Success!  As you may have seen, I completed the Ironman on Sunday 30th August in 13 hrs 30 mins… as expected it was a gruelling but hugely rewarding experience.

The race day started early, with a 4am alarm to give my wife, Catherine and I enough time to eat some breakfast and get in to the start in plenty of time.  Once at the start area, we added our drinks and food to the bikes and got into our wetsuits.  In order to safely manage the 2,000 people starting, the swim was started in ‘waves’ or group depending on your gender and expected swim time.  Catherine was off about 20 minutes before me at 7.10 am.  Given her earlier start and faster swim time, I knew there was little chance of seeing her again on the course!  So I gave her a hug and wished her good luck!

The 3.8 km swim was quite technical with several turns.  Pleasingly, I managed to complete it in just over 1hr 20mins.  Unlike my earlier practice sessions, when I looked at my GPS, it showed I had been swimming straight and ‘only’ covered 3.8 km.

After a longer than expected transition, mainly to allow me to apply lots of sun screen – I set off on the bike.  I had been watching the weather forecast like a hawk and knew that it was going to be a hot race in every sense of the word!  Even as I set off on the bike the temperature was already in the mid 20’s.  I knew I wouldn’t be getting off the bike until at least 3pm when by that stage, the temperature would have risen to the mid 30’s!!  So sun protection was very high on my agenda.

I eventually got off the bike after 6hrs 20 min.  It had taken slightly longer than I had hoped, but the hot weather did slow me as I needed to stop more frequently at the aid stations, both for water and because the volunteers were hosing us down with water to help keep us cool.  Also knowing that you have a marathon to run means you tend to err on the conservative side!

I must be honest, the run was brutal… it was 35 degrees by the time I started to run and it had been that temperature for the last 4 hrs of the cycle section.   The first 13 miles of the marathon was manageable and I maintained a reasonable pace, walking through aid stations and jogging the rest.  However, I slowed considerably from about 13 to 22 miles when the heat was really starting to take its toll on the field of runners.  The number of competitors that were collapsing with the heat or being physically ill was concerning.  At this stage my focus was on completing rather than time.

Thankfully the supporters were incredible at keeping you motivated and giving you the strength and courage to keep moving.  With about 4 miles to go, I saw a friend who had come out to support me.  He gave me a few words of encouragement and told me he wanted to see me run.  Not wanting to disappoint him, I started running again.  To my surprise, it didn’t hurt as much as I feared… so I kept on running, pretty much right to the end.  It just goes to show what a little support from the right people can do!  I have no doubt that without him I would have taken longer to finish the race.

Crossing the finish line was such an incredible experience.  Running into the stadium to a huge fanfare and music playing, the crowd clapping and cheering was AMAZING!  As you cross the line, they call out your name and say the words ‘You are an Ironman’ – it’s something I will never forget.

So what about Catherine?  Well she was there at the finish line waiting for me, having completed the race in 13 hrs – beating me yet again!! 

I am so grateful for all your generous donations and words of support in the past few months.  Knowing that people were sponsoring me, really helped keep me motivated during the darker moments of the race when stopping seemed like the only thing I could do. 

I really hope the money raised - a fantastic (£2,255) to date, will make a difference to Caring Breaks.  My JustGiving page will remain open for a few more days, so if you can, please consider donating.  Here is the link

Thanks to everyone for the marvellous support.

Stephen Doran