IMUK Race Report
Race day came around so quickly. I try to spread out the little jobs of race week across the final few days just to fill the time and keep myself occupied. My to-do-list on Thursday was ‘Steady Run. Sort kit. Massage. Hair Cut.’ I considered that a busy day! It’s a nice time to chill and embrace the feelings that surround race week. Checking the weather and boiling up more pasta all begin to fade into one.
Ironman UK is a well oiled machine, with the Macron Stadium being a perfect venue to host registration, an ever improving expo (if a bit pricey) and location of T2. Nothing mega going on in the goody bag, but if you want to add to your shot of free shower gel, simply do a few passes of the Innocent Coconut Water girl.
The overnight rain had left T1 as a bit of a muddy one. I always leave my bike racked in T1 fairly bare, adding my nutrition, water bottle and spares on race morning. My bike was very damp and needed a wipe down before I could begin the finishing touches. I add my shoes to the pedals, check the correct gearing is good to go. At least I know nothing can get lost or rain damaged overnight if I keep hold of it all.
Ready to rock, time to head to the seeding pens for the rolling start. Time is approaching. Nervous chat fills the air, crossed with the exhaling track pumps and requests for help with wetsuit zips.
Swim: 1:13:12 / AG Rank: 78 / Overall Rank: 518
My first experience of the rolling start, something IMUK introduced last year. The self seeding pens were paying lip service to the idea of everyone being of similar speed but it was pretty tight in there so just finding a space was a bonus. As soon as you cross the matt, your chip starts so get in the water and crack on sharpo. I’m never going to set the world on fire with my swimming. I found in training that my speed and times of reps had plateaued. I wasn’t getting any faster. But I was getting fitter. I could perform a good swim set or steady state swim much more efficiently. I could hold my splits rather than see them drop off. So I adopted this philosophy for my Ironman swim – OK, it doesn’t matter the time isn’t any quicker, but I’m much fresher for hitting the bike – fitter not faster.
The rolling start gave us all plenty more room on the straight length of the swim course, with the usual bottle neck appearing at each buoy. Obviously the course tightening comes with the flying elbows and nonsensical kicking as standard. I lost my hat and goggle as a result, but was lucky to save the goggles and only lose the white swim cap. The swim caps at IMUK are decent quality, Arena ones. I opened mine out the packet and straight on my head the morning of the race, but when swim caps are brand new they are a bit chalky and too new. It came off my head fairly easily, next time I’ll give the hat a good rinse and make sure the first time it goes on is not on the walk to the start line.
Pennington Flash is a purposeful venue for the race start. It’s tough to see further than a foot in front of you so there isn’t much to talk about when it comes to the swim. Just focus on technique, try and find some feet and sight enough to stay on track.
Bike: 5:33:40 / AG Rank: 5 / Overall Rank 65
I started the ride with a single water bottle. The first aid station appears after around 15 miles and is a gentle climb up towards this point. I didn’t want to be carrying the extra weight. I still had the bottle cage fixed on my downtube, as well as the torpedo mount between the areobars. The reasons were two-fold; Running out of T1, pushing the bike holding the saddle makes it very unstable with all the weight at the front of the bike and I also prefer not to climb with all that weight on the front of the bike. Secondly I wanted the option to have two bottles. I took two bottles at each aid station regardless. One for hydration, the other to throw over me but discard. The aid stations on the bike were regular enough for me to not have to carry more than one water bottle if I didn’t need to.
The bike went so quickly. I was overtaking all day. I must’ve overtaken a couple of hundred people. My bike division rank was 5th in comparison to my swim of 78th. Defiantly need to limit the damage of the swim and use the strength of my cycling to move forward rather than catch up.
The two-lap bike course takes in 4 climbs in total, 2 times up Sheep House Lane and twice also up Hunters Hill. The atmosphere was fantastic at both of these locations. The course is also very technical. The descents aren’t straight and gradual, but twisty and fast. I am a confident descender and enjoy using this to marry out that average speed.
My bike was great, I felt fast and comfortable and was able to grind out a solid ride that I was hoping would come together from the training I had been putting in and seeing the gains slowly coming in time for a peak on race day. I experience some cramps in my quads on the final climb up Hunters Hill. I got through it, knowing the roll into T2 was not far away. I took everything I had left in my nutrition. I threw the remaining salt sticks down and as much water as possible, in preparation for a marathon that was beginning to warm up.
