From a Non-Swimming MTB Rider to IRONMAN

From a Non-Swimming MTB Rider to IRONMAN, Mike Catley’s IM Bolton race report.

Mike 1


2.45 am Sunday , I got out of bed . Notice I never said woke up as I didn’t sleep. Poked down my trusty 100g of porridge and a black coffee, toilet trip then in the car to the macron. Waiting for the bus not much was said between me and Ric, nerves/excitement/anticipation of the unknown. Who knows ???

Final check on the bike, get into wetsuit and walk down with 2,000 others to get into the flash, I was excited and keen to start. BANG!! We’re off. Punched, kicked, pulled and that was just from Andy and Ric !!! Never really got into a good flow or found someone faster to get on the toes of. Total madness at the first buoy I didn’t enjoy that! Out and round for the second lap, I had lots of water in my goggles. I emptied this out but had pushed them on too tight. Back in the water my eyes felt like they were being sucked out. I did the full second lap with a banging headache and dizziness, not in a good place, can I do this ? Why am I doing this?? Come on Catley get a grip!! Just get the swim done and you can take the goggles off. This turned out to be the only dark place I found myself in on the full race, so in hindsight I was lucky / mentally strong .THANK GOD THATS OVER!!

Mike 4Now to the bike, good transition for me. Over the speed bumps to find a crash just before the main road out of the flash, thankfully I avoided that !! Still feeling dizzy from the swim, I took it easy and calmed myself down and into my rhythm. The bike is by far my favourite discipline.

We had ridden the bike course 3 weeks ago and I decided that 16-16.5 mph was going to be my average on the day. This would give me a 7 hour bike split. I never got out of my comfort zone on the first lap and to my surprise, had managed an 18.1 mph average for my first 60 miles. Calm it down, I told myself , even though I still felt great .

I hadn’t managed to stick to my nutrition plan of flapjack every 40 mins. As it turned out I didn’t eat much of my food. Not sure of the reason but I couldn’t stomach my flapjack, my watch had beeped 4 times, worry that’s 2 hr and 40 mins in. I couldn’t stand anything apart from liquid in my mouth!! PANIC. Was I going to run out of energy?? Time passed, remembering how much I had carb loaded over the last 4 days , I relaxed and decided to just keep going . I finally managed 2 half pieces of flapjack by the end of the bike. Was the lack of food going to come back and bite me during the run??? I decided to drink loads. I tried a couple of banana halves near the end of the bike, they went in ok :-)) After 107 mile in my neck was killing me. I was ready for getting off my bike . The final downhill into transition came, only to see runners / walkers coming back up the same hill . GULP!! Quibell park hill x 2 in length. My family cheered me into T2 and my chin started to wobble. This happened every other time I saw them :-). Sub 8 hrs and bike and swim were done. I knew at this point I was going to finish no matter what, 9 hrs to do the marathon?

Mike 2

Onto the hill, I remembered Phil’s advice so didn’t feel bad about walking up this hill. Got into my steady pace 10 min/ miles and felt terrible, hot, stomach ache, hot, hot and a lot more hot. It was at this point I met Mark a sub 3.5 hour marathon runner (normally), reduced to walking. We ran together for a while keeping each other going , 4 miles in we decided to walk a mile, run a mile . Running strong at 7:45-8:00 min/ miles .another couple of big hills got us to the 3 lap section :-).

I took charge at this point as Mark was struggling, we started running up hill and walking down as our mile plan fell apart ! I decided we’d walk up the hills and run down the descents. Pretty simple I know, but when your brain dead it feels like you’ve invented the wheel. This was an improvement, the miles dropped off. First time through the town centre Mark had to walk. We passed the Dobbers and Em Clark, then Clarky around the corner all telling me to run, then my family. I told Mark we wouldn’t be walking through the town again, we didn’t :-). This time it was back past the Lincsquad massive and was loving the high 5’s Clarky had promised me out in the course. Finally, the first band in the hand felt great.

Looking for Ric and Crofty, hoping they were ok, had no idea I was in front at this point. Ric came into the run course. Relieved to see Ric had made it off the bike course safely, now into the run and he appeared to be going well. Run/walk was going great, walking 12:45 m/mile and often running 8:00 m/mile. This was a good plan in the heat for me. This would still give me a 12 hour IM amazing :-))).

My brain struggled to do the maths, but we kept on working it out. This served a purpose as it took my mind off from what I was doing. Second band for me but still no Crofty on the run course? Next time past Linzy I asked her about him yet she had no info. Finally he came onto the run course, massive relief. Knowing we were all safely off the bike and into the run I felt I could finally relax. We were all on for the finish.

Mark said he would let me go over the line first as I had been the stronger one, that made me feel great. I kept passing Ric and Crofty offering them my support . Ric was making good ground on me at this point. I didn’t care as I knew I was on for a 12 hr at the start of my finishing time if I could just keep steady and regular (thanks to my father in-law for that saying) .

Mike 3

Into the finishing Chute, crowd screaming , looking around for family / friends , Gem Eddie and Mollie !! Spotted them up in the stands, arms in the air I waved, then pointed to my race number. MIKE CATLEY YOU ARE AN IRONMAN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:-))))))

The lady screamed, joined by the massive crowd!!! What a buzz, I was in heaven

12:54:29……… Get in !

All my mates who had travelled to support me were at the finish line. I went over for hugs and congratulations !!! This was my moment, my time, my glory!!!!!!!! 

It was all worth it, my military style approach to training had paid off.




Swim ; 1:23:01 Mike 5

T1 ; 07:15

Bike ; 06:20:37

T2 ; 06:14

Run ; 04:57:23

599th out of 2000 :-)))


Massive thanks

Thanks to Phil Binch, my inspiration, coach and ‘Go to guy’.

Ric for planting the seed and both Ric and Crofty for the countless texts and training banter.

Grocock and Clarky for destroying me on the bike on several occasions :-))

My kids and most of all, Gem, my wife :-)). Who had been sooooo supportive throughout my full journey (9 months worth). Never complaining or moaning ONCE. I LOVE YOU :-))).