Ironman Copenhagen by Mel Walker

Ironman Journey to the best but worst race of my life.

The slow start.
Completing an Ironman has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and having ticked pretty much every other sport challenge off my list (Killimanjaro, London marathon, Mallorca 312, C2C in a day, Marmotte, LEJOG & more), 2019 was the year to tick the IronMan box. My preparation started slowly mainly due to lack of commitment and injury! Someone recommended Steve at Off That Couch Fitness to me and I signed up to start training in December 2018 and the first few months went a bit like this:
December – didn’t really stick to the plan, spent more time in the pub getting drunk. Fail!
January – started well (don’t we all seems it’s a New Years resolution!) but after straining a hip flexor on a ski holiday with the hockey girls (when drunk competing in a limbo dancing competition in a bar!). I was on rest for the next 6-8 weeks. Fail!
February & March “rested” (continued to be lazy really!) and went on another ski holiday with Rob this time at the end of March. By this point I knew I had to get my act together as I was less than five months out from the event and hadn’t done any training. Steve suggested I join a tri camp in Mallorca so I did.

Mallorca tri camp – the turning point.
At tri camp I met new people who I’d not met before and what a bloody great bunch they turned out to be. Motivated, experienced, successful, friendly, welcoming, athletic are a few words that spring to mind. I had the best time and “lived like a pro”, kick starting my training. Mike Bennett looked after out for me on the swim – was my first time swimming open water, never mind sea. Dave Hinch looked out for me on the bike as I was one of the back markers but smiled for miles out there – hard not to and I come from a cycling background so I wasn’t out of my comfort zone. And the running – well I got round and lost often as dropped off the back all the time!
On returning it was time for the hard work to commence – four months to race day. I stuck with Steve’s plan supplemented by swim coaching sessions in the endless pool and booked on the OTCF swim improvers course with the amazing Sarah Lakeland – I couldn’t swim that well without feeling like I was going to run out of breath so I put some graft in and it paid off! I learned to swim – good job really as I had quite a long swim to do in a few months.

The build up
In the weeks preceding race day I felt calm and relaxed and confident but 10 days out I started to panic couldn’t help but vision everything that could go wrong and from no where I started to get knee pain when I biked adding to the anxiety. I work in risk management and turned into someone with zero tolerance for risk so plans commenced to mitigate anything that could go wrong. I had a bike fit by Kev Dawson that I probably didn’t need and did many other things that varied from asking Flick at the event to stand on the first bridge of the swim with spare goggles and a nose clip in case I lost mine (not needed!) and Lindsey on the course to ensure her sports watch was charged in case mine ran out – it did half way through the run so this proved worth while! The other 100 contingency plans I had in place were not needed but was peace of mind to know they were there! I was a psychopath.

The flight that almost didn’t happen
Two days before the event I flew out from Manchester with my bike and 40kg if kit. Ridiculous I know but Sue and Ingird joined me early to help! My risk management head was worried about losing the key to the locks on the bike box so I stored this safely in my hold bag. I realised this wasn’t the best idea when airport security wanted me to open the box to show them my Co2 canisters. At this point the key was on its way to the plane! Que panic mode as I was told my bike box would not be let through. Fortunately a lovely Easy Jet Manager located my hold bag on less than half an hour and in time before check in closed. That episode proved any situation can be sorted, releasing all my anxiety. I was back to being the happy, chilled relaxed Mel. Much needed – I was starting to get annoyed with my own company!

Pre race
In the two days running up to the event I did everything that was needed to stay in the zone and keep the anxiety at bay even paying for a bike service I didn’t need to it made my head feel better about the fact I’d built the bike myself. I was sleeping and eating well and having lots of fun with my support crew – my mum & dad and eight amazing friends that I play hockey with who made the effort to come over and support me. What top mates I have, they proper looked after me and watched out for me! I felt like I had my own butler as they were running around after me the whole time. I milked it as knew it won’t happen again!

Race day… we’ve made it. The swim
I’m not one for early mornings so despite staying over 30 mins from the swim start I left it as late as I could to get up and managed to sleep until 4:45am. I managed to eat my breakfast (made by Flick & Lindsey!) and seven of us were out of our apartment before 5.30am to get the Metro to the start. Sipping on water I felt calm and confident and ready to get the job done. There was a buzz at the start with thousands of people on what was a beautiful calm morning. How fortunate as it wasn’t forecast. Waiting for my swim group – pink, my fave colour I spotted Laura a lovely lady I’d met twice previously. We bonded over my nail design at the expo. and she sat next to me at the Women for Tri brunch (where I met Michelle Vesterby, winning her book – written in Danish!). We supported one another in the pen where I felt surprisingly calm and collected. I was dreading the swim the most but at this point I was looking forward to it – little did I know it’s be the best part of the three events! It was a six person rolling start which was easy and before I knew it I was swimming under my support crew on the first bridge – I could hear the cheers from my suppport crew especially Sam shouting “Mel” and Sue’s wolf whistle and slowed a little to acknowledge I’d seen them with a wave and a hello. A massive boost. I felt confident with my sighting and managed to stay out of everyones way which felt like an uneventful and relaxed swim. A jelly fish did get me around the 1800m point so the nettle like sting distracted me for the rest of the swim and before I knew it I was calmly getting out of the water thinking that it has passed quickly and happy with my 1hr 18. 56 time – not bad seems I couldn’t swim. In my head I was thinking the race starts here… my support crew were there again. I blew kisses this time and headed for my T1 bag.

Transition wasn’t super fast but I took my time to make sure I was comfortable for the bike opting to put a gillet on as it was coming in overcast and cool. In my risk management approach to packing I had a full change and wet weather gear but decided they were not needed. I ate a jam sandwich as I ran to my bike and one last cheer from support crew before the bike leg commenced.

The bike bit…
The bike took 10 miles on winding city roads to reach the stunning coast road. I love views of water so found this calming and relaxing and settled into a comfortable cadence. I relaxed too much & made a fatal error – I accidentally put a double mix of tailwind into my torpedo bottle. I had a concentrated mix of tailwind mixed up to make four bottles for the bike course and I decanted half. I didn’t think much of it grabbing 750ml water at the feed station (when the mix needs 1.5l!) and sipped away knowing I just had to drink it. I was struggling to get my solid food down so even more so. As I approached the 40 mile point I started to feel bloated and ill and kept throwing up into my mouth. Little did I know this was my stomachs reaction to the excessive amount of Tailwind causing my body to draw fluid into my gut to dilute it. I continued to be sick several times throughout the rest of the bike but mind over matter and I just got on with it continuing to drink the rest of the Tailwind also taking on a gel every hour. I’d seen an endurance athlete Dietician in the run up to the event so was determined to stick with what she told me to do and I’d practiced. Half way round the course my support crew was on form and cheering loudly. I wanted to stop for a good moan but they all encouraged me to keep peddling so after give Lisa, Ingrid, Rochelle & Megan a high five I gave my mum & dad a kiss and cracked on with lap two. By which point the knee pain was starting to trouble me more than I could take. Fortunately a Danish guy rode past me carrrying a small pharmacy in his rear jersey pocket. Already dosed up codeine, paracetamol, ibuprofen and naproxen I managed to get another 1g of paracetamol from him. With my tender guts this probably did me no favours. People following the tracker assumed I had an awesome bike (which on reflection I did!) as I averaged 19mph but in reality I didn’t enjoy it all. Time to get myself pulled together as I commence the run. It’s marathon time.

The run bit…
As if things couldn’t get any worse – they did! My poor guts were not happy at all and were insistent about emptying the contents which took until the 10 mile point to settle down! I felt so strong physically and mentally but had to keep stopping at the loos and felt horrendous. Fortunately my knee doesn’t hurt when running – silver lining and all that! Sips of water were all I dared to take on and that coupled with cheers from my supporters got me round the course – there were loads of people lining the entire course but I heard them ever time I passed! Awesome and much needed even when Megan ran alongside me at one point holding her pint of lager!

The finish….
I finally felt a wave of emotion as I entered the finish funnel… a moment I’d visualised many times. I saw my support crew and heard the commentator say “Melanie my colleague has a message for you – you are an Ironman”. As I heard those words and saw the finish line I realised I’d done it and felt a tear in my eye! OMG I had done it. Bucket list well and truly ticked. As my watch had died I didn’t know what the time was so shouted to Sam and Lindsey who managed to wing their way into VIP and they confirmed I was under 12 hours. Job done. Hard graft but so worth it!! That night we all warmed up and sipped champage back at the appartment decorated with balloons and congratualtions banners eating pizzas from the local take away. Such a perfect end to a long day for us all.j

Post race…
After the race I was elated with my time but couldn’t get rid of the dark cloud that followed me knowing I could have been faster. As much as I told myself it didn’t matter, my monkey was naughty telling me I shouldn’t have made the mistake and how my marathon should have been sub 4 hours. Now a week post race I am starting to overcome the monkey and what I have achieved is setting in. I still feel like the adrenaline is pumping, all week I have been full of energy and waking before my alarm which is unheard of! My body has felt good and I am not broken. I am a very fortunate person to finish with that time and feel this way with amazing and supportive people around me. I have to pinch myself every now & again.

I knew this would be a journey for me but did not expect this. I planned to move on to another sport or just go back to cycling and running for fun with my mates but am already thinking about the next Ironman event!

Swim – 1:18:56
T1 – 7:45
Bike – 5:51:40
T2 – 10:21
Run – 4:14:43
Total – 11:43:23.

Lessons learned:

  1. Prepare – be a psychopath.
  2. Carry your keys with you at all times.
  3. Get your nutrition right.
  4. Love and appreciate those around you who support you throughout your journey.
  5. Listen to your coach and stick to the plan – it works.




My IRONMAN journey started in April 2018 at a triathlon training camp in Mallorca. As a newbie swimmer and someone who enjoyed running and cycling, the concept of triathlon kind of appealed to me – although at this stage having no idea what it was really all about. My only intent was to spend quality training time with good people. As expected the outcome of the week highlighted that I was a terrible swimmer, okay at running and better than average on the bike. The idea that I may be able to complete a triathlon became a reality – albeit still a distant thought at this stage. 

