Ironman Barcelona 2019 By Eimear


Ironman Barcelona 2019
2nd time round!

So I’ve never done a race report before. Not sure why I’m doing one now!

It wont change the day or the result. But it may give insight to some what a hard day is in store when completing a full distance triathlon.   

I arrived in Calella, Barcelona on the Thursday, 3 days before the race. This gave me the 3 days to check in, register, pick up bike and bags from Ship My Tri Bike, shop the expo, do a recci bike and swim and just pretty much relax and get the body rested for the big race ahead. 

The lead up to this year’s race wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked. I didn’t do as many hours as I had done for the race last year. I didn’t have the training companionship I had from the club like we had in 2018, when 10 of us lined up on the start line. There were 5 of us in the club this year starting the 2019 race but we all trained separately and didn’t touch base much about what we were doing and how we were feeling. I did have 2 friends from Maynooth doing their first ironman also and we did our long Sunday cycles together (4/5+ hours) so that was good to have people to draft off and push pace with. So as much as I didn’t have the consistency of training this year, I felt the hours I put in were more structured and so it was quality over quantity this year. Fingers crossed it works out. 


Race morning –

The alarm clock went off at 5am and it was breakfast at 530am with Dr Phil. I was feeling pretty good and relaxed. I could see Phil was quiet and slightly nervous. Not much was said between us. 

The walk down to transition is about 1.5km from the hotel, so myself and Phil met Barry C and Brian outside the hotel for the walk down. It was still very dark but loads were out doing the same walk as us. Nerves, excitement, fear and tension were all present in the air. The element of the unknown was floating around. 

Into transition and all I had to do was put my food and drinks on the bike. I had it all ready in my back pack so it was easy enough to do. Then the wetsuit came out and we all put the body glide/ vasoline on. I noticed I had my talc powder bottle at the bottom of my bag- crap I never put talc in my runners and bike shoes that were already in the transition bags. The bike and run transition bags were put in place the day before when the bike was racked up. Do I run over now and try and do it before the transition closes, only 5 minutes left to leave transition, or do I just leave it? Sure, ill be grand. I never get blisters and I have a change of socks in both transition bags along with towels to dry my feet. So, decision made, talc powder was put away and ignored. This will come back and bite me ☹

Myself, Phil and Andy decided to line up together for the start of the swim. I swam 1.19 last year and felt I was some bit better this time, so I wanted the 1.15 pacers. As did Phil and Andy. Lining up here at the start line was the first time the nerves set in. What the hell was I doing?? I am not race ready! I shouldn’t be here. All the doubts set in. Looking at both Phil and Andy I knew they were having the same thoughts.

Swim-

Buzzer went off and away I went. I had no plan in mind for the swim other than keep going and no stops. The water was calm but there was so much crowding and arms flying everywhere. I got smackedmany times on the legs and back and was pushed off my sighting so many times. I got to the half way point and checked my watch, 2040m in 42 minutes, slightly off pace but doing good. I decided to put the head down and pull a bit more on return trip. However, we now had the current going against us so this was slightly harder to swim, but still 100% better than last year’s 4 foot swells and waves. As I was getting close to home something made me look at my watch, oh no it was on pause, it said 3080m in 1.02 mins, so I restarted it and hoped I hadn’t missed much. I didn’t recall any kick or bang to my wrist, but it could easily have happened. 

Swim finish and my watch at end of swim said 3646m in 1.10hrs. I missed about 200m from the full swim in my watch time. Overall I was happy with my time. 

Swim Time- 1.18.26

T1- 

I saw Mam, Fiona and Angela when I got out of the water and ran into transition, I screamed and waved at them.

Into T1 and change out of wetsuit, helmet and bike shoes were put on and out to the bike. Bumped into Andy on way to bike and both of us ran out of T1 together. He was thrilled with his swim too and said he had seen Phil in the transition tent, so he was only few seconds behind us. I was totally buzzed going out on the bike course.

Bike- 

As I had done the race last year, I knew what the bike course was like. The first 3 km were through the village of Calella and were winding and technical. Then out onto the main road and it was 2 laps of 90km with a small ‘blip’ of a hill in the middle. Last year that hill was Mount Everest to me. I was more confident about it this year. 

Bike was going well until I came to about the 60km mark and food station. I needed to stop for a pee stop. I have never in all my years cycling needed to stop when out on bike but something told me to stop and take the 2 minutes in the portaloo. Back on the bike and down to the round about to start 2nd lap. The crowds were amazing at the round about. Saw Mam, Fiona, Angela, all of Marta’s crew and loads more Irish shouting once they saw the Naas Tri top. The atmosphere was unreal. I managed the 1st lap in 3hr 2 minutes. Slightly off where I wanted but I did have a pee stop. Now time to pick things up and get going again. 

I was only about 5 km into the 2nd lap when my stomach started to spasm. Where did this come from? No idea. I couldn’t even take a sip from my energy drink. Tried some water and this too made the stomach worse. My friend Brian pulled up beside me at this point. He was beaming. He was loving the whole race and atmosphere. He just wanted to chat and have some company. I told him I wasn’t feeling great. Told him I didn’t know how I was going to keep going. All I wanted was to get sick. He got worried then about me but I told him to go and keep doing his race and enjoy it all. 

I just about managed the climb between 110-120km. Staying low on the TT bars of the bike was so uncomfortable for me. The only position I could hold was hands on the elbow pads of the TT bars- so sitting up high and tall- giving absolutely no aero benefits. I started to struggle big time on the bike now. Mood was low, emotions low, stomach in bits and it just kept spasming. The tears started. All I wanted was off the bike. I kept thinking if I got off how would I get back to the transition area, or even let my family and friends know I was ok. At the food stop at 150km I had to stop again and use the toilet. This was when I started retching and getting sick. I was at rock bottom now and just wanted out. But somehow, I got back on bike and made a pact with myself to just get to T2 and finish then. It would only be another hour and I would be done. I took it really slowly for the last 30km and really felt sorry for myself. As I rounded the round about and made it down to the last 3 km of the bike, the crowds were still out cheering. Most people were on the run but there were still some coming in off the bike. I wasn’t paddy last. Thank god! I could see my gang of supporters out waiting for me and the camera and phones were out to take pictures. All I could do was clean the tears off my face and smile at me. For all they knew I was having a great time. Little did they know the struggle I had for the last 3 hours. 

Now to take a little step back in time…

Everyone knows you don’t do anything new on race day. You use clothes and equipment you have trained in and use food that you have eaten before. Don’t do anything new on race day.

Well I did ☹

I normally suffer from a very upset stomach when I’m running. I never seem to be able to settle it. I had been told numerous times to take immodium to help settle it before it gets back. Well I never tried it. 

So the night before the race I got a packet and took 1 before bed, and then I took 2 more race morning before breakfast. So that’s 3 tablets in space of 12 hours on a normally functioning gut and stomach. Looking back, all the stomach issues I was having on the bike was the immodium working and not letting any of my energy food and drinks digest. They were just collecting in my stomach and spasming the living daylights out of it!!!

