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Nicky Robinson’s Ironman UK

A lot of you reading this will be aware of my experience last year at the Outlaw, following that I had a choice to make…do I forget my dream or pick myself up and get on with it…I went with the latter!! No way I was going down the outlaw route again so I started looking at Ironman races, didn’t want a sea swim, quite a few races were already sold out so that left Bolton on the list! Ironman stated that there is roughly 5500ft of climbing on the course which made me um and ah but I eventually went with oh balls..Go hard or go home..right?!

Online entry opened 1st September so I wrote that in my diary and when 1pm arrived I parted with £420ish of my hard earned pounds. I’d also made the decision at this point that I wasn’t going to tell many people and just get it done, so all the people who asked me over the months what I was doing and I replied with oh no not doing another that’s done, I’m sorry for the white lie but I’m sure you understand! I ticked over and then started base training in November but I knew that I needed and wanted some help so over Christmas I had a chat with Steve Clark from Off that couch fitness and started training under Steves guidance from 1st January, who better to prepare you for ironman than a hugely successful ironman. One of the best things for me was having to upload my training so Steve knew exactly what I’d done or more importantly not done, I missed a bit of training with an existing neck/shoulder injury and then a knee niggle but overall I think my build up went well. I raced Grantham sprint triathlon early in the season which went amazingly, next on the list was Grafman middle distance which didn’t go so well and was a lot harder than I expected but as it turns out was a good build up race. Jane Taylor and I also had a ride over to Bolton to take part in an IM training day organised by Invictus triathlon club, which was so worth while, riding the course set me up a lot better for the day itself there are so many hills, corners, hills, junctions, hills, so I would recommend a recce for anyone considering it. As we edged closed to July the nerves started so I had to keep myself in check, my last long ride was a nightmare of a ride with punctures, holes in tyres and having to be rescued only to find my other bike also had a hole in that tyre…eek What if I have a mechanical on the day etc etc was going round my head, they have strict rules around outside assistance at ironman so technically something like that could mean race over! Anyway September to July went when I blinked and somehow the car was packed and I was on my way to Bolton and I was a mix of being that nervous I could burst into tears and so excited. Everything with ironman is organised really well so I registered, had a look at all the clothes that said ironman on thinking what I’d like to buy and then headed up to the race briefing, lots of first timers (identified by a red race number) and only 12.49% of those taking part were women (come on girls!) I also then stayed for the welcome/pasta party to have my tea, whilst in the ironman bubble you can’t help but become excited they certainly know how to put a good event on. With Bolton there is a split transition so on Saturday I had to rack my bike and bike bag at Pennington flash and then my run bag at the macron stadium, I stayed at the premier inn at the macron which was a bit more expensive than other hotels but was really handy as 5 minutes walk away from the macron stadium. IM give you a recommended time to rack your bike so that not everyone turns up at once, I was early 9-10am but was advised not to rush about and go later if I could so I think it was just gone 10am when I got there. Due to the rain in the few days prior the whole place was a mud bath, I got my bike racked, hung up my bag and went to have a look at the swim start. I could see the turn point in the distance and thought that doesn’t look that far..good sign! I took the opportunity to talk to one of the marshals and he talked me through the whole of the swim and where everything would be that wasn’t yet set up. Slightly concerned about the mud bath but sod the mud I’ve got more than that to be worried about! Getting the car out of Pennington flash was difficult and I got a little stuck a couple of times I felt sorry for the people coming in, you could tell the people who’d done the race before…..they had wellies on! So, back to the macron to rack my run bag and then back to the hotel for an afternoon rest, a huge bowl of pasta for tea and I was set. After the race IM bring your street wear to the finish area and everything else ends up at the Macron and you can collect it the next day so the split transition I didn’t find an issue at all. Got to say I didn’t sleep well Saturday night or even at all, I was booked on the 4am shuttle bus to take me to Pennington flash but I was up, breakfast eaten and ready so I caught the 3.40am bus. We all know that at a race start someone makes time go faster so by the time I’d borrowed someone’s track pump, loaded my bike with my nutrition, checked everything, gone to the toilet a couple of times it was time to get my wetsuit on. I took my time to make sure it was on properly, I was going to be in the water a while and it’s a long day out so it made sense, bumped into Martin and Ciaran had a chat whilst walking to the start pens and left them near the front whilst I walked down to the 1.40 pen. IMUK is a rolling start so you line up with your predicted time and it saves the mass start carnage, it was predicted that all swimmers would be in the water by 6.15am, it was a little after that when I was heading closer and closer to the water to hear someone screaming my name, looking over to see Jane waving at me so after a quick ‘oh my god’ and a hug I was ready. The pros started at 5.55am so some of them were coming round the Australian exit for their second lap as I was getting in. I liked the rolling start it was more relaxed, I could get in and get swimming in my own time in the whole of the swim I only got bashed a couple of times and nothing major so that was good. On my first lap I used the faster swimmers coming past on their second lap to pull me along, tried to draft where I could and just kept a steady pace thinking high elbow, breathe, long, strong, lovely, the plan was a nice easy 1.40-1.50 swim, a wise man had said no point wearing yourself out in the swim so kept this in mind as well. Before I knew it I was getting out, first lap done, look at the watch which said 49 something, yeah nice one just another one to go, heard more shouts and Dave was stood by the swim entrance so smile, thumbs up to show all good and back in, I knew second lap would be slower so it was just a case of nice and strong, sight the buoys well and try not to swim any further than necessary, a lot less swimmers in the water now but I was doing ok, overtaking people, still hanging onto some of the faster ones where I could and then before I knew it I was getting out, quick check of the watch 1.49 yeah that’ll do quick check on how I feel, yep I feel good, nice steady run up to the change tent, few more familiar faces, controlled but fast change and I was heading out to get my bike.

