From Fat Man to Three-Time Ironman: Part 2

In the second part of Jason Briley's journey to become a three-time Ironman, he discovers the perils of racing without a concept of time…

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Soon enough, the pasty and honey/chocolate gel gloop mix starts to kick in and my hours of silence become hours of annoying everyone as I pass them, chatting like I’m an kid with ADHD on a 1-mile BMX trundle on a sunny day. 

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I don’t get much reaction from the people around me as they’re all suffering, but the crowd loves my new-found energy and we lap up each other’s support and mutual respect. I still don’t know what time of the day it is, how long I’ve been going for, how long I’ve been on the bike, how long to the cut-off time, my average speed…  It’s great and it’s really working for me. Just as I’m thinking this, a chap moves alongside me to overtake. As he gets level, his bike calculator bleeps and announces, “There we go, 80 miles on the dot.” 

Nooooooooooooooooooo! I’m devastated, I thought I was about the 100-mile mark. I start doing calcs in my head straight away. So that means I’ve still got 32 hilly miles to go. On a really good day, I’m lucky if I can do that in 1:45hrs. I can’t believe I’m gonna be on this bike for another two hours. I really have to fight hard to overcome these dark thoughts. I’m helped by something an ultra runner friend of mine called Lesley told me. To help her through her 100-mile runs, she does this calculation to take her mind off the miles and pain:

0 + 1 = 1

Then

1 + 1 = 2

Then

1+2=3

2+3=5

3+5=8…. And so on.

It actually works; my brain’s so fried by the time I get to 50 each time that I have to start again. The pain’s soon forgotten. On the hills I’m doing this out loud. I’m smiling at my fellow competitors, wide eyed with a glazed expression and repeating digits, up hill, sweating and gurning like some kind of crack head with number psychosis on a euro-millions lottery night. But hell, it works! Before I know it, I’ve nailed the hills.

As I come down the last hill into Tenby, it stops raining and I smile as thousands of people are cheering and shouting really heart-rendering snippets of advice and admiration. This is when I audibly cry! I blub with relief that I’ve made it through this bloody bike course again, but this time only on run training. Bike done. Just the small matter of running a marathon now. Gulp.

T2

I’m just so glad to be off the bike, so I don’t hang around. Trainers and cap on, replenish myself with my magic energy gloop concoction and I’m away.

THE 42.2KM RUN

I can’t believe that I can jog straight away. I thought my legs had gone, never to return. But within a mile I’m up to running pace. For the first time ever, I put in planned walk breaks on the worst parts of the loop. I can’t believe how well this works because each time I do it, I’m only around 20m behind the people who carried on jogging by the time I start again. Being fresher then them, I catch them on the flat, overtake and keep going. This is going far too well, there’s got to be some payback, surely?

Another new thing for me is to only drink water on the run, which is also working well. I get all my nutrition from my gloop and salty Ritz biscuits from the feed stations.

The first time I come into the town part of the loop, I get what I came for – thousands of screaming, cheering Iron-fans. I cry on every loop! This is where Baz is based on the Army feed station, and I stop, walk and talk with him. He doesn’t tell me anything about my time, just says, “You’re looking strong mate… change nothing.” 

The mantra I repeat on the marathon comes from my friend Jon Simmonds, who I train with and who says I’m at my best on endurance stuff because “as the race gets longer, you get stronger”.

With a mile to go, it’s getting dark. I pull out my rolled up Union Jack from the back of my tri-suit pocket and hold it behind me all the way to the red carpet where I see Baz again. I break down in his arms, blubbing like a baby. “You did it mate,” he says. “Now go enjoy the crowd, the red carpet and be proud of your time.” 

I realise I’m 200m from the finish line and clock and don’t have my glasses on, so I can’t see my time! I secretly wonder if I could have possibly beaten last year’s time or even done a 13:59hrs. I wander over to the nearest person and ask: “What time does it say at the finish line?” He replies, “13 hours and five minutes, mate.” My brain nearly escapes out of my ears. I shout at him: “Thank you, thank you! I’ve just beaten my PB by over an hour!”  I think I grab him and kiss his cheek!

I wander down the finish chute going from side to side with my flag still flying, hi-fiving hundreds and hundreds of screaming crowd. It’s all hitting me, I’m choking up. I think about my time in the army, leaving after only six years, the drug abuse, alcohol abuse, smoking habit, weight gain… and turning it all around with the support of my wife Hilary (who couldn't be here today because of work committments), friends, family, tri club and my own determination. For the first time, I allow myself to be truly patted on the back. 

Granted, all my personal problems have been self-induced, I scraped my way to my first Ironman finish line years later and then I just ‘survived’ the second one in Wales. But this year, I really have nailed it. I haven’t just completed it, I’ve competed at a decent level for me and I am truly proud of my achievements. The photo of me at the finish line is my favorite photo ever – apart from my wedding photo – and that says a lot cause I hate shots of myself!

Ironman Wales – nailed, to become Jason Briley, Fatman to three-times Ironman.

Jason’s IM Wales splits

3.8km swim 1:28hr 

T1 11:39mins

180km bike 7:02hrs

T2 6:19mins

42.2km run 4:17hrs

Total time 13:06mins

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Finished 691st out of 1,500