Posted in Triathlon and tagged Wiggle Hoka Flyers

In September 2022, the Wiggle Hoka Flyers took on arguably the hardest Ironman full distance triathlon in the world. We caught up with each of the 6 to get their race report and find out which kit really got them over the finish line.

The team were a bunch of mixed abilities, chosen from a Strava Challenge to form our tri team. Along with the all the best kit from Hoka, dhb, Garmin, High5 and Osprey and well as expertise and training advise from Susie Cheetham, Matt Bergin, Carla Molinaro and Nick Anderson, the team were given 9 months to train. 

Pauline - The Kona Qualifier

Training and The Big Day

The training was different this time - I was expecting more running and more hill repeats but maybe my calf injury, which was worse than I initially thought, messed with the plan. I wish in retrospect I had gone over to the North wales hills more - they’re on my doorstep and it would have prepared me better. Again I could have done more sea rather than lake swimming but I prefer to have a training partner for sea swims for safety and that’s not always easy. 

I guess the race reflected the training. I did not really enjoy the rough sea swim but zoned out and just focused on a rhythm so it surprised me that I completed it in a better time than the conditions suggested. The bike was too slow, no excuses - just should have pushed the hills harder in training. I’m used to the incessant wind on the Irish Sea coast and indeed the horizontal rain so that didn’t phase me but I couldn’t make up time as I was hoping in the descents because the brake pads in the wider carbon rims were not reliable in the rain. Caution got the better of me. I’m usually a bit kamikaze on hill bike descents so it was disappointing to not be able to let go but at least I stayed conservatively safe! I was soaked by the time I reached T2 but the lightweight dhb gilet was a lifesaver to keep the core warm.

My feet were comfortable for the first time in a long endurance event - the bike fit and orthotics by Mike Bottrill were fantastic - note to self always get a bike fit with a new bike! I put a featherlight dhb jacket on for the cold, wet run. I kept nutrition and fluids topped up on every aid station and allowed myself a red bull on the final loop in the hope the mega caffeine fix would keep me going rather than kill me!

I got to the final loop, the internal voice willing me on and those final bends in the interminable maze of Tenby centre which were never ending….I kept thinking it’s the next corner, argh no, surely the next one, noooo, oh my God where is the final bend, did I take a wrong turn and then, and then there it was, the chute, the noise, the finish line - the very best hugs ever. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - IM is like labour, it’s long it’s exhausting, it’s painful but the reward is life changing! The high is out of this world and it’s strangely addictive!

The shoes

I have worn Hoka Clifton's for years and have never regretted the change from Brooks as the extra cushioning is sublime. My pace shot up in the Carbon X3 but only used them for shorter distances because I was being super protective of legs, my calf specifically for fear of any further injury. I will enjoy wearing them more frequently once I get back to proper training again as I need to get faster and stronger in each of the disciplines to give a good show of myself next year. 

The Kit

The dhb wind proof gilet was a Godsend on the bike just to give some protection but equally avoid overheating. But for me it was the dhb aeron wetsuit that gave possibly the biggest kit change - it was such a well fitting suit and felt like a second skin allowing for free movement. Totally perfect!

Best lessons learnt

Listen to your body - when it hurts tell your coach and physio - you may not like what they’re going to say but if you want to be on the start line they give you the best chance of getting there. And don’t worry about self doubts - it’s all part of the physical drive and mental games to get you to the end point.

Sim - The swim was his challenge

Training and The Big Day

The training was fun throughout - it never lost that buzz or became boring and I think the main contributor to that was having such a clear bucket list goal. Training ramped up to 16-17 hours a week for a few weeks and whilst that sounds daunting, it became quite easy to fit in - mainly as you’ve been gradually building up the training to that point (rather than training for 3 hours a week and then the next going up to 16.5!)

The swim was super choppy and around 200m in I thought I should quit, find a race next week and do that. Then I thought about what I had written on my bike (when I first thought the demons would get me!) “if you think you are beaten then you are” which was something my dad used to say when I was young. It helped me beat the defeatist attitude and swam through it - the only way I was going to stop was if I missed the cut off. I had the slightly unorthodox strategy of trying to swallow the waves but that did little than make me little unwell for the swim and the rest of the day. 

I got onto the bike about 25 minutes down from where I was hoping to be but, instead of stressing, just went about riding and enjoying the day, the surroundings and the atmosphere. That went well until around halfway through the bike when it started raining - we were provided with some DHB arm warmers and a gilet but unfortunately they couldn’t save me from my transition bags! It became very cold and lonely on the bike and it just was a fight to complete it. I got back to transition and swiftly put on the arm warmers for the run and went about the marathon. By this point the sea water and cold had taken a lot out of me physically. I shuffled around the run course and it didn’t matter about the time, it was just incredible running through Tenby. If my wife is reading this, this was the second best day of my life. If she’s not, this was the best day of my life. 