Off the bike in bare feet and a painful tip-toe across the car park at The Macron Stadium. I’m ready to run the marathon. I knew I’d had a good ride as it was quiet in T2, not many bikes on the racks. I felt good.
Run: 3:44:13 / AG Rank: 6 / Overall Rank: 74
Off the bike, I was in a confident mood. I felt strong. The first mile out of T2 was a brutal rise through a housing estate before a further 5 miles from Horwich into Bolton Town Centre to begin the laps. It was soon I realised I have lured myself into false pretences about how good I felt.
I headed out of T2 far too excited, far too fast. It was early into the marathon when I started to make deals with myself. The projected marathon time went straight out of the window and I was holding on. Yes, from 6 miles into a marathon, I was in survival mode. I couldn’t face looking too far ahead. There was too much road in front of me. I concentrated on the next 3 yards. I turned my gaze to the floor, sunglasses down and tried to disassociate the pain I was in and let my mind only worry about the next 3 yards. My back was locked, perhaps a result of a slightly over aggressive aero position on the bike or not sitting up early enough on the final roll into T2.
My stomach began to churn and I needed to have a toilet break to relieve myself in the most literal sense of the word. I thought things were going from bad to worse. I ran passed my coach Paul Savage who was well position for my current state of mind! I grabbed a gel at the next aid station, threw down coke and had a feast at most aid stations. I was craving calories and sugar hits wherever possible.
I saw my Mum, Dad, sister, brother-in-law and my new nephew Abel soon after, on the brutal little climb out of Botllon town centre. This was a huge moment for me. I had to keep going. This race had to end on my terms. I slowly began to feel ok and decided to push on until the very end. My feet were in agony, I was hot, depleted and so close to home. I was still unable to ignore the aid stations and had to consider every ounce of energy right up until the final few meters. Any piece of extra effort was coming at a huge cost.
Result: 10:39:52 / AG Rank: 6 / Overall: 74
I’m so proud of myself for not quitting. It was the hardest and most mental battle I’ve had with myself in any race. Perhaps I pushed too hard on the bike? I set off too quickly on the run. I didn’t respect the hilly run course in my training so I was surprised at what came on that 26.2 miles.
It seemed a lot of other guys struggled through the day as well. I ended up 6th in my Age Group which has concequently qualified me for a slot at Kona and a chance to take on the best at the Ironman World Championships on October 8th.
For now, I’m eating and chilling!
With just over 6 weeks to go until Challenge Almere I took a short holiday with the girlfriend to France to catch the end of the Tour De France in Paris. The trip was a 30th birthday present she had organised for me alongside my family and we had a camper van to explore and move around. I took my bike along in the hope of squeezing a few rides myself and also my running kit. I was politely reminded several times that it was also her holiday and guilt tripped into not training over the week long trip. Fair enough. I couldn’t leave her sitting on a campsite while I disappeared on a bike for 4 hours.
I went for a nice 40 mile spin early in the morning around Epernay which made up the start of Stage 7 of the TDF, but that was my only significant ride of the holiday. I also knocked out a 10 mile run around Lac D’Orient but this was easier to negotiate as Lynsey rode my bike alongside me and enjoyed the scenery with me. I usually train alone, so it was nice to have some company and also share the experience of where and what I see when I go out.
Too often I get back from training whether it be a ride or a run and try to convey how beautiful it was or what I had seen on the adventure so it was nice to have Lyns alongside me and it ticked off the mileage quite easily.
So a week with only 2 hours clocked up on the bike and 10 miles in the legs training did take a step back. I took a 30 minute open water swim in the lake one afternoon, but very leisurely. I indulged in a few Patisserie stops and enjoyed some nice rich French cooking. It was good to take a break from training, reset the body and return with real impetus for the forthcoming 6 weeks, which will go quickly. I hadn’t lost any running form when I did my first run back in the UK and I also set a session PB in the pool.
A break can be good and it certainly helped me rest and enjoy some time away from lycra – for me anyway, the tour boys took over that part. I originally felt a few alarm bells ringing when I got back, thinking my plans must need amending accordingly to the lack of time and effort put in over the week. My coach Paul Savage reassured me the time away was a good thing and to just stick to with the plan.