Bike Time- 6.31.00

T2

So, into T2 I go. As I dismounted the bike at the dismount line I slightly stumbled but thought nothing of it and kept going. I racked my bike and as I was leaving the bike area and going to the tents, I saw 2 friends of mine in the stand. I walked over to them and I was in tears. I told them how sick I was and sore and that I was done. I was giving up. I couldn’t go on. Told them to meet me the other side of the tent after I dropped off my ankle tag. 

However once I got into the tent I decided to put on my runners and run visor and head off on the run. What harm was I going to do by attempting it? The nutrition and gels I had planned to bring for the run were left behind. I wont be using them! 

Run-

So off I went and started the marathon. I walked the first 100m and then I started to run. Shooting pain shot up through my right foot and bang straight into my already upset stomach and more sharp spasms. Oh no. What was wrong now?? I couldn’t run at all. Couldn’t put any pressure down on the outside of my foot. The base of my little toe was so sore and painful. I must have broken it when I landed awkwardly off the bike at the dismount line. (itsterrible being a physio/ having a medical mind as you think of absolutely everything and the worst-case scenario!!). I tried to push 100m walking, 100m running for the first 1km, but I was getting nowhere. I had to just walk. So, walk I did. At about 10km I managed to see a medic on a bike, and I pulled him over. Told him I wanted to tape my foot up. He looked at me weirdly, so I just took tape out of hisbag and taped my foot myself, compressing the little toe to make less movement out of it. It really did help with the pain and reduced it by 50%. So, the toe was not broken but I had strained the ligament badly!

The run course was 3 loops of 13 km. I managed to finish the first loop. The 2nd loop I tried to run / walk 200m at a time, so I slowly improved my pace. But the last lap I was just zonked. I wasn’t able to run/ shuffle at all. Body just majorly fatigued. My mam ended up walking the whole last lap with me, giving me encouragement and just generally chatting, distracting me from the last 13 km. One of the rules in an Ironman you are not allowed any help from the supporters or bystanders. You have to do it all yourself. Well with only 3 km to go an Ironman official came up to us and told us I would be disqualified if mam didn’t leave my side. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t going to win the race. I would be lucky to win last place. But he was strict enough, so mam took 4 steps to the left and mounted the path and kept walking along with me. 

For the whole run I have no idea what kept me going. No idea what was motivating me to get to the finish. No idea why I just wouldn’t give up. 

All I knew, I was going to get to the finish line at some stage, somehow and get that medal. 

Run Time- 6.44.14

The last hour of any ironman race is renowned for the electric atmosphere. Well did I experience it this year. The last 1.5/2km of the race was jammed packed with spectators and finishers. They were all cheering and clapping and shouting encouragement. It really was emotional passing by them at my slow walking pace. 

The finishing red carpet was unreal. I thoroughly enjoyed it last year, but felt I went through it too fast. 

I cleared all the tears off my face once more and put the biggest smile on my face and off I went to enjoy the last 100m of the race. I was high fiving and waving at everyone. It was unreal. I was soemotional and exuberant. 

Overall time 14.49.34 …… I damn proud of that time. Not what I wanted or expected. But now worth so much more. 

Till next time ……..

Without the leadership and understanding from Steve I wouldn’t have even gotten to the start line. With how hectic my work schedule was this year Steve was able to modify and adapt the training according to what I could do. He made me strong enough to start, just unfortunately I wasn’t able to give him the race result he deserved from me. 

Thank you Steve

Off That Couch Fitness Couch Q&A from Kona


This month all the way from KONA we had Rach in on the OTCF Couch for a Q&A
read on to find out more 

Name and nickname ?
Rachel – Pocket Rocket Rach

How long have you been involved with sports ?
6 years 

What’s your favourite discipline and why?

It changes each month – weirdly enjoying my swimming at the moment as I have recently made some huge improvements after a few sessions in the OTCF endless pool 

What’s your least favourite and why?

OK can swimming also be my least favourite because being in the pool for hours can get quite boring 

Who are Inspirations ?

Chrissie Wellington was my original inspiration. But then I discovered Lucy Gossage – absolute beast with the biggest smile 

Top tip for a newbie?

Just get started. Don’t get too wrapped up in training plans from the word go, do a bit of what you fancy and take the stress out of training. Once you’ve got started then look at bringing it more structure. Also join a club and find others that you can spend time training with – it’s very easy to run out of time to be sociable especially ironman training. 

Favourite training session?

Long bike

Why did you get involved with OTCF

I was looking for a new coach and Gemma had been raving about Steve, and it all just kicked off from there and he got me to Kona in my first Ironman that he coached me for 

How did you get into cycling and triathlon ?

I joined the uni cycling club and cycled with my 2 good friends at the time. It suddenly became my new obsession. I got into triathlon by accident while I was cycling and didn’t start swimming properly until 3 months before Ironman Wales 

Favourite meal? 

Homemade curry

Favourite film / series?

Anything with lots of singing and dancing 

Outside of sport you love doing?

Walking in the Peak District and dressing up like a girl for a night out 

Best race performance to date

Ironman Lanzarote

Bucket list races to do

I have actually done them all well I will have after this weekend 😂 Mallorca 312 next year 

Biggest sporting achievement

Completing an ironman (and the training) 

Anything else you think would be good to share

Remember we do this for fun!! To everyone racing this month go smash it!

Going Extreme makes you SCREAM

Deciding on events to do is always a mammoth task for me as I like to challenge myself, so going extreme was going to push me to the limits mentally and physically. The Isle of Man was the location for XtriManx. Back in November 2018 I registered for the ballot and somehow got in, coach Clark was informed and the training Plan was formed. Throughout 2018 I had competed in the quads series which put me in good shape for the winter training. For me winter training is to get through it, injury free,  which I did successfully. YEAR OF TELLING OFFSThe training plan was a little red and not a lot of green as I kept changing my mind on what I wanted to do but I was keeping to the sets but just different days. Lizzie was beginning to realise that I was a law to myself. So Lizzie sat me down with weekly planners and white boards for the swim sessions and not forgetting food preparation (don’t forget the cheese and onion crisps on the shopping Lizzie). The training was underway, January February whizzed by so plans needed to be put in place, for a support team and arrange accommodation in March (tick, tick on the planner, the only thing which went green that month, lol).

