Forum v Ironman France: The long road to Nice

From broken ankle to Ironman finisher - the uplifting account of forumite kittenkat's debut voyage with the Pirate Ship Of Fools

Posted: 1 July 2008
by kittenkat

Ironman first-timer: forumite kittenkat
(courtesy of Michael Luchmun)

Looking back, it was a short journey. Last summer I broke my ankle out running (back from the pub) with my dog. While I was in plaster I whiled away a lot of my time on the RW forum. One morning another forumite suggested we do an Ironman. Not really knowing what it was, I signed up. Then, when I discovered I would have to swim 3.8km, bike 180km and run a full marathon, the enormity of what I had agreed to do hit me.

My determination was absolute from the start but swimming and cycling were completely new to me. I couldn’t swim front crawl at all and so I took some lessons. I came, like many people, from not being able to swim a length to the full distance. Even when I could swim, I had to overcome fears of open water swimming. It took perseverance; you have to just keep trying.

The bike posed problems too, I had to buy one for a start, and when I did I fell off twice outside the bike shop as I couldn’t cope with clipless pedals. That problem persevered through three sets of pedals until finally I found a pair I could work with. Cycling gave me lots of scary moments, my bike handling skills in the early months were atrocious but again, hours put in and a dogged determination saw steady progress.

As for running, I have been a runner for over 20 years but I’ve only ever entered about five races in this time. In fact the most competitive running I had done was the three triathlons leading up to Ironman; and the Ironman itself was my first ever marathon! All this after my ankle came out of plaster, only about nine months ago!

Race time

The emotion leading up to the race was overwhelming. I had been drunk for the first two days in Nice and I hardly slept at all in the two preceding nights. When I racked my bike on the night before the race, one of the officials asked me how old I was. "I don’t know," I said. He asked me what I wanted him to put, pointing at my leg. They mark you with your age category as well as your number. I offered that I was either 37 or 38. A guy behind me couldn't suppress his laughter any more and collapsed in giggles. Later my husband confirmed that I am 37, if anyone wants to help me out next time!

Sunday morning, it was time. As we stood on the beach, I felt immensely calm; I was refusing to tell myself that this was actually it and I was about to start an Ironman. An American woman beside me started to cry, I just put my arm round her shoulder for a moment... As we entered the water all I just kept telling myself over and over in my head "Just swim, just swim, just swim". I wouldn’t let myself break away from that mantra.

We started. I hung back with the people who were really panicking; you could see it written across their faces, I felt for them knowing full well how horrific that is. I felt OK, I swam and bobbed about a bit for the first 300m or so. I kept having the urge to turn around and look behind me, I don’t know why. As we reached the furthest buoy, I found myself slipping comfortably into my stroke, I was calm and rhythmical. I had got to that point by setting myself little targets such as, "Swim 25 strokes and then look up; right, another 25 now."

Free for all: competitors take to the water

Luckily I was swimming in a straight line otherwise I may have turned up on the Italian coast somewhere! I just swam, I was so proud of myself, it was me, no-one could tell that I was an impostor; a non-swimmer, a lifetime breastroker! I even took a few knocks, one guy did apologise for kicking me in the head, and I politely accepted his apology. A quintessential British display of politeness, which now seems a bit Monty Pythonesque. I can imagine John Cleese there, bobbing up and down, physically stopping people: "Sorry, excuse me, sorry, mind your back, thank you, I beg your pardon, awfully good of you..." I swam between the final two blue finishing buoys, a bright blue fish darted about directly beneath me; I remember just staring at it. I had done it and in an hour and 25 minutes!

T1 was interesting. I couldn’t use my towel to dry my feet as I had just wee’d on it. Bad form I know but my bladder just got stage fright in the sea with over 2,000 people there, how it then thought performing in a tent with lots of other people was any less public, I don’t know. I downed some fluids and grabbed my bike.

As soon as I started, so did my next mantra: "Eat lots, drink lots, keep pedalling." I like to keep my instructions simple! Soon I reached a short sharp climb where all the Pirates' names had been written on the road. It really made me smile - although trying to read and climb out of the saddle produced a sort of drunken bike waltz. Then I really started to enjoy the race for a bit: I was lost in my own thoughts, enjoying the views and feeling strong and proud to be there. I allowed myself to say: this is it, I’m here in the middle of it and it’s amazing!

