Blog Archives

Switching from Ironman France to Ironman UK

As I mentioned previously, I have decided to switch my 2016 Ironman plans from Nice, France to Bolton, UK.
I did an old fashioned ‘Pro’s & Con’s List’ (see below) and it just made sense when I went on a 4 hour bike ride to argue the toss with myself. I got off the bike, still in my kit and paid the £50 transfer fee.
I signed up to Ironman France with all the best intentions. I wanted to do an EPIC Ironman race, one of the iconic races that is on the calendar. A real tester, an honest course. A swim in the Med, an alpine pass on the bike and a stinking hot seafront run – I knew if this were to be my last Ironman for a while I would be going out in style in a race that would really hurt me.

0430_40658

So why am I now back at Ironman UK, the site of my first Ironman back in 2013? As you can see below the ‘Ironman France Con’s’ list is the longest list!
I was stressing myself out with questions about gearing and bike set up. There are long standing arguments all over the internet about using a road bike vs a TT bike at IM France. I was looking at a brief trip to do a course recce, but this wasn’t going to be possible.
The major problem came when the European Football Championships were announced and Northern Ireland are based in Nice from the same weekend. This naturally meant the flights from Manchester and Liverpool to Nice doubled as well as the accommodation – air BnB etc all saw the chance to cash in alongside the football.
Ironman France Pro’s:
Epic Course
Tough bike ride to play to my strength
Opportunity to travel for a race
Guaranteed weather
Ironman France Con’s:
Price of flights inc bike haulage
Need to hire a bike box
Hire Car in France
Price of accommodation
Sea Swim (proven not too good in the sea at Challenge Weymouth!)
Paying for Lynsey to be there
Extended time off work
Ironman UK Pro’s:
Local, able train on the course
20 minute drive to start line
Known entity
More family & friends able to watch

 

Ironman UK Con’s:
Done the race before (albeit a slightly altered course)
I believe I’ve made a sensible decision and with both courses spitting out similar finish times I’m still opting for a tough course and a long day of racing. I’m over the idea of having to do an epic race (for now). I just want to do an Ironman and I forgot how lucky I was to have one on my doorstep!
Advertisements

2016 Return to ‘Brand’ Ironman

After Challenge Weymouth in September 2015, I decided I could squeeze one more big effort at the full Iron distance in 2016. I’d raced Challenge Almere in 2014 and Challenge Weymouth in 2015, the latter really coming up short on the experiential aspect of achieving something HUGE. I signed up for Ironman France, an epic, famous race on the Cote d’Azur, but I’ve since transferred to Ironman UK for 2016 – this is a long story I’ll talk about another time!

The ‘razzmatazz’ – for want of a better word- that Ironman as a brand has when it rolls into town is arguably worth the premium that comes with it. Yes, I am saying Ironman races are worth paying more for, but not necessarily agreeing with that cost – a lesson in diplomacy there! When I did Ironman UK in Bolton in 2013, my first Iron distance race, it didn’t disappoint in making me feel like ‘Anything Was Possible’ to coin the tag line. Challenge Weymouth notably lacked this. Yes it was a cheaper entry point, but the Pavilion where registration was held was a touch shabby, the finisher chute was extremely anti-climatic and as the event was ran as a franchise the organisers struggled to deliver that grandeur Ironman can seemingly replicate week in week out.

It’s similar to the current commercial radio model of ‘National Brands, Delivered Locally’ whereby Capital Radio and/or Heart are well established London born brands that have been rolled out across the country. A clear single minded vision, that filters down from the top under a brand guided umbrella, the experience of listening should be the same in London, South Wales, Manchester, Liverpool etc while maintaing a local touch. Ironman clearly governs centrally and retains its brand values and delivers that experience in the same way, whether that event be in Brazil, Bolton, Texas or Zurich. The success of this models is built on network communication and a defined image that cannot be compromised at ground level.  The stand outs like Kona (and for this analogy Capital Radio London!) are the flagships, they rule the roost, they are a different entity setting the standard. Attracting the biggest stars to their events, blazing the trail of what they do and leading by example. They are the aspirations of every athlete – or listener – that is coming into contact with the brand and these brand expectations need to go above and beyond – at every moment. Clients and commercial partners they align themselves with for example. These established brands have earned the right to be ‘picky’ of who they want next to their logos (you might not hear an ad for The Sun Newspaper on Capital Liverpool nor see Kona take Malboro as a title sponsor!) – protect the brand at all costs!

It will be interesting to see how Ironman re-brand the Weymouth event now they have bought it. Will the juggernaut of WTC demand their brand be protected with a course alteration or venue change (the locals in Weymouth did not like the event being ran on their roads last year!). Much like Capital FM landing in Liverpool, replacing Juice FM, the all new Capital FM Liverpool brand needs to have an impact. It certainly has, with Justin Bieber and Fluer East being part of the launch campaign, so will we will see some big names racking their bikes at the inaugural Ironman Weymouth?

For a moment, whilst I was soaking in the finishing chute at Ironman UK in 2013 I was the star. The 25 meter long finisher chute at Challenge Weymouth was over before I could enjoy the moment. Just look the difference above. Hearing Justin Bieber say your city’s name or being put on-air as a caller to win some VIP gig tickets is also making you the star. Aspirational, they are off to sit in the posh seats with a slap up meal and see their heroes perform on stage. The Ironman just wants to hear his/her name being called and then told ‘You. Are. An. Ironman’. Those few words carry a certain commercial weight that is fully in use from a savvy brand like Ironman.

These two brands are closely related in corporate values, brand awareness and the monopoly presence within their respective industry, but what they fundamentally share is the desire to deliver a better experience on the ground for their audience. It is an uphill struggle for their competitors to replicate. These hugely successful brands capture your mind and for me, it is very difficult to resist the association with the mainstream in both of these cases.