Living in Germany at the time and with my husband (Eddie)constantly deployed with the Army, I needed a new challenge to occupy my time, rather than aimlessly hitting the gym, going for the odd run or jumping on Zwift. I made a deal with myself that if I could eventually swim a mile I would sign up for an IRONMAN 70.3. Before long I had swam my first mile and had signed up for IRONMAN 70.3 Zell am See, Austria. With no real concept of specific training requirements, I found myself driving down to Austria in the camper van, ready to take on my new challenge. Even with a cancelled bike leg due to extreme weather conditions, I was hooked and now considered myself as a triathlete and was soon looking for the next challenge.

So the decision had been made and after some research and a bit of Eddie forcing my hand, I had signed up for IRONMAN Copenhagen… ‘Okay’ I thought, ‘shit just got real’.  I quickly realised that I should perhaps be a little more structured with my training and approached Steve Clark of ‘Offthatcouchfitness’ in a bid to coaching me through my IRONMAN journey.

Next Steps

I was deployed to Canada from Jan – May 2019 with the Army repairing Main Battle Tank Power Pack groups. Working 12 hour shifts, limited access to training resources (1 Wattbike between 300 soldiers), extreme cold temperatures (-50°C) and an Achilles tendon strain… this was not the best start to my training plan. The reality was that most of my training would be done indoors, with the occasional run outside leading up to the Hypothermic half marathon in Calgary at a cool -35°C. The saving grace being the use of a swimming pool on the Canadian Forces Base.

We returned to Germany at the end of April and proceeded to buy my first triathlon bike. Visiting the canyon factory was amazingand after a few weeks of deliberating and 2 bike fits, the Canyon WMN CF was my weapon of choice. With the bike sorted I switched my focus to OW swimming.  A combination of YouTube clips and practice in the local lake, my OW swimming had improved beyond all comprehension.

We moved to the UK in July, so the added pressure of moving house/country/finding new bike and run routes in short time was a struggle. With Eddie being on constant readiness to deploy, we were unsure at this stage whether I would be traveling to Denmark alone or with the support of Eddie. Fortunately a couple of weeks before the event, he was stood down and could join me.

IRONMAN Copenhagen

We had decided to drive to Copenhagen so packed the car up and set off for the mammoth journey, arriving in CPH 20 hours later. We stayed in an apartment near the University, away from the city which was stunning. We had a lot of help with logistics from a couple of people on the IM CPH site so this made things easier. I went for a quick swim in the lagoon after unpacking and it was great to see where the start was so early in the week. A group of us arranged another swim for the Friday with a plan to swim part of the course, which I felt really helped. 

Registration and handing bikes and kit in was easy and very straightforward on Saturday, the day before the race, albeit in the rain. 

I attended the “women for tri” brunch in the morning and it was great to meet some inspiring women talk about their journey and to meet other competitors.

Race Day

0415 hrs Sunday morning soon came around. Luckily I had slept well as I didn’t sleep very well the previous night. I ate porridge, drank tea had all my kit laid out so I didn’t forget anything and soon we were on our way to the start. The weather looked better than predicted but it gave rain from 1100 hrs and then again from 1400 hrs until the end of the day.


I lined up with the pink caps (1.11-1.17). I felt surprisingly calm but having swam the distance twice in training I knew I could complete it, I just had to take it at my own pace and stay calm. My early strategy to help stay out of trouble was to start on the left side of the pack as the first buoy was on the right – rationale being that the right side of the pack would be faster. I had a couple of collisions but nothing that phased me and managed to stay close to the next turn buoy. With my confidence growing, I decided to take a direct line to the next buoy and mix it within the group… rather than swim extra distance.

The next 3 buoys went the same way and before I knew it we were at the last turn before the final push towards the finishing chute. It got a bit messy here as everyone was heading for the exit but with a bit of help from safety marshals, the group made it in without incident. As I made my way out of the water I remember thinking “OMG, I made it, I actually get to ride my bike now”. My feet were freezing and as I grabbed my bike bag I decided to go into the change tent, thinking it may be warmer. I spent longer than I perhaps should have drying myself, getting dressed and eating my jam sandwich but all I could think of was that it would be a long time on the bike and if I stayed wet, I would never get warm. 


I ran to my bike and was soon on my way out of transition. I saw Eddie at the first turn which gave me a boost. We rode through thealready bustling city and soon found ourselves on the long stretch of stunning coastal road. My teeth had stopped chattering by now so all was ok. The weather was now constantly changing from cool and overcast to rainy and windy. I settled into a comfortable pace as planned, 70% kept going through my head, “don’t push it, save your legs for the run”. I stopped for the loo twice and to fill my bottles with energy drink. My bike nutrition plan was: 2 bags of food (1 for each lap) with apricots, broken up Graze bars, sport beans and some salt tablets (top tip, don’t chew the salt tablets by accident) in my bento box and 4 gels taped to my top tube. This worked well with my setup of a front torpedo bottle, a frame aero bottle and 2 rear seat bottles – tailwind being my chosen drink. 

I chatted to everyone I passed as my main aim of the day (apart from to finish) was to enjoy it. It had been a long and lonely training year so today was about people. Before I knew it, we were directed back into the city for the final 10 miles, back to windy streets and staying away from wet white lines. I had seen 4 bad accidents on the course and knew that anything could happen at any moment, ’just get to the end!’ I thought.


There it was, the bike catchers took our bikes and we grabbed our run bags. I had double bagged my kit so everything was dry, I later found out that some people had not been so fortunate. I change socks, applied skin shield on my feet and other places that may chafe, had a quick toilet stop and headed out en route. I saw Eddie within the first couple of minutes and was met with an overexcited High Five – adding to the infectious atmosphere of the gathering crowd. I settled into a nice comfortable pace and took in the first lap. I had stomach cramps so thought I’d best go to the loo… waited ages and was getting frustrated, but I had made the decision to stop and felt better after, so it was the right choice.

It rained heavy for much of the run and I remember feeling sorry for all the spectators, but they were amazing! So many cheers and people shouting your name, it really gives you a boost.

My watch got knocked and turned off around halfway and took me a few minutes to suss out what to do, so I didn’t have an accurate reading of what I had done…aw well!, I was just running to feel anyway. My hip flexors started to feel tight on the last couple of laps so I slowed down a bit and kept thinking “the pain is coming”, but it never really did. The last 13 miles were mildly uncomfortable, but nothing like what I expected. I was soon running under the bridge for the last time and the cheers echoed, which chocked me up a little. A group of spectators had cheered me every lap, so I showed them my blue band (an indication that an athlete is on their last lap) and they cheered so loud… I almost cried as I realised that I was actually going to finish this and run down that red carpet. 

I ran into the chute, arms out wide like an aeroplane (OTCF way to finish), high fiving everyone I could as they cheered and clapped me in. The guy with the microphone was chatting to another finisher so I politely tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to my name. I needed to hear it; “Tammy, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” YESSSSSSS!!  Incredible!! I got my medal, looked for Eddie in the crowd, got a big hug and a photo, collected my t-shirt and street bag and thenheaded for a shower. That felt amazing, clean dry clothes and off to collect my bike.

Stats – What I did

Swim: 1 hr 23 min 42 sec

T1: 13 min 07 sec

Bike: 6 hrs 07 min 37 sec

T2: 8 min 38 sec

Run: 4 hrs 28 min 42 sec

Overall: 12 hrs 21 min 47 sec

Position: 20th Overall & 1st Brit – Age Gp 45-49 

I feel chuffed to bits that my first triathlon was a full IRONMAN. The unescapable thought that hits every athlete after an event of “I could have easily gone so much quicker if I had tried”, but I had absolutely no idea how I would feel come the run and really only wanted to finish. Lots of lessons learnt and I am so grateful that I was able to complete it, especially after hearing how people got pulled from the swim or needed an ambulance on the run. As they say “Anything is possible”, especially on race day!!

Big shout out to Coach Steve for guiding me through my journey and a couple of lucky friends that were on the end of many texts with random questions. I’m not sure that I will ever stop smiling at the thought of being an IRONMAN. Time to start planning the next challenge…


Race report – Team Taylor-Lynch

For me, the journey getting onto the start line at Ironman Estonia, is just as significant as the race itself.  After finishing Ironman UK in July last year, I found myself booked onto Bolton again for the following year with no motivation or desire to even continue in triathlon let alone do another Ironman.     After speaking with Steve we decided perhaps a different ironman, a different course something different would ignite the motivation again and so the hunt for an overseas Ironman began.  Tallinn was the chosen one.  The motivation came back but it was sadly short lived.  The demands of working full time, single mum to Jessica and Derry (my blue angel)training, was taking its toll on both my mental and physical health.   It was decided between Steve and I, there wouldn’t be any races other than Tallinn this year.  Remove the demands. 

In November time I joined a swim squad, where I met my partner in crime Andy.  We had meet previously on a number of occasions none of them ending well, mainly us bickering about lane etiquette, and how I was holding him up in the fast lane to the point where I actually changed my pool session to avoid him so imagine my surprise when he turned out to be my swim squad lane buddy!!  He was training for his first Ironman (Bolton) and we became training partners and the story of Team Taylor-Lynch began shortly after. 

I spent the early part of the year just going through the motions of training, dreading every session and then a failed marathon attempt in April was the final straw that sank me into depression with life in general.   I came very close to quitting triathlon, but Steve and Andy worked hard to keep me on the right track and remind me why I was on this journey.  Steve sent me over some mind set exercises to do, and thought provoking activities to help me and a lot of words (available in his mindsetbooklet) struck a chord with me – if you are striving for perfection, you will never be happy, work with the tools and resources available.  I decided to pull out of the European Championships in Romania as I couldn’t face the possibility of not performing, removed myself from social media for a while, took some much needed time off work and decided to change my outlook on training.  This was my hobby, something I do for me, not to compete against others, but to better myself – to be the best version of me.  And so with the help of Andy and Steve I slowly started to pick up the pieces of my life and work towards getting better mentally.

