Ironman Wales race report – Pete Tindall

 

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


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

Ironman Wales – Paul Mcewan

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

Slaying the Dragon by Ash Evans

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


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

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

Ironman Wales 2017 – John Chambers


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

The unexpected Ironman

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

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

 

 

Run

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

Ironman Vichy 70.3 by Richard

Ironman Vichy 70.3, Saturday 26 August 2017

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan’s story

Had a great time racing in the SuperHeroes Triathlon down at Eton Dorney this weekend with my friend Ian, this year I did the bike and push (the run part, but in a wheelchair) components… Been to see Coach Steve Clark today to show off my medal, and have my weekly swim session in the endless pool, so that next year I’ll be able to complete the whole thing!

…After a battle with brain cancer, and the resulting acquired brain injury (ABI) that I have to deal with on a daily basis…  we’ve (well, it was all Steve really!) sussed that my brain sends the signal to breathe, but not the one to make sure my head’s above water first (!!) resulting in near drowning every 20seconds! Steve suggested I try a full face mask/snorkel … and it’s working !!! Really enjoying my swim sessions now, and seeing improvements every week!

 

 

 

 

Becoming an Outlaw by Chris Store

So towards the end of 2016, having already entered my first full distance event in ironman Barcelona for this year I had a little moment of madness and decided it would a good idea to enter another one and entered the outlaw. I’d managed to get myself through Olympic and half distances but decided for the full the best thing to do would be to get some help from someone who actually knows what they are doing so I contacted Steve and we met just before Christmas. One of the first questions he asked me was “why two?” and I didn’t really have an answer to it other than it seemed like a good idea at the time! I did my bike ftp test and we decided get Christmas and new year out of the way and then start properly in January.

Fast-forward to July and the 6-7 months of training I feel has gone well, I’ve managed stay injury free all year and I’ve set PB’s in pretty much everything I have gone for. I only did one event leading up to this point, which was the Ancholme sprint tri that saw me improve over that course by around 6 minutes on my previous best. Looking back now I maybe should have done a couple more just for my own motivation more than anything, I enjoyed the training but getting a result like that really pushed me on and made me want to keep working hard.  Training wasn’t all plain sailing though, I did have to miss some of the sessions that Steve was giving me due to work, my job takes me all over the country staying away during the week meaning I quite often had no bike and during the winter months I had a few interesting runs…along Brighton front with freezing rain coming in sideways off the sea is a personal highlight! Also the being away from my family so much didn’t help, I felt incredibly guilty every time I came home on a Friday and I had a busy weekend of training. My wife Ruth has been nothing but supportive about me doing this but we have two daughters who are 8 and 4 and she also helps look after her elderly mother so me disappearing on my bike for hours wasn’t really helping her very much.

So it’s the Friday before and I’m at home sorting out all my gear trying to double and treble check that I’ve got everything I’m going to need and I get a text from Steve asking how I’m feeling about race day. I told him I’m looking forward to it but also have a few nervy thoughts in my head like am I really ready for this? It seemed so far in the future when I entered how has it come around so quick! My own results should have given me the confidence I needed but I guess most people question themselves and Steve assured me that I was well ready for it which did give me the little bit of reassurance I had maybe needed.

Saturday we had a pretty lazy start to the day, I checked I had everything for about the 300th time before loading the car and we set off towards Nottingham. We were staying with my parents at a campsite a couple of miles from the NWC in their motor home; they had gone over on the Friday and had taken my bike with them so the plan was to go meet them, leave the girls with them and then me and Ruth would head over to get myself registered and rack my bike.

It was early afternoon by the time we reached the NWC and it had turned out to be a lovely sunny day so far, after some not so great weather forecasts, it had been changing all week and I was in two minds on covering my bike as they are out in the open all night. The place was busy with people competing in a swimming event, as well as people registering for the Outlaw. We found the registration tent and I got in line, feeling nervous and excited – it was

all too real now!  Once registered and I had been given my race number, timing chip, transition bags and a load of freebies (a top quality rucksack, I might add!), we had some time to kill before the race briefing started, so we had a look around the various tents, I bought myself an Outlaw hoodie and spent probably a little bit too much time staring at the finish line wondering what it would be like to finally cross it after a long hard day.

