Standing on Mount Everest, in London



The London Marathon, the word on everyone’s lips for two weeks prior to the actual day.
For me the road to London started back in August when I ran my first marathon. Never done one never thought about doing one and then I’m in one. No set time in my head, let’s just get to the finish. Crossed the line at 4 hours 17 minutes. Second marathon entered, Barcelona. Let’s see if I can actually break 4 hours. Crossed the line at 4 hours 14 minutes. Hard day at the office, hot and maybe my preparation was wrong.
London Marathon entered via a charity place with MACS. Myself and my mate Craig raising money so we can run in an iconic event.
So I travelled down on the Friday morningwith Glyn, Shawnie and Zoe listening to shocking music and listening to some of the stories from past London Marathons.


To say I am buzzing for it is an understatement. I feel good, I feel full of energy and I’m with friends who will share these same feeling with me in two days time.
I collect my number from the EXPO and now it seems real. Having a little chat with Craig about the world record marathon time and how someone’s body actually lets them perform to that standard.
Number collected now for food and rest. That evening and Saturday was spent resting and making sure I was hydrated and had a few good meals in me.
Race day, the big day. Up at 6am, coffee, water, food, race kit on. So this is it, I am about to take part in the biggest marathon in the world, one which I have watched so many times in TV. When we reach our designated area I give everyone a hug and kiss Zoe and wish my friends good luck.
I have a special surprise up my sleeve but only if I do something that I have not done before and that’s run a marathon in under 4 hours.
As I sit on the grass with Craig to rest that one last time I just new deep down to my bones I was going to have a good day. Something Craig always says to me before and event “ you will do it today mate” when he said that I new today was going to end with smiles.
At my starting area with a friend from work, who is running his first marathon. Having a chat and laugh about the past and this takes our minds off it. Then at around 10:20 we go and that’s it I am part of his huge event. As I run my own race I leave my friend after 3 miles, good luck mate see you later stay safe. As I run around London I see familiar faces from back home in the crowd. Big D i here from a distance which makes me laugh, thanks Rob. I can not describe the crowd around London, it was  amazing. I strongly believe that the crowd has a huge part in you getting to the finish line. One place that stands out for me is when I crossed tower bridge, I could feel the vibration from the crowd cheering and stamping there feet.
I found the 4 hour pacer at around 8 miles, I stayed with him till 23 miles. These men and women are just incredible. At 20 miles I passed Zoe, I didn’t see her but I heard a voice say oy Dawson, which my response was “ hello you sexy little bugger” a few ppl around us giggled. After a like conversation with Zo I said I felt good and at 23 miles I was going for it. At 23 miles I felt good, I had a sneaky look at my watch and a small grin came to my face. Let’s go Dawson let’s go and do this. As I ran around the last corner with 200 metres to go I looked at my watch and I new I have gone under 4 hours. The smile on my face was happiness, relief, monkey off my back and jubilation. Having that medal round your neck makes you feel so alive and happy.
My goal was achieved 3 hours 56 minutes. The special surprise I had up my sleeve was to ask Zoe to marry me. Thankfully she said yes. It was her 30th Marathon and my first under 4 hours, what a day to remember.
In the pub after “sorry coach” and after a few beers Craig said to me “ stop smiling” the thing is I couldn’t stop smiling, I was standing on top of Mount Everest with my friends Zoe, Shawnie, John, Craig, Gemma and Glyn.
A big thank you goes to Steve. You know what you do day in day out for yourself, your family and us your friends and team mates.
Thank you.

Breaking the 4-hour Barrier at London by Gemma Scott


It’s safe to say the 2 weeks leading up to London Marathon were difficult for me. Training hadn’t been going to plan due to lack of energy and having to make some drastic changes to my diet ahead of the big day to combat this. I had to train less something I am not good at doing & It was touch and go whether I would actually run on the Sunday. I had decided it would be a see how you feel over that weekend decision.

London Marathon weekend is always so much fun. With Friday arriving we set off down to London and headed to the Excel to collect my number. There was a big gang of us and the excitement was pouring off us all. This would be my 5thLondon Marathon and I really wanted to break that sub 4 hour at London, something I had been so close to doing in 2015 but due to weaving around the course I actually ended up running 27 miles and missed out.

Once I’d picked my number up I made my mind up I was doing this marathon whether it would be a case of a training run or run to the best of my ability on the day. I knew the crowds would get me round and I had friends on the course there for moral support.

Saturday we had a nice stroll around the Olympic park, but generally had a relaxing chilled out day another thing I never do the day before a marathon. It’s hard to explain but even though you know rest is good for you, it’s hard to follow through with it.

Fast forward to race day, I woke up before my alarm feeling nervous, excited and unsure how my day was going to go. I kept telling myself “Just Run, no pressure”. I had my overnight oats, coffee and countless toilet visits as the nerves escalated, but once I put on my kit my race head took over and I began to get focussed for the task ahead. We made our way to the start, excitement brewing from all other runners and I just felt at home.

After dropping Craig, Aaron, Zoe & Shawnie off at their starts I headed to the Blue start with Glyn and John. Two toilet stops and bags dropped I headed to the start zones. We were in the middle of a field freezing. Both Zones 3 and 7 were merged together so there would be a lot slower runners in front of me. Not ideal but we can only control the controllable I can hear coach Clark in my head!

Gun goes and we slowly start moving towards the start line. It takes 15 minutes for us to get over the start line. First mile I need to stop for the loo, surprisingly I managed an 8:57 minute mile with a wee stop, get in!! Now I’m on my way my legs fall naturally into line, breathing is good and I am enjoying every minute.

The miles ticked off quickly and before I know it we’re at Cutty Sark, reduced to a jog as the road narrows and it’s very congested. The key here is to not get frustrated and use it as a breather traffic soon flows again.

Tower Bridge soon came into sight, such a welcoming sight I knew I was now nearly halfway and feeling strong. I came across the halfway point in 1:48 and to my right there was a big screen that showed Eliud Kipchoge heading down birdcage walk. I wasn’t quick enough to see him on the course, but it was amazing to see how effortless he was cruising to that finish line.

Heading towards Canary Wharf the crowds were unreal, to say the day was overcast and cold (my perfect running conditions) the crowds were bigger and better than in 2018. I cannot thank the crowds enough for the support it’s what makes London Marathon the most amazing experience you can have racing.

I keep on top of my hydration by sipping my Tailwind every half a mile and then ensuring I am having 3 mouthfuls of water at each water station. Before I know it I’m approaching mile 20, usually known as the Wall for most runners where your glycogen levels have depleted. I feel amazing, what is going on? I am not running slow my pace is not at my PB pace, but it’s faster than Barcelona Marathon I ran 6 weeks ago, and at this rate I’m going to go sub 3:40. Yes!!!

