Viv Gough: What I learned at Ironman Wales

An impressive 10 GTC members headed to Ironman Wales 2018 earlier this month. Next year, the number looks set to quintuple (thanks to Alan Anderson’s campaigning). We asked Viv Gough to give us an insight into the race.

It was Viv’s first Ironman. She is a working mum of two with an understanding husband, Gareth Treharne!

 

What Viv learned from her first Ironman

Ironman Wales is said to be the toughest in Europe. Viv decided that if she was going to do an Ironman she “might as well” do a hard one.

Go with friends. Having other people in the club to train with and race with made a big difference to Viv.

Give yourself time to train. Viv spent six months focusing on the one goal. She says: “I ruined my summer holidays with mostly solo training efforts but I also benefitted from some coaching help towards the end from head coach, Vicky Begg.

“I also did some hill climbing training on the bike on a family holiday to the Pyrenees. Then again, my confidence was a bit shattered, too, when my children, aged 10 and 12, beat me up several Tour de France ascents.

“But as race day approached I felt relatively well prepared.”

Get your family’s support. Viv recognises that Gareth was an amazing support through the months of training and at the race. She says: “I am sure he was willing the race to be over so I could cook a few dinners and ferry the kids about occasionally.”

Leave the kids at home. Fellow junior coach, Mike Donaldson, offered to look after Viv and Gareth’s kids so they could travel to Wales together. This made it easier to focus on the race weekend.

 

Set a few goals. Make some realistic goals, as well as some wonderfully aspirational goals. Viv says: “GTC coach David Wilson said it was a good idea to have some race goals. I chose a few that I thought might be achievable, such as finishing the swim in under 1 hour 15 mins, finishing the race in under 15 hours; and trying to enjoy the race.

“Other goals were to make it to the first bike feed station before been overtaken by two club members a) Sean Webster and b) Alan Anderson.

“And then I added in a dream goal: To qualify for Kona! That was a joke, in case anyone is wondering!”

Carefully plan the final build up to race day. Viv thought she was prepared for the racing weekend. She says: “Gareth and I decided to take a leisurely drive in the campervan to Tenby, after my Friday morning clinic, stopping somewhere en route in a nice hotel on the Friday night.

“But I was rudely disabused of this notion when the athlete information came through and it became apparent that we needed to be there early on Saturday, the da before the race. The race briefing was at 10am, registration shut at 1pm and the transition area, where I needed to leave my bike, closed at 3pm.

“I think Ironman presumes you are a professional triathlete, or you’ll be taking a week of annual leave for each race. Be warned! So, we finally ended up driving all the way to Tenby on the Friday.”

Be prepared to get prepared. Viv reckons the day before the race was more stressful than the actual race. She says: “There were numerous coloured transition bags to label and pack, a briefing to go to, the bike to rack etc. It required a lot of mental effort not to get it wrong.”

Try to get a good night’s sleep the night before the race. But if you don’t, try not to panic. Viv says: “I didn’t have the best night before the race. After 3pm, I could finally relax. I headed back to the campervan, checked all kit for the morning, watched a DVD and had a very early night.

“However, then I was rudely awoken at some ungodly hour by a drunken Welshman returning to his caravan. This did, however, allow me to look for my timing chip, which in my nervy panic I’d woken up in a cold sweat thinking I’d lost the day before. Once located, I slept surprisingly well until the alarm went off.”

The Ironman Wales swim is awesome. So says Viv! The swim is in an Australian lap format, so you exit the water briefly after each lap. Viv continues: “The 2.4 mile swim takes place at beautiful Tenby north beach. It’s a picture-perfect bay flanked by cliffs, a castle and lots of pretty coloured houses.

“There were thousands of noisy supporters who had got up early to see us off and that felt brilliant.

“The organisers operate a rolling swim start, based on your predicted time, and that worked really well. There was none of the usual scrum.

“The water was also warm and the sea was calm. There were pretty houses to see when you were sighting, the sun came up as we swam and I loved it.” Viv easily achieved one of her goals, finishing in 1hr 9mins.

Nudity is allowed in transition. Ironman Wales operates gender areas so that men and women can do a full change of clothes if they wish. Except people got confused. Viv says: “It seemed as though the organisers had switched the male and female changing areas around since we’d dropped off our bags the day before, so men kept trying to come into our area and the marshals were comically trying to keep them out to conceal our modesty. It struck me that Ironman is really is quite Victorian!”

Some goals you achieve, some you don’t. Viv was overtaken by Sean before the first feed station but managed to hold off Alan. “So that was a goal fail and a goal tick,” she says.

The bike course hills are steep but the crowds keep you going. Viv says: “There are several hills and some are very steep, such as the hill to Narbeth, followed by Heartbreak Hill. The first was steep and the second was ridiculously steep.

“I was thankful for the Pyrenees training and with so many people cheering us on, calling out your name, it felt like you were in the Tour de France. It was a truly awesome experience.” Viv was delighted to finish the bike section in less than eight hours.

Be prepared for a tough run. The Ironman Wales course comprises four laps and a steep hill out of Tenby. Viv started well but then she was hit by stomach problems. She says: “Annoyingly the stomach cramps required lots of loo stops and this slowed me down because I had to walk and run and go to the loo in between.”

Ironman Wales is an endurance spectator event. Viv says: “Even as it was getting dark the crowds were still out in force and cheering us on. It was unbelievable.”

Goals do work. Viv says: “I looked at my watch on the final lap of the run and realised that if I ran it all I’d finish in under 15 hours. It was an arbitrary goal but in the end it worked to make me get through that last lap much faster than I might have done.”

Viv finished her first Ironman in 14:49:47.

Make sure you have the best support. Viv says: “Gareth had astoundingly managed to work out a way past the closed road in our campervan so I didn’t have to walk back, which I doubt would have been physically possible. He was my hero.”

Never say never to race Ironman again. Viv says: “I don’t think I want to repeat the race again in a hurry. I felt awful by the end and as soon as I stopped the nausea kicked in. But I would highly recommend this event to others.

“It’s like a local festival and the locals are amazing. I felt total love for the people of Tenby.”

Checkout details for Ironman Wales 2019. Why not join the 50 or so other club members who have already pledged to take part?

Ironman Wales 2018 GTC results

Bruce Greenhalgh:  10:27:04 (47th, 4th age cat). 0:59:54; 5:33:26; 3:42:28 (He has qualified for Kona.)

Joseph Smith:  12:40:56 (599th, 101st age cat). 1:14:47; 6:28:02; 4:24:45

Ross Martin:  13:18:12 (858th, 157th age cat). 1:14:23; 6:46:40; 4:53:06

John Conlin:  13:45:05 (1095th, 92nd age cat). 1:18:58; 6:39:34; 5:22:35

Sean Webster:  13:38:51 (1039th, 84th age cat). 1:13:48; 6:48:17; 5:16:04

Andrew Hart:  14:21:29 (1446th, 208th age cat). 1:17:54; 7:37:14; 5:06:40

John Willis:  14:38:02 (1492nd, 267th age cat). 1:24:52; 7:28:35; 5:17:08

Viv Gough:  14:49:47 (1152nd, 25th age cat). 1:09:16; 7:43:38; 5:26:59

Alan Anderson:  15:11:53 (1686th, 259th age cat). 1:21:40; 7:18:08; 6:02:56

David Venables:  Did not run.  1:11:28; 6:17:10, did not run.

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