Andy’s first ironman was Bolton; he had trained hard leading up to the race and was set to have a cracking one.  Sadly he didn’t have the race he wanted.  Despite battling everything that was chucked his way he completed it and became an Ironman on the 14th July 2019 – that’s his story to tell this report is about Tallinn! (When I eventually get to it). Andy was naturally disappointed and upset, he wanted a better time and experience.  During a phone conversation with him, he was debating whether he should do Tallinn with me (note Tallinn was just 3 weeks after Bolton) and whilst he was debating, I entered him onto Tallinn and he received the confirmation whilst we were chatting!! 

About 4 weeks prior to Tallinn, my mental health started to improve, I was finally starting to enjoy life again.  The pressure of not worrying about what anyone elsethought of me, and just doing this for me was working.  I told Steve my number one objective for Tallinn was to finish this race with a smile, this race was for me and me only and the time would be whatever it would be. 

So after Andy’s initial shock that he was about to do another Ironman when his feet were still blistered and sore from Bolton, it was time to pack up and head to Tallinn for our adventures.

When we stopped at Frankfurt we received an email stating, due to the 11 degree sea temp, they were moving the swim course to a lake and it would now be a split transition.  Deep breaths Lynch, Andy whispered to me as I started hyperventilating, how were we going to cope with split transitions in a different country with no transport and now the start was nowhere near our apartment?  ‘We will deal with it when we get there everything is fine, just smile Lynch’. 

Realising that in fact it was no biggie, I soon forgot about it.  Upon arrival into Tallinn, we were hit with another email but this time it was about our bikes, they were delayed and wouldn’t be ready for collection until Friday morning.  Now we were both stressed, we needed to rack our bikes on Friday and any other delays could possible mean no race! Our stress was further added too when we realised we were the only ones standing at the luggage carousel and our bags were in fact still in the UK !!  

So with no bags, no bikes and new arrangements.  We did what anybody in our situation would do and went for a beer!   We found our way to registration and with nothing to do we decided to head over to the lake, where our next drama awaited.  Andy took one look at it, and said ‘Lynch I am not swimming in that lake it’s disgusting’ and those are pretty much the only words he repeated for the remainder of the day, night and morning of the race.  The water was grim, and I mean GRIM.  The water quality was fine, but the water was black and I am not talking dark brown, you couldn’t see your hands in the water and it was like swimming with your eyes closed.  I was convinced he was going to pull out.  It was touch and go until the race horn went off to be honest.   I tried to remain positive, but deep down I wasn’t too excited about the prospect of swimming in that lake either.  

Thankfully our bags and bikes arrived by Friday morning and it was a mad dash around to get organised, and ready for the race.  

Race day – (finally hopefully you are still reading) 

Andy slept = 0 hours still stressing about the water!

Karen slept = perfect 

On the bus over to the start line, Andy decided he was going to get into the water prior to see just how bad it was.  I didn’t want to know as I was calm and feeling really positive about the day ahead.   I soon changed my mind when I got there and realised everyone was having a pre water warm up.  I put my head under the water and thought ‘wow’ this is going to be a tough swim I can’t see anything!  Andy gave me one of his ‘I told you so Lynch’ grins and we both got out without acknowledging just how terrible it was. 

We both decided to play it steady on the swim, Andy much steadier as he got in behind me on the pen.  I gave him a quick kiss and cuddle and said hopefully see you out on the course.  We were off.  The swim was tough, not in the respect it was punchy with only 1300 competitors it was a fairly small field by Ironman standards, there was no visibility, black water, blinding sun light.  My breathing started to panic and I thought relax Karen, forget the time you are doing this for you, take it steady and get it done.  I also was really worried Andy would have an anxiety attack and not get out of the water.  I sang many a song to myself during that swim and eventually the end was there.  I had made it.  My time wasn’t the best but honestly I didn’t care.  I quickly got changed and ran straight over to where his bike would be racked, it had gone.. yesssss!! He was out on the course; I jumped on my bike and was away.

The bike course was amazing, it was mostly flat with about 700m of elevation, and the roads were long and straight. Sounds ideal doesn’t it?  But as you know there is always a trade-off and the winds on the course were pretty brutal.  There was at least 70% of the course fighting head winds.  We both felt comfortable on the bike, compared to some of hilly tough rides we have done recently, this felt good!  I think I smiled the entire 112 miles.  As we approached a hill there was a board it said ‘don’t worry it’s just a hill you will get over it’ both of us thought right let’s get ready changed gear, got up the hill or should I say incline and thought that’s not a hill, Yorkshire has hills.  Needless to say the 2nd loop there was not much gear change.  

I wanted to see Andy on the bike course, we hadn’t got to a point where we had crossed over yet, I figured he would have been out of his swim around 60 mins so I was about 15 mins ahead him give or take a little.  Should I push on and try and catch him up, no that would be a silly idea.  I was comfortable and whilst I felt I could have gone harder it’s a long day and I really wanted to do well on my run. 

Ouch, what was that?  I felt a burn/sting in my thigh, I pulled my suit up and saw a puncture mark had glass flicked up and caught my leg?  It really hurt and left my leg tingling, what was it, oh hang on that’s Andy coming up on the other side ‘hey baby’ he shouted as he cruisedpast smiling from ear to ear, yay I had seen him, so I made a note of the miles and by the time I reached the point of crossing him I knew I was about 6 miles behind him.  The rest of the bike course was pretty uneventful we both fuelled well, worked hard, took a bashing from the wind and I was pleased when we crossed each other at pretty much the same point on the 2nd lap as the first.  We were consistent and neither of us was losing or gaining pace.  There was about 15 mins difference.   Thankfully it was the right decision to hang back on the bike as the last 20 miles were crucifying with the headwinds, going down 14 miles per hour I got into a tangle mentally thinking I had bonked and I was losing time but in reality I wasn’t and I was maintaining the same distances from other cyclists.  I remember Steve always says to me, it’s the same for everyone Karen so I just gritted my teeth and got on with it. 

Bike course completed, and I was still smiling. Run time.  Within mins of starting my run I needed the loo, damn why didn’t I do this in transition it’s going to affect my run time.  Whilst I was in the toilet, Andy unknowingly ran past, and was going into a bad place mentally as he was expecting to see me on the first lap and hadn’t.  He started to think I had come off my bike and I was in trouble and was debating asking the course support to help locate me.  Completely unaware of any of this drama, I got out of the loo and started my run.  Wow I feel in good shape here, my legs feel tired but I can deal with this, I am actually going to be able to run this marathon – I have got this.  I smiled the entire 1st Lap (unknown Andy was having a meltdown).  The run course was beautiful, a couple of hills but mostly on cobbles and gravel.  Trust me this this takes a serious toll on the legs, and my left leg was swelling up and pain was creeping in.  I carried on determined to ignore it, I had stopped at the feed station when I saw Andy running towards me shouting ‘I am so bloody glad to see you baby, I love you’ see you on the next lap.  I remember thinking wow he really is pleased to see me not realising how he was feeling!

I knew we were consistent on the run as we crossed paths at the same feed stations each lap, grabbing a few words, kisses, high 5’s as we went along.  I was still pretty much 15 mins behind him.  I just wanted to catch him up and be with him my leg was hurting and I was working as hard as I could but I didn’t want to tell him as I knew he would worry.  On the next feed station, I ran through it and was expecting to see Andy but I didn’t, when I saw him it was clear he was struggling with his feet, I confessed to him at this point my leg was hurting and I was struggling to weight bear on it, I had adopted a rather cool jog/limp at this point.  He set me the challenge on the 3rd lap to catch him up, I smiled and said I would but honestly I wasn’t convinced I would be able to as I was shattered..    Next food station no sign of Andy, I knew I was making ground and eventually I saw his back.  Yes I had found him, I stopped my rather cool jog/limp and I could tell instantly his foot was bad.  I know if his foot had been ok I wouldn’t’ have caught him up.  If neither of us injured it would have been game on!   We were 4 miles from the end, and we were together, we stopped had a kiss and cuddle and decided to run the last bit in together.  We took a toilet break, some fuel on and did the ironman shuffle up to the red carpet, he said  ‘here we are Lynch, this is what we train for’  he took my hand and we crossed the line together, at which point we had a cheeky kiss.  What an experience it is to even run the red carpet but to do it with my partner was just amazing and outweighs any time or feeling.  I had finished the race achieving what I had wanted, to finish with a smile and enjoy it.  Time between us 6 seconds – we couldn’t have planned it better.  We laughed when we eventually got back to our phones and saw the banter on facebook about it being a couples races, and was I going to chick him haha.  

I just want to say to complete an Ironman alone is a major achievement to complete 2 , three weeks apart is pretty amazing !! No words to describe just how proud of Andy I am. 

I can honestly say for the entire 12 hrs 21 mins I had a smile on my face, I was beaming from the inside out.  I acknowledged what a strong woman I am for doing what I do and I was actually proud of myself – what a breakthrough. 

Is this the end of my Ironman journey? not a chance, we have our next IM eyed up for next year. 3rd one for Andy, 4thone for me.  I recently celebrated 2 year anniversary with Steve at OTCF, he has helped me become the athlete I am, not just physically but mentally.  He has always believed in me, and understands a lot of my battles are mental.  Thank you for sticking by me and please continue to have faith in me coach. ‘Your favourite kind of fruit cake’

Ps the sting on my leg turned out to be a bite of some kind, which resulted in Andy taking me to hospital after we landed.  I had to get medication to stop the infection getting worse.   Good news is I haven’t had my leg cut off, I will be back to conquer the Ironman run next year!

Ironman UK by Aaron Dawson

I started on the 1st January 2019 and finished at 20:30pm on the 14th July 2019. 
The 6 months of relentless training for one day. But that one day will turn out to be the toughest and most challenging one in my sporting life!!!!!!! But I loved it. 

Alarm goes off at 03:10am and all the training and nervous for this day have now gone. It’s game day, the big day, a day to shine, a day to become an IRONMAN. 

Overnight oats seem to be the order of the day on most race days over the past year. Sat in the car travelling to the flash. Breakfast and 2 coffees like always. Then water, plenty of it. 