Ok so now is the game of keeping my mind focused and not allowing my head to drop. I know I’ll start seeing friends from mile 21 so if I keep smiling and plugging away I’ll be there in no time. I reach my friends who are pleased to see I’m smiling and still putting one foot in front of the other. Mile 22 more friends, feeling strong, buzzing with the crowd and the fact my pace is fairly consistent. Mile 23 I know my running buddies are up ahead, I have my second bottle of tailwind waiting for me & a big hug ahead. As I approach them I become so emotional but still strong both mentally and physically. After a quick hug I’m on my way home 2.5 miles of cheering and then the victory mile!! Glyn catches me up and we run together for a short while before my pace picks up.

Mile 24 I get a pain in my stomach. You know that feeling when your stomach wants to eat itself. This gives me the kick I need to get to the finish. I need food and my legs are starting to hurt now. I approach Big Ben and I know I’m nearly there. I pass a guy running as Big Ben (I later find out he got stuck up the finish line). Everyone is going wild for Big Ben and my skin begins to tingle with goose bumps from the noise.

I’m nearly there! I look at my watch & I can’t believe it…After 5 attempts I am finally going to go sub 4 hours at London, I’m going to get a Good for Age at London, I am going to go sub 3:40, I’m faster than I ran 6 weeks ago in Barcelona. Final 200 metres I give it everything I have left and push my body that last few metres.

3 hours 39 minutes and 32 seconds. I have gone 22 minutes faster than I have ever run at London Marathon and I am buzzing!! 2 weeks’ light training have not made me lose fitness and I am so much stronger than I thought I would be capable of. Thanks to my coach Steve for guiding me, now onto the next challenge…. Ironman UK 2019!!

Shawnie runs 3 hour 21 minutes at London



Since I can remember I’ve watched London Marathon on the TV religiously every year and after deciding I was going to give marathon running a go London has always been on my hit list. 5 marathons later I decided to put my good for age time to use and get a spot in London.

My marathon training had gone perfectly for London until Iran Hull 20 (5 weeks before) and I started struggling with shin splints. Mileage for the next few weeks was cut, and as an injury prone runner I was nervous. Miles on my bike and miles in the pool kept me ticking over but little miles on my legs. The weekend before London I managed 8 miles at marathon pace and after hobbling around for a few days after, I was 50/50 whether to run.

After speaking with Coach and going to the London Marathon EXPO there was no way I wasn’t at least starting the race.

We collected our numbers from the EXPO on the Friday and after sampling ever protein and energy bar the EXPO had to offer, getting taped up at the KT stand and entering every marathon ballot going (maybe I’ll end up doing Kenyamarathon next year) I was definitely psyched up again for London.

The rest of the weekend flew by and before I knew it- it was race day and we were on our way!

I was in the green start with Zoe, both of us super excited, far too happy to say we was about to run a marathon.
We were soon put in our separate pens and after lots of small talk with my surrounding runners we were being moved forward to the start line.

And off we went…

Coach had told me don’t set off to fast for the first 5 miles (would I ever? :P) and that’s a challenge in itself. Trying not to get carried away with what’s happening around you and the realisation of actually running the London Marathon is enough to make even the best pacers get a little carried away, surely? I’ve always thought that the first half of a marathon feels like a solid but comfortable Sunday run and the second half feels like, well the complete opposite.

The first few miles involved merging together with all the other starts, tackling the mile of speed bumps, high fiving as many kids as I could and amazement at the crowds that lined the streets before we’d even got into the main section of the race. I was actually running next to a Christmas tree at one point for the first bit.

The rest of the miles until Tower bridge went pretty quickly, I was feeling good, my shins wasn’t hurting, my pace was exactly where I wanted it to be so I was enjoying this feeling. I’d had a shout out at mile 8 which was a nice surprise by Lindsay and Nicola and crowds were growing and growing.

Tower bridge soon approached – and we were already around the half way point. I don’t think I’ve ever been over Tower Bridge in my life so this was an extra special part of the course. As I approached the bridge, I saw Mick and his wife, the atmosphere was quite overwhelming, the crowd was so loud and admittedly I had a happy tear running over the bridge (cry 1 of the run).

Mile 14 – my Mo sighting. Running down a dual carriagewayI saw a 22 mile sign on the other side of the road and the crowds really started cheering, I knew Mo was on his way. First group Kipchoge and the gang and then 1 minute (ish) later, followed another loud cheer and Sir Mo himself, hanging on in there. Amazing to think we set off at pretty much the same time yet they’ve gained 8 miles on me.

From my 5 marathons I know that I’ve always struggled anywhere from 16 miles and if I’m lucky from 18 miles so I was expecting a hit anytime soon, especially because of the last 5 weeks. Miles were ticking away (quite literally couldn’t believe how fast it was going) and my watch soon buzzed 18 miles. I still felt good, pace was still good, everything was good, I was still smiling.

Then I heard ‘fancy seeing you here’… Turned around and there was Craig, we got on about the atmosphere and he told me the best bits are to come… Really?! I didn’t think there were people left in London after seeing the crowds for the first half! And off he went.

Mile 20 – fastest split of the marathon a 7.07/min mile, oops. Don’t know where that came from but I’ve never done that 20 miles in before.

Mile 22 – I knew Uncle Rob and Auntie Linds were somewhere along this mile and for sure they was. (cry number 2) no time for a hug, but a high five, a friendly face and a ‘welldone’ kept me smiling.

Mile 23 – there’s the wall I was waiting for. It never hits you gradually, it just happens. I remember running past a Lucozade stand desperate for water and asking one of the volunteers for water but it was a no go- just Lucozade, unfortunately I’ve not found my perfect supplement for running yet, energy drinks are not for me when I’m runningand neither are gels, I take shot blocks and I cant even stomach a lot of them.

Luckily for me, I saw three friendly faces jumping up and down on a block (Kerry, Andrea and Loraine) I gave myself a pep talk because at this point a little walk would’ve been very much welcomed and so far I had not had a walk yet (a new first for me). Besides what’s a parkrun when you’ve already ran 23 miles?

Mile 25- Craig was right, it did get better. I had definitely had enough at this point but the crowds just kept you going, there must’ve been thousands of people and it was so loud that you didn’t hear anything, just white noise. Then my watched ticked over 26.2 miles and I saw the 800m to go sign, next time I’m sticking to that blue line.

600m. 400m. 200m. Mustering up some sort of sprint to the finish line, forgetting all about the last 26.2 miles because I was so happy and relieved to see the end (cry number 3). And I’d done it, tired legs but one happy girl.

Things London Marathon has taught me:
Believe in the process and the miles in your legs.
London Marathon has definitely earned its title for best marathon in the world.
Listen to your coach it works.
I can run 26.6 miles without stopping.
Christmas trees can run fast.
I made it onto Tri24/7 London report see here

London Baby By John Chambers

London Baby! London Marathon 2019

Having deferred my 2018 entry following significant ligament damage to my left ankle 2 weeks prior to Ironman Wales in 2017, running was off the agenda for much of last year. Ironman Wales 2018 came and went with only 3 months of serious training as it took such a long time for my ankle to heel.

2019 brought about an increased volume and intensity of training, not just running but all 3 disciplines, but my running was becoming better than it had been for years now recovered. Early March saw a marathon PB in the heat at Barcelona so things were going well.

