race morning

ok so here we are over a week after the event and time i put fingertip to keyboard for some form of race write up… starting as these triathlon things do (mostly) with the swim.

it’s 20 past 4 am on sunday morning, its dark save for the occasional generator powered floodlighting and we join the steady trickle of bodies heading toward the transition area.

this is Ironman UK for my second time and my second Ironman attempt.

i spy a quiet looking row of portaloos and make a bee line, grateful at this point i popped my headtorch in my pocket.

into transition and marked up with my number, to the bike to check tyres, add bottles and double check food.
surprisingly quickly i seem to be ready but its 3/4 of an hour before i want to think about putting my wetsuit on.

i managed some rice pud before leaving the hotel, and then promptly left my coffee inside when i left.
i’d managed a banana while checking my bike and made the effort to drink and have a cereal bar.

i put my mp3 player on and find some suitable tracks to gee me up a bit and wander to peer at the racks of red & blue bags deposited yesterday (blue for bike kit, red for run kit).

at half 5 i make a final loo trip and put my wetsuit on and over the next 30minutes more and more wetsuited people appear to stand ready. it’s approaching 6am, when the race is supposed to start, we’re not even in the water yet, let alone 300m away at the start line.

its still dark, the thought of getting in the water now isn’t at all appealing. delayed by parking woes (again) or a forgetful pro having no wetsuit (alledgedly) things finally start moving.

my nerves have had plenty of time to build up, i havent spotted anyone i know, i should feel raring to go but for some reason i’m about ready to cry.
approaching the funnel to enter the lake, its surprisingly packed with supporters and i know lisa will be here somewhere by now. i can hear some of the plastic football rattles we picked up spectating Ironman Switzerland, as I approach i’m willing it to be lisa, it’s not, i try to focus and move on.

just at the right moment, out of 1300 people i find myself next to martin (wiganer) and andy (rhb), a friendly face, some physical contact and shared trepidation was just what i needed. we part ways and enter the water, no way we’d be able to stay in touch all the way to the start.

the water is cold, as expected, as it trickles in a familiarly uncomfortable way down my back. i swim out to the start, nice and easy.

as last year i position myself cautiously toward the back of the back. there’s some amusement as the sneaky pros at the front are moved back, the chap next to me has found a rock to stand on but then he admits to being 6’4. i double check my wetsuit, swim cap and goggles. all systems go. i can see spectators behind the reeds all round the shore and there’s a spine tingling moment of chanting from the competitors, 1300 people calling out over the surface of the water.

[coming soon.. the swim…]

analysis begins

all that time and effort over the last year and for what ?

17minutes (2.5%) slower isn’t the full story (if it was i’d be even more disappointed) as that corresponds to a 9 place improvement in the overall ranking (about 2% up on last year) or somewhere between 3 and 5% improvement by gender or age category.

at the moment i’m feeling either i should start taking this a bit more seriously in future to avoid what feels like a waste of effort…. or just not bother.

ho hum.

back & beer

well back and recovering from the ironman now.
always bound to be an emotional experience and this time round didn’t disappoint in that respect.

a little disappointed with my time (slower than last year) admittedly on a course i’m coming to accept was a heck of alot tougher.

alot more to digest throughout the week i fear.


it’s friday and i have the day off work as this evening we’ll be trapsing down to wiltshire and then on to dorset saturday morning for the various faffing involved before an ironman event; of registration, packing transition bags, bike check & racking, race briefing and other things that will serve to make the fact of the race more real and do nothing to dispel the pre reace nerves i’ve spent all week dismissing.

so on sunday at 6am the truth will be known, or will start to reveal itself, it won’t be known until around 5pm or later depending on the nature of the truth! (speaking in riddles it seems).

but anyway my training this week has been almost entirely positive for me and just the confidence boost required.

mondays run was done in pretty much continuous torrential rain (which anyway looks a possibility for sunday) but the effort was steady, the feeling was light footed and the overall speed was surprising.

likewise tuesdays cycle was short but wet and required much gritting of teeth, hail that stung my arms even through my waterproof. but again thoroughly enjoyed.

wednesday nights swim aonly called for 45mins in which 1700m passed without complaint from my arms, reassuring given i have to swim over twice that distance on sunday.

i missed my run last night but not too worried. strangely yesterday i spent carrying a banana and a nectarine around with me to eat, i never did, but often found myself taking a good long sniff of the nectarine which was amazingly fragrant.

