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The Ironman experience is a lot to take in even with hindsight. The scale of time involved – the alarm going off at 3.50am, running into the lake at 7.10am and not expecting to finish until over 14 hours later is beyond contemplation as you take the first few swim strokes. The weekend itself is a climax of a year’s training which evolves to training and preparation as the date approaches and eventually becomes simply meticulous preparation in the week before. One of my visual recollections is all of my nutrition gels, powders and bars lined up on the bed before packing my transition bags. There is so much planning going into preparation it is hard to think objectively, but it’s essential. On the day it’s critically important that everything is in the right bag or the right place on the bike and everything is timed for when it’s going to happen down to when to eat gels or unzip the wet suit after leaving the water and mounting the bike leaving transition. Although it was 15 hours and 23 minutes of continuous effort it seems to have gone quickly and a 112 mile bike ride through the mountains came and went. The protracted marathon just happened. Then I was running towards the finish. Everything in my 35 years’ experience as a runner, every morsel of my knowledge of coping with a long endurance event, every piece of training and preparation came together in the one event on the one day. There was nothing I could have left out and there was nothing I didn’t draw on. Ok, some people do this regularly, making their life of it and some even manage to compete at the sharp end so I don’t want to pretend it’s super-human; but it is an endeavour and the Ironman finishers club is a small enough club to make it feel like an achievement and a life milestone. You enter for Ironman Austria the day after the previous event – twelve months ahead, so for 12 months I first dreamed of crossing the finish line and then visualised it and held onto it. I had the pleasure of running the last couple of k on my own and feeling in good shape, I ran between the barriers from 400m out with time to take a breath and enjoy the support of a couple of families waiting for their own. I could hear the crowd in the grandstands cheering competitors as they finished and the lights of the finish area shone out in the dark. I turned through 90 degrees 20 metres before the finish area with a grandstand on either side, someone high-fived me and I ran into the light. It was everything I had visualised, lights, cheering, cheer-leaders and cheesy disco music. Then another 30 metres and a short run up the ramp to the finish line and gantry with the MC shouting “EAN PARSONS – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”. Awesome.
My wife Vivienne provided brilliant support around the course on the day as well as during the whole twelve months of training and I was overwhelmed by the support I received at home from friends, family and work colleagues on social media and there was even a party going on watching the live-streaming. I got some great texts and messages afterwards and I’m grateful for all of it. I hope the ‘Usain Bolt’ on the finish line was good entertainment!
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