, as opposed to the heavy rain predicted, the wind battered me and I was thankful that I had gone for a wind cheater over my tri suit. At points I was like a parachute, but I was not cold and I was thankful as the wind was relentless. Ironman Wales is notorious for the terrain on the bike course and as time went on the hills began to bite and slow me down. They just did not seem to stop but thankfully I was not alone as I started to pass a lot of competitors that had equally pained faces.

On reaching the first aid station, at around mile 26, I decided to stop and eat half my bacon bagel. I had read a lot of thoughts on nutrition and my plan had been eat some Chia Charge flapjacks or malt loaf every half an hour and then eat a bacon bagel half at mile 26 and 52 at the aid stations. As I tucked in to my bagel and took a moment, an elderly couple passed me, smiling, and said “lovely day for it and a sandwich!”. I had to laugh! I may have lost a minute or two but I knew I needed to keep eating.

At around mile 60 you face Wiseman’s Bridge, a 20% climb just past a pub by the beach, and “Heartbreak Hill” in Saundersfoot. I recall at Long Course Weekend I had cried at this point as to just how steep they were - fortunately I had a sneaky cassette change at Pro Bike Fit when I got my service done, surely it would be easier with more gears? I would like to have said yes but it was just as steep and just as nasty but I made it up quite quickly.

My pained expression was replaced by adulation though as I hit Heartbreak Hill. It was akin to a route from Tour De France; both sides of the hill were lined with people cheering and screaming your name and there was barely any space to cycle at points. It was simply magical and even now I smile when I think about it.

At one section I came across this lady jumping up and down screaming my name and making the most amount of noise with her cowbell. I am unsure if it was the shock of the amount of noise she was making or the fact I was thinking I need to make this hill before I fall over, but it did not dawn on me to begin with that this crazed lady was my girlfriend proudly screaming for me to keep going!
Due to her energy and that of the crowd, the remainder of the hill did not seem so bad and on freewheeling back into Tenby I had made the cut off for the first lap and started the shorter second of 40 miles with a massive grin on my face.

I had heard that you need to break the course down into sections and just concentrate on those. At this point I kept telling myself; “make it to 80 and then you are only 32 miles away”. Somehow that seemed manageable and I kept going past other competitors thinking that I was doing okay here.
Sadly though around 90 miles in, the wheels came off and despite eating my emergency large Chia Charge bar, I was struggling. I was sure I would make the cut off but I did not know how close I would be. It was “only” 22 miles away, but somehow that seemed an eternity away. I said to myself I had to do this, I had to make transition; I was back pushing and before I knew it I was back at Heartbreak hill.

The time was around 5pm and I had half an hour (without my extra time) to make it to transition. The crowds had gone down a little but I was still met with people screaming my name and shouting “great climbing” or “you can do this”.  As I pushed through to the top of the hill and turned for the Tenby descent I was met with a number of people running up the huge hill!

It was absolutely crazy that people were off their bikes and already two laps into the marathon. As I cycled into transition the clock said 5.15pm, I had made the cut off with 15 minutes to go and I now had until midnight to do the marathon.

Should I make it this far, my plan had been to do 10 minute miles and aim for about 4 and half hours. At the time this “brilliant” plan was made, I had not factored in how I would feel after the swim and the bike ride. I simply thought “that sounds about achievable” and for the first two laps I was running happily, smiling all the way round and taking on more horrendous hills.

I had witnessed some of the magic of Ironman Tenby last year, but nothing compares to you racing it and I was really enjoying myself. At almost every turn people clapped and shouted “well done Paul, you have got this”. I could not believe the support and by 8.15pm I was still feeling good. However mile 13 came and I started to struggle. I was dropping down to 11 to 12 minute miles and I was in trouble.

Despite taking a gel, and some Redbull with water (so naughty but yet so good), I wasn’t feeling good and at this point I saw my girlfriend again. She was smiling and she tried to run with me. Although some athletes had people running with them, I said to her “I love you but please don’t get me disqualified, I cannot do this again next year”. Despite her best attempts to raise me I was struggling and I walked some of the hills before running back down them.

There was no shame in this and I knew that I just was not fit enough to run the whole thing, despite my thoughts that I could do it. The sun was drawing in and as the darkness fell, it became a battle for survival. I had to keep going, I had to make these last laps and the red carpet - I had come too far not to, but it began to hurt.

This struggle did not compare to the urge to stop at Fecci’s fish and chip shop though. Literally hundreds of people were happily eating fish and chips in front of me as I raced round, all clapping and cheering, and all I could think of was how much I wanted fish and chips as the smell was infectious and my body wanted salty chips washed down with full fat coke. This somehow distracted me from the pain and as I made the last climb I knew I was on the final lap.

It was around 9pm and I just thought to myself “stop mucking around Paul, you have to finish this now”. As I began to run again, and take on more Redbull, I saw my girlfriend who was bouncing at this point “see you at the finish line” she screamed. It was hard to hear those words as it dawned on me I was going to make it, I was going to be an Ironman.

The last lap was really a blur, as I collected my last band (showing I had done four laps) everyone cheered me and even the people I passed said well done. I recall I was really pleased as it was green (my favourite colour). There were still people out there with two bands and I made a point of saying “you can do this, keep strong” and I hoped they could do it. On making the final turn into the finish line I was a little lost to be honest, the music was so loud as was the crowd.

I could not believe I had made it. I honestly thought that I would not make it and although I would give it my all, this was beyond me. As I saw Paul Kaye and pointed to my number, as requested to do, he said “Paul you are an Ironman”. I just could not stop smiling, I had done the impossible and I had made the swim, made the bike and now made the red carpet and heard those words.

I desperately looked for my girlfriend and I just could not see her, there were so many people shouting and screaming. I finished running down the carpet and stopped under the arch, arms aloof and I was beaming. I could not stop smiling. I did not cry, despite thinking that I would do, and I looked up - “P.Hayward 15:15:18”. I had made it before midnight at Ironman Wales - even now typing this it does not feel real and I have to question did it really happen?

On getting my medal and staring at it, I heard my girlfriend scream at me and tell me off, between tears, that she had been right by me and I had missed her. I said sorry and we had done it, we had done Ironman Wales. It has taken a while to sink in and I often touch my medal even now to see if it is real.

Ironman ambitions - Part 11

I cannot really describe what this journey has done for me, save for change my life forever. I have never cared so much about a race or wanted something so badly - now it has happened I am just blown away.

I need to, as per most Ironmen, repay the love and faith those people have put in me and make sure they know it is appreciated.

I would like to thank Hugh, Bobby and the team at Zone 3 for supporting me through this journey and giving me a massive hand in achieving my dream. Tim Taylor at Chia Charge for his support for my nutrition.

Also my coach, and now friend, Scott Farnell , because without his influence and teaching I would never have been able to make the start line. To my friends (sorry there are too many to list) that I have bored to death, missed out on their birthdays or made excuses not to see them so I can ride a bike instead - sorry!

Finally my girlfriend, my biggest supporter and best friend. Without her I would not have made the start line and I am unable to put into words just how thankful I am for her support, love and hugs through the hard times. I am sorry I ate all your chocolate!

I am not, despite popular belief, “going long again” next year but I cannot say I never will again. At the moment I am happy to let it set in and it is amazing that a few people, including some close to me, are now learning to swim and looking at triathlon. I have signed up for a half next year to keep it ticking over and promised the girlfriend some sun.

Thank you for reading this, when I started the blog I didn’t think it would end like this but I never really knew what being an Ironman meant.

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Article courtesy of Paul Hayward.