After the race briefing we headed back to the car so I could sort my transition bags and put the stickers on my bike ready to take to transition, I had written down what I was going to put in each bag but I still wasn’t sure that id got everything I needed. Walking into transition I don’t mind admitting I had a little bit of bike envy but I found my number and racked my bike. I decided, although we’d been assured it wouldn’t happen, to let a bit of air out of my tyres as id heard stories of them exploding in the night when the temperature dropped, and while doing this I noticed that one of the spokes on my rear wheel was twisted…which wasn’t exactly a confidence boost but at the time it was it was too late to do anything about it so I just had to hope it wasn’t a serious issue. I have since had it looked at and been assured that it wasn’t anything to worry about.

The changing tent was a new experience to me, it took me quite a while to find my number but as it turned out I think I got a little bit lucky on where it was in the tent. I was down at the far end and there seemed to be more room down there than in other parts of the tent which I hoped would help when it came to changing when it mattered.

Bike and bags dropped off I took one last look at the finish line and we headed back to where we were staying, I’d decided no to cover my bike in the end and I think about three seconds after we got back and got out of the car the heavens opened and it absolutely threw it down and continued to do so until the early hours of the morning. I know it carried on until the early hours, as I didn’t exactly get a great deal of sleep! The rain and the nerves over what was to come in the morning were bad enough but added to this was my eldest daughter Holly was unwell in the night.

I think altogether I managed to get around 3-4 hours sleep and before I knew it, it was 4am and my alarm was going off. I dragged myself out of bed and my long suffering wife, who loves early mornings…(hmm?) and must be sick of the word triathlon by now, drove me to the NWC.  Once parked up, she walked with me as far as she could, leaving me at the transition area this was it I was now on my own. She went off to find somewhere to watch the start and I went off to my bike, put my bottles in the cages and pumped up the tyres and then joined the sizeable queue for the portaloos.

The transition tent was packed, people everywhere pulling on their wetsuits and I don’t mind admitting I felt a little bit intimidated by the whole situation. I got changed into my wetsuit and spoke a few words with the people around me, many of whom seemed to be just as nervous as me and with 6am fast approaching it was time to head out to the lake and get ready for the start.

The swim is by far my least favourite of the three parts of a triathlon; I just find everything about it hard which in turns makes it hard for me to motivate myself for it. I’ve done more swimming this year than I think I ever have before and that is pretty much down to training with Steve, if it hadn’t been for that I’d have found any excuse to not do it and as I headed out the lake I was looking forward to getting it out of the way.

The lake at the NWC has four recesses at the end where the start is, they’d asked us in the race briefing to seed ourselves in these based on our predicted swim time, fastest on the left down to slowest on the right, mine was between 60-70minutes which put me in the second one and I decided to hang back a little to see if that would help me stay out of the washing machine of the mass start. Looking back now I think most had the same idea as on a video Ruth took of the start it’s actually much quieter at the front.

So 6am, the gun goes, I press the button on my watch and away we go. For the first 500m my main focus was trying not to get kicked in the face, it was impossible to find any rhythm as there were just so many people trying to get the same patch of water. Once the field were stretched out a little this did get better and after we made the turn at the top of the lake I did seem to find a little bit of space for myself and the only thing I had to avoid were the little buoys that I think they have for when the lake is used for rowing races. I did a pretty bad job of avoiding them as it turned out but I thought to myself at least I’m swimming in a straight line! Carrying on at my steady pace, as I got towards the swim exit I noticed a couple of people heading out to start their bike leg, I have no idea how people swim so fast!

I reached the end of my swim and was over the moon with my time of just over 67minutes, I’d gone faster in training but that wasn’t with another thousand people fighting for the same small space!

The changing tent was a lot quieter than I expected it to be in T1, I had visions of people falling over each other trying to get themselves ready for the bike but I wasn’t like that at all. Wetsuit and goggles off and bike shoes and helmet on I headed out to find my bike. I’d written on my hand which row it was on, as I didn’t want to be the guy running around transition not being able to remember where his bike was.