 Extra training was been introduced by Lizzie that was to grade/level the arena by hand and also shovel muck and all I heard in my ear was, Lizzie: “you’re not doing bad, coach Clark will be impressed with me”. To be fair it was good strength training. Coach Clark was now upping the training as it got closer to race day. I Organised a run session to get my head round a few things but coach Clark decided to beast me up some hills – coach Clark’s words of wisdom “now go and get the job done”. I am sure he had been talking to Lizzie lol. EVENTS LEADING TO XtriI entered the Valentines 10k at the start of the year to get miles in the legs then it was onto the Quadrathlons (x3 races, Brigg, Dearne, Shrewsbury). I even got told off in the quads for not having my hands correctly positioned whilst paddling! But I took it on board as good advice, thanks Jean Ashley and Cliff Odgers. Finally a half distance Tri in August. I was proud of my achievements and felt good and I was reminded by Lizzie and coach Clark that you still need to follow plan and work hard, my Sunday name by now was getting used a lot (PETER #twopint). Completed the Keswick sportive and Leeds-York-Leeds sportive. Then went away to Scotland and completed some open water swimming in the sea and it was freezing. RACE WEEKENDTravelled to the Isle of Man on the Thursday via ferry and the journey was spot on. Arrived at the hotel and got laid everything out.

The weather forecast was not great so the weather updates were being constantly reviewed. I took two bikes, road and TT but when speaking to the locals on the Friday,  they said no way are they racing on a TT. On the Friday afternoon I went for a dip in the sea and it was warm but a little rough but I was happy that I could swim comfortably. Head back to the hotel to review the forecast and the winds where increasing and rain was due. Friday eveningdecided to go for a quick leg warmer with my support runner Chris Store which went well. Friday evening over dinner was the time to discuss water/feed stations on the route and what we think we could expect. Saturday I went to register and get the bags checked then it was out for a drive of the course to confirm locations for feed stations. We only got half the bike route sorted as time was pressing due to having to go to a mandatory meeting half way through the day. In the meeting they then told us that the times were wrong for the start time and so cut offs would be shorter. The start was meant to be 5am but now moved forward to 6am, by them doing this I knew I did not have any time for errors, but I was still positive and more determined. Got back to the hotel and looked at the weather forecast and the rain and wind was due early and strong (25-30mph) winds. The road bike needed to be set up and new tyres put on to cope with the wet weather. I had a melt down as I nipped x2 inner tubes so I called for support team to help as I needed to chill. Tyres ready and bike tested and I was happy. SoIt was time to eat and then off to bed not forgetting to set the alarm for 3am. No sooner had my head hit the pillow the alarm was going off. Breakfast plus cheese & onion crisps and a brew. Time to put the tri-suit on. Quick look out the window, I could not see a lot due to lack of light but the rain was battering down with the strong wind. I thought to myself what a wonderful day to do an event. For a change I told myself off, which was to man up as I have a job to do. The car was already packed so we set off to the swim start and this is where I set up T1. Got down to the swim start and the waves where rolling and they were massive (8-10ft waves). The wind blowing stronger as forecasted. The race director quickly announced that there was no swim due to safety (safety boats could not get out due to the high waves). This delayed the start for another hour and the bike was going to be set off in intervals starting at 0700hrs. We were to start in numerical order and this put me second to last which I did not mind as you have something to chase. Although, the guy in front and the guy behind were pro athletes, but I like a challenge. Before the bike started some competitors dropped out due to the weather but I took the decision to ride as I felt confident to be safe. Last team discussion before setting off, then I was on the start line. BIKEClocked my tag in and counted down from 5,4,3,2,1 and the race was on. The first 2miles is all up hill at 20-25% which is a leg warmer to say the least but it was fun as I was giving the pro’s a run for their money. The wind and rain was hammering down so on the descents I took it easy and the locals took full advantage and over took me. The first of 8 feed stations was on the upward hill out of Ramsey (all feed stations marked and discussed on the Friday night with support team), I was feeling good on the bike and making good time and as I hit Ramsey for the first feed station the support crew were just getting out the car as I went passed. I just giggled to myself and thought this is going to go well, the instructions had now become destructions for the support crew. (Rule on the Xtri for support teams is that the vehicle has to be stationary and all four wheels off the road and teams are to hand out water/food to riders on foot only, the rider can still be moving). As they drove past me to the next feed station which was the bungalow at the top of the ridge (now 8 miles away) I confirmed I was good and would meet them at the next stop – what could go wrong on the second feed station with lashing down rain, winds up to 35mph and cloud covering and visibility down to 200yards? So, the next feed station was due anytime and there was my spotter who had seen me and they were on the phone telling the support crew I was on my way. We had cracked it, and a successful change of bottles/food, but as I started to pull away there was a split second where I lost concentration and fell off. So you live and learn. I giggled and got back on my bike. Support crew helping me to my feet and encouraging me to push on. Did not need a push to get going the wind was doing that for me. Next section down hill with cross winds. Leaning a bike left into a right hand bend was not the best feeling and the raining hammering down. The descent was 2 miles and bloody freezing. Eventually after few more up hills and descents I arrived for my third feed-station (approx 30miles) and I needed it as I was shaking with cold. I was not the only rider neither, the pro athletes had stopped to get extra clothing. Cycling jacket on and a bite to eat and off I went. More hills and the rain started to ease off and my next feed station was at 50 miles before what they call C37 which is a non supported part of the route and 35% hills. I cracked on passing a few more competitors and the wind had reduced a little. The next feed station was important to me as it was pasta sandwich time (I get hungry biking). Fourth feed-station went text book, we had cracked it, all bottles changed and food taken on, I would not see the support team for an other 20 miles and it was going to be tough due to the hills. I pushed on and at 60miles I was presented with a beast of all hills 2 miles of 35% and with cattle grids. The rain water was running down the road and sun trying to break through. Two riders in sight in front of me so main aim was to keep moving and get into a rhythm and blank everything out. Rider one caught but rider two was going at a good pace. Thighs and calfs just beginning to heat up and then I spotted the cattle grid. I just thought to myself go for it, I punched down hard on the pedals to get momentum then eased off ending with a shuffle to get the bike bike across the grids and it worked. Slight wheel spin but I was across. Breath. Catching  the second competitor on the hill just felt good and before I knew I was at the top and my legs burning. Water and food needed as I descended. It was bloody cold too descending. Time to put some distance between me and the two riders I had passed. The roads where damp but the rain had gone. Sun shining but still windy. Fifth feed-station was at 85miles and it went very well but I changed my mind in what I wanted which confused the support team (sorry). I dug in deep to make some more ground up. I was now around two competitors and we yo-yo’d passed each other for the next  15miles. My sixth feed-station was due at the bungalow at ridge near the top of Snaefell. My support crew stopped before this and asked if I was ok, and I was good with bottles ¾ full and food on me. The drag up to the bungalow is roughly 4 miles and said I will meet them there as planned. As I went ½ mile there had been a car crash blocking the road. Cyclists could get round so we nipped through. I then realised that my support crew would not be getting through so I had manage my fuel carefully. It was going to be hard due to the up hill climb so I went steady away and manage the body. The two competitors around me, one started to pull away and the other drifted back. Finally got to the top where the bungalow was situated and no support crew (the road block meant they had to make a detour), I just cracked on and just thought I have 25miles to go and the big climbs had been completed now. Head down and see them at T2. With 5miles to go I spotted my support team and a quick bottle change just to get me to T2 and it was much appreciated. Into T2 and I was shattered and took longer in T2 as I needed fuel to take on board. 7th fastest on the bike.

