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Deepest, Steepest, Highest, Hardest

It all started seeing Coach Clark dominate the full triathlon X in 2017 and wondering if I could even contemplate half the distance and attempting to finish the toughest half iron distance triathlon in the world. I also felt as though I wanted to push myself this year at this distance and do something that genuinely scared the living heck out of me. I would later find out it did.

After a few conversation with my uncle saying he was wanting to give it a go. I continued to talk with Steve in regards whether I had the talent and ability to give it a stab… he replied

“yes sure I believe you can so get it entered.”

So with the coaches wise words and blessing I went and entered the event with around 8 months to prepare.

So the training for this epic and scary adventure began. Plenty of rides out with the dream team (Gemma and Craig Scott) as they prepare for there ironman UK debut. A lot of solo rides out in the tough winds and hill rep after rep mansgate claxby and a lot of reps in the Wolds. Its strange once you get cracking up the climbs you begin to enjoy the pain the comes with it as it symbolises achievement and a small success and a step forward and times up and down come down.

Turbo sessions are tough but when you have an amazing group around you each Thursday evening the scotter church with the pastor Mr turbo Cannings with his whistle, Christmas songs, super relevant and relatable 1 hour sessions it seems that little easier to make progress.

The winter months dragged on and progress was on the up. April was here the best month of the year for me. Training camp 14 days of eat sleep and breath training. The coaches Steve, Dean and Dave did and incredible job. Very good sessions every day lots and miles,smiles and climbs. Big shout out to my fellow 2weeker champions Jon Veall and Pete Tindell for the company and the recover rides.

So as the days, weeks, months, training sessions and races past by the big day approached and the magnitude of the challenge of what I had set myself became more and more menacing.

Flash forward to 28th of September. Its massage day to get my legs pummelled by Emma Davis who is a super star, keeping my body supple during the brutal training blocks.

Saturday 29th September my birthday turning 27 and nerves at an all time high I have all my bags packed into the car the bike, transition bag, wetsuit, trial bag you name it it was all packed.  The long drive to the lake district began 164miles. Best of 4 hour drive I pull up to my hotel the ambleside salutation. Only a mile from race start line an transition.

After registering and collecting our numbers and having our mandatory kit bags Checked  we went back and to the hotel dinner ate and constantly checking the weather forecast. All looks well for the morning , little cold but what can I expect from the lakes. Al least it be dry right… more on that later.

Well this is it race morning did I sleep well not a lot. The first time ive not slept well for aa race in all the time ive been racing.

Ate half of my porridge pot and a couple coffees.

Gathered all my bags and my bike from my car and met my uncle in the cold and dark car past at half 6. few words were spoken its race day so what can we both expect.

Steady ride down to the start and time to begin the whole racking we’ve all been through so many times before.

Thats it no going back now the wetsuit is on double capped walking to the race brief to begin the race at 8am.

Race brief done swim course was changed from a 2 lap small lap to a larger 1 lap route and a water temp of just 13.8 degrees.  Cant be that bad right??

In the water we all went… tentatively may I add with a few ooos and ahhhs along the way.

The horn blares though the air and that’s it go go go.

Set off near the front in the middle heading got the light on the boat. Sighting and breathing im seeing everyone on my left. OK set a rythem like I have in training feeling comfortably UN-comfortable. People on the left… people on the left …people on the left… people where the hell they go. I look up find a group in front and slightly to the inside line of me and about half a dozen. Quickly made an effort for 200m to get on terms the  recover.

Made my way around and dropped to jump to the chase group of around four guys. This group was hard to catch I made the last turn to come back to shore and still hadent caught this group. At this point negative thoughts going through my head I was so cold I wanted out. As I looked back I couldn’t see the group I dropped so I knew I needed to push on. Maybe 500 meters from the end I caught the group and hung on started kicking to try stay warm and get ready to run out of the lake. Glanced at watch was 32mins.  later find out the official time was 27 and placed 13th out the water I was very pleased with that.

Swim done felt pretty good but it was so so cold. Got to my bike I felt as though I had about 8 pints of cider I was so dizzy I sat down to get my socks on and shoes. Stood up jersey on and gillet thought about arm warmers but it was raining so no chance of being able to get them on so ran out of T1 jumped on and began the bike section with the rain coming down.

1 mile done then BOOM 20 % kirkstone pass (the struggle) legs still cold not been on the bike 5 minutes and im already climbing. Going to be a long day. Managed to climb at the same speed as another chap and we had a chat between very deep breaths up the top. One out of six climbs done.

Knowing nutrition was going to be key today forced a bar down with a swig of drink and got my head down. Few rollers and the next climb was in front of me wall end climb 25% but now warmed up I could push on that bit more and enjoyed the climb more than the struggle even if it was steeper.

Heading back to T2 with the first and easiest loop completed  and knowing id be back on the main road plus people going to be watching as I pass transition to head out to the bigger climbing section I click through the gears and get the arms on the bars and time trial my way though, well warmed me up a little.

Right its now time to dig in wrynose pass next I see Grimsbys own Les Thompson behind me as we began the 20% climb. Crunch through the gears pedal stroke by pedal stroke we climb to the top Les had a tumble at the top checked on him, he said he was OK. I deceded the wet side of  wrynose pass and recover through the valley before I climb up the west side of harknott.

