What a day for Off That Couch Fitness with so many great performances and so many making the long trip to support.
As a coach I was so proud to see everyone deliver performances we knew they were all capable of. Delivering it on the day shows their class. Massive kudos to every single one of them.
Phil Johnson – First time Ironman, first time dragon slayer smashed it with a Sub 16 finish time. Phil is now the proud owner of what must be the best set of finish line photos.
David Gibbs – 3-time dragon slayer with a huge improvement in the swim. 1:15 shows how far he’s come over the years and it’s great to see him back and loving the sport again.
Dan Ellis – A true teammate stopping to help another athlete on the course and sacrificing his own race. Not many people would do this so big respect to Dan here.
Adam Norfolk – First time Ironman, first time dragon slayer and a Kona Q. Lots learned for Adam who is a 70.3 specialist and will only get stronger the more he races ‘long’.
David Hinch – 3-time dragon slayer and a Kona Q. This is the reward for all the good things he has done for others over the years in the sport of triathlon. Good things happen to good people.
Alison Schofield – First time Ironman and a Kona Q suffered a mechanical on the bike resulting in a lot of lost time and a possible podium place. Ali showed her true class by keeping the mind and body strong to finish in 4th place.
Sophie Hedges – 6th lady overall and 2nd in her AG. A stellar performance, super strong across all 3 disciplines and fully deserved a Kona spot but unfortunately only 1 place in the 30-34 AG. Worlds 70.3 is now the focus and then her time will come very, very soon in the full distance. Watch this space.
Natalie Curgenven – A leader and a class athlete in her first ever long-distance race she finishes 5th lady overall, 1st in AG 40-44 and a Kona Q. Super strong and knows how to suffer with the best of them with a performance she fully deserved.
Shawnie Lovatt – The rising super star, 2nd lady overall and first in AG 25-29 with the top Kona spot in the bank. Pure class from Shawnie always racing with a smile and I was super pleased for her following her breakthrough top 10 at Ironman UK in 2019. Her progression in triathlon was then paused due to covid. So, for her to show the desire and dedication to keep training to be ready for September 2022 shows how hungry she is. 70.3 worlds in 2022 then Kona in 2023 is now the focus.
For me as a racer this was my 3rd time racing Ironman Wales. 2012 & 2014 being my previous dragon slaying years and both hold great personal memories. In 2012 finishing in 9 hours 40 minutes on the Wales course and that performance allowed me to go Pro back then, and also got me to Kona. So, a decade later I didn’t want to tarnish such great memories of Ironman Wales. I knew I wasn’t ever going to be posting the times I did back then, but I still had a goal to finish as strong as I could and set the standard to inspire all my OTCF athletes. The journey to make the start line has been a challenge with having to juggle 2 full time jobs along with family life. An MRI scan has finally confirmed I have the onset of 2 bulged discs in my lower spine so this, at least, explains, the niggling back issue I’ve being trying to keep on top of during my own training and racing these last few years.
During the build-up people were asking what I thought I could do? I predicted 10:15. I know my body pretty well by now and I don’t mind the pressure of setting myself a target time. This doesn’t work for everyone but for me ‘Pressure is a Privilege’, it keeps me honest and allows me to get the best from myself on race day.
Onto race day
04:45 alarm the usual breakfast and messages to all my athletes wishing them good luck and a few last-minute tips for the day ahead. Then it’s flick the switch time and get myself into race mode. Music on, walk to transition and get set up.
Swim 2.4 miles
As we approached the beach you could see the swell that had arrived for race day was unlike the previous days when it had been pan flat. This was going to make for an interesting swim. At the start line I got stood with Adam and Graham who are both fellow Fire Service and both quality athletes. Plan was to stick with Graham on the swim as he would come out under the hour, we managed to swim side by side to the first buoy but then after that I lost him in the choppy sea. The swim went well despite taking the first loop too wide and adding a bit of extra distance. Hey, it happens and on the second lap, I made sure I stuck to a better line and it showed as I swam a faster second lap. Out the water in 58:37, solid enough.
Out of the water and up the zig zags, it’s a 1km run to T1. This is where you start to notice the crowds. They are 5 deep in places and this is what makes Ironman Wales so special and a bucket list race for any long distance athlete. It also helps me here as the longer run plays to my strengths.
