My Marathon – John Chambers

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My marathon journey began in 2015. Having started cycling in 2011 when I joined ScottishPower and they were supporting the London to Brighton bike ride I thought I would give it a go. I remember thinking “26.2 miles is a long way!”, as it turns out it isn’t any more as having completed Coast to Coast on three occasions, twice in one day and once over two days, several of the local 100 mile sportives, a 400 mile charity ride over 3 days through work and then a 201 mile ride in a day it seemed I had this cycling lark cracked.  So what next? The logical step, well to me was to have a go at running again having done a bit in my youth – how hard could it be? In my initial runs my head was remembering my youth and thinking I should be running at world record pace, yet my legs and other bodily functions had different ideas!

This is where I engaged with Steve Clark to coach me towards my goal, as after one run i thought right, I am going to do and ironman! Cycling not an issue, swimming not the best but I had time to work on that (and still am) but I needed to know I could run a marathon before I started my Ironman journey.

2015 saw a good start to the year, Ferriby 10 miler in just under 75 minutes, not world record pace but not bad for my little legs but everything seemed to go downhill from there. I ran Gainsborough 10k in a slower pace than I had run Ferriby, which considering it is pan flat was shocking. In May, I had an operation on my shoulder (Sub acromial decompression) due to a partially torn ligament after falling off my bike (embarrassingly in my garage off my rollers) and had struggled with running more than 4 miles ever since due achilles tendonitis which continued to hamper me for 3-4 months after. A holiday in Florida seemed to cure this – walking miles every day and 6 runs in the humid heat, when I got home my achilles issues seemed to disappear – so on with the marathon training. It was always going to be difficult trying to cram training in for a marathon into 6 weeks but I was determined to complete it. Nearly all other training was dropped so I could focus on my running. Between 7th September and 16th October, I managed two 20 mile runs, 2 half marathons and many smaller runs in between. All went well considering, not pushing too hard but just enough to make sure I could complete the distance. My final 20 mile run in just under 3 hours gave me the confidence I could do this and I actually started to look forward to my marathon – some would say excited!

I travelled to Leicester the day before, with my training partner Mal Whitelam – an experienced runner but he was helping me to succeed in my goal. He had put up with a lot of moaning from me as we had pounded the streets, early mornings and late evenings but all good. Race day began with a 0630 alarm, a good solid 7 hours sleep served me well. Porridge and cereal bar for breakfast, and more importantly a cup of tea to get me going (plus a few dolly mixtures for good measure). We travelled to Victoria park early enough to get parked and we had about a 1 mile walk to the start – this served us well to keep me mobile having to walk back after we had finished. The start was delayed by 5 minutes, which was annoying as it was cold and had just started to rain. I was feeling  good at this point, apart from cold hands. My initial target (of many) was to run at 8:20/mile which would bring me in around 3:40 but as we started and got into our running, ended up being nearer 8:10/mile which would have brought me in around 3:35. I took gels at miles 6, 12, 18 and 21 carrying a bottle of lucozade sport up until mile 18 and taking on water at the feed stations every 3 miles. We went through half way in 1:48 – all was good but around mile 18/19, the wheels fell off a little as the elevation started to increase – basically it was uphill for the last 6 miles which started to take its toll on my legs.

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I had never run this far before. I think this is where I was suffering due to the short time to train, lack of long miles in my legs but I was determined to finish. I didn’t stop just slowed down to ensure I could keep moving. I realised my initial goal was going to slip by, but the way my legs were feeling (wooden) it was going to be a struggle but I pressed on knowing that all i had to do was keep moving. My last four miles were all 10 minute miles bringing me home in just over 3 hours and fifty minutes. Not bad for a first attempt, slightly disappointed that I missed my goal but pleased I had completed it nevertheless.

Now having completed my first, it’s time to look at 2017 and set new challenges for that, ultimately Ironman Wales in September 2017.

Many thanks to Steve Clark at OffThatCouch Fitness for his support and guidance, and for Mal Whitelam to listen to me moaning at him whilst we were training.

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Graham Cowan My Ironman Story

cert20x30-ibdy1896I’m an Ironman! That sounds really great, and for me I’m so proud, this was a step into the big league of triathlon and if I’m honest one I didn’t really think I could achieve.

It all started a couple of years ago when after several years of inactivity due to work commitments, the naturally competitive streak got the better of me and I decided I wanted to have a go at Triathlon

In my youth I had been fairly sporty and in my time in both the Army and the Police had competed at several sports to a decent level. My main achievements had come from running in which I had gained 2 British vests for cross country and track running. That however was a long time and at least 4 stone ago.