The OTCF team travelled down to London on the Friday (Craig, Gemma, Zoe, Aaron, Shawnie,  Glyn and myself) and we headed straight for the Expo to collect our race numbers (and for some freebies!). The Excel as big as it is was absolutely packed, buzzing in fact – all friendly faces and a number of other people who we knew also that we bumped into.

Unlike Barcelona, we managed to have a lazy day on the Saturday, chilling, food and hydration was the aim of the day. At this point, I was not that enthusiastic about the thought of running 26.2 miles the following day!

 

Race day – Sunday morning 0600, shower, tea, porridge and banana. On the tube to Greenwich Park around 0745, there was something in the atmosphere at this time of day that you knew was going to be special. Hoards of runners, old and young departing and walking to the start zones – I was in blue and the same pen as Gemma. Trying to keep warm in the breeze at this point was the main aim – Gemma did try to gain cover from a loosely fitting poncho of the guy in front but he was having none of it!

It was 10:14 by the time I crossed the start line, and unexpectedly, there were no hold ups due to congestion. In fact, I went through the first 5km a bit to quick so had to slow down. Being my first London Marathon, I was actually amazed at the volume of spectators all the way round the course, the support was immense and it is always good when you see a few people in the crown who have travelled all that way to support you also. I have a habit of not taking much in when I am running, I remember Cutty Sark and Tower Bridge but the rest was a bit of a blur – I was busy. Once I had settled into a good pace the miles just seem to fly by. The call of nature made me stop at mile 20 following which I found it difficult to get going again as my legs had seized up a bit. Run time on my watch, 3:27 – chip time 3:31. A bit disappointing I didn’t go under 3:30 but I ran a 17 minute PB in Barcelona and managed to knock another 3 minutes off at London so happy really.

A great experience to run with great friends. As usual, expert guidance and coaching from Steve Clark – next stop Ironman UK.

3 hours 15 mins at London for Craig


It’s Friday afternoon and I’m making my way into the London Excel to collect my number and weather it’s your first or fifth London this is always the point where the scale of the event you are about to be part of hits you, so much excitement in the air it literally gives you goosebumps. Saturday comes and it’s a day of rest with a stroll around the Olympic park making sure I eat well and stay hydrated. Sunday morning the alarm goes off at 6amstraight in the shower then get a light breakfast in with the usual black coffee. 7:30 me, Gemma, Aaron, Zoe, Glyn, Shawnie and John all get on the tube to Greenwich full of excitement nerves and hopes that we all have a great day. Me and Aaron say goodbye to all the others as they are on a different start then make our way into the red starting pen, we now have time to try and relax stay calm and soak up the excitement. Now I’m in my start zone and going through my warmup now I’m ready to roll, that famous music starts and that’s it I’m on my way just taking in what I’m a part off and controlling my pace for the first couple of miles. 10k in you hit the Cutty Sark and the noise from the crowd is just incredible people shouting cheering and stood seven or eight deep, I’m now into my target pace and feeling good staying relaxed and enjoying every minute. 13 miles in and I’m on Tower Bridge which is such a special part of the course not only because it’s one of the biggest landmarks but you are halfway, I’m still feeling good but now is where it starts getting hard so I make sure I monitor my pace and stick to the plan, at around 14 miles I was lucky enough to see Eliud Kipchoge (the winner and greatest marathon runner of all time) coming the other way and I’m just in awe of how fast and comfortable he looks, around a minute later Mo Farrah comes past and you can see he’s working hard but not giving in. I’m now into the Isle of dogs and getting into the toughest part of the race so I’m making sure I keep on top of hydration then set my self a target to hold my target pace until 20 miles then hold it a mile at a time for as long as possible. After spotting a few good friends in the crowd I’m back out onto the embankment and at mile 22, I’m starting to feel fatigue creeping in but still managed to hold my pace so I focus on staying relaxed and embrace the crowd. Mile 24 it’s hurting now but the atmosphere is just incredible, the support from the crowd is hard to take in to the point where I got a little emotional and started struggling to control my breathing but I composed my self and focused on getting to the finish. Mile 25 comes up on my watch and to my amazement I was under my target pace, before the race started I set my watch at my Marathon PB of 3:19 so it tells me how far in front or behind that pace I am but as yet I hadn’t looked at that screen, i now have 1.2 miles to go so I take a look and I’m 3 mins in front of my PB pace so I dig deep and give it everything, I then make the turn in front of Buckingham palace and see the finish line, I cross the line and it’s a mixture of emotions from pure elation to finish to exhaustion as your body starts to punish you, i then look at my watch and it’s 3:15:46 so a  three and a half min PB I’m so so happy.
There are many things that need to go well during and building up to a marathon from staying healthy to the weather but most important is the great guidance in training pushing you when needed and knowing when to rest so thanks for everything Steve Clark.
I knew he was happy with what I had done when I got the message to go have a beer.