All suited and booted, all the hugs and kisses then it’s just me. Big Lonely me for the rest of the day. First up the swim, 2.4 miles, the furthest Iv ever swam. The music is playing and I’m stood in my wave. No place to move other than look forward. We start walking towards the water and boom Ironman UK 2019 has started. I swim really well which I’m very pleased about. Best Iv swam all year. 2 loops of the flash seem to go by so quickly. 

Transition onto the bike. My strongest discipline of the 3. Iv ridden the course before so I know how to ride the next 112 miles. The support on the bike was fantastic from everyone. The cow bells, the shouting, the encouragement was just like the Tour De France on a mountain section. Once in a life time so I take it all in. The course in one word was “brutal “ the hills the corners that you can’t see around because of high walls and trees, the road surface and constant changing of gears. Two things on the bike stand out for me, the first one was from a young lad who looked straight in my eyes on a hill and said to his friends “this man is making it look easy” I’m sorry mate but I have a brilliant poker face. The second was again on a hill and I was laughing at my friend Jake who was following me and filming me. On the hill a man said how are you still smiling, you look like Vincenzo Nibali “ a pro cyclist” it’s because mate I was absolutely loving how tough it was and this is what it was all about. 

bike complete, transition 2, the run, legs feel like they are in quicksand in the first 2 miles but in my head I am nearly home. I can almost tough that red carpet. 4 loops of what seemed to be a very tough run. The run through the park, killer, the gradual incline on the 3 mile switch back, killer, the run down the hill back into town, killer, seeing friends and family, waiting and supporting, one hell of a feeling. 
I see all my team mates on the run expect for  Steve, the lad has finished. Everyone giving encouragement and motivation. I bloody love these lot. I count the bands from 0 to 4. The 4th one is special. It means I’m nearly home. I noticed when people see you have the 4th band they tell you not far to go. The support staff and everyone at the drink stations telling you that you have made it. 
As I run on the small section of cobbles just behind the town all I can see the red carpet. I can feel the atmosphere around the finish line. I do a little switch back and run in front of the town hall. I’m here, quick look over to the red carpet to make sure Zoe is where she has been for the last 4 hours “bless her” and all my team mates and friends. I high five close friends of ours on the last corner. The I turn and look down that 30 metre carpet. I look up to the sky and have a little tear in my eye. I think about Zoe, Zack the sacrifice they have gone through for me. Family days out cancelled or cut short. The shortness of my attitude when the pressure became to much. The past 6 months for just putting up with me. 
I head towards Zo and she has a tear in her eye as do I. I high five Steve and turn towards the finish line. I cross that line clapping my hands and tensing my fist and letting out a big COME ON. Over the mic the MC says “ Aaron Dawson, you are an IRONMAN mate” the words I have dreamt about since the 1st January
I’d like to give a standing ovation to all the people who take or took part in any IRONMAN or Ironman distance event. We are an elite group of people and know one can take it away from us. We are not professional and it is not our full time occupation but we have spent our money and sacrificed so much for what we have achieved. 
The biggest of thank you goes to Steve, Craig, Gemma, Shawnie, John, Dan, Rhyd and Andy.
Sent from my iPhone

Ironman UK by Shawnie Lovatt

I certainly didn’t think I’d be writing an Ironman race report this year so this is very exciting and it could be a long one so if you’re going to stick this out, get comfy. My decision to do the ironman was made in March when coach told me that id be ready for an ironman this summer, I don’t think I took too much convincing and was soon signed up, so here we are!

Its been a fabulous journey to the start line, I’ve learnt a hell of a lot and I’m extremely grateful that my training went pretty perfectly, the 5am starts, the windy and rainy ‘character building’ rides to get me to the start line was all for that day. And I have met some of the best people on the way who have come on long training rides with me (as my navigation skills aren’t exactly tip top), have swam open water with me every week, altered my bike for me and fixed my punctures/tried to teach me how to do it and just generally helped me out with advice because I’m technically still a newbie to the triathlon world (even if I did jump in at the deep end!). 

For the last week before ironman (taper week), I was a bit like a coiled spring I was absolutely ready to go… Knew I couldn’t do a lot of training and it was about a week of resting and getting myself mentally ready, I had my bags packed by Monday night! 

We travelled down to Bolton on the Friday, me and Aaron met the gang to collect our numbers and go to the race briefing, all of us super excited, the task ahead starting to sink in.
Saturday was a rack your bike, stay off your feet kind of day but we spent most of the day running around to sort out our transitions– the day absolutely flew by and 15,000 steps later, I’d definitely accomplished the stay off my feet mission ;).

RACE DAY – oh my goddd it was here!

3am wake up calls usually mean I’m going on holiday (keep dreaming). Armed with some of the support crew we was on our way to the swim start, we arrived at 4.30am. First priorities was pumping my tyres up and sorting my nutrition, then I got chatting with my fellow competitors (surprise surprise), spent 30 minutes in the toilet que and then started to panic because I had 25 minutes to go and I still wasn’t in my wetsuit! In no world was it going to take me 25 minutes to put on a wetsuit but that was nerves kicking in, we had a team photo, gave everyone goodbye hugs, quick words of advice from coach and I headed off to the swim start.
I found 1 hour 15 minutes and got myself tucked in. Music was playing, I was feeling very excited, my head was on and I was counting down the minutes. I got stood next to a lady who had a gold swim cap on, I assumed this meant she was good (I googled this afterwards and I was correct) but she was totally rocking out to all the songs without a care in the world, made my morning, nobody wants to be stood next to a negative nora now do they.
Then ‘Thunderstruck’ started playing, I remember Gemma telling me it was the ironman song last year so I knew it was time (actually just got butterflies writing that). We started moving forward, lots of pats on the shoulders, goggles down, couldn’t stop smiling and off I went!
I’d never done a rolling start in a race before and its my new favourite thing. I felt like people genuinely had your back, most people was cautious and I didn’t get hit with too many hands and feet like you normally do. I was comfortable from stroke one, my breathing fell straight into a good rhythm and I found the swim almost a relaxing start for the day ahead. Lap 1 was over quickly and then a quick run back round to start lap 2. I did have a bit of a moment when everyone was elegantly diving off the side of the pontoon, I have certainly not mastered the art of diving yet so I panicked and did some kind of pencil/tuck jump (very lady like) and lap 2 began. Concentrating on getting my head in the game for the bike it was soon over and I was out of the swim. As you can see from my face at the back of the photo, I was pleasantly surprised with my swim time – great start.

T1 went smoothly, I remembered to put my socks on which is a first for me and I was off again!

The bike – the first 20 miles was getting to Bolton from Pennington Flash, it was a comfortable start. I had good speed and the hills weren’t anything out of the ordinary, I remember thinking I wish all the miles was going to be like the first 20but I won’t speak to soon because then the laps began. Without being a drama queen it was pretty brutal from the go but I was on such a high cause I was doing an ironman I seemed to take the hills really well. I was getting into a familiar rhythm of passing people on the up hills and then they’d shoot back past me on the downhills, this went on for most of the first lap with the same people so I could have a bit of a giggle and a chat with them about it. Lucky for me the course seemed to have more uphills than downhills so in that sense I was benefiting. The miles were ticking away, nutrition was going down well (shout out to Gemma for making me some delightful energy balls) and I’d mastered the art of taking water bottles off the marshals without stopping.
Then I had my ‘Tour de France’ moment and my favourite moment of the whole course (apart from the finish). Dave, Mel and Warren were waiting for me at the start of a shortish,very sharp out your seat climb; it was outside a pub and there was loads of people all lining the hill cheering people on. Dave was waiting at the bottom with a small bottle of wine attached to a bit of a rope and he ran up the hill in front of me dangling wine in front of my face whilst everyone else screamed at me up the hill. Honestly it was awesome, I felt like Bradley Wiggins, (obviously they don’t motivate him with wine). I had been pretty much T-total for the past 5 months as well so good choice in motivation from Dave! 
Whilst on sheephouse I knew that this was the last big climb so lap 1 was nearly over. However, I decided I wanted to spice things up a little bit when I took a sharp right hand bend and landed myself straight into a pothole. Me and my bike went on a small journey through the air and I landed face up on the grass verge on the side of the road. It was a scary moment for me and happened very quickly, I would like to think I’m a sensible rider and I’m not speaking out of turn when I say that some of the corners were dangerous and the road surfaces weren’t great. There was a lot of accidents on the course and I am just grateful that I was okay and was able to carry on. My back had taken a bang, I’d grazed the side of my leg but I wasn’t about to quit, I had to sort a few mechanical issues with my bike and after a few moments to myself, I was off again, a little shaky and less confident but mind over matter.
Naturally lap 2 felt harder, I saw my friends and family which was amazing and a real booster. The climbing was more difficult and I spent a lot of my time out the saddle on the second lap, mostly trying to ease the pressure off the bottom of my back which was straining and I did think a few times ‘oh hell another hill, are you joking’ but I pushed on. All the marshals at the feed stops were amazing, so happy and encouraging and even though I wasn’t stopping at the feed stops I had them wrote down and it really helped me break down the ride in my head. Sheephouse lane second time was soon approaching and I was feeling very nervous for that corner, but you’ll all be pleased to know I did not make the same mistake. My legs were definitely feeling it from all the climbing and the thought of getting off and running a marathon just made me want to keep cycling! 
I was soon rolling back into Bolton again and I was more than happy with my bike time.

T2 – little bit messy and I had a bit of a run around trying to find my bike rack position.

The run – running is meant to be my stronger discipline and for the first mile I thought it still might be but who on earth puts hills into the run course after that bike course! IMUK race director, that’s who, such a nice guy. I was still focused but I soon had slowed right down, I got up the hills on the first lap because I believe that once youstart walking, that’s it, you’ll just keep allowing walks, so I tried to put it off as much as possible. I lasted a lap (lol). Without making too manyexcuses the bottom of my back was not great, I gave in to walking up the hills and was adapting to the ironman shuffle quite well, flat coke and orange segments had never tasted so good. I thought I’d find laps torture but I saw so many people so many times, it was ace, I knew exactly where our supporters would be after the first lap so I used this to break down the run, our supporters had spread themselves out well and felt so lucky to have them all there. Amazing to see all my teammates on the run as well, can’t beat a good chat and a high five to pick up morale when you’re struggling and we all helped each other. By the time my last lap came around I was feeling emotional, I saw Gem and Craig who knew I was on my last lap so when I saw them for the last time it was quick cuddles and they told me to enjoy the finish! The last 2 miles I had a lift and I was on a mission to get to the end.

