Ironman UK 70.3 2012 Race Report Part Deux

The Plan:

Swim – Try not to drown, try to swim in a straight line.

Bike – No solid food, 12 gels in a bottle mixed with water, ride on feel mostly keeping an eye on the Garmin, spin up the hills and get down and as aero as possible on the flats and downs.

Run – No walking except for the hill at the back of the campsite and feed stations, run on feel, keep form and technique correct.

The Day:

I listened carefully for the wind when I woke up on Sunday morning at 4.30am and heard the tent flapping gently in the breeze, no rain beating down on the canvas just the faint sound of Rob making my breakfast. Another incredible turnaround by the Great British Weather.

See here for some pithy pre-match analysis:


I just wanted to get through it, I panicked at the start because the water was so cold and I couldn’t get acclimatised, Gary calmed me down nicely and after the national anthem finished and the gun didn’t go off I started my race. The start wasn’t too rough as I’d positioned myself quite a long way back, but in a better position than last year (i.e not 400m left of everyone else.) After about 200m I realised I’d not started my Garmin so after a brief moment of confusion between which button was which the clock started ticking on my day. The first turn seemed to take forever to come, so I settled into a rhythm and tried not to think about it. After the 2nd turn I got caught by a couple of people in the wave after me and then they kept on coming, I knew then that I was pretty slow! After the cramp last year I was terrified of it returning this time and the temperature of the water made it even more likely, but keeping my legs still seemed to stop the onset. I thought I’d swum in a reasonably straight line, but the GPS and the timing chip don’t lie. Can’t feel bad about it, my shoulder’s been a problem for quite a while, but I’ve hardly made the effort with swimming this year so I don’t have anyone to blame but me! 45:40


The 400m run up the hill from the lake to T1 never gets any easier, especially when the water makes me so dizzy, but I was relaxed after not having cramp in the water and feeling pretty good about what lay ahead. I didn’t bother with the jacket and only half heartedly tugged the arm warmers on as I was so confident that Exmoor’s weather would not let me down! 8:41


Riding up hills all winter has paid dividends, coupled with the knowledge of the course it was always going to be my favourite part of the day. Spun out of T1 up the 3 mile climb to the start of the lap nice and slowly, no dropped bottles this time and started to take on nutrition. Once out on the lap itself I got nice and aero, and made sure I took a swig of gels every 20 minutes. The first half seemed to fly by, I caught Rob about an hour in and had a quick chat with him before cracking on with the 2nd of the big climbs. At the top of the 3rd climb there were a few hundred supporters lining the road, as I came up to the top of the climb my legs were telling me to sit tight and stay spinning, my mind had other ideas and told me to pop up a couple of gears and power up the hill past them, it’s what they want to see! It’s what they came out for! Not me taking it easy! the mind won and I climbed out of the saddle and tried to make it look as effortless as I could, in my mind I was Alberto Contador, in reality more like Albert Steptoe. Towards the end of lap 1 I was noticing a bit of pain in my lower back / glute on the right side, which is was from being aero for long periods which I’m still not entirely used to so I found ingenious ways of stretching out on the downhills where I was freewheeling to save time getting off the bike and stretching. 2nd lap was reasonably uneventful, slightly slower than the first, but that is to be expected. I lost my top cog, again, just after the 3rd climb of the lap, it’s been causing problems for ages now and been fixed 3 times so I’m thinking I need a new bike. Rolled into T2 feeling pretty good with sub 4 hours, got off my bike and my legs felt ok! 3:55:36


Greepers! Clever little laces that you don’t undo or do up, just a little toggle thingy, unfortunately you are supposed to loosen them off first. Oops. 4:39


