IM UK by Andi Croft
I keep having a recurring dream (or nightmare you could call it) where I’m in a triathlon. The swim feels like the inside of a washing machine, the bike has hills that go on forever and the run seems no matter how long I’ve been moving the finish line never actually gets any closer. Only for some reason this dream is actually happening. But how did I get here?
I’d dipped my toe into triathlon by completing 2 sprint triathlons. I was hardly going to receive a knighthood for services to triathlon with a record like that. When I first heard about Ironman it sounded the most insane event I had ever heard of and I wanted to complete one. I found out that Mike & Ric we’re entering it as well and not that I’m competitive but there was no way they were doing one before me.
So around November time my training started with the focus of 20th July Ironman. Having Mike & Ric to train with was a great help and I just want to thank you both for all your help, guidance and friendship you have given me. That said, I certainly won’t miss the 6am runs in Central Park and as Ric mention in his report mikes see through tri suit is an unfortunate sight I will never be able to erase.
During our training sessions we’ve shared some great memories that have brought us closer together and I fondly remember these times. The time I was band from a turbo session at my own house because my turbo trainer was too noisy. A day in the peaks seeing who could get the fastest speeds on the downhills only to have a monster of a rear tyre blow out. Or mike refusing to run intervals as he didn’t want to lower his strava averages are a few of the laughter we’ve shared along the journey.
The ironman weekend began for me on Thursday. As somewhat of a natural born worrier a chance meeting with Steve Clark in Scunthorpe high street changed me from being nervous to pure terror. Then late Thursday evening I got a phone call from Ric. A routine service of my bike had home horribly wrong and I now needed a whole you drive train (in truth it was just a gear cable but like I said I tend to worry about things)
I arrived on Bolton Friday morning (with my new gear cable.) Registration was great, the Ironman logo’a and banners everywhere let’s you know this is a big deal. At the race briefing Paul Kaye does a great job of building up the hype and getting the adrenaline flowing. The pasta party rounded off a great night. I want back to my hotel as Linz was coming over Friday when she’d finished work.
Saturday I woke up to rain and lots of it. Whilst the rest of the country was experiencing a heat wave Bolton was getting flooded. I packed my transition bags, checked them, re packed them and my packed them once more for luck. I went to rack my bike and hand bags in. It’s a strange feeling after you’ve done that as you can’t get access to any of your bags but you can’t help feeling helpless or like you’ve missed something out. I panicked I would open my cycling bag to find a pair of running shoes and swimming goggles. I had tea with my parents and Linz then off to bed to attempt to get some sleep.
Race day. I got dropped off by Linz at Pennington Flash at 5 am. A quick check on my bike then into my wetsuit. I meet up with Mike & Ric and we headed down into the water. I was floating around in the water looking back at how many people were behind me. Or in my mind ‘my what a lot of people will swim over me’ when the starters horn went off. So at 6am whilst I looking the wrong way my big day out started. Hardly the start I was hoping for. The first 300m of the swim we’re ok. That was until the first person swam over me. When I surfaced I looked to see it was my training partner and ex friend Ric Longcake who’d done this to me. Out of 2000 people you had to pick me didn’t you? The second lap of the swim could of been a bit nearer, I stuck to the outside route to keep out of trouble but went a bit wider than I should have so I ended some extra distance but at least I was safe.
The bike. I was relived to get the swim part out of the way and was feeling relaxed heading out on the bike. I knew Linzi and my parents were at Rivington village so I was looking out for them. Linzi had got an ironman T-Shirt made up which I didn’t know about and her and my dad had made signs they were holding up so this lifted my spirits. The rest of the first lap was relatively un-eventful. Come the second lap that would all change. Second time up Sheep House Lane my legs stopped, I couldn’t turn the pedals and I was going nowhere fast. Had I not eaten enough? Had I not trained hard enough? Was I running the wrong gear ratio? All these thoughts went through my mind but all I knew was I was in trouble. I had a mini crisis on the 3 mile stretch of hill and I don’t mind admitting I she’d a few tears. I would like to go back in a few months and ride that stretch again to rest a few demons I have. Finally I crested the hill then immediately my thoughts turned to hunters hill in another 30 miles.
Hunters Hill second time round was completely different. The crowds were a lot bigger this time, they had cowbells, tambourines and made loads of noise. Lots of people were off their bikes pushing up the hill and I gained extra strength from riding past these people. The TV camera even filmed me from the back of a motorbike, for them 10 seconds I was Chris Froome. I got to the top and once again cried although these were tears of joy and relief. I arrived back into T2 and handed my bike to the marshal for racking. I told him he could keep it I never want to see it again.
The run. I would love to write a detailed account about the run but the truth is I honestly can’t remember that much. I think I was in a bad place. I’d hoped to run a 4hr 20 marathon but after the first 2 miles I realised that wasn’t going to happen and it became a case of just getting to the finish line. I ran with a few different people along the way and at various points they to we’re battling their own troubles. Ask Ric mentioned I to was concerned by the number of people collapsing or being treated by St Johns. Considering how I was feeling I thought it’s only a matter of time till I’m joining them. Once the lap course started things slightly improved, I liked being able to count down the distance. Past this gate 3 more, 2more times etc. Also on the lap course I was able to see Ian McBride, Mike Catley & Ric Longcake. We high 5’d and exchanged words of encouragement each time we past. I grew great strength from this and would look forward to it laps. Thanks guys. Lap 2 was where it nearly all came to an end. I walked through a feed station and could not get back running (running is a generous word for what I was doing more like shuffling in slippers) my mind wanted to but the legs wouldn’t listen. I was feeling really guilty for Linz, my parents as it was such a long day and for all the people who had sponsored me. I so Linz, mum & dad and I stopped to talk. They told me how proud they were and amazing I had done just to get there. My legs started again!!!! Finally I’d collected my 3 ear bands which meant I was off to become an ironman. I’d love to tell you how the carpet felt under my feet and the smell at the finish line but sadly I can’t remember it. In training I expected crossing the finish line would feel amazing, hearing those magical famous words. But for me it’s wasn’t like that. I crossed the line completely empty and spent. If given my all and it nearly broke me but finally my day was over. All I felt was relief. Relief it was over, relief I’d completed it, relief I’d not let anyone down. My two friends and training partners were waiting for me at the finish line, we hugged each other and I will treasure that memory for a long time. I’d like to think we exchanged wise words in that embrace about what we had achieved on this journey however I think we were all just drained.
I would like to thank everyone from LincsQuad (especially the coaches) Mike Catley, Richard Longcake and mostly my wife Lindsay Croft for supporting on this long crazy journey
now its time for a holiday in mexico