 RUNOut of T2 with my backpack on, as it was mandatory to have due to the remoteness of the course. Out of T2 round the light house and on to a pebbled beach for 3miles then onto a road section for 2miles which sent you back onto the pebbled beach for a further 2miles, before hitting the road section again,  this road section was not going to last long neither. Two runners passed me on the beach section. I needed to keep these in sight as I had to make the first cut off. On the run section you had to have a support runner for the mountain parts and my support runner Chris  joined me along Ramsey sea front before hitting the hills. We ran 2mile before entering the off-road/trail section of the ridge. Due to the amount of rain the paths where like rivers. The incline to get to the top of the first ridge 40% of rock, peat and grass making it very very tough going. Walk the up hills jog the downwards. So that’s what we did and to be honest you could not do anything else and everyone else was the same.

Just under 2hours to walk/stride 2miles to reach the first of three ridges. Time was not on my side due to the late start. I had to dig deep and falling over running is not the best. But I giggled and just pushed on. Knees aching due to the pounding. Descending was not easy due to the amount of water and rock and the light was fading fast, so head torch on while descending.  I had to be very careful not to twist an ankle. One or two competitors on the third ridge gave up but I was not here to give up. Chris offered me some cheese & onion crisps which I did not refuse. I was determined to make to the cut-off and anything else would be a bonus. Finally off the rough ground and onto tarmac for the last 4 miles to Laxey T2A. Headed up hill for 3miles and the final stretch a mile.

The support crew met me and they were in tears as I had missed the final cut off by 20mins so I would not be getting the green t-shirt I would end up with a white one. To be honest I was battered and my knees shot. I had given it everything. The run course was brutal. Only 13 competitors made it to the very top and I finished 16th. Out of the 13, 10 were locals-or pro athletes.After 10000ft of climbing on the bike and 3400ft on the run, I was brutally tested. Would I do it again, of course but to get a green t-shirt. Going extreme does make you SCREAM. 
SUPPORT CREW Lizzie – driver and food holder Chris – support runner and bottle holderDonna – co-driver and communications officerI can not thank these guys enough, as I would not of been able to compete nor get to the finish line. I need to thank Lizzie for putting up with me over the training months, as there has been a lot to get in and sacrifice even tho I got told off but it was for my own good, big hugs and kisses Lizzie. OTCF teamSteve Clark – CoachMany thanks for the time you spent sending me texts and going out for runs. Giving me advice for race day and not forgetting my telling offs via text and training peaks. Truly thank you. Off that couch fitness team – thanks for the kind words before the day of the big race. BQA teamJean Ashley – thanks for all the encouragement and advice/ telling offs on the quads it made me think and push harder on race days. Cliff Odgers – thanks for the advice on support crews and another telling off about my arms while kayaking.Jacqueline Odgers – many thanks for sending your race report on Norseman which I took a lot of advice from to do with support team etc and thanks for the tips/telling off about my arms while kayaking lol. EVERYONE Many thanks to all. Massive kudos 

Ironman Wales – Mal Whitelam

The sun has broken the horizon which warms the heart if nothing else, I stand on the beach with over two thousand potential dragon slayers, every one a St George in the making and me …… I feel more like Shrek than St George, an imposter in the ranks, a half decent runner chancing his luck and yet I feel ready. I must be ready, I actually slept, 5 hours straight through without the obligatory pre-race nightmares of stolen bikes, punctures and a general inability to move. 

Tension builds the race starts and as always nothing happens, we shuffle down the beach and I collect my thoughts Why are we here? Really? it’s because ………actually I’m not sure. Hey remember when you nearly drown on the River Tummel? You bring that up now, seriously WTFMy mind is not always my friend, the conveyor belt that is the beach despatches a few more into water it’s almost time The water looks coldHey remember learning to swim? What? Three years we’ve been doing this to be here now. Early mornings late nights, freezing cold lakes risking life and limb, brain eating amoebas and weils disease Bit dramatic, you started it now shush please man at work. The goggles are pulled downthe sunlight is filtered to a blue haze and my feet enter the water, I’m not 100% sure as to why I’m here if I’m honest the only constant is that I’ve never actually believed that I could be an Ironman and that alone is a good enough reason to try. 

As I run into the sea I scoop up handfuls of water and deposit them over my face and down my neck my usual 5 minutes of acclimatisation are not an option with a couple of hundred others entering the water close behind. I’m waist deep and dive in, the cold water holds firm around my chest and I struggle for breath but the mind is now quiet for the first time in month’s “Silence the Dragon, Silence the doubt” is my final thought something that will become a mantra in the hours to come, I breathe deep as I hit a rhythm every second stroke facing away from the swell, spotting infrequently as my mind disengages and I switch off…..for now at least. The first half mile passes by uneventful other than a pinch point at the first turn, shortly afterwards I take a kick to the head and as I move my head to the side a hand comes down on my face, I inadvertently pause and someone swims over the top of me as my mind commences a secondary attack Idiot tried to kill usiwasn’t deliberate I’m done after this lap let’s concentrate on finishing this lap. I can’t see a buoy as I lift my head but with people on both sides I push on and the second turn is upon us soon enough. 

My feet touch the floor I’m almost back on the beach and as I stand I fall backwards with the receding tide. I stand again and leave the water, this is it, the biggest single moment of the entire day and I know I can’t afford to think about it. I run (kind of) to start the second lap and body check as I go I’m not too cold and my right eye hurts from salt water leaking into my goggles (after the kick) but I’m good to go in fact I’m already back in Really? I think I’ve got this lets go. I did think I had it for about another 500 meters after which the cold bit and then I wasn’t so sure. Another 500 meters and I was spotting not for buoys but for boats Lets get out just a little further the sensation in my legs is threatening to cramp and I need a minute mentally if nothing else. I swim out from the pack find a space and STOP! A single moment in time that felt like forever, the surreal feeling of being outside of the race looking in is something I’ll never forget. Question, did we come this far not to finish?, even if its only the swim we have to finish. In that moment I spoke before my head did and I took control, I don’t remember spotting again just stayed in the pack and followed the flow it wasn’t long before I stepped onto the beach with the skill and aplomb of a toddler taking their first steps.

Staggering up the beach I unzipped my wetsuit I looked back across the water and was surprised at the number of people still in. I looked at my watch which I’d forgot to start as usual and although I can’t remember the time as I write this, a smile lifted my face. I’d had the swim of my life and I knew it. I reached the top of the steps and looked back over the bay in disbelief, the course sprawled out below seemed less intimidating now, cold and tired (already) I’d slayed my demons, now for the Dragon?