The bike leg looking back now is a bit of a blur. I remember the first three miles around the perimeter road of the lake as I was trying to get some food in it seemed like everyone that had ever owned a bike was trying to get past me. I also noticed quite a few still in the water completing their swim and thought to myself I’m glad that bit is over. Out on the road I tried to settle into my ride as quickly as possible, a few passed me and I always feel, as I’m sure many people do that I should try and respond to it by riding a bit harder and had to stop myself from doing so, 112miles is a long way and I didn’t want to spend the end of it struggling because I had gone out to hard at the start. The next thing I remember is around the forty mile mark, for some reason I felt quite low at that point, I couldn’t say why but it passed quite quickly and I pedalled on.

There is not that much elevation in the bike course of the outlaw, the only bit you could call a climb comes at around the 50 mile mark. Id finished sulking by this point and I felt strong as I pushed my way up it passing a few on the way. The only other thing that stands out in my memory of the bike is the third and fourth time I passed through Car Colston. The organisers were putting on free busses from the NWC to there and the road through was lined with people on both sides creating a really good atmosphere and supporting and encouraging everyone who went past weather they knew them or not. I have to say the support and encouragement from marshals and spectators for the whole day was absolutely fantastic.

The final couple of miles back into the NWC are along a private road and the surface isn’t exactly perfect, I was forced to sit up and slow down, as there are also quite a few speed bumps. This maybe helped in a way as easing off for the last couple of miles allowed me to start thinking about the run to come and what I had to do in transition. Finally reaching the dismount line I climbed off my bike with a bike split of 5hrs 48mins. I’d wanted to go under 6hrs so I was well under that. The legs felt a bit like jelly for a few seconds but this soon passed and I actually felt not too bad, passed my bike to the marshal who would re-rack it for me and headed into the changing tent.

Couple of minutes in transition and then it was on to the run, or rather to find the nearest portaloo as I was bursting for a wee. The run starts with a lap of the lake and I was starting to look around for my family. My wife had gone back to where we were staying after watching the swim start and they were all coming back in the afternoon too see me (hopefully!) finish, I felt ok but I was looking forward to seeing some familiar faces by this point. The first familiar face I actually saw was my friend Pete, he told me I was looking strong, which I’m more than sure I wasn’t but it was nice to hear anyway and I headed off to do my lap. I set off at a steady 8.30min mile pace which felt ok and as I completed the lap of the lake passing the finish line to collect my first wristband the clock on the finish line showed exactly 7hrs 30mins. I had set myself a target of under 12hrs for the whole event and I remember thinking to myself I can go under 11hrs here I’ve got three and a half hours to cover 23miles, I can do that!

After the lap of the lake the run heads for the first of two loops out along the bank of the Trent into Nottingham, and just before I started the first one I finally saw my family for the first time. I have no idea why but when I saw them just for a few seconds I felt quite emotional, this soon passed thankfully and the one thing that stands out about seeing them was seeing my youngest daughters face light up with a huge smile as she saw me, I gave them all a high 5 and a big smile to try and show them I was ok and then it was out towards Nottingham. It was soon after this however that I started to struggle, each mile got a little bit slower and I was really finding it difficult to get even a gel and water in without feeling sick. I decided I would walk the feed stations and run (shuffle) between them, which served me well for the first loop.

Heading back into the NWC the crowds of people were a big motivation to keep running, I’ve said before how much of a boost I found their support but I really did find it a huge help. Another lap of the lake and as I passed the finish to collect my second wristband the winner was waiting to celebrate breaking the course record. I still had a half marathon to run and my own finish still seemed a long way off!

 

I saw Pete and my family again just before I headed out for the second loop, I gave them a big smile again trying to hide how much I was now feeling it but I don’t think I did a great job of covering it up. I did find out after I finished that my mum, who loves a panic at the best of times, had somehow come to think the run only went around the lake and when she hadn’t seen me for a while had convinced herself that I’d collapsed and was in the back of an ambulance or laid by the side of the road. The second loop out into Nottingham seemed to take forever and by this point all I was thinking was just keep moving forward, I found myself trying to see how many wristbands each person had and walking more and more. Pushing on I finally got back to the NWC and all that stood between me and the finish was two laps of the lake, I could hear the announcer at the finish line as people were having their moment and I knew it would finally be my turn soon. I saw my family again, they gave me their last words of encouragement before they headed around to the finish and I started my final lap of the lake, exhausted but motivated by how close I now was to the finish I managed to run the final two miles without having to walk. I can’t describe how happy I felt to be able to veer into the finish instead of run past it this time and crossed the finish line with a run of 4hrs 13mins and a total time of 11hrs 19mins and 20seconds going well beyond the target I had set myself. I had hoped to go sub 4hrs for the run but at this point I could have cared less about not doing that.

