Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ironman UK 2013

Registering for the event at the Reebok Stadium, home of Bolton Wanderers was fab, the place was buzzing.
Trip to T1
A trip down to the swim site and T1 the day before, Pennington Flash near Leigh, showed choppy waters. I was immediately hoping for calmer waters on race day. I checked the bike into Transition 1, and put my bike bag on it's peg, ready for the race, a distraction from the choppy waters. Then it was off to transition 2 at Blackrod and Rivington School, about 10 miles away, to check in your run bag. Thats it, the preparation is done, and all thats left to do is to start the race. Eat, drink, and sleep. So, not that much sleep.

Trying to sleep in a Premier Inn with 2 teenage boys peering out the window at midnight, looking at the anebriated people shouting at each other, after being turfed out the local Public House, was not conducive to a good nights sleep.
Never mind, I was ready, and by 3:30am I was wide awake, and ready to go.
Ready for the swim

Short of the car breaking down on the way to Pennington Flash, I was going to make it to the start. Setting off before dawn, with dark clouds in the sky, made for silent reflection in the car. I'm sure many of those competing were as aprehensive about the swim as I was, and dark clouds really didn help.

After donning my wetsuit and swim hat (always a good look), checking my goggles, it was off to the end of the queue to get in the water. That was a big queue, it took 20 minutes to get in. Some people were still swimming to the start line seconds before the start horn went off. The water was really warm, a nice 22 C, and weedy.

The start at 6am was incredible, none of the training you do in the pool, or in open water prepares you for swimming in an enclosed space with 1600 other people. There's no space, I know what a Sardine feels like now, swimming in a large schoal, nowhere to escape to, you just keep swimming and wait for the next person to batter, or swim over you, and you don't dare stop, oh no.

On the way back to land on the first lap, the sun was so low, you couldn't see the bouys, or work out where the pontoon was, the only thing to do was to swim where everyone else was swimming to, and hope for the best.

Coming out of the water for the first lap was great, the support was amazing, it was okay to do a second lap, I wasn't dreading it. The second lap was a bit more relaxed after people had naturally spread out more, and you could get into a bit more of a rhythm. It was nice to be finally out on dry land again though, and running into T1, stage 1 complete, and so far no major issues.
Ready for the swim start

Swim complete
I'd just read Chrissie Wellingtons book, "A life without limits", and she mentions when doing an Ironman, you should try to "Keep smiling". No one like s a grumpy competitor. I was smiling profusely when I exited the water, more from the relief of completing it than anything else, but who else would know that?

I thought I was prepared for the transition, I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I figured I could do it reasonably quickly. All my food was on the bike, so it was a matter of getting the wetsuit off, and a helmet, socks, shoes, and I decided to put a bike jersey on, it looked a bit cold!!!

Everything in the bag, drop it off and go find the bike.
Star (my bike, she's a Trek) was there, and she was oiled and ready to race.
, we ran out of T1 together with some urgency, ready to start the longest section of the day (I hoped anyway).

The first part of the bike was a slight uphill 14 mile stretch to the start of the loop near Adlington, not too bad, head down and get those legs moving. (first 14 miles, averaged 18 mph).

My main nutrition on the bike were Rice cakes (receipe can be found here, thanks Allen Lim). Home made Sushi rices cakes with Egg and Bacon, cut into squares and wrapped in foil. These were in my bento bag, and eaten every 30 minutes or so, mixed in with a few Bananas and a trek bar.

The first part of the loop took in Sheep House Lane, a 4 mile ascent topping 300m at the summit. There was a lot of support up that hill, plenty of cheers to keep you motivated. Even so, it was nice to experience the gentle bends on the downhill section into Belmont, then lots of support up the hill out of there, and a lovely straight road all the way to the M65, downhill all the way to Buckshaw Village, anf the first feed station, water and banana taken.

Riding in to T2
Eccleston saw you starting to climb again. Ah well, only 13 miles to the summit. I bit of wind in the face on the way back to the start of the second loop.

Saw the family for the first time on the bike, at Adlington Village, which gave me a boost. The second climb up Sheep House Lane was okay, a little harder than the last time, but still loads of support, from the Tea room at the very bottom, to the top were the boys and girls in the big van put on a good show. The lovely downhill section gave me time to recover, and eat some more cakes.

It was nice to get to Sheep House Lane for the third time, knowing I wouldn't see it again today. Even more by-standers were there now, willing you up the hill.

It was a great feeling turning off into Rivington, and ride along the lane for the last 2 miles, into T2. Lots of cheering from the family there. I was definitely ready to get off my bike, and looking forward to the run.
So apart from nearly tripping over the kerb on the way in, it was all ok. A little run in to the school to get your bag, running shoes on, discard helmet and off on the run leg. Here comes the rain. Glad it held off for the bike.
Start of the run

Well the first couple of miles are always interesting. With a stiff back and jelly legs, its tough to run without looking in pain. I made the first 6 miles to the start of the loop section in 54 minutes, and 4 loops to complete.

The rain, light at first, started to get heavier as the day went on, and was with us all the way to the end.
The first run feed station was at 7 miles, then you turn round and run along New Chorley road for 2 miles before you head down the hill, through a feed station, and into the town centre. The streets were lined with people cheering you onwards, and again it was nice to see the family screaming for me to keep going. The turning point was at 10 miles, then you ran back to the start of the loop.

UntitledHaving seen plenty of people with bands round their arms, it was nice to finally pick one up at 12 miles, 2.5 loops to go. This is when I started to get cramp in my right calf, I could feel the knots, and knew I needed to do something about it. I decided on gels to start with.

The next feed station I had one, and some isotonic, and the cramp faded away for a while. The second lap was a little harder, and again I was glad to get my second arm band at 17 miles. The next loop was the hardest, the cramp set in again, and I took more gels to counteract it (I didn't fancy the soggy cheesy biscuits). The support in the town spurred me on to the next arm band, just up the hill and along the road for the third and last arm band at 22 miles. 4 miles to go.

Once I got to the feed station and stoked up for the last 2 miles, I realised that I could get to the finishing line in under 12 hours. This spurred me on to kept my tired legs moving. Before I know it I was running down the hill into the town centre, the rain was lashing down but I didn't care.

I ran straight through the feed station, my head set on the finishing line. taking the left turn into the finishing chute, and looping round to the finish line, slapping hands along the way, and a face I recognised in the crowd, my wife Julie, a high five and a checky smile before running across the finish line, that was a moment to savour.
The finish

Thanks to all those who supported and cheered me along the way, in Bolton and online, especially for Julie (Wifey), Max, Billy, Marcus, Paula and Milly who were there on the day despite the rain, cheering my on right to the end.

The Supporters

And a special big thanks to Julie for all her patience and support over the months when I've been out training.
A big thank you also to Gerry & Steve who were out training with me in all weathers, the long bike rides, the sportives, the coast to coast to mention but a few.

All the photo's can be seen here

View the Ironman UK Gallery.

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