top of page

Graham Cowan My Ironman Story

I’m an Ironman! That sounds really great, and for me I’m so proud, this was a step into the big league of triathlon and if I’m honest one I didn’t really think I could achieve.

It all started a couple of years ago when after several years of inactivity due to work commitments, the naturally competitive streak got the better of me and I decided I wanted to have a go at Triathlon

In my youth I had been fairly sporty and in my time in both the Army and the Police had competed at several sports to a decent level. My main achievements had come from running in which I had gained 2 British vests for cross country and track running. That however was a long time and at least 4 stone ago.

I contacted Steve Clark and Steve agreed to help and coach me. I really enjoy training but my current lifestyle with a full time job and our own family business, doesn’t lend itself to a lot of training time.

Steve and I discussed entering the Barcelona Ironman back in October 2015 shortly after Steve had competed there in a ridiculous sub 9-hour time. I discussed it with my wife who knows me better than anybody and even though she had her doubts due to the lack of time she supported my decision to enter.

Right, I had a year to train no problem!

If only that was true. Steve helped me with the training programme and monitored my progress with regular sessions with him. Being a client of OTCF was a great help, in addition I joined Linsquad and found everyone extremely helpful and real motivators.

In March I attended Tri camp in Mallorca, my first real test, a full on training week with some serious sessions.

Despite my apprehension, I really enjoyed it and met some great people out there all willing to help and advice.

Following Tri camp I continued to train but was finding the lack of training time a real problem, that added to a couple of injuries was beginning to give me doubts.

However, Steve and the Linsquad guys kept me at it.

I arrived at mid-September not in the best of shape (I’m not built like a triathlete) and had not run more than 10 miles due to injury.

The mighty Ironman was now very very daunting.

Race Day:

I had entered registered and turned up, stood on that beach in Barcelona with fellow Lincsquadders Steve Cannings and Dave Gibbs .I had kissed my wife and boys who all wished me luck.

The triathletes around me were all pensive but the atmosphere was great. Music playing and a bit of a party atmosphere.

I watched the pros go off then we shuffled forward in small groups to start our great adventure.

I was suddenly at the front at Beep, Beep, go!

Into the sea and start swimming, I had swum 2 miles previously and had swam in the sea, but I was still very nervous.

Swim was generally going well until I hit the turnaround buoys at about 2K. I then started to struggle and felt dizzy and sick. The waves were small but I felt every one of them.

Eventually I stopped and to my horror was physically sick (not pleasant) the lifeguards and rescue boats circled and had a long look at me. I had to dig deep and said to myself how much do you want this, head down start swimming I was off again.

The last 800ms was hard I could see the finish arch but felt awful.

I managed to throw up again, and again avoid being pulled out, I really had to grind that one out.

At the swim finish, I was helped out by the excellent support crew and ran/staggered up the beach into T1.

I saw my family cheering me on and I was instantly back in the game. A quick kiss with my wife and into T1

T1 was hard as I was still dizzy and not feeling great. I calmed myself down got some fluid and food on board and got myself together. It was a long transition but at least I was still in the race.

Out on the bike I heard a shout of encouragement from Shona Cannings and my son Harry. Out onto the course I was starting to feel better.


Steve had told me the course was flat so I was growing in confidence, however I had gone out without drinks bottles so was eager to get to the first aid post.

Bike course was underway, through the first aid station fluid on and away, however then came a cheeky hill Steve had not told me about that!

Throughout the bike course I just worked aid station to aid station knocking off the kilometres.

Headwind second half but starting to believe. Hit the turnaround point feeling Ok in fact quite enjoying it.

Out onto second lap and this time I knew what to expect. Again aid station to aid station taking on fluid and food at each one.

6.40 on the bike and I was into T2

I was now so determined to finish I really wanted this and after that swim I told myself you deserve this

Coming from a running background I thought I could deal with the marathon despite my lack of running.

Out of T2 running kit on and actually feeling good. The first part of the run was heavily supported with cheering crowds. Again massive support from my wife and boys who continued to drive me on.

At the first turnaround a pro turned left onto the magic red carpet I could hear the crowd in the finish shoot cheering and the announcer shouting the famous words YOU ARE AN IRONMAN

Wow I wanted that stop bad 3 laps to do and I would have it

First lap was fine I was actually running. Second lap however started to hurt and I quickly found out what the Ironman shuffle was.

I told myself just work aid station to aid station. I did and took on gels food and fluid at each of them.

I then had the pleasure of finding out what effect so many gels have on your stomach, time for a toilet stop.

Lap 2 complete and my wife informed me I had 3 hours left to make the cut. I was filled with mixed emotion I was going to do it, I just had to keep moving.

Out onto lap 3 it was dark and lonely in places, but the crowd were excellent. Just keep moving I told myself you can do this

Ironman shuffle was on.

I got to the 40km point and I could taste it, I heard the crowd and could see the lights. I have to admit I was now very emotional and had to fight the tears as well now.

I turned onto the magic red carpet and the pain disappeared I was going to savour this moment.

The crowds were loud and cheering, I started to do the aeroplane and hand slap many, I then saw my wife and youngest son who were wild with excitement.

Then came the magic words:  GRAHAM COWAN YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!  What made that even more special was that the voice booming the words over the microphone was my son Bens

Wow that was special.

Unfortunately, the emotion hit me and I lost my battle with the tears, but, Graham Cowan YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!  13 hours 53 minutes.

I had done it despite all the fears and problems on route.

This was a truly memorable experience and I’m so grateful for all of those people who kept their faith in me especially Steve Clark at OTCF Linsquad colleagues and of course my biggest support and fans Theresa Harry and Ben my special family

Thank you all

I’m an ironman not bad for a fat lad who used to run a bit.

Graham Cowan.

3 views0 comments


bottom of page