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Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Grafman Half Ironman distance Triathlon 2013

Ironman UK Training Week 22

Hello, not sure if I'll get this all written up tonight as it's now 8pm & I'm a bit worse for wear after today's event. But I'll give it my best shot. I'm not going to proof read it either so it may not make sense.

Got to meet another one of the Runners World Fatman to Ironman thread posters this weekend, Tim Lebbon. Ticking them off slowly.

Tim had a blinding day today at The Grafman with a big sub 6 hour time. Chuffed to bits for him as i know the ups & downs he's faced during his journey so far. Got to be a huge confidence boost for him as we both now enter the final 8 weeks of our Ironman UK training. It's a great result, well done mate.

Confidence boost for Tim, for me on the other hand............... race report to follow

Good news this week in that my calf has finally stopped hurting, i can even negotiate stairs without wincing. Still stayed away from the running this week so as not to risk aggravating it again.


Calorie burn January = 29,160
Calorie burn February = 34,932
Calorie burn for March = 47,799
Calorie burn for April = 28,453
Calorie burn for May = 23,131

Calorie burn for June = 14,329

Training time - 8 hours 4 minutes


Bike 23 minutes


Bike 43 minutes


Bike 1 hour

Open water swim - 38 minutes - Had a lesson with Simon from paradise tri at the lake.

There were just under 20 of us in the session & we covered mass starts. If your like me, I've always started my swims from the back of a pack because of my weakness at swimming. So, to help boost confidence here Simon had us doing closely packed starts together under various scenarios. Standing start & a deep water start. The latter being ideal for me as this is the IMUK start. Very handy hint on floating & sculling with your hands at the start will come in useful in Bolton.

Simon also made a good point that when weaker swimmers are starting at the back they may well be adding an additional couple of minutes to their already slower time just crossing the start line. Something i shall also be bearing in mind. Useful lesson, I'll be joining these more regularly.

That was it for training, rest time now, ready for

The Grafman -


Drove down to Ellington, about 2 miles from Grafham water where Sundays triathlon was taking place.

B&B was lovely, so was the owner. She knew i was doing the triathlon in the morning & asked what i wanted to do for breakfast. This was normally cooked at 7.30am but i explained i needed to be away by 6am. I said I had some porridge anyway so not to worry about breakfast, she offered to do a pack up or give me a fiver off my bill which i thought was really decent. Took the fiver off making the room £33.

Tim arrived about 30 mins after me, always a bit awkward when you first meet someone you have only talked to in cyber space. Thankfully he was a really nice bloke and didn't turn out to be some axe wielding nutter. Although he does write some scary stuff.

You could register on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. Bear in mind you will pay £3 to park at Grafham water car park so in hindsight it would have been best to register on the Sunday as you then only have to pay once for the car park.

Picked up our race numbers, bike and helmet sticker, 'Nice Tri' transition towel, race chip, swimming hat, finishers medal. Yep, you got your medal before you even started the race. I didn't like this, i like to be given my medal when I've actually achieved something. The rationale, 'it's a lot less hassle' mmm. No T-shirt either, was starting to wonder about the £95 price tag on this event.

After registration we drove the bike route. We both came away feeling very optimistic about a fast pace on these flat smooth roads. All we needed to happen was the wind die down. Turned out the roads were not that smooth when on a bicycle either.
Went to a local pub in Ellington, had a gourmet steak burger & chips, very nice then went back to the B&B to prep the bags for the following day & get an early night.


Alarm set for 5am, woke up at 4.30am. Breakfast consisted of Porridge, Banana, Squares thing, Breakfast biscuits, jelly babies, coffee.

Got down to the car park at about 6.15am, rather than parking us up in the car park all the racers were diverted into a field. After paying their £3. Set my bike up, pumped up the tyres and headed for transition. Absolutely love my transition rucksack. It makes carrying your gear so much easier.

Set all my kit out, moved it all around a dozen times then put it back how i had in the first place & how i always set it up anyway. You were not allowed to leave your bags by the bikes so had to stick it near a fence. I was a bit concerned about it getting nicked as it had my phone & car keys in it, i decided to squash them into my bike bag. Time for a coffee & a wee before getting the wetsuit on.

At all the events i go to there is always a massive queue at the gents. I can guarantee though that there are always urinals free, the queues are for a number 2. I never have a number 2 before a race, always make sure I've taken care of that business before going to the event. Anyways, means i can just walk past all the poop queueing peeps.

After coffee, went & got wetsuit on, then had to go back for another piss, same ol.

Everyone was cleared out of transition at 7.15am for race briefing, we were given 5 minutes to get in the water for a warm up, acclimatisation etc

7.30am, off we went. It was a running beach start which probably accounted for my quicker swim time in this one. I managed to run up to my chest a lot quicker than i would have swam it. Swim was a simple triangular loop of 950 metres x 2. Once back at the beach, you got out, ran round and back in again for your second lap. Really liked this format.

No issues during the swim & all went well. I had one concerning moment when i guy to the front left of me was lying on his back, so i was checking he was OK but at the same time conscious that he may go into a panic and start grabbing out. As it happens he must have just been resting as he turned over again and carried on swimming.

One of the stipulations of doing this event is your wetsuit has to be disinfected before you can leave transition with Milton stuff. This is to kill of some strange shrimp that lives in the water. Harmless to us but they don't want them transporting to other rivers and lakes.

Swim  Split 47 minute 56 seconds

T1 went better than my last race, was out of there in 3 minutes 18 seconds. Which included faffing putting a jacket on due to the cold wind.