And WOW what a finish! All of our supporters had dotted themselves down the finishing straight, I had the red carpet all to myself and I cant really describe how awesome it was but they sure know how to put on a show. So yeah, OMG I’m an ironman now and a very happy one! 😀

BIG thank you to the support crew who did an excellent job of locating themselves in random places across the course and for giving up their day (some their weekend) to come and watch us, it is massively appreciated and I promise to also be a top supporter for you guys one day!
Also BIG BIG thank you to my coach Steve Clark who had every faith that I was capable of an ironman, did me a fabulous and challenging training plan that I secretly loved and who got me in tip top shape ready for that start line. And to all my OTCF teammates who have looked after,encouraged me and welcomed me into the family, wouldn’t of been on that start line if you guys weren’t all doing it too!! However next time I’m putting my foot down and going abroad 😛 

things I have learnt
1) coach is always right, rest days are important m, take them
2) a career in cycling acrobatics is not for me
3) we can do more than we think if we put our mind to it
4) break everything down and don’t let the dark spots win
5) I need to brief race commentators before they try pronounce my name publicly
6) wine seems to motivate me now

Ironman Uk by Rhydian Stock

Around 2 years ago a certain Coach Clark asked me “so, what’s the goal?”, “I’d love to complete and Ironman” I said, and in typical Coach Clark fashion, I can make you believe you can do anything, he said “right, lets do it” and it started.

UK Ironman in Bolton I decided on, I didn’t want to go abroad and really didn’t fancy a sea swim as swimming is my weakest discipline and what worries me the most. I didn’t want the though of being eaten by sea things on my mind as well. As it worked out there was 8 other Off That Couch Fitness guys also doing it which ended up being brilliant support.

The week leading up to the big day was probably one of the most nerve-racking weeks of my life. I’ve never felt so sick and worried, what have I done, I can’t do this. Steve kindly sat down with me for an hour or so to go through everything and gave me his normal words on encouragement telling me I can do it, which worked for a short time but then the nerves were back.

So, the Friday before race day I decided to go and get registered and collect all my transition bags, no turning back now, I’m in and go the band. I packed my transition bags 3 times that evening and then had a bowl of pasta and thought I’d best try and get some sleep.

Saturday, lets tip those transition bags out and re-pack them again, get some breakfast, pack an overnight bag and set off. Maybe I’ll just check those transition bags again. Right, time to set off, I can’t put this off any longer. As I set off within half a mile the police have pulled me over, what a start. Anyway, got rid of them and got to Bolton to meet Steve at T2 to check my running bag in. Kindly Steve offered to walk me through everything and check my bags to make sure I’d not missed anything (oh, and by the way, he’d not packed his and just through a few bits in on the side of the road). Everything’s good, racked up, way in and out sorted and off to T1 we go. Gets to T1 and the same process again, find the way in and out of transition, where my bike is and have my first look at the lake, those buoys are a long way away, they sorely can’t be right and its 2 laps. They were right.

Anyway, back to the hotel to chillout for a couple of hours before we all go out for a bite to eat. I’m stopping in the same hotel as Craig, Gemma, Dan, John, Camila, Walt and Steve so there is a bit of buzz as we all meet up to go for tea. Driving out for tea I’m starting to get nervous again and the dough is kicking in. Thankfully I was stopping with some of the best people in the world and everyone was so supportive and encouraging. 3:30am start we all agreed on so off to bed to try get some sleep if possible.

Sunday, race day, 2:45am the alarm goes off (not that I really needed it), get a shower, coffee and a pot of porridge with a banana. Put my wetsuit half on, pack the rest of my stuff up and walk out to the car. Meet everyone else outside and everyone (especially Steve and Dan) is excited and ready for it, I’m NOT. Driving over I’m starting to feel sick again but there is no turning back now, park up and walk out with everyone to find the bus. Bolton is just full of groups of people, carrying white street where bags with someone at the front with their phone following google maps to find the bus. All of us got sat on the back seat of the bus and we’re all chatting and look happy and relaxed, but you can feel everyone is on a knife edge, either wishing the start to come or go.

So, we get of the bus and walk to T1, I’m just gob smacked how many people are there, not just athletes, supporters as well, do they not know what time it is?!? We all get sorted out, hand are white bags in and get together for a group photo, I’m properly nervous now and could just throw up and could easily just go home.

We all make our way to the start line, I get stuck at the 1:20hr point and just can’t get any further back, I remember Steve telling me it’s better to keep to one side if possible and there’s less chance of getting kicked or swam on rather than the middle, I’m stuck in the middle at a swim pace I’m not comfortable with, the national anthem starts and I can help but think get me out of here. Someone then says to me if you’renot too happy just hang on when everyone starts moving to get to a better swim time and keep to the right, its not as bad on the right.

Then ACDC kicks in, I wait to get to the back and get myself on the right, we get to the water and I jump in. The nerves are doing overtime now, just do breaststroke and get to some clear water I say to myself, relax, you know you can do this,nothing is working though. I try to do some front crawl and I just get even more panic struck. What am I going to do, everyone is passing me, I’m going to be drop dead last, I might not even make the cut off?

About half up the first leg I just force myself into front crawl and all of a sudden something clicked, I started to feel good and comfortable. Next thing I knew I was catching people and I was at the first turn, I kept to right just to keep out the way, made the turn, sighted the next buoy and set off. Hang on a minute I’m not only doing front crawl and feeling relaxed I’m actually starting to enjoy this. Next turn came up like a flash, again kept right to keep out the way, sighted and set back towards the shaw. I’m not passing people all over and even getting a little annoyed at people in my way, I swim right up to the line to get out, look at my watch, wow, that’s actually not a bad time for me, (maybe all those Endless pool sessions with Steve actually worked) I’m now really loving this. As I run to the next lap all I can hear is Camila shouting me(who by the way is probably the loudest supporter in the world), I get to the start of the next lap and I’m that pumped and confident I dive in and get straight into it. Keep to the right again, hell no, I’m positioning myself on the left this time. People keep bouncing into me as I swim past them which any other day would have panicked me but not now, not today, I just held firm and kept going.

I got out the water feeling on top of the world, I not only survived I actually did and ok time for me, 1:27hr, I’ll take that all day. Right concentrate now and get that bike gear on a get going.

I get on the bike buzzing from the swim and then have to try and calm down and say to myself, right, it’s a long ride with some big hills so pace yourself. Its about 15 miles to start the first loop and it all starts quite nice with a bit of down hill and small rolling hills, then the first climb kicks in (I don’t know all the names so I’m not going to try), I’d said to myself before I started, small ring for all the climbs on the first lap, I forgot this and just powered up. As I got to the top, I remembered what I’d said and reminded myself there’s a long way to go yet.

The bike course was absolutely brutal and full of long step climbs followed by step, fast, technical descents, there was no point where you could have a second to relax, recover and gather your thoughts. Maybe that was a good thing? The first lap seems to fly past, I was feeling strong at the top of every climb and really enjoying the fast descent being able to carry that bit more speed knowing it was closed road and there was no car to worry about. As I started the second lap all I could think was, I’ve got this, lets push on, how wrong I was, and this is where the real Ironman challenge started. The climbs got harder and steeper and I was running out of gears on the bike, I remember saying to myself, “I must have more gears left, it wasn’t this hard last time around” this is really where I started to dig deep, just keep pushing those pedals round one revolution at a time and you will get to the top, all which is true but at the summit of each climb came the fast, technical descents. I wasn’t enjoying these any more as by now I’d seenpeople coming off on about every corner and ambulances blue lighting it everywhere. I went past a guy and just said “this is a course that just keeps giving hey?!?” sarcastically, he replied with “yeah, this is a proper Ironman course” and I thought yeah he’s right, that’s what we’re here for, the challenge. My bodies really starting to hurt now but I just kept my head down and kept going. The crowds were amazing and every time I got a little down, they were there to pick me up and give me a boost. 100 miles clicked over and I perked right up again, 12 miles to go and that’s it, I’ve done it.

I see T2 and the bike dismount line and I hear my name being shouted, a couple of my mates were there, all of a sudden I’m buzzing again. Right, best think about this marathon then hey.I rack my bike, walk into the transition tent, find my bag and tip it out and get changed. Once I’m ready and re-racked my bag I sit back down and think, how the hell am I meant to do a marathon now!!! I jump up walk out the tent, grab a cup of water and think just run to each water station. I set off running and what’s going on, I can actually run! I feel ok! Wasn’t expecting that! I see my family has turned up and are all cheering me which gives me a huge boost.

Right, just 4 laps, nothing more than that, run to each water station, that’s the plan.

Lap 1 it all went according to plan and I start to see other OTCF athletes on the course, all of us high fiving and cheering each other. Yes, I’ve got this, I feel great (within reason).

Lap 2, again the same plan and it’s working, come on I think, my watch died which worried me a little as I had no idea what pace I was doing but I can’t do anything about it so keep going.

Lap 3, oh no, the cramp kicks in and then the doubt, can I make the cut off? I don’t know if I can keep going. All I can think about is all the people that were here cheering me on and my family that’s also made the effort and I’m going to let them down and not finish and I could feel tears starting to well up in my eyes. I had to dig so deep then to say NO! I’m finishing this, I am going to be an ironman, lets do this. I settled back down and re-focused and just set little goals and kept moving forward. For some reason then the tears come back, this time though because I was amazed that my family and friends had made the effort to come and see me complete this. I swallowed them down, shook my head and got back into it. Then there back again as I’m thinking about all the OTCF family that’s come to support everyone and as I’m thinking about all the support every OTCF athlete has given me this weekend. What’s wrong with me? Why am I so emotional? Come on dickhead lets get to the end.