Bike 112 miles
Onto the bike and just settle in. This was always going to be the hardest leg for me, so I just rode it to my power effort levels and let the uber bikers fly past. Hopefully I’d see them again on the run. Within 10 miles Graham came passed me so I must have got him on the run or in T1 as he had a great swim of sub 57 mins. The Norfolk train passed me after around 90 mins of riding, I gave him encouragement and he gave me a grunt back with a mouth full of energy bar so I knew I was holding my own pretty well. At Wisemans bridge, the first of the 2 famous climbs, a spectator shouted I was 41st overall male. I knew the pro field was 15-20 deep, so this gave me a further lift. Then it's onto Heartbreak hill, wow, this has gone up a level tenfold since I last raced and it reminded me of the Solar berg climb at Challenge Roth. The crowds are lined all the way up and the noise is on another level. They basically cheer you all the way up to the top. I smiled all the way up loving it and it was great to see and hear Emily and the OTCF support team on the climb. Twenty of them had made the 6-hour drive to watch us. big Kudos.
For the rest of the bike I kept it controlled, tapped away and struck off the miles whilst sticking to my nutrition plan.
Special mention to Craig from On that bike fit. I’m now the comfiest I’ve been in years on the bike taking the pressure of my lower back.
Into T2 and local athlete, Ricky Morgan, from Tenby Aces came running over. How are you feeling Steve? You’re looking great etc. Laughing, I said, I’ll let you know 1 mile into the run. He then told me, Shawnie, (one of my coached athletes), was 2nd lady overall and he was going to be the bike support for the 2nd lady. I leapt up off the bench absolutely buzzing knowing she’s an absolute weapon on the marathon! I was really confident she was going to have a day to remember.
Run 26.2 miles
Onto the run I went. A voice from the crowd shouted 22nd in AG to the lad just in front of me. I clocked his AG, it was the same as mine meaning a lot of bikers that had come past me earlier were unfortunately in my AG. I set off running with the feeling of decent legs which is always a great indicator that I’d paced my effort well so far. Up the first hill towards the first out and back section and spotting that Adam wasn’t too far ahead (maybe 5 mins up the road) gave me another lift.
Adam had beat me by 18 mins at Swansea 70.3 just 6 weeks earlier so this obviously gave me another boost and showed the decent block of training id put in since was paying off. I was hoping if I could catch him, we could run together for a few laps like Robbie Whitaker (former OTCF racer) and I did back in 2012 when we destroyed each other. Seeing the OTCF support crew and getting the shouts of encouragement I could see they were pumped watching Adam and I battle it out. After one lap the gap was 4 mins and I was up to 16th in AG. As I came down into Tenby after the first lap, I saw Shawnie setting off on her first lap, smiling away. I shouted to her a few instructions and for Ricky to look after her. Lap 2 at the top and the gap was now 30 secs between us and this is when I caught Soph who was on her first lap. A few exchanges of words on how we were both feeling and down the hill we go again. Something that is massively overlooked by athletes doing Ironman Wales is the skill to be able to run both downhill as well as uphill. On a marathon course like Wales, it can make a huge difference.
Up the hill for the 3rd time and I’ve now past Adam and up to 11th in AG. I was still running strong at this point and digging in to hold it together for as long as possible. Lap 4, the killer lap and last time up and down the hill I was just trying to get on people’s shoulders that are on earlier laps and running well. I managed to run a 3:10 marathon and this was good enough to finish 8th in AG & 21st Age grouper overall so just shows the strength in depth in the 35-39 AG.
I was super pleased with this run and would rank it up there as one of my best despite running a lot faster in previous Ironman races. The way I ran myself back into contention on a tough course is one of those feelings I absolutely love, and why I keep on going. This was going to be my last Ironman for a few years as I already have a big event planned for my 40th next year. With the back issue I am going to knock it back soon but if you read on it looks like I also have one more Ironman still to do next year. Sorry Em
The next day the awards ceremony took place, and this has to go down as one of my proudest moments as a coach and owner of OTCF.
The Overall Tri Club Team prize
2nd lady overall
2 x AG wins
1 x 2nd AG
3 ladies in the top 10 overall
6 athletes in the top 10 of Age groups
6 athletes qualifying for Kona
1st time Ironman finishers and dragon slayers
3 x 3 time dragon slayers
And most importantly a great team spirit and that feeling to be part of it so much I ended up accepting my own Kona spot to experience it all again. This time, with so many OTCF athletes racing the Big Island it’ll be primarily as the coach and secondly as a racer.
Special thanks go to Emily for many years suffering with all my training and the help managing my injuries for me through On that Couch massage .Harriet for being one of the OTCF gang and she is already planning her OTCF Tattoo stall for Hawaii. My wingman for the weekend Steve Beevers, Britcon, Bad Monkey conversions, Goodwin healthcare, Graypen, Keyo and On that couch Massage