I always get excited about Ironman UK in the spring. Get Lanzarote out the way, and then focus on a good build up to Bolton. But work and life (mainly festivals!) gets in the way, and I turn up totally under-prepared!
Last year’s sciatica was staying away, but had been replaced by pain from the root of the problem – knackered cartilage in my lower back. My only ‘race pace’ double loop had ended badly, with me being unable to even bend down or sit afterwards, let alone put shoes on and run a marathon! But it had survived the tough bike course at Lanza, so fingers crossed. I’m too old and broken to race, so it was all about a fun day out with friends. How often do you get to ride around all day with priority at every road junction? That alone is worth showing up for!
Normal race week silliness – meetings in North Wales, recce ride with a pro (not a full loop this year), and generally rushing about being too busy.
And then suddenly I’m in transition, chatting to fellow COLTs, and ready to get the show on the road. It always staggers me how many of our wonderful supporters make the effort to get to the swim start; it is massively appreciated!
Water temperature is good, and the trickle rolling start is quite frankly a bit dull after the mayhem of Lanzarote! I’ve swum 3k in the last six weeks, so I was expecting a disaster. Heading up the start of loop 2, I spot Andy Ley. I thought he’d be long gone. So I pull along side, knowing that he’s far too unobservant to clock me! 300m later at the turn, he finally sees me, so I give him a thumbs up – typical Andy response, a massive splash face full of water! And that’s why I love him to bits – he’s become a real class athlete over the past 3 years, but he’s still a big kid having a laugh. Apparently he got cramp almost immediately afterwards – don’t mess with a hippy, karma will get you!
Swim was slow, but uneventful, now for the fun bit. Grey and grim early doors on the bike, but COLT Alley was remarkably busy at 8am. By the top of Sheep House my back was not good. I ignored it ’til Croston, but I was struggling to get any power through my legs. Decided to stop at the portaloo at Mawdesley and stretch it out. Bliss! That got me back to COLT alley, where the adrenaline shot from the huge crowd got me back up and down Sheep House. From there it was just a case of nursing the back – less power and no tri bars kept me moving, but I was falling further behind schedule. Ah well, I’m not supposed to be chasing a time, so quit whining! Overtook a guy on a hand bike going up the climb to Brindle – that made me put my ‘woes’ into perspective!! I am in awe of those guys – phenomenal athletes.
Then it went wrong. First I saw Becky stopped by the loop turn. I slowed to see what had happened, and she said serious mechanicals and too much time lost, so get on with it. Put my dangling brake lever into perspective! I was way down the road when I realised I should have given her my bike and ridden her broken machine back to T2! Although a dodgy brake and my slightly harsh saddle probably wouldn’t have been a very attractive proposal! I was gutted for her. Before I’d got that out my mind I caught Andy Selby. Now I know Andy has improved a lot since his last Ironman, but he shouldn’t be ahead of me! Has he been a proper nugget and forgotten a loop? Apparently not – another mechanical, and this time it’s the wheel I lent him!! I feel awful! He’s very insistent that I stop loitering and crack on. I think its the bearings, and definitely a puncture. Again my brain is failing to function properly, and its only the following day that it dawns on me that we should just swap wheels! I was carrying a spare tub, and could have swapped it, or just ridden it flat for the 5k back to T2. Idiot – lesson learned – try and think clearly!
Andy Ley is coming up the steep hill as I head down. Good lad, he’s going well. I manage to swing my leg over the frame and do a flying dismount, the momentum making me run into transition. Back still working! I’d forgotten how much the rough tarmac hurts in bare feet! I tried walking, but heel striking without the cushioning of trainers sent bolts of pain up my spine. Just run! Back warms up after the first few minutes, and I feel OK. Couple of guys fly past me, but I’m overtaking more. That always helps. Just at the top before you enter the loop I spot Fi with a flag. “Andy is 12 minutes ahead”. Last year he took 15 mins out of me on the run, so I’m estimating around 10:40 for him. Who knows if that’s Kona good, but it’s a top effort. All along the top road I’m just scanning for him – finally, by the bus stop and house with scaffold. Check watch, check again – 11 mins. That’s not right, he’s supposed to be getting further away! Push on, get him worried!
Nearly tripped and took out my friend Kirril on his way to 3rd place, trying to get out of the way of the bike on a corner. Clumsy? Me?
Run is going well, those few long runs are paying off; my legs hurt, but they’re not protesting as much as normal. COLTs everywhere, on the course and by the road. Shout encouragement at everyone I see, this is awesome!!
Last loop and I’m 6 mins behind Mr Ley. Not going to happen, but it’s fun pushing, and it’s really helping me focus! The usual suspects are putting in solid performances again – great to see Phil Watson (who battered me on the bike), Andy Fellows, Stu Douglas, and Matt Clarkson (sorry for giving you abuse for walking!!). But Tom Jones is ahead of them all! What a debut, so pleased for him!
Grab the flag, down the chute, and enjoy! Andy is there waiting with a big hug. Even on a bad day, he’s better than me now. First time he raced, I probably beat him by nearly 4 hours, that’s how hard he’s worked since then, and I’m so proud of him!
I’m well chuffed with that run. My legs are now screaming, and it felt a lot harder than 3:42! How have I run faster? Pretty sure that’s a PB for the cowboy hat era though, so I’ll take that. I was hoping to get back under 11 hours, but you can’t just wish for, or expect something in this game. It requires hard work, and I’m not that dedicated these days, so no complaints. Another one ticked off, quantity over quality!
I’m already signed up for Lanzarote and Bolton next year – might as well save a few quid, as they’re both inevitable! COLT support makes Bolton unmissable for me, and I still get emotional after 8 outings on home turf. I cannot thank you all enough, and you do the club proud.
I’ll stop rambling on now – I’m on a plane to the next adventure – 70.3 Estonia! Bring it on!!