Craggy Island Triathlon by Amy Wheldrake

The last Triathlon of my 2017 Season; The Craggy Island Triathlon. A unique cross triathlon which starts with a sea swim (500m) to the Island of Kerrera, just off the coast of Oban. On the Island there are no roads, so there is a mountain bike ride (14k) and a trail run (8K). This triathlon was rated as being one of the best in the UK, so I had high expectations

There had been a bit of a false start to this weekend. My mountain bike had been stolen (amongst other things) after my garage was burgled just a week beforehand and despite my insurance company being pretty speedy; unfortunately they were not quite speedy enough.

The organisers were super helpful, suggested some potential bike hire places and said I was more that welcome to just do a swim-run. After not being able to hire a bike, I had made peace with only doing a swim-run, I thought never mind it would still be fun. Then I saw all the other competitors getting on the ferry to the island to registration and transition with their mountain bikes and felt sad.

At registration when I pick up my dibber (the race uses a dibber system like that in orienteering rather that timing chips), I explained I was the person who had emailed about my bike and was just going to swim and run. Without hesitation one of the volunteers of a similar height (sorry I didn’t get a name) offered to lend me one. As an optimist I had taken my helmet along for should some miracle like this occurred and it did! I did a short ride towards transition on the bike, got it racked and set up my transition area. Joy! Hurray! What a strike of luck! I could now do the full race.

However, on the ferry ride back to the mainland (where the swim start is) the anxiety set in. I was about to race a pretty gnarly, chewed up mountain bike course on a bike I had had zero practise on, had not completed a course recce or even studied the route. Plus having fully intended on just having a short swim followed by a trail run I had sampled some very good Scottish whiskey last night. Was my bike being stolen, the bad luck I’d had with sourcing a replacement all been the universes way of telling me I shouldn’t do this ride? Was I about to break both collar bones and both legs and some kind strangers bike? What on earth was I thinking? So it was safe to assume I was quite anxious before the swim start.

Race briefing time. The water was 14.5C, nothing daunting there; I’ve raced in around 15C all year. There was no wind so it felt quite mild. Weather-wise it had rained and was quite misty and dull. I was taking part in the Sunday race, the second day of the race, so the course had already been churned up.

Then my first sea swim; across the Sound of Kerrera. Less than 60 seconds in a boom a full kick to my right eye. Could not see a darn thing and was expecting to emerge from the sea looking like the elephant man to gasps and people running away in terror. Quite the opposite. Whilst staggering up the jetty, there was bagpipes playing. I removed my goggles and felt that my eyeball was still where it was supposed to be, this and realising I wasn’t actually that far back, along with the cheering crowd numbed my eye pain.

After a relatively quick transition, as some people got fully changed, and I mean fully changed (an eyeful of a different type) I was out onto the bike course. This was OK to start, a bit of a climb heading out but nothing too scary, the first descent wasn’t too bad either. This built my confidence and reminded me how much I love mountain biking! The course quickly got muddier, more uneven and challenging and I was certainly playing it safe. Mountain biking in comparison to road cycling is worlds apart. Mountain biking uses muscles you dont even know you have when road cycling, requiring much more upper body and core strength and having spent all summer on my triathlon bike, I had forgotten all this. Being on an un-familiar bike and on a torn up course I had no shame in walking some of the more technical bits. While walking one of the very muddy sections I saw a man take quite a tumble, on asking if he was OK I also took a mud slide right down the hill and had to scramble back up it for the bike. After my mud slide my hands were covered in mud and my wet muddy tri suit did not provide a suitable wiping surface, so after this just holding the handlebars was a challenge.  I made it back to transition in one piece, though unrecognisable for all the mud.

The run was incredible! Mainly because I am a lover of mud and there was plenty of it! There was quite a steep uphill, some parts requiring all fours to clamber up. I got stuck in a bog, knee deep, at this point I got over taken by not one but two women, in a normal triathlon this would have been a kick up the butt to sort it out and get a move on, but to be honest I was having too much fun. After the bog there was a stream, which I managed to end up in waist deep, this was quite welcome as it washed some of the mud off.

When I wasn’t stuck in mud I was taking in the views, which were incredible. At the top of the hills you had full views of the bays below, over the Island, mainland Scotland and across to what I think was the Isle of Mull. I took just a few seconds to take it all in, before concentrating on where I was putting my feet again, or I could have taken a very nasty tumble over the edge. The last 2-3K of the run is on a trail that follows the coast. On this bit I was feeling awesome and managed to increase my pace and take back a couple of places.

In almost every triathlon I have ever done I have experienced a mental battle, usually around a third of the way into the run. At this point I usually hate everything, my legs, running, triathlon, but I didn’t experience this during this race. The setting was so picturesque and unique all I could think was how I already wanted to do it again.

I wasn’t fast. I didn’t expect to be. I didn’t even expect to be able to complete the full race (with no bike) but I did and I had a fantastic time. Possibly the most enjoyable race I have ever done. It was the perfect end to a brilliant season, one that I have trained the most I ever trained ever following a structured training plan. Qualified for GB Age Group, completed my first half Ironman and made the decision to try a full Ironman in 2018. The weather and the mud just added to the magic of the race.

Next day notes: My eye is quite swollen. I do not love the mud quite so much when I am cleaning it off my kit.

Ironman Barcelona 30.9.17 Race report – Peter Wordsworth

Anything really is possible.

This race report unusually starts 21 months earlier in the first week of January 2016 when I found myself lying in a French hospital bed – recovering from an operation to pin and plate my shattered tibial plateau – six pins and a titanium dinner plate required to keep the scrambled egg that was now the top of my left knee together. My left wrist was not much better with three pins and a plate but at least my hand no longer dangled uselessly and my fingers still worked.

 

The next day was my darkest day – in pain and unable to even get out of bed the doctor explained to me the scale of my injuries and that I had a very long recovery ahead of me – I could not put ANY weight on my left leg for 3 months and after that another 3 months of intensive physio before I could expect to walk again. – SIX months before I could walk again. For someone used to training 10+ hours a week that was going to be tough.

I desperately needed a goal to keep me going through what was going to be a very difficult year. I should explain that I had completed my first Ironman just 3 months earlier in Mallorca and I had made a right mess of it – walking the last 6 miles and coming in just over 15 hours. Then it suddenly came to me – that was it – I would do another Ironman and I would complete it is sub 15 hours. After all I figured – if I was going to do one, I may as well aim for a PB!

Something about the scale of the challenge and the fact that no one thought I would actually be able to do it made it the perfect goal. Aspirational, out of reach and frankly ridiculous! What followed was 21 months of hard work, pain and sheer bloody minded determination not to give up.

There are so many people who I am grateful to for helping me get through those 21 months that this would be a very boring article were I attempt to list them all but 3 people do deserve a special mention. Ed Nicolson my Personal trainer who as a qualified Physio at York District hospital was brilliantly qualified to help rebuild the strength and mobility in my left leg and wrist. Steve from Off that Couch – who had to build a very long training plan to get me to the start line of the Barcelona Ironman – “trust in the plan – stick to the plan” became our mantra ! Finally my sister Tess who runs the fabulous Tessfit in Devon – her encouragement and input on all matters physical, emotional and nutritional was invaluable.

Between the three of them (and over 600 hours of training) they managed to rebuild me. Standing on the start line on 30th September 2017 was quite an emotional experience – although to be honest I was rather distracted by the thought of what lay ahead.

My plan was pretty simple – swim the 2.2 miles in 1 hour 20 mins – 10 mins in T1 – (I know shocking but I have always been terrible at “the fourth discipline”. ) So I wanted to be on the bike for 1 hour 30 mins after starting. Aiming for an average speed of 18mph on the 111 mile bike leg to get that done in 6 hours 20 min – 10 mins in T2 – on the run 8 hours into the race – a 5 hour marathon -my leg injury meant I had to run/walk the entire marathon. To give me a target time of 13 hours.

I was doing the race with a good friend called Mark – this would be his first Ironman and he was targeting a sub 12 hour time. We were evenly matched on the swim and bike however he has the advantage of two fully functional legs so was always going to be faster on the run than me. He is also taller, leaner and fitter than me but I am sure that has nothing to do with it !!

We had done the Barcelona 70.3 earlier in the year as part of our preparation and had bumped into each other in T2 –He ended up finishing half an hour before me so we were expecting to be neck and neck until the run and then for him to put something like an hour into me on the marathon.