Brutal I have no other words for the next 8 hours, well I do but this is a kids show so let’s keep it clean. I’d always believed if I could get out of the water I could finish although after the first 50 miles I waged a war of attrition against the course. I never really got to grips with the bike and I’m not sure why if I’m honest. The ride had started ok but after the first 20 miles the hills were already taking their toll on my legs. As the end of the first lap neared I was ruined, cresting the top of Mt Saundersfoot (I swear it’s a mountain) a smile spread wide as through a sea of unfamiliar faces I spotted Michelle and Harry, my wife and my son. Now lets be honest here, we aren’t always pleased to see the ones we love, they always appear when you have biscuits or are having a moment of peace and tranquillity but today the sight of those guys gave me something extra. I didn’t get quicker or stronger but I knew I wasn’t alone (I’m never alone can’t even go to the toilet without the dog) I knew that they wanted me to finish as much as I did, I realised then that they had as much invested in this as me.

The second lap of the bike course was much the same as the first if a little slower. I don’t remember much about it to be honest, head down pedalling squares up the hills and unable to gain any time back on the technical downs. I can honestly say one thing for sure though I have never in all my life been so pleased to remove my ass from a seat. I ran into transition and racked my bike unintentionally thanking it as I did. Swim done, Ride done time to run.

PANIC I know looking back that I did. I’d cramped up on the second trip up the hill at Wisemans Bridge and internal chatter had thrown my mind. I’d planned all along to run 9 min miles however thinking I would suffer more cramps I adopted the destructive “Run while you can policy” and went out way to fast and began to suffer around 7 miles, the remainder of the day was spent walking up and running down. At the end of the second lap though something changed, I started to enjoy it. I was able to take things in more, chat to people around me and ever more amused and by Michelle & Harry appearing unexpectedly in random places I began to realise I would definitely finish. 

During the last lap of the marathon I had many moments of reflection, thinking back over seven and a half months of training. Repeatedly being pushed out of my comfort zone by Coach Clark. The summer had been tough I’d struggled to build the mileage on the bike, at times I’d been unable to run afterwards as my lower back locked. I’d repeatedly fallen short on open water swims leaving the water shaking and cramped from the cold. At times I was filled with dread never daring to believe I could be here, now, 10k from the finish line. During the last two weeks of training proper I’d finally managed a 2.5 mile swim in the lagoon and my first 100 mile ride, in some ways I had no right standing on that beach as the sun had climbed over the horizon that morning. I passed through the town centre one last time and reached the split in the road, laps to the right finish straight on. I’d not planned a finish line celebration but as I approached the finish line I raised a finger to my lips, I’d not slayed the dragon just silenced her and my own self doubt at the same time Shrek and Donkey style .

Coach Clark I can’t thank you enough between your plan and an element of bloody mindedness on my own part somehow I heard those words “Malcolm Whitelam you are an Ironman”. There are times when I haven’t liked you so much those times are called Bank holiday bonuses. I was stupid enough to try this three years after learning to swim and with very little experience on a bike and you along with several others have helped to make this happen. Michelle and Harry you have me back although you are probably sick of me already and John Chambers you’re a true friend, not sure who annoys who the most some days but you had me covered and it was always good to know you were suffering too, well done on your PBhun.

Would I do another? Well after two weeks rest I think the answer is yes, but I need a lot more time in the saddle first. Do I feel like an Ironman? Not really I still think of myself as a Try-athlete however that swim made my day, I probably expended too much doing it but when I look back at the photo’s of the swim course ……You couldn’t do that twice, I already did!

Outlaw X by Camilla Morgan


Life throws all experiences and emotions at you. You live the highs and you live the lows. Sometimes things happen in life when you have to sit up and realise that we only have one shot at this. We are also on borrowed time as anything can happen at anytime. My brother never had the opportunity to truly fulfil his potential before he unexpectedly passed away last year from a ruptured brain aneurysm. I’m not going to waste my chance at fulfilling mine, even though this will include some crazy stuff… This is one of them.

Doing Triathlons aren’t exactly in my DNA. I’m from a relatively physically inactive family and up until 4 years ago I had never ever completed 5km run. But here I am.. about to complete a half Ironman distance. Even less than 2 years ago swimming front crawl wasn’t something I could do either. Now I’m doing this??? I was only ever going to do a sprint triathlon… once.. ha.. I’m actually looking forward to it now. Many hours of training behind me, I’m not worried. Let’s make this happen!

Forecast for Outlaw X changed so many times leading up to the race I honestly stopped looking. Turning up the day before the race to register and rack the bike, the weather was glorious! If only this was race day, I thought.

Woke up before the alarm and enjoyed clear roads towards Clumber Park in the dark. Got myself ready in transition and met up with few people I knew and one of the girls, Emma, had her number next to mine so that helped as I chatted away not thinking much about the race ahead.

Before I knew it we were called to swim start, some 500m away!! Sun was rising and the setting magical against a stately house and endless fields. Few minutes later we were in the water. 18 degrees? Was it heck! Felt closer to 15 degrees!! Foggy goggles and it got messy, elbows and feet everywhere. Goggles nearly came off after getting elbowed in the face. Had numb feet and hands from the cold water. Took myself off to swim at the side but sighting was a challenge. Lots of buoys and left & right turns. Let’s just get to the end. We swam around a memorial island in the lake which looked nice. I later learned that it was to commemorate 2 army people who died in that lake playing some war games, the sunken boat is still at the bottom of the lake somewhere. Oh goody.. glad I only found out about that after.

Exited the water to loud support cheers from OTCF support crew and a long jog to T1 and out on the bike. 10min in and the first of many raindrops hit. Up the steep climb at around 6 miles and I started my onboard food fest. Peanut butter sandwich pieces and jam, it was going to be a long day and I work better with real food in me. I continued the bike fuelling with my trusted Maurten. 

Then it was up and down, up and down but so much fun. One of the advantages of having a slower swim is all the people you catch and pass on the bike. Picked one off at the time and the miles melted away. Rain was now relentless and I took it a little easier to match the now wet road conditions. My husband drove past with my daughter hanging out of the window shouting “mummy”, just the lift I needed. Knowing they would stop and wait at Mattersey helped me keep focused as it was getting really hard. When I saw them I stopped for kisses and exchanged a few words before they ushered me back, I was happy to stay here.. ha! Back on the road and less than an hour to T2. The bike course was very undulating but it was fun to ride, the last down hills were lovely but I was ready to get off the bike.