Lap4, I’ve worked out now that I think I could walk this lap and still get under the cut off, but I don’t want to walk it, so I decide just to walk up the hills if I need to. I needed to. I see all the other OTCF athletes and we all give each other a shout, Arron and me even stop for a couple of minutes to talk. That’s it, I’ve nearly done this, just make it back round into the town centre and its done. I walk through the last water station and turn the corner to go up through the town centre, the crowd is still buzzing, and I think right let’s run as much as I can. All of a sudden the 26-mile marker is there, 0.2 of a mile I say, that’s all it is come on. As I turn to come round past the finish line for the last time the atmosphere is electric, I have someone just in front of me, let him go to build a gap I think, I want that red carpet all to myself, I’ve been planning this finish from lap 2. I turn onto the red carpet and look over to the crowd and the OTCF family stand out, I make my way down the red carpet doing the aeroplane (as was discussed over dinner the night before) and I hear those words I’ve been waiting for, Rhydian, you are an Ironman!

I can’t explain how over whelming and life changing this whole experience has been. The training was tough, the course was physically tough and emotionally draining but I’ve made it out the other side. I’ve met some brilliant people over this whole challenge, people that I now call friends. Thank you so much to Steve Clark for all the support over the journey and the belief he’s always had when I hadn’t. It has truly been one of the best experiences of my life and now, even days after I’m still buzzing about what I have done, and I am so proud of myself and everyone else that has made it. It really does prove that yes, somethings are tough and hard, but nothing is impossible.

Ironman UK by Gemma Scott

So when I was asked to write a race report for Ironman UK 2019 I would never have expected in the lead up to this race that I would be writing about the outcome that I had.

2018 I took on an Ironman for the first time and literally got my arse handed to me on a plate, Ironman chewed me up and spat me out but I did complete the race as the last finisher within the cut off. I didn’t get that sense of achievement I had hope for as I felt cheated & defeated. So how does one overcome this feeling, they sign up to Ironman UK 2019. I had some demons I needed to put to bed!

This time I was determined I needed to work harder, no way was I going to go through that hell again so I enrolled on Steve’s Swim lessons (highly recommended) and set out trying to get stronger on the bike too. I worked hard through winter pushing myself out of that comfort zone on the bike and in swimming. I worked hard on my mental wellbeing too. A lot of people work so hard on the physical aspect but fail to exercise the mind too and I can guarantee as long as you are not injured the mind will be what gives up first.

Training was going well until the beginning of March and I just began to go backwards. I had no energy, I felt so ill and I had no idea what was happening. I managed to continue the training but as soon as that was done I was in bed for the rest of the day. I finally gave in and went to the doctors when I lost a stone in 4 weeks and was referred to see a consultant. I had some tests done but they couldn’t see what was wrong so I was referred to another consultant but wouldn’t be seen until July so I had no choice but to go private. After extensive tests they confirmed I had SIBO & I was suffering with Malnutrition & dehydration because I couldn’t digest any food. I had to take medication to ease the symptoms but it was agreed we couldn’t treat the illness properly until after Ironman. So with the help of the medication I battled on through training and although the issues didn’t disappear I did start to feel better.

The pinnacle of my training was to take on The Tour of the Peaks Sportive in May. 2018 I attempted to tackle the 115 miles and 13000ft elevation ride, but wimped out after Winnatts Pass & only completed the medium route of 62 miles & 7000ft (still tough but not what I set out to do). In 2019 i completed the full distance way inside the cut offs required with no walking and finally put that demon to bed. The biggest confidence boost I could’ve asked for. I knew I was so much stronger than last year already.

So heading into race weekend I set myself 3 goals for Ironman UK 2019:

• Aim to swim a sub 1 hour 30 minute 2.4-mile swim

• Bike within the cut off time of 10 hours and 20 minutes which includes the swim time too.

• Finish in daylight

I knew it was going to be hard and painful but I was ready for this, I was strong both mentally and physically. 

We arrived in Bolton Friday afternoon and headed straight to registration. We then caught up with Shawnie & Aaron and headed to the race briefing. It was after the briefing I began to feel a sense of calm. I knew what the cut offs were on the bike so I had more of an idea what I needed to do in order to survive the bike which had been changed drastically since 2018 9500ft elevation as opposed to 5500ft and an extra 17 miles.

Saturday we got up early and after spending the previous evening prepping the bikes and ensuring our race bags were packed and ready to go we headed to T1 to rack the bikes. Best move, it was quiet and pain free. I headed to the portaloo before we collected the race chip. I saw something move on the floor and had a moment of panic (I thought it was a big spider) but it turned out to be a small frog. How cute. I safely rescued him and returned him to a safe place. There was actually loads of tiny frogs all over transition. Hope they all survived race day!! We then headed to T2 and it was there where we caught up with Coach Clark and Rhydian (after he had got lost bless ya mate!!)

The rest of the day was pretty stress free we kept hydrated, ate little and often and stayed off our feet as much as possible. That evening the majority of Team Off That Couch Fitness had a last supper talking race strategy and how we were all going to survive the challenge ahead! We were fortunately then in bed by 7.30pm watching Jurassic Park.

Race morning, up at 2.50am. Quick shower, kit on and out of the door by 3.30am and heading to the town centre to catch a bus to the start. Nerves were starting to creep in, but I always believe that nerves are a good thing and I should be more worried if I didn’t have any.

I ate my overnight oats on the bus 2 hours before the start as planned. Pulled up near Pennington flash and pulled a blinder we used the toilets at the holiday inn and no queue whoop!

Once in T1 I filled the bike up with food and drink for the day ahead. Then back in the toilet queue whilst Craig kindly sorted my bike for me!

Once sorted we headed to get rid of bags and get ready for the swim. After pictures hugs and general encouragement from

Coach and the team we headed to the swim start.

I seeded myself at the 1 hour 20 minutes sign on the start line. Last year I ended up being slowed down a lot by breaststrokers despite seeding myself at 1 hour 30 minutes. Aaron joined me but it was so squashed I literally couldn’t move at all. Then Thunderstruck began to play and I went into my happy place. This song sends chills down my spine in a good way and I knew we were off, no looking back.

First 100 meters I took my time (Coach Clark drummed that into us on the bus) got into my rhythm the water was a nice temperature (unlike lakesman brrr) and quickly got into my stroke. There was weeds everywhere think swamp

Monster lol but I just got on with it and before I knew it we was approaching the turn buoy. It was heavily congested here and the only option was to breaststroke around the buoy. It soon freed off. The remaining first lap swim felt quite comfortable just sat in what felt like a steady rhythm & in what seemed no time I was soon at the Aussie exit. Out the water and I ran as fast as the breathing allowed. Some guy in front waved to an adoringly fan and just so happened to elbow me right in my face. Cheers Pal! It hurt but I wasn’t bleeding so just sprinted past him and straight back into the water. Some guy slipped entering in front of me which sounded painful so I took my time. 2nd lap I was much more fluid. My arms were free, I was gliding through the water and ticking off buoys. Half a lap to go…then the guy who couldn’t swim straight. It felt like having a dolphin plow into the side of you with every stroke as he kept knocking me off my swim line so I had to kick a bit harder to pass him. Up ahead The exit approached Whoop I’ve survived part 1. Climbing out of the water I glanced at the watched. 1:22 what!!!! That smile began!! I was buzzing 18 min PB whoop!! Ran past the cheer squad smiling buzzing, and ran all the way to T1.

Grabbed the bag sat down & hurried as fast as I could. Helmet on shoes on gel necked I was off. Quick toilet stop where I nearly lost my tailwind but I saved it!

Bike grabbed I could see Paul waving frantically and I was still smiling. I’d just knocked 9 mins off my T1 in 2018 so all was going to plan. I needed the biggest buffer for this bike course so I already had an hours grace.

Pennington Flash to the bike loop was so much nicer than I remembered I was happily sat around 17mph but last year I barely got above 13mph. Still smiling.

Saw fellow team mates Aaron & John looking strong which is an enormous buzz. I kept my speed up on the fast sections and eased the light climbs. I had the advantage I knew this course and what world of pain was about to be unleashed.

I kept on top of my nutrition and was nearly empty as I approached Oompa Loompa Alley. I also Saw some familiar friendly faces from Our number one supporters! You guys are immense. After id been rattled by the cobbles no exaggeration I head off to embrace the beast of the course.

The first lap appeared to pass by quite quickly I took my time climbing and it paid off I actually passed people climbing and descending more so. What’s happened to that timid petrified girl of 2018. I was flying down the hills taking technical sections like I’d been doing them all my life and I was enjoying it. I’d become a cyclist I was strong. The moment that it really hit me how well I was doing was on the fast technical section after roman road. A German lady in my age category caught up said “how on earth can you descend so fast and not fall off with all those pot holes!” Complete credit goes to my no 1 bike coach & hubby Craig who sacrificed some of his training to get me this strong. Plus I had remembered where those pot holes were.

I had the usual peaks and troughs of energy but I have now learnt to ride those waves and just eat it soon comes back.

Was lovely seeing friendly faces on the bike course and the Tour de France experience climbing sheep house with Dave Hinch running alongside you is priceless. Top effort mate heard you had some incentives for the others including coach lol!!

Second lap passed with a blur. I tried to be disciplined and not go too hard but Before I knew it I was heading to the brow of sheep house and got to see those wrestlers for a last time. Thanks guys you made a girl keep smiling.

I also have to thank all of the spectators on the bike course that made a day of it with bbqs and mini festivals. You all were so welcoming and I made sure I thanked everyone as it sometimes is hard to think outside the bubble you’re in when it’s tough!

Before long I was heading into T2

I sat and span my legs out on the descent to prepare the legs for the run. My back ached but after that beast I wasn’t surprised it certainly wasn’t as bad as 2018.

Bike racked I felt such relief to hear no penalties so I ran to the tent and grabbed my bag. The second Relief was that I had safely made the cut offs with a big buffer so second expectation met. Visor loaded shoes on lubed up and I was off. About 5 mins faster than T2 2018. Boom!!

First lap I saw everyone & I was able to run so kept it going plodding away and using the feed stations. I was smiling something I was being consistent at throughout the day and slowly tapped away. I walked through the hills in the park I learnt that lesson from last year and continued on my way. The troughs came more on the run than the bike.

So I just walked through them ate a tortilla and kept sipping tailwind and water. 