The swim was a tale of two halves for me – It was a single lap course – out and back along the coast. The outward leg was fine – I was sighting well and could see the yellow buoys clearly but I as I turned from home I couldn’t see any buoys – I was just swimming between the safety kayaks and some other swimmers I could see. I thought just keep going and looking up every other breath and you will see the buoy soon enough. It just didn’t happen! I could feel someone on my feet and felt like stopping and telling them not to follow me because I was lost!!Eventually I saw the buoy and it was WAY off to my right – I started to head diagonally towards it but was cursing as I had clearly gone way too far to the left not helped by the current which I only then remembered would be pushing me to the left!! I ploughed on pushing myself harder than I had planned in an effort to make up for the additional distance I now knew I would be swimming.

Eventually we turned for the shore and scrambled up the beach – I checked my watch 1 hour and 17 mins. Happy with that – especially as my watch told me I had swam 400m further than I needed to – I tried not to focus on the fact that I could have done a sub 1 hour 10 min swim had I not got lost and rather just focused on getting through T1.

T1 – well let’s just say there was room for improvement and perhaps blow drying my hair was a mistake but I still managed to get on my bike 1 hour and 30 mins after the start so that was job done for swim and T1 !!

The Ride on the Barcelona Ironman was meant to be fast and it was going to be even faster now as the cycle route had been changed at the last minute back to the original two and half laps straight along the coast route as part of the negotiations to let the event go ahead despite the independence referendum taking place the next day. We had been told during the race briefing that The race had actually been cancelled when Catalonia announced the independence referendum but that Ironman had managed to persuade the authorities to let it go ahead by bringing it forward a day to Sat 30th and changing the bike course.

The ride was manic – 3000+ cyclists on a very fast two and a half lap course meant that at times it was pretty scary. I just kept my head down focused on keeping safe and ridding to my target Normalised power.

Steve had worked hard with me to drive up my FTP level and Ed had done a lot of work on my aero position – I was also wearing shoe covers, shin covers and had shaved any part of me that was going to see light of day! I had decided against wearing my aero helmet the day before as I was worried about getting too hot – a decision I regretted as the clouds rolled in halfway through the ride!

As I hit half way I couldn’t believe my average speed was +20mph. I checked my NP that was in range, my heart rate was fine – I was just on a flyer. I was worried I would put too much into the ride and blow up on the run like last time so watched my power for the last half very carefully. I was also careful to keep the fuel and hydration levels topped up as I always found it hard to fuel on the run without dire gastro consequences!!

I finished the ride sub 5 hours 40 mins – that was 40 mins faster than planned with an average speed of 19.8mph. I was very happy with that and felt I had more than made up for my extra long swim and slow T1.

T2 wasn’t too shabby – I was half expecting to bump into Mark reckoning that I must have caught him up by now. Alas no sign of him – damn I thought he must be just ahead of me and I would never catch him on the run!

I set off on my marathon sticking to my long-term plan of running 9 mins – walking 1 min. This was the Plan My physio and I had settled on to enable my titanium Knee to cope with the distance. After that ride it was hard not to get carried away but every time I had gone out too fast on my long training runs I had really struggled towards the end and I was determined this time to run/walk the whole marathon and not end up walking the last 6 miles like last time!

About 3 miles in I saw Mark’s wife Laura in the crowd and asked how far ahead Mark was – she told me she had not seen him yet! I couldn’t believe that I was ahead of him so just assumed she must have missed him. I looked out for him as we started to passed people coming back down the other way – the run is a long 3 and a half lap course. No sign of him – I passed the northern turning point and started running back towards the finish line – which you had to pass 3 times before entering the finish funnel. Still no sign of him. Eventually I saw him he was about a mile behind me! That gave me a real boost. I must have passed him on the ride without realising it.

I knew Mark would eventually come past me but I was determined to keep ahead of him for as long as possible – eventually just after the 10 mile point he drew alongside me. It was great to catch up and have someone to talk to and take your mind of the marathon all be it briefly! I run to my Heart rate and it soon became clear there was no way I could keep pace with Mark and keep my heart rate within the range Steve and I had calculated. I also didn’t want to slow him down and damage his chances of getting his sub 12 hour target, So reluctantly I let him go and he accelerated away into the evening light.

After that things went downhill quite quickly. I was approaching the halfway point on the marathon and had stopped to get my nutrition and some hydration tablets from my special needs bag. DISASTER – my special needs bag wasn’t there – I couldn’t believe it. I needed that fuel and I needed those hydration tablets badly. I told myself to calm down obviously, they were there and I was just being an idiot. So, I forced myself to slowly check again and again – nope IT WAS NOT THERE. Now I faced running the last 13 miles without the second half of my long-practiced nutrition plan AND I had wasted what seemed like an age searching for the bag!

My head was a mess – filled with anger, frustration and exhaustion. For the first time in the day my spirits flagged, my head dropped and at that point it started to pour with Rain!!

The next ten miles were the hardest 10 miles I have ever run. I ran for 20 mins without walking – breaking my plan for the first time in the day – I was just too angry to walk – I had wasted so much time looking for that bag !! I came to a fuel station and forced myself to walk through this. After all I needed to rethink my fuel plan on the way through it ! I grabbed half a banana and a cup of Coke – I had NEVER tried drinking Coke on a run before but figured a lot of people swore by it and I needed the fuel without taking on board too many solids.

It was now raining, dark, the roads were covered in puddles, my shoes were soaking wet and I was slowing down. It is fair to say I was not having fun! As I past the finish funnel to start the last Long loop I was shattered. I desperately just wanted to start walking – I figured I could still get sub 13 now even if I walked the last few miles. I have no idea how I managed to keep going over the next few miles. I would look at my watch to find I was only 2 or 3 mins into my 9 min run and then eventually when I got to my 1 min walk it was over all too quickly and I had to force myself to run, telling myself “just run for 9 more mins – one more time “- every time but it was getting harder and harder each time!

Then something rather wonderful happened – I turned around the northern point for the last time and it stopped raining! I was now running TOWARDS THE FINISH line – it might still be 3 miles away but I was running towards the funnel and this time I would be turning right and hearing those words “you are an Ironman”. I started to think back to that day in the French hospital – what a journey I had been on and just how far I had come. I found a new resolve and determination – there was now absolutely NO QUESTION of me walking anything other than my planned 1 min walks and I started to run faster and overtaking people. I suddenly knew I would do it and it all became quite overwhelming – I was now glad for the cover of darkness so no one could see this idiot running through the night with a huge smile on his face and tears running down his face. Ironman events can take you to some very strange places!

The last mile was a buzz like no other. I had been so down half way through the marathon that I wasn’t sure I would manage to finish. I think it as only the thought of all my family and friends watching me on the tracker that kept me going – now here I was smiling and running like it was my first lap not my last. Turn right and into the lights over the finish line at 12 hours and 19 mins. I was an Ironman once again.

Mark was waiting for me at the finish – he had finished in 11 hours and 49 mins so we had both smashed our target times and finished within half an hour of each other. You couldn’t have wiped the smiles of our faces that night if you wanted to!

I am not sure what comes next – I am taking a few weeks off. I have put those closest to me through quite a lot over the last 21 months and for now I just want to give them something back. I could never have done it without them.

Peter Wordsworth
8.10.17

 

Epworth End of Season Sprint Triathlon Race Report  17/09/17

I was really excited to see how I would do in the end of season race as I had completed the early season race on the same course and this was a direct comparison which would reveal the impact of last 5 months of training.

A few days before the early race was my first Personal training session with Steve and my first ever experience of the FTP Watt bike test. If you haven’t done a FTP test, book one! It’s a great measure of where your at and how effective your training is.

To add some more context to this story you probably need to read my last race report for Bassetlaw Tri if you haven’t already, scroll down and you’ll find it.

I don’t think I’ve ever exercised as much as I have this summer, having weekly PT sessions helps keep you focussed and I have definitely learnt to prioritise what’s important to me. I’m far too head strong to do anything because I have to, I do things because I want to and all this training has not been a chore, I love it.

On the morning of the race we woke up to a fair bit of fog which I was hoping would clear by the time I was out on my bike as I hadn’t thought about visibility and I didn’t have lights on my bike, but most people didn’t either so we were all in the same boat. My husband, Andy was racing too so we had Grandma lined up to meet us there and look after the kids and orchestrate the supporting. Yet again, Andy and I were both in the same swim wave and before I knew it we were pool side and ready for off.

It was only once I was swimming that I thought “right, focus Sarah, count your lengths!” Talking to Andy after the race I was off like a rocket but I wasn’t really aware of him or how fast I was swimming, I had 3 people to over take in my lane and I’d soon got to 20 lengths.