Ironman Greece 70.3 Vicky Gounari

1. Pre-race bike drama (Friday 12th Apr)
We arrived at Costa Navarino around 11 am. The plan was to assemble the bike and go for a short ride, to check out the steepest part of the course.
Unfortunately while trying to put the saddle back on, one of the components that hold it in place fell into the frame and got badly stuck. After all our attempts to take it out failed, we took the bike to the bike service area which thankfully was not too busy yet. There I watched as 3 bike mechanics were trying to get that thing out. Of course I was panicking and even cried a little bit. After 30 mins they managed to get it out and things were looking up. Before I left the service area I checked to see if the di2 was working fine. And it wasn’t working at all. So then they had to take the saddle out again and check the cables, and luckily nothing was damaged, it was just a matter of plugging the cable to the battery properly.
Around 4 pm, we were finally ready to go for our ride. The bike was fine, the pouring rain had stopped and life was good.
My first impressions from the bike course were good. There were some steep parts at 9 to 11% gradient, but they were quite short. Most of it was less than 5%. So quite manageable. Going downhill was not that bad either. The road was wet but didn’t feel too slippery and the turns were quite wide, so no need to brake really.
I got back just in time for the race briefing, then pasta party and early to bed.
2. Testing the water and a bit more bike drama (Saturday 13th Apr)
At 8 am, I was in my wetsuit and down at the beach. My 2 biggest concerns coming into this race was the water temperature (as I had never swam in anything less than 22 C, and the sea here was around 16 C) and the fatigue during the run, given the bike would be very demanding on the legs.
A few other people were there too, I followed their advice and went right in, swimming hard for the first few meters. My body felt fine, the wetsuit was keeping me nice and warm, but my hands, feet and face were freezing. However, after a while they went completely numb, and  you weren’t really feeling anything so I went to breakfast reassured that the swim would be ok. I have to mention that on Saturday the sea was calm as a pond.
Around noon, I started preparing my stuff for the bike check in. It was then that I noticed my flat front tire.  It looked like I had gotten a slow puncture the previous day. This would not have been an issue had I gotten the right spare tubes with me. But I hadn’t. It seems that not all tubes have valves that can attach to the extenders. I didn’t know that, but now I do! It was not that big a deal but enough to stress me out again. Anyway, I managed to find the right tube, fixed it and checked the bike in.
3.1 Race Day – Swim
We walked down to the beach and as soon as I saw the sea my heart sank. With 2m high waves, the sea looked really rough. I had some hope that they would cancel or shorten the swim, but didn’t happen.
I told myself that getting in and out would be hard but inside would be better, and heard all the advice my super-swimmer friends were giving me. Dive in for the first few waves, and then you’ll be good. So off I went, and managed to get underwater for the first big wave but as soon as I came up, a second one came and before I knew it I felt I like I was in the washing machine. Naturally I panicked and started breast stroking and treading water mainly, just trying to stay afloat. It took me 4 mins to get to that first buoy, around 100 m out. And the further in we were going, the worse it seemed to get. Meanwhile, people all around me were flagging down the rescuers on the canoes and  jet skis, and I won’t lie,I thought about quitting myself. But then I decided to go for it, I was sure I wouldn’t make the cut-off time anyway, so at least I could say I tried. The only good thing was that the cold water was of no concern at this point. Didn’t even feel it.
Around 10 mins into the swim I managed to pull myself together and finally start swimming. It was slow and hard but I started feeling there might be a chance I’ll make the cut-off. Last highlight of my swim was when I was exiting, I stood up at knee-depth water to run outside and a wave knocked me down. Thankfully lifeguards were everywhere and one of them pulled me out!
The transition was super long, around 800m run uphill and some stairs to make it more fun. But I was so happy I was out of the water that I didn’t even mind. Once the steepest part was over I started jogging and felt pretty good.
3.2 Race Day – Bike
Not much to say about the bike. It was tough but I loved it. I felt very well prepared with all the hill training I had done these last few months.Kept a steady pace for the first 15km climb and tried to step on it going downhill. The road was wet and there were some pretty strong crosswinds going down, so I had to get out of the bars a few times, to make sure I have good control of the bike but didn’t brake once, which is a major achievement for me.
From 30 to 37 km it was again uphill, a lot less steep than the first section but there was headwind which made it equally, if not more, hard.
I was feeling great throughout and only started feeling a bit tired at around 70 km
3.3 Race Day – Run
Once I was off the bike I could finally relax. I love the run because it’s all up to your mind and legs. No waves or mechanical issues can affect you.
The temperature was great and the route was stunning and I was feeling good up until km 12. Then I really started to feel fatigued.
The run course was mainly rolling hills and around 8 km of it was on gravel. Add to that the demanding bike from before, and it’s no surprise that everything started hurting.
But still it was manageable. I didn’t have any doubt that I would make it or any thought of walking. I was just pushing through.
Overall, I loved it! Definitely going back for it next year.
The race was incredibly well organized (which I was not expecting for a first time race to be honest) and the volunteers and spectators were amazing. Every time we would pass by a group of people or an aid station we would get such a boost!
Key takeaways:
Coming 11th in my Ag shows I’m improving after only a few months ago I was 25th in Ironman Dubai and a top 10 is the next target
Get better with my swimming, especially in rough sea
Be better prepared for bike mechanical issues
And don’t panic!

Deepest, Steepest, Highest, Hardest

It all started seeing Coach Clark dominate the full triathlon X in 2017 and wondering if I could even contemplate half the distance and attempting to finish the toughest half iron distance triathlon in the world. I also felt as though I wanted to push myself this year at this distance and do something that genuinely scared the living heck out of me. I would later find out it did.

After a few conversation with my uncle saying he was wanting to give it a go. I continued to talk with Steve in regards whether I had the talent and ability to give it a stab… he replied

“yes sure I believe you can so get it entered.”

So with the coaches wise words and blessing I went and entered the event with around 8 months to prepare.

So the training for this epic and scary adventure began. Plenty of rides out with the dream team (Gemma and Craig Scott) as they prepare for there ironman UK debut. A lot of solo rides out in the tough winds and hill rep after rep mansgate claxby and a lot of reps in the Wolds. Its strange once you get cracking up the climbs you begin to enjoy the pain the comes with it as it symbolises achievement and a small success and a step forward and times up and down come down.

Turbo sessions are tough but when you have an amazing group around you each Thursday evening the scotter church with the pastor Mr turbo Cannings with his whistle, Christmas songs, super relevant and relatable 1 hour sessions it seems that little easier to make progress.

The winter months dragged on and progress was on the up. April was here the best month of the year for me. Training camp 14 days of eat sleep and breath training. The coaches Steve, Dean and Dave did and incredible job. Very good sessions every day lots and miles,smiles and climbs. Big shout out to my fellow 2weeker champions Jon Veall and Pete Tindell for the company and the recover rides.

So as the days, weeks, months, training sessions and races past by the big day approached and the magnitude of the challenge of what I had set myself became more and more menacing.

Flash forward to 28th of September. Its massage day to get my legs pummelled by Emma Davis who is a super star, keeping my body supple during the brutal training blocks.

Saturday 29th September my birthday turning 27 and nerves at an all time high I have all my bags packed into the car the bike, transition bag, wetsuit, trial bag you name it it was all packed.  The long drive to the lake district began 164miles. Best of 4 hour drive I pull up to my hotel the ambleside salutation. Only a mile from race start line an transition.

After registering and collecting our numbers and having our mandatory kit bags Checked  we went back and to the hotel dinner ate and constantly checking the weather forecast. All looks well for the morning , little cold but what can I expect from the lakes. Al least it be dry right… more on that later.

Well this is it race morning did I sleep well not a lot. The first time ive not slept well for aa race in all the time ive been racing.

Ate half of my porridge pot and a couple coffees.

Gathered all my bags and my bike from my car and met my uncle in the cold and dark car past at half 6. few words were spoken its race day so what can we both expect.

Steady ride down to the start and time to begin the whole racking we’ve all been through so many times before.

Thats it no going back now the wetsuit is on double capped walking to the race brief to begin the race at 8am.

Race brief done swim course was changed from a 2 lap small lap to a larger 1 lap route and a water temp of just 13.8 degrees.  Cant be that bad right??

In the water we all went… tentatively may I add with a few ooos and ahhhs along the way.

The horn blares though the air and that’s it go go go.

Set off near the front in the middle heading got the light on the boat. Sighting and breathing im seeing everyone on my left. OK set a rythem like I have in training feeling comfortably UN-comfortable. People on the left… people on the left …people on the left… people where the hell they go. I look up find a group in front and slightly to the inside line of me and about half a dozen. Quickly made an effort for 200m to get on terms the  recover.

Made my way around and dropped to jump to the chase group of around four guys. This group was hard to catch I made the last turn to come back to shore and still hadent caught this group. At this point negative thoughts going through my head I was so cold I wanted out. As I looked back I couldn’t see the group I dropped so I knew I needed to push on. Maybe 500 meters from the end I caught the group and hung on started kicking to try stay warm and get ready to run out of the lake. Glanced at watch was 32mins.  later find out the official time was 27 and placed 13th out the water I was very pleased with that.