I contacted Steve Clark and Steve agreed to help and coach me. I really enjoy training but my current lifestyle with a full time job and our own family business, doesn’t lend itself to a lot of training time.

Steve and I discussed entering the Barcelona Ironman back in October 2015 shortly after Steve had competed there in a ridiculous sub 9-hour time. I discussed it with my wife who knows me better than anybody and even though she had her doubts due to the lack of time she supported my decision to enter.

Right, I had a year to train no problem!

If only that was true. Steve helped me with the training programme and monitored my progress with regular sessions with him. Being a client of OTCF was a great help, in addition I joined Linsquad and found everyone extremely helpful and real motivators.

In March I attended Tri camp in Mallorca, my first real test, a full on training week with some serious sessions.

Despite my apprehension, I really enjoyed it and met some great people out there all willing to help and advice.

Following Tri camp I continued to train but was finding the lack of training time a real problem, that added to a couple of injuries was beginning to give me doubts.

However, Steve and the Linsquad guys kept me at it.

I arrived at mid-September not in the best of shape (I’m not built like a triathlete) and had not run more than 10 miles due to injury.

The mighty Ironman was now very very daunting.

Race Day:

I had entered registered and turned up, stood on that beach in Barcelona with fellow Lincsquadders Steve Cannings and Dave Gibbs .I had kissed my wife and boys who all wished me luck.

The triathletes around me were all pensive but the atmosphere was great. Music playing and a bit of a party atmosphere.

I watched the pros go off then we shuffled forward in small groups to start our great adventure.

I was suddenly at the front at Beep, Beep, go!

Into the sea and start swimming, I had swum 2 miles previously and had swam in the sea, but I was still very nervous.

Swim was generally going well until I hit the turnaround buoys at about 2K. I then started to struggle and felt dizzy and sick. The waves were small but I felt every one of them.

Eventually I stopped and to my horror was physically sick (not pleasant) the lifeguards and rescue boats circled and had a long look at me. I had to dig deep and said to myself how much do you want this, head down start swimming I was off again.

The last 800ms was hard I could see the finish arch but felt awful.

I managed to throw up again, and again avoid being pulled out, I really had to grind that one out.

At the swim finish, I was helped out by the excellent support crew and ran/staggered up the beach into T1.

I saw my family cheering me on and I was instantly back in the game. A quick kiss with my wife and into T1

T1 was hard as I was still dizzy and not feeling great. I calmed myself down got some fluid and food on board and got myself together. It was a long transition but at least I was still in the race.

Out on the bike I heard a shout of encouragement from Shona Cannings and my son Harry. Out onto the course I was starting to feel better.

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Steve had told me the course was flat so I was growing in confidence, however I had gone out without drinks bottles so was eager to get to the first aid post.

Bike course was underway, through the first aid station fluid on and away, however then came a cheeky hill Steve had not told me about that!

Throughout the bike course I just worked aid station to aid station knocking off the kilometres.

Headwind second half but starting to believe. Hit the turnaround point feeling Ok in fact quite enjoying it.

Out onto second lap and this time I knew what to expect. Again aid station to aid station taking on fluid and food at each one.

6.40 on the bike and I was into T2

I was now so determined to finish I really wanted this and after that swim I told myself you deserve this

Coming from a running background I thought I could deal with the marathon despite my lack of running.

Out of T2 running kit on and actually feeling good. The first part of the run was heavily supported with cheering crowds. Again massive support from my wife and boys who continued to drive me on.

At the first turnaround a pro turned left onto the magic red carpet I could hear the crowd in the finish shoot cheering and the announcer shouting the famous words YOU ARE AN IRONMAN

Wow I wanted that stop bad 3 laps to do and I would have it

First lap was fine I was actually running. Second lap however started to hurt and I quickly found out what the Ironman shuffle was.

I told myself just work aid station to aid station. I did and took on gels food and fluid at each of them.

I then had the pleasure of finding out what effect so many gels have on your stomach, time for a toilet stop.

Lap 2 complete and my wife informed me I had 3 hours left to make the cut. I was filled with mixed emotion I was going to do it, I just had to keep moving.

Out onto lap 3 it was dark and lonely in places, but the crowd were excellent. Just keep moving I told myself you can do this

Ironman shuffle was on.

I got to the 40km point and I could taste it, I heard the crowd and could see the lights. I have to admit I was now very emotional and had to fight the tears as well now.