This training stuff really works! I’ve been running on tired legs all year with runs coming on a Sunday after Saturday’s long bike and although this is exceptional, I felt pretty good, unfortunately this led to an idiotic 5.34 for my first k! I think the excitement got to me, I’m generally running an average of 5.30m/km on long runs with 24 hours rest and a lot less climbing. I started to feel really sick for the first part of it, but I’d promised myself no excuses so I sucked it up and got on with it. Water and Coke at every aid station, walk through them to take on the fluids and then back on with running. The only exception to this was the big hill at the back of the campsite. I heard someone refer to it as the concrete mountain, perhaps slightly hyperbolic, but not by much. No walking allowed aside from that. Thw whole run went surprisingly quickly, a lot quicker than last year and that’s down to being mentally prepared for it I think, I have put in the hours running this year and learnt to deal with it, especially the hills. The problem with Wimbleball is that it’s very difficult to keep a rhythm, it is so up and down that you can’t keep a constant HR or pace easily so plans seem to go out of the window! Knocking 21.41 off my run over a year is pretty pleasing. I know I can do a whole lot better too! 2.23.00

Race time 7:17:36 a 47.29 improvement over last year!


On Tuesday I felt a bit deflated and like I didn’t want to race at IMUK, but some encouraging words from the coach and I’m back focussed on it. I decided to put less pressure on myself and now is not the time to go back on that. I have worries about IMUK, being mentally prepaared for the run, cramp in the swim, nutrition, but all this is natural. I have great support around me from Russ for the technical stuff and my family and friends for moral support. I know no one cares how long it takes me to complete the course and I don’t (as much) anymore, but I am well equipped to do it now, and confident that I can achieve it. I said after Wimbleball last year that there had been a “paradigm shift” in me, and after a gluttonous off-season I was worried that I’d misjudged it, that I was the same old person I always was. The truth lies somewhere in the middle I think and this quest for balance has taught me a lot, I am never going to have the discipline of a top professional, but I don’t need to, I do this for fun! so I am going to extend this journey out a bit, I don’t need to achieve everything now. A 47.29minute PB and an Ironman finishers medal should be enough for this year. I can’t make any promises for next year though, with a baby on the way I said I’d take it easy, but there’s already talk of another trip to Wimbleball in June with Gary and Rob, and I’m running the Brighton Marathon and I got an email through about holidays the Alps the other day….



Wimbleball 2012 – Pre Race Report

Cold Rough Swim Practice

Training has been a little hit and miss over the past few weeks, 3 different flavours of injury and a full work schedule have not helped and neither had the pressure I’d been heaping on myself, see Great Expectations


Set off for the lake at around 6.30am, I was going to leave earlier, but I didn’t want to get out of bed and I thought it was better to save my energy for Sunday. After a smooth journey down I arrived to find my tent already put up which I was pretty pleased about. Gary, Rob and I got registered and headed out for a run. I’d forgotten how stupid the big hill out the back of the campsite is and running up it had me worried for Sunday so I decided not to. I would allow myself to walk up that hill as the benefits of running up it would have been far outweighed by the repercussions later on in the run. After the run we went down to swim practice and promptly turned around as the swim was between 2 pontoons approximately 5m long with 20m between them.


Woke up to rain which was to be a bit of a theme for the next 24 hours, swim practice part 2 was at 9am so we headed down to the lake hoping for a better situation than Saturday. The area available was much bigger, but so were the choppy little waves all over the surface of the lake with 17mph winds blowing across the surface. I really hated that swim practice. Swimming, and more specifically confidence in the water has never been a strong suit of mine and the choppiness of the water and the 14Deg temperature really put me in a bad frame of mind for race day. After that I went back to the tent to lay in my sleeping bag for a bit, warm up and pack my transition bags listening to the wind and rain. We headed over to check everything in via the bike repair stand in our rain jackets as the gears were giving me some problems over shifting going up to the big cog. The mechanics were really helpful and fixed me up in about 10 minutes. The rest of the day was spent laying down in the tent reading and listening to the rain and wind as last year I spent all day wandering around on my feet and felt really tired for it. The race briefing at 4pm was late because there were lots of families in the briefing tent and other athletes could not get in. I was a little disappointed when all the people I had been mentally sizing up because they looked less fit than me were asked to leave and were replaced by another few hundred fit athletes who were much fitter than me. What I could hear of the briefing over the sound of the rain beating down on the tent was a bit style over substance this year, instead of having 3 people who really knew the course talking about it, they had the race announcer presenting it and he didn’t really know it well enough. After the briefing I ate some more, sat around for a bit and went to bed hoping the rain would have stopped by the morning and the wind die down.


