It all started back at team relays in 2013 as we were packing up, as the entry for IMCopenhagen opened on the Bank Holiday Monday. We raced home to get on the internet and sign up for what would be a spectacular race and indeed the first time I had raced in Europe so was looking forward to both a holiday and a race with such a fantastic atmosphere.
The next 12 months would be a focused time for my training and with my families blessing I got stuck in at the earliest opportunity. I wanted to give myself the best start so I had a chat with fellow Lincsquader and Personal Trainer Steve Clark to see what the best training plans where, as I wanted to smash my previous Ironman time by over an hour! Steve set me a weekly plan which weather and work permitting I followed as best possible.
I could tell the training was paying off as I felt stronger and fitter inside however time would tell as I had a couple of other races booked in earlier on in the season to see where I was.
Some of you may know I have suffered with knee problems since 2012 and had some cartilage removed since then too. I had been witnessing this nagging pain in my right knee for a while now and after my operation in 2012, being told I had arthritis was not something I was going to let get in my way. Second opinion here we come………………….Different consultant this time so was hopeful that the first one had got it all wrong and that there would be something that would get me going again. That’s where it stopped…..Hoping…….The words “ yes, the other consultant had it exactly correct. Your arthritis will unfortunately only get worse and your thigh bone has a crack in it with a lot of roughness on the top. I could smooth that off a bit but it may not make any difference at all, so no more running”.
With race day less than 2 months away I thought this was never going to be an option so back to the drawing board. Clarky, changed my plan to no running but instead some X-Trainer work. This was to prove so important on race day.
(My running miles to date this year had been a total of less than a marathon in total! Whoops).
With quite a few successful open water swim sessions under my belt and a few hours in the pool I was confident that I would be able to beat my previous IM swim time and also do the whole of this discipline front crawl. My bike leg was getting stronger each session with a great run up to the race with some long solo rides in towards the end of the plan. Also Coach Clark had set me a target of losing 4lbs a month to bring my race day weight to a 13 stone something weight instead of the 15+ stone that I was to help my knee. Thankfully I can say that this was achieved with 2 weeks to go and now feeling fitter and so much healthier I was ready.
The family were getting excited now as we were soon to be flying over the water to Copenhagen and all that waiting for me to come home after them long training sessions was nearly over and they too could enjoy the benefits. Like eating ice cream whilst watching us guys slog it out on the course!
Race day eve saw us all eating rice for lunch then a fab pasta dish for tea which “coach” come “chef” rustled up with the added assistance of his commy chef, “Emilly”. It was to be a feast of pesto pasta and tomato pasta. 3 helpings later and washed down with a cheeky glass of red wine it was bed time for all and the night night chants was said by all. You can now imagine scenes from the Walton’s, right? (well, if you are old enough to remember them anyway)!!
Yes, it was finally here, race day had arrived. After a relatively early night I was up at 4am eating my porridge, toast with peanut butter and jam and a couple of coffees to wash it all down with. Kit all ready (night before and bagged up) and was ready to tackle the 92 steps down from our 6th floor apartment (as there was no lift) I knew that this way would be OK but later on the attempt at getting back up the bloody steps would be a little more trying however that was for later so it’s back to race morning.
Myself and Clarky leading the way out of the apartment followed by the support crew of Clair, Annie and Ellie and of course Emily too. The battle which we had not thought about to overcome was next, the 100s of locals scattered around the town, stinking of booze, and not looking the best………
On the bus with our after race bags we went, then a quick change on to the metro and it was off to the Amager Beach Park to make the last few changes to our bikes which we had racked the previous day in T1. Knowing that we had plenty of time it was quite a relaxed atmosphere…….That was until I went to borrow a pump from a fellow competitor. This turned out to be a bit more of a challenge with quite a few people doing the same thing and pumps where certainly in the minority. This followed with a 20 minute panic that I couldn’t get any air in my tyres with the “new no problem” valve extenders which resulted to be a huge problem……
I had not seen Alex Bradley that morning to wish him a good race however I did manage to catch Clarky just before he donned his “Gold Coloured Pro” swim cap, so it was a quick slap of the hands and he was away in to the starting pen. The countdown was on and it was soon 3-2-1 and off. The race had started, it was 07.00 and 25 minutes before I was off.