I turned onto the magic red carpet and the pain disappeared I was going to savour this moment.

The crowds were loud and cheering, I started to do the aeroplane and hand slap many, I then saw my wife and youngest son who were wild with excitement.

Then came the magic words:  GRAHAM COWAN YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!  What made that even more special was that the voice booming the words over the microphone was my son Bens

Wow that was special.

Unfortunately, the emotion hit me and I lost my battle with the tears, but, Graham Cowan YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!  13 hours 53 minutes.

I had done it despite all the fears and problems on route.

This was a truly memorable experience and I’m so grateful for all of those people who kept their faith in me especially Steve Clark at OTCF Linsquad colleagues and of course my biggest support and fans Theresa Harry and Ben my special family

Thank you all

I’m an ironman not bad for a fat lad who used to run a bit.

Graham Cowan.

Jordan Skelly 2016 season review

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The curtains for many of us now begin to draw on the 2016 mulitsport season. Many more inspirational journeys and wicked challenges have gone to the sword, with memories that we’ll keep with us for a lifetime.
Once again I’ve been fortune to part of the Britcon/Offthatcouchfitness Raceteam for 2016 with the much appreciated new support of local firm Britcon. With fellow team mates Steve Clark taking on the daunting challenge of Norseman, Steve Grocock taking on triathlons big stage at Kona and Ben Baugh showing the way with multiple wins across a variety of racing. That in itself is free motivation to pull some performances out the bag when it’s your turn to take the stage.
This year was always going to be tough to follow the best level I’d ever had in 2015. But drive to improve isn’t something I struggle with, even with a high level of frustration from injury. There was still a certain extent I could work at to still maintain a level for when it mattered.
For 2016 I’d basically only chosen races that really motivated me and felt I’d have something to prove to myself. This way on those days you’re body is telling you it’s not so keen to train, the focus to get it done anyway is so much easier if you really want it.
When the first signs of spring arrives there’s little hesitation to get the ball rolling. Was the injury recovered perfect…no. Was it capable of completing, yes. A couple of journeys between Cardiff and Germany, brought home a 3min PB at Half Marathon and a Gold in the European Duathlon Championships.
Not so bad then hey?!

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By working on the aspects I could control even if my left leg struggled, hope was still there for the rest of the season.
Temperatures warmed, open water swimming swiftly becoming a increasing feature in training..the triathlons were approaching at pace.
A busy 4 weeks from the end of May- June I’d be heading across to Portugal, and racing a 70.3 down in Exmoor and taking on the masses over in Leeds ITU.
More races and fortunately more results I could be satisfied with.
Firstly a Bronze in Lisbon matching Geneva last year, but most importantly proving to myself 2015 wasn’t a fluke.
Despite misfortune in Exmoor 70.3 with a disobedient chain/derailleur I can honestly say it was the day I’m most satisfied with from 2016. I’d built up one of the World’s toughest courses as something that would completely break me. But in truth I felt at no stage the race had the beating of me. A vast improvement from Vitruvian 2 years previous where I was a broken man.
That combined with the satisfaction of still finishing in a respectable position/time, despite a bike problem that would’ve put a end to most people’s races.
Leeds, well forgetting the hash they made of the race organisation. A fastest run split trophy amongst 3000 competitors was enough to put a positive on the day.
This season coupled with the main races, I had a blast at a couple of the Activities Away Aquathons. Brilliant training, great venue and good confidence builder in getting a couple of victories with a course record.
The plan was always to give July a opportunity of rest if required, a huge question mark hung over how my never fully recovering injury would cope with the racing demands. Still it wasn’t good enough to achieve the running I want to, but I’d still give it one last roll of the dice towards the British Championship in Liverpool.
A bump by a car a mere couple of days before Liverpool put these plans to bed. My shoulder in no condition to attempt a mass start punch up in the swim(or even swim for that matter).
In a way everything has a silver lining, this has given me opportunity to take focus on improving the useless left leg.
Combining the physiotherapy and the analysis of how I run on the treadmills at Blizard Physiotherapy with Jenny, hopefully come 2017 a ability to do running miles can once again come back. It might be a long process and frustrating, but nothing gets won or achieved by giving up!
2016 perhaps in terms of results has arguably been the best to date, yet there’s a distinct lack of satisfaction I could give my best level without training in running. One thing is for certain I’ll keep striving to acheive that satisfaction once again.
Looking towards next season the basis of the targets are the same, choose venues/races that really appeal. Maybe target a trip to Canada for Duathlon Worlds if running behaves or failing that Zell Am See-Kaprun 70.3 in Austria looks one hell of a venue. Either way it’ll be another year of adventures and memories with the great group of people I’ve met in this sport.
Big thanks for the year go to the Britcon team for their support. Along with the Giant Store Lincoln (Doddington Hall) for the help providing me with a bike that puts me on a level playing field against the top performers.
Yet MOST importantly my Coach Steve Clark for managing my training loads to still perform despite the problem we faced. There has been a great deal of development in my knowledge and understanding of training under his guidance.