Perhaps I was over evaluating and causing a bit of mild panic because of the high standards I set myself. I am dedicated to training and the thought that I was slacking felt strange and not being able to train everyday was noticeable more mentally than physically it would seem. I need to stop beating myself up and this week away has really underlined how much I enjoy training for one, and secondly that I can afford a bit of a break before I head into this final push and big block of solid training. Then I’ll have earned a proper break!
Ironman UK is a bit earlier this year – 20th July (4th August last year) – and the ETU Long Distance Champs that I am competing in is on 13th September, so about 6 weeks later in the year.
For IMUK I gave up drinking 12 weeks out from the event and I have done this again. Coming up to 4 weeks without a drink. Not that I’m struggling to get clean in the stereotypical sense, but I find it a very mental approach and a test of my discipline more than anything too beneficial health and fitness wise. Obviously there are a few extra calories take on board when we have a cheeky bevvy, but as long as you can continue to train and not let it get in the way it’s not a problem. Personally, I see it as a switch in mindset to recognise that there is 12 weeks to go and its time to go to work. This is an official start date of my race build up I suppose.
I didn’t tell anyone about my first Ironman until I was 6 weeks away from it, when there was no turning back. I just felt I didn’t want anyone asking me about it all the time, putting doubt in my mind that it was as big as and epic as it sounded and whether I could do it. I didn’t want to have to tell people I was no longer going to do it should I have got injured or not made the grade. I could’ve pulled out and nobody would have known. My silence was my insurance policy. This time around however, everyone seems to know, asking how training is going. Its nice, they care and they are interested but I enjoyed the anonymity of IMUK and my down time not talking about training or making me nervous about the pending race date. Cutting out the booze last year was like what pregnant women have to do when they lie about why they aren’t drinking to avoid the questions! I was a pregnant lady – sober, moody and tired.
I love a drink, Guinness mainly and a few rum and cokes or I’ll happily nail a bottle of red with the girlfriend. I’ll smash a jagerbomb, line up another and see off a 4 pack of lager at a bbq. It’s all good. I’ll dress up, do a pub crawl, dance like nobody is watching and wake up vowing never to do it again. It’s a good laugh and a social part of life that I enjoy. The World Cup, the summer evenings and walking past a pub beer garden has heightened my observation of booze and a Corona with a lime and condensation of the bottle looks incredible. A velvet guest ale, with a perfect head has never been so appreciated in its grandeur, clinging to the glass all the way down. I had my face in the girlfriends wine glass the other night, just sniffing a lung full of Rioja that was simply sublime.
Soda and lime for me. Or a coffee. It’s fine. I’m going to be all over the gaff in Amsterdam once I cross that finish line. After IMUK I had the most underwhelming first drink ever! 12 weeks off the booze, soaking wet and exhausted from 11 hours of suffering and I could finally have that drink. I’d ran past people on the street cheering on the athletes with a pint in their hand. I was ready, I’d earned this. There was one old man pub near the car park and they only had Fosters. Gutted. Still drank it!
Basically it’s a chance for me to focus the mind solely on the task in hand. It worked for IMUK too so I’m sticking to what is tried and tested for me. I enjoy drawing a line in the sand and saying to myself that we are entering the business end of training now and the countdown to Go Time has begun.
There is some further discussion on booze and training on this forum at Runners World
It’s just over a week until the PruHealth London World Triathlon. I’m really excited about this event. It’ll be my first ever Olympic distance race and the course will be a replica of the 2012 London Olympic Games Triathlon course and the pro’s will be battling it out the day before.
I hope it’ll have all the feel of a huge event & should be stark difference to Wilmslow Sprint triathlon I did at the beginning of May. There are a few palaces in the backdrop of Wilmslow, but for all their money they cannot drive or show courtesy to anything happening in their community. That open road bike route was scary and annoying. London will be closed roads, and from what I gather also nice and flat! I thought Newby Hall Duathlon got a bad rap for being dangerous, but was far safer and a far better experience than the well established Wilmslow Sprint Traithlon.