I collected my medal and t shirt and was ushered towards a flight of steps that I now had to climb, there cant have been more than 20 but it felt like climbing a mountain after the day I’d just had but once at the top I knew my family wouldn’t be far away and I was met with a huge hug from my wife and daughters.

Would I do it again? Absolutely, yes. The outlaw is a fantastic event and I can’t praise it enough it’s such a well put together event. Weather I ever will is another question, Ruth and the girls have been so supportive of me doing this and I could never thank them enough for that so I think it is time I return the favour and focus on them now, maybe when the girls are older and they’ve had enough of their dad embarrassing them and Ruth is sick of me getting under her feet I might give it another go and see if I can get under that 11hrs I briefly thought I could manage. So finally I owe a huge thank you to Steve Clark, he’s got me in the best shape I’ve been in in a long long time, maybe ever, and without his help and guidance there’s no way I would have achieved the results that I have, I’ll certainly never forget the day I became an outlaw!

2017 – Mid Year Race Review Nick Martin

On the 6th of January it was announced that Amy Grocock and I would be the new members of the Britcon/Off that couch fitness race team, what a way to start the year!

With the year already looking positive it was time to brave the cold and wet conditions on the 8th of January for the Lincolnshire Cross Country County Championships. It was a grim January morning at Biscathorpe. Having raced at Biscathorpe before I knew it was going to be a tough race with hills, multiple river crossings and cow poo to navigate. The race set off with a fast uphill start, after the first lap the top five positions had a good lead on the rest of the field. With the top 10 positions qualifying for the county team I had secured my place by finishing 5th.


Now that the County Championships were out of the way for another year it was time to head down under and visit my Family in Adelaide, Australia. With the National Cross Country Championships in sight there was no time to rest. The warmer weather made running a whole lot easier without having to battle the wind, rain and ice.

With my three weeks of sun out of the way it was time to focus on the biggest event on the cross country calendar, the National Championships. The Nationals were being held in Woollaton Park in Nottingham. The race was set to see a large number of runners of all ages from across the country compete. The men’s race was the last event of the day; it was now time to finally start. With some 3000 men on the start line it was time to tackle the tough 12km undulating course through, bog, long grass, hills and other runners!

The gun had gone and with no time to think the Race was on. With an aim of making the top 100 I knew I had to give it my all from the start. My Running coach, Laurie Bland, was counting me round on the first lap, “87, 88, 89, 90 YOU ARE IN THE TOP 100 NICK GOOO!” Laurie was excited to say the least. With the top 100 being an aim for the last two years we were both very excited at this stage but the race was far from over. I could feel my legs becoming heavier and heavier. It came to the last 3km lap and I knew it was going to be the most painful. With everyone wanting to achieve their best the pace quickly increased. The finish line was so close but yet so far away, I dragged myself over the line to finish in 94th. Both Laurie and I were over the moon.

The Inter County Championships soon came around, yet again another grim winter’s morning at Prestwold Hall in Loughborough. With a lot of miles in the legs and a slight cold I knew it was going to be a tough race. The men’s race was called and Lincolnshire team assembled in our starting pen. With a decent start I tried to hang on to the runners in front but this proved to be rather difficult. I managed to finish 59th overall and I was the 3rd Lincolnshire Lad home.
With the cross country season over it was time to introduce some more speed sessions into the mix to prepare for the summer season ahead. The first race on the agenda was the Mid Cheshire 5km National Championships closely followed by the first ever Ancholme Sprint Triathlon just two days later.

The 28th of April soon came, D-Day! I was longing for a new personal best. I knew I had to give it my all to break my previous personal best of 15:30 which I had been finding difficult to break since setting it two years ago. Ideally a sub 15 minute time would be awesome. To achieve this goal I knew I had to sub 3 minutes for every kilometre. Sure enough the first kilometre was very fast, with the top lads running off into the sunset I had to focus on hitting the next 4km markers in sub 3 minutes. Before I knew it I could once again see Laurie shouting and jumping up and down in the road. This was a good sign, with only a kilometre to go I gave it my absolute all to get the much wanted sub 15 minute time. The distance markers were becoming more frequent, 800, 600, 400, 200, I’d done it, 14:52! I couldn’t believe it. Finally all of the long, cold winter miles had paid off. Another goal achieved!