Swim done felt pretty good but it was so so cold. Got to my bike I felt as though I had about 8 pints of cider I was so dizzy I sat down to get my socks on and shoes. Stood up jersey on and gillet thought about arm warmers but it was raining so no chance of being able to get them on so ran out of T1 jumped on and began the bike section with the rain coming down.

1 mile done then BOOM 20 % kirkstone pass (the struggle) legs still cold not been on the bike 5 minutes and im already climbing. Going to be a long day. Managed to climb at the same speed as another chap and we had a chat between very deep breaths up the top. One out of six climbs done.

Knowing nutrition was going to be key today forced a bar down with a swig of drink and got my head down. Few rollers and the next climb was in front of me wall end climb 25% but now warmed up I could push on that bit more and enjoyed the climb more than the struggle even if it was steeper.

Heading back to T2 with the first and easiest loop completed  and knowing id be back on the main road plus people going to be watching as I pass transition to head out to the bigger climbing section I click through the gears and get the arms on the bars and time trial my way though, well warmed me up a little.

Right its now time to dig in wrynose pass next I see Grimsbys own Les Thompson behind me as we began the 20% climb. Crunch through the gears pedal stroke by pedal stroke we climb to the top Les had a tumble at the top checked on him, he said he was OK. I deceded the wet side of  wrynose pass and recover through the valley before I climb up the west side of harknott.

Hardknott in front of me within 100 meters of the climb I was in my easiest gear and stood up pushing hard my rear wheel spun and I hit the deck. Bottle flew out rolling down Les caught it and brought it back to me. With a grazed knee and substantial pain in my right wrist I walked up the climb and descended to head out onto the out and back section before climbing again. As I was descending I notice my front wheel was rubbing on the pads. I tried to correct it but was no good. I later found that I had damaged the rim it had rippled and distorted as it over heated coming off hardknott 1st time.

They say it would be easy section to recover and get ready for the way home. But the section was just as demanding with tough rollers and now not being able to stand and put a lot of weight on my wrist without great deal of pain. After descending there was a traffic jam on a narrow section with kit cars and a Nissan gtr. All of us racers had to brake rather abruptly, get off get out bikes held above our heads and walk between the cars. That was a good twist cyclo-cross, didn’t sign up for this.

On way back seeing other riders shouting encouragement and my uncle just descended harknott as I was on the way back over with 2 climbs to go. The road was so steep starting from the famous red phone box and over the cattle grid. Digging deep I rode the first few corners before thinking I need to be smart and ride with my head rather then letting pride getting in the way. I unclipped and walked till the road levelled off to a mear 7% and rode until the road kicked up into the hardest part of the course the pitches of 33%. walking over the crest of the steepest paved road in the UK I jumped back on the bike descended the very wet and oil covered road. Very scary decent and a few squeekly bum moments I was down safe just one more climb.

Wrynose east ive ridden before I put the pain behind me and pushed on and climbed it all. Lovely climb if it was dry but the views were just amazing. Last decent and its a flat 6 miles home.

Homeward bound. Right thinking back to all the lincsquad time trials when you’re hurting after making the turn. I bring back the thoughts of what I have to do. Big ring get aero, drink whatever I had left to get me back. Push push push.

Thats it I made it back to T2. I see a fimular face its Siobhan o Brien from Doncaster and fellow tri camper. I get my gillet off my shoes are changed run pack on and run gloves on with pain rushing though my right wrist and I pulled it on. Quick chat hearing that is was so cold at the top it may get shorted.  and an emotional hug from my friend and off I went

Im running… running me. How the hell do my legs feel so good to run after putting them though all that. Its flat for the first 2 and a half miles the turning right past drywall hall up and steep incline. The leader was on his way back as I was starting the climb.

After the steep path you enter a small wooded area and the huge nab scar in front you and a rocky staircase with not a single step the same or the same direction. Some points using my hands to help me get up through the rocks. it was so hot climbing to the first summit. It flattens a little with rocks and ruts all over. I stop and pull out a fleece top out from my bag as the higher and higher I get the colder and colder the air becomes.

The wind it getting stronger and stronger the higher I climb I look back and I see the huge rain clouds heading this way and the views over each side of the trial were just amazing. I was thinking on some of the trails one wrong step I could trip and fall hundreds of feet down the side of this mountain. So with that there was a sharp down hill I began to run more when the opportunity showed itself.

Cramp struck and threw me the the ground few runners ran to me to make sure I was OK. I had to have a minute have some food and water from my bag. Get up carried on. I was around 2 miles from the summit as the ran came. It began to get heavier as I got closer to the summit. As I got to the 2nd to last summit there was a little tent, so I thought that’s it but nope one more peak and a small incline to go. 1 mile.

The waterproof jacket came out as I climbed the last large incline. No longer to feel my fingers so walking up a mountain like a moody teenage round tesco on a Sunday.

Finally I see the little red flags that say that there is 400m to the summit. A small orange tent I came to with a chap hiding from the wind and rain shouts out for my number and if  was OK. Confirming my number and my condition was OK I headed back down. I took a good look around and could see the trail winding on the ridge of the mountain, thinking ive just come up there. The views were just amazing, hard to absorb as I was concerned where I was putting my feet.

This is it way back spirits lifted as homeward bound I began to run down the rain stopped same placed it started so the waterproof came off and back into the bag it went.

More steep climbing and sharp descents. I remembered I still had my cycle jersey on so reached in and behold…. a snickers never eaten on so fast. The sun came out as I was 4 miles from home so I knew it was only 1 and half miles of trail left before I was back on the road.

Began to run and trying to keep up with another racer he was a very good runner we helped each other off the mountain I had a couple of trip and falls one on grass falling on my wrist and one with only 40 meters from the bottom of the mountain.

Checked in with the Marshall at the base of the trail and made it into the road. Adopted the run walk stratagy and I was less then 2 miles from the finish. I was running low on energy moral was getting low legs were heavy and sore from cramp.

Thoughts were bouncing through my head I knew what I had to think of, one of them was all the good running I had done in racing and training up and down hills and all the speed work. The other was a memory from supporting at ironman Bolton when I ran with Craig after him finishing went to find Gemma to see her home. So if she can get though her huge achievement and pain and negative thoughts I can get through this next 2 miles. If not shed shout at me telling me to run.

Running into the town of ambleside it all came to me I was 300m from the finish I couldn’t believe I was going to finish hold the pain and emotion back I pushed on as fast as my body would carry me….

Done I crossed the finish line the medal hanging heavy around my neck as I completed the toughest half iron distance triathlon in the world.

It took me a few weeks to think whether id return to it or not but once id been to hospital and found id broken my scaphoid bone in my right wrist and required surgery I knew I needed to go back for redemption.

I could not have done this race without the ongoing support and encouragement from Mr Steve Clark and all the people that I have trained with other the past year. All the people that believed in me and encouraged me thought this journey. Thank you so much. Big thanks to my family for the support wouldn’t be here without any of you.