The Shoes

I raced in the Bondi X which I had used for a half marathon PB so felt super comfortable in them for endurance and speed. Most of my training was done in the Kawana's or the Clifton 8, not only were they super comfortable but I felt it best to save the carbon impact for race day! Just to make sure I remained comfortable in the Bondi X's, I used them for some speed sessions. 

The Kit

Being a new swimmer, I heard a lot of horror stories about panics in the water caused by the tightness of a wetsuit, the coldness of water etc. But my dhb Aeron Ultra wetsuit was a game changer. If anything it improved my swimming. The buoyancy made me more comfortable in the water and a lot more confident…if only I could wear it in the pool!! 

Best lesson learnt

Carry extra nutrition than what you need or make sure you’re comfortable with the on-course nutrition as a backup. I calculated nutrition for my expected times and didn’t carry a single gel more - being out on the swim and bike for long than expected and using more energy shivering, my nutrition plan was out the window as I needed more energy than expected. As I hadn’t practiced with the on course gels, I didn’t feel confident in using them. 

Lisa - What a ride

Training and The Big Day

The run up to the ironman was intense! Averaging about 17 hours a week for a month, I couldn’t wait for the taper. When it came, the taper was completely underwhelming, no lazy mornings and socialising at all. Just slightly less intense training!

When the race day came, I was mentally ready and buzzing. All the preparation was for this. The swim was quite choppy and I swallowed quite a bit of sea water. The Aussie exit and the second lap mixed things up and broke the monotony. The swim was 1:17. Then came the cycle, my favourite bit. The crowds in Saundersfoot and Tenby were amazing and so motivating. I kept warm, but didn’t drink quite enough and started to have a bit of a dehydration headache near the end. A few sobering moments were when other cyclists misjudged some of the technical descents in the rain and had fairly horrible spills right in front of me. Nearing the end of the final lap, I was told I was 25th female. My cycle was 6:48 and I was pretty wet through at that point.

Starting the run I did not feel good. My dehydration headache was getting worse and I felt pretty nauseous. After 4 toilet stops on the run, I knew I wouldn’t be able to run the whole course. I couldn’t keep any food or drink down and felt fairly miserable. Despite this, the crowds were fantastic and so I couldn’t help but plod along with a big smile on my face. My marathon time was an abysmal 5:34.

On the finishing carpet I forgot to ring the bell signalling that this was my first ironman event in my hurry to get over the line at 14hours and 5 minutes.

The Shoes

I trained pretty much entirely in Hoka Mach 4’s which I wore until they fell to pieces. I still miss them. On race day I went for a pair of men's Hoka Clifton's which come up slightly wider. They were a great choice – really comfortable and supportive.

The kit

A piece of kit I absolutely couldn’t do without while training was my excellent dhb Aeron bib shorts. They fit like a glove, have padding in exactly the right places, and for once, I don’t have sausage legs while cycling! I could live in those things.

Best lesson learnt

The best thing I have learnt from this whole process is the importance of strength and conditioning to avoid injury. I used to have niggles when running anything more than 10k and yet, with strength training and preventative physio exercises, I only had tired muscles at the end of 30km training runs. 

Geraint - Making it look easy

Training and The Big Day

When you’re set the task to train for an Ironman, the art is a fine balance between doing a lot of exercise and wrapping yourself in cotton wool.  I didn’t always get this right, with rolled ankles, getting knocked off my bike and catching Covid, but with a lot of support I got safely through my training programme in pretty good shape.

Team Wiggle Hoka Flyers all headed down to Tenby to be together for race week.  In the final run in, the bad weather predictions and possibility of cancellation had the whole team on edge.  But lots of ironman chat, final training sessions and numerous kit checks kept us occupied.

On the day we were up at 3:50am to get over to the race start and sort out bike/kit/food for the day.  Once prepped it was through the streets and onto Tenby Esplanade where we got the first glimpse of the sea swell… choppy doesn’t quite cover it.  But down on the beach the amphitheatre feel created by the famous harbour walls, together with the huge crowds and the amazing sunrise momentarily made us all forget about the sea conditions, and made the Welsh anthem all the more emotional.   

Once in the water the swim to the first buoy was a washing machine, with the swell making sighting really difficult.  I eventually settled in and got through in a reasonable time of 1:07, but being thrown around and drinking too much sea water came back to bite.  The first 60 miles on the bike I felt strong and going up ‘Heartbreak Hill’ was epic, with manic support and just enough room to squeeze the bike through.  Heading back out of Tenby my stomach started doing cartwheels and I struggled to fuel properly after that, with the power starting to drop off and my legs starting to cramp by T2.  The run included some emergency portaloo stops, preventing me from getting properly into my running so I was happy to finish in a respectable overall time of 12hrs. 

Not being able to leave everything out there on the course (although some would argue that I left quite a lot out there with the gut problems) I do feel like I have unfinished business in Tenby… I might have to come back to take on the dragon again next year.