anyway i’ll sign off now until probably monday or tuesday.

www.ironman.com/ironmanlive is the place to be on sunday and #1436 is the number.


well training is by the by the last couple of days:
friday was 45mins on the bike, 30 second sprints followed by 2mins rest, unfortunately on my cool down back into town the inevetable happened and i ended up chasing cars which left me bent over the bars outside the house trying not to be sick. fun tho.
missed the alarm this morning so woke to a text from the guy i was meant to be giving a lift to swimming with! eventually 4 laps of the lake (~800m a lap) and 30min run down the canal.

the rest of the day was spent in town people watching over lunch, sitting outside as the weather has been excellent today… and then the dreaded ikea trip where for once they actually had everything we wanted which meant i had to go home and fit the light & wardrobe doors.

ah yes hence the title of this entry, they have fantastic hinges… lovely shiny multi part linkages that rotate and move the door out at the same time.. very clever…. i wanted to keep one to play with but unfortunately they all had to go on the doors 🙁

other than that all tyres are now glued to the required wheels, and the spares are strapped under my saddle ready for a quick shake down tomorrow morning (we’re riding across to the rugby triathlon to wave at a few clubmates), which may or may not be a good idea given the ‘thundery showers’ forecast.

am i still here ?

and to think i’d take the admins at their word on defunt wiblogs when i signed up, seems they have too much bandwidth 🙂

does anyone remember me ?
should i start again from scratch ?

thing is i’ve been obscenely busy for quite some time with my various sporting training and without wanting to sound like an endurance sports cliche, now the race is only 10days away i find i dont have very much to do with myself.

i’ve unloaded the dishwasher, reloaded it, even hand washed the things that dont/wont go in it rather than leave them fester on the side.. i’ve recce’d the dinner which is dissappointingly straightforward apart from the lack of pesto, i even considered making some.

i know there are things i need to do to prepare, kit to check and lists to write but i’m a little afraid to face those head on in case i start thinking too much… thinking will lead to obsessing which would be bad.

i have done one race prep thing tonight which suited my perfectinist/obsessive nature very well.
i have a new bike (which is a whole seperate post or five)
it has obscenely light wheels
it has tubular tyres aka tubs (part of which makes them obscenely light) which are amazingly still hand made in germany.
first time i’ve used these in anger so it’s all a learning experience for me.
they are one peice inner tube / tyres, think of an inner tube with tread on.
i need to carry a spare or two in case of punctures but its not just a case of buying a spare (well ok you need to do that bit still) but they have to be stretched, put on the wheel, pumped up to pressure again to stretch them for 8hours, taken off, glue applied to both the tub and the wheel.. so lots of faffing.

tonight i pre glued my two spare tubs meticulously, which i have to say was remarkably therapeutic… the tub i plan to actually have on the bike is currently stretching so i get to repeat the whole process tomorrow.

strange the things you find to engage you when your mind is trying to be elsewhere.

GUCR 07 – And can it be ?!

I knew my dad would appreciate this section, the heritage of the canal with the railway tucked alongside & crossing overhead, the bridge over the North Circular (another mental milestone for me). Finally we turned the corner to climb the steepest tallest bridge on the entire route, going up was a pain, but a doodle compared to trying to control my descent.

Here are my crew and were a couple of miles from the finish. Feeling pretty emotional by now they asked if I wanted someone to walk with me and I elected to walk with Lisa, my wife, setting off down the towpath hand in hand.

Recognising landmarks which meant the finish was getting closer, I was determined and focussed but still had to fight back tears.

The finish finally came into view, Lisa threatened me with extreme violence if I dared to run off and leave her!

Approaching the finish I just didn't know what to do with myself, I had no idea of the time but I knew it was a lot better than last year. Grinning like a sleep deprived moron and with tears streaming down my face I finally crossed the line after 37hours and 14minutes.

It was still light !

GUCR 07 – Interminable

I perched on the picnic bench and was surrounded by race crew, my crew, my parents and others asking me questions and thrusting things at me. I totally couldn't cope with this and took on the coffee. Did I need something warmer? Did I want someone to walk with me? I almost lost it at this point and said “I don't know, just tell me”. I was duly issued with another fleece and send off down the canal with my dad for company knowing less than a half marathon to go.