Great Expectations

I had an epiphany last night, I would sit down if I were you, this might come as a shock. I am not a professional athlete. I know! It took me a little while to come to terms with it, but when I did I felt much better than I have done in quite a while.

At the start of the year training was going very well, I was totally committed to the cause, losing weight, not drinking, eating absolutely perfectly until around the end of March when the concentration slipped a little, there were a few weekends here and there where I wasn’t as disciplined as I could have been. I really, really enjoyed them. I was still training hard and getting fitter, but I couldn’t shake off a feeling of guilt. Every time I’ve cracked open a can of beer or me and C have been out for dinner I have had a little voice in the back of my head berating me “This isn’t training” “Craig Alexander / Lance Armstrong / insert name here doesn’t drink beer” “You’re supposed to be losing weight, pizza isn’t Ironman food” I was lying in bed awake at night worrying because I’d committed to a certain weight / body composition / abstinence from alcohol and I wasn’t doing it. Getting out and training relieved the guilt a little, but with work and other things getting in the way of training and picking up a few little injuries meaning I am unable to train the guilt wouldn’t go away, it was becoming all consuming, the whole process was not fun. I didn’t want to do it anymore; no more training, no more dieting, no more Ironman I just wanted to quit.

I hadn’t spoken out loud about it, the internal duologue with my guilty conscience was quite enough, but I talked to C about it yesterday and she reminded me that I am supposed to be doing this for fun, not to win anything, or beat anybody, just for me, but I had put all of these conditions on myself that were making me unhappy. This year I have lost a load of weight, I feel good about myself and I am fit enough to get round an Ironman, which is what I originally set out to do. I spend so much time reading about the Crowie’s and Macca’s in the sport and I’d started to put unnecessary pressures on myself to be like them. There’s nothing wrong with pressure, or wanting to emulate the top professionals, but I am a 31 year old man who fairly recently got his arse up off the settee to set out to do this. I’m not a professional athlete and I don’t need to beat myself up for not acting like one.

It was less than 2 years ago I set out to do this and I’ve already achieved a lot that I’m happy with, I am getting better at running and cycling, I’ve got one Half Ironman under my belt and should have another one come Sunday. 5 weeks after that, providing nothing goes spectacularly wrong I should be standing in Bolton City centre with and Ironman finishers medal around my neck, and if I’m not for some reason, I’ll try again another time. I am committed to long distance triathlon, I love the training, I love the racing (when it’s over mostly!) I definitely have some more weight to lose, but my little epiphany made me realise I don’t have to do it now, I have plenty of time. The achievement of balance always seemed to evade me, it was either training, dieting and working hard or drinking and eating and doing nothing, but it doesn’t have to be like that! At the moment I (injury excepted) have balance: I can enjoy the training and enjoy the rest of life. If I’m not 65kg on race day and holding 30km/h on the bike then so what? It was only my arbitrary conditions that piled this unnecessary pressure on me anyway. That doesn’t mean I’ll train any less hard, it just means the pressure is off a little and I can enjoy pushing myself rather than feeling like I had to.

Perhaps, given the time again I might not have gone straight to Ironman this year, I think trying to concentrate for 7 ½ months was, for me, too much to handle and this pressure has stemmed from attempting it. I’m looking forward to spending much more time on running over the winter and having a go at the Brighton Marathon in April 2013, I will certainly have a 16 week block of diet and abstinence leading up to that and hopefully get closer to my body composition goals, but if I don’t then I’ll try again and not stress too much about it. It really is all about balance, as long as the miles are ticking over and I’m enjoying then that’s what matters.