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