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Steve G Pre Kona Blog

As Kona approaches for the Britcon sponsored big man Steve Grocock he has started to write a pre Kona blog so everyone can keep up with how his plans are going. Check back in a few days for part 2

18 days to go
I think I must have been pushed for time but I found myself re-visiting Zwift again and paying my £8 monthly subscription. I was a little disappointed not to increase my FTP after a ride around Watopia. I assumed I would be stronger and lighter than I was earlier in the season but it seems not. I noticed my weight stats were set at 177lbs actually lighter than I am now! Then I realised I’d been on it a week before IM Austria so I guess I was in reasonable shape, fair enough but I won’t be happy unless I beat this time/FTP before Kona.

I booked the car rental, a Dodge people carrier at £600 for the fortnight. It isn’t cheap but it’ll mean we can at least explore the island. Paul & Faith are coming out with us so we can share the car & driving especially when I’m letting my hair down post-race.

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I tried my HUUB swim skin on in the pool today. It’s extremely tight and doesn’t cover my trisuit top completely so I may leave the top in T1, we’ll see as these things aren’t easy to slip on when you’re wet. Not convinced it’s quicker but at least I’ll be wearing what the majority of the other athletes are wearing. Massive thanks to Dean Kirkham (Also Kona qualifier) for giving me a heavily discounted HUUB voucher towards the cost. I have to say I couldn’t justify paying the full price of £250, just for one race!! Thanks mate I’ll get you a few beers in on the Big Island.

Again I jumped on the turbo and Zwift after staring at the rain through the window. I joined a race around London and was going well until I got hammered up Boxhill by a dozen riders.

I managed to get one of my big runs out of the way today. It’s a relief once you’ve ticked this box. Again, I chose a similar course that I did just before IM Austria so I could gauge my progress. I started off terribly. In fact my second mile was 7:32 min/mile pace. My average pace for the whole of this run in June was 7:34 m/m so it wasn’t looking good. Thankfully I got into a rhythm and apart from the last few miles I steadied at around 7:10-7:25 pace making this run 7:29 pace, 5 seconds a mile quicker and a mile further at 17 mile. Not much improvement but I’ll take it.

Received some good news today from Clarky. Britcon (our Sponsor) have helped out again with a few funds/kit etc. I’m blown away with this as I have no connection whatsoever to the Scunthorpe construction firm. Until recently I didn’t know anybody that worked there. Several months back Clarky and Shaun from Britcon (after a chance meeting), managed to secure some funding for himself, Jordan Skelly, Ben Baugh and I, on the proviso we give them a bit of exposure.

I’m even more appreciative now as I received an email from my own place of work stating that they don’t sponsor individuals and won’t be able to offer any help toward my trip to Kona. Disappointing really when I look back at all the years I’ve raised sponsor money towards the Alan Smith Challenge charities! I thought with us being an American company that the World Champs in Hawaii may have been of interest to somebody within P66. Oh well, I should have seen it coming. Trying to get the time off work was equally disappointing, despite giving a year’s notice! Fortunately for me (and here’s another big thank you) the guys at work recognised the importance of my achievement and between them are covering my shifts, much appreciated guys.
An Interview with OTCF Coach Steve Clark.

 

So, where am I with training? There are 3 weeks to race day! So, yes I’m panicking but I’ve still got a bit of time to get my two big runs in. Aiden has been brilliant joining me on bike rides. He’s done several century rides with me despite not really benefitting as he’s just got sprint races planned. 120 mile to Skeggy and back was our latest. The ride prior to that was a solo ride to Boston on the TT bike in which I decided to trial my Adamo seat. Big mistake on a long ride. I stopped several times to move it either backward or forwards in an attempt to ease the pain whilst still trying to put the power down, all to no avail. Back to my old Fi’zi’ik I think. Thankfully my mate Matt bought me some Assoss ‘after ride balm’ which genuinely seems to ease things.