Hardknott in front of me within 100 meters of the climb I was in my easiest gear and stood up pushing hard my rear wheel spun and I hit the deck. Bottle flew out rolling down Les caught it and brought it back to me. With a grazed knee and substantial pain in my right wrist I walked up the climb and descended to head out onto the out and back section before climbing again. As I was descending I notice my front wheel was rubbing on the pads. I tried to correct it but was no good. I later found that I had damaged the rim it had rippled and distorted as it over heated coming off hardknott 1st time.

They say it would be easy section to recover and get ready for the way home. But the section was just as demanding with tough rollers and now not being able to stand and put a lot of weight on my wrist without great deal of pain. After descending there was a traffic jam on a narrow section with kit cars and a Nissan gtr. All of us racers had to brake rather abruptly, get off get out bikes held above our heads and walk between the cars. That was a good twist cyclo-cross, didn’t sign up for this.

On way back seeing other riders shouting encouragement and my uncle just descended harknott as I was on the way back over with 2 climbs to go. The road was so steep starting from the famous red phone box and over the cattle grid. Digging deep I rode the first few corners before thinking I need to be smart and ride with my head rather then letting pride getting in the way. I unclipped and walked till the road levelled off to a mear 7% and rode until the road kicked up into the hardest part of the course the pitches of 33%. walking over the crest of the steepest paved road in the UK I jumped back on the bike descended the very wet and oil covered road. Very scary decent and a few squeekly bum moments I was down safe just one more climb.

Wrynose east ive ridden before I put the pain behind me and pushed on and climbed it all. Lovely climb if it was dry but the views were just amazing. Last decent and its a flat 6 miles home.

Homeward bound. Right thinking back to all the lincsquad time trials when you’re hurting after making the turn. I bring back the thoughts of what I have to do. Big ring get aero, drink whatever I had left to get me back. Push push push.

Thats it I made it back to T2. I see a fimular face its Siobhan o Brien from Doncaster and fellow tri camper. I get my gillet off my shoes are changed run pack on and run gloves on with pain rushing though my right wrist and I pulled it on. Quick chat hearing that is was so cold at the top it may get shorted.  and an emotional hug from my friend and off I went

Im running… running me. How the hell do my legs feel so good to run after putting them though all that. Its flat for the first 2 and a half miles the turning right past drywall hall up and steep incline. The leader was on his way back as I was starting the climb.

After the steep path you enter a small wooded area and the huge nab scar in front you and a rocky staircase with not a single step the same or the same direction. Some points using my hands to help me get up through the rocks. it was so hot climbing to the first summit. It flattens a little with rocks and ruts all over. I stop and pull out a fleece top out from my bag as the higher and higher I get the colder and colder the air becomes.

The wind it getting stronger and stronger the higher I climb I look back and I see the huge rain clouds heading this way and the views over each side of the trial were just amazing. I was thinking on some of the trails one wrong step I could trip and fall hundreds of feet down the side of this mountain. So with that there was a sharp down hill I began to run more when the opportunity showed itself.

Cramp struck and threw me the the ground few runners ran to me to make sure I was OK. I had to have a minute have some food and water from my bag. Get up carried on. I was around 2 miles from the summit as the ran came. It began to get heavier as I got closer to the summit. As I got to the 2nd to last summit there was a little tent, so I thought that’s it but nope one more peak and a small incline to go. 1 mile.

The waterproof jacket came out as I climbed the last large incline. No longer to feel my fingers so walking up a mountain like a moody teenage round tesco on a Sunday.

Finally I see the little red flags that say that there is 400m to the summit. A small orange tent I came to with a chap hiding from the wind and rain shouts out for my number and if  was OK. Confirming my number and my condition was OK I headed back down. I took a good look around and could see the trail winding on the ridge of the mountain, thinking ive just come up there. The views were just amazing, hard to absorb as I was concerned where I was putting my feet.

This is it way back spirits lifted as homeward bound I began to run down the rain stopped same placed it started so the waterproof came off and back into the bag it went.

More steep climbing and sharp descents. I remembered I still had my cycle jersey on so reached in and behold…. a snickers never eaten on so fast. The sun came out as I was 4 miles from home so I knew it was only 1 and half miles of trail left before I was back on the road.

Began to run and trying to keep up with another racer he was a very good runner we helped each other off the mountain I had a couple of trip and falls one on grass falling on my wrist and one with only 40 meters from the bottom of the mountain.

Checked in with the Marshall at the base of the trail and made it into the road. Adopted the run walk stratagy and I was less then 2 miles from the finish. I was running low on energy moral was getting low legs were heavy and sore from cramp.

Thoughts were bouncing through my head I knew what I had to think of, one of them was all the good running I had done in racing and training up and down hills and all the speed work. The other was a memory from supporting at ironman Bolton when I ran with Craig after him finishing went to find Gemma to see her home. So if she can get though her huge achievement and pain and negative thoughts I can get through this next 2 miles. If not shed shout at me telling me to run.

Running into the town of ambleside it all came to me I was 300m from the finish I couldn’t believe I was going to finish hold the pain and emotion back I pushed on as fast as my body would carry me….

Done I crossed the finish line the medal hanging heavy around my neck as I completed the toughest half iron distance triathlon in the world.

It took me a few weeks to think whether id return to it or not but once id been to hospital and found id broken my scaphoid bone in my right wrist and required surgery I knew I needed to go back for redemption.

I could not have done this race without the ongoing support and encouragement from Mr Steve Clark and all the people that I have trained with other the past year. All the people that believed in me and encouraged me thought this journey. Thank you so much. Big thanks to my family for the support wouldn’t be here without any of you.

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