September 15th 2014, the day after Ironman Wales. I thought to myself that I’ve done the hardest IM course around, now let’s see what I can do on one of the fastest IM courses? I like to think I did a respectable time at Wales, 11.50hrs finishing 191st and I’d done it self-coached but I felt that I needed some extra help, which is where Steve Clark from ‘Off that couch fitness’ came in. I wanted a fresh approach and I knew Steve’s clients had seen great results from following his plans.
Fast forward one year and there I was, stood on the beach waiting for the swim start at a surprisingly civilised time of day after a solid summer of training under my belt along with several PBs. This would be the first rolling swim start I’d have done. I’d practised the start the day before with some of the guys from ‘Race Force’ who’d given me a few last minute tips on the best way to get through the breaking waves. Wow, what a revelation the rolling start was, I found that I could settle straight into your rhythm without all that fighting for water space, however going in a straight line proved a little trickier. The swell was quite large and it took a while to get the hang of timing your sighting at the top of the wave instead of at the bottom. I managed a quick time checks at a few points during the swim at the distance marker buoys and I was making good time, I was possibly even on for a sub 60 minute swim! However, it wasn’t to be finishing the swim in 1:00:48hrs but still several minutes ahead for my target time of 1:03hrs, so I was off to a great start.
Through transition without too much incident apart from picking up the wrong bag and almost putting on my run gear 112mls too early. Out on the road the plan was to take it easy (relatively speaking) whilst still aiming to average 20mphs for the duration. The first hour was great, the road was almost empty apart from the Pro athletes coming back on the opposite side of the road, I clocked Rick Stenton shortly before I reached the turn point and worked out that he was about 3minutes ahead of me. On the return leg I got caught up in a fast moving pack of about 20 riders, not wanting to get penalised for drafting I pushed on and get to the front of the group and back into clear road however I quickly realised that this came a cost as my heart rate had gone too high and if kept up this pace I’d pay for it on the run so I eased back and let the pack swallow me up and let them go on, I’d stick to my race plan.
For me it was all about completing the bike leg as quickly as possible but at the same time leaving plenty in the tank ready for what was to come. I knew I was riding well and on for a good time. Over the course of the 2 ½ laps I’d get passed by at least three more large packs of athletes (cheating XXXXXXXX) and by the last few miles I’d managed to put some time into Steno and had caught him up although it turned out he’d been having stomach troubles. I completed the bike well ahead of my target time of 5.30hrs, coming in at a time of 5.08hrs with an average speed of 21.7mph.
Through transition for the last time with a quick change of socks and some strategic application of Vaseline in some important places I was out onto the run. I’d had some good long runs in training and was confident that I’d have a good chance of hitting my target time of 3.45hrs for the marathon. I started of steady, not wanting to ‘blow up’ too early. It wasn’t long before I started seeing some of my friends already out on the course, some only just ahead of me like Steno and Mathew Hartley as well as Steve G, Steve C and Alex already coming in to complete their 1st & 2nd laps of the run!
The route felt like a run of two halves, the first being towards the finish line along the promenade. There were lots of crowds and a great atmosphere while out at the other end of the course, the supporters were very sparse however some of the locals who came out to see what was going on were encouraging if somewhat a little bemused. The weather so far had been ideal, overcast but warm with a light breeze however for an hours or so the clouds parted and out came the sun and the temperature increased rapidly. Both Steno and Mathew had denied me the pleasure of overtaking them by nipping into the loo. By the half way point I did a time check and although I was still on for a sub 4hrs marathon I knew my pace was slowing, from here on in it was just a matter of trying to minimise my losses. I used every trick I know to try and keep going, lots of metal imagery, thinking back to all the long runs through Clumber Park I’d done over Summer, as well as checking my running form, trying to remember everything Steve and Dean had taught me on the Majorca training camps. I noticed that I started to overtake more runners than were over taking me, am I speeding up? The simple answer unfortunately was no, they were just running slower than I was, all the strong runners must have already finished!
Then there was just 5k to go, a Saturday morning Park Run, it would soon be my turn to make the right turn and step onto the red carpet but it felt like it was possibly the longest 5k I’ve ever run. And then I was there on the red carpet, crossing the finish line to receive my medal. I’d missed my target time and finished in 4.08hrs but I’d crossed the line in 10.23hrs, 7 minutes ahead of my target time and as a bonus it was still daylight.
I’d like to thank my coach Steve from Off That Couch Fitness for getting me across the finish line, Paula and Katie from Race Force for arranging the trip, my physio Paul Plant and everyone from Chesterfield Triathlon Club and Yorkshire Outdoor Swimmers who’s helped me. But the biggest thanks has to go to my amazing support crew Dawn Evitt and Ann Powell, they’ve been there every step of the way, I couldn’t have done it without you.