by timPAug 16th 2013
Having completed the swim and bike legs at Challenge Copenhagen as part of a relay team with my wife, Debbie in 2011 and having supported friends at Ironman UK and Ironman Wales in 2012, I suppose that it was inevitable that I would find myself at 5am one September morning pressing the submit button, spending ¬£400 and committing to entering Ironman UK 2013.
That was the easy bit!
In my mind eleven months seemed plenty of time to undertake the ideal preparation. I imagined consistent 4 ¬- 5 hour bike rides throughout the winter, swimming four times per week and plenty of long steady runs. With Debbie I had planned out a complimentary race schedule, including an early season marathon, a couple of standard distance triathlons and a relay entry to the Outlaw iron distance triathlon with me once again undertaking the swim and bike and Debbie the run.
It all seemed to fit together well, a little too well perhaps. Debbie is undertaking a charity challenge (see her blog at www.triblogs.com/blog/debbiep) and the marathon and Outlaw would form part of that. The other events she was planning would be good fun and provide a break in the training schedule.
Well that was the plan!
Roll on eleven months a reorganisation at work, injury to Debbie and a family bereavement meant that the plan had gone out of the window. Far from the volume of consistent training that I had envisaged when I signed up, a review of my triblogs.com training log revealed the truth. Over the eleven months I had barely managed to average seven hours of training per week, woefully short of what I wanted and more importantly woefully short of all of the accepted wisdom for this distance event.
With that in mind I was perhaps a little more nervous than usual treading water in Pennington Flash with 1600 other athletes waiting for the hooter to go to signal the start of the race. Once we were underway all nerves disappeared and I launched into one of the most enjoyable days racing I have ever had.
The swim is a two lap affair with an ¬'Australian exit¬'. Swimming is my weakest discipline and I was looking forward to the short run on dry land between laps to break the distance into two 1900m swims rather than the full distance in one go. With 1600 swimmers in close proximity it was always going to be an ¬'exciting¬' swim, what I didn¬'t expect was for the punching, kicking and grabbing (all accidental I¬'m sure!) to continue all the way through the first lap and halfway through the second. It was easily the most violent swim I have ever been a part of but it was also the most exhilarating and I ended up with a 5 minute pb at this distance. It was great to exit the water and hear the encouragement from the crowd, especially my ¬'support¬' crew of Debbie and Chrissie. The run to T1 and transition itself passed pretty smoothly and I was soon starting the bike leg.
The bike course has a tough reputation; it is a three lap route North West of Bolton and is advertised as having a total of 1600m of climbing. The key feature of each lap is the climb from Rivington Reservoir up over the moor to the village of Belmont via the infamous Sheep House Lane. Once that is done the rest of the lap is pretty standard a mix of fast flat roads and annoying uphill drags to break the rhythm.
It ended up being a really enjoyable course, the support from the residents of the area was absolutely amazing, young and old getting into the spirit and cheering the athletes on. A special shout out goes to The City of Lancaster Triathlon Club who were there en masse and made the climb up Babylon Lane in Adlington village just like a climb on the Tour de France. My top support team seemed to enjoy the bike course as well; on the first lap I spotted them outside a pie shop and on the second and third laps they had made camp outside a pub!
My lack of long training rides began to show on the third lap and the climb up onto the moor was pretty tough, I was certainly glad that I made a last minute change to a smaller inner chain ring. The weather had been pretty good for the bike section and it was only in the last 5 minute run into T2 that it started to spit with rain. T2 itself was fine although looking at my time it looks like I sat down and had a cream tea.
Out onto the run and it was a journey into the unknown. Prior to the event the furthest that I had run either in training or racing was a half marathon so this was going to be fun. It all started off well with a point to point run from T2 to the centre of Bolton, this was a mix of long straight roads and a trip down to the towpath. Once you got into the centre of Bolton you had to complete 3 laps of approximately 10k each. Unfortunately only a small portion of each lap was in the centre, the bulk of the lap involved running up and down the main Chorley Road, not very inspiring.
The less than inspiring run course was made up for by the wonderful support and encouragement from the spectators. By the time I was completing my second and third laps the rain was teaming down, this didn¬'t dissuade the spectators, if anything it made them more vocal. Those last two laps were pretty tough as by this point my legs had said enough and it was a case of run/walk rather than run. Funnily enough the final lap seemed to pass very quickly and I was soon running down the finishers chute and I could hear Debbie and Chrissie cheering over all of the other noise. All too soon I was over the finish line and the race was done, bizarrely I didn¬'t want it to end I was enjoying it too much. Medal, finishers tee shirt, collect bag and out the back to get big hugs from Debbie and Chrissie and most importantly a steak and kidney pie, the best pie I have ever tasted!
Looking back on the event two weeks later I can honestly say I really enjoyed the experience. Everyone asked whether I had a target time before I started. To be honest the answer was no, my criteria for a successful race was always:
To enjoy the experience and
To do the best race possible on the day.
and on that basis I am really happy that I achieved my objectives. Considering the limited amount of training that I did I am even more pleased. Will there be another long distance event? Well never say never but I don't expect the time available for training to increase any time soon so probably middle distance will be my limit.
Of course along the way I have had plenty of help, for the whole weekend I was superbly looked after by my support team of Debbie and Chrissie. They took all of the unnecessary stress away and all I had to worry about was the race itself, this was completely invaluable and I'm really grateful for their efforts.
Throughout the season I have been very lucky to be supported by and race for The Triathlon Shop - Bristol race team. They are a great bunch of guys, all triathletes themselves and put a huge amount back into the sport as well as running a very successful business.
Last but not least I have also been very well supported by the 'brain ninja' Kim Ingleby at Energised Performance. Her mental strength techniques really come to the fore in an event of this nature and I certainly needed to call on her techniques in the final stages of the run.
My next race