Clarky joined me for a 12.5 mile run this week on what was one of the hottest days of the year. Pace was poor (7:55 min/mile) with no drink but it was good practice, serving as a bit of a taster for what to expect.
A 2 mile swim in the weedy Ancholme yesterday and a 7 mile run today with Aiden wasn’t as easy as I expected. Now the weight is finally coming off I thought I’d be feeling lighter on my feet but I felt very heavy legged to start with. I gradually settled and felt stronger throughout the run with my last 3 miles being the quicker.

Season Summary

At present there are 5 days to go before the Sundowner Half Ironman. I entered this event for a number of reasons but primarily it should be a great build up for Kona and will still allow sufficient recovery time. There are over a dozen fellow Lincsquadders doing it and as I did it last year it should be a decent indicator of form.

I’ll just give a brief recap of the 2016 season so far.

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January started as it normally does following the same old pattern of previous years. Qualifying for the World Champs unfortunately hasn’t turned me into one of those there disciplined types of athlete, in fact the opposite. As October seemed a millennia away it was a case of making the most of it now before having to knuckle down to the real hard work. As I’ve mentioned in previous logs I’ve only got a certain timeframe or ‘window of enthusiasm’ for training. Once exceeded, my love for triathlon wanes somewhat.

So, the winter started slow. Rides were few and far between. I’d study the weather forecasts and any hint of rain and I’d just bin it off, probably to then regret it later when the rain didn’t materialise. On the plus side I found myself catching up on a bit of decorating.
I suppose finding Zwift was my early season saviour. I found it so convenient to jump on the turbo for an hour and ride in this virtual world against other riders from around the world. Previous to this I never enjoyed turbo sessions, I found myself sticking on films and just spinning my legs for no real benefit but to clock up a few hours. Zwift is different, it brings out your competitive side and I can honestly say I was getting more out of one hour Zwifting than I would a 2-3 hour ride in the cold (including coffee stop). Sweat would pour off me and on more than one occasion, with the workout complete, I’d immediately projectile vomit as my stomach continued to retch, not pretty! My Zwift experience was elevated to a whole new level when I bought the Neo-Tacx smart trainer. I’d find myself out of my saddle climbing these imaginary 17% gradient mountains as the turbo resistance increased. Smart trainers, extremely smart!
Unfortunately the TT season never really got going this year. The Lincsquad series was cancelled due to roadworks. I didn’t get to do any at Barton this year leaving just the odd one or two at Gainsborough and I punctured at one of them. Although I did manage to set a new 25 mile TT record on the Gainsborough circuit.

In April, Aiden and I attended the OTCF/Real fitness Tri-Camp in Majorca. As usual this was a great week for fast tracking your training, lots of bike miles up lots of long hills. Again seeing as my ‘A’ race was so far away there was a lot more beer consumed than you’d expect from a triathletes’ training camp. I blame my roommates Dobber and Big Swede, they would possibly blame me?

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Mallorca Tri camp
Mid-year I entered two 100 mile Sportives just prior to IM Austria. Matt Porter of Sportive HQ has allowed us to use TT bikes at these events now so getting several hours in the TT position was an opportunity not to be missed. I know these aren’t to be taken too seriously but it’s always a confidence booster posting the fastest times.
The Lincolnshire Edge ‘Sprint’ was a fortnight after my Ironman Austria. As I’d got a free entry I couldn’t resist signing up for the shorter distance to race my son Aiden. I wouldn’t normally fancy my chances against him if it was a 400m pool swim but a 750m open water swim tilts the balance back in my favour. 2nd out of the water and up to first place after the bike it was a case of running for dear life to the turnaround point and then counting the minutes before we passed. Aiden’s quite capable of a low 17 minute 5k, almost 3 minutes quicker than me!! Aiden was indeed the next athlete I saw but fortunately for me I’d got a big enough cushion and with it the win.
This was a proud moment having my son with me on the podium. The magazine Tri220 got in touch with FastFWD Events and they did an interview with me and as a result featured in their mag.

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This last weekend was the Sundowner Half Ironman. I did this race last year & managed 5th place overall winning my age group. This year I only managed 6th place with Kev Dawson (also going to Kona) relegating me into second place in our age-group. It wasn’t all bad news as I was a couple of minutes quicker this time around (4 hr 31 min)which could have been more if not for some terrible transitions due to my cold hands not being able to open the helmet strap. The weather was lousy! It started raining before the swim and didn’t relent all race! My bike and swim were quicker this time and the run almost identical to the previous year. Aiden had a close Sprint race in the morning getting second overall by just 9 seconds, not bad seeing as he was a minute and a half behind after the swim. A good night troughing hog roast and drinking beer with fellow Squadders capped off a decent weekend.