I entered a ballot to race in London and it has cost me £99. As I haven’t raced that much before I wanted to have a great experience. I hear a lot about this and how high it ranks on peoples choice of races. In my old motocross days it was all about getting a result and the race experience came from the battles you drew yourself into on the track itself. It could’ve been a muddy circular field but if you were in a battle it would have made for a great race or “experience”. Triathlon seems to generate most of its enjoyment and pay off by the course selection, the route, the elevation, the crowds etc.
Ironman UK was a great experience because of the race. I had ridden the course many times in training and was accustomed to the hard bits, the nice bits and what to expect, but it was the crowd and it was the race element that made for a great experience. I have heard great things about Challenge and their focus on the experience.
A recent podcast on IM Talk interviewed Felix Walchschofer gave a nice insight into how much he referred to the Age-Groupers being the centre of attention at their races. When I go to Challenge Almere I am looking forward to being part of this experience. This should also be a great event, a great experience, as it will be part of the European Long Distance Championship so will stand out as an event in itself.
Do you have any ‘must-do’ events? Or any you swear you would never do again?
Race Date: 06/10/13
Race Type: Marathon
Performance: Mixed 6/10
On 6th October I toed the line at the MBNA Chester Marathon. It’s fair to say my involvement in the marathon was somewhat slap dash.
Why did I even do it, 8 weeks after doing Ironman UK? A friend of mine was running in the event on his own and suggested I join him – he dropped out in the week leading up to the race which kinda pee’d me off a bit. I was turning 30 in the middle of October and wanted to get a sub-4hour marathon on my CV before that milestone age marker. Finally my missus had gone to visit a friend in Australia and do a bit of travelling for 5 weeks! So why not, £40, whats to lose? As it turned out, quite a lot of water and a handful of dignity.
Chester Marathon was billed as fast and flat course. It was not flat. Long gradual climbs dotted around the course culminating in a killer of a hill at the 20 mile mark. Other than the shock of the inclines, the course was beautiful and took in a fantastic loop of the countryside and the old city of Chester itself. It started and finished at Chester Racecourse, which also meant from the off, the dew on the grass had given me wet feet for the next 4 hours.
5 weeks training wasn’t the ideal prep. I had to carefully, but fairly quickly build back up the mileage. Starting out at 10 miles, then 12, 14 and 15 mile long runs with a couple of shorted tempo runs to keep the legs firing. I soon realised I’d taken on too much, but the mentality of just completing Ironman UK made this feel like it ‘Anything really was Possible’* and I’d just done one of these marathon things and felt fine.
Chester Marathon was the first time I have taken myself to the breaking point. I ran really well up to 30k, knocking out 20 miles all at 8min per mile and felt great. I was on for a 3hr 28min time until I went bang.
My stomach locked and I could barely take a breath. I just made a weird groaning noise instead. I began to slowly shutdown and limped another mile here and another mile there.
My legs stopped picking up my feet. My vision began to blur and my hearing went a bit funny. A bit like when someone is talking to you and you have headphones in. Like walking past a club or a bar with music playing, muffled and unclear. It was a very strange feeling and one that I’d never experienced before.
I still had around 5k to go. My mind went haywire. I saw a brown tourist sign saying ‘River Trips’ and I argued with myself that we were running along the River Dee, not The River Trips. I’d never heard of the River Trips in any Geography lesson. I couldn’t compute the simplest of things. I was going bonkers with myself.
My splits looked like 10k – 48 mins, 2nd 10k at 49 mins, 3rd 10 at 48 mins and my final 10k home was 1hr 20mins! Yes I did hit my sub 4 hour marathon goal, but I did it the hard way. My folks even decided to take a day out to watch, but they were left waiting while I got some water and a sit down with the fabulous medical crew.
The keys to my downfall: Not enough water, not enough training, too hard too fast. Schoolboy errors and nothing new. I’d put so much emphasis on IMUK that every avenue was covered, no stone left unturned in the lead up & I wasn’t going to deviate from what training had taught me. Chester however, I was far too blaze and lax, not giving the event the respect it deserved and I paid for it.
I was all over the place. But in a sadistic kind of way it felt good to come through it. I’d taken myself beyond breaking point and still managed to keep going. I proved to myself that I can still survive when I’m at my lowest and things around me are starting to shut down. There was no way I wasn’t going to finish and if I can take anything away from that event it was that I can overcome a losing battle with myself and come out the other side.
