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Thursday, 8 August 2013

"Andrew, You Are An Ironman"

"Andrew, You Are An Ironman"

The words I had been waiting for & dreaming of hearing since last year, since before I could even swim front crawl. Sunday 4th August 2013 this dream came true as I ran down that red carpet, high fiving the fantastic Ironman supporters of Bolton, to cross the finish line in under 15 hours.

For anyone who has not followed my Journey it began back in June 2011.

This is how the weekend panned out


We headed off for Bolton at 8am Friday morning & arrived at the Glebe Street Travelodge just after 12pm. Check in time wasn't until 3pm, but after my wife telling me not to be a tight ass, I paid the extra £10 for an early check in. Was handy as we were able to put the bike in the room rather than leave it on the back of the car to potentially get nicked

Headed off into town to register Arleya for the Saturdays IronKids race. We were only a 10 minute walk from the city centre so strolled in via the Ironman finish.

Fred Dibnah in the city centre.Remembered watching him climb the chimney stacks when i was a boy


Arleya registered we grabbed some lunch then headed back to the hotel to meet up with Tim, so we could drive over to the Reebok Stadium for our Ironman registration.

Registration with Tim

Tagged for the weekend
Quite a bit of stuff at the Expo but we didn't hang about too much. I didn't want to buy any Ironman merchandise until i had actually completed the event. We were given a pretty cool Ironman Rucksack containing all out transition bags, timing chip ticket, race number etc etc. More stomach churning moments as race day drew even nearer.

We then popped downstairs for the race briefing. Lots of razzmatazz & a good talking too about not dropping litter on the course or drafting on the bike course.


After the briefing we headed back to the hotel to prep our gear ready to take to the different transitions on Saturday.

My kit for race day

Arleya's kit for IronKids

Arleya's 'M Dot' toe nail
 All done for the evening, we popped over the road to Burger King had some supper & hit the sack. Early start Saturday as Arleya was racing at 8 am.


Headed into the city centre early to watch Arleya race & meet up with Andy Holgate. The man who is responsible for so many people pursuing an Ironman dream. If you haven't read Andy's books have a look, very inspirational -

Me, Andy  & Tim  @ IronKids

Run Irongirl

Later in the day Arleya came back to the hotel with pirate earings & wants to do an Ironman when she's older. The latest Holgs Ironman recruit.
Race done we all hit the costa coffee & waited for Tims youngest to run, whilst quizzing Holgs on all things Ironman. Once Dan had finished his run we headed back to the hotel for breakfast. Oot & Arleya then went shopping, leaving me to get a couple of hours sleep. Which I actually managed to do.

At 1:30pm I headed off with Tim to drop our stuff off at the transitions. First stop was Pennington Flash for T1. We racked out bikes & covered with bike covers we had been given the night before. I also left my tri bag with the next days non gel nutrition on the bike. We then hung our bags up in the transition tent and checked out the entry & exit points so we were clear where we would be going the following morning.


Shit, wheres my bike?

The Flash

Swim Entry & Exit
T1 done we headed off to drive the bike route. I'll cover the bike course in more detail in a bit, the main bit i wanted to see was the infamous Sheephouse lane. It's reputation for being a tough climb was certainly warranted. Rest of the course looked undulating as they like to say, but nothing too scary.

Dropped our last bag off at T2 & headed back to the hotel again.


At 5:30pm Oot, Arleya & myself headed back to the Reebok Stadium for IronPrayer which was really good. We listened too some motivating testimonies from a lady called Pat & a guy called Nemo, who first signed up for an Ironman 2 years ago without even knowing how to swim. The Bolton Wanderers chaplain also gave a motivating talk & showed some inspirational video's of other British athletes.

We then grabbed a few pizzas from the hut and went back to the hotel to eat and do my race prep.
Race number tattoo added

Age Group not F for Fat group category tattoo
10pm, bedtime. Alarm set for 2:30am

Sunday. Race Day

Had as good a sleep as i could have had under the circumstances. Woke up at midnight for a bit but then nodded off again till the alarm went off. Had a shower then went downstairs for breakfast. Great customer service from Travelodge in Bolton who were up and cooking breakfast at 3am for all the athletes doing Ironman.

Unlike the Slateman I decided to avoid the fry up this time due to the length of the race & not wanting to risk needing a Thomas Tit halfway through the day. I went with toast, cereal, yogurt & banana. Plus a couple of cups of coffee.

Scoffed that by 3:30am & headed back to the room for final business.

Time to go, not feeling overly motivated

3:50am, I drove Tim & I to the Reebok stadium so we could get the shuttle bus down to the start. Two minutes out of the hotel we hit a road block due to some incident. This diverted us through Bolton city centre where hundreds of clubbers were still partying on. While they would be nursing hangovers later, myself & Tim would be making our way through the days 140+ mile journey.

