Thommo - I don't think you should be beating yourself up at all, to finish an IM in any circumstances is amazing, letalone struggling through one & worrying about missing cutoff's etc - you should be proud of yourself for keeping on going and facing your demon's from Wales and beating them at Bolton!!
As for the future, that was my first IM as well so I can't comment what it would be like to turn around and do another one again so soon (although I am doing the ride100 this weekend which is a bit of effort, but have to say I'm darn glad there's no running involved after!). But I know it's been done so I think it really depends on your will and desire. If you want to do it, from what you have said in your report, I believe you have the determination to be able to pick yourself back up and get yourself there. But, upon saying that, if your heart isn't in it and you don't think you will enjoy it, then I would maybe think twice.
I think the first decision you need to make is whether you want to do Wales again or not - only you can decide if you will regret it later if you don't face those demons, or would you be comfortable that you've got one under your belt in general and actually you're happy with that and comfortable to move on to 70.3.
Once you have made that decision, then it becomes a decision about time - certainly next year you would have more time to prepare, get some swim lessons under the belt etc and no shame whatsoever in waiting given what you have achieved already this year. But, even if you gave yourself another week to recover now, that still gives you about 4 weeks before you'd need to taper again for Wales and you will still have a pretty good level of fitness, so it's definitely possible.
I think you need to have a good think about what it is that you want to do and will make you happy / content and then take it from there.....good luck & let us know what you decide!
Found myself a few buddies to walk / run with which really helped to have other people there with you and you could all motivate each other along and when I finally reached the top of that hill for the last time, I knew it was all downhill from there. That last section down to the finish was pretty amazing – the closer I got the less the pain seemed to get, but I think it was delirium & exhaustion starting to set in as I just remember yelling to everyone about wanting my piece of pizza!!
Pulled off to the side to ring my parents in Aus to say watch the live feed & sent messages to a few other people who I knew were tracking me. Saw S (who was proudly wearing his medal) & M near the finish, so passed over my sweaty hat & sunglasses to them to get ready for the finish photo (I figure if I only ever do this once I wanted to have a decent photo to show for it!), waited for a chap to pass me (as I sure as heck wanted that finish chute all to myself!), and then it was time to hit that chute….
I think that sheer elation and relief are the only words that can describe the experience and the feelings at that point. I’d carried an Aussie flag with my on the run, so had that out of my pocket and was waving it, and even though initially I was utterly distraught when my knee went, after making myself carry on and drag it literally half way around that run course, crossing that line I felt prouder & had more of a sense of achievement than I ever thought possible, and despite the slow time (although it was never about time for me, it was about the experience and finishing), I couldn't have cared less as I made it, did it the hard way, and heard those magic words....
"Andrea......you are IRONMAN!!!"
I’m not sure it has still really sunk in yet that I’ve done it, although how much I hurt afterwards I certainly knew I had done it (the Monday morning I actually had to sit on the toilet to get dressed as I couldn’t stand on one leg!). It seems cliche but anything really is possible if you set your mind to it, and for all those who think "I could never do that" - yes you can, you just have to believe (well, that and not have a life for about 8 months while you train!!)
Around the finish area I went & more tears on M’s shoulder, but at that point I made the rookie mistake of rubbing my eyes & sent one of my contact lenses up under my eyelid! I just stood there at that point with my busted knee & unable to see and didn't know whether to keep crying or just laugh! After trying to get the lens back in place again but failing I thought there’s not much I can do about it so just had to start walking & hope I found a medical tent that could get it out for me.
So off I set onto the horrid up section of the loop again, but as it's quite off-putting having blurred vision from one eye I decided to shut it for a while, but when I opened my eye a few mins later the lens had come back into place again! At that point something also twigged in my head & I knew the only thing holding me back was the pain in my knee, so as I knew it wouldn't make things worse by running on it (expect to make it hurt more!), I thought to myself that this is what I had been working towards for months (years!), so told myself that pain is temporary, that this was it, so started running again as much as I could bear, then walked for a bit for relief, then ran again etc.
I saw S coming back down from the top turn point and learnt he was suffering with his feet so much that he'd cut holes in his shoes to try and gain some relief, but to know that we were both there & both gritting our teeth through the pain and suffering, again helped spur me on. I also thought about all those people who were supporting me around the world & I knew were following me online & who had donated money & I knew whatever happened I was going to get myself to that finish line one way or another!
There was an ambulance at the top turn point so strapped an ice pack to my knee, gritted my teeth and off I went. The crowd were even more supportive (as there were gradually getting less & less of us on the course to support!), and when I got to the bottom turn point I knew I only had to face that hill one more time and that the next time I came into that area would be as a finisher, so really tried to get myself going & was yelling out to myself and the crowds that I only had 1 more to go and that I can do this, and really fed off the energy from the crowd to keep pushing through the pain!
So it was back to transition where that little voice in my head for the last 20-30mi on the bike had been telling me there is no way I could do a marathon got louder & louder, but told myself I just had to get on with it, start and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. A slightly longer t2 stop to get myself back together, change, gather thoughts, giggle at the chap next to me having a cup of tea (seriously!) and by the time I left the tent I was actually feeling fresh (of sorts!) and ready to go.
The first ~6mi we only ran once, then it was up a steep hill and onto the main road that we were to do laps of. Coming up the hill I could hear a roaring sound & was wondering what it was, until I reached the top & was greeted with a sight I never imagined - the road was absolutely packed on both sides with people cheering us on!
While the support on the bike was amazing, I have to say the support on the run was something else altogether and something I will never forget, especially as you have name on your race number so people were cheering you on by name literally the whole way around - it really was just so amazing & so special, it still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.
I had planned to adopt a run-walk strategy but it was hard to stick to it as you almost felt guilty in front of crowds cheering you on walking, but the plan was the plan so tried to stick to it as much as possible. I was keeping an eye out for S on my way around the first lap and heading down to the finish line area (where you turned and headed back up for 3mi before another turn at the top & then back down etc) but couldn't see him. I got to the turn point in the finish area & suddenly saw a sign with my name on it sticking out from the crowd, which M was holding as an absolutely amazing surprise, again a moment I won't forget and caused me to choke up a little bit as I was so touched!
A quick chat to M later I learnt S wasn't too far ahead of me, so I set off in the knowledge that I would see him near the top turn point. It was at that point though I discovered just how brutal that up section of the lap was (and that was only the first time, we had to do this 3 times!), but gritted my teeth & stuck with the plan. Saw S as planned near the top turn point; queue loud joyous sweaty hugs in the middle of the road!
That really spurred me on & by the time I reached the top turn it was about mile 12 & I couldn't believe I was nearly halfway there already & still feeling ok. Unfortunately on the run back down I felt my knee starting to go, so nursed it as much as possible but I knew by the bottom of that lap that the game was over. Queue S appearing again which brought on lots of tears from me about my knee, another hug from S & lots of supportive cheers from the crowds (which just made me cry even more!). But I knew I just had to keep going so sent S on his way & said I would carry on walking but that I'd be a bit late for his birthday drinks we promised we would have when we finished!