So I’ve been asked to put a few thoughts down on my IronMan event. Well the first point should be that this started on May 4th 2019 when 2 school friends (whilst all drunk obviously) dared me into joining them in an IronMan event and in fairness it didn’t take too much encouragement.
The race was meant to be in summer 2020 but like so many things last year that didn’t go to plan. I was quite dejected after the 2020 event was cancelled but I used the virtual races to really pull me back up mentally and enjoyed the challenge of club and NSRRA championships. When my 2021 spring marathon plans died with the January lockdown it was back to long cold sessions on the bike and many box sets viewed on a stationary bike in the spare bedroom. The biggest challenge was that swimming pools were all closed until mid-April which meant trying to learn to swim again in 10 weeks!
The day itself was just brilliant even from the 4am alarm call to eat some breakfast and drink a few coffees. A fair bit of faffing around the lake transition with bikes, kit bags & wetsuits was rudely interrupted by the 6am national anthem…. Followed closely but ACDC…. And we were off!
It was great to charge into the water with 2 school friends on our personal and shared journeys. A fairly uneventful 2.4 mile swim finished with my calf muscles starting to cramp up and me trying to get out of the water with legs that could still ride a bike. On reaching the exit ramp my relief was palpable and it was a jog to change and get onto the bike. A quick change, chuck my wet bag to the volunteers, sneaky toilet stop and then ran to find my bike.
Once out on the bike course it was about ‘making some time’ before the hills of North Bolton, I’d reccied the course 2 weeks before, and knew they would kill the pace significantly. The swim is my worst discipline, so with that completed I needed to utilise my strength on the bike and there was a lot of people to overtake in that first hour! The 112miles bike course was a 22mile ride followed by 3 X 30mile loops with lots and lots and lots of hills. I planned 7 hours of riding whilst keeping fuel, fluid and salt going in as fast as my stomach could handle it. It was on the 2nd lap where the torrential rain hit us in the hills (yes there were hills), roads now had rivers running down and across them. I found the effort of cycling uphill was relatively warming, but the downhills sections were fast, cold and spray limited visibility. A lot of people were crashing and bandaged up at the side of the road! On my 2nd pass through Bolton town (who puts a bike race through wet cobbles 3 times!) I saw my wife Beth and kids which was a real boost. The 3rd lap got really quite lonely, some crowds still braving the weather in towns and the occasional rider to lap or overtake. I had plenty of time to consider the sage final advice of my IronMan mentor…. “Don’t be shit”.
I’d already decided on a change into comfortable running gear for the marathon and took some more time for a full gear change. The run in Bolton is 4 laps…. with more bloody hills! Starting around the town centre then up and down Chorley New Road, lots of crowd support may have been responsible for me setting off far too fast. You also get to see your supporters twice each lap which really helps. I’d planned on 4hrs 30mins, I’d hoped for 4hrs… I did the first miles at 3hr 20min pace. As the miles and laps went by it was just a fight of mind against the slowing legs. I was closing in on one of my other school friends Chris who was a lap behind but some minutes up the road. It was great to run together through town as I started my last lap and he was half way through the marathon.
A final time of 11hrs 47min 57sec was far faster than I thought possible so I was hugely chuffed with the result and my first and final IronMan. It was great to support Chris onto the red carpet a few hours later then an evening of beer and dirty food together.
And that was it, nailed my first and final IronMan….. then that e-mail arrived on the Tuesday. Now we’re just hoping travel restrictions ease and the family can get out to Hawaii for the World champs in early October.
3 points worth sharing,
- Over the years I’ve had more than my fair share of injuries and have never really given cross training the attention it deserves. As a club legend said to me “you’ve never been so injury free, this triathlon lark is very good for you”. Swapping between bike and running has kept me strong and fit and the swimming has given my core the attention it needed too.
- Some great advice I received, “IronMan is a simple task of getting to the end as quickly as you can with a whole load of problems to overcome….. same as everyone else”. This philosophy can be used in any race, even 5Ks. Accept the challenge and affect what you can. When the torrential rain arrived (I couldn’t change it) I had to rethink my priorities and ensure I was able to get off the bike in one piece in transition. The rain was the same for everyone but I slowed enough to safely complete the course.
- Fit training in when you can around your life and family commitments & get on a streak (The Amy Grace method)! I got over my last minor injuries in Feb and posted a Strava activity or 2 (OK or 4) every day since March. On the dark days when the body was trying to convince me the sofa was the best option, keeping this streak going was a huge personal motivator.