My Ironman Experience.
Where do I begin? I can’t really remember the exact time that I made the decision that I wanted to do an Ironman but I can remember the first time I made it public and from then on it was going to happen. I was in Portugal on holiday with all the family sat round the pool on a hot summer’s day probably with a beer talking to Mike. I announced then that I was going to do an Ironman. I can’t really remember what was said from that point but the seed was also planted with Mike. I have a great friendship with Mike so if he was to also do it, I knew it would be an amazing experience. Why? Overweight, wanted to see if I could do it, but most of all probably because of all the great Ironmen in our club. I was going to name a few but didn’t want to leave anyone out and that would have taken too long to do as our club is brimming with Ironmen. Anyone would have thought it was easy to do with the amount of Ironmen our club has!
Skip a few weeks and Mike and Andy had also decided to do the Ironman, so we all entered. I’ve only been doing triathlons for a couple of years so the honest truth was where do I begin? I had a rough idea but I needed structure and it mapping out so I was clear on what and how! In stepped Phil Binch. I cannot thank Phil enough for what he has done for me. He helped me set goals and then broke everything back into little steps and goals to achieve throughout my training right up to the day itself. Without Phil’s input I wouldn’t have had such an enjoyable day on the 20th July! Yes enjoyable the hard work was done all I had to do was keep moving forward on the day.
Training year to date:-
Swimming – Unknown too many hours to remember.
Bike – 1731.1 miles
Running – 293.5 miles
My training started officially November 2013. Plenty of running and biking with core workouts. Basic but effective plan of 2 runs a week, 2 Bikes and one swim to start. Over winter I would train between 7-8 hours a week upping it to 10 hours April to May and from then on 12 hours a week until taper. This didn’t always happen but having this sort of focus, and knowing when I needed to go long, or recover, or push myself into dark places, all helped more than I realised it ever could come race day. I also put myself through long training sessions on little food on some occasions as some of you may have seen on Strava “60 miles on a bowl of rice Krispies”. I did this so that I would hit the wall. It uses to wind Mike up but knowing what running out of energy and hitting the wall felt like made me stronger and able to deal with it when it happened. I now think it’s amazing just how far you can get on a bowl of rice krispies!
It was great having Mike and Andy to train with, we would plan our sessions around each other the best we could so we could push each other on. We would do group turbo sessions over the winter with runs off them through the week then plan long rides or runs at the weekends. We did a lot of our rides in the Peaks to get use to climbing. We also did the Dales with Conoco Phillips and some Lincsquadders, kindly arranged by Paul Fycher and Stevie G which was an awesome weekend. We started to invite ourselves out on rides with the likes of Stevie G and Clarky, purely to hang on to their back wheel. We thought this would make us faster and stronger. I remember one session we went out on, and it was like a tag team between Josh Jones, Stevie G and Clarky all taking turns on the front putting the hurt on. My god that was a long day. Going to the Peaks with Stevie G another hard day in the saddle yet some of the best routes I had done with some bloody horrible climbs in. Other rides with Phil Binch doing village sign sprints and chain ganging for miles and miles into the wind until I literally felt like I could do no more! Long runs this is where the fathering Law came in. His constant pace at 9:30 to 10 minute mileing was perfect for what I wanted. Whilst he didn’t do the whole run them first 8-10 miles at a slower pace meant I felt like I could run forever. I’ve enjoyed the banter with Mike and Andy on some of our training sessions and I think the whole experience has brought us closer together. I know more about these guys then I really should do. Mike insisted on wearing a very tight tri suit, so if you were behind him you could see the crack of his Arse as clear as you could see the seam on the tri suit. That’s one way to stop people drafting! Andy who is very nimble on his toes unfortunately runs like Andy Pandy, which gave us hours of fun. My wife can even spot Andy running in the distance just from his unique style! I have some amazing memories.
I can’t lie there’s a reason why I’m a little bit overweight and that because I’m lazy when it comes to food! I eat quick and easy rather than taking the time to prepare good food. You cannot out train a bad diet, god knows I have tried! I made sacrifices and lifestyle changes which needed to happen. I did this by setting myself little challenges, such as no chocolate for a month. I picked February for this one as it’s the shortest month. I cut sugar out of my hot drinks my god this helped weight fell off when I did this. I also didn’t have an alcoholic drink from 28th December 2013 until after the Ironman on 20th July 2014 as I didn’t want to be too rough at any point and lose training time. My diet still wasn’t all that great but I lost 2 stone so I am pleased.
The weekend started early for me as I took the Friday off work, I may as well have took the whole week off as I was useless the week running up to the Race. However things got worse from here on in. It was like somebody had cut the top of my head off removed my brain and stitched me back up. Work was hell that week with some late nights which meant I hadn’t fully packed by Friday morning. Also I had a puncture and split my front tyre on a training ride that Wednesday with Phil. Note to all Vittoria TT tyres are pants! Only had them 2 weeks!
