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Jordan’s Exmoor UK 70.3

The 2016 Triathlon tour continues this time another little adventure took me down to Exmoor. A fair drive in UK terms but what a incredible place it is. A place I have never seen anything like before, the only way I can think of describing it is – think ‘The Shire’ in Lord of the Rings and then think bigger hills and the same stunning natural woodland and streams. I fully well knew the race was basically uphill from the swim exit, a fact well advertised by Ironman in them proudly bragging it being one of the toughest courses on the 70.3 circuit. Yet on arrival I was still astounded by the terrain I was driving through to Dulverton the village I would stay in. After arriving on the Thursday the plan was the recce the bike route on Friday. Nipping down to breakfast at my very triathlete accommodating hotel, I met a great bunch of lads from Fogarty Insurance Tri Team. They were Kona (World Championship) level performers, so when asked if I wanted to go around the bike course with them it was a easy decision. The bike practice proved one thing to these climbs were awesome! 56miles of continuous up/down, I really couldn’t be happier with what I saw. With Ironman races you pretty much sort everything on the day before. A 5 mile trip upto Wimbleball lake gave me a view of the rest of our battle ground for Sunday. A walk to the lake (well know for being cold) to have a feel of temperature was positive. 17°c!!! I could live with that, as well as the seemingly great clear water quality. As for the run course…well. Basically I knew this was going to hurt! Similar to the bike you would be up or down which is hard to get in a continuous rhythm. I got the feeling they were adding in the steepest/longest hills possible just to hurt you even more and add to that ‘World’s toughest’ profile. The race briefing simple, transitions nothing more than the usual. Time to get back to Dulverton and relax ready for an early start tomorrow. A plan of a 4am start actually proved no issue, my body was in race mode and before the alarm went I was up and ready to roll. We planned to get upto Wimbleball lake early due to the narrow lanes understandably causing 1500 people to que for ages before even getting parked up. Well actually I arrived and basically beat nearly everyone there, first result of the day! 7am the swim would begin. With Ironmans new rolling swim start theory in place I placed myself comfortably in the sub 30min pen highly placed in the field. 7am came, and a 1000+ competitors took a run & dive in the lake. The rolling start makes life much more relaxing, no being battered or washing machine effect today. Possibly starting 100 people back on the line, yet before the 1st turn I found everyone sets off far too fast and I’d only be moving past huge groups. 1k into the swim I had a glance up…this can’t be right! I was in a front group of maybe 5. With just a few fish like swimmers off the front. Exiting the swim I was 9th fastest in 26.53 a great start for a comfortable effort. Right uphill from here, there was a 500m uphill just to transition! Onto the bike and what would be the most shall we say entertaining section of my day. Within the first mile you face a big test instantly. A long long climb just to get onto the circuit. The next 10miles after this aren’t bad though, just rolling climbs with fast descents. However it would be here my fun began. 20k in and a ascent that required dropping from the big ring. Oh dear chain gone! Off the bike chain on and go…maybe not. My chain was jammed big time in between the frame and cassette and had looped on the underside into the cassette. A gentle approach proved useless, so force applied I got it unstuck and hooked on. Straight away I knew things were bad, chain jumping everywhere and noises you just don’t want. Pretty annoyed at this stage I came to the days dangerous/incredibly fast descent, I had no time to waste. Which nearly got the better of me, only very just making the turn at the bottom and clipping every cone in the process (Idiot). A few miles later the toughest sector of climbs were upon me. 1st climb on to little ring, horrendous noises and every doubt in the world my race was over. Half way up and losing the chain again and flying over the bars nearly made my mind up. I had little choice really but to try get to transition. So I set off battling my problems to get there. Approaching the turn for lap 2 I had determination to at least give it my best go to get around. Ok lap 2 gave me the same constant chain jumping and 3x chain drops including another somersault over the bars. Which then lead to me running 400m with my bike up a 20% climb! I had a lot of comments of sympathy and a few ‘you’re crazy’ shouts whilst running up that hill haha! (I proudly ran past 2 people riding up that hill) Problems galore, yet I had some confidence in my determination. I couldn’t believe so few people had came past me! Yes my main competition for 1st in age group was now well up the road and unreachable. Yet 2nd 3rd & 4th only caught me with 10k to go whilst I was running up that hill. My head was filled with thoughts of belief GAME ON! I knew that if I’d limit the losses in that 10k, going onto the run I’d be in good position to chase. End of the bike and I’d still made my target of a sub 3hr bike split despite the hell I’d had..result! T2 oh what a beautiful sight!!!! Bike racked a few comments of concerns by race marshalls/medical about my blood covered hands, yet shoes were going on and I was out of there. Straight out of T2 the 1st position was taken, what on earth was he playing at in transition he should’ve been long gone..never mind.

1st run lap hurt big time, having had no choice but to push big ring in the last 10k of the uphill bike. My legs really struggled to get going on the unbelievably tough hills the run course had early on. Twinges of cramp everywhere and making little ground initially wasn’t what I’d hoped for. Miles 4/5 however a switch turned, I’d caught 2nd in my age group and moved off ahead. Meeting up with a guy called Tim who would become my new best mate till the finish. We worked together setting a consistent pace and moving up through the field. The miles ticked by and words of encouragement from Tim really kept me in a good head space. I was however feeling better than I believed I would after before struggling towards the end of a 13.1 miles run in a middle distance triathlon. Lap 3- nearly there. But those horrendous climbs got no easier, only easier by the fact Tim and myself were flying past every man/woman in front of us. With under 2miles to go I began to feel the pace getting harder to hold, Tim just got away that few metres and I was now just holding out for the finish. As I hit the (triathlon famous) Ironman finish carpet, incredible relief hit me that I’d even been able to get there after my days problems. I enjoyed taking in every moment of that carpet, crossing the line barely able to contain my joy.

Tim was there waiting, he couldn’t believe I’d made it after seeing me several times struggling on my bike, telling me how well I’d done to be determined enough to finish. In all honesty I was proud in myself for never giving in and having that belief that I could still pull off something. So 2nd in Age Group and 12th overall in my first Ironman (branded) 70.3 was a huge result. My run split of 1.24.54 being 5th fastest of the day another positive, this is a horrendously tough run. And I hugely underestimated it despite reading up about how everyone makes that mistake! Exmoor defeated! Coming home with a nice new IM trophy for the collection. Would I do it all again..absolutely. Maybe 2017???

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