I could hear them before I saw them, the support gang were cheering us in as we approached the dismount line. Quick change and on to the run. I felt really cold now, wet through and I couldn’t wait to be warmed up on the run. Quick hello to JC who was also about to start his run. My legs felt really good, I found my run legs really quickly and I had decided beforehand to run to heart rate and not constantly look at my pace. If I could do the first 10km under an hour that would be amazing as I’ve recently only run/jogged max 6-7 miles at one time, as my PF is still niggling my left foot so that makes big run loads hard to manage. The kilometres ticked off nicely, under 6 minutes most of the way so I knew I was on track. It was hillier than I expected but manageable. 5-6km in I could hear them again, best supporters you could ask for, you cannot underestimate the power of having people you know, willing you to keep going, to do your best. Heart rate went flying straight after so had to slow my step a little, hard when adrenaline is surging. Soon after I saw Neil & Lucille again. I hadn’t expected them to come to the run as the weather was so bad but that was heartwarming and I felt really fuzzy and went to complete my first lap of 3. Half into second lap my watch beeped at me… 10km in 59.33. Yes!!!!! Goal done, let’s just complete this thing. Just before finishing the second lap my family had decided that they had to go. Lucille had done so well standing in the rain but had got cold and bored, like 7 year olds do watching a bunch of lycra dressed old people (only in her eyes of course 😆) running around the woods. I totally understood. About to start the last lap and David Hinch waved the OTCF flag and cheered me off on what was going to be the toughest lap, support was gone from the course (all at the finish line) and I knew it was just a case of slugging it through. I didn’t struggle but the effort was harder and the pace slower. I always find it easier to focus on other people to avoid thinking about my own. Chatted to some other runners and we helped each other on our journey. One guy had started walking and needed a mental push and he got an arse kick from me! (He did come and find me afterwards to let me know he hadn’t stopped once and had ran all the way to the finish after I pushed him) I love this about the sport, everyone is in it together, helping each other on. 

As the kilometres drew closer to the finish line I started to count down. 20min left, 15min left, 10min left.. until the last down hill. The tannoy and music was now loud. I didn’t need to turn left for another lap, I was heading down the finish chute with a new surge of adrenaline. This was it.. it was actually it! 9 months of training and I’ve done it. The feeling of accomplishment to the sound of your friends cheering you on is indescribable. Just wow!

Looking back… it’s been a goal post pushing kind of a year and my first real season of structured training. I have loved the focus this has brought to my life. Having to juggle it all with work and life isn’t easy and impossible without support from family and coach’s weekly plans, which was scheduled to fit into to my busy life rather than the other way around. Joining the 5amclub has been essential to get training done before work and school runs but it’s so rewarding. Feeling fit and strong is great. I’m now going to enjoy a few drinks and spend time with friends and not talk about the latest carbon rims, fuelling strategies or anything race related and that is going to be great too!

Ironman Wales 2019 –John Chambers

Here we go again! Tenby the town where everyone knows your name and you feel like a rock star. So third year in a row I return to Wales, I blame Mal Whitelam who had asked me to go but to be honest, it didn’t take much persuading!

2019 had been a busy year. Barcelona and London Marathons, Steelman, Lakesman Half Ironman and Ironman UK and a few other races all completed with good performances and relatively injury free. Well I say injury free but a deteriorating condition in my shoulder has hampered my swimming over the past few months but I’m surviving!

Training for Bolton had meant that all the hard work was almost complete, just a few more weeks training with two trips to Wales to recce the bike course again and Steelman in-between and it was soon time to travel to Tenby. Race weekend was here and an early start for the long drive meant we arrived in Tenby around lunchtime and headed straight to registration where you could feel the atmosphere in the town was starting to build. Once registered, we disappeared out of Tenby to the seaside – Cafe Mor for lunch at Freshwater West (highly recommended if you are in that part of the world!) to chill out and relax for a while until we met up with Mal and his family in Tenby and headed to the race brief. Astonishingly, 40% of the race entrants were first time ironman competitors, I thought that was a big ask but then I remembered that was me 3 years ago – Brigg sprint to Ironman was a bit of a jump!

I had packed all my race gear in transition bags from Bolton so packing for race day was easy, just transfer from bag to bag, no stress worrying about what I had forgotten! Dropping the bike and bags off in transition came with the realisation of we were a few hours starting one of the most iconic (and one of the hardest) in the world, I was relaxed, nothing to worry about – I had been here before.

BOOM 0330 and the alarm went off on the morning of race day. I always struggle to eat the stodge of porridge at that time of day, so I reverted to eating a full loaf of Soreen (like a mars bar starting at one end!). We drove to Tenby and had a steady walk to transition to finish tinkering with my bike and the toilet (several times) and headed down to the beach. The sun had just broke the horizon over the sea as the Welsh National Anthem was being sung – this always makes the hairs on my neck stand on end, something you have to be there to experience.

I wasn’t looking forward to the swim due to the ongoing issues with my shoulder but as Thunderstruck was started, all this seemed to disappear – no time to think about that now as we were off. 2300 athletes filtered into the sea, my aim was to keep out the way, no dramas required thank you which worked quite well apart from the turn buoys where it felt like all 2300 got to the turn point at the same time until the field stretched out again. Lap one completed incident free until I was passed by one of the pros who was motoring along at the end of his second lap, a steady jog along the beach and back in for round two! Again I tried to stay out of the way which was working well apart from the turn points but this time round the field was stretched more so not so bad this time round. When I finished I looked at my watch and considering my shoulder issues 1:22 I was happy with that and not aching too much, I ascended the zig-zag ramps off the beach, wet suit off, trainers on (don’t forget your pink bag John!) and ran to transition. If you haven’t raced Ironman Wales, this is where you first realise how good the support is as all the way to transition the crowds’ line the streets. Right, the warm up was out of the way; let’s get down to the serious stuff. The weather (for me) was ideal; 17-18 degrees little wind and slightly overcast. I had ridden the bike course before, obviously on 2017 and 2018 Ironman but I had been twice this year – and it never gets any easier. There are very few flat sections to this course, if you aren’t going up, you are going down and the downs can be technical in places so not all out speed as caution is required as one poor chap found out on the decent in Freshwater. The race ground to a halt for around 10-15 minutes as there had been a serious accident on this decent where a rider had hit the wall of a narrow bridge at speed at the bottom of the decent. The road was closed, no way passed as the ambulance and race officials were dealing with the incident – as it turned out luckily it was only a broken collar bone and some loss of skin so could have been much worse.When were allowed to continue, we had to up end our bikes and pass on at a time with this guy still laid on the road – a bit of an eye opener for some i think. Onward – the small loop completed and now on to the big loop, two laps of this and I am back in Tenby. It’s easy if you say it fast! This loop is where it gets interesting – also known as hilly.

I was aiming for around a 6:30 bike split so considering the delays I was reasonably happy with my time of 6:45. As you ride back in to Tenby, you pass those that have already started the run – this is where band envy starts! Back to transition and away we go, it’s only 4 laps – how hard can it be? Well the answer is very. Running off the bike is never the easiest thing to do at pace, especially when each lap is basically uphill for 3 miles then turn round and downhill back into the town centre. As you pass athletes, whether going in the same direction or passing the other way, you start to look to see how many bands they have on their wrists. Green, blue red and yellow.Once you have your yellow band you are on your way to the finish line and it is like you have been running with the brakes on for 23 miles and all of a sudden they have been released. I ran the whole of the first lap and I didn’t feel too bad, but I was tired, I had no energy on the run – not due to the bike but just the fact it had been a long year so knowing this I decided to walk up the two steepest parts of the course then resume my shuffling. I stopped to chat to the guys supporting us on each lap and had a few words with Mal as he had now started the run also. It is at this point you realise that some of those still coming in on the bike were trying so hard but weren’t going to make the cut-off so I was thankful I had nearly finished. 

