2018 Ironman World Champion!

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Words can hardly describe how it felt to finally push myself along the finish chute at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii, with Mike Reilly announcing my name to the huge crowds, ‘Liz McTernan, you are an Ironman!’ Then to be greeted by my daughter Rebecca, running up the carpeted ramp to kiss & hug me and present me with my shell Lei, was a very special moment in my life.

It’s not my first Ironman of course, having already attempted to finish this iconic race in 2017, and then going on only six weeks later, to complete my first full Ironman in Cozumel, Mexico- just to prove to myself that I could do it. Another long year of tough training, another qualifying race in Luxembourg and I had earnt my slot to ‘The Big Dance’ once again.

What is remarkable is that I’ve just become only the second ever female hand cyclist to finish the race and have set a new course record of 14:21:12 hrs. The course for the Ironman World Championships is tough, without a doubt, with a combination of heat, humidity and hills plus fierce winds to contend with, but the mens field seems to have increased in-depth and performance since Hand cycles were allowed to race in 1997, with Australian John MacLean being the first Physically Challenged athlete to finish. For whatever reason, very few women have attempted the challenging course.

I now know of two other female world-class athletes who are preparing to tackle Kona as Hand cyclists, but not until 2021, after the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Currently, there are five qualifying slots worldwide for men, but only three for women, and only three qualifying races in the world in which to claim a Kona slot. I’m hopeful that in 2021, all three slots will be hard to earn and the standard of performance will be even higher, with more female hand cyclists setting their sights on the Ironman World Championships!

 

“Swim 2.4 Miles. Bike 112 miles. Run 26.2. Brag for the rest of your life.”

John Collins, IRONMAN co-founder

 

Thank-you’s:

HuubDesign for providing my custom wetsuit pants for racing and awesome kick pants for pool training plus an awesome T-shirt for the Parade of Nations

TYR I love my swim skin! And my goggles stayed mist-free the entire 2.4 miles…

Wattie Ink for a stunning Trisuit which made me feel like a Pro Triathlete

Challenged Athlete Foundation for once again supporting my sporting goals and dreams with grants for travel and equipment. Stoked to be part of #TeamCAF

T.Balfe Construction for providing a much-needed cash injection as I booked all the Kona accommodation and flights!

OTE Sports/VivoLife/Gu products which kept my energy up throughout the day

Bill McCarrick, my Mechanic and Emotional Support Human at Endurance Sports Travel who tirelessly worked on my hand bike so that I could rack it for race day

Ken & Christine Glah of Endurance Sports Travel, who were excellent Sherpas in my first week in Kona-thanks for all your help

Tealby Tennis Club whose lovely Ladies put on a fundraiser to help with my travel costs

Irwin Mitchell Solicitors for their Disability grant earlier in the year

All my lovely Facebook friends who raised over £1000 to help me get to Kona

 

 

 

 

 

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Race day! IM 70.3 Florida

I was incredibly fortunate to stay at a fantastic AirBnB the day before my race in Haines City as Bernie, my host, was able to transport all my race equipment in his truck to the race venue. I met my volunteer Handler, Devin, at registration and with my friend Carolyn who’d come down from Washington D.C., we ran through what I needed them to do in T1 and T2. We then attended the race briefing, grabbed some food and I went to bed early!

Race day dawned horribly early at 3am, as I needed to attend to my sci bowel routine as usual and put in place an indwelling catheter for the race-I would not have time to stop and catheterize and cannot use a Portapotti. We also needed to be in transition before it shut at 6am to put nutrition on the bike and racing chair, get body marked and put on my wetsuit, ready for a 6:50am race start.

I was carried onto the sandy beach by Devin and felt quite nervous. Most lakes in Florida have alligators and I didn’t fancy becoming an amputee! The swim course was also a rather weird ‘M’ shape marked with small buoys and it was barely light before the gun went off. Swimming with the 50-54 year old men was an interesting experience, as was wave after wave of swimmers cramped into a tight course. I tried drafting but was constantly swum over by swimmers crossing my bows, with no idea on sighting. I felt tired at the halfway point and knew that I was off my ideal race pace.

Devin was at the water exit up to his knees, scooped me up and ran up the sandy beach to deposit me in my waiting wheelchair. Pushing into T1, I felt really dizzy, having been swimming horizontal for what felt like forever. I was into my hand bike and out onto the open roads soon enough though.

For the first hour on the bike, I struggled to get warm, my right hand, which operates my Di2, completely numb and my cycling top dripping wet. Florida has a huge temperature range, dropping to single figures overnight and climbing rapidly during the day. It was 11 degrees celsius at the start of my race and climbed to 34 degrees later…

The first 45km were fairly flat and fast, with a good tailwind most of the way, and I was making good time, then we hit the first of a series of 10% climbs over the next 25km, with increasing headwind from the north. I was aware that I still had a Half-Marathon to complete and stuck to my race plan, perhaps a little too rigidly. Out on the bike for hours, I experienced my first-and hopefully last-‘golden shower’, when a woman overtook me, lifted her bottom off the saddle and proceeded to pee all over me. I’d known most triathletes don’t stop at designated Portapotti, but I didn’t expect to be the actual toilet stop!

I nearly missed my transition spot coming into T2 and had to back my hand bike up with my hands on the back wheels. A quick blast of suncream and transfer to my racing chair and I set off on the penultimate leg which I had been dreading since we drove round the day before. The run course was a pretty horrendous mix of ‘sidewalk’ running, sharp technical turns, 8% and 10% hills, flat fast sections, traffic cones, litter, and people oblivious to a fast moving racing chair. My biggest fear was another crash like in NYC Olympic Triathlon in 2012, where I split my Spiuck helmet in two places having landed upside down on it trying to avoid a runner oblivious to the Marshall shouting to him.

Fortunately, by the time I had dashed past most runners on lap 1, most people were well aware of me, giving me plenty of space. The most difficult challenge was the hill from transition with a 90 degree uphill turn to a 10% hill but on the ‘sidewalk’ or pavement. Without any momentum to carry me, I had no option but to turn the wheelchair backwards up the hill and crawl slowly up three times. I got plenty of lovely encouragement from everyone, but I was barely able to mutter ‘Thank-you’ to them.

Crossing the grassy finish line was, however, amazing! I’d done it! The highlight of the day was a fellow competitor who came up to me afterwards to thank me personally. He said seeing me struggle up the hills and not giving up inspired him to carry on despite suffering cramp. And the post race beer-the first in months-was pretty awesome!IMG_1076.JPG

British International Disability Swimming Championships

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It’s not every day that you get the chance to pit yourself against the best Paralympic swimmers in the world 🙂

I love competing at Ponds Forge in Sheffield because a) I get to catch up with my friend Jo in Derbyshire, who cooks me fantastic food, and b) because I always PB!

Now, some people won’t believe that there are ‘slow’ and ‘fast’ pools, but believe me, there are! It’s all to do with how deep the pool is and how the water flows…and some physics which I don’t understand! Ponds Forge is definitely known as a ‘fast’ pool and attracts hundreds of competitors.

Despite not devoting much more than three hours a week in swim training over the winter due to the demands of training for the Virgin London Marathon, I managed two Long Course PB’s in the 100 and 400m Freestyle and was less than a second off my 50m Freestyle PB. Nice to know that improvement is still possible for other competitions this year.