 

Ironman Vichy by Jo Whitaker

Ironman Vichy

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I’m not quite sure what propelled me into doing an Ironman. Was I bored of my former role as a triathlon wife and tag along (TWAT) or the fact that my other half was adamant it was a prerequisite to having children? I jest. It was our hen and stag dos. Of course. Lead by Robbie -seasoned Ironman and Kona qualifier, The Whitaker Racing Team was formed. A fantastic way to spend time with family and fulfill a lifelong dream of racing together. Besides, everyone needs to do at least one Ironman right? That way, when I’m in my TWAT role I can wear my finishers tshirt and receive the nod of approval.

 

So. Why Ironman Vichy? We wanted a nice flat racing course. Somewhere with lovely weather –and hopefully nearby our wedding venue –which was still to be confirmed, but ‘anywhere with turrets’. Ironman Vichy followed by a wedding in a French chateau 3 days later sounded perfect.

Feeling a bit lost with training and wanting to improve on my previous Staffordshire 70.3 time, I enlisted the help of Steve at OffthatCouchFitness -if he could race sub 9 hours, I was certain he could nudge me in the right direction and help me achieve the best result I could. Besides, I needed someone else to blame if I couldn’t walk down the aisle after Ironman. In high heels.

Goals:
1. 1. Finish Ironman
2. 2. Beat Alan
3. 3. Get Married.

Easy.

Travel and pre-race prep

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We set off for France in the Whitaker Racing Team van –with our do it yourself adaptations to Alan’s white van. It took 8 hours to reach Calais followed by another 6 hours to Vichy –a long journey, filled with pre race nerves. To say I felt tense was an understatement. Steve had helped me knock off 50 minutes from my 70.3 time, but this was my first Ironman. I had no idea what to expect.

When we parked at our hotel everyone was staring. They seemed to think we were kind of a big deal -arriving in our homemade team van, a few spare bikes in the back, team t-shirts. I wasn’t going to tell them they weren’t our spare bikes, and we were merely transporting them for the rest of the family who had the intelligence to fly to France rather than endure a 14 hour van journey. In fact, I was quite enjoying pretending to be a big deal. I popped on my Off That Couch Fitness gear and went for a spin –ease my legs, test the bike and acclimatize to the heat. It was 35 degrees! Had not planned for that.

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We then drove the race course –it’s not often you see a giant M dot made out of hay!image

The day before the race involved a lot of resting, time with family and eating carbs –the latter of which I’m not very used to. Many reassuring words were thrown my way. “Yes, your wedding dress will still fit you after all those baguettes”. Also, the issue of tan lines was crossing my mind. I’m not sure that tri suit tan lines is a good look with a strapless lace wedding dress. This resulted in a panicked phone call to Andy (father in law) to bring surgical gloves incase I needed to fake tan. Yes! Ironman preparation!

Race Day
That night I didn’t sleep a wink. Rather than staying quiet and pretending to sleep, I preferred to make it known to Robbie that I was still awake. All night. The alarm went at 4.30am and I hopped up to eat my almond butter and cherry jam bagels. A delight! I could get used to Ironman.

Swim
We had found out the day before that the weather conditions were too hot for a wetsuit swim. We therefore had an arduous 2.4 mile swim in our tri suits. I’d been able to cover the distance within 1 hour 15 mins -1 hour 30 mins in training sessions but wasn’t sure what impact the non-wetsuit swim would have on this.

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It was a rolling start, with 3 athletes each 4 seconds –another long and ardous process. It took approximately 45 minutes to get everyone in the water. Normally I get quite nervous when I see the water, but this time I was excited. Lake Allier was beautiful and I had done the training. The swim took me longer than anticipated -1 hour 40 mins 52. I found it difficult to navigate the buoys and tried to stick in packs.

 

 

 

 

Bike
The bike course was great. It was absolutely beautiful. I felt like I was gliding through the air, enjoying the scenery and able to push. Either my tapering had done some good or it was a lot easier cycling here than in Lancaster! It was a mainly flat course with some slight hills and great views over the countryside and Auvergne Volcanoes. Had I pushed too hard or had I made a nutrition faux pas? From 60 miles – 90 miles I couldn’t take on any more nutrition. Perhaps Alan was right. I’d over taken him at 50 miles and he had told me to slow down.image I was cycling at my target power, so I had carried on. I felt great! Now I felt nauseous and full of high 5 drink. The only fluid I had left on my bike water and I couldn’t stomach any more cliff bars. This second cycle lap wasn’t so great. I felt like I was slowing down. At 90 miles I discovered the benefits of drinking coca cola! Fantastic! I could push again. I made it into transition after 6 hours 17 mins 49.