Out into transition and I was just running out with my bike when I spotted Andy coming into transition. My Mum and our kids were shouting and cheering like mad. Andy soon over took me on the start of the bike course as I would have expected him to and he gave me a shout as he passed. It was still quite foggy and my glasses were steamed up so I couldn’t see much with or without them! After Andy had passed me, I didn’t see anyone else on the bike course for about 25 minutes and it did briefly cross my mind that maybe they’d stopped the race due to fog and I didn’t know! I wasn’t use to this, normally I have loads of quick cyclists flying past me all the way through the bike but not today. A couple of quick men past me eventually on the last section of the course and as I live on the course I know it well so knew where I needed to push it and where I had the chance of recovery downhill. I really enjoyed the bike course and felt like I’d done a good job, I could really tell a difference in my fitness from the last time I raced this course.

As I came into leisure centre, again my little support crew was loud and proud which was lovely and I couldn’t wait to run back out to see them again. The run course sets off on roads but about half way goes off road for the remainder of the run. I mainly run off road as I have a lively cocker spaniel who isn’t good on a lead so that terrain suits me. In the last few minutes of the run, a familiar face shot past me, Steve was racing too. He shouted “push it right to the end” so I did as I was told! There is a short hill near the end of the course but again, as I know the course I knew I only needed to push to the top and it was down hill to the finish.

When I had finished I knew I’d worked as hard as I could so I was pleased with myself. I met back up with my family and got my print out and I wasn’t sure how much better my times were but I knew I’d made a big improvement.

Once the statistics were analysed to compare the early race to the late I was really pleased. I was faster in all 3 disciplines and both transitions and overall was 8 minutes quicker over the 5 months between races! The reason I’d not been passed by loads of “quick people” was because I was 5

minutes quicker on the bike. Even better still I won the 30-40 year age group so proudly received my trophy and posed for photos. Steve came over and we were talking about it as we almost missed Andy being announced as the winner of his age group too. A Mr & Mrs victory!!!

What a day for us both!

A couple of weeks earlier Steve had joked, or at least I assumed he was joking that I’d win my age group and I laughed it off saying “I doubt it” and I blooming well did!

I think this last 5 months may have just changed my life forever. As for next year, watch this space…

2017 – Challenge Roth and Ironman Barcelona

 

I set myself a tough target for 2017, to complete Challenge Roth and Ironman Barcelona. I knew it was going to be tough to commit to training for Roth in July and then Barcelona on October 1st.
Full of enthusiasm I started my plan in January, but within weeks I was suffering with a cold that would not go. The cold wet conditions endured at the Christian Brown ride in February turned the cold into a full on chest infection that stopped any further training attempts. I then lost my Father in early March which further set back attempts to get consistent training. I went to Tricamp in Mallorca, just about clear of the chest infection, but struggled to keep up with the week 2 group of superstars. However, I did come back fitter and ready to kick on, the training plan was ramping up now to Roth in July.
Nicola and I were looking forward to a road trip to Germany in our camper van, we were all packed up and ready to leave. With a final visit to her father, next door, we found him suffering a TIA / stroke. Change of plan and rushed to Scunthorpe hospital. Nicola stayed at home and I headed off for Roth. Yet another sacrifice by Nicola for me.
The race at Roth was not what I planned. The town and build up is great, the organisation with a split transition (start 10 K away from the race end) was really difficult to deal with on your own. Having to arrive at the start at 4:45, before the roads were closed, when my start time was at 7:50, meant a very early start. The swim in the canal although not picturesque is just like swimming in a pool, no real sighting required, simply sight off the straight sides of the canal. I was really happy with the swim and T1. The bike route is rolling and through nice countryside. Unfortunately, I did not get to complete the first of 2 laps. I was knocked off my bike on a descent at 30 miles, by someone who fell behind me and slid into me. My rear mech was damaged such that I could not change gear. This was my worst nightmare and race over. I did limp the bike round to compete the rest of the route in a big gear and got to feel the crowds on Solar Hill.
After the Roth disappointment I settled back into training, getting as much open water swimming in as possible at Hatfield, long weekend rides and long runs. By mid-August I felt ready to race again, keeping the training going and not getting injured was a hard balance an Achilles niggle started to get worse, so I knocked back the running. Did an, 18 miles run beginning of September and then no more running until race day, trying to protect the Achilles tendon.
Arriving in Callela, the weather looked perfect. The Ironman stadium and tents were erected on the beach. I registered Thursday afternoon. Friday, I had a short swim in the sea, at 8:20 am race start time, perfectly flat warm sea, about 21 degrees. Followed by a recce of the bike course. No wind and smooth roads, although a lot of traffic, other cyclists having a recce.
Race day, – Assembled on the beach, to the rousing soundtrack of Iron Maiden and AC/DC to before the rolling start commenced with the Pros setting off at 8:00. I was in the 1:20 pen, watching the faster pens run down the beach and into the water and spread out towards the first buoy. It was soon my time to be released down the beach 2 steps in the water and then into strokes. The rolling start pretty much worked, I had clear water out to the first buoy, 300 metres done, right hand turn to the long leg 1900 metres. It was a long 1900 metres going against a current and the water was a bit choppier then it had been the day before. Past each buoy there was bunching, needing some elbow use to keep position. The return straight with the current behind us was much easier. After the final turn back to the beach down a narrowing funnel I did get a bit lost in traffic. Out of the water in 1:23, happy with that, but I felt really sick, assumed it was too much salt water swallowed. Managed to throw up before going into the T1 tent to change out of wetsuit. Space was a bit limited, but stayed focused and collected bike and out in 7 minutes.
The first 3 K on the bike, was restricted to no overtaking and no aero bars, but there is always one. He lost a drinks bottle that skidded across the road in front of me, needing quick reactions to avoid. Thoughts of the Roth incident crossed my mind. Once on the course properly, quickly got into a comfortable pace and headed to the far turn point for the first time. There was plenty of yellow cards being given out to drafters, I counted more than 20 in the first penalty box as I went past.
Avoiding drafting was really hard on this course. This course has been forced upon the IM organisation because of the Catalan independence referendum due to take place the day after.
First lap completed in 2.5 hours without incident, I managed to glimpse Nicola shouting at me, on the turn roundabout. I was beginning to feel very sick, but kept going. After only a few miles of second lap, I got a puncture, front tyre. Managed to fix OK, but my stomach was really complaining now, and had to throw up. Assuming this was reaction to gels, even though I was using the same regime I always do I carried on, but was clearly losing energy rapidly. I tried to keep hydrated and feeding myself but had to stop several more times before completing the 2nd lap. Just a half lap to get through, the outward against the wind was tough, but final leg with tail wind soon arrived and I could go back through town to T2. Nicola was manning one of the more violent speed bumps and shouted encouragement as I headed through the last 1km.
Finally, on the run, I set off out of T2 towards the finish line. The crowds were amazing very close to what is quite a narrow path. The run is 3 laps, no bands were being used, so there was no way of knowing what lap anyone was on.
The route headed out along the beach path, mostly tarmac, with a bit of rougher gravel. A couple of double backing loops under the railway line and heading out to the edge of town and beyond. Then back to complete the first full lap round the palm trees at entrance to the finishing shoot. Towards the end of the first lap my stomach started playing up again, I forced myself to throw up, before a feed station, so I could immediately try and hydrate again. I was taking water and Iso at each feed station and taking a gel. My energy levels were still getting low. As I started the 2nd lap I spotted Nicola, she told me to man up and get my arse in gear. I dug in a got around the 2nd lap aided by a heavy rain, which kept me cool. However, there was now loads of puddles across the roads, the underpass under the railway was ankle deep in water. I had a little splash dance through it with another struggling competitor and carried on.
Completing the 2nd lap I saw Pete and Chris with medals round their necks and beer in their hands. Knowing, they had completed made me pick my feet and pace up, if only briefly, past the finish shoot for the last time, I set off on the last lap. It was dark now, and the runners were thinning out. I tried to focus on catching each person in front, slowly picking each one off. I was not going fast, but no one was overtaking me either. The last lap was hard, found myself walking slower through the feed stations and walking a bit further past them. Finally, the 41Km marker came into view, zipped up my top and started thinking about making space between the person behind and in front so I could enjoy the downhill run onto the grandstand carpet and get my Ironman photograph.
Completed in 13:54, a lot slower than I hoped, but with a puncture and still dodgy stomach I was happy to be done.
This is my last Long distance race. It has been a long year of training, Nicola has put up with my training and the time it takes away from all the things we should be doing together for too long. Next year standard distance and a couple of 70.3, will be more than enough.

Final notes.
Turns out I had a sickness virus, I got worse Sunday and had to call a Doctor Monday. Was unable to fly home, so we had a couple more days in Callela. We saw plenty of Catalonian Independence referendum demonstrations and road blocks, but fortunately did not witness any of the violence seen on television.