We strode off, chatting and I was quite pleased for the company but I felt like we were going slow. It was frustrating as I really didn't feel I could pick up the pace now but just wanted to get it over. At the checkpoint before I left I saw Jess who was crewing for Pete, I hadn't seen her for the best part of 100miles which meant Pete was closing down on me. I suggested she might like to waylay him as much as possible but mentally wiped off another place.

My crew were now keeping a close eye on me and we met every 2 or 3 miles, even that seemed an interminably long interval and each time I stopped I was mentally exhausted, still just wanting the end.

GUCR 07 – Downhill all the way to Harnboroguh Tavern

The running continued to go well for the next 5 miles or so until somewhere in West Watford. I met my crew sheltering under a bridge with some more soup & bread which I ate whilst I was there, watching the rain getting heavier out on the towpath. Just before I set off they offered me a giant chocolate cookie they'd acquired at a petrol station, unusually for me I fancied it and it went down really well! Off into the pouring rain my run/walk strategy changed to running between trees and walking under them to appreciate the shelter they provided.

I crossed the canal at a familiar bridge and the towpath for the next couple of miles was not only unrunnable but also under a continuous 2 or 3 inches of water. I had no choice but to squelch through it, soaking my feet for the umpteenth time and making me thoroughly miserable.

Once the towpath improved I was mentally in a pretty poor way, the soles of my feet were a continuous searing pain, despite being infinitely better than they had been last year. I knew however from the checkpoint sheets that I was doing ok in reality, just at this point I couldn't quite grasp it.

I walked on as best I could resigned to walk to the finish, watching my 36hr target drift away and just hoping I could get under 40.

My parents had arrived to see me and when I saw them waiting for me I tried to look a bit less miserable. Since I was walking now I swapped to a warmer waterproof from the crew and after a brief pause set off again.

Over the next section I couldn't stop myself yawning every 10seconds and knew my walking was getting slower and slower. Looking over my shoulder at one point I saw a runner and was soon passed. For some reason I was absolutely distraught at losing this and despite giving myself a good talking to was ready to sit down and cry. I didn't, and kept telling myself I was doing fine.

Another crew stop, not much more to say than keep going by this stage. It was still light which meant things were still going well compared to last year. The next meeting point was the final checkpoint at 12miles to go, I walked on.

The checkpoint never seemed to arrive despite my greatest efforts, I lost another place with a long sigh. Finally the turn onto the Paddington arm arrived and I was within a mile of the checkpoint, bizarrely I had to fight my way through a film crew, actors. make-up and assorted security at this stage. After an eternity on this long straight stretch I was at the checkpoint.

GUCR 07 – Running to Springwell

After an hour or so out on my own I was met by Richard who was running out from the 120mile mark to meet me. After an initial chat I described my current run/walk regime to him and he told me Lisa wanted me back to 5mph, something I couldn't conceive of.

Richard got on with the task in hand of dragging me along as well as possible and having had some ultra experience he clearly knew that by this stage I just needed to be told what to do. So he would tell me we're going to run to a certain point, and then give a 2minute walking break and repeat, I knew better than to argue and it felt great to be moving along so well.

His encouragement and congratulations after each running stint, whether genuine or not did sink in, despite initially bouncing off me, and I was feeling more and more positive all the time. By now I had no idea how I was doing compared to my schedule and assumed Lisa not telling me was a bad sign, Richard did give me a few time checks which my mental arithmetic told me things were still going ok.

The 10 or 12 miles through to the Springwell Lock checkpoint at 120miles took in a couple of problem patches for me. A blister on my left foot became cripplingly painful for a few minutes, and a little later a stitch was causing some trouble, both fairly minor in the normal run of things but would have been enough to probably defeat me completely in my mentally distressed state. Richard however would have none of it and whilst allowing me an extra break or two got me moving again as soon as possible. The stitch did pass and the pain from the blister eventually eased.

In to the Springwell lock checkpoint I was still very positive, with feedback from Richard telling me the last mile had passed in just 11minutes. I remember being pleased to get out of the rain, getting some food and drink in me and checking how the people ahead of me were getting on.

Richard was kind enough to take me through the diversion which followed, it was quite short and straightforward but still better than trying to follow it myself. With some final encouragement he sent me on my merry way with less than a marathon to go. Spirits were still high despite the continuing rain.