After 10 months and 5,000 training miles the day arrived. My first full Ironman event in Copenhagen Denmark.
The day started at 4am with a liquid breakfast and the start of making sure my blood sugars were where I wanted them before the swim start.
5 stops and a quiet journey with hundreds of fellow prospective Ironman on the Metro we arrived at T1 at Amagar Strandpark.
Sorted the bike, checked my bike bag again, wet suit on and I was ready to go. Checked my blood sugars and I was too low to swim so some fruit malt and 2 High 5 gels and hoped that would sort it.
40 minutes to swim time and my blood sugars were higher than I’d originally planned but ok for me to swim. Decided to do my normal warm exercises and watch the different waves before we set off.
It was then my turn to line up in the starting pens. Originally, I was going to start near the rear of the wave however I ended up at the front.
A hug from my wife and son, a count down of 6 and I was off. The water was quite warm, and I quickly settled into a rhythm. Unfortunately, I’d focused on the wrong buoy 300m out and I was heading off course. Corrected by a kayaker (i.e. crashing into me) and I was back on course.
Under bridge 1 at 600m, bridge 2 at 1500m then 2 left turns. Weirdly the 1600m straight swim seemed to go quicker and before I knew it I was turning 180 degrees and had 600m to go. Reached the final turn buoy and cramp struck. A quick stretch and pushed for home.
The water had been clear, and other than a few clashes with other swimmers, the swim had gone well.
After 1 hour 26 minutes I climbed out of the water feeling remarkably good. Grabbed my bike bag and lent against a large boulder to get changed. Tested the blood sugars. All ok. A gentle 300m jog, dropping my wet suit in the bins provided and I was at my bike. A quick drink and piece of energy bar and I was jogging with my bike to the mount line.
I was off on my bike and hit the first turn to the sound of Baby got back (I like big butts) blaring out of the speakers (made me chuckle). A wave to my wife and son, over the bridge I’d just swam under and I was a way on the 112-mile bike leg.
The first 6 miles was quite technical, riding through the streets of Copenhagen before I hit the coast road and the start of the first loop. Despite head and cross winds off the sea, I quickly settled on a pace above where I’d originally planned.
Maintained the pace until I reached the first aid station at around 33 miles. A quick stop to fill up my bottles and I was off again. The next 20 miles was very undulating around some beautiful scenery and villages. Leading up to the next aid station was the hill. A climb lined with what felt like hundreds of people cheering and urging you on to the top. Originally planned to stop however felt good and my pace was spot on so decided to crack on to the next aid station just past the start of the second loop.
Heading to the second loop turn point still above the average planned pace I was passed by elites after elites. This got me thinking have I missed the turn point. The fear kept growing to the point I had to stop and ask a marshal. Luckily, I hadn’t and was a quarter of a mile away.
Pushed on through the second loop stopping briefing at the next aid station to fill my bottles and have some banana. For the next 20 miles or so Ken from America and I kept trading places. I’d pass him on the climbs and he’d catch me up on the flat. This seemed to occupy my mind because what seemed no time at all I was at the hill for the second time. Less people to urge me on however I powered on up to the aid station at the top where I stopped at the special needs point. A snickers bar, 2 chocolate brioche buns and a good drink I was ready for the final 12 miles and the marathon.
The last bit passed ok twisting around the streets of Copenhagen before reaching T2 in the underground car park. Handed the bike to a volunteer catcher, grabbed my run back off peg 1671 and headed for the change area.
Changed into run gear, which included a run top with the words ‘Powered by Louise & Haydn and ‘ Supported by Craig Barker & John Andrew’. This was my way of recognising their sacrifice and support in helping me achieve my goal.
Sugars ok I headed up the ramp and onto the start of the 26.2 mile run. What struck me was the amount of people that lined the run route cheering you on and shouting your name.
Settled into a nice pace and felt strong, running past the different sections where music filled the air and through the aid stations remembering to eat and drink.
Nearly at the finishing shoot for the first time I came across my wife, son and friends where I showed them the words on my run top.
A hug from them all and words of encouragement really pepped me up, so I cracked on. Rounding the corner to where the finishing shoot was I greeted by what seemed like thousands of people shouting my name.
Kept going running with the sea to my left heading towards the Little Mermaid (never saw it all day), I settled back into a steady pace only stopping briefing to eat and drink at the aid stations.
At the far end I collected the red first loop band and then it was back again to start the second loop.
I started to feel it during the second loop and adopted a run walk strategy of 1-minute running and 1-minute walking. This seemed to work.
The fantastic support continued, kept up the nutrition at each aid station and more encouragement as I passed my family and friends for the second time.
Collected my second loop band and started number 3. It got harder on this one and this was when I realised my blood sugars were too high.
My plan of the run and that the previous bike and swim would counter the carbs I was consuming on the run hadn’t worked. It was going to be a grind to the end. That said I had time on my side.
On loop 3 I caught up with my mate Ben (the person who got me into triathlon), who was on his final lap. We ran walked together for a while which took my mind off the pain which starting to grow in my legs. He was struggling a little too so after a while he told me to go so I left him. He had about 2 miles to go, I had 8 miles.
On loop 3 my nutrition was purely water at each aid station in an attempt to get my sugars down and some energy back in my legs.
After collecting my third loop band I met up with Tracey Williams from Swansea who had returned to Copenhagen after narrowing missing last year’s finish cut off by 4 minutes.
We got talking which really helped. She was power walking and after some calculations I decided to power walk the last loop with her as I was still struggling to break into a run (big blister forming on the ball of my left foot).
This definitely helped as we pushed through the last loop reaching my friends who had been at same spot throughout the run cheering everyone on. Quick introductions and we set off to the finish.
With 100 metres to go, Tracey and I decided to split up and run the final section down the finishing shoot on our own (purely thinking of the finisher photo). I went first.
Suddenly I was running, the pain had gone, and I rounded the corner to the finishing shoot.
Surprisingly it was still packed with people cheering, clapping and congratulating me. Savoring every moment and high fiveing people I’ll never know.
I crossed the finishing line in 15 hours, 2 minutes and 56 seconds.
Although said by the commentator, I never heard the words Tim Richards you are an Ironman and more importantly my son shouting me near the finishing line.
I’d done it. A 49-year-old type 1 diabetic had finished the 10-month journey and had achieved my goal.
I’d also proved if you put your mind to something and have the support of family and friends you can do anything.
Tim Richards ‘You are an Ironman’