Heading towards the feed station at the turn point they all recognised me “she came back well done Gemma you’re our favourite”!

These guys remembered me from last year when I gave up at the turn point on the last lap in 2018. Now a year later I was in a smiley happy place and they all said they were so proud of me! I was their inspiration. Queue holding back tears.

First lap done the wheels were beginning to fall off. No no no keep smiling walk when you need to but don’t stop moving.

I was annoyed I’m not going to lie I wanted to run faster and to my capability but that bike course had taken loads out of me. I just needed to survive and finish.

Second lap still smiling (some was grimacing my stomach was beginning to hurt and the chest was getting tight).

Halfway through lap 2 I felt weird light headed and unfortunately was sick. I felt better as soon as I was. I actually got mad at this point. I was not going to be the last over the line again id worked hard I’d proved that on the other 2 disciplines and also the fact I was able to run up to this point so I embraced this anger had a word with myself and soon enough I was out of that trough! I headed to the next feed station got some coke and tortilla sipped tailwind and progressed on it made me feel better so this became the remaining race strategy. I saw fellow team mates on the course dishing out hugs high five’s and loads of encouragement. This helped channel my mindset for the remaining 2 laps and I just kept smiling encouraging people and plodding on. It was nice to see how elated coach was when he saw me! And of course Craig massive relief from him.

Loads of support from the cheering squad as I headed through the town centre to head out on the final lap. I was hurting but I wasn’t letting anyone know that I was determined to finish in day light. Time was running out but I was hoping somewhere strength would come. Last hug with my cheer squad at the feed station who I thanked profusely for all of their support this year and last. I was eternally grateful for their selfless acts of kindness. 

In times like these you realise how amazing people can be. 

After the turn point something ignited inside me. I was doing this I had a massive PB, I’d survived a bike course that is now regarded the toughest Ironman Bike course. My pace just came. I had another lady just sat on my shoulder and I just knew she wasn’t getting past. Competitive mode kicked in. I collected my gold band and I went. Kicked through the park and didn’t look back. The down hill part of the park hurt but I pushed through I had only half a parkrun to go. Refuel on coke and tortilla no stopping though I ran through the last 2 feed stations. 1 mile to go I’ve got this. The faster I went the less my legs hurt and before I knew it I saw cobbles. I saw Hinchy shout yes youve done it! I saw That finish line. I gave everything I ran as fast as my legs would go I wanted to fly down that finish line. Round the bend friends were cheering High fived Craig and attempted the most ridiculous aeroplane known to man more like a bird flapping down that red carpet! But who cared

I had become a double Ironman and finished 1 hour and 21 minutes faster than last year on a course with 4500ft more and an extra 17 miles. I did it within my expectations set and all with a smile on my face. 

Massive thanks to all friends and family who’ve supported us both at Bolton, from home, for understanding when We couldn’t spend valuable time with you, for believing in me probably more than I did. Thanks to Steve for tailoring the training to make me stronger, getting my swim technique better (extra shout out to Sarah too), Jo for keeping me stretched out and most importantly Craig for supporting me so much despite also training for his own Ironman. It’s been a hard journey but one where I’ve discovered myself and what I am really capable of! 


Sent from my iPhone

Ironman UK 2019 – Criag Scott

July 2018 I completed the only Ironman I was ever doing, fast forward 12 months and it’s race weekend Ironman UK 2019.
Its Friday morning and I’m loading the car with all the gear for me and Gemma whilst carrying out what must be the 20th kit check then off we go full of excitement and nerves.
First stop in Bolton is to drop the bikes off at the hotel where we met up with John Chambers who was his usual excitable self (not) then off we all go to race registration to collect the long anticipated Ironman backpack (I’m sure this is half the reason we do these events)
registration done quick and easy then we have a few hours to kill so we relax have some food and watch the world go by sat along side the Fred Dibnah statue.
A couple of hours relaxing go by then we meet up with Andy, Aaron and Shawnie and it’s off to race briefing we go and this for me is where the nerves start to build and it all becomes very real. Once all the formalities are done we all soak up the atmosphere together then head off back to the hotel to bag all the kit then time for food and a early night. Saturday morning we head off to T1 first to rack the bike hang the bike kit bag and familiarise ourselves with transition layout and the swim course, it’s then back in the car and heading to T2 in Bolton town centre to hang the run bag and again take time to learn the layout of transition.
Finally that’s us done and for me once this is done all nerves seem to disappear I guess at this point there is nothing else you can do except eat well and stay on top of hydration. We wait around at transition to meet up with coach Clark and Rhydian who had got lost and also been mistaken for a local tramp according to Steve. After yet more food we meet again with Dan, Shawnie and Aaron for a chat then off to the hotel we go and take some chill time. Our evening meal was at a local Italian where we met Steve, Dan, Rhydian, John and also Camilla and Wal who had come to support.

Race day 2:50am and the alarm goes, straight in the shower full of nervous excitement then jump in the car to go catch the shuttle bus to the start.
once there it’s load the bike with drink and race nutrition then try to relax before the start.
our amazing support crew were there giving out hugs and words of encouragement and this is where it all gets a little emotional for me with us all wishing each other good luck out on the course ( it genuinely feels like we are all preparing to go into battle in a war zone)
I then have a minute alone with Gemma to wish her well and have a little pep talk, this is where my hay fever started playing up and my eyes were watering ;-).

In the starting pen at the 1:15 pace board I now focus on the task and try to keep the heart rate as low as possible then AC/DC Thunder struck comes on and I’m just tingling with adrenaline as make my way to the water. Once in I go taking the first 100m nice and easy to find a good rhythm and some space then crack on and before I know it I’m nearing the end of lap one and making my way through the Aussie exit and starting my 2nd lap. So far it was fairly uneventful but then at the 2nd turn the group tightened up and the guy in front of me stopped dead then started to breast stroke and as he kicked he his me square in the ribs which literally knocked the wind out of me so I had to compose myself then get going again. Finally the welcome sight of the finish is now just in front of me and I’m pulled out of the water by one of the helpers a quick look at my watch and to my amazement I had a 1:13swim which was 8 minutes faster than last year I was so happy.

T1 went smooth and there was a amazing image in the tent when I looked around the amount of steam poring off all the athletes it would make a awesome picture.

Right the Bolton 2019 bike course was next up and I knew this was going to be the part of the race that puts to test every ounce of mental and physical strength (I wasn’t wrong) I had been over a couple of times before race day to recce the course so I knew it was a big challenge, the hills are just one after another and some are very long long drags which are energy sapping, the descents are sharp and technical so they are a mental challenge as well as physical and now with a added bonus of cobbles through the town centre the course is a bruiser from start to finish. From the swim there is a 17 mile rolling hill ride to the loop section and part of this is a switch back so you get to see other riders no sign of Steve he was on a mission but I saw Dan coming the other way closely followed by Shawnie they were flying, I reached the turn around and headed back along the other side thinking I hope I see Gemma then I know she’s ok. Aaron was next he was looking good but sadly I missed Gem by what I work out to around 30 seconds ( she was fine and had a great swim). Through lap 1 I was just trying to stay on top of my nutrition and ride efficiently but also carry as much speed on the descents and through the technical parts as this is my favourite part of any ride so still have fun after I had paid be there. Dotted around the course were so many friends supporting us all it was awesome including a Mr David Hinch who was sat at the bottom of of the start to sheep house climb which is the most iconic climb on the course. he is outside a pub with what looked like 100’s of people creating a Tour de France feel to the climb but as I get out of my seat to start climbing he is running along side me with a fishing rod and a packet of Hob nob biscuits on some string dangling in front of me i was laughing so hard I could hardly breath it was brilliant. Soon after I’m back in Bolton and lap one is behind me and I remember thinking that’s it Scotty you are on your way to T2 now and feeling pretty good. 5 mile into lap 2 I see Dan up ahead climbing so I push to get to him and we completed the hill side by side exchanging words of encouragement then we drift apart, deeper into the lap I start to feel tired and go through a bit of a low patch and allow my head to drop which isn’t like me but I guess the hills were taking there toll so for the next few miles I eased right up and opened up my little treat I had packed myself for times like this kind of a break glass in case of emergencies it was a nice little pork and apple pie then I reached the point where Paul, Rob, Lindsey and Zoe amongst others were and I asked if Gemma was ok? I guess seeing what she went through last year was playing on my mind and they told me she doing amazing and smashing it, armed with my treat and the good news I instantly picked up and felt good again. I guess it just shows how important your mindset is in any endurance event.
Hill after hill and back heading into the town centre and starting to think about the run and I remember thinking oh god this is going to be fun as the legs had been to hell and back which also put a lot of pressure on my back and shoulders.
Again T2 went smoothly making sure I was comfortable and also had a good floor stretch.

Run out steady straight into Camilla and Wal offering top support and I’m just trying to relax and tick the miles, halfway through my first lap it was clear to me it wasn’t going to be the sub 4 marathon I had hoped for but I was ok with that, sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture. Each and every lap the support from the whole crowd and especially all our friends and family was just incredible and I cannot thank you all enough. Every lap I think I saw everyone from the OTCF team which was awesome, we were all high fives and shout outs. Steve flew past on his last lap looking awesome but a puff of the cheeks towards me indicated were were all feeling it. Finally I get to see Gem and she is smiling away which made me feel amazing and so happy for her, after quick exchange of words and a cuddle I’m off to collect my yellow band and start my last lap and I see Shawnie also on her last lap so another quick cuddle and we are off.

As I try to enjoy my last lap I realised a guy that I run along side was also on his last lap and potentially going to be on the red carpet with me then hear Steve shouting go go go push it so after 139.8 miles I’m in a sprint finish for god sake. There it is in front of me the famous red carpet where the noise is unreal and the atmosphere is electric, I remember on the Saturday night Steve saying make sure you airplane down the finish so that I did high fives with as many people as I could then you hear the words “Craig Scott YOU ARE A IRONMAN” which after 2018 has more meaning than you will know 😉

In the recovery tent there is a overwhelming sense of emotion and as I said at the swim start it feels like we are all going into battle, at the finish it feels like a load of wounded soldiers returning home from battle it’s a very special feeling that is hard to put into words.
As the whole OTCF team return one by one the sense of pride is overwhelming then boom my hay fever starts again.

