ironman 70.3 UK Wimbleball, Exmoor 15th June 2014

OMG ! ironman 70.3 Exmoor lived up to it’s reputation as the toughest 70.3 on the planet !

It takes the male pros 40minutes longer than the average of other 70.3 distances and women 50mins plus. No PB for me on course as took me 65 mins longer than Henley Half which itself was an undulating course.

It was easily the toughest race I’ve done, not for distance but terrain and conditions on the day. Hills – 50 of them in 56 miles, heat – 26c and rising on the run & dusty rough trail run on grass, gravel, rock chippings, tree roots, cracked concrete.

Registration on Friday was swift and smooth apart from my race wristband been attached too tight and my hand swelling in the heat  ! So it was cut off and a replacement made for me. One slightly stupid moment for me as I checked my race number it had – 1354 ZOE 45-49 M UK  I thought I’d be classified as a male so swiftly returned just to be told that M was my finishers t-shirt size, duh !

I got to see the lay of the land, the lake, transition tent, baggage store, athletes tent and the all important finishers arch and red carpet. There were a couple of opportunities to swim in the lake on Friday & Saturday or drive the bike course but I decided against both as the lake was 18c and I’ve been in my local lakes a lot and I really didn’t want to see the bike hills until the day when I just had to deal with them.

Saturday morning I attended the novice race briefing along with about 80% of the field for whom it was our first ironman event. Slight American razzmatazz about it but very well done, informative, humorous and safety was paramount of athletes. Welcome to the ironman family/circus.

Just 70.3 miles from swim to finish arch
Just 70.3 miles from swim to finish arch

Race day:

After my hubbies shock at being in formed the alarm would be set for 3:45am when it was still just dark we had porridge pots in the B&B bedroom and were onsite an at transition for 5am.

I had tyres to pump up after releasing air so no risk of exploding in Saturdays heat. Also water bottles and Garmin to add to the bike and join the loo queue. We could not access our bike & swim bags that we had deposited on pegs like primary school days on Saturday on the morning of the race.

The swim went relatively well I started at the front and we were well spread out, there was little jostling even around the buoys, which was a pleasant surprise.  As we were quite well spread out I didn’t find any friendly feet to latch onto, but did have someone on mine until they scratched me for the dozenth time so a timely breaststroke kick around their ears stopped that tow. You can understand why it’s a sailing lake as plenty of chop as we moved away from shore. Swim position 6th 36:39

Then the first of the hills a run up a grassy bank to transition of about half a mile. My swim exit time from lake on my trusty Timex was 34 minutes, but chip was half way up the hill so a bit more.

The bike ride was brutal, relentless hills, well 50 of them, but the downhills very technical and on the brakes. Some great views but demanded concentration. A few short sharp climbs of 20% saw all but the pros pushing – yes I was one ! I saw many casualties from punctures, rear mechs, lost pedals, gravel crashes on the bike.  I offered to help a friend who had punctured on a pothole. Also a few not making the cut off time. Bike pos 16th, 4:08

The run was rough trail underfoot and like running in a dust storm as our feet kicked up the dry dust, sand & grass. Very lumpy & my ankles felt it that evening & following morning. I’m surprised not more twisted ankles on course. The temperature was rising and 26c when I started the run peaking to 28 when I completed with no cloud cover.

It wasn’t about time as soon as I heard over  the tannoy that I had missed the podium ! But all about safety, survival & finishing with a smile.

My left calf & foot started cramping on the final run lap. Worse downhill so I started running hills & walking down which was opposite of first two laps. I saw 3 runners on oxygen just on the first lap thinking this didn’t look good. The heat took many casualties from heat stroke, dehydration & severe sunburn all of which there was no excuse for as the organisers had added loads of iced drinks on course, plus showers and sunscreen being offered. Run pos 20th with my longest 1/2 marathon time 2:40

I can say I looked after myself with drinking & eating as stopped for wee in T1 & T2. Poor coach Neil was tracking me and another and had what he described as a coaches worst nightmare as my tracker seemed to go down on the run not giving splits but the clock was still ticking – was I laid on the ground, had I stopped, was I OK ?? I know I was slow but never actually stopped !

It was tough but rewarding to finish my first ironman race they put on a very professional slick & safe event and I’m very impressed with the organisation. Really enjoyed the event, location, organisation, branded goodies – rucksack, cool medal with Exmoor National Park Stag emblem, finishers t-shirt etc. Yes it was expensive to enter but the extra safety, goodies, organisation and location made it worth it for a one off.

As I passed under the finishers  arch I got my medal and promptly  dropped on the floor with cramp in the left leg, just like Henley. A rather large paramedic stretched it out as I lay on the floor as was hosed down by another paramedic with water or disinfectant from a backpack that looked like weedkiller sprayer. She was spraying every finisher, like a sheep-dip. When released from the paramedics grip I was sent to the athletes tent for a hog roast, my Medium t-shirt, food & water and collected my start bag. Met and chatted to a few Pirates and others that I know comparing cramp, hell and the conditions. Half a dozen said while Bolton is longer its not as tough on the hills – I hope they weren’t just being nice after my reality check. I then exited the tent left to meet Mike and we watched as the final athletes came in roaring one poor fella down the finish as he only had 10 seconds to cut off.

Must have swallowed a fish in swim as started coughing & carried on through bike & run. Still coughing this morning but don’t feel too bad at all considering.

Bring on Bolton

BTW I could have claimed a World Championship slot in Canada for September on roll down at the awards, not for my efforts but probably too expensive for others to go. Was tempting but we’re on holiday that week !

Made it into official video at 33:48 on run  & 36:50 flying finish
Made it into official video at 33:48 on run & 36:50 flying finish – click link to open video


First of the days many hills out often lake
Next time I’ll be floating down the red carpet through the finish
Reserve steam train driver Zoe getting final instructions from engineer
Exmoor ponies grazing freely
Post race evening river walk
Heading out for 13 hot hilly miles from T2
relaxing in finishers t-shirt
Swim ready for 7:15am start wave
Just off camera to the left amongst 2,000 athletes at briefing


Racked and ready to roll
Racked and ready to roll


  1. Great write up Zoe. It sounds brutal. Well done for getting through it. Also loving that swim time……will you be my friendly feet in Bolton? 🙂

  2. Excellent race report got mine to do tomorrow, A excellent race and one i really thought harder than Bolton you should be very pleased with finishing that event holds you in good sted for Bolton. Excellent swim I’m starting off the front at IM as getting caught up in it.

    • The swim was so calm I wondered where everyone else was ! Not sure I’ll be so lucky at Bolton getting clear water but I then might get some friendly feet to draft off ?!

      • Went downhill after swim or uphill I should say ! You were an hour ahead of me finishing More time to top up the tan and add comedy tan lines for sports masseur to laugh at today !

      • Mind you just noticed your ten years younger than me ! That’s my excuses for being a hippo – faster in water than on land 🙂

      • 🙂 ha ha the age card! Seriously you don’t need any excuses you completed one of the toughest events I’ve ever done and you should be very happy. Your swim was fantastic I managed to swim off line and got in the mix!

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