Ironman Wales race report – Pete Tindall

 

Entering this event was probably very late and as someone mentioned, “very stealth”. There are many reasons for a such a late entry, but I will not bore you with them on this report, as in 2 weeks time, I will be competing in IRONMAN Barcelona.
Entering Wales the Saturday before the event was very last minute , I was fit and had no injuries and felt good.
The week up to the race had now become a logistic nightmare, travelling down and booking accommodation and by Tuesday evening everything had been sorted. Training wise, I took it steady and kept the muscles turning. Traveled down on the Friday afternoon, which took longer than excepted due to an accident on the M1. Finally arrived at hotel number 1 and went out for a quick walk to stretch the legs and grab some food. Saturday arrived and up at 6am, to go and register for 8am. Registration was very quick, as I was one of the first there. Then it dawned on me, that there was no turning back. I collected my wrist bands and goody bag and the nerves set in.
Decided to take a walk round Tenby and to get my bearings. The practice swims where under way. While walking to the beach area, I bumped into John Chambers and Paul McEwan. Passed on words of encouragement and was great to see familiar faces. So, I went for a big breakfast and read the itinerary. Next job to go to the car and sort out my bike and equipment for the days event. This took awhile, as I had to keep checking and double checking. Then headed off to transition, where I was to rack my bike and hang the blue and red bags up. (Blue for bike equipment and red for running gear).
Checked that, I had put the bags on the correct hook about 10 times and went out to double check my bike. Decided to leave the tyres pumped up at 100psi. Weather forecast had shown up a very nice low pressure and high winds. Prefect for racing in (NOT). One last check of the transition area, before heading out and collecting my timing chip. I Bumped into Paul and we discussed the transition area while having a lot of bike envy. Shuck hands and wished each other a safe race and off we went our separate ways. The nerves had set in, so went for a walk before bumping into another familiar face, Ashley Evans. Good chat and few giggles which settled the nerves. Just got walking again and bumped into Dean Kirkham eating a cream bun. Dean lively as ever gave me a few tips and encouragement.
Back to the car and booked into hotel number 2 and there I just chilled and took the weight off my feet. Next was to get the numbers stuck on my arms and make sure all alarms where set for 4am for breakfast. Had a late dinner that night, which was not in my plan but never mind. Get to bed and rest for big Sunday.
The alarms went off and this was it. Get ready and down for breakfast. Check everything and head off to the car and drive into Tenby before the roads close. Parked up and grabbed wetsuit, goggles, pink swim hat and trainers and my nutrition for the day (nutrition consisting of cheese onion crisps and pasta sandwiches – it’s the future).Headed off to transition to check bike over and rack the water bottles/nutrition onto the bike. Final check and headed into the crowd with my pink transition bag. (Pink bag for trainers, due to transition been 1km away from the swim). Looking at the timing boards of where to place myself, I took up around 1hr15 marker. As I walked through Ashley Evans stood there smiling and looking excited.The Welsh national anthem played out and the atmosphere sent goose bumps through you. The mass of competitors, walked through the town and down to the waters edge and as we did everyone hung their individual pink bags up on their allocated hook.
Swim hat on and goggles on and few stretches. Count down began and the pros where set off. Not long after us amateurs where released. Into the water we go and the temperature was good and it was not to rough. Found position on the outside of the group to steady myself and find my rhythm. First buoy coming up and felt ok and nothing to worry about apart from seeing jelly fish. Lap one went according to plan and a little run along the beach. Ashley Evans in front of me entering the water on the second lap. Felt good and back in I go. Just getting to the first buoy and had a little cramp but soon sorted itself out. As I got round the buoy, someone had turned the wave machine on. This messed my rhythm up but battled through it. Just took my time and made sure I got out safe. (Swimming for me is not fun). Out the water and a check of the watch 1hr24. I was happy and now to push on and get my trainers on and run to transition (T1). Running up to transition I remembered a saying from Majorca tri camp “on it, like a car bonnet” (room15). Running to transition, I felt good and the atmosphere was electric. Into the tent I go and picked my blue bag up and grabbed my helmet, arm warmers and cycling top. Stuffed my pockets with food and put my shoes on. A quick run to grab my bike out of the rack and out of transition. I noticed coming out of transition there were not many bikes left in the racks. (What the dickens, where is everyone). Only one thing for it and that was to hit the bike hard from the start.


The weather started off ok but soon became windy. I knew nutrition and water where key to the ride and I had split times and distance of when to eat. Was going well until 14 miles. Cramp set in on my left leg on a hill. Off the bike and stretched off and drank a bottle and half of fluids. I look to the side of me and there a farmer watched me and smiled, asking if I was ok. I reassured myself and replied “yeah, fine, all in a days work”. His quad bike did look tempting. Back on the bike and getting near the coast-line the wind became strong and gusty. ‘Head down and keep pushing on’. Spotted Ashley Evans on the way round and encouraged each other. The hills then came into play and I monitored the roads, as I knew I would see these again (2laps). The rain was coming down harder and made some of the hills tricky but I took chances on the bike and did not let up. Oil had been put on the course and had to slow down into single file, for a while. Then came the famous heartbreak hill. Wow the atmosphere was out of this world (tour de France springs to mind). But, I learnt something very quick. Don’t get off your bike on heartbreak hill, like the guy in front of me did. The crowd erupted into “this is heartbreak hill, you ride the hill, RIDE, RIDE, RIDE, RIDE, RIDE” and so he got back on his bike to a massive cheer. My legs where burning and just thought get up the hill and then relax. Rain still falling I pushed on and at 70 to 90miles became a stop/start affair (x3 toilet stops). Around 98 miles, I sat up to prep the legs for heartbreak hill and once up it was on to the run. Into transition (T2) and it was like déjà vu not many bikes. But this time it gave me confidence as I knew I had a good bike especially in the wind/rain and oil. Bike racked and into the tent to collect my red bag. Trainers on and gear away. Out onto the run for, 4laps. The crowds had grown and the atmosphere was just amazing. Bells ringing and people shouting your name gave you energy.Felt good for two laps then onto the cobbles when my right knee began to hurt and was suffering. Had to manage it and the wind along the top hill gave me that. I walked through the water stations and the part of the hill where the wind was gusty. Seeing John, Paul and Ashley was great as we encouraged and high fived. Band envy on lap 2 was very apparent. Then I spotted Lizzie, who had been with me from the start and it was great to see a smiley face. Lots of praise and told me to keep moving and just think only 2 laps to go. I was back running and managing my knee. Lap 4 came round and the final band collected. I had a finishing time in my head, which I had kept to myself and I was inside the time. Into the town for the final time and I found pace. On to the red carpet and did the air plane manoeuvre(offthatcouchfitness) down the finishing straight, high fiving the crowd.
Then came the moment, PETER TINDALL you are an IRONMAN. Boom I had done it. And very happy 13hrs 26mins 22secs.
The journey this year has been long and hard at times. When it gets tough, remember why you enjoy swimming, biking, running and have fun like a kid and eat lots of cake while out biking or dive bomb in the pool. When out running walk the hills and take in the views. Makes training easier.
Now just a little time out to say thankyou to Andrew Burrows and Chris store for pushing me and training with me. Steve Clark for the tips/advice #offthatcouchfitness. Dean Kirkham for advice/tips and encouragement. Not for getting room 15 (Majorca tri-camp crew).Lizzie for having to put up with me, over the weekend. Many thanks to all.There will be another report after Barcelona ironman.