I would like to thank everyone that supported us on the day and also in preparation for this event you all know who you are. Secondly a massive thanks the Coach Steve not only has his training schedule got us all through this monster Ironman course but he’s created a great family feel to the club, he’s always on the end of the phone to answer any question but also just to run ideas by and help when you are finding it tough. Thank you

I’m writing this sat next to a pool in Ibiza but still thinking hmmm what’s next.

P.S Dave I still want them Hob nobs

Ironman UK Bolton 2019 – John Chambers

Here we go again!

Following some good race results earlier in the year, Barcelona Marathon, London, North Lincs Half marathon and Lakesman half distance triathlon, preparation for Ironman UK was going well…… until a long standing issue with my shoulder reared its ugly head. Swimming has never been my strong point but had been going well until a few months ago so the swim was always going to be a struggle.

There was a big OffThatCouchFitness presence at this race so there was a good atmosphere between us. We travelled on Friday and registered in Bolton town hall – it was happening again! There was a buzz around the town already as athletes were beginning to arrive. Registration complete, a bimbleround the town centre, expo and of course the merchandise shop and back to the hotel to relax and sort transition bags and gear out ready for racking and drop off on Saturday then an early tea with Gemma and Craig – quite a laid back day really which was the plan. Saturday morning came and early to T1 to rack the bike, a quick look at the Flash which was very tranquil and serene, T2 for bag drop off and again, back to the hotel to keep off our feet. Another relaxing early meal with Coach Clark and the half the team as we were in the same hotel. Early to bed and BOOM it’s 0230 and time to get up! Eating at that time of day is always hard work but a pot of porridge, a banana and some pain killers for my shoulder did the trick. We left the hotel at the ungodly hour of 0330 to drop the cars off near the finish and then back on the shuttle bus to Pennington Flash. The rest of the OTCF team assembled – it felt like we were the new Avengers!

As we lined up for the self-seeded swim, I was conscious of my shoulder so headed towards the back of the field. I intended to swim steady stay out of the way of people and protect my shoulder – plan achieved. Not the fastest of swims but my intention was to minimise the pain. The swim actually went reasonably well, incident free maybe 10-15 minutes slower than I would normally do but due to the circumstances I was happy with that, I got out of the water feeling really fresh – maybe this is the way forward!

The bike – what can I say about that? Well in one word, brutal. Having completed Ironman Wales in 2017 and 2018, this was much harder than that so hat’s off to everyone who completed it as it was a tough day on the saddle. I saw a couple of the OTCF guys on the bike, a quick chat with Gemma and Andy to see how they were and onward. It was apparent, this wasn’t going to be a fast bike course so after the first lap, I decided to ease back a bit. Much of the descents were technical where you could gain speed but had to be wary as at the bottom were sharp turns, the road surfaces weren’t brilliant either so concentration a must all way round. I had originally planned an average of 200 watts as a target so I was on the conservative side only averaging 164. It was great to see many familiar faces that had come to support us on various parts of the bike course, and not to forget the infamous wrestlers dancing away!

The run – seemed to go really quickly. I saw all of the team more than once through the run which was great to see them all doing so well. A few words of encouragement and a check to see how everyone was, it was nice to know we were all going to make it. That hill through the park though, that was energy sapping but I managed to run up the first three laps and only walked the last lap to have a bit of a chat with Stephen Cannings and then away I went again. As each lapped passed and I received my bands, once I had received my yellow and final band it was like someone had took the brake off, that psychological barrier know I was nearly home – I was off, I picked up the pace for the last two miles and completed the race in my fastest time yet so all is well. The support through the town and all along the course was amazing. Our support crew and friends had relocated again through varying points on the course and had managed to get a prime position at the finish line and I cannot thank all of them enough for the words of encouragement and banter (and Mr Hinch dangling a KFC bag in front of me on the bike for motivation!).

It doesn’t matter how many times you hear those four words after your name announced to the world “You are an Ironman” – you know you have made it, not just to the end of the race but to the end of that particular journey, however, this journey hasn’t quite ended for me yet as I have another appointment with the Dragon in Tenby in 8 weeks’ time so can step off the gas just yet!

I would like to say many thanks to the expert coaching and guidance from Steve Clark at OffThatCouchFitness (he didn’t have a bad race himself either!), the rest of the team who raced and trained together for this event – there is strength in numbers. We all had an awesome day. At the Ironman awards ceremony, there was a video about Ohana – the Ironman family. This is what Steve has achieved within OTCF and it’s great to be a part of it.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – Ali Schofield

Two days after I’d finished the Helvellyn triathlon, entries for the Outlaw Half opened. In the days before my triathlons, I ran with my very good friend Jane Handy (clarkey) who was into triathlons. I used to think she was completely bonkers – she raved about the Outlaw and I thought why not, let’s give it a go. Entry done, message to coach, let’s do this….

Race Day

4am alarm – no one likes that time of the morning, but I woke up before the alarm, fully rested and feeling ready and fresh –thanks to my wonderful family up the road for proper looking after me.

The planning and preparation for my events gets easier the more triathlons I do. Set up, rituals and routines become unchanged. The thoughts of changing things do happen, but I pull myself back into line and remind myself, that’s what you do in training, this is race day, stick to what you know.

The Swim

The wetsuit went on like a dream. It was the most comfortable I’ve ever known it.  Waiting to start is the most anxious part of the day for me… I slowed my breathing down, long andslow breaths keeping my calm. The previous weekend, I’d been to the Lagoon in Scunthorpe for an open water swim which had been freezing and I struggled to swim with my face in the water, so did a lap of breast stroke. I’d already had a word with myself, whatever happens on race day, you just need to get on with it no matter what. The announcement came to us all, the water temperature is 15 degrees… phew!!

And we’re off…. Kept it calm, only one little panic after I’d turned the corner to come back as I lost my breathing rhythm, but kept it smooth remembering everything coach had taught me. I knew I was off my usual swim pace, but I was cool about that. Out of the swim, mum and dad gave me a cheer as I ran into transition.

T1 – Transition was smooth considering I had a wetsuit to whip off.

It’s bike time…

The smiles were wide. I passed my husband on the bike exit, gave him a big smile and off I went. Having not biked the course or paid much attention to the route, apart from being told it was fast, the most important part for me was hydration and nutrition. First priority on the bike was eat and drink. Then to keep eating and drinking at regular intervals. I continued to do this like clockwork. I was finding myself on the most amazing bike course I could’ve imagined (some of the course was in very poor condition but the organisers had done a fab job on marking everything out) It was fast with a few lumps too. It was perfect. I had to hold myself back, kept thinking I hadn’t run a half marathon since 2014 and I was slightly anxious about it!! I could’ve seriously pushed the power on that route, but did I want to completely smash the bike (body said yes you could) and potentially ruin therun….? Head said no!! I was proper focused. The miles just flew by….

T2 – Yep, smooth as once again. Happy times.

The run….  (honestly I was dreading this bit)

First mile, wow I’m running well, form is good, pace is good, legs feel good… had a quick glance at my pace, ok this was quicker than I would’ve expected it to be – let’s get smooth girl, you need to enjoy this run, not ruin it. Head was in an amazing place. Each feed station, routine came into play once again, one cup of water to drink, one cup to throw on my head/hat (I hate being hot!!) I mentally broke the run into 3-mile blocks. Couple of high fives to Rhydian, fellow OTCF team buddy out on the course and regular ‘’you’ve got this’’ shouts from hubby helped the miles go by. By 6 miles, I thought it was time to see how I was getting on. I took a look at my overall time…. Wowsers, was that right?? Ali, you’ve got 6 miles to go and you’ve got how much time to do it in? Jesus. I was had the biggest smile. I’d worked out, if I continued to run as I was, I still had time to play with, if the worse was to happen, even if I walked, I could still finish this near to my target time. My pace had started to drop off, my body had started to get tired but I kept my form and kept on running… YOU ARE NOT WALKING!! 3 miles to go, it started to hurt a little. I looked at my watch, quick pace check, ok yes, you’ve slowed down, but you are only losing 1 min per mile…. 5k is nothing now, you’ve got this girl. On the last 1.5 miles, I passed the last feed station, same routine as the others, but this time it was different, it was party time, they were playing Kelly Clarkson,’’ what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, this has been my ultimate motivation saying for such a long time…. I had a little sing song and said ‘’Let’s take this home girl’’ Boom, I was going to finish well under 6hrs. I passed my folks with 1 mile to go, big cheers and huge smiles, I was buzzing… watch check, 0.5 to go, I could smell the finish line – the pace picked up, the flags got closer and closer… I was crying. Boom. I’d finished. Stop the watch. I was a little wobbly, focused my eyes on the medal and grabbed fluid…. I needed food, I needed food quickly. Grab a coke, walked up some stairs, bit of a daze and threw my arms around my husband… food, I need food. He knows me far too well in this state, I have one priority right now and that’s to feed my face otherwise my recovery is ruined. I still didn’t know my time…  he said my WhatsApp has been constantly buzzing, I couldn’t really focus on the what, where and when – quick update to coach, then I got a text…. OH, MY FRICKING GOD!!!! Not only had I gone sub 6 (target time) I had proper smashed it and gone sub 5hrs 30 – finish time of 5:29:56. I could not believe it…. And still can’t!!

Behind the Scenes

1. Majorca – the toughest week of training ever… both physically and mentally. But it prepared me for the above and provided me with the most amazing support network I could’ve ever have imagined. Girls and boys, you know who you are, thank you.
2. The mental side – massive learning curves. It’s been tough. I’ve learnt a lot about myself. There has been tears, lots of doubts, lots of highs and lows – but I kept picking myself up and stayed focused to the goals. I’ve found ways to deal with my struggles and had to make some big changes, but it is starting to work. Onwards on upwards (ps. buy Steve’s books!!)

Thank you to my husband – you are my true rock, day in day out. Thank you to my family and friends for the ever planning around my training and supporting me through my crazy events.

And thank you to my coach, he sure knows what he is doing…. I’m proud to be part of the OTCF Family 😊