I recently raced at Ironman UK in Bolton. Have a read to see how I got on.
Ironman UK would be my 4th Ironman and from the outset my main aim was just to finish without incident.
I think it’s safe to say I haven’t had the best of luck in Ironman races so far – injury, sickness and then mechanicals. I was hoping Bolton would be a case of 4th time lucky.
I picked up a knee injury at the end of April and spent a couple of months going to the physio with next to no bike/run training. I spent weeks not being able to run longer than 5minutes without pain and started to doubt if finishing the Ironman would even be possible.
I came into the race the lightest I’ve been since leaving school – 10kg lighter than when I did Wales in 2014. I knew I had to be in order to minimise the risk of my knee flaring up again.
I wrote my targets down the day before - swim 1:40, bike 6:30 and run 5:00.
This wouldn’t get me a PB, but given injury and lack of training I knew I’d be happy if I got close to these times.
Survive. That’s always my mantra going into the swim. Just get myself through the swim and then I can ‘enjoy’ the rest of the day.
I started off okay just trying to get into a rhythm but struggled to sight well on the way back in on the first lap. I came out the water for the 2nd lap roughly on track; I just needed to make sure my sighting was better this time. I stuck pretty tight to the buoys on lap 2 and came out in 1:38:53. I was glad it was over and I could get onto the parts of the race I actually enjoy.
Of course just as I started the bike the rain seemed to pick up and it stayed for the first hour or two.
The course in Bolton is hilly, like a slightly restrained version of the Ironman Wales route. The first big climb was Sheephouse Lane that had a group of Mexican wrestlers partying at the top. The second of the big climbs came about 2/3 through the lap and was lined the whole way up shouting and cheering you on. The crowds gradually picked up throughout the day as the rain died off and the sun came out.
My first lap seemed to go quite well, with my average speed pretty much where I wanted it. Just after the Sheephouse Lane on lap 2 the wind really picked up and it was a fight to keep the speed up into the crosswind. I pushed a bit harder on the descents to try and make up for some of the lost time. I made it to the end of the bike course with no mechanicals and my legs feeling pretty good.
I missed my 6:30 bike target, coming in at 6:57:14, but was okay with that given the wind and realising I’d probably underestimated how undulating the course really was.
T2 was a tad slow, around 9minutes. I couldn’t get my hands to work to pull my socks on and took the opportunity for a pre-run toilet stop.
Out of T2 and onto what has now become my favourite discipline. I’d never have thought I’d say that a few years ago!
I knew what pace I had to sustain in order to finally get a sub-5hr marathon split, and providing my knee didn’t become an issue I was determined to do it.
Through the first 5km and I felt surprisingly fresh, it certainly didn’t feel like I’d just been cycling for nearly 7hours. At 10km you join the lapped section of the course where the roads are lined with spectator’s the whole way around. You then had 3.5laps to complete before you could call yourself an Ironman (again).
As always, the strategy was to walk through aid stations and try to run the rest.
I’d had a couple of gels and some isotonic at the first few aid stations and blame that for my stomach getting a bit ropey. Not wanting a repeat of Barcelona I switched to drinking just water and some real food (bananas and the salty snacks). I could feel it was getting better but still wasn’t great, so for the last 8miles or so I took nothing but water and it settled right down. Thankfully (for once) I have enough body fat to switch to for energy so I knew I would manage without any food for the last stretch of the race. It seemed to work.
I’d passed family friend Blair Cartmell, who was there supporting his brother Fraser, just after half way and had said to him that I felt really good. As soon as I said it I regretted it, inevitably I’d curse myself and everything would go downhill from there. Fortunately not and I managed to get to the final lap with no knee pains and my legs still feeling surprisingly good.
With a few miles to go I knew I was going to get under my 5hour target. I’d managed to run the entire marathon, even up the big hill, for the first time ever, both in and out of Ironman. I couldn’t believe it after the state my knee was in after Stirling Marathon a few months prior.
I’d finished with a 4:46:28 marathon crossing the line in a finish time of 13:39:11.
I was an Ironman for the 4th time, and this time I was happy with my race.
It was great to have so many others I knew both taking part and spectating. To have your girlfriend, Mum and all the supporters the 15 others from Stirling Triathlon Club brought along all out supporting you, it definitely makes a difference. Thank you.
Thanks, also, to Jack at Capital Physio in London for fixing my knee.
I’m off to rub in some more aftersun whilst deciding which race I’m entering next.