Ironman Wales – Paul Mcewan

The Ironman thing started just before Christmas when my wife Steph wanted to book me one for a surprise xmas present. She sent out spies to find out which race I would prefer. Turns out I said conflicting things to different people so Steph brought up the subject with me and we planned my ‘surprise xmas present’. We or should I say Steph decided upon IM Wales as we could have a holiday out of it too.
So at the start of the year my goal was set. IM Wales in September. Of course that’s the ‘A race’ so to plan other race’s around it I didn’t have to change my routine much. I enjoy the local races and the timings of them seemed to fit in with the ‘A race’. I did Paul Kirk Sportive, flat & Fast Sportive, Scunny Half, Humber Half, Ancholme Sprint, Lincs Edge & Steelman. Oh, and Slateman too (Great hilly prep).
I was pleased with my physical performances at all them races I spent the year following the Offthatcouchfitness plan the best I could for maximum effect. My only downfall in a couple of these events was my notoriously bad sense of direction. (I could get lost in a pool! ….and I probably have.) Well it turns out there are 2 not 3 laps in’ The Edge Standard’ I did know this. I just couldn’t remember which turning to take back to transition. Also during the ‘Flat & fast Sportive’ I seemed to have trouble spotting the bright Yellow Luminescent arrow signs! That caused me to do a bonus 15 miles.
The year went by fast and  the A race was creeping up. A few weeks away from race day I had the big training weeks. Most days were: Work, train, Sleep, Repeat. Social stuff takes a back seat and time with the Mrs is seldom.  One of the biggest sessions in training was a 94 mile hilly bike followed by a 16 mile run. The bike was a great ride out in the Wolds. The run however took a turn for the worse after half way. Let’s just say I had to run for the bushes. That had never happened to me before & would become my biggest paranoia for race day.
So, race day is upon us. If your familiar with IM races you’ll know the day starts at silly o’clock with a breakfast & checking you have your goggles & swim cap 20 times. I got a lift down to race HQ with fellow Lincsquader John Chambers who was also doing the race. Ashley Evans & Pete Tindall were also competing. I walked down to the swim start with John soaking up all the atmosphere and quietly containing my nervous flatulence within my wetsuit. It was a rolling start into the swim which made for a less congested start to the race. The sea was ‘in my opinion’ very calm. I can say this because the week before myself & John swam in the sea at Cleethorpes which can only be described as a ‘washing machine’. With that in mind this swim was uneventful really (apart from busting for a pee all the way round) there was a bit of swell in the second lap that made it hard to see the buoys but even I managed to find my way round. I glanced at my watch on exit of the water and was pleasantly surprised at the swim split.
Just a mere 1k run into transition & a really refreshing long pee. (My first of many….I reckon 8 overall). I had a nutrition plan which was discussed with the coach. I stuck to this the best I could. It was basically to eat and drink at regular intervals especially on the bike as its easier to digest food etc etc…. The only thing with drinking a lot is that you pee a lot. I would rather have this than fatigue and cramps. So, on the bike I go. The weather seemed pretty standard to start with. Overcast and a bit of wind. Then it just seemed to get progressively worse with the wind picking up and some heavy rain into the mix. Now I
don’t mind the hills its part of the attraction to IM Wales. I like the challenge of climbing. However, my Achilles heel are the descents. I am just too cautious, especially in bad weather conditions (oil on the road on a couple of descents). I spent most of the downhill sections gripping my breaks like my life depended on it. To make things interesting my chain was coming off every time I changed back into top cog. Luckily I could change down to rectify it without stopping. This however would become frustrating after a dozen times & make me paranoid about a DNF because of a mechanical failure.
Another factor to think about in these long-distance races is of course, pacing. Without a fancy power meter, the heart rate monitor is the next best thing. I didn’t trust mine so I went by feel. I must say despite the weather conditions I did really enjoy the bike. The support of the spectators on the climbs & through Tenby was phenomenal. I was made to feel like a famous athlete on the Tour De France and it felt good! Towards the end of the bike leg I must admit I was starting to look forward to the run. I knew that on the run I had less chance of weather or any external factor getting in the way of me and that finishers medal.
Into transition again and another ridiculously long pee, a change of footwear and onto the run. I held back enough on the bike to feel comfortable starting the run. As I mentioned before the spectator support for this race is just awesome. This is what gets you through the run. I should at this point thank my wife, in-laws & father for coming all this way to support me. I looked forward to their cheers every lap. Just like on the bike, pacing & nutrition was key. So, I carried on with the regular intake of fluids & a gel at every feed station. All the time making sure I don’t blow a gasket. I managed not to go out too fast at the start of the run which was a concern of mine but it turns out after 112 miles on the bike your legs are tired. That helped me keep my pace in check. Three laps in and I managed to keep the pace regular. In fact, the fourth lap turned out to be the quickest! I spotted John and Ash on the run and exchanged encouraging words. I managed to catch up with Ash on the last lap which I wasn’t expecting as he looked to be running strong when I saw him earlier. My favourite part of the run was high fiving all the kids on the way past, again feeling a bit like a celebrity. And so the time came on the fourth lap where the finishing chute is in sight. As much as I enjoyed this race it had to end sometime and I was ready for it. I regret not slowing down on the red carpet to soak up the glory but it was all good. I made it to the line in a time of 13:43:01. Happy with that for an IM debut with a rough bike leg.
Firstly, many thanks to the wife not only for booking the race but for putting up with all that comes with it. Being a ‘triathlon widow’ as she calls it. Many thanks to offthatcouchfitness Steve Clark. The man with the plan! And thanks to all the fellow lincsquaders for their help and comradery.
Would I do it again? Yes I would. However, there is now a little McEwan cooking as I speak so my available to train will diminish. I will return one day to IM Wales but for now its all about somebody else’s toilet breaks.