As usual, the finish line in Tenby was mental – I was glad to get over the line. 13 hours 10 slightly disappointing but couldn’t be helped due to the accident and glad the chap is ok. I changed and dropped my gear off in the car then returned back to the finish line to cheer Mal in. It had been a long day for everyone, supporters included. 

I had already decided I wasn’t going to race Tenby in 2020, I’m tired, need a rest before Lanzarote in May but I nearly had a moment of weakness when the race entry opened this week. I will return to Tenby again, not next year though I managed to resist! 

Thanks as usual to all those supporting on the day or throughout the year and as usual to Coach Clark at OffThatCouchFitness for the guidance and wisdom he provides – see you in Lanzarote 2020!

Andrew Davy Navigation to Nice

I’m not new to physical activity; 18 marathons, 1 Ultra to date – none of them competed to any great standard. Maybe I like the idea more than the commitment. A young family, a demanding job – they all seem ‘good excuses’. This summer though I’ve had the opportunity thrust upon me to do something different. A 9 week sabbatical from work, our associated charities 30th anniversary – the logic was clear, do something to support and raise funds for ‘Ronald McDonald House Charities’ and somehow the ‘Navigation to Nice’ was dreamt up. An 850 mile cycle ride from Calais to Nice.
No particularly big background in cycling (C2C 2016 in 15hrs), no great commitment to train. I set off nervous, excited, slightly over weight but almost expecting this to go well.
Day 1: 109 miles to Peronne just east of Amiens. 5062ft elevation gain Day 2: 100 miles to Epernay in the Champagne region. Arrived too late to try any – 4439ft elevation gain.Day 3: 112 miles to Laignes. Much flatter after the start, just 2810ft gained.Day 4: 101 miles in the Burgundy region. Have to climb to the plateau but it’s goes on for miles. Windy all day – wind farms galore. 3600ft of elevation.Day 5: 88 miles to Lyon. 2894ft gained. First experience of glorious long distance cycleways. Tracked the Soane River for half the day.Day 6: 77miles to Valence – an absolute disaster. following the Soane & Rhône rivers all the way. Pancake flat, running on empty. Getting very hot now all day everyday. Only 1300ft of elevation!Day 7: 98 miles to Avignon. similar elevation to yesterday but I’m a cyclist now. Powering through yesterday’s wobble, managing the heat better although the wrist wouldn’t agree.
Later this night I’m trying to eat only to notice blood spewing from sores on my lips. Caused some panic, I’m now applying lip balm every hour during the rides, uppedMy water intake to 3L just when finished. Stopping for additional whilst out.
Day 8: 91miles to Barjols, elevation is picking up knowing what lies ahead tomorrow, gained 2720ft today.Day 9: 97 miles to Nice. 7300ft elevation gain only days so much. 4 proper climbs in the morning exhausted everything I had, only to face vertical walks in the afternoon. I maintain a cyclist could not pedal those. The views are remarkable. It takes nearly 11 hours to complete.
A fantastic, debilitating journey. France is a beautiful country and see so many different cultures, lifestyles all the way down to the Med in such a short space of time was amazing. Route planning must improve. A rest day was required. I should have worked Mnt Ventoux into the equation, but I suppose I was here to get a job done. 
I return fitter, healthier, better looking than for many a year. Can I keep it up? I hope so.  I’m part of the OTCF family and will hopefully make a group event sooner rather than later 👍

Darrell’s Great North Run 2019 race report

2011 was the first time I ran the GNR and thought wow, what an experience, I’m definitely doing this again. The less said about my time the better – 2:07:29.
It wouldn’t be until 2016 I would return.
2016 – 1:33:34
2017 – 1:25:47
Each year I aim my training to the GNR to get that PB.
In 2018 I ran with Rach with the aim to get her a PB after the hard training she had put in, 1:50:33 a new PB and both over the moon with her time. As we sat in Byron Burger after the race we book the hotel for 2019… how would this one go?

I’ve always knew what Triathlons included and the amount of dedication the athletes put into training but I’d never done it. When I mentioned to a good friend, Craig Scott that I was getting bored of running he mentioned about doing a triathlon and introduced me to Steve at Off That Couch Fitness. So, all of this is Craig’s fault, cheers mate!

This time last year I made contact with Steve regarding a training plan for Brigg Sprint with the aim of completing Leeds Triathlon. I mentioned to him that I always like competing in the Great North Run to finish my season so training was also focused on that.

Back in December 2018 I was out on a training ride when I decided to play with wet road markings. There was only one winner and it wasn’t me, my body or my bike! I knew there was something wrong as I couldn’t put any pressure on my knee whilst riding back.

This was the first injury I’ve had, a couple of niggles but nothing like this. All the thoughts go through your head. I can’t continue with my football refereeing, I’m going to struggle to do Leeds and I won’t be able to get a decent time at Great North Run. Is there actually any point?

Being an amateur athlete is all about having good, down to earth people around you. Those people that support you and not just turn up to a training session and leave you are the people that you need round you. The OTCF family is the best and most supportive group of athletes I’ve been around. Along with their support, Steve’s advice and my knee consultant Mr Pacheco I wouldn’t be sat here writing this report on the 2019 Great North Run.

When I booked the hotel after the 2018 race I knew that I wanted to go for a PB (sub 1:25) but after this injury i decided to look at sub 1:30. After receiving brilliant treatment from Mr Pacheco and listening to Steve with the training he’d put in place I knew I was going to be in good shape for race day. I knew training was going well because I was enjoying it and was looking forward to going out there and training. This was a different mind set to a couple of months ago.

Unfortunately Rach didn’t get a place through the GNR ballot so we started looking for charity place for her. A charity that stood out to us both and has is close to me and my family was Pancreatic Cancer UK. This is close to my heart as this is what my Grandad passed away from some 25 years ago! Let the fundraising commence.

Race weekend:
We rock up to Newcastle and walk into our hotel, Great Run banners everywhere. What’s all this about? As we checked in I asked the receptionist why they was there, it’s the hub for the weekend which includes the pro’s and celebrities. Ah right… Two people from Scunthorpe, we’re out of our comfort zone here Rach!

After checking in and dropping our bags in the room we went down to the restaurant to have some food. As we was looking out the window to admire the view of the Tyne Bridge and Newcastle Paula Radcliffe appears and sits on the table next to us… this is strange!

Saturday is the day of the 5k around the Quayside but we had 2 miles on our plan to loosen the legs off. I said to Rach that we’d go for our run then use the spa in the hotel to relax and save the legs – this was well needed. A nice relaxed day before going for tea and get carbo loading!

