Wow!!! What an epic day!
I’m writing this at 6am (the morning after) stuffing Pringles in my face like I’ve never eaten before.. having gone to bed at 1am! I think the adrenaline might still be doing its thing. *edited – I fell asleep and had to finish this after arriving in Slovenia*

Race briefing confirmed our worst nightmares! No wetsuit! Having never really done much skins OW swimming this was my worst nightmare. My wetsuit is my safety blanket. I had a suspicion it would be as it’s been so damn hot and the water like a bath. So I prepped and swam everyday beforehand skins to prove to myself I can swim just fine in a swimming pool so why not somewhere a little deeper?

The swim was amazing. I went into the end of the 1:15-1:20 pen which meant I set off around 7:30. We (me and my buddy Charlotte) met up with Tom, Rachel and Cath so we all got to be excited together for the start which was lovely. We had a bit of a giggle when the chap behind me tried to put his hat on, heard a ping sound and then his hat flopped onto my head I had to help him into it!

Standing in the pens my nerves were gone and I was just excited and wanted to get started. The rolling start was brilliant. Not too busy, there obviously was some thrashing about and quite a lot of people who clearly have no sense of spacial awareness so I did quite a bit of weaving and avoiding. Mid section on the way out there was quite a lot of chop which made it harder and the turn brought us into direct rising sun so quite hard to see anything. My main aim was to get into that water and not panic, I wanted a flap free swim and I got it. Probably another reason for my super slow time  I did my best Dory impression and just kept swimming enjoying the views when breathing and thinking what an amazing place it was. The extended canal section was fab (reminded me of the Dart 10k), got a bit more punchy towards the end where it was getting narrower and shallower but nothing too bad and I could see Ben on my left as I swam the length. I have discovered it is possible to wave and swim at the same time but not advisable. When I was out on the run he shouted at me ‘did you wave at us as you were swimming?’ He and David apparently found this hilarious but in my head I wanted them to know I’d seen them. Ben followed me the length of the canal and I loved being able to see him as I went. Towards the end it got quite reedy so I had to keep flicking off big long reeds and canal things that were tangling around my arms… by this point the swim felt looooonnng and I couldn’t wait to get out.

Swim exit, legs a bit all over the place and a very steep ramp and bank to clamber up followed by a huge run to transition.
Managed to find my bag ok and was helped out by a lovely young lad who piled everything back into my bag for me. A mento mint in T1 is the best thing ever!

Run to my bike with shoes in hand. Luckily I was racked very close to bike out which is good for me.. anyone who knows me knows I have no sense of direction AT ALL.. like none, so this was good for me. Also racked in front of the pros which meant – squeal- I got to see Daniela Ryff before the race. Total fan girl moment as I walked by having had another nice young man sort my tyres for me before the race. (It had been so hot that everyone was letting the air out over night to avoid exploding tyres.)

Back to the bike, I set out on the first new loop which was fantastic. The roads were like glass and I could get aero and stay there no problem. I’m not sure what my average pace was but I was seeing easily into the high 20s for the flats. There was a brilliant section on the highway which was very vroom vroom. I was a bit concerned about the drafting rule and the beginning was a bit of a overtake fest trying to find the right place in the pack.

Isn’t it funny how you end up with a little tribe for the day. I made some new friends. Wolfgang who laughed at me every time I overtook him on a hill for him to then overtake me on the down. ‘Gemma!!!! You love zeee hills eh?’ Was what he kept shouting at me. Pete, a lovely guy who was from the UK and also his first towards the end of the ride, on the run Mark who was in our hotel and rode in on the bus with us.. we were both staring at the run buffet and picked up melon… did the tentative nom nom test (aka is this going to make me throw up) and we both did it in unison, looked at each other and did the oh yeah this will work, then the oh hey it’s you! We ran a bit towards the end together. Another Dutch guy who I had a long conversation about tea with- his wife is British so he understood that above all else all I wanted was a cup of tea! I’m digressing again…