The choice here was to run to bike exit without shoes and get feet covered in mud or get my shoes and cleats covered in mud, I choose the latter which again was a good choice as they had a shoe bath (volunteer with power washer blasting the bottom of your shoes) I took the option to have this done and then off I went to more cheers. On the bike course we had a few miles to get on the loops, 2 loops to do and then a fork off to the finish. Out of Pennington flash, start picking people off, nice! My legs felt like lead so I just keep eating and drinking as much as I could, the nutrition didn’t go as well as it should as you don’t get a break with this course it’s either up, down or round corners, the benefits are loads of feed stations and support. I knew sheep house lane wasn’t far away which is the big first climb, round the corner ooh here we go, nice and easy, up, up, up, up, up, half way up the chap in front of me was going that slow he just fell off his bike luckily to the left as I was just about to overtake him, quick shouts of ‘are you ok’ and he was so off I giggled up to the top, athlete support vans were round so they stopped and made sure he was ok too! Nearly to the top and past the fancy dress party, boom done and enjoy the down, swoop, swoop, try and make up some speed. A massive boost here was I knew the course and recognised what gear I needed to be in etc which was such a benefit as some sharp corners then led immediately to a hill. The support on the course was absolutely amazing, Babylon lane was like the Tour de France with people all round you and you cycling up the middle, up hunters hill first time, again the noise and support, lots of people walking but I’m not having any of that, come on Nicky you know that after this there is a huge downhill section, up, up, up and relax. Ok now, back to Rivington and second lap, now let’s get this done, up sheep house, fancy dress party guys and gals running up the hill with me, all going well, approaching the 90 mile mark I’d started doing some calculations knowing there was a cut off soon, now technically you have 10hrs 30 mins for the swim and bike BUT there are time of day cut offs on the bike as well so one of those could bite you on the bum if you are not careful. I’d convinced myself that I had 22 miles to do in 45 minutes..oh no never going to happen..pass marshal who said you are 18 minutes ahead of the cut off…right then no way they’re having me and I was off, up hunters hill again at about 94 miles but no time for slacking. I kept the pressure on, need to be back at the macron stadium for 4.30pm, don’t forget to eat and drink, go, go, go, I overtook so many people on this section and just kept picking them off to help me, a couple of miles to go, round a corner to see Coach Clark stood there, phone in hand I’d imagine working out how much time I had left screaming at me to go, down a hill into transition and boom 7 minutes to spare! Someone did say afterwards that they extended the cut off due to us not all being in the water on time but I wasn’t taking any chances! I think I got my support team a little worried for a minute there! No worries it was all under control! Full change of clothes and most importantly fresh socks and I was running, at this point I knew I was going to be an ironman I had well over 6.5 hrs to do the run.

Again it was a run to get to the loops, not loads of support on the first bit, a bit of off road running and a great big hill, onto the loops and wow wow wow check out all this support. I have no idea how many spectators were on the course but it felt like the whole of Bolton had come to support all telling you you’re amazing, 3.5 loops to do all of which took you past the finish line and then back out, I walked the feed stations and the hill but tried to keep a steady run erm..plod again before I knew it and on the last lap, Lincsquad supporters kept popping up at different areas of the course, Steve and Dave accompanied me on the last lap but by this time I know I was going to finish and my time was going to be 15.something. I was going for the finish, time was irrelevant but to finish with a 15 something was an extra bonus. Most people around me at this point are walking I’m not I’m on the glory lap and I’m running to that finish, picking people off, I even ran up the hill, spectators telling me I’m nearly an ironman, past the last feed station, Steve and Dave disappear to the finish line but not before telling me to make sure I have the finish line to myself and not to do a Horner! Round the last corner, the noise was just amazing, quick look no one around me I have the whole finish time and the whole cheers, lincsquad fan club on the left, high 5 the announcer lady (Paul Kaye was on a break – how rude!) arms in the air….NICKY ROBINSON YOU ARE AN IRONMAN…pics.. couple of tears..medal…t This hasn’t been an easy journey and it’s been an expensive journey..was it worth it???

Absolutely I had a blast, I didn’t stop smiling round the whole course, my official pics prove that and I am an ironman! Anyone who has the urge to do an ironman honestly go for it, Bolton was just ace, the people of Bolton just come out in force to support, it’s hilly but ace, ironman reckoned approx 5500ft of climbing on the bike my garmin says 6765ft it’s not easy but then no ironman is ever going to be easy! Well done to Martin and Ciaran who both had an absolute stormer! Thanks have to go to my hubster Scott for supporting me and putting up with me never being in since January, Steve Clark for the coaching and support, everyone who helped with my training especially Jane Taylor and the Lincsquad supporters on the course Dave Hinch, Sue Couch, Sharon Ledgard, Gav Mann and Ric Longcake……seeing people you know just gives the biggest boost! Ps entry for next year is open!

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