So Friday morning came and I needed to finish packing, shave head take kids to school, buy new inner tubes as didn’t trust old one now tyre had split and needed a spare anyway. So this is how it went. Got up, dressed kids, got them having breakfast, made pack up, shaved head, showered, took to school, went to Halford got tubes, back home and packed, all for 10am. I was meeting Mike and Martyn, Martyn kindly lent us his Caravan and had taken the Friday and Monday off work to take it set up and tow back after. Whilst they rigged the caravan up I went to put petrol in my car. I did just that! I put £4 of petrol in my diesel car! I chuntered some quite strong words at this point and left the fore court to call Martyn to ask for advice! Because the tank was empty and I was filling it right up with £90 worth of diesel we decided to risk it. Cock up No1. We’re off, Mike and Martyn in the car towing the caravan and I in my car following so Martyn had a ride home. On the way down and bloody car driver on his phone drifted across the lanes and hit the caravan. Martyn pulled over and so did the driver. However the driver then sped off. I was a little behind at this point and didn’t see what had happened only a car skidded about as bits of caravan covered the motorway. Cock up No2. Caravan had minor damage but still very gutted for Martyn who took it in his strand. Final got to the campsite which was beautiful with very little around us and on Sheep house lane climb. I check us in, we got the caravan sorted and then Mike told me very smugly that I had missed a bit! Yes my hair, I had a bloody mohark up the back which I had missed. So I had took the kids to school speaking to people there, gone to Halfords, been to the petrol station, checked in at the camp site. Andy had also turned up at this time and they all thought this was funny. I didn’t really see the funny side at all. Cock up No3. Luckily I packed the clippers, don’t know why but as I was rushing and I just packed everything. Once all settled in Martyn wished us luck and left, and I sorted Andy’s bike. Andy left and we arranged to meet down at the Micron stadium later to register and eat.
We registered and attended the first race briefing, after the briefing we bumped into Steve Clark and arranged to meet up later at the pasta party. This made my weekend. Whilst Steve is a friend to a lot of us he is a professional triathlete. Personally he is my favourite triathlete as he also holds down a full time job saving lives and helps other achieve their dreams on the side. This to me is a big deal and in years to come I will be able to reflect back on my experience and tell everyone how we had lunch with a pro! How many people can say that? We have the added bonus of him being our chairman and willing to help us all, constantly helping and coaching us all. My only regret from the weekend is not getting a group picture with Steve.
Saturday. One day to go. This was a very busy day. Have you ever tried preparing for the biggest event of your life when your brain isn’t working right? We did a 5k run first thing, and then prep our transition bags. This is nerve racking, what if we forgot something? We sorted the bags and as it was now raining heavily we decided to take our run bag to T2 then meet up with the family for lunch before racking the bike and handing in our bike bags at T1. This turned out to be a good move as we mostly dodged the rain. Well done Mike! Mike thought of this as his brain was obviously working slightly better than mine. We got back to the Caravan as planned to relax from 16:00 on as it would be any early start. We planned to watch a movie. Something easy watching so we could relax. However we watched 300 which whilst a great film isn’t relaxing. Had my final bowl of pasta (Thank god) and sat down to watch the Inbetweeners. Again took my mind off the Ironman but not really relaxing as your too busy laughing. After the film finished I got into bed and laid in total darkness counting sheep. Not much sleeping going on at all. 02:45 and alarm goes off.
Race day. Up and on sat eating porridge at 03:00 in the morning. Got myself ready for the day, in car and on way by 15:45 I think. To be honest can’t really remember too much about the morning. I do remember been relaxed though. Everything was done, and I was all worried out there was a job to be done. Parked up at the Micron and got on the 04:00 bus to Penington Flash. I checked my bike then went to find an unofficial toilet far enough away from the officials. Whilst taking a wee I realised I wasn’t alone in there as there were 3 sets of eyes looking at me. However none of them were taking a wee! This is the un-glamour’s side of the sport! Back to T1 and got ready for the race. Handed my white bag in and queued to get into the water. 2000 people getting into a lake takes some time. Water was a beautiful temperature and I thought this is going to be a good swim. At this point Mike, Andy and I were all still together. We made our way to the start line and waited in silence! My goggles had decided to start steaming up. They never did that, why had they started now bloody things. I had a word with myself and thought that things will go wrong just deal with it. I decided to wave at the camera in the water, whilst doing this I suddenly realised I probably looked like I was drowning as I don’t tread water well. So if it is on TV, look out for a man waving his arms around and his face disappearing under the water, stop waving, re-surface, start waving again. I repeated this several times before I realised.
Start of the Ironman. The start horn sounded and within seconds I realised I was in a very hostel place all those lovely friendly triathlete turned into high turn race machine with a win at