An Ironman takes a lot dedication and motivation to go training and maintain that discipline for months leading up to the event. However, it also take a lot of personal time and also ca$h.
Everyone’s budget is different. You could complete an Ironman on a £500 aluminium road bike or you could splash £5, 000+ on a carbon TT machine, but radio producing doesn’t pay that well!
Here’s is an overlook of roughly what it cost me. Kicking off with the £420 entry fee…
I got my wetsuit in the January Sales from Wiggle and it cost me £90. A Blueseventy Sprint. A decent deal for a quality wetsuit so January seems like a good time to buy this gear. I wasn’t to actually wear the suit in the open water until May. Speedo Aqua Socket goggles set me back £12 and I swam in my old running shorts. The running shorts created a bit of drag and as I was keeping a close eye on my progression in the pool, I kept using the running shorts to keep the consistency for my time comparisons.
A silver membership at uSwim Salford Quays will set you back £59. I swam at the Aquatics Centre in Manchester which is a venue of Manchester Sport and Leisure scheme, so I was able to get a membership card making my pool trips £1.90 rather than the full price of £3.10. You need to live within a certain postcode to qualify for the Manchester Sport and Leisure pass.
46 pool sessions at £1.90 = £157
Total Swim Cost: £318
I began my training and had the original intention of doing Ironman on my 2010 Specialized Allez Sport road bike. It was great to train on, being reasonably heavy and robust, but I eventually made the decision to buy a Carbon Fibre TT bike. I was only looking at entry level, which was reasonably future proof and above all – was a good fit.
I went with the Cannondale Slice 105, from Royles in Wilmslow for £1800. I could not be happier with this bike and it was arguably the biggest factor in my race time. If you can literally buy time, spend it on a TT bike.
I already had shoes, pedals and a helmet but I did add some pieces of riding kit for comfort on those long days in the saddle, roughly £80. I toyed with the idea of spending extra on the bike – e.g a Fizik Arione Saddle (£90) – but I kept the bike standard in the end.
There was general maintenance of the bike to keep up including inner tubes (Continental Race 28’s) and CO2, plus the cost of running the bike would amount to around £50. There’s a guide here on CO2 and the top inflators to help you choose.
Total Bike Cost: £1930
It’s just a pair of trainers? Yeah I suppose, but these can creep up in price. I stuck with what I knew from my injury free running, so wore Nike Lunar – £70. You need a decent set of socks, but these can be found in Sports Direct for half the price of a running shop.
I already had elastic laces and a race belt for my number.
The streets and canal paths of Manchester are free so just go for it.
Total Run Cost: £75
Massively important for race day and this means you need to train with what you plan on taking on race day. IMUK was sponsored by Powerbar so they had bars and gels being handed out on the course. I had trained with my SiS bars & didn’t want to try something new on race day just because it was free! 25 SiS Go Bars bars will set you back £25 and I bought two boxes of these. The SiS website has some good advice for Ironman nutrition here. When running, I did train with Powerbar gels, the same ones they would have in the race. I would take the gels every 3 miles on my training runs, trying to mirror the times they would appear on the run course. Holland and Barrett had an offer on these so I filled my boots. Still got some left actually – £12
Eating healthy and buying fresh is great but can get expensive, but you save all that money from not drinking(!) so its fine.
Total Nutrition Cost: £62
Training on the course was handy, but I would get the train up to Buckshaw Village where I could start the loop of the route. This was £10 each time. Coaching and physio is important, to stay on top of niggles and keep a plan in place – £500.
Total Ironman Cost: £3, 526
You can go nuts on spending. I was local to the event so my travel were costs were minimal. I benefited massively from having a coach and found this a good use of money. If you pay for it, you’re more likely to stick the plan! I also saw this as my equivalent of a club membership. My working hours are great for triathlon training – 5am to 1pm – so joining a club would not have been beneficial for me. Waiting around all day for the session when I could have complete my training that afternoon, plus I got to bed at 9pm!
I didn’t work with a power meter or heart rate monitor as I’m just not that passionate about stats and I found riding on feeling was a better judge for my race pace. This tech can get expensive & works very well for some people. I had an £80 Timex sports watch that was perfect for what I needed.