The Shoes

My oversized feet meant I had to go through lots of Hoka’s wide fit trainers to find my best option for the Ironman.  I really liked the Clifton 8’s, and they were great for training runs and half irons, but were just a little too narrow for me for the longer distance.  Hoka suggested the Bondi 7’s which came in an extra wide, and they were a great fit.  I did most of my long runs in them, but worried that they might be a little heavy for race day.  Thankfully the new Bondi 8’s came out in the nick of time; the same extra wide fit and lots of cushioning, but noticeably lighter than the 7’s. 

The kit

I really loved the dhb Aeron bib shorts 2.0.  Really comfy and a great pad for my long summer training rides.  I had these in the navy, which made a nice change from all my black bib shorts, and they look great with a white top and socks. 

Best lesson learnt

Find a club or a coach to guide you.  My training approach in the past has been to go full bore at each session.  Having a coaching team ensured I built steadily towards my A race, holding me back from going too hard in the first few months of training so that I peaked at the right time. 

Kaylee - Flew round

Training and The Big Day

Ironman Wales was incredible. I still can’t get over the crowds, massive support all the way around! Running down the red carpet and through the finish line was an amazing experience, and meant all those hours spent training had paid off. The training for sure gets tough during the peak weeks but it’s all worth it in the end. I may be even considering number 3.

The Shoes

I raced in the Mach 5’s, they are super comfy and lightweight. I picked these as I had done a lot of training miles in the Mach 4’s and these were the newer version so I tried them. I had no issues during the marathon, even though the shoes were a relatively new pair; they fit true to size and provided just the right about of cushioning.

The Hoka Carbon X3's I found great for intervals sessions and days when you want to pick up the pace. I competed in a half distance triathlon in these and enjoyed the responsiveness of the carbon plate. I was a bit torn as to whether to race Wales in these but decided to go for the comfort over the longer distance.

Best Lesson Learnt

Looking back at the race, one thing I would do differently would be to train more on the bike in the rain. I’m a bit of a fair weather cyclist so the last couple of hours on the bike in that torrential rain was not fun. But sometimes things don’t always go to plan, you’ve just got to embrace whatever gets thrown at you on race day and try to keep positive. Take in the views, high five the crowds, tap those power boards and keep smiling your way through.

Gabs - First Ironman done

Training and The Big Day

When I was first asked to be part of the Wiggle Hoka Flyers team and take on my first full distance triathlon, I jumped at the chance. I knew it would be tough, but I genuinely love a challenge. I spend my time running, cycling and swimming anyways, so why not commit to a full training programme. I think I only missed 3 weekends of riding between January and September and still managed to get a cake or bacon stop in on most of them too - winning. I have to say, it was the kit and the incredible people around me that really kept me sticking to the long hours of training. Being comfortable and having others spur you on makes getting out the door so much easier and way more fun.

The nerves were really building in the days leading to Ironman mainly the fear of the unknown for me.

The sky was all shades of red and pink the morning of the race, where we were met with a choppy swim. I'm pleased to say I've been sea swimming all through last winter and in Southsea where the currents can be less than forgiving so I faired pretty well on the two loops in Tenby, but also swallowed a fair bit of sea water. I had my pair of Hoka Kawana's waiting to take me on the super long transition run from the beach to the bike, running under an archway of waving hands from the huge crowd. The bike started well, I was actually wondering where these so called hills were - because until 'Heartbreak Hill' it had been pretty cruisy. I felt great on the climbs at Sandersfoot, Narbeth, Heartbreak Hill and then the rain started and so did my stomach cramps. I eventually made it off the bike a little slower than I'd have liked but ready to take on the run. 

Running is my favourite discipline of the lot and although I had to make many frequent toilet stops (cheers sea water!) and ran a little slower than planned, I loved every minute of it. If you want a race with crowds - Ironman Wales is the event for you. My dhb tri kit felt great, my Hoka running shoes felt great which spurred me on for a sprint finish down the red carpet to complete my first ever full distance triathlon.

The Shoes

Where do I start, I've never had so many running shoes on a rotation before and boy does it make a difference. I did my slower longer runs in my Hoka Arahi 6's because my legs have a tendency to get pretty lazy and the feel of support really helped me keep going. I did my tempo, interval and fartlek runs in the Carbon X3's but knew I wouldn't be running quick enough to get the carbon plate benefit from these in Wales. So for race day and all my faster brick sessions I opted for the Hoka Mach 5's as they are somewhat inbetween the Arahi's and the X3's giving me the best of both.

The kit

I've said it before and I'll say it again, it was the winter cycling kit from dhb that made my winter rides not just bearable but enjoyable - my favourite item had to be the dhb FLT Roubaix bib tights. I used to be a fair weather cyclist, but not anymore.

Best Lesson Learnt

You could get to the race without doing the training, without putting in the hours but you will be miserable and not be able to soak up the atmosphere. Ironman isn't just about the day, it's the journey to get there. 

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About the author

GBurden's picture
Gabriella Burden
Published on: 26 Sep 2022

You'll find me running, swimming, cycling, or hiking. And trying to convince anyone and everyone to do the same.