I cannot believe I’m on the other side of my epic challenge! I swam, cycled and ran my furthest distances to date over the course of a weekend. Was it hard? Without a shadow of a doubt super challenging and it really tested me. But what how and why was I putting myself up for this?

Sadly back in June one of my best friends passed away, and so I wanted to do something to raise money for a charity that she would want to support. Chosen by her husband I set out to raise money for the Bliss Charity, an organisation that helps premature and sick babies.

After deciding on a charity I needed a good challenge to focus on! My husband who is a Ironman coach suggested I create my own long course weekend, where I’d swim, bike and run, an Ironman race distance but do it over a weekend.

What was the challenge?

I loved this idea, it was a huge challenge and I thought, I’m going to do this! The first two parts would be self organised with the run, a marathon, being the organised Yorkshire Marathon.

I would start my long course weekend challenge with a 2.5 mile sea swim in Blackpool, cycle over 100 miles from Blackpool to York through the Yorkshire Dales and then finish things off with a 26.2 mile Yorkshire Marathon.

The 2.5 Mile Swim

We arrived in Blackpool to a ridiculously windy setting. Managing to head out for some fish n’ chips the evening before, the wind was so bad I started to feel nervous. Husband had checked the tide times and the safest time to swim, and the weather was telling us it would actually be sunny and with no wind. I wasn’t completely sold on this, so our back up was to swim the 2.5 miles at the local swimming pool if the conditions weren’t safe! That made me feel better having a ‘just in case’ plan.

The clock went off at 5.30am in our B&B, I started to get myself ready. I was relatively chilled about the swim, because to be honest it’s the one element I know I’m okay at. I think I was most concerned about the water temperature, as I hadn’t been doing as much cold water swimming this season and was worried it would be a shock. Especially as I’d be in the water for around an hour and a half.

I was ready in my wetsuit and slowly made my way out through the surf, but I was struggling, it was too strong. I kept swimming but I wasn’t getting out. Was this already a disaster? I’d planned to go out and then make my way across, but we decided to just start swimming from the South Pier towards the Central pier. Hubby was on the paddle board with me, and soon I was moving in the right direction and got into my rhythm. I wasn’t cold in the 13 degrees, I swallowed so much water swimming against the current! But I made it… 2.5 miles in-between the Central and North Piers of Blackpool. The first part was done!

The 100 mile bike

I’d originally planned to do a coast to coast cycle, but logistically I couldn’t get to York in time for sufficient rest before the marathon. We took a hilly route from Blackpool to York making our way through of the beautiful Yorkshire countryside villages. The plan was to do the swim, rest for the day then set off, but after the swim and a breakfast stop, we made the decision to push on. Instead we would do 40 miles, stop in Burnley and then set off to do the remainder on Saturday.

To be honest I was so pleased we got the first 40 miles out of the way. It meant I could get to Burnley, have a bath, use the Theragun and sleep! I wasn’t used to cycling for so long, so even after 40 miles my shoulders were tight and my quads were aching.

Saturday arrived and it was the part I was most nervous about. The big hilly cycle to York. I kept going the entire way, fuelling as we went. I know I could not have done the cycle without Nick, he kept me going, especially when we reach a 17% incline. At one point I wanted to unclip my foot and give up, but we pushed on together. I’ve never been so happy to have reached the hotel in York! I was so happy and so proud of myself, and extremely thankful to have my husband plan the entire route and stay with me to complete the challenge.

The Marathon

I soaked myself in the hotel bath, used deep heat, the Theragun and took a stretch class. My achy legs and shoulders needed serious nursing so I could make it through the marathon comfortably. My alarm was set early, and when I woke up, everything still ached. It was what I didn’t want to happen. How could I run this feeling so tired? I had a shower, got the theragun out again and actually did the Club La Santa Morning Gym Routine from Youtube to kickstart me into gear. Luckily I started to feel better, and by taking the pressure off myself to do a specific time, I felt quite chilled about it.

As this was an actual organised race, the atmosphere was fantastic, I was ready for this! Both my husband and best friend Tara were there during the race to cheer me on. I started out chatting to a lady who was running around the same pace as me, we carried on talking and almost distracting ourselves for 16 miles. Carrying on without her and continue to chase an unofficial goal time of under 4.45.

The road to York

I remember getting to signal figure miles and thinking ‘the wall’ was going to get me soon, but it didn’t. The only thing I felt at this point was achy legs from yesterdays cycle, and so my speed was crumbling. My pace had dropped from 10.20 min/mile to nearly 11.45 min/mile. I’d originally been somewhere between the 4.30 and 4.45 pacers, and because I’d dropped back so much, the 4.45 pacer suddenly appeared behind me. I knew I had a choice in the last 4 miles to pick up my pace or know I’ll feel disappointed that I didn’t try, so I used every last bit of energy to keep up with this pace group.

Into the last mile, running with the 4.45 pace group, as I saw Nick and Tara cheering me on. Nick yelling ‘yo yo yo!’ (we said that the entire weekend in Sam Long style), I was coming up to the hill before it was down hill to the finish. The pace group went on, but I couldn’t keep up. I lost them. I got to the top of the hill and notice the flowing downhill to the finish line, when my energy went so high and I started really running. Running past the pacer group, and ran as quick as my legs could take me, crying and smiling as I crossed the finish line at 4.43. I’d only done it! I’d got a PB of nearly 40 minutes from when I did the Berlin Marathon 2015

How I’m feeling after the long course weekend

I slept a lot and I’ve not stopped being hungry! But my goodness, I cannot believe I managed to do all I did for this incredible charity. It has made me realise how incredible everyone who does an Ironman race is, doing all those distances together is next level! It has made me realise that I prefer a shorter distance triathlon, although that being said, having such a gap in-between activities may have made the recovery harder… plus two weren’t in race situations so there was no race day style atmosphere.

I did it!! I completed the long course weekend!

If you can spare me your cup of coffee money for an amazing charity, I’d absolutely love your support www.justgiving.com/fundraising/itsanniebean