I forget what time we arrived at Pennington flash, I think it was around 4:30am, giving us 90 minutes to check the bikes, slip into the wetsuits & drop our final bag off, which held our gear to wear after the race. At this point I met up with Mark & Dave from Trianglia.

I ate another gel & banana & headed down to the lake. We started getting in the water around 5:50am as there were a lot of swimmers to get up to the start. Was a deep water start so remembering Simon from Paradise Tri's  advice i got up as close to the start as i dared & prepared for the churning water start.

I got a decent start, although for the first 5 minutes most of your strokes involved hitting someone or someone hitting you. Soon relaxed and got into it with only occasional faster swimmers, with zero sighting ability zigzagging in front of me which did get a bit frustrating. Water was nice and warm, a little choppy but in general a good swim.

The swim course was two laps so you came out ran back round to the start again and hopped in for another lap. Took a quick glance at my watch to see 41 minutes after the first lap which was a fantastic 1900m time for me. Hoped i could keep it up the pace for the second lap.

Finished the swim in 1 hour 42 minutes. Great support at Pennington Flash, you could hear the cheering a good 100m away from the swim exit. I ran up to the transition tent where it was fairly clear for me, thanks to my slower than the majority swim. Every cloud........

I had decided to go for complete changes so had to nip into the modesty tent to strip out my wetsuit and budgie smugglers. Got all my cycle gear on and had another banana & gel. You had to put all your cycle gear on in the tent including shoes, if like me you don't do the jump on your bike thing.
Time spent in T1 was just over 9 minutes.

Bike ride was a 14 mile point to point ride followed by 3 laps of roughly 30 miles which began at Adlington. This was where some of the biggest support took place with cheering locals & a lot of COLT triathlon club. Had a great boost here every time i rode past, Holgs was also here again supporting and shouting abuse/encouragement. Just what you need to get up the slight incline.
Riding through the crowds up the hill did give you a Tour de France mountain stage feeling which was amazing. People in crazy outfits, Afros etc etc. I even saw one guy in a camel Bernie Clifton type outfit.

I was taking on one gel every 30 minutes then snacking on the nutrigrain biscuits and flap jacks i had in my bag. There were two drink stations on the bike laps where you would sling your empty water bottle & grab another one or isotonic drink. They also had gels, power bars & bananas if you needed food. Portaloos were also available here. I managed to do the whole 112 miles without a toilet break. Had three on the run though.

The bike was undulating with one really hard climb. Sheephouse lane, grrr. It was a couple of  miles climb with what i can best describe as two Gas Hill type steep sections (this is a steep hill in Norwich). You began the climb just before the turn off for T2 which was a bit demoralising.

Again there was some great support at the start of the climb. The first steep bit wasn't so bad, although slow going. You then had a bit of reprieve with a long gentle incline. The second steep bit was rock hard & half way up it i felt like i wouldn't be able to keep going & would have to push. However, I heard someone shout 'come on help for heroes, soldier on' which made me feel bad about thinking about getting off and pushing & gave me the boost to continue peddling.

Sheephouse climb I think
At the top of the hill you were rewarded with fantastic views & a bunch of guys in bikinis & Afros partying and cheering you on. The hill decent was long fast sweeping bends where i was able to hit over 40 mph, best not to think your on 1 inch wide rubber & only wearing lycra at this speed. It was a real rush though & well worth the hard climb.

Rest of the lap was OK, with a couple of little hills, you were then into a head wind for a good 10 miles from the bottom of the big decent. I did spend some of the remaining lap wondering how on earth I'd get back up Sheephouse lane again, i did however manage to do it all three times without walking which i was really pleased about. Once over the third time I started feeling really confident about finishing the Ironman. Even started thinking i could finish in under 15 hours.

Had one hairy moment where i got chicked coming up to a bend, however, the young lady had gone into the bend way too hot & her back wheel slipped out. She came to a standstill & toppled over onto the road in front of me. Luckily i managed to to just get round her by skipping over someones driveway.

4 miles to go & i bonked, I couldn't believe it, thought i was going to fall off my bike, i had gone so dizzy. Crammed all the remaining food out of my tri bag into me. Five minutes later i started to feel human again & pushed on to T2. Bike took just over 7 hours 15 minutes. the course was pretty tough but great. Majority of the roads were closed. The ones where cars were allowed we had fantastic traffic control & total right of way for the cyclists. It was brilliantly organised & controlled by the Ironman volunteers

I dismounted at T2 and one of the volunteers took my bike for me. I ran into the sports hall, grabbed my bag & did another complete change. Had another gel but left the banana, was feeling sick from all the sweet stuff I'd had all day.