There was a very long climb in the first half of the bike course; I found it absolutely fine as I’m built for climbing. I was on my small ring (the easier gear set) in the front of the bike and just spinning up and up the winding hills. I always find it funny in races when I hit ups and downs: I pass people going up, they pass me going down; I pass them going up on the next hill and, well, you get the picture. It amuses me!

Just as we were reaching the top of the long climb, I looked up at the bloke directly in front of me and his race number. I was following Jesus up the hill and was later on to follow Mohammed coming down the other side. I will let someone else make sense of that for me! As I passed Pirates or was passed by them, we had little chats. I kept telling people not to forget to eat and drink – ironically as it turned out. I was well into my picnic at that point having already devoured a Powerbar and peanut butter sandwich, washed down with plenty of fluids.

At about 60 miles in, I started to get stomach cramps. I have a bit of a scarred bowel so this wasn’t really new to me, but I couldn’t get rid of them. I had taken salt capsules and drunk and eaten a good quantity. Eventually I hit a point where I was certain I was about to throw up or pass out or both. I had to stop, I knew it. I was on a short hill with a feed station at the top. I made it to the station, unclipped, leaned over the bike and lay face down with my top half on the table. The nearest French marshal said something to me in French and I didn’t reply. She asked if I spoke English, to which I replied, "No!" On reflection, that answer wouldn’t have won me any prizes in a pub quiz! I just lay there, scared that this may be it. I still had nearly 40 miles to go and then the marathon. All I could think of was finding a way to keep going.

Another Pirate stopped and asked if I was OK, I repeated the above answer, I felt so bad. He suggested I drink some Coke. I never drink Coke, but now it tasted sublime. Within a few minutes I decided very shakily that I should get back on the bike. It was either going to work or I would just keel over. Luckily it was the start of a long downhill section; I just hung on. I made a slow recovery over the next 10 miles before, suddenly, my knee hurt. It was at that point I told myself that this was really about survival, nothing else. Finishing had always been my goal. I recovered quite well and finished the bike, knowing that I had to be as kind to myself as possible on the run. I was so happy to see T2!

Transition was straightforward; I smothered my knee and the soles of my feet with anti-inflammatory cream and threw sunscreen over my shoulders.

I had talked myself into thinking that a lapped run would be a good idea as I could mentally break it down into short three- or six-mile sections. I felt fairly relaxed for the first couple of laps but the thought of a third and fourth was beginning to grind me down. The Pirate support was huge and so welcome, as were my fellow Pirates out on the course with me, who I chatted to when we passed.

By the third lap, my body was very slowly beginning to say enough was enough. Thank goodness for the frequency of the feed stations. I ran between them and walked through them, enjoying drinking, eating the crackers and getting soaked with the hoses and sponges. Since the initial drink of coke on the bike bonk, I had alternated coke and water for the rest of the bike and continued this on the run. It felt like a drug, after the first hit I was hooked. Coke was nowhere in my original nutrition strategy but now I couldn’t function without it.

Coming down the final straight

I was slowing progressively with each lap and by the fourth I was beginning to get worried. I had inexplicably gone deaf in one ear and felt a bit like I was beginning to have an out-of-body experience. I knew these signs weren’t good. I started to walk on the last lap; at this point things were really really strange, physically and psychologically. At the furthest point of the last lap, I turned around; at this point for most people the elation and the realisation that you will make it began to build. Not for me: I felt that I was walking but not moving forward, it was alarmingly surreal. A New Zealander was walking beside me and talking. I was trying to focus on what he was saying, but I had the random thought that I could just wander off the track into a bar in town. I could leave this, just leave... I focused on that for a while but just kept on walking. Never ever has three miles seemed like 30. A whole lifetime later, there it was, the finishing tunnel, and the Pirates screaming at me.

I managed to run down that final bit, tears streaming down my face, I couldn’t hold it in. All I wanted to do was release the emotion, the months spent training, all the hurdles, all the elation and all the worry.

When you cross that line you ARE an Ironman and you are fantastic and beautiful and invincible!

Do it, you will never forget it.

Thank you Pirates.