Bike mount was not impressive. Even with my play it safe, stop, mount, clip, pedal away technique, i still managed to wobble into a traffic cone and over the nice neat bunting.

You leave the Grafham water car park and head towards Ellington, do a little loop there and head back towards Grafham water again. This loop is where the only steep hill is. not very long but it got me out of breath. Apologies to the guy who wanted to have a conversation about the weather with me going up it, i didn't answer you as i was busy trying to breath.

Once past the car park you come to a T junction and the mandatory foot down line. You couldn't miss it. Two marshals were there & they had also drawn a massive box on the road saying foot down. Typical i had a bunch of cars coming anyway so i had to wait for them to go away anyway.

You then head down to Gt Staughton, this was the best bit of road & the only tailwind you seemed to have for the whole 56 miles. Once at Gt Staughton you turned left to start a two lap type thing between St Neots & Upper Dean along the A1428. You needed to visit both turnround points twice. I think each length was around 10 miles. This was a busy road & on numerous occasions i had cars overtaking bikes on the other side coming head on towards me. I think theres an accident waiting to happen here.

Started to get my first niggle after about 20 miles, the small of my back was getting really painful so had to sit up and stretch regular. Will book myself in for a bike fit at some point as this back pain did come back to haunt me big time on the run.

After the second visit to Upper Dean I started to perk up as i knew i would be heading back to Grafham once I  reached Gt Staughton again. I was also dying for another wee but thought I'd hold off till the run. (didn't go at all in the end). I hadn't enjoyed the bike due to the windy conditions & the back pain either. Turned into the road to head back & whoosh, full on head wind & a long uphill, not steep but quite grinding. I had actually forgot about that so my happiness was soon smacked out of me.

I started working out my times & thought i could be on for close to a 6 hour race, it would all depend on the run & I knew i could do a 1hr 59min half marathon. This again spurred me on to pedal harder again.

Bike route
Bike  Split 3 hours 13 minutes

Arrived back at the dismount line and managed to get off without trashing any of the cones or bunting. Went to rack the bike and as per freaking usual the bike next to me had been racked the wrong way round & over my space. Still, had a good T2 & was out in 1 minute 28 seconds.

Intended to run this nice and steady so i could at least just try run it all. The last middle distance i did i had to walk most of it. First part was an out and back along the dam wall, (it is a dam, i'm not cursing the wall) was a nice little section & killed off 2 miles pretty quick. Passed Tim on the way out as he was coming back from the dam part, gave each other a high five, i knew he was on for a fantastic time. Looked at my watch and saw i was running a sub 9min/mile, clown, I'd done it again & gone off too quick without realising.

From 2 miles there was an out & back around the lake in the opposite direction. An undulating run on trail & road. Sun had also come out now so was starting to get hot. Reminded me of Monster Middle last year, although it was still a lot cooler than that day.

At about 2.5 miles my back really started hurting, I also started getting really bad stitch (i never get stitch), carried on for another half mile then just had to walk it was that painful. I was trying to massage my back as i was walking & managed to massage & burst an ISO gel in my back pocket, great, kick a man when he's down.

Got running again for another mile or so then it just turned into a case of walking the slopes & jogging the flat and downhill bits. I was gutted, bye bye any chance of a sub 6 hours. I then started trying to work out what pace i needed to get a sub 6 hours 30 mins, this was achievable i thought & again, spurred me on a bit more. Past Tim again, another high five, he was flying.

Finally reached the turnround point which meant just over 5 miles to go, less than two park runs.
On top of my back really hurting, my right shoulder had developed a pain & i could no longer swing my arm, i was having to hold it tight to my body as i ran. On top of that, the left ankle (the tendonites one) started swelling up again.

I was now having all sorts of negative thoughts. How on earth am i going to manage to do double these distances at Ironman UK, should i cancel it and do one next year. The 6 hour 30min time was also looking ropey now as well so i was then trying to cheer myself up by thinking that i could still probably come away with a PB. My previous half iron distance had been 6:40:46

Finally trotted in at 6:31:47. Even managed to smile and do a mobot when i crossed the line. Timing chip taken, there was coke, water, orange & melon (nice touch) available. You could also print your splits there and then.

Run route

Run split 2:25:32

I think Nice Tri are missing a bit of a trick here. Whenever you talk about this race it is referred to as 'The Grafman' so i think (although I'm no marketing expert) it would be more successful & would sell out if it was branded as such, i saw no Grafman branding anywhere on the event, other than on a couple of cyclist awareness signs on the routes.

It is all 'nice tri' events. Even the medals and free towel were branded 'nice tri', no reference to The Grafman. Website is also pretty poor. Be worth the organisers having a look at how 'Always Aim High' brand their events. Just a thought.

So, was it worth the price tag? Despite a couple of improvements (in my eyes) that could be made i would say it is. The instructions on every aspect of the event are very clear. There were plenty of food stations. The water looked very clean. There were more than enough marshalls all of which were friendly, supportive & helpful at all times. (One guy with tubs got a puncture and was going to withdrawal. A marshall drove back to race HQ and picked him up a spare wheel so he could finish the race)

The routes were the best signed routes I'd seen at a triathlon. You did also have the option to camp at the event as well.

Would i do it again though, probably not. If your one of the speedy triathletes though and haven't done it, give it a go, you could probably put in a great time on this one.

No pictures from this one unless i find some on line later. Family didn't come with me this time as it would have been a bit boring for them.

Need branding 'The Grafman'

 That's it, 10.20pm now, bed time.



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