The attention soon turned to my first triathlon for the year, The Ancholme Sprint. My legs felt like jelly and so I knew I was going to struggle.
With a 06:30 registration I clearly wasn’t firing on all cylinders as I had to make a quick drive back to North Kelsey to collect my number belt and goggles which I had somehow forgotten. With the swim completed it was time to hit the bike. Unfortunately there were road works in Hibaldstow with traffic lights; this therefore meant that there was chance we would have to stop during the race. Typical, I hit two red lights which meant I had to stop; although time deductions were implemented for those that had to stop, I still had time to make up. T2 was soon over and I was storming down the side of the Ancholme and up and over the bridge. With my 14:52 5km still in my legs from Friday I knew I had a strong finish. I passed some family and friends on the bridge with a few high fives before dropping down onto the final finishing straight. It then became clear that I had won the first ever Ancholme Sprint Triathlon. With the Eton Sprint Triathlon only three weeks away I was feeling positive and ready to compete in the ITU qualifying race.

Race day soon came; Hannah (my girlfriend) and I took to the road and headed south to Windsor for the weekend. With perfect racing conditions forecasted, I was looking forward to the event. The race was situated at Eton Dorney Lake and the course was pancake flat and sheltered. With my number collected
it was time to rack my bike in position 443. I was actually quite lucky as I was in a really good position for transition.

There were 72 competitors in the under 30 category. A small start line in the water meant it was essential I got myself a good position to start the race. With the swim being my second strongest leg I got stuck straight in and swam the 750m course in a time of 9:54. This put me in twelfth place and gave me a good lead into T1. The bike was always going to be hard work as it is my weakest leg. Everyone that I had previously passed in the swim started to fly past me.  I tried to hang on to a pack of riders for as long as possible and I eventually entered T2 with a bike time of 45:39. This had unfortunately put me way down the rankings but with only a 5km run left it was my time to put the power down and start picking off other competitors one by one. This worked to my advantage as I had an aim to push myself towards on the long two lap straight. With the finish line in sight I pushed hard hoping that I had done enough to qualify. With a 5km split time of 16:52 I had ran the third fastest run split time. This gave me an overall time of 1:03:25, a placing of 9th in my age group and 25th overall.


June was looking to be a quiet month for a change, with only two races planned. First up was the Woodhall Spa 10km on the 4th. Being a fairly flat course it was hopefully going to be a potential personal best race. Another one of my goals for the year was to break my personal best of 32:24 which had remained the same for two years. With some of the best lads in the county on the start line I knew I had a chance of breaking my personal best as I could try to hang on to them and push myself. The first 5km was run in approximately 15:30 with a group of 5 setting a reasonable pace. All I now had to do was try and achieve a similar pace for the final 5km to get that much wanted personal best. 1st and 2nd place increased the place from about the 8.5km mark and I simply couldn’t respond meaning that I ended up finishing in 3rd with a time of 31:34. This new personal best meant that I had achieved another goal for the year!

The last race of June was one of my favourite local races, the two lap Croxby Crawl. The Croxby summer series is a local race held in the heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds. The 4.4mile lap has a number of large hills and that puts manners into you! With unfinished business from the 2016 two lap race, due to the race being cancelled, I was on a mission to break the sub 50 minute barrier that had not been broken since the 1990’s. With heavy legs from the Woodall Spa 10km it was certainly going to be a challenge. I completed the first lap in about 24 minutes and had roughly 25 minutes to complete the second lap. I managed to finish in a time of 49:05 which was a personal best for the
course and the sub 50 minute barrier had been broken.

July was looking to be an extremely busy month with three major events. First of all was the Caistor Sting in the Tail 10km. The name says it all as the last quarter of the race was tough. Although it isn’t one of the biggest events on my yearly race calendar, it’s a special race to me as I was born and bred in Caistor. Having won the past four Sting in the Tail’s the pressure was on to say the least. My yearly inspirational text was received from my friend ‘Turbo Tom’ and I was ready to battle it out for another year. I was extremely nervous as everyone was hoping for a Caistor Running Club win for a fifth consecutive year. William Strangeway from Lincoln took the early lead and I thought that the race was over, with a 200m gap he had the advantage. As the race went on I began to feel myself slowly pick up the race and close the gap between William and myself. Before I knew it I had pulled a reasonable gap. With the sting in the tail approaching I was hoping that I could hold my lead to bring the win home for Caistor. As I began the final climb up into the Caistor Market Place, I could hear the Market Place erupt with cheer from all of my family and friends. I had done it for another year, with the added bonus of breaking my course record by 50 seconds.