Visit our forums for more Pirate IM France race reports and lots more photos too.

Have you got what it takes? The next Pirate summer outing is already being planned, a trip to Zurich for Ironman Switzerland in July 2009.

NamePosition Swim Bike Run Time
CRAB 162 1:09:15 5:35:25 3:31:16 10:28:57
g-dog 655 1:14:34 6:17:51 4:02:35 11:51:21
Monique 697 1:13:59 6:45:28 3:44:55 11:56:13
Will He Won't He? 803 1:16:19 6:39:28 3:57:34 12:11:11
Linda Robson 895 1:23:56 6:16:10 4:32:52 12:20:52
Disorderly 926 1:08:37 6:26:26 4:28:57 12:23:53
Dad Of Two (Grumpy Pirate) 930 1:23:27 6:02:35 4:38:40 12:24:27
Doozer 986 1:02:07 6:03:59 5:11:38 12:30:46
Hollywood 1009 1:03:53 6:47:44 4:26:13 12:33:56
Calf 1118 1:21:49 6:21:59 4:45:23 12:49:22
Lindy 1219 1:21:30 6:57:40 4:30:23 13:04:48
Cougie 1346 1:22:38 6:32:33 5:12:12 13:27:01
Donald 1480 1:24:45 6:33:29 5:33:41 13:48:28 1601 1:35:03 7:30:09 4:45:27 14:09:29
Bassy 1633 1:31:47 6:52:15 5:25:38 14:16:54
Crashie 1635 1:09:00 7:21:34 5:25:54 14:17:11
eccentric 1648 1:22:15 7:08:47 5:33:13 14:19:24
NM 1649 1:20:29 6:57:35 5:39:16 14:19:34
ATOM. 1651 1:20:47 7:17:38 5:20:58 14:19:38
Garr 1688 1:23:31 7:22:16 5:24:58 14:30:55
KittenKat 1692 1:25:47 7:29:22 5:17:52 14:31:49
Iron Swissbobby 1698 1:24:56 7:22:52 5:28:15 14:32:59
Rich123 1711 1:22:33 7:25:09 5:27:53 14:35:22
Metal Petal 1743 1:14:07 7:13:37 5:59:16 14:42:38
GOM. 1744 1:12:29 6:59:52 6:16:46 14:42:38
Daniel RW 1802 1:19:01 7:22:05 5:59:56 14:58:41
VixIM 1803 1:21:52 7:38:14 5:35:00 14:58:43
eM.milou 1833 1:31:09 7:24:33 5:55:50 15:09:53
Foggy, a bit rusty. 1871 1:05:57 7:08:11 6:44:21 15:23:29
debbo 1887 1:18:23 7:48:11 6:01:16 15:27:55
Holly_Golightly 1888 1:18:06 8:20:59 5:27:33 15:27:59
Le Iron Tractor Boy 1904 1:26:12 8:05:51 5:34:19 15:30:30
Dark Vader 1948 1:59:00 7:55:50 5:35:33 15:50:22
M.eldy 1961 1:33:54 8:26:30 5:35:41 15:53:55
Kanga (M.) ----- 1:20:03 8:21:12 ----- DNF
flyaway ----- 1:31:40 ----- ----- DNF
Le Keg-Killer (M.) ----- 1:50:48 8:24:00 ----- DNF
Iron Squishy ----- 1:31:08 8:48:19 ----- DNF

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Discuss this article

I've never done a tri of any description, I haven't got a bike, my swimming is cr*p, I've got no dosh......

but I've just entered Ironman Nice.

No idea what to do next,

Hmmm, maybe tell Mr kk?

I am going to need so much help........

Still in plaster with my ankle, but what next? A bike I guess, it'll have to be a road one now... I haven't got a wetsuit.... I've got no kit. What are the essentials?

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:01

This is getting catching - first DV and now you. Pirate-tastic.
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:04

It's sinking in....  
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:07


kk, you nutter!

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:07

Start swimming, cycling and running!
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:09

get a bike .... as soon as you can

winter is coming so a turbo traininer would be good

tep you need a wetty - maike sure its try specific

and thers loasd of time to train

mad kk

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:10

 a few 1-2-1 swimming lessos will do wonders for your swim - ask at you local pool

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:11

I've just phoned Mr kk, he thinks I'm completely off my head but is supportive.