I enjoy stopping in Newcastle because it’s a short walk to the start and you don’t have to get up as early. A 7:30am wake up, breakfast, shower and a passing ‘Morning’ to Mo Farah and his wife as we was getting out of the lift and they was getting in. It wasn’t until we passed and realised that it was them. We had our pre race selfie on the balcony with the Tyne Bridge in the background and off we go to the start.
We was asked to attend the Monument to have a photo with all the Pancreatic Cancer team who was raising valuable funds for the charity. Whilst we was there a double decker bus passed with all the SADAC crew on the top deck with a passing wave from a very good friend, Glyn Sparks.

10:38am – this is when the nerves kick in and excitement starts to go! As Mo gets introduced to the crowd the buzz heightens. I say good luck to all the friends around me and give Rach a good luck kiss and then we’re off.
I had in my head that I wanted sub 1:30, this was around 6:45 min/mi – I said to myself that this was doable.

1st mile – 6:10. Gone off too fast, this always happens. (Need to stop getting so excited and think I’m going to win)
2nd & 3rd mile – 6:25’s. Start to settle in and get the goosebumps as I cross Tyne Bridge.
4th, 5th & 6th mile – 7:00’s I got in a group with a few others at similar pace and work with them as I know I’ve gone off too fast and need to save something. Halfway: 45 minutes (on target)
7 to 11 miles – this is hard work, legs feel heavy, can tell I haven’t put as much miles in the legs and it’s undulating, try and hang on in the group.
11 to 12 – 7:04. Get some speed back and drive up the incline before the drop onto the seafront. This is where i see local photographer, John and his partner. This gives you confidence as you know there’s not too far back! I was also on target.
12 onwards. Down the decline onto the seafront, the crowds at this point are amazing. I tell a lad next to me to take his earphones out and take it all in! I look at my watch, 1:21 ish, keep going, you’ll get your sub 1:30! CRAMP in my right calf, this is not what I needed, grit teeth and keep moving it’ll wear off!

800m to go, 2 laps of the track, 400m to go – go for it you’re on for smashing 1:30.

Finish – 1:28:39. Wow… that was tough but amazing.

I walk to get a bottle of water and come back. 1:35 on the board, I say to myself that Rach will be back in 10 minutes ish. 1:41 ticks over and next thing I see Rach waft her hair back, smile on her face and bounding towards me. The first thing I say “WOW, I’m so proud of you, a great time. Did you get bus here? I wasn’t expecting you back for another few minutes” a very happy & proud moment!

The things I take away from my GNR experience is don’t worry about having knock backs, stick to the training plan and listen to your coach – he knows what he’s on about! Enjoy every minute of your race. You get out from what you put in! A massive thanks also needs to go to Mr Pacheco for his advice and help with my knee injury.

Time to think about 2020….

End to End Lake Coniston Swim Race Report 31/08/19 By Sarah Lakeland

So last weekend I went for a swim in the lake district… it was the best swim I have had to date! 

I have quite a long swimming background from club swimming as a child and have been open water swimming for over 10 years but mainly for triathlon so I haven’t really swam much further than 3 to 4 kms continuously in the past. 

Earlier this year I wasn’t feeling the love for triathlon and Steve suggested a swim event as swimming is my strength. I can’t really remember how I reacted to the suggestion but I would imagine I appeared to dismiss the idea then after sent him a message saying “Length of Coniston 8.5km booked end of Aug.” (of course it would have been a much lengthier message as I am female and in my opinion emoji’s go on the end of messages rather than replace the message eh Steve!!!) 

The Chill Swim event is a pretty large event with 800 participants setting off in ability based waves. I put the time down per mile I thought was realistic to maintain over that distance, I briefly considered wetsuit or not and decided on the wetsuit. I am not a massive wetsuit fan but I was expecting between 2.5 to 3 hours in the water and I had the chance to edit my predicted time and wetsuit preference up to 2 weeks before the event. 

So training started, I was heading off to Mallorca to do the Swim Smooth Coaches course end of May early June so I had about 6 weeks training before then. I decided on 3-4 swims a week and followed the plan to the letter. I absolutely loved the training, load of variety with technique and endurance sessions. My training was very specific for my goal. I didn’t do any ‘junk’ swimming. Most of it pool based as that’s where the magic happens and actually only a handful of long open water swims but the focus was always on the goal. 

In Mallorca I did another CSS test with Paul Newsome and Adam Young and was thrilled to have knocked 15 secs of my 400m PB and all the number crunching on my splits indicated I have a diesel engine – perfect! Pacing could be improved and obviously endurance was a work in progress towards the event date. I had something to work with. 

I just kept on swimming really, the training swims went well and I enjoyed them, 7km in a pool was a physical and mental challenge but gave me confidence. Open water swims were good other than one where I had pain in my shoulder from some muscle dysfunction and cut it short but sports massage sorted that out. I trained how I planned to race, feeding at the intervals the feed boats were in the event. 

When the start list came out I was in the second to last wave, they set the fastest off last, I expected there would be more people faster than me but I knew I could do that pace over 6km in training so hoped the extra on the end wouldn’t slow me down too much! 

Come the weekend of the event we travelled over and as I registered the night before they announced that the start was delayed by 5 hours due to poor weather conditions. Instead of a 11am start I was now in a 4pm start and chasing the daylight! It did mean I have to revise the pre-race 

nutrition and had time for a Steam Gondola ride on the lake with my family. They made the right call as the weather improved and it was safer for everyone. 

It wasn’t calm conditions but it was better than earlier. They announced at the start that it was too rough for the feed boats so the feed stations would be on the shore so for each feed you had to swim into shore and back onto the course. I stuck to the plan though and fed as I planned which made the swim longer by about 4-500m overall! 

I got in and just got going, kept going and going and going! My Garmin was set to buzz every 500m and the fist 500m and second 500m flew by! I was into it and loving it. At no point did I think negatively even when my watch buzzed 8.5km and the finish gantry wasn’t in sight. I love the whole event and it went so fast! 

Only about 1.5 miles in I saw some spectators on the bank and a few metres along I spotted a beautiful little red head girl with her wild hair blowing and the next time I breathed to that side I realised it definitely was my daughter so I waved and shouted to them, I stopped when the safety canoeist was looking concerned at me! I saw them at a couple of feed stations too which was magical and energised me. 

Eventually I could see the blue gantry and I was out of the water almost 9km of swimming done and a big smiley face, medal around my neck, hot Ribena in my hand and a flapjack! Reunited with Andy, Pip and Sam. 

After I staggered about a bit adjusting to being upright again and got some warm clothes in it sunk in I’d done it and done it pretty well! Nothing like a 4 year old to bring you back to reality though! As we walked to the car Sam said “So is that it, you’re just swimming? What about the rest of it?” oh how we laughed! 

Seen as I don’t like stats, here are some to relate to you triathletes: 

I swam 22.5 x 400m continuously at a consistent pace of just under 7 mins per 400m! 

I did the 3.8km ironman distance swim in 1 hour 5 mins but then went on to swim another 5.2km at the same pace! 

I was 21st woman out of 302 and 5th in my Age group, 200 out of 800 people DNF! 

And, What next … Longer and faster…

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!

Splits:
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.