 

 

 

Run

The run involved 4 loops –over bridges, through parks and through the city centre. You run round the finish line area three times before actually heading down the finish line. As I set off I wondered if I would actually be able to finish this. Robbie said it’d be easy when I got to the run. I’m not sure how correct this is. My calves had been aching over the previous few days, waking with cramps and this felt exacerbated. My run-walk was more a walk-walk-hobble. Anyhow, I had got this far, I wasn’t going to give up –I was supposed to be laughing at this point! I caught up with Robbie on my first lap (a massive understatement as he was on his final lap and nearly finished). We had a nice chat and I felt relieved to see him walking. The next few laps were difficult. The crowd supporting was great. By nightfall, one of the aid stations had turned into a disco. I was running through glow sticks and Mexican waves. On my last lap I had a hug from Robbie and my family and one final pep talk.

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I had a lot of time to think on the run. 26 miles worth –which in this case took 5 hours 50 mins 27 –almost as long as my cycle. I was reminded of a training peaks article I read earlier this year. It discussed the attributes of Kona athletes. The levels of competition are so strong that there is no accidental way of rising to the top. Commitment, positive mental attitude, patience, confidence and toughness are the vital traits. I found a new respect for the seasoned athletes around me and felt proud of the ones I know, Robbie and Steve. Although I have a long way to go, my training this year has taught me that perseverance and positivity are fundamental. Quite often, the only barriers we face are the ones created in our mind.

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Finish/conclusion

14 hours 1 min 11. I had a great time, I achieved a personal best and I made my husband smile. I learnt that it is just as important to prepare yourself mentally as well as physically for race day. I couldn’t have done it without my coach, Steve and also our support crew –who hugged me and cheered me on when I doubted myself.

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Did I achieve my pre-race goals?
1. 1. I finished
2.I 2. I beat Alan on the bike
3. 3. I got married! –Yes! I walked down the aisle in my high heels.

I can’t say that it will be last Ironman –I can see myself entering another one, but I think I will take a break for a while and see where life takes me.

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Paul wins the Alan Smith Challenge

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The Alan Smith Challenge is held by Phillips 66 every year since 2003 in memory of an employee (Alan) who was tragically killed on site.

It consists of a 13 mile run from the refinery to Barton followed by a 26 mile bike from Barton back to the refinery. There are also options to bike the whole route or do a half distance challenge. It raises funds for different local charities each year.

We were set of in waves according to the predicted finish time. It turned out the person that was supposed to set off with me had set off early so I was on my own. The run was lonely and I found it very gruelling as the humidity was high and the closer I got to Barton the more hilly the route became. I made good use of the 3 water stations on route. The run wasn’t completely lonely as I had plenty shouts of encouragement from competitors doing the bike only option who came past. It was a relief to arrive in Barton and I was looking forward to getting on the bike. I foolishly though things would get easier on the bike.

As for the bike it was also harder than I anticipated. I have cycled further distances before but not after doing a 13 mile run. A mile into the ride was the first hill and that is when the cramps in my calves started and continued for the rest of the ride. All I could do to battle the cramps is to keep myself hydrated little and often as I did on the run. I managed to catch up with some other cyclists about half way which was a nice morale booster.I could eventually see the refinery on the horizon and I knew the finish was not too far. All this way and I had no idea how I was doing against my rivals. However I still pushed as hard as my cramping legs would allow until the finish line.

All that being said it was a most enjoyable event and very well put together by the P66 volunteers. Turns out I got the quickest time so I had to hang around to collect a trophy! J

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Chase 2 Race For Black

Norseman 2016

Chase 2 Race for Black

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Wow where do I start maybe with the race directors opening lines in the Briefing “this is not a race it’s an adventure”

After a few years racing the standard M dot, Outlaw branded long events in 2016 I fancied something different where I wasn’t going to be chasing a a fast time or a Age Group medal. The chase for a Norseman Black Tee fitted this change perfectly and after I got a slot in late 2015 that was the goal for 2016 sorted

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We (me, Em and Steve Beevers (Big English)) arrived in Oslo on the Wednesday and the plan was to stay at my friends Richard Olsson (Big Swedes) house and then drive the course in reverse in his car to Edfjord where the race start is image

 

The Norseman is a point to point race with no nutrition aid stations / toilets etc on the course so you have to be totally self sufficient with a support crew in a car who follow you for the duration of the race and supply you with what you need as you go.