My Ironman Journey to Wales to Slay a Dragon

After seeing race pictures and videos from Ironman Wales in the build up to last year’s race in 2017 I was intrigued. I had also seen Triathlon 220’s list of the toughest 11 Ironman’s, with Wales listed at number 9! There was a mix of terror and excitement about it.

I have never, ever, ever, ever imagined that I would even attempt an Ironman. I’ve had issues with my knees due to poor alignment of my knee caps for years, my attempt at running a marathon ended up with me laying in an MRI machine and 4 months off running. But with on-going physio and a carefully structured training plan, this is seemingly under control.

I had not even considered any other races; Ironman Wales, or the Dragon, was somehow calling to me…

When I mentioned it to my coach, Steve he did not even flinch and said, ‘yep you could do Wales’.

So on one dark September Sunday morning in 2017, when most of my friends were awaking to hangovers, I was awaking to the fact I had signed up to Ironman Wales 2018. What on earth had I done!

I was already a triathlete, I had completed a half Ironman distance but on a flat course, and had raced many sprint distances and a couple of standards, but this was going to be a next level challenge.

There was going to be lots of obstacles to overcome, keeping the wonky knee-caps in check, sorting my swim out, getting in some long bike rides and not to mention that I had never even ran a marathon before! But despite all this I was confident that if I just followed the plan, all would be OK.

My biggest obstacle to overcome was cycling. I had not ridden over 60 miles that I had actually enjoyed. My last 100 mile bike ride I wanted to throw my bike in a hedge, walk home and never ride my bike again. So this year I was hoping to just learn to endure it, but I actually learnt to love it! Just on my own terms. I realised I am not a group rider, so I had to just get out there on my own, which meant learning to deal with mechanicals by myself and this year I’ve pretty much learnt how to take my bike apart and put it back together.

It has been a huge commitment and took a lot of organisation to fit all the sessions in but I’ve actually really enjoyed it. I have learnt so much about myself. Mainly that I am completely anti-social and enjoy nothing more than being on my own riding my bike, or running- but that’s OK for a triathlete right!?

So onto the race…

Registration or race briefing had been nothing like I had imagined. I had thought I would casually register and enjoy the whole experience but it was so busy it was actually quite stressful.

I was mega prepared with what I needed in each bag, I had my nutrition plan laminated and stuck on my top tube, I had lists of what to pack in each bag, what I needed for the morning, even down to what I was going to eat the day before!

Checking my bike over on Saturday morning my back brake was sticking, I took it for a check by the bike mechanics and they said a new cable was needed. This was quite stressful as they was really busy and not certain they could fix it in time before transition closed, they would have to rack it for me. This was less than ideal but I had to leave my bike with them and take my bags to transition.

Another layer of stress I had not mentally prepared for! However, not long after I had left transition they called me to say it was done, so back into transition for the second time. Tenby was manic at this point. The Ironkidsrace was on so there were so many people, pushing my bike through the crowd was less than ideal. I was glad to get back to my apartment and chill out for the rest of the day

Race morning

I had slept really well. My 3:45am get up was easier than I imagined, so I ate my over night oats, put my kit on, collected my check-list and off I went. In transition it was so dark it was difficult to see pumping up my tyres and putting my nutrition on my bike. Checking my bike in the morning I realised I had forgot body balm for my neck, my wetsuit occasional chafes but in sea water I knew it could be much worse, I had a lip balm in my bike bag so put a bit of this on hoping it would do. (After note- it did not do! My neck was actually bleeding by the time I got to T1)

Following some milling about it was time to head to swim start.

Swim

On the walk down to the swim I realised I had forgot my earplugs. I hadn’t done a single open water swim without them this year so this was a huge mistake but there was not a thing I could do about it at that point so would just have to pull my swim cap down a little lower. It was on the walk to the swim where I realised how busy it was. It was 6.00am on a Sunday morning and the streets were absolutely packed. The ramp down to swim start was lined with people, children and dogs, it was quite a spectacle. Even a man dressed in a full dragon outfit at that time in a morning was completely surreal.

As I saw the first of the age groupers run into the water, I thought ‘oh crap’ I usually tip-toe in, float on my back a bit, faff with my goggles, then swim, but amazingly I got in there and did it, no faffing, straight in and off.

I managed to find my own space and relax in a bit of a rhythm, getting bunched up to go around the buoys was a bit hectic but fine. I really managed to just find a nice rhythm and just enjoyed catching a glimpse of the sunrise whenever I breathed to that side. I did have Steve’s voice in my head ‘ you swim well when you relax’ so that is exactly what I did and just enjoyed it. About 100m from shore on the first lap it happened, I hit a Jellyfish, I caught sight of it too, it was huge, bigger than a dinner plate! I waited for the pain but there was none and then began to feel bad for the poor thing just floating along and then getting bashed by me.

On to the Aussie exit, I just took my sweet little time had a nice walk in the sand, I couldn’t wait to get back in. Second lap, more jelly fish, I hit another shortly into it, then felt a sting on my wrist. I’m guilty of dropping my elbows and basically having a terrible catch sometimes when I swim, there is nothing like the fear of hitting a jellyfish to correct this! In total I hit four, was stung by one and saw many.

The swim seemed to go really quickly and was pretty low stress, I had really enjoyed it, even with the jellyfish.

As it is such a long run into transition from the sea there is a ‘pink bag’ option to have some trainers to put on for the run. This was probably my favourite and most surreal moment of the day. Running through the streets of Tenby half in my wet suit, carrying a little pink carrier bag with thousands of people cheering you on was insane! I’ve never felt so ridiculous in my life but it was brilliant!

As this was my first Ironman I had no expectations on time and just wanted to finish so I had made the decision to fully change in transition so I would be comfortable for the long and hilly bike route. Wobbling about putting my cycling kit on in transition was hilarious and it felt like it took an age but at least I was now sand and salt water free and feeling fresh.

Onto the bike.

The course is beautiful and I love hills! The on course support was absolutely amazing.

Again- not worrying about the time I decided I would just take toilet stops, even though going for a wee in bib shorts is not quick. I had not anticipated I would need to stop 4 times! Well at least I was keeping well hydrated! Each time I stopped there were some lovely children there to hold my bike and it was really nice talking to them about my bike and my kit, the girls I met were particularly impressed with my pink tyres which was really sweet. I stopped at Narbeth twice and the girls remembered my name and wanted to hold my bike again for me

Seeing my mum and husband at mile 40 I really wanted to tell them about the jellyfish I had seen but the cheering was so loud they couldn’t hear me. There is a hilarious picture of me holding up 4 fingers- which was ‘I touched 4 jelly fish’. The final time I saw them I was heading into a head wind and was 75 miles in so was starting to feel it; there were no attempts to explain my adventures this time around.

Hearing James Brown belted out in the middle of nowhere was a particular on course highlight.

It was perfect cycling and closed roads were amazing! Despite all this I did not enjoy the bike as much as I thought I would. I think the anxiety of just finishing it was looming over me so I was just glad to get it done. As I’ve been unlucky with mechanicals recently I was so anxious about a DNF due to one but my bike ran like a dream and I loved the quick downhills with no worry of traffic.