With only a few days to recover it was time to take on the Lincolnshire Edge, my first standard distance triathlon. Located at Cadney it was practically on my doorstep. As the Edge was my first standard distance triathlon I was unsure how to pace myself for the distance. The fact I lived local to the course was to my advantage as I had rode the course multiple times on both my Scott Foil and Planet X TT bike. Due to the uneven, twisty roads and little rises I found myself setting a faster time on the Scott. I therefore chose to ride my Scott on race day much too many people’s surprise.

With the start called much to my surprise I had to quickly get my wetsuit on and get into the water. I started the swim at a reasonable pace and soon found myself in the lead. I exited the water in just over 20 minutes and entered what was an awful transition; I ran up and down the bike rack looking at multiple red and black bikes but couldn’t see mine, disaster! I eventually found my Scott and made way to the exit, I hit the bike expecting to be overtaken at any point. After 40km I was surprised to still find myself leading into T2. T2 was no better than T1, I was hopeless. I eventually managed to rack my bike after a few wise words from the race official regarding racking correctly. With T2 finally out of the way it was time to get the run under way, as I could see that I had a visible lead I set a reasonable pace but
slow enough so that I didn’t use any unnecessary energy. I finished the run in a time of 34:59 which gave me a total time of 2:03. With a first place already in the bag for the Britcon Race team from Steve Grocock in the sprint I claimed the win for the standard distance. As this being my first standard distance I was over the moon with a win but also felt I had a lot more to give, hopefully 2018 will see a sub 2 hour standard distance.


The last race of July it was the Grimsby 10km. As this was the second year the race had been ran, it had attracted a large number of entrants. My usual pre race warm up plans were altered slightly on the morning of the race, I was met by Turbo tom and his girlfriend (Emma) whom I soon found out was now his fiancée. Not only did I have to process that news, I then had to process the news that I am going to be his best man. This was not something I was expecting to hear before the race. The race started off at a steady pace but felt quite hard, I managed to stick with the lead pack until the 4km mark where 1st and 2nd broke away, unfortunately I couldn’t respond to the pace. My legs were fading and at the 9km mark I couldn’t respond to the break made by the 3rd place man. I finished the race in 4th position with a time of 31.35, just outside of my personal best. I was gutted to say the least as I was hoping to achieve a new personal best.

With the disappointment of Grimsby still fresh in my mind I wasn’t in the best of moods. A couple of days had gone by when I received the news that I have qualified for the ITU World Championships in Rotterdam. The disappointment from Grimsby was soon pushed to the back of my mind with the good news.

So that is the last seven months covered. With many different aspects of racing, experiences both good and bad.  The next time I will be writing my race report, I will have had experienced the ITU World Championships. They will mark an exciting point in my racing career as well as being an experience surrounded by athletes that I can learn a lot from.

 

 

 

 

Bassetlaw Sprint Triathlon race report by Sarah Lakeland

Bassetlaw Sprint Triathlon race report 06/08/17

Last year I achieved something I never thought I would, I really did not believe I could after many failed attempts. Little did I know that 2017 would be better than 2016.

I was a long standing supporter at marathons and triathlons and I’d become quite skilled at picking out my Husband, Andy’s running style or cycle kit as he raced and I watched, cheered and photographed him. Around 2010 I had a go at a couple of sprints but I dreaded going out on my bike, I complained bitterly to Andy who was like a spaniel on a lead desperate to go faster but cycling and running just seemed so hard. I wasn’t very fit or in good shape and I gave up. I didn’t enjoy it, it wasn’t for me.