My retirement from motocross racing has meant that with a heavy heart, I have put the bike up for sale. It’s an expensive hobby that was asking a lot from myself and my dear old Dad who works on prepping the bike ready to race each week. The toll MX was taking on my ageing body was also a factor. It was taking me 3 days to be able to put my own socks on. This is a sport full of demands and a time has come where I needed to fess up Pop and decide our time in the sun was coming to an end and ready to hang up the bike boots.
However! With the potential bike money burning a hole in my tri suit pocket, I am looking at investing in a Triathlon bike. My road bike is great, don’t me wrong, she has done me proud in the 3 years I’ve had her. We’ve done plenty of miles and she still never misses a gear, handles like a dream and has been worth every penny. Ideally, I’d love to hold on to it should I do a Sportive or coax the misses into coming out with me one day. Although I can only ride one bike at a time so I’d be looking at getting rid of the Spesh to help put towards the new stead.
I’ve narrowed it down to the following:
Cannondale Slice 105 – £1799
Boardman Air Elite 9.0. – £1999
I’ve read ample reviews and weighed up the options of what would suit me best.
– Full carbon frame
– Future Proof (last me another 3 years with minimum investment)
– Makes me go faster
– Comfortable over long distances
– Value for money
The other thing to consider is the timing. IMUK is 16 weeks away and I have done 8 months training on my road bike. Hopefully this fitness will be transferable but I do need as much bike time on the tri bike as possible before I go racing it over 112 miles. It’s a big commitment, but I also don’t want to be regretting my bike split because I got the bike after IMUK!
Both bikes are very stylish, well made and read very well in reviews. The Boardman has the Fizik Arione seat and the hidden brakes. Both have internal cable routing, full carbon frame, fork and seat post. Both are suitable entry level tri bikes and both look like they only need a set of wheels bolting on. I currently have the Kinetic 2’s on the Spesh which I can transfer easily enough. A mid-range upgrade, although not carbon, are lighter and stronger than the standard wheel set.
If you have either of these bikes please do let know what you like/dislike with each. I’, looking forward to getting stuck in.
I’ve been absent from the blog. I did a Duathlon on March 17th and picked up an injury which has been pretty hard to take. It’s a recurrence of my ITB injury and caught me by surprise to say the least. I had got up 8 miles in my return to running and was hitting some nice times with my negative splits and feeling strong as I built the distance back up. Then BANG – as I reached the final 2k of the second running leg of the Duathlon I felt it build and then come on strong. My leg was locked straight, just too painful to flex.
I have scratched around for some kind of reason as to why and how this occurred, 5 days after hitting a solid 8 mile run.
– It was a cold day
– The race organiser was running late and therefore rushed through the race briefing and left little time for a warm up or to organise kit
– I had a little flu bug a couple of days leading up to the race, leaving me on the couch rather than training.
– I ran harder than usual
– The course was undulating
Whatever the cause, it left me fairly depressed and feeling rather sorry for myself. The road to recovery has been long and precise, so to have been put back to square 1 was massively demoralising.
It took the wind out of my sails in a big way. I didn’t do any training for nearly a week afterwards and even then it was just steady swimming. I’d lost a lot of pool fitness just by taking this time out, I was struggling to walk and putting any weight on the knee was painful. It disturbed my sleep and it made me a general displeasure to be around.
I needed to snap out of it. Positive thinking will hopeful bare a quicker return, so I’ve heard. I had acupuncture treatment on the knee and also upgraded my foam roller to a rumble roller. This thing is agony, in a good way! Voltorol gel, a strict routine of stretching and yoga are all helping me train my mind into not wasting a day feeling sorry for myself but realise a comeback to full fitness is against the clock. I grew a beard too.
Much like The Playoff Beard for my American friends. But I said I wouldn’t shave until I can run a pain free 2 miles! Not a lot granted, but the look, feel and taste of this beard reminds me that I need to foam roller and do all of my rehab stretching and exercises to get myself fit again. They help my knee and now also help get closer to that close shave.
Call it clutching at straws, but I’m also reading this book ‘Chi Running’. I’ll let you know how it works out, but the basic principles and mechanics behind the running style does ring true for my symptoms and possible fixes.