“Did that really happen?!”…is something I’ve asked myself a few times now!! Apparently, it did…but I STILL don’t quite believe it!!
This journey started over a year ago, months before I’d done my first 70.3 when a bunch of my friends at Team Angel Wolf decided to do their first full Ironmans and I thought…well…why not, it’ll be awesome to do it all together!! I was pretty clueless then, a little less clueless now but not too much! 😄
The end of 2018 wasn’t a great one for me as I had been sick for two months and so in January, I was a VERY unfit and weak version of myself! I enlisted the help of Jan Gremmen to get me run and bike-ready and Rory Buck to get me swim-ready!! Boooy had I set them and myself a HUGE task!! Thankfully, they were both beyond awesome!! I am incredibly thankful for all their time, expertise, patience and belief in me as, otherwise, I just wouldn’t have made it. I realised that despite my total commitment and enthusiasm, only so much was possible coming from where I was in January and so, the goal was just to finish and enjoy it (especially as I also had two 70.3’s in-between!)!
Training was tough to say the least! Having to get a fair amount of elevation under my belt, combined with the heat/humidity of training for a summer race meant long nights on the weekend, setting off at 8pm to finish at 2/3 a.m. My training was generally done alone and especially my hill training which was done in the dark in Hatta with a headlamp /spot light – it was character building or, so I told myself anyways!! I had great company on a few of my Al Qudra night rides with Ala’a Faris and Kieran Ballard-Tremeer joining me! I cannot thank them enough for their company and support as it meant the world to me that they joined me for such long rides at my snail pace and at a crazy time of day/night! David Mackenzie and I would at times catch-up at “our” pool which again helped me tremendously with great chats and support as we usually had awesome but challenging sets to get through all thanks to the great Rory B! If you’re not comfortably uncomfortable, are you even trying?!
The day started off a little stressful to say the least!! Not staying at the race hotel meant a short drive to the venue, usually, just 6 mins but due to unknown road closures, this led to a good 35 minutes of loop de loop instead! NoOoOo! Needless to say, there was little time to get my bike set up, nutrition loaded, bags dropped and off to the swim site…it was a great warm-up though! I stood with David and Maria Hurter as we waited for our group to start and heard Paul Kaye (the announcer) give a shout-out to Team Angel Wolf as well as Tri Dubai which was just awesome! Being there with these two naturally eased my nerves and I started to get excited!! I remembered two important things that I had been told…1. Treat this like an easy training day and 2. Take each part in small bites – these were things I reminded myself of through-out the day. 😊
I thoroughly enjoyed the swim in the lake as it was beyond beautiful and a pleasure swimming in tranquil waters! ♥️ It was super easy to sight…until of course you turned at the last buoy to go home and then the sun was in your eyes so I did end up doing a little of follow the lead! It was a non-wetsuit swim and so, I was really happy to have full flexibility as I swam and avoid the wetsuit wrestle in transition!! Swimming down the river for the last 800 meters was amazing! You could see everyone supporting you on the banks and had the assurance that you were nearly home! I was so happy to have felt fit and strong through-out my swim – Thank you Rory!! The run to transition was a good 500 meters or so, but that helped me to get my head in the right place and blood back to my legs! I still didn’t believe that I was actually doing an ironman…maybe that was just a practice swim?
I always knew that the bike was my weakest part and was prepared for a very very slow and steady pace – just more time to enjoy the scenery! :D The course was beyond beautiful; each and every sight made you think “wow”! The crowds were phenomenal with so many people turning out to cheer and give you Mexican waves as you went past (of course I joined in as much as I could!)! At one part of the course there was a great downhill, but it was on a rough road and so, off flew my little bag of inner tubes and CO2 cannister! Thankfully, I was puncture free through-out! I also got hit by rain, hail and gusty winds when I was at the 120kms point on the course and was pulled off the road by a race official for a good 20 mins or so until it was deemed safe to ride.
A bunch of us (maybe 25 or so) stood, all huddled together in a random barn, discussing the race so far, with a farmer’s wife providing us all with lovely dry towels – I was so thankful for her kindness and generosity!! Emma and cold/wet weather really don’t mix very well, so I got really cold pretty quickly and found myself using both hands to change gears until the sun came back out an hour later! I soon defrosted! Due to the thunderstorm my power sensors stopped connecting, I stopped thrice, tried to rub-off any dirt and re sync but it just wasn’t happening, so the next 60kms was done on a “I think this is 75% of my FTP”?! I had absolutely NO clue obviously(!!) – Jan will know this better than most, as I am generally clueless – there is a theme here!!
I came into T2 wondering how on earth do you now run a marathon, is that even possible?! I then thought of all the guys at Team Angel Wolf and my family who I knew would all be cheering-me-on each and every step of the way and telling me to move my butt already!! So, after some more faffing, I decided to just give it a go and see if my legs would still work or not…surprisingly, I felt great!! The course was totally flat with lots of spectators and cheers throughout with part of it set-aside the lake we had swum in earlier that day. My watch decided to die at the 17kms point (I will now learn how to power save on ALL devices!! Haha!) and so, again, I was left to feel my way around with no idea on pace or overall time – my cluelessness being stuck on repeat! This was tricky for me as I had no idea about how much to push it or at what point, if at all BUT I was beaming and having a great time!! I got to see Maria regularly as she was about 5kms ahead of me, which spurred me on no end, high fiving each other as we went round! I also got to see David just before he finished (and had a little chat as u do) which left me on a great high and with the biggest of smiles knowing he had nailed his first Ironman!
Turning onto the red carpet was pretty surreal…! The atmosphere was incredible, it was dark and the stage was lit up like it would be for a concert! I threw my hands up, reached the top of the stage and heard those infamous words “EMMA HOLT YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!”!!
I stood at the top hugging and congratulating all the other athletes around me in total disbelief, did that really happen?!?!
I absolutely loved every part of the day, had no dark moments or pain and just lapped up every bit of enthusiasm I could off the course! It was beyond epic and I would thoroughly recommend this course to everyone!!
There are a lot of people to thank! Firstly, Team Angel Wolf for setting me off on my triathlon journey and helping me in every way possible, for all the camaraderie, encouragement and general awesomeness of the TAW pack, close friends and family as well as my two incredible coaches, Rory Buck and Jan Gremmen.
You’ve all contributed massively to my journey and made the unimaginable possible, THANK YOU!!