Slaying the Dragon by Ash Evans

We are stood on cold wet sand from heavy rain the previous night and penned in amongst other nervous looking men and women in neoprene and pink swim hats, goggles in their hands ready to start their attempt at slaying the Welsh dragon that is Ironman Wales.
The Welsh National anthem sounded out and the crowd erupted around us, if felt like we were heading into battle and then they played it on the speakers, my anthem, Ironman’s anthem, the first lyrics pretty much some up my feelings on that beach. That anthem is ACDC’s Thunderstruck.
If you have been to an ironman event I can almost guarantee you will hear it. I most cried on right there on that beach in Tenby, it had suddenly become real.
I was going to attempt to become an Ironman. What on earth am I doing here? Lets Rewind.
Two years before a conversation in the office at work lead to me to focus on this goal, Matt Austin and Darren Scutt wanted to complete a half Ironman distance. I decided at that point in the back of my brain I would become an ironman in 2 years, just how and when I didn’t know?
I made a plan I would tackle a Half ironman (outlaw half) 1st year -> Marathon (York Marathon) end of 1st year -> Ironman (Weymouth) 2nd year. I hadn’t realised how much of a journey this would be of self-discovery and how life just likes to throw you curve balls for the hell of it.
The deviations started immediately at the Scunthorpe and District running club end of year awards, they awarded me the ballot prize of a place for London marathon 2016, I had never run a marathon and hadn’t intended to do one until after the Outlaw half.
Entry opened for Outlaw half, in minutes the places were gone, I’d missed it!
Here comes the second deviation, Ironman’s Staffordshire 70.3 opened. I wasn’t missing this 2nd chance, I entered and dragged the Matt and Darren in for the ride.
November 2015 Started following a coached plan for the Staffs and London, it didn’t start well I missed lots of sessions on training peaks as life was getting in the way and there were not enough hours in the day.
I increased my hours in the day be getting up earlier and those little red blocks started to change to green.
April arrived all to quickly London Marathon happened and in very brief, I had a good race hit the wall hard at 19 miles and came away with a sub 4 hour on the first go. The plan was working.
Fast forward, Six weeks out from with Staffordshire 70.3 on the horizon as my first goal point and half way toward becoming an ironman. I had been doing to the local Duathlon training races with Scunthorpe triathlon club for a while by this point. In the May I had a normal training race and I had been adding extra training to the plan with improvements coming thick and fast, Grantham triathlon on the weekend coming. Everything was going well!
It was at this point in the duathlon on the 2nd run back in that I tripped over and a slight pain appeared in my lower back. I assumed over training. Unbeknownst to me what I had just done was partially slipped a disc in my back.
The dull pain continued for days so I popped some ibuprofen and raced Grantham Triathlon. It was 2.5k into the run as I dropped off a curb I became concerned. There were my feet below me I could see them moving, but I could not feel the pounding of the tarmac. I didn’t dare slow the finish came and I lay on the floor my back was in spasm, I went to bed and the next day I was crippled and unable to get out of bed. Sarah helped me from the bed I was broken.
I went to go see an osteopath on recommendation from Darren. The osteopath confirmed the partial slipped disc in my back, righted it, no running for a week only gentle other exercises.
I also had gained a limp, the second session the following week a quick tug and click and the limp was gone, gentle exercise allowed, but no big distances, swimming was allowed.
I eased off the training and at each session with the oestopath making me better, for the last 2 weeks up to Staffordshire I prayed I would be ok. On the last session and one last click it felt like the disc slip had never happened.
Staffordshire 70.3 arrived but I did not do a race report after… Why? Darren Scutt’s race report summed it up and I was proud of him, I didn’t want to steal his limelight and it had meant so much to him (it is worth a read) and true my journey wasn’t finished .
In very short run down here is my Staffordshire experience I had great lake swim, it was wet for the entire bike start to finish but no wind. The run was a partial off road run (which I hate) it was hard but I loved the entire race with a strong finish of 05:43.01 sub 6 hours. I was happy!
Fast forward to October 2016 I ran York marathon in a time of 3:47.12 hitting the wall at 20 miles and blanking the rest of the race but I was getting faster!
I started to plan the next part of the journey waiting for Ironman Weymouth to open, but there seemed to be a problem, it still wasn’t open? I waited but all the comments seemed to be it wasn’t going ahead. I looked for another event toward the end of the year and there it was Ironman Wales.
I knew Wales would be hilly, I knew the weather has its moments there. Do I want to enter this? I hit the regist er button. I immediately regretted that decision as I it sunk in the difficultly of the course and ironindex ranking of 2nd toughest and my biking wasn’t the best.
I needed a new plan to improve my biking, I decided the best way to keep myself motivated was to enter longer sportives. Tour of the peak in Derbyshire was booked to tackle some hills and was I coerced into Coast to Coast in a day. The final event to book was the long course weekend on the same course as Ironman Wales (except the run) but over 3 days what a great recce chance!
I wanted a coach that had the ironman experience under their belt enter offthatcouch’s Steve Clark to guide the plan.
Again this planning didn’t start well, work and life in general getting in the way. I started to get on track and at the end of January 2017 disaster also the week of the Lincsquad awards.
In a circuits session I did a burpee (squat jump) and a small twinge in my back. The next morning I had pain in my back, I got up, blacked out and collapsed in a heap naked on the floor unable to move. I thought in that moment this there is no way back from this. Sarah called an ambulance and lots of gas and air from the paramedics and into the ambulance and off to hospital they examined me.
I bet you cant guess… yes a slipped disc and they gave me some very strong pain killers and said it will heal in 6-8 weeks of no exercise. Back to the oestopath who set me on my way to recovery. I collected my ‘Most improved’ award at the Lincsquad award ceremony with a hobble, the irony, thank you everyone that voted for me though!!
So the oestopath told me ‘you can swim that is all’. 4 clicking and popping sessions and 2 weeks of only swimming, a 6-8 week injury sorted in 4 weeks. Back to training!
Massive congratulations were heralded as I found out I was to be a father from Sarah, the due date? August 30th, Ironman Wales date? September 10th it’ll be fine… oh and we decided to move house so started living at my parents.
Skip forward to June 2017 my health is good, I am the fittest I have ever been, there have been many group long rides and I just feel good. Tour of the peak is done and here come the two biggest ‘training’ events coast to coast in a day and 2 weeks later long course weekend and I am still at my parents and Sarah is getting steadily more pregnant.
These events are my marker if I can do these I can ‘Slay the dragon’ in Wales for real in September.
Coast to coast caught me out a little because I thought I was going to be in a group, it turned out I end up riding with no-one for the first 50 miles and hit a dark place. Rich Robinson appear and rode with/shielded me for the next 65 miles which pulled me through (thanks Rich!) and the last part on my own I found my strength was on the descents and maintaining inertia was a lesson for the future. The pace was hard the distance was tough and I felt like I had earned my stripes 10:12:09 pleased.
Next up was long course weekend, Friday is the 2.4mile sea swim, Saturday is the 112 mile bike and Sunday is the 26.2 mile run. If you enter all 3 full distances together in the ‘long course weekend’ you can have a 4th medal all the medals are stackable into a 3D image. The course is almost the same swim and bike as wales Ironman but the run is completely different. I was using it as a recce for Ironman and was out to enjoy it.
This was my first experience of Tenby and I can honestly say that it is a beautiful place and the locals (mostly) love triathlon and sports in general. I also cannot recommend Long course weekend enough.
The swim on the Friday starts at 7pm which throws a spanner into your nutrition straight away, I ate my main meal at midday and brought a sandwich for the end. The sea water was like a millpond incredibly calm.
It was a mass start with fireworks and smoke in the water, this smoke was awkward with my breathing and I could almost taste the blue colouring. Lap 1 went well and I only had elbows with one person and poor sighting due to an awkward anchored boat. Out the sea and run across the beach in an aussie style exit. Lap 2 was good as well the boat had moved, but I swam over a jellyfish which was a big as a dustbin lid (the rumours are true!) back to shore and I swam up and sliced my hands on Gosscar rock, out to the finish one down first medal. Massage and then to bed.
The bike set off the next day was 9am for the 112 miles it was a sunny calm warm day, excellent! I had enough nutrition to get around to half way on the course without stopping. Using my road bike now was a time to learn the course, I set of a little fast but reined it in, the hills were interesting with Wisemans bridge having a long slow drag, and Saudersfoot a short hill followed by a much longer drag after.
The first lap was generally pain free and as I rolled into Tenby to see Sarah at the feed station at 70miles I refilled all my nutrition and off again out on the next lap. On the second loop by the Templeton feed station a large group of Humber triathletes exited as I passed so, I tagged in with them for a while chatting. Picking the pace up I left a few of them and a few left me, rounded the corner for Wisemens for the final time and passed batman and robin on a tandem, the spectators throughout were ace what a great day! Massage and then rest of the day the kill and then bed my legs were starting to ache. Another medal down 1 more to go.
Sunday the marathon set off at 10am, a lay in! My legs were throbbing ‘lets dig deep again’. Off from the start was a run around Tenby the noise from the crowd was electric. Out of Tenby, then I hit it, at 3 miles ‘Penally heights climb’ for 0.6miles a climb which averages 7% gradient and max 12.8%. It quickly became about survival I walked every climb. Other competitors walking like zombies, the heat started to rise the sun was out we were in between sheltered hedge rows being cooked. I took on additional water where I could. I struggled all the way round and although a very steady marathon I was please to just finish, at least Ironman isn’t as bad as that I thought (how wrong I was). Three medals and now for the special 4th medal.
The town was frenzied as we stood in our long course t-shirts every athlete was called up and we were given our 4th medal (I even made the tv!) we lined the cetre of town and the winners walked through us to the podium it was brilliant!
I was seriously thinking at the start of August, I wasn’t going to be able to start Ironman Wales maybe our baby would be late? Would I have to hold on to the long course experience as the so near but so far? However baby was in breech position (the wrong way up)and after trying to turn them and the decision was made for us and they wanted to join the world on the 12th .
On the way to the operating theatre for the caesarean section Sarah turned to me and said ‘at least you can complete Wales now.
Well there was no going back now. Sarah believes in me I will be there. Hollie Scarlet Evans was born 23:49 and was like an atomic bomb on my life, work and training.
Still living with my parents, no new house sorted and baby all in one room, the sleepless nights ensued. I tried to train and found I was so weak. I asked my loving wife and parents for one request, 1 week out before the race please let me sleep in the front room on a camp bed to recover my stamina, they agreed.
Here it is the race weekend has arrived 5:30 hours in a van with Hollie now 4 weeks old and Sarah we arrived at registration, 15 mins before it closed, as I exited the van my baby daughter did what can only be best described as exploded. Cue long agitated Sarah calling me in the queue to ask how long I would be. Collection of my 7 bags for raceday.
I stayed at the same guest house as long course but due to a no under 2’s rule Sarah had to stay 10 miles away lucky her father came down and made it easier for me (thanks Rob).
Saturday Bike racked into transition before I had left I had attached pictures to my top tube of Sarah and Hollie I didn’t realise how much I would need these, I exit with my timing chip in hand.
At the race briefing we were told to preferable NOT use aero wheels due to high winds forecast and 90% chance of rain all day. Chrissie Wellington takes to the stage and asks us all if anyone is s**ting themselves… I raise my hand. She assures us apparently that’s ok!
Easy evening and race day pizza I am buzzing and go back for an early night, one last check of my kit.
Where is my timing chip? Then it hit me it was in the van about a mile away, new problem Sarah has the keys to the van 10 miles away. Sarah’s dad drove back to Tenby to pick me up to get to my van and collect the chip. Crisis averted (thanks Rob!) so much for an early night.