A few words to the Dobber entourage and I was soon to be in the water.My swim training had been going well so I had a few goals in mind here. 1) To complete the whole swim doing front crawl, as a lot of you know I have never done this in any race, always favouring my trusty breast stroke. 2) Go sub 1hr 20 mins (1hr 15 would be better). 3) Enjoy myself.
Exiting the Sea swim in a time of 1:26:06 was not the time I wanted but I was happy with being able to do the full swim all front crawl and in that washing machine too!! Enjoy myself was the third objective and in a way I did as I’d completed it however that washing machine never stopped for the whole 3.8km swim hence I took the long way round and decided to swim at the edge of the 3000 swimmers who was either already in or going to swimming over the top of me soon…………
Out of the Swim and on to my strongest discipline of the day. The Bike Leg. My T1 was a swift 4:02 so that put me on the bike leg in 1:30:08 and again a lot of you may know that my transitions and bike mount/dismount is probably the best part of my race…Lol However with my new double bottle cage seat mounted new fan dangle piece of kit getting a wack with my leg as I jumped on my machine saw me go crashing in to the fencing, ripping my big toe nail in half and skinning two other toes in the process. This is not mentioning the wedding tackle getting a battering as my seat was now pointing at a very uncomfortable angle towards the sky!! Feeling sick with pain and mopping my wounds I made my way out and past the crowds. It was there when I saw Mrs Dobber with my girlies, Emily who was waiting to go see Clarky further on in the bike course, My brother (and official photographer for the day) and his family and oh yes!! The BIG Swede, Richard Olssen, who had travelled over to watch the race with his girlfriend. By Christ them Swedes can shout!!
We had been tracking the weather conditions all week as the wind mph and certainly the gusts would make the bike leg a very tricky one as at least 50% was down the coast line with what looked like a very strong cross wind. Unfortunately under the circumstances of an extra couple of plums in my throat and the blood seeping through my bike shoe mixed in my near vertical saddle left me sat up for the first 50 miles of the race and all I could do was pray for the feed station to arrive soon so I could take advantage of the mechanic station on the side of the road. It was indeed the first 50 mile that it took me to get over my little mishap and get my head around the fact that I have had so many people over take me on the bike leg! Mechanic station arrived and I jumped off the bike and frantically searched for a 5mm allen key. Bodged my seat as best I could under the pressure of a race and it was back on the bike again. It was now that I could drop down on to the bars and attempt to get aero and pick a few peeps off.
With the sun hiding its head behind the clouds and plenty of hydration being taken on board it was now that my tummy wanted to lessen the load. Yep sorry peeps but I wasn’t prepared to lose any more time stopping for a wee so a quick look over my shoulder to make sure there was no one in the firing line and ………Awwwww that felt better!! Finally it was time to knuckle down and get some serious pace going……..
My target of 5:20:00 was going to be nearly impossible now unless I got a taxi so I started doing some number crunching in my head. 5:40 is still on……..Picking a few more guys and gals off could I get sub 5:30? Without being sexist I had passed so many females which kept me focused (if you know what I mean). It was then when this young lady with lovely legs come flying past me. “Im not having that” I said to myself, so I proceded to hunt her down……Finally at speeds of 30mph+ (with putting that Steve Clarks offthatcouchfitness training to practise)I managed to catch her up……..And yes…..I had in fact been racing a guy who had nothing less than perfectly manicured and toned/tanned legs who incidentally ended up to be my focus for the last 20 miles. If I can keep him in site then that sub 5:30:00 is on. 2 or 3 miles to go and the heavens opened….All of a sudden we entered Copenhagen centre again and the speed of everyone had decreased to a mere trickle. Not wanting to crash and do anything silly before the final run leg. If I was going to hit my new target time I was to press on so that was what I did, flying through the streets in the rain brought me ever closer to that time, with crossing the dismount line, which was loads better than my mount as this marshal was shouting at me “Get off your bike before the line”…….”Chill your beans matey! Have you not seen me do this before”. Maybe not after my mount fiasco!! 05:26:33 and I was in T2. The legs feeling strong I was back out there and on the run course in a 0:04:04 transition and a spritely spring in my step.