He also laughed at the thought of lots of fit ironmen and women surging through the water and me doing doggy paddle in the middle

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:14

I think I will have to get swimming lessons.

My neighbours are accomplished cyclists, I can borrow a bike until I get one.

Is there anything I can do with my leg still in plaster??

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:15

good luck
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:16

accommodation for me and Mr kk?

Is there a thread?

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:17

I have no idea where to start!
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:39


Barking mad! Good luck!

Kk, get down the gym and start with upper body strength if you can't use your legs at the mo! What the hell would I know, just sounds like you need all the support you can get

Total admiration!
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:39

Thanks PSC

Could someone just email me and tell me where to start..... what kit I need, how to go from zero to ironman in 6 months with a fractured ankle and rib......

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:42

KK are you serious ??or just bored ?
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:43

I've entered NN, paid my money and everything..... and it's a lot of money not to be serious...

Anyone sugest any accommodation?

I want to start a blog............

Well, if I'm going to have an early mid life crisis, I want to do it in style...

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:45

Well I am very impresssed...good luck mate...
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:46

Where is it ?
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:53

Doh !!! Nice !!
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 08:54

Excellent KK

Priority 1 is get a road bike, most important thing is you get one that fits properly.

Priority 2, start riding your bike, lots and lots

Priority 3, get some 1-2-1 swimming lessions. 6-8 lessons over 2-3 months should see you develop a reasonably compitent FC technique. Can be a bit frustrating learning (like learning to drive) but youll get sudden breakthroughs. You dont need to worry about a wetty till next year (March) just before open water practise starts.

Priority 4, ask lots and lots and lots of questions.

Priority 5, complete Ironman Nice and feel on top of the world.

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:02

Barley, where do I buy a pirate tri suit?
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:04


Since you're asking Barley was begging for skins orders as we speak....

Kate you're insane! xx

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:11

You can try contacting Lindi to see if they can squeeze a last minute addition to the Pirate kit order thats just gone in?
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:11

And perhaps give Garr a call this morning, ring him out of bed, tell him what you just told me... wait for the reaction...  and then take notes on how to train for IM in next to no time.  
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:13

I can't find her to get her email......


Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:14

I dont think the skins are idea for girls as makes stopping a little more difficult (if you know what I mean).

Im sure there is also lots of spare kit floating around from Pirate Buckerers. Someeone will surely sell or lend you something.

Talk of the Devil... Lindi's just replied to me, KK email her!
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:14

just ringing him....
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:15

Top of the page on the 2008 training thread KK
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:16

I haven't got her address Barley.....
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:16

Now we just need to work on Nam
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:16

Nice tri Barls!
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:18

there's a kit thread (started by carl).  or if you email lindi, there might be time to get in to the main order.

failing that you could always borrow one.

training isn't rocket science.  imagine a marathon training schedule with three runs a week, one long and slow, two shorter but a bit faster.  do that, plus the same on the bike, where the bike sessions take twice as long (wrt training time, not distance).  if you can build up to weekly 4 or 5 hour rides by Feb, that will be fine.

 fit in two or three swims a week (on bike or run days).  at first, just technique, following the drills your teacher gives you.  then after xmas, drop one technique session for a long, slow swim.

 you also will need to start swimming in open water asap - which will be as soon as the lakes open next spring, now.

one rest day a week.  complete rest, no trampolining (despite what barlos might recommend to the contrary)

 it's easy if you commit yourself to it, have enough character not to quit when the training doesn't seem to be going your way, and have enough patience to keep plugging away slowly over the cold winter months.

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:18


*see what I did there...*

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:18

xpost, but nothing in disagreement
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:19

I've found her......

Thanks candy, I'm excited and scared, I'm actually shaking as this is sinking in....

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:20


If you can’t get an order for shorts and Monaco in before Nice, you can borrow mine.

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:20

I still think you're insane but I believe it helps?
Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:21

Thanks Nam

Right, need a book about it all I guess.............

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:26

Told you you'd be next!


Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:27

Still think you're nuts kk but more power to you.  Just wish I had the b*lls to do something like that!!

Posted: 17/09/2007 at 09:32

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