The Swim start is also very different to most triathlons with it starting with a jump from the back of a car ferry at 4:45 am into the darkness of the freezing fjord.

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My swim in my Xterra vendetta and skull cap actually went really well and I came out in the 2nd pack only 4 mins off the front group containing the leaders. Not 1 swimmer went under the hour mark showing this is no easy swim which is marked with a fire in the distance and it’s just a case of head for the flame and yes the water is cold.

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The bike WOW this would take what felt like most of the day . It’s just a hard course hilly, bumpy surfaces, twisty descents and then you throw in the weather wet very wet!! foggy and cold just 4’c . Luckily for me I was on the Paragon cycles Massi crossbow 2 which I have to say performed superbly in the conditions. I have to give special mention to my support crew here they kept my spirits up supplying me with what I wanted when I wanted. They even got me a water bottle full of coffee at one point to get me warm and I’m not even going to talk about what they had to do when I had to stop to go to toilet .image

 

 

 

Into t2 I was a shivering mess and big swede yelled at me full monty so I stripped off for a full kit change in front of everyone. Unfortunately for me after freezing for the last 7.5 hours I wasn’t looking my best so everyone got a good laugh at my expense.

 

Onto the run and once I got warm after a mile I started to feel good again and was cautious not to run too fast so was holding back. 5 miles past with ease with everything going smoothly until the urg came for another toilet stop. I shouted to my caring wife Em i need more socks or tissues she supplied and I dived into a bush again! I then got back into my stride but unfortunately due to my stop a few other athletes had caught me so it was now race time. 3 or 4 of us exchanging positions until the bottom of zombie hill and then this is when the Norseman really starts . imageI heard and read so many reports saying it’s impossible to run all of zombie hill and big swede had said the same. I thought sounds like a decent challenge so steady away 1 short stride after another and I ran/ slow jogged it all the way to the check point at 32.5km passing a few of the bike monsters than had flown past me earlier in the day and they was paying for the massive effort they had put in.image

 

 

 

 

The last part of the race is a surreal feeling as at this point you know you are going to get the famous Black Tee shirt and it’s just a matter of completing the last few miles. But the last few miles are hard you have to run with a rucksack carrying certain items the race directors stipulated beforehand. And also with one of your support crew as a guide mine was Richard Big Swede and his experience in this race was great as he guided me up the mountain trail all the way to the top.

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The finish line was such a relief as I was gone by this point and standing on the Norseman Black Flag at the top was an emotional experience. The last 12 hours had all been worth it for this moment standing on what felt like the top of the world!!!!.

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Your support crew is key in this race and all 3 of mine was absolute super stars. Em just been my Em suffering in the cold all day for me with 2 crazy excited hyper men and then having to walk up and down a stupid mountain herself to support me. Big English talking rubbish to me running up zombie hill keeping my spirits high and dressing me on the bike when he was getting soaked himself. Big Swede a 2 time black finisher of this race and my support runner for the last 10km of the mountain guiding me all the way to the finish and motivating me in his kind mannered Swedish way. (he was more revved up than me I think)image

What did I learn about myself at the Norseman ? That I can suffer in tough conditions and push the bodies boundaries and that I still love racing. I would say maybe not the fittest person does well here but someone with the ability to suffer and endure horrible conditions and fight. Better athletes than me finished lower down in the field but maybe I was able to handle the harsh conditions better. Do I want to do it again? For a few days after it was a No but now I’m starting to think maybe I could possibly in the future push for a top 10 or even higher in this race?

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Finishing 18th overall, 1st GB athlete and getting my Black Tee is right up their as one of my proudest achievements I’d put it along side my AG Gold medal and sub 9

 

 

 

 

imagebig thanks as always to Paragon cycles, Britcon, xterra Wetsuits, Metres to Miles and Stenno for the lend of his Zipps.

until next time keep training and get racing

Steve

Paper article pre race here

Paper article post race here

Nicky Robinson’s Ironman UK

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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. imageThe 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! imageNo 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 shirt..pizza This hasn’t been an easy journey and it’s been an expensive journey..was it worth it??? image

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!

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Ps entry for next year is open!