Fast forward to September 2015 I was still there supporting at Epworth end of season Triathlon, Andy and my mum were racing. I had a 2 year old and a 9 week old baby in tow by then and as they were both finishing, I was so proud of my mum, almost 60 and doing her first triathlon just because it went past her house and she could! I thought “I’m doing that next time.” I meant it too so I made a plan to loose weight as at a clothes size 18-20 I wasn’t going to find it easy. I told Andy my plans but I didn’t expect him to believe me as I’ve had many failed attempts at “sorting myself out.” I’m not really sure I believed I’d manage it myself but I was going to try.

In April 2016 I was on that start line, 3.5 stone lighter and I’d done enough training to know I would finish. I felt on top of the world as I finished that race, cheered on by my own little self made support crew, Sam, my baby, was only 10 months old and I had achieved so much in his life at that point. I was back at work, full time, 2 kids and feeling amazing. I had really transformed my life. I went on to do 2 more sprints that year and lost another stone.

For Christmas, Andy bought me a swim in Steve’s Endless Pool, I hadn’t asked for this present and I strongly suspect it was a present to himself in disguise as he came and swam too! I was looking forward to it though as swimming is my thing. My mum is a swimming teacher and spent a lot of my life up to 15 at the pool as a result.

After that swim, I looked at OTCF’s instagram page and saw a post about one of his clients who was achieving her goals and she wasn’t a superhuman, just a regular looking woman. I needed a bit of motivation to exercise so I emailed him about personal training and booked in.

I have been having weekly sessions with Steve and run, biking and swimming between. I can honestly say I love it! If I can training regularly then anyone can. I have 2 preschool children, Andy and I both work full time, we have a dog and a life outside of triathlon. The dog doesn’t have walks now, he has runs and my training is usually squeezed into a 1 to 1.5 hour opportunity when I am child free. We tag team it some nights, I go out on my bike first, Andy puts one child to bed, I get back, he goes out and I put the other child to bed and sort tea out. For us to both race the same race we need childcare and when your mum also races too, Grandma isn’t an option! We call in favours, pay for babysitters etc. Most people get babysitters for a night out but I get one to swim when Andy’s on an afters shift! Your kids make the best supporters and there is nothing like hearing “that’s my mummy” being shouted as you come into transition.

So to finally get to Bassetlaw Triathlon, this was a good test of how the training was working, I did the same race last year but this year I had 3 months of personal training under my belt. I felt a bit of pressure to perform, which I had never felt before when my only aim was to finish. Having made a significant effort to improve, I wanted to see an improvement. This made me a bit nervous. There isn’t much time to procrastinate though when you have to load two bikes on the roof bars, two kids into the car, a pushchair in the boot and all your kit. Before you know it we were there, we deposited the kids with Andy’s Mum at transition and were pool side.

I was in lane 3 and Andy was in lane 2 in the same wave which was very distracting, swimming next to not only someone you but are married to is quite strange. The swim went well and before I knew it I was in transition, and heading off on the bike. Andy overtook me at the mount line so off I popped chasing him out on the bike. The conditions were pretty good, it was a bit windy but nothing much. There were road works and I had to stop at temporary traffic lights which frustrated the hell out of the bloke in front of me but I saw it as a good chance to have a drink as the time would be deducted later anyway.

I felt great on the bike, I overtook people, which is a new experience for me and that feels so good (sorry if I overtook you and that made you feel slow, I know how it feels, I’ve been there). The undulations felt good as I was so much stronger on the bike that I had previously. Out on the run I worked hard but in a good way and I was still over taking people! I was amazed at myself, I remember thinking “I’m racing, not just completing this race” I pushed myself and I that was something I couldn’t physically do before, I didn’t have the capacity. Getting around was all I could do in the past.
As I finished I was excitedly greeted by Andy and the kids. He was surprised I finished so soon after him as he was accustomed to a longer wait!

And the results… 11th woman overall, 4th in my age group, 8 mins 17 seconds faster than last year!!!

When I first met Steve I told him stats don’t interest or motivate me, well the right kind of stats and results definitely do motivate me! I’m excited to see what’s to come. I’ve learnt a lot about myself and continually surprise myself. I have cancelled a facial because the sun was shining and I would rather ride my bike, I rush home from work to maximise my time to train before collecting the kids from nursery, I ride when the weather is good and I run when it’s not. I have been known to get the turbo trainer on the patio when Andy’s working the weekend and I have no chance to get out on my bike. Am I even the same person? Yes, a much happier version of myself who is making plans for bigger things next year!