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Sat 21st May 2022
Rhys Davey: Challenge Henley
Posted by: Team Challenger World UK
Posted on: Saturday 14th September 2013

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Last week (HERE), we published the pre-race thoughts of Rhys Davey of the Skechers ActivInstinct Performance Team who was about to conclude his 'one man experiment' of trying to excel at every distance in one season, as he headed to his first iron-distance race at Challenge Henley.

As you would expect, it was a tough day an a learning experience - but fifth place provides much promise for the future. Here are his thoughts on the day.

The morning after the day before!

Literally, crawling down the stairs pretty much sums up how I feel the day after my first Ironman.

The day started much like any other race day - 4am wake up, porridge, bagel..... Normally such a early wake-up call on race day wouldn't be an issue as it means an early finish and the ability to go and enjoy the rest of the day. That wasn't going to be the case here though as I was preparring for a long - a very long - day in the office.

6.30am Henley-on Thames - fog on the river delaying the race for 10 minutes. However, once the fog had lifted and the race got underway, the swim was pretty uneventful. I knew that Stephen Bayliss would be likely to take the swim on so my plan was to try to swim on his feet. I did manage to do this despite the cold conditions. Upon exiting the water I found my transition bag and got straight onto the bike, together with Stephen. The first and second bike laps went smoothly, I felt good, but I could see that we were being steadily caught by Tom Lowe. No time to panic though, I felt ok.

Talking, or thinking, too soon though, it was around this point that the wheels started to come off. At 85 miles I was feeling comfortable and in control, but then, suddenly and out of the blue, around 90 miles I was seeing stars and realised something wasn't right. I immediately tried to get as much food down me as possible to help combat this huge downturn in energy. However, at this point I had no power and was struggling to find any sort of rhythm. Tom came past me at about this 90 mile mark - like a steam train, it seemed to me - and all I could do was watch as he disappeared into the distance. I tried hard to relax and, as the food took effect, I managed to continue to get through the bike. I was third going into the run but knew I was already into unchartered and, quite frankly, desperate, waters.

I had always known that running a marathon after this was never going to be easy but as I set off on the first of the four laps 10km laps, it really started to dawn on me what I had taken on. Feeling as I now did, my mind started to take over. Interesting, looking back on this, not so experiencing it first hand! I did feel like I was running for about 6-7km but after that it was very much a struggle. My body was failing to perform as I wanted, and so my mind turned to ensuring that I completed the race. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and managed to remain in third until about 15km but when Joel (Jameson) passed me there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I just wanted to take it one lap at a time. For me, a mental low was the third lap. It started to get emotional as, because the lap end passed the finish line each time, I wasn't sure if I would be able to go past here and off on another lap. However, at this point, I also knew that I was never going to give up so I set off on the final lap knowing that I really was almost there. I also realised that the fifth place competitior was rapidly catching me - but I knew my goal had changed now. I eventually got caught with 5km to go but, as much as I would have liked to attempt to go with his pace, there was nothing my body could do. I crossed the finish line with sheer relief to have finished and with an enhanced respect for everyone who competes and completes this distance.

Looking back, I am really pleased to have completed my first Ironman and pleased to have finished in fifth place. The other pros were full of encouragement and tips about preparation - pointers that are really useful. There were times when I really did feel good and times when I was thoroughly enjoying the race, but, when I ran out of calories, it was very much about completion and not competition. As always, I have learnt many lessons and, despite what I thought during that third run lap, will be looking forward to putting things right next time around.

Rhys is a Skechers ActivInstinct Performance Team athlete, and is proudly supported by Skechers, ActivInstinct, Virgin Active, Timex UK, HUUB wetsuits, Nectar Sports Fuel, Forgoodness Shakes, Specialized and Wings Transport.

Skechers Activinstinct Team About the Author

The Challenger World UK Tri Team - formerly Team TBC Sports Aid and Team Activinstinct - is a professional development team, which aims to help nurture talented athletes wanting to make the leap from amateur to professional, whether they are talented juniors just below the funded Olympic performance programme or age groupers that have come to the sport late but have the promise to be top UK and international professionals. The team develops both Olympic distance, and also non Olympic talent – aiming for success in triathlon, duathlon, Ironman and 70.3 events

Read more on the team website:, or in the dedicated section on Tri247.

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