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IM UK by Craig Scott

It’s December 2017 and I give Steve the nod that I’m ready to get into my plan that will take me to Ironman Bolton 2018. 6 months of prep to get myself in the best possible shape for the biggest race of my life. I always knew this was going to be a steep learning curve as Bolton would be my 5th ever triathlon but mentally I was prepared to do whatever it takes. What I didn’t prepare myself for was the impact the training would have on the rest of my life. Early morning sessions in the dead of winter test the toughest of mental strength, long distance training at a weekend whatever the weather including a 19 mile solo park run in the snow; it seemed horrible at the time but looking back these are possibly some of the best sessions to not only build physical strength but metal strength too. As the weeks flew by it was evident there was less and less time spent with family and friends but they were all nothing but supportive, fortunately my wife Gemma was also doing Bolton so even though we are training all hours we can get some of our sessions in together or at least the same time whilst offering each other support. 3 weeks before Bolton I took on Hatfield half and had a strong race, this was the first opportunity I had to see how the training had gone and I felt ready; all I had to do now was look after myself and stick to Steve’s taper plan then it would be plan sailing to race day, or so I thought. We had prepared ourselves as best we possibly could taking to two trips to Bolton to recce the bike course so there was no surprise on race day. Two weeks out I saw on the news that there were fires on the hills around Bolton, ok I thought no problem a fire can’t possibly burn for two weeks. Due to the unusual weather we had the fires were still burning 1 week from race day, so now I’m panicking and thinking oh god it’s going to be cancelled. On the Tuesday before the race we got the email explaining that the bike course had been altered due to the fires and the route will now be 95 miles and to make matters worse the swim is in doubt due to high levels of blue/green Algae present at Pennington flash. My heart sank and then came all the negative comments from various social media saying that even if the swim goes ahead you still won’t become an Ironman because of the bike distance. I was now feeling totally heartbroken; this is not how I imagine the build up to feel. After some messages of support from some amazing people and words of encouragement from Steve I felt a lot more positive and all I could do is race what’s in front of me. I took myself away from the social Medea negativity and got myself focused. It’s Friday night and we made our way to the hotel just outside Pennington flash to get a good meal and an early night. Saturday morning up and on to race registration where we collected our race numbers attended the briefing where it was confirmed the swim would go ahead and had an explanation of why the bike course had to be altered.

I remember Paul Kaye saying the bike is now down to 95 miles the bad news is that the new section is a bigger climb and far more technical which after all our prep means there will still be some surprises on the bike leg. We then dropped our run gear at T2 then make our way to Pennington flash to rack the bike and hand the bike gear in T1. All of a sudden I felt calm; I guess at that point I realised there is no more I can do except relax and get some food. 3am race day I’m up and on with no thought about the silly time to be getting out of bed, had a quick shower & made my porridge then off the catch the bus to the swim. There was an air of calm on the bus with all other athletes so I quietly tucked into my breakfast which let me tell you is not as easy as you might think at 4am. We arrive in T1 do the final checks to the bikes and make our way to the swim start, it’s here I kiss Gemma and wish her luck; feeling very emotional at leaving her knowing she’s scared I take my place on the start. I listen to the national anthem then I hear AC/DC Thunder struck come on; with the adrenaline pumping and emotion I cannot describe I jump in and start my race. Within what seems like minutes I’m in the Australian exit heading into my second loop, for some reason this time it seems so busy I could not find my rhythm or relax but all I can do is keep moving and try to find some space, finally out of the murky water and blinding sun I spot the finishing flags then bang I get a almighty bang on the back of my head which instantly makes me feel sick. I climb out of the water and into T1 where I’m trying to stop myself being sick. I took my time getting into my bike gear and had a good drink of coke which I had in my transition bag and I instantly felt better. I’m now mounting the bike thinking thank god I got through the swim I can now start to relax and enjoy the ride. I set off steady away for the first 10 mile and I was buzzing feeling strong and enjoying the crowds in the street party atmosphere. After taking in my first lot of nutrition I hit the new climb and it certainly was a test, then after a short flat you start the technical decent with a few 90 degree bends lined with stone walls wrapped in hay bales like something from the Isle of Man TT. My brakes were getting that hot I could smell them, I loved it. 35 miles in I spotted a few friendly faces in the crowd, I had no idea how good this would feel as for some reason during the whole race you are surrounded by people it somehow feels very lonely. Onwards to mile 45 I felt good and another big group of support with flags and banners saying go team scotty don’t be shit. Onto loop number two I made sure I was keeping on top of my nutrition and fluids, and before I knew it I was passing all the support again. It was now I allowed my mind to start thinking about the run; this was the first point I started to feel the legs getting tired and had a little panic about the run but I also remember people saying put trust in your training. Quick change in T2 then easy run out to try and gauge how I was feeling; the answer to that was not good; legs like lead and also feeling the heat for the first time which was now around the 27 degrees mark. I thought just keep going to the first feed station. I made my way up the climb through the park and around 2 miles in I stop at the feed station grab some salty crisps and flat coke. I then set off and instantly felt like I had more energy so from now on my plan was to run feed station to feed station making sure I took in fluids and food at every opportunity.

I start lap two where I see Gemma for the first time since I left her at the swim and I was so happy she was onto the run and hadn’t had any drama in the swim or on the bike. After I gave her some words of encouragement I was back on my way. I start my 3rd lap still feeling pretty comfortable and I remember thinking once I have done this one you are on your way home, I remember seeing fellow OTCF athletes Mark and Karen and thinking we may not be winning but we definitely look the best in our White, green and black tri suits. I then near the end of the 3rd lap and get handed my 4th wrist band and for the first time I thought OMG I’m actually going to do this. With that I felt so full of energy I unknowingly picked up the pace and managed my fastest split on the final lap. I’m now just 200 meters from the finish and I see Gemma stood waiting on the switch back, I could see she was struggling in the heat so I gave her a cuddle and told her not to give up, I didn’t want to leave her knowing she was struggling but she stood back and told me to go become an Ironman. Unknowingly one of our friends captured this very moment and every time I look at the picture I feel so emotional. Off I go and make the turn into the finish shoot I see our friends who had supported us all day, give them a high five and make my way over line and hear those amazing words “Craig Scott you are Ironman” that’s it I had done it.

I felt fairly calm and extremely exhausted but it was when the photographer put his arm around me and said you are all just amazing that my emotions got the better of me and the tears started to flow. After an hour or so I made my way out of the finish area to meet up with all our friends, I was literally on top of the world. My official finish time was 11:21:04 I was so proud and happy that all the hard work had paid off. I was now sat watching Gemma complete her race just trying to take in what has just happened but to be honest I think that will take a while. The time comes for Gemma to cross the line after a big fight to keep going but she did it, I could not have been more proud of her for not giving up. I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that made the trip to Bolton to support, you have no idea how much you all mean to us, big thanks to Steve Clark for the training plan, guidance and just been there whenever we had any questions or self-doubt. To sum it up yes it’s hard yes it takes a huge amount of dedication but is it worth it” hell yes” Anyway I have to go now I’ve got 6 months’ worth of grass to cut 😉

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