On a dark Saturday morning after a 4am alarm call, Tracey donned her tri-suit and headed for the start line at Amager Beach Park before embarking on a 2.4-mile swim. When her group’s buzzer sounded, she headed into the water to overcome open water waves and jellyfish and achieve an impressive time of 1hr 20 minutes for the swim section. With a bit of a wobble after so much time in the water, Tracey made it through her first transition (T1) into her cycle kit and ran with her bike to the start of the arduous 112-mile second stage.
The course wound through central Copenhagen before heading north on two loops of scenic countryside with spectators lining the route – their contribution helped Tracey’s motivation enormously.
‘This point felt really good and I could start to relax,’ she recalls. ‘There were crowds lining the roads and cheering me all the way – even when I was out of the town passers-by would wave. Being a closed-road event, I didn’t have to worry about cars and all the junctions were marshalled. There were a couple of challenging climbs that felt worse on the second loop, then it started to rain and I still had 25 miles left to cycle – I was so hoping the rain would stay away. After nearly 6hrs 45mins I was in the town, wet and soggy, got to the dismount line and handed my bike over to a catcher before entering my second transition into run kit that didn’t stay dry for long.’
A very fast T2 complete, Tracey began the most gruelling phase of her Ironman endeavour – the marathon. The four-loop course stretches along the famous Copenhagen Canal with its bright 17th and 18th-century row houses and then takes runners around the capital’s famous sights before finishing in front of the Danish Parliament building and 20,000 cheering spectators, who would prove critical to Tracey’s run.
‘It’s always hard to get your legs walking after being on the bike and I had four loops to complete – equivalent to about 8 parkruns! Each loop felt more comfortable as I started to settle in, but my legs were really tired and some walking was inevitable. My fourth loop was in the dark and it was nice running past all the bars with their fairy lights and people cheering and encouraging you all the way. At the furthest point of each loop you collected a coloured band and once I had all four I knew I was only about 30 minutes away from the finish.
‘I could hear the finish before I got there – there were so many people and lots of music. As I reached the red carpet the cheering got louder and, even though I could barely run my pace, my spirits picked up. Then I heard ‘Tracey Haywood, you are an Ironman’ – it was amazing. My total time was 14hrs 53 minutes – I was really pleased with my swim and cycle and, although the run was not pretty, I was really pleased to have completed it within the cut-off time of 15hrs 45 mins.’
Challenge overcome, would Tracey ever do it again?
‘After I’d finished I said I would never do it again – but, I didn’t ache too much and was able to do some sightseeing on foot the next day without any problem. I think that was due to the amount of training we’d done. Behind the finish line where I collected my dry kit bags, a man said I didn’t look like I‘d just completed an Ironman and, when I checked out of the hotel two days later, I was asked the reason for my visit. When I said, ‘for the Ironman’, he asked if I was a marshal or supporter! So, for now, I’ll just say ‘never say never’…’
In the meantime, Highwood’s Ironman has the Red Bull Timelaps to conquer – it’s the world’s longest one-day road cycling race that will see Tracey and her team compete to finish the most laps in a gruelling 25-hour race against time Windsor Great Park next month.