With my constant knee issues throughout the last 2 years I went in to this race with as little as 20 odd miles in the legs through 2014 season but was hoping that the painstaking hours on the cross trainer would help me out. Mile 1, 2, 3 ,4 went past and yes I could feel a niggle with my knee but nothing too bad. Mile 5, 6 and it was like a volcano erupting in my knee. Wow that’s put the brakes on a bit, slipping down in to 26+min miles and not managing to even walk properly but just a pathetic limp with a high knee raise to try and stop my knee from locking up. It was then when I hit a place where I never knew it existed. There was so much support from the locals shouting out “Go on British man” (union jack on the race number, no I didn’t have a pint in my hand). And with the 200,000 strong support that these people gave to all the competitors it was simply amazing. 4 laps of the course soon turned in to 3 left then 2 left. Yep, halfway point. The night was drawing in and the support that had travelled over to watch us Clarky, Alex and myself at times brought a tear to my eyes. So much encouragement at pretty much every few kms. I have to say that during this 10-15mile period I had contemplated on stopping and calling it a day! Adding up how many miles I had left and then adding that on to my time…..In my head I was not going to make the cut of point as I had now drifted in to 18min miles. Jeez…I had already spoken to myself on many occasions over this period and asked myself am I a quitter? Well finally the answer came to me. Never have done so I’m not going to make this the first! I equally know that my family was also going through my pain and anguish. “Nope, they are not going to see me quit for the first time ever”……With this I put in 2 or 3 15/6 min miles and I could see light at the end of the tunnel. Yellow band collected, green band collected, pink band collected, Blue band to go then it was 4km to the finish line. A lot of this was a blur to be honest and friendly chats with the Big Swede, Clarky, Emily, My bro and family and my girls around the course was an absolute life saver as the night had closed in and rain had started to fall. It was then when the Blue band appeared on my arm and I knew I had 4km to go and then the carpet was mine!
I could here on the load speaker from Paul Kaye, The voice of Ironman, asking the crowd who was still waiting for their hero to come home? I didn’t realise at that point that we had actually drifted in to heros hour! (The last hour of the race). A quick chat with Clarky who had gone for a wonder to see where I was. Then it was finally here……The blue carpet and the final 100 meters. Glancing over my shoulder I noticed a guy in yellow running about 50 meters behind. “Do I wait for the carpet on my own and let him pass? Or do I MTFU and get a jog on down the finishing shoot?” Well the adrenaline kicked in and away I went. Searching for the support crew on my way, with a high five with Paul and the words on the speaker “Steven Dolby from Great Britain……You are an Ironman” And a Huge kiss and cuddle with My Girls, I was the happiest man alive.
I’ve missed so much out of the above and as I’m writing this there are so many special memories which keep flooding back to me I would maybe have to change this every day to collate them all in one write up!!
So many friends have helped me through this massive journey, team LINCSQUAD you are amazing. Steve Clark, you have kept me on track with an amazing fitness programme. Family and friends back home who have put off weekends so as I can go out on my bike or go for a swim, the same family and friends which sent constant messages through to Clair on the day which lifted me so many times on that run. Big Rich who flew over to support. My brother Gary and family who came out to support for the weekend and take so many fantastic photos. My two girls, Annie and Ellie who I know was as worried as anyone but kept offering their smiles to me at those low points and a few fantastic words of encouragement. So many people to thank I can’t mention everyone but finally Mrs Dobber, my rock who has been so strong throughout all the training, worried herself stupid on the day but has been my number one fan and support throughout this crazy adventure.
Would I do another one? I was patting myself on the back saying things like, “well that saved a lot of money not buying another wetsuit” “Yep, the kayak is now up for sale” “I’m never going to put my body through that again, it’s cruel” “I’m chief supporter now, honest”.
After a good sleep it was, “Body feels strong, knee is scooped but the mind feels great”
To “wonder if I can learn to power walk or even run on my toes?” Guess 2015 is out as they are all booked up but hay guys, fancy a road trip to Austria in 2016? I’ve heard there is a great Ironman race over there………………?
Being caught up in the euphoria of finally getting my report complete Ive not given you my final run times!! And yes the run did take longer than the bike and swim put together as Mrs Dobber often reminds me!!
T2 4:04 and Run 7:37:42 (whoops)