I walked the first half mile & took time to drink a load more water & enjoy a nice cup of coke (cola) from the first feed station. I then ran about 1.5 miles to the next feed station, had some more drink and popped into a portaloo for my first wee since being in the lake at silly o'clock that morning.

The first 8 miles was a point to point run down to Bolton, then 3 x 6 mile circuits. Which looped round the centre of Bolton, 100m from the finish, just to tease you. I managed to run pretty much all the point to point, walking the feed stations and inclines. Worked really well for me & i felt really good still.

The noise of the spectators dramatically increased as i joined the lap runners. I still had loads of time to finish and now knew i would be completing my first Ironman. Sub 15 hours was also still looking good & would exceed any expectations i had had.

There were two feed stations on the lap part of the run manned by local army cadets. They did a fantastic job & had mini Cheddars, the first non sweet snack of the day. I cant describe how great those little mini Cheddars tasted, they were one of the highlights of the day up to this point. Thinking of getting my next handful was a definite motivator to jog on. Writing this now i feel like popping to tescos and getting some more.

Continued my strategy of jogging the flat and declines & walking the slopes. Even my walking pace was just under 4mph which was OK. Holgs was now at the bottom of a steep hill going into the city centre shouting abuse and support. I also saw my wife & daughter for the first time since leaving that morning which was quite emotional, but they were on the wrong side of the road to grab quick hug.

The heavens had now opened and the rain was heaving down. The rain was washing sweat into my eyes & they were stinging to the extent i was struggling to see where i was going. As my feet got wetter I became more conscious of the blisters forming and the tugging on my already knackered toe nails.

Spotted the family lap & grabbed a quick hug & kiss

Each time you did a lap you were given a different coloured arm band. Collect the three & the final lap you ran down that famous red Ironman finish carpet. As i came round to the start of finish i slowed down a bit too let the runners in front of me completely clear the finish. I wanted it all to myself.

I passed the girl who monitored the finish & followed the red carpet round. The noise of cheering and shouting was amazing. I came into the finish straight & couldn't really see anything. I pointed at Paul & then at my name to signal i wanted him to call me an Ironman.

It  was a wonderful feeling running from side to side high fiving the crowd, raising my arms and punching the air.

Arleya filmed my finish which i've uploaded to You Tube

From FATMAN, I had finally crossed the finish line to become IRONMAN.

Finish time - 14 hours 46 minute 40 seconds

My Ironman UK finish video

I was then given my medal & headed into a tent where i was given a finisher T Shirt and fed Dominos Pizza. I sat down to eat it not knowing if i would get up again. Troffing my food I remembered my family would be waiting at our pre-arranged place, probably stressing that i hadnt re-appeared yet, so i headed off to get my finish bag & space blanket.

Oot & Arleya were waiting for me as i came out. Quick hugs and well dones then a medal photo was required. I got changed & Oot went off to get me a coffee, I'd been fancying one for hours.
Proud to have got my medal

With my Iron Buddy Tim, Both buzzing at the finish
We stayed at the finish line to cheer on our fellow athletes until the last guy came in. Then walked back to the hotel to sleep. The planned piss up i always thought i would do was not even considered, I was knackered.
I'd been fancying a coffee most of the day.
Done in
Since i started my fitness regime in June 2011
  • I have Swam, Cycled & Ran 9604 miles
  • Trained for 890 hours
  • Burned 639,017 calories
  • Raised £686 for Help for Heroes
  • Raised £741 for The Royal Anglian Benevolent Fund
As i had earned my Ironman branding I went in to book my M Dot tattoo on Tuesday and as luck would have it they had a space to do it same day. Should be nicely healed in time for my trip to India next month.
Along the way to Ironman I have heard a few moans about the cost of an Ironman branded event. I was a bit shocked at the price myself initially. However, once you do one you can see where the money has been spent & i for one would not hesitate to pay the price again. I thought it was great value for money.

 What next. I wont be booking anything up for 2014. As i am being made redundant in the not too distant future, my focus will be on building my business next year. (may write a blog about that journey) Once that is up and running i have no doubts I will be signing up for another Ironman event. Watch this space.

 It's been a great journey. Not only in becoming an Ironman but also from the great new friendships formed with fellow triathletes along the way. Thanks for all the support & advice from those who have shared this journey with me, you know who you are!


Donate to The Royal Anglian Benevolent fund

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1 comment:

  1. Great report mate, I think I was out of the water and off the bike before you but you got me on the run, had a great day, and it was a horse not a donkey on Sheep House Lane..LOL good to see the tattoo as well