For some, it is the winning or the completion of the challenge that counts, nothing else, and it doesn’t seem to matter how they do it. To an extent this is understandable, as there are many ways to finish an Ironman or qualify for team GB (the roll of honour having been extended in the last 24 hours with the news that Eddie Hirst had qualified for the Kona Ironman World Championships). But there is a special place in people’s hearts, as well as in the history books, for those who win with style, win while overcoming impossible odds, win with an epic story to tell. The column written earlier today held the title of “best St Helens Tri report ever” for slightly less than the time it took Eddie to finish the race yesterday, as this year’s youngest competitor Sarah Taktak submitted this almost indescribable account of how she slayed the biggest challenge of all. Sit back with a snack/drink/tipple of choice and let it sink in……….
I honestly can’t find the words to say how happy I am and this will be one of the only times I make a long post (very very long) but it’s more for myself than anything, anyhow strap in……..
I don’t think anything I’ve done before has ever measured up to this moment, and if I needed anything to prove to myself that I’m a capable athlete (which I did), this is it. The swim exceeded my expectations, I felt really comfortable and finished with a time of 69 minutes, much faster than I expected.
The bike was a tough journey, as 112 miles with over 9000ft of climbing is bound to be. I started off strong, averaging 16mph for the first 20-30ish miles according to my Garmin, then that dropped when I hit the hills (which wasn’t unexpected). I was chuffed with the first lap, about 14 mph average which was well enough to make the cut off, but it continued to slow throughout the second lap where I started to seriously doubt myself. I had problems eating on the bike, as I started to get hungry but couldn’t force myself to swallow any energy bars, and anyone who saw me at the bottom of Belmont the second time around would have known I was in a bad place at that time. The support was incredible though, everyone was really encouraging and two people actually came to give me a little push, which was much appreciated. It was almost impossible for me not to get going again when everyone was ringing cowbells and blowing horns screaming “COME ON YOU’VE GOT THIS!” As soon as I found my legs again I decided to just power up as I knew it was the last hill, and that I was nearly done, but right until the last mile I was doubting myself. I ended up with about 20 minutes to spare, so I was really happy going onto the run.
The run was as hard as I would have expected running a marathon after 10 hours of exercise would be, but running through the town centre and everyone roaring with applause was one of the best feelings ever. Pretty much from the start I was run-walking; I attempted to run up the hill in the park on the first lap but decided it was best to walk the uphills like everyone else was doing. I ate a lot of oranges and had a lot of nice chats with people on that horrible long stretch out and back, I think it went better than expected though and I didn’t have any major bad points on the run, but did find it extremely difficult to actually start running at times.
The best part? Either the Sheephouse Lane Fancy Dress Party, the final run through the town centre and down the red carpet to the finish, or the pizza at the end.
I want to say a massive well done to all my club mates who absolutely smashed it yesterday, thank you all for looking after me and congratulations, you’re all incredible. Also to everyone who came along to support, even the big groups of people who didn’t know me but still cheered for me. Especially though Chris and Bethany Forber for sneakily keeping me company for a few miles on the run, and for helping me out with my training and treating me like part of your family.
Thank you Mum and Dad for supporting me since I even started to show an interest, training with me, keeping me motivated and inspiring me to start doing triathlons in the first place, two years ago;
Katherine Cheshire and Molli Forber, thank you for staying by me and listening to me talk about nothing but ironman for months, you’re both wonderful;
Mark Derbyshire and Helen Broderick, thank you for self allocating yourselves as my joint coach, you both helped me out more than you probably realised and you’re like family to me, not to be too mushy;
Robert Chesters, Jeanette and Andy Fisher, thank you for your constant support for the past year and for hyping me up so much that not finishing was never an option;
And my super loud supporters on the course, I can’t mention you all just because there were so many people and I don’t have all of you on social media but I’m genuinely so thankful for everyone who came down to watch.