Race day I couldn’t sleep up at 3am breakfast at 4am the guest house owner drives us to the start she is as excited as me and she isnt doing it! We line up according to swim time, I look around in my pink swim hat and neoprene and

amazingly Pete Tindal from Lincsquad is stood next to me, we exchange chat but my mind cant think of anything but this is crazy. There are two other squadders here somewhere I don’t see them Paul Mcewan and John Chambers. We start to walk to the beach through the town and down to the sand and I see sarah on the way.
The swim with the rolling start isnt too bad I try to get into a steady rhythm but people keep grabbing my feet and elbowing me, we round the first buoy another boat in the wrong place! I sight using the kayaks at the edge of the course instead, round the next buoy back toward the shore it doesn’t feel fast but its going to be a long day. Out across the beach the sand feels difficult to run on so I walk. The second lap and my stomach hurts, I need to pee and I just can’t let it flow. 2 swimmers swim over me, we round the bouy the sea is getting choppy and in the depths I see 2 jellyfish. We round the buoy back to shore no drama up the ramp and find my pink bag with my trainers all while stripping off my wetsuit, I run past Sarah and smile. This runs to transition seems to be taking forever and my stomach hurts so bad.
Into the transition tent I take my time making sure I have all my nutrition (I’ve found the in the past the on course nutrition makes me ill so I cant use it) then to the loo. Seriously like a 10 minute pee and on to the bike.
The bike goes well I exit in quite a large group and try not to draft at any point I do not want a DQ today. The wind increases roaring in my ears averaging 25mph and maximum 40mph, it is all head wind for the first hour and a half I try to use my added tri bars and nearly get blown off the bike on several occasions, the ground is wet and on a descent with a sharp bend near Angle I almost crash.
Pete passes me on the bike looking strong after Angle, I havent seen John or Paul and as I keep ploughing on it feels like the headwind turns with me. I hit a section I recognise from long course and remember my speed of 18mph from then I look down 9mph my heart sinks, the rain starts.
The rain is relentless and the wind is too, every bump feels twice as hard as long course but the crowd even in the middle of nowhere keep cheering us on.
At 40 miles approximately in my back starts to hurt from pushing through the wind and then the darkness looms, I start talking to myself urging my body on. I look down and see my pictures of Hollie and Sarah, I must get back. I resort to standing on the pedals backside of the seat and sprinting to let the pain in my back go for a second. I do this from 60 miles from the end of the bike. On the next big descent there is a sign ‘OIL’ marshals are screaming wildly to slow down. Some idiot has dumped oil on the course, as if it isnt hard enough.
I get to Saundersfoot and hit the bottom of the hill the crowd is remarkable as I am pushing hard to get up it narrows to a bike width spectators are screaming at you ‘come on ASHLEY you have got this you will be an ironman COME ON!’ it feels like Tenby and its people wants you to slay the dragon. I dig deep. Back through Tenby on to the second lap I am on my own. The rain is still falling I climb a long drag after Pembroke castle squeeze a gel and it explodes in my face sticking my eye lashes together, this becomes the only time I am thankful for the rain. I am willing myself back to Saundersfoot as I want to experience that crowd again, I start asking anyone what the cut off is – I am in a dark place. The rest of the lap is hard work being blown about, small hills feeling like mountains. I come back into Tenby one more hill I am broken already I look up and see Sarah I will finish this. Back in to transition.
The marshal comments we look like we have been in battle they are not wrong. A slow change another long pee back out as I exit the announcer reads the Lincsquad and announces to the crowd “lincsquad a club that thinks three sports aren’t hard enough” and I laugh.
I round the corner to exit Tenby and Sarah is there I tell her the crowd is awesome a give her a salty kiss, off toward the hill up to new hedges. I walk up the hill, this is the game plan walk up the hill collect a band, jog down and jog through Tenby high fiving all the kids and power signs this seems to work. I see Paul and John on the downhill both are looking strong. The crowd in Tenby seem to have been getting merry while we have been out on the bike. The cycle continues and Paul seems to be catching me up, by the down hill on the third lap I have nothing, my garmin dies and as Paul passes me I wish him luck. As I walk through the centre I flash a grimace/smile and try to jog 100 people shout back at me you have got this Ashley you will be an ironman it pushes me on I get back to jogging.
The fourth and final band I am on my way back up for it the wind picks up and it starts to rain, I will not break now. I get my band and a glow stick pointing at my arm as I pass all the spectators who have been cheering me on they go nuts each and every time. I round the final corner and there it is my red carpet moment I lap it up and am dazed when I finally stop and speak to Sarah I have no idea what I said. I just sat in the recovery tent listening to all the other battle worn competitors feeling triumph in my heart.
I feel like I have gone 10 rounds with that dragon and he finally gave up the prize of my Ironman medal speaking to others who have done it before that is the tough conditions ever experienced and I made it. That gives me a massive sense of pride. It will forever stick in my heart those immortal words ASHLEY EVANS YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
Thank you to everyone that has supported me on this journey and all of you that believed, you all know who you are and I hope show my appreciation to you all for being there.

Ironman Wales 2017 – John Chambers


I entered Wales Ironman late in 2016, my first Ironman with a view to completing a few events in the build-up to the main event in September. First event of the year was Brass Monkey half marathon with a PB on a cold wet January morning, followed by Manchester marathon in April which I had a reasonable but disappointing run due to a glute strain half way round. Onwards and upwards to the first of my big races of the year – City to Summit, Edinburgh to Fort William. An Iron distance duathlon not for the feint hearted with only 49% of people making it to Fort William. 3 weeks later (legs still tired) I took part in Thuderun – a 24 hour 10km relay race. Weather conditions were atrocious and of the four laps I completed, 3 were like running in gravy it was that muddy!
With all this in the bank, training was going extremely well for Wales up until 2 weeks before race day where I went over on my ankle whilst running. Luckily after an x-ray, it wasn’t broken just ligament damage causing massive swelling and bruising from half way up my calf down to my toes. My foot looked like it belonged to a zombie!
With this in mind it took the pressure off me on race day as I knew I wouldn’t be able to push for a time and I could actually relax. I slept well the night before waking just before the alarm at 0345, breakfast and in transition for around 0530, final check of the bike and wetsuit on ready for the off!
Being a self-seeded swim start I decided to aim for 1:20 – 1:25. I was lined up on the road waiting for the procession to move to the swim start, I checked my watch and it felt a bit loose so I went to tighten it and the strap broke – great! Luckily I still had my swim to T1 transition bag so put it in there for safe keeping. From this point onwards I was blind from any data on the swim, bike or run.
I exited the swim feeling comfortable (apart from the run on the sand between to two laps due to my ankle) in a time of just over 1:25. The swim was relatively calm but became a bit choppy on the out leg of the second lap as the swell increased somewhat.
I saw my family and support crew as I ran to transition. Before I went out on the bike, I was planning on painkillers to get me
through, but even though I had packed them I couldn’t find them. The bike leg started off well and I managed to make some time up into the wind on the way out to Angle and the first of the big laps round Saundersfoot was going well (apart from the severe wind) until on the second lap the pain in my ankle returned which slowed me right down as I couldn’t push on the hills. I finished the cycle in 7:24, an hour or more than I originally had planned. Back into transition and still no sign of the pain killers! I later found them in my cycling shoe when I was unpacking my gear when I got home! I started the run which initially I had a shooting pain in the lower of my leg which went numb to it after an hour or so but I was unable to run uphill, or at any great pace downhill. Wrist band envy became the nature of the run as I passed other athletes going in the opposite direction. I saw a few guys who I knew who were in front of me as it was good to see some familiar faces a few hi-5’s and a quick chat encouraging each other on. Finally I had my yellow band and only 2.5 miles to run downhill back in to Tenby. As I turned the final corner looking towards the finish line (which you have to run past 3 times prior to finishing – mental torture!), I was overwhelmed to hear those magic words “John Chambers you are an Ironman!” It was a relief to see my brother at the finish line who I think had nearly endured as much as I had having to watch me run in pain for over 5 hours, the feeling was quite overwhelming. 15:03 wasn’t the time I was hoping for or normally capable of but without the pressure of being able to or having to chase a time, it gave me the opportunity to really soak up the experience and make the most of the day. The support through the town throughout the whole day was awesome, I felt like everybody knew me cheering me on (it did help I had my name on my race number!).
I cannot explain in words what the atmosphere was like in Tenby as the whole town just embraces it, I have experienced nothing like it, especially as the Welsh National anthem was sung prior to the swim start by what felt like to whole town was spine tingling.
Thanks as usual to Steve Clark at OffThatCouchFitness for expert guidance and coaching and my support crew, Tim Bulman and the legend that is Dave Jackson who I am glad I could share my Ironman experience with.
Here’s to next year with a return visit to slay the dragon hopefully this time not on a dodgy foot, and finally, best wishes with the new arrival to Steve and Emily.
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Ironman Wales race report – Matt Bagshawe

The unexpected Ironman

My entry to Ironman Wales was probably at short notice compared to most competitors. As a poor runner I had planned my 2017 season around working on that weakness and the progression was supposed to go ½ marathon > ½ IM > marathon, with a full Ironman to come in 2018. With Steve coaching since January we’d successfully crossed off the Retford half marathon and then Woodhall sprint tri as a warm up.
With a respectable time at Woodhall I knew I was in good form for the Castle Howard half iron in July, but as I set off for race weekend I could feel an illness coming on. Sure enough come Saturday evening I had the full set of cold symptoms and even as I sat sticking race numbers on my kit I knew there was no way I could race. I was so disappointed but Steve’s response to my DNS message was typically to the point: ‘rest, recover and find another’. Exactly what I needed to be told.
Now I don’t remember the thought process exactly but somewhere over the following couple of days the idea of replacing my failed ½ with a full IM set in. After some more discussion with Steve and some bargaining with the family I finally signed up for IM Wales with around 6 weeks to race day. Having lost nearly two weeks to illness, with no sea swimming experience and having never run more than a half marathon, this was going to be a challenge. Steve was there again with the concise encouragement… ‘Showtime’.

