Here we go again!
Following some good race results earlier in the year, Barcelona Marathon, London, North Lincs Half marathon and Lakesman half distance triathlon, preparation for Ironman UK was going well…… until a long standing issue with my shoulder reared its ugly head. Swimming has never been my strong point but had been going well until a few months ago so the swim was always going to be a struggle.
There was a big OffThatCouchFitness presence at this race so there was a good atmosphere between us. We travelled on Friday and registered in Bolton town hall – it was happening again! There was a buzz around the town already as athletes were beginning to arrive. Registration complete, a bimbleround the town centre, expo and of course the merchandise shop and back to the hotel to relax and sort transition bags and gear out ready for racking and drop off on Saturday then an early tea with Gemma and Craig – quite a laid back day really which was the plan. Saturday morning came and early to T1 to rack the bike, a quick look at the Flash which was very tranquil and serene, T2 for bag drop off and again, back to the hotel to keep off our feet. Another relaxing early meal with Coach Clark and the half the team as we were in the same hotel. Early to bed and BOOM it’s 0230 and time to get up! Eating at that time of day is always hard work but a pot of porridge, a banana and some pain killers for my shoulder did the trick. We left the hotel at the ungodly hour of 0330 to drop the cars off near the finish and then back on the shuttle bus to Pennington Flash. The rest of the OTCF team assembled – it felt like we were the new Avengers!
As we lined up for the self-seeded swim, I was conscious of my shoulder so headed towards the back of the field. I intended to swim steady stay out of the way of people and protect my shoulder – plan achieved. Not the fastest of swims but my intention was to minimise the pain. The swim actually went reasonably well, incident free maybe 10-15 minutes slower than I would normally do but due to the circumstances I was happy with that, I got out of the water feeling really fresh – maybe this is the way forward!
The bike – what can I say about that? Well in one word, brutal. Having completed Ironman Wales in 2017 and 2018, this was much harder than that so hat’s off to everyone who completed it as it was a tough day on the saddle. I saw a couple of the OTCF guys on the bike, a quick chat with Gemma and Andy to see how they were and onward. It was apparent, this wasn’t going to be a fast bike course so after the first lap, I decided to ease back a bit. Much of the descents were technical where you could gain speed but had to be wary as at the bottom were sharp turns, the road surfaces weren’t brilliant either so concentration a must all way round. I had originally planned an average of 200 watts as a target so I was on the conservative side only averaging 164. It was great to see many familiar faces that had come to support us on various parts of the bike course, and not to forget the infamous wrestlers dancing away!
The run – seemed to go really quickly. I saw all of the team more than once through the run which was great to see them all doing so well. A few words of encouragement and a check to see how everyone was, it was nice to know we were all going to make it. That hill through the park though, that was energy sapping but I managed to run up the first three laps and only walked the last lap to have a bit of a chat with Stephen Cannings and then away I went again. As each lapped passed and I received my bands, once I had received my yellow and final band it was like someone had took the brake off, that psychological barrier know I was nearly home – I was off, I picked up the pace for the last two miles and completed the race in my fastest time yet so all is well. The support through the town and all along the course was amazing. Our support crew and friends had relocated again through varying points on the course and had managed to get a prime position at the finish line and I cannot thank all of them enough for the words of encouragement and banter (and Mr Hinch dangling a KFC bag in front of me on the bike for motivation!).
It doesn’t matter how many times you hear those four words after your name announced to the world “You are an Ironman” – you know you have made it, not just to the end of the race but to the end of that particular journey, however, this journey hasn’t quite ended for me yet as I have another appointment with the Dragon in Tenby in 8 weeks’ time so can step off the gas just yet!
I would like to say many thanks to the expert coaching and guidance from Steve Clark at OffThatCouchFitness (he didn’t have a bad race himself either!), the rest of the team who raced and trained together for this event – there is strength in numbers. We all had an awesome day. At the Ironman awards ceremony, there was a video about Ohana – the Ironman family. This is what Steve has achieved within OTCF and it’s great to be a part of it.