Bike.. first loop was brilliant. Sun shining but hot but some really fast sections and stunning scenery.. I got to see Ben around the halfway point which was lovely although rather brief then onto the original loop. Around mile 75 or so it started to get really dark and I thought uh oh here we go. Stupidly I thought a little bit of rain might be nice. Well! I got more than I bargained for. A spectacular light display over the mountains which actually made me yell Wow. And then the heavens opened. There was hail stones in bucket loads, thunder and lightning and THE WIND!! My god! At one point I wasn’t sure I could actually do forward motion. It was all I could do to keep upright. A guy in front of me stacked it sideways with a disk wheel… there were huddles of athletes in bus stops. Apparently some were stopped and shipped off to a barn for shelter! Being British I just carried on like a twit thinking well I’m sure it’ll be ok. It was scary!!! The descents were so dangers, flooding at the bottom with tight bends. Not sure how I managed to just keep on going but eventually after about an hour it slowed down and was a bit more manageable. I think the battle from the storm has sapped me a bit and I started to worry that I’d not followed my nutrition plan as I’d been more concerned on staying on my bike so I started to load up again on nutrition and tackle the last few hills. The last big one coming back to Klagenfurt was a bit of a stinker. It just went on and on and on and had a false top. It had started to rain again after a bit of a reprieve which was annoying. The last 10 miles were in the dry and the decent into Klagenfurt was quicker and I started to prep myself for the run… just a marathon to go! I’d been told that on the day you just somehow get it done and I was hoping I would.

T2 was interesting.. I was soaked so I dried off my feet and put on some lovely fresh socks which felt like the best thing ever. The good thing about the earlier rain was that it had cooled down my puffy feet but now they were a soggy shrivelled mess.
Another mento mint for T2 – and off I go.
Running out was a bit like a maze where you looped around the same bit a few times so I managed to see Ben a few times then off down the side of the lake I went. Good god it went on for a lifetime. 3 miles in I thought this is going to be a bit crap.. but I stuck to my plan and tried to just break it down into chunks and told myself take each mile as it comes, one foot in front of each other and don’t get overwhelmed. 3 miles turned into 4, then 5. I had a little celebration at 6 (10k) sort of 1/4 of the way. I saw Ben again around the park bit before heading out to town and had a bit of a cuddle and a slight wail about how bloody far a marathon is. Just keep on moving…
Stupidly I’d left my running water bottle in my street bag, I’d planned to use tailwind the whole way round but having been a numpty and leaving that somewhere else I had to improvise. I had some tailwind sachets with me so I grabbed water and tipped in bits and alternated that with just water and coke. I thought of T and her Austria run stories and how she loved the watermelon and she was right. I felt like I needed to eat something but I wasn’t sure what would make me feel instantly sick. Melon was a good shout. So I had bits of melon along the way too. When I got into town I bumped into Tom which was lovely. We had a quick chat and a hug and off I went to go ring the town bell. Back off to the mid way point. I’d been trying to keep my pace even, originally I’d planned to try and run around a 10 min mile but when I got halfway the heat was up again and my chest felt quite tight and I wish I’d had an inhaler at that point. My legs were willing but my chest didn’t want. So I got more into a run walk pattern, running as far as I could before I felt uncomfortable, quick little march walk then run again. I saw Ben again and had more cuddles and a bit of encouragement. Heading off down the side of the lake again was a bit miserable but I knew it was the ‘last time’ I got chatting to Mr Dutch guy about tea and he kept me company for quite a while then I ran on ahead. Back to the middle point and second lap band, back to town. I saw Tom again, another chat and hugs, he was on the home stretch I still had to get into town and ring that bell. Second bell ring! Yes!!! Now I get to run home. I had a mini panic that I’d have to run back down the lake again but getting closer and doing the maths I realised that would be too far.. thank god!

Back into the park and I knew Ben would be waiting at the finish for me. I walked quite a bit as my chest wasn’t good and I didn’t want to limp over the line or feel I had to stop so I conserved a bit of for the last few k. 41k sign! 1k to go. Pete from the bike is next to me trying to get me to fall in line with him, he’d been on the heels of a German guy who just trotted steadily the whole time, a perfect pacer apparently but I just needed a minute.
Turn right to finish!! Yesss!!! Don’t mind if I do, proudly showing the marshals at the turn point I have both of my lap bands, let me through!!
Do they spring the floor on the chute because it felt so bouncy and I could hear everyone screaming and cheering, high fives round the corner and there it was. The epic finish! Gemma Shadbolt YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!! I stood under the finish for a decent finisher picture (obligatory) then went to receive my medal! The guy who gave me my medal nodded to look behind at my time. 13:04, that’ll do pig, that’ll do!!! I looked back at him and he high fived me. Smiles all round. I wasn’t sure if I’d be totally overwhelmed and cry or whether I’d just feel a bit nothing (as sometimes I do) but I was a good in-between. So so glad I’d finished, with a fab time that I am so proud of!

What a day! What an experience! I am over the moon!

Well done if you got to the end!! X