Race morning
Standing in transition at 5:30am on a cold and damp Welsh morning I suddenly realised something surprising: I was calm. Training had gone well in the build up to the race and I felt ready to go. My race plan was simple if not ambitious: a 2:10/100m swim pace (well within my ability), conserve on the bike with a 65% intensity factor and then grind out the run with 11:00 – 12:00 minute miles. Basically, finish the race.
Swim
As we lined up for the march to the beach I seeded myself into the back of the 1hr20 swim group, reasoning that I could take it easy and settle in without getting swum over by too many faster starters. This worked out nicely and I was quickly able to find some space and get into a rhythm before starting to move up a few places.
Sea conditions on lap 1 felt OK if a little choppy further out in the bay. Somehow by lap 2 a much bigger swell had developed and I could feel myself being moved around and even thrown together with fellow competitors at times. Although this was probably nothing, with my limited sea swimming experience it felt like I was in an episode of Trawlermen. Even so it was great fun and I exited the water in 1:21, right on schedule.
Reaching the top of the cliff on the run to T1 I was amazed to see so many supporters; the atmosphere was incredible. After a very steady transition (lots of “did you lose your bike” type jokes came later) I was out onto the bike course.
Bike
The bike is my strongest discipline and I knew that this leg would be all about self-control. The target was 65% IF which meant sticking to around 200W on the power meter. However, the legs felt so good in those early miles that I quickly hit 75% IF and had to force a steady period to get back on track. Evidently a lot of competitors had the same idea because the first 20 miles or so felt like a race in slow motion.
The forecast high winds and rain came true and on a TT bike with deep section rims this was starting to feel a bit lively. The loop out to Angle was the most exposed and it became a game of spotting the gaps in the hedge and bracing against the inevitable wind blast. Once onto the second loop it was less about the wind and more about the road surface; wet and muddy with oil in places it took some serious concentration to stay upright. The regular climbs became a welcome respite from this and again the support from the crowds here was incredible.
I finished the bike leg in just under 7:22, slower than expected but not bad given the conditions. More importantly I’d hit my target 65% intensity and the legs were still feeling fresh as a result. As I headed into T2 I passed my parents and got a great lift from seeing some familiar faces. Now for the really tough bit…

 

 

Run

Straight out of T2 I was feeling great. Passing my parents again and the roar from the rest of the crowd was pushing me on and as I started on the winding course around Tenby I checked my pace: 8:30/mile! Ok I’d better ease back slightly. Having got myself together I set about maintaining the planned 11:30 or so pace. On reaching New Hedges I picked up my first lap band which felt like a win in itself, but this euphoria quickly faded as I started counting multiple bands on others around me. Damn.
As the light faded and temperature dropped it was becoming a war of attrition. As the laps went on there seemed to be as many people walking as running, many with foil blankets and too many by the roadside receiving medical attention. This was the most brutal sporting event I’d ever witnessed, let alone raced, and anyone who even took the start that day has my total admiration.
I was going well enough except for the odd low spell where I would have to dig in to keep running. During these spells I had a fragment of the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling in my head to keep me going:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you except the will which says to them: ‘Hold On!’
By the time I came into Tenby for the last time I’d learnt not to count the lap as nearly over, with almost two miles still to wind around the town. Even in that terrible weather the crowds were still huge and so supportive. I think I counted my lap bands at least 5 times on the run up to the finishing chute, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. All I remember about crossing the line was releasing some kind of primal scream and seeing the announcer literally taking a step backwards before giving me that awesome phrase…
​​​YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!

Ironman Vichy 70.3 by Richard

Ironman Vichy 70.3, Saturday 26 August 2017

We travelled out to Vichy in a couple of groups, some taking the ferry and driving, and a few of us flying via Lyon on the Thursday evening, staying near the airport then hiring a car to drive to Vichy on the Friday morning. We arrived in Vichy by 10.00am having had a very relaxed journey; I’d recommend it logistically. Registration was straightforward, the overall set up is excellent at Vichy, it was then on to check in to accommodation, put a bike together, have a quick spin then return to the event to rack and attend the briefing. My only complaint is they align the briefing with the pasta party and it starts at 7.00pm the night before the race. The actual briefing didn’t finish until nearly 9.00pm and the tent was fairly warm to say the least!

Having fought with swimming since starting triathlon in 2016, I really felt it had been coming together and I was looking forward to seeing how much I’d progressed; I’d had a 44minute lake swim at Stafford 70.3, then 42minutes at Marlow half-iron distance which I’d treated as my last warm up event in July. Vichy has other ideas though and has been a non-wetsuit swim on a couple of occasions in the last few years. To be fair to the event they kept a constant stream of information on their Facebook page although it only became apparent on the Thursday evening that the practice swim scheduled for the Friday (before the Saturday event) was in an outdoor swimming pool rather than Lac d’Allier where the event swim would take place; there would also be no warm up swim in the lake on the day.

Come race day, the rather expected announcement came at 5.45am that it would be a non-wetsuit swim as the water temperature was 25.1 degrees. In some ways this reduced the stress of faffing with a wet suit and would obviously help in T1. That said, I’d never swum in just my tri-suit and had no idea how it might effect my swim overall.

We arrived in good time and sorted final bits with the bike; Vichy has the added benefit of providing access to both red and blue bags the morning of the event. I joined the queue for the rolling start and was looking forward to the race, the weather was excellent and everything had gone well so far. One consideration was how much slower I might be without a wetsuit and if everybody had joined the queue in the position they might swim in a wetsuit or without. Either way, it was crowded swim and difficult to get into a rhythm. The course is a one lap lake swim and very well marked and easy to sight which helped. I tried not to look at my watch too much and just grind it out. With about 400m to go I felt slight cramp in my left ankle which was strange and I put it down to kicking more and just focussed on getting out the water. I was out of the water in 45minutes and didn’t hang about through T1. Having settled onto the bike I was fairly happy all things considered, but knew that a good bike was needed to give me a chance of dipping under 5hours which was certainly an overall target.

 

The bike course is rolling with nothing overly steep. It was a hot morning and having cramped slightly in the water I possibly overcompensated and drank a fair amount – I knew I’d need to stop at some point but was hopefully I’d hold out until T2 or the run. The last 6-8km are all downhill and at that point I knew my average speed was on target, 22.1mph for the course and 2hours 33 on the bike. T2 was again fairly swift and as the facilities were in use I waited until the first opportunity on the run.

The run course is largely flat and along the river, with a short section through Vichy itself and a short section through the event set up. It’s well supported and not too crowded. I found a rhythm and tried to maintain a heart rate of about 160 for as long as I was still on target time-wise. I knew I had about 1hr 35 for the run to dip under five hours and kept a careful eye on where I was up to and how I was feeling. With 2.5km to go I pushed on slightly and then again with the final km. I knew I was under 5 hours coming into the finishing chute but was very happy to run in 1hr 32 and an overall time of 4hrs 57.15.

Overall, the Vichy swim is well set up and an easy route in and out of both T1 and T2, the only slight unknown is if wetsuits will be permitted for the swim. The bike and run course are both stunning and well supported – aid stations are well positioned and well run. I had a couple of friends doing the full IM on the Sunday so we stuck around to watch and support – again the full seems like an excellent event (two laps of the half course for the bike and run).

I’d targeted Vichy 70.3 as my A race for the year, and following a change of jobs in April, then Stafford 70.3 in the middle of May I decided I needed some help with scheduling training and making sure I was heading in the right direction; which is where Steve comes in. I haven’t been with Steve all that long but from the start it has gone well. I’d explained what I was trying to achieve and Steve set out training to suit my goals and work around trips away and times when I wouldn’t have access to a bike or a pool.

It’s been hugely helpful having the ‘having to think about it’ taken on by Steve, and just grinding through some sessions knowing if sessions are ticked off then I’m heading in the right direction. It was also reassuring when I couldn’t squeeze sessions in that Steve would move things around to suit and remove the less important sessions to ease the schedule slightly.

Having gone sub-5 hours and having felt very comfortable to the end of the run, it certainly seems to have worked. I’ll look forward to working out my 2018 events and working with Steve to see how I can achieve the best possible results.