Run…

Another full change and out onto the run. The anxiety of a DNF was now under control as I knew I had the time to finish. Despite this the first 2k were hell! My back hurt, my legs hurt, but most of all- I realised I was so hungry! The smell of doughnuts and chips was pure torture. I had enough gel blocks to get me through the run but couldn’t stomach them and needed something savoury. Never in my life have I been so happy to see dry crackers. I stuffed these along with nachos and bananas down at every aid station on the first lap. I managed to run the first 2 laps, by the third the pain was undeniable and I had to walk. I knew I had plenty of time and rationalised that the time saved running would just add to my recovery as I was certain I had re-torn muscles.

On the run the crowd support was unreal! So much cheering and shouting, it was amazing but as it got dark and some of the supporters had left and there was less competitors on course it became a little lonely.

Having drunken men shout about my bum as I complete in one of the toughest Ironman courses in the world was a low-light and completely inappropriate leaving me feeling a little vulnerable on the course in the dark, not what I had expected at such a large event. However, I kept my s**t together, tried not to grind my teeth too loudly and continued on the run, at this point walking, on to the final lap! By this time it was quite dark and I was so glad to get out of the madness of the town and just have a nice quiet walk in the dark. I was enjoying watching a bat and maybe even having a little sing to myself, however, the biggest low of the day was yet to come…

When power walking up hill into New Hedges about 500m before the Red Bull turn around point a very drunk man came out of no where and grabbed me, trying to make me run up the hill. I felt quite on my own at this point and understandably very tired, I was F**king livid! These and a couple of other incidents on the run I am not going to let put a downer on what was an absolutely amazing day.

I did walk with a few other competitors and had a chat, which was really nice and helped to pass the time. I had some absolutely lovely moments on the run too, some really nice words of support.

As I came into the town for the fourth time I was dreading running by the pubs again, but I just blanked it out and got a move on, shuffling along.

The winding course through town felt the longest ever, but when I saw the red carpet it was complete relief! As I stepped on the carpet the crowd went mad. My memory of what happened next completely fails me, I don’t even remember getting my medal but I remember seeing Lucy Gossage who was heading to hand out medals giving me a ‘well done’ pat on the arm as she walked past.

That was it. I had done it! I still can’t quite believe it. It has been such an amazing journey and I have learnt more about myself than I ever imagined I would. I have absolutely loved every bit of training, it was tough and hectic to fit in at times, but I will certainly be doing it again, just when and where is the bit I need to figure out…

I have to say a huge thank-you to my husband who despite thinking I am absolutely insane has been really supportive, from running in the rain with me, to mountain biking out to bring me water and snacks on my long runs, to putting up with the noise of the turbo trainer!

To Steve as without his coaching I would not have even had the confidence to attempt this Ironman malarkey.  To all the training buddies I have made along the way, it has been fab having so much support. I am really excited for next year!

 

Ironman Wales 2018 –John Chambers

Here we go again! Tenby the town where everyone knows your name and you feel like a rock star. Following the catastrophe 2 weeks before IM Wales 2017 (going over on my ankle and causing severe ligament and tendon damage), as soon as entry opened I was in again for another go. Following my injury I managed to get a place in 2018 London marathon also but I didn’t think I would be able to do it justice so I deferred until 2019. With a lot going on domestically also it meant training for Wales didn’t really start until June when I asked Steve to throw a plan together for me. My ankle still not 100% but at least I could run this year!

The weekend was shared with fellow athletes Gary Horner, Brad Porter and Dean Atkinson and a top notch support crew which through rivalry, camaraderie and banter made it an awesome weekend, especially as we all completed it.

We met at registration and the competition had already started between us to see who could buy the most IM gear from the Expo, it was a close one and I’m sure Gary wanted a towel but the ‘Boss’ said no! We had a quick walk through the athlete village, checked transition and swim start before checking into our house – what a fab place, so good I have booked it again next year. We returned to North beach for a quick swim in the sea. High tide was 1730 and there were quite a few who had the same idea. Not too far but a good swim to calm the nerves and eliminate the worry of the hoards of jelly fish reported – I think I saw one. Return to the house and a quick spin on the bike where Gary and I got lost. We rode just under 9 miles but did more elevation than the local two bridges ride which is around 48 miles door to door – this would be the theme of the weekend, not many flat roads round here!

Saturday was another chilled and relaxed day. Race brief at 1000 following which bikes and transitions bags were dropped off – it was happening, no turning back now. It had been raining all Friday night and Saturday morning but had stopped by this point, the forecast wasn’t actually too bad for race day for a change as 2017 was brutal (40mph winds and torrential rain), another relaxing evening with a meal in a local pub and early night. 0330 and the alarm was going off, I had actually slept well. The others were up also sharing the delight of forcing breakfast down in an ungodly hour. We travelled to transition together, it was a bit like we started together, and we finished together. Final preparations were made in transition and bikes loaded with food. The call came at 0620 to start making our way on to the high street where the self-seeded queue for the swim start began. We had had discussions on what time we would line up at, much to my discontent, we ended up at the 1 hour 5 marker but we all started together. 0645 and it was time for the Welsh national anthem, following which we decided we were going to become Welsh! It was sung by a male opera singer (who was also racing) and about ten thousand other people – spine tingling is the only way to describe it.

0655 saw the pro’s start and the fastest swimmers of the Age Groupers starting at 0700. I believe we entered the water at 0708. The dash for the first buoy was a bit too hectic for my liking when we made the turn I stayed to the edge trying to keep out of the way. By the time I had reached the next buoy, things had calmed down a bit as everyone had found their rhythm and pace. The swim felt relaxed and comfortable with no further incidents. I remember looking at my watch as I did the Aussie exit after the first lap and it being 41 minutes something, lap two and there was more room as the field had strung out. I had remembered looking at the position of the buoys from the harbour the previous day and thinking they seem a long way – it seems they were. My swim was over 400m longer than it should be and I was tight on the buoys all the way round. I stopped my watch as I stood up at 1:22:45 before running onto the beach where the timing mats were better than I expected especially for 4289meters (My official swim time slightly longer as I came out of the water thinking I should be looking like Daniel Craig!). Transition is 1km away so you have the joys of running up the zigzag path and then through the town. When I got into transition I remember seeing Gary ready to cycle. A quick change and away I went. I decided to take it easy on the bike knowing how hard the marathon is, probably a little too easy to be honest. I passed Brad on the way to Angle a quick chat then onwards expecting him to catch me up on the hills but never saw Gary on the bike course, yet it turns out at some point I must have passed him and not realised. There was the usual head wind for the first 20 miles or so then that is replaced by relentless hills. I was passed by the two male leaders when I was on the first lap of the big loop, they were on their second. This also happened in 2017 but I was happy that I was further on the course this year. The bike was completed without drama, back to transition, quick change and away, 4 laps of Tenby – basically 3 miles uphill and 3 miles downhill, the repeat. The first lap I ran l the way taking just over 62 minutes. The remaining laps saw me slowing to a walk on the steepest parts then run the remainder. I remember seeing Gary on his way out of Tenby as I was on my way back in on my first lap but as I hadn’t seen him on the bike I assumed he was a lap in front of me. Even when I had finished I was convinced he had already completed the course! Brad, Gary and I passed each other in opposite directions numerous times on each lap. A quick check on how we were doing as we passed. The marathon seemed to fly by until about 25.5 miles where my legs just seized up. I had to walk a little through the town to free them off then before the last turn I was determined not to walk across the finish line so managed to run the last few hundred meters – job done! There is no other way of describing this race other than brutal. Around 8000ft of ascent on the bike and almost 2000ft on the run.

I cannot explain in words what the atmosphere was like in Tenby as the whole town just embraces it, 2017 was awesome in terrible conditions, 2018 surpassed this by a mile as with better weather the streets were absolutely rammed like you have never seen – I have experienced nothing like it.

Thanks as usual to Steve Clark at Off That Couch Fitness for expert guidance and coaching, Gary, Brad and Dean and not forgetting our fab support crew who we shared this magic experience with.

Here’s to next year with a third visit to slay the dragon and a warm up in Bolton first!

Ironman World 70.3 Championships

2018 and the Ironman 70.3 World Championships were in South Africa. Unlike the crown jewel of the Ironman full distance World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. The 70.3 equivalent has rather attractively been given free reign to roam across the globe. With previous years in Austria, Australia and 2017 the USA, it was the turn of a whole new continent for Ironman to host a premium event, with Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Rolling back through the process of getting there you have to qualify, my race for this was Weymouth 70.3 a whole 12months back. A top 5 giving me a automatic slot for the race in South Africa if I chose to take it. At the time there was no intention of taking the slot, and it wasn’t until meeting some friends at the slot allocation and then the killer blow of Ironmans motivational 5min video that sells you the race…that by the end of the night and a few £ lighter from my wallet, I was heading to Africa in 2018.
Planning for such a race seemed actually pretty simple after having a few years of triathlon under my belt. That included a few longer races including LCW Tenby to aim for but most importantly, all of which I found motivating and something to actually look forward to.
Triathletes with such a premium race in the calendar can get carried away with self pressure for performance and a obsession for numbers heading towards the race. Leaving them actually not enjoying the process at all. Now as much as I’m committed to day to day training and doing the necessary. I very much push my training choices to what is fun, and try take that exact same approach into race day itself. If nothing else it gives longevity to enjoy all these races year in year out.
South Africa gave the opportunity for a racecation, 5 days in Port Elizabeth solely Triathlon orientated, then 7days in Cape Town exploring a seemingly stunning part of the world.
Arriving in PE bike intact and present, and a fly around the swim/bike courses, it was apparent you got a ‘real’ triathlon with this race. A sea swim, from a beach start into the waves. And a stunning undulating coast road along the Indian Ocean as just part of a 90k bike leg, you can really go at…thumbs up from me.
Race day came and with Jan Frodeno, Alistair Brownlee and Javier Gomez all on the Pro start line, it was all quite surreal to be setting off in the same race behind them. 9.10am came and the Male 25-29 Age Category was off, with waves of 8 leaving every 15seconds making a much calmer swim start than the usual fight expected. Another local triathlete Jack Skelton in the 25-29, who became a good travel companion across the trip set off in the exact same 8 as myself. Making a fun duel for the day for the trackers at home to watch.
The beeps count down an GO! A 50metre ish run to the waves and it was into the wet, 800m before the first turn and it was a real sea swim, no major waves but certainly enough chop so you couldn’t see the buoys if you sighted at the wrong point. I felt prepared though after working on a faster turnover of stroke for such sea conditions in my training. As far as a swim goes it was fairly uneventful, I felt good and passed what felt like a constant stream of the starters before me. Out of the waves to shore and a what must be close to 100m run to the timing mat for a late 26min swim…I have no judge of this in race as i dont use a watch. But post race it’s a time I’m happy with given the timing mat placing and being a ‘proper’ sea swim. 
T1, and wetsuit off in a second thanks to the wetsuit grabbers who pull it off your legs. Something completely new to me but hey they made it so easy. Grab helmet/bike, noticing Jack’s still there so I’m up on time (thank god as I felt I needed it for the bike).
Continuing through T1 and errm a gentle shout to hurry up to the guys taking too long to run to the bike mount line and the it was off on the 90k leg.
Now the bike can go many ways for me, often suffering from the cold, crashing, blowing up or generally the part I enjoy the least. This time I felt different, legs got going straight away and I was just chasing every bike up the road I could. With 10 waves and probably over a 1000 men setting off already there was big groups to get past. Sitting behind all these athletes was useless as they were so much slower, but due to the numbers it was a large effort to keep overtaking so many at once and not be at the risk of a 5min drafting penalty from the many bike marshals predating the course. I rolled the dice every time, wanting to ride a clean race I took on the ‘GO FOR IT’ theme and to find out the hard way how it would feel. Ultimately I road the best I ever have in a 70.3, a 2hr25 split and feeling good with it the whole way. Maybe I just enjoy having the competition of so many fast athletes around me. And importantly for my own morality exiting the bike with the final satisfaction I rode as honest as I possibly could the whole way around.
T2 and another new, no bike racking, just throw it at the marshalls. Kit on and off we go to see how a likely, ‘best’ 70.3 swim/bike combination would lead me on the run.
The run…they said flat and fast, they must have forgotten the 2 long hills at either end! Nothing major but in any race of these distances you never really fancy seeing them on each lap.
As for the actually running, well, it wasn’t feeling fast, my head felt good but the legs said no. Trying to run at a stride length I feel I can do to go quicker just wasn’t happening, and trying it seemed to twitch cramp in both my hamstrings and quads. So a case of management of what would be most efficient and not leading to firing that those twinges into full blown cramp.
Lap 2 and spotting Jack again with the relief of now knowing I wouldn’t be caught by him (small in race competition) the signals were he felt equally in a state of management rather than life best run split.
5k to go and I desperately wanted to nail everything to the line, but the legs wouldn’t give it. Frustrating yes, but equally satisfying that I’d reached a point I couldn’t actually give more. And for a World Championship, that is really what you aim for.
The red carpet, something I’d been waiting for over 12months for, your name being called out to the crowd’s and the chance to take in what months of your year had gone into. I genuinely had no idea of my finish time coming to the line with my preference for lack of watches and data. Sub 4hr30 was the target…4hr22min11 the time, and most importantly a strong finish line photo to suit, we all know that’s important haha.
The first 70.3 World Championship in the bag, 156th of 3675 including Pro’s. A performance that gives large satisfaction but scope for improvement at another 70.3 Championship race..of which I leave with hunger for.
South Africa delivered and Ironman delivered the best race experience yet with every detail covered.
Memories that I will never forget and a experience that I’m truly grateful for having the opportunity to race.
With finally a overly large thanks to both Britcon and OTCF for the support and advice towards making this all happen, you guys really make the process much easier.