Last Sunday was the toughest physical endurance challenge of my life.
Two years ago I flew to sunny Mexico and competed in my first Ironman - on the island of Cozumel. It was 35 degrees, flat and windy. Shortly after I finished it, I decided I'd one day like to complete Ironman Wales in my home county of Pembrokeshire. So on a winters evening in January this year me and my best mate Jo signed up for the race. Along with my husband Ross and my little sister Jaz. The four of us didn't quite know what we had got ourselves in for but trained hard, with grit, tears, sweat and blood. This determination got us to the finish line last Sunday but not without a battle on our hands.
In classic Pembrokeshire style we were treated to a colourful forecast to say the least.
Throughout the day we experienced gusts of up to 40 mph from the WSW (head wind to Angle and tail wind to Narberth) an horizontal rain. There were oil spills and other challenges along the way - in the chaos of transition I left my swimming ear plugs in for the first 10 miles, on the 2nd loop of the 112 mile bike I got a flat tyre which I sorted but without co2 or a track pump didn't get the pressure above 50psi... and I threw down ibuprofen and paracetamol to ease the pain of my left IT band on the marathon. Although I did my first Ultra in June, my self inflicted knee injury meant that for the 5 weeks leading up to Ironman I didn't run more than 7 miles. Not ideal in preparing for a marathon.
They say if you finish between 11pm and midnight then you finish in heroes hour because you have been going the longest. Our race started at 7am and I crossed the finish line after 16 hours and 6 minutes... at 11:05pm which I guess makes me a hero??! Nice. I was pretty beat coming into the 'Athletes Village' and was treated to a 10 min sports massage which I could have enjoyed all night, a hot chocolate, a slice of pizza and a hug from Ross and eventually my sister too.
Our fans lined the course in most villages we passed on the bike ride. Seeing familiar faces peppered between crowds of strangers all shouting "Go Alice Go, you got this, you're going to be an ironman, well done Alice, keep pushing Alice, nearly there Alice, one more lap Alice.... Alice Beese You Are An Ironman".... it was all super awesome.
Why did I do it? You don't get many opportunities in life where you push yourself really, really hard. Most things come easy and you float along on the comfortable day to day hum drum of life. When you sign up for something like this all your free time goes into training - morning sessions in the pool, long days on the bike and short, medium and long runs - sometimes fast sometimes steady. You work so hard for something and then you test what your body can achieve - and if you let it, it will often do much more than you might ever have imagined possible.
So much of the Ironman journey is a mental one - and 15% of the competitors didn't finish the race last Sunday, not surprising given it's the 10th toughest Ironman course in the world and the worst conditions they've seen in the 7 year history. Still I made it to the finish line with 55 minutes to spare before the midnight cut off and felt so proud to receive my medal - couldn't bear the weight of it though what with the rash on my neck from the swim and my weary legs.