Supporting A Double Ironman

Supporting someone racing a Double Ironman is orders of magnitude more involving than for an Ironman. You are an integral part of the race and the Enduroman organizers appreciate their importance and provided excellent facilities for the crew.

For the swim a crew member is on the beach to provide aid during the eight-lap swim. Being that close to the athletes so near the start you could feel the tension. I was nervous knowing how important the support myself and Jo’s mum were providing would be. This started sooner than expected with the last minute cancellation of the swim. I took Jo aside to get her focused on the new race (Half marathon to start) trying to help her adjust and think about any changes to T1 and feeding required.

Following a starters photo most runners set off fast, even Jo, who looked comfortable, was running sub 5 min kms. This was like supporting an Ironman except the “Go go GO!”’s were replaced with more subdued supporting trying to slow your athlete down.

T1 was quick. Not even sun cream, as most of the 12 lap bike would be done in the dark. This marked the start of the rather surreal night shift. Periodically I’d head down from the warm calm crew room to the roundabout in Playa Blanca and wait to see Jo’s headlight before getting a brief moment to exchange words and food. Always there 20 minutes too soon in my optimism.

The wind was horrendous with tales filtering through from crews and those dropping out. Two blown off their bikes, several pushing particular corners and third place pulling out on lap 10 feeling it dangerous. Jo hadn’t mentioned the wind and I wasn’t raising the subject since that would give it importance. For 9 laps she rocked up with a smile, quick change of lights, clothing, bottles or food then back out. I was so proud.

End of Lap 10 she wanted a sit down for food. The wind was terrible; she’s surprised she’s not mentioned it. The next lap was fast, the sun rise and a bizarre drop in the wind found Jo straight back out on the final lap without stopping.

Only a double Marathon to go. The providing of nutrition is such a minor element of crewing, much more important is helping maintain the athletes mental well being. This became ever more critical as the run progressed.

The early laps looked easy, just glad to be off the bike but soon the enormity of the task hit and Jo asked me to leave and return later giving her something to look forward to.

I returned to Jo struggling so ran a section to discuss what to do. With no right answer it seemed best to remove the responsibility and just tell her what to do. Getting her through a lap at a time. “Do this lap just on coke”. “Now try a lap with nothing”. We got to lap 14 (of 32) before finally stopping for a massage. “Make sure I don’t stay more than 5 minutes” I was told but despite my best efforts it was 15 minutes of (good) reasons to stay longer before I got her out of there.  She ran through to halfway, a milestone we ignored, knowing that highlighting “only a marathon to go” could be mentally devastating, instead focusing on each lap.

At this point other racers from shorter distances joined the run course, a fantastic touch from the organizers to help the doubles along. She asked me to set up her watch to beep at intervals to limit the time she spent walking. Next we went a few laps without offering any food, which got us through to 22 laps and single digits to go. I was inspired seeing her plugging away and just not stopping, getting ever closer but still the number of laps wasn’t mentioned, as it would still be daunting. By now she was the only lady left and just had to hold it together.

With three laps to go it was time to run with her as on the previous lap she’d turned too early and ran in to a bar. What a special time, being able to share this moment with a loved one, the point where she’s approaching an amazing achievement. To me it seemed so close but 8km could as well have been another marathon. I told her how I’d very badly stubbed my toe earlier making it difficult to run alongside and give aid but felt it inappropriate to complain. She was now concerned about me for a moment taking her mind off her discomforts

The last lap was solo as I headed to the finish. I could feel that end of an Ironman buzz building up inside me ten fold and I wasn’t even racing. At that point I realized it would probably be a miracle if I never tried a double.

At about 9:30pm Jo came across the line some 29 hours and 25 minutes after she’d started having stopped only three times. I knew how tough she was but this had truly impressed me. Then in true Carritt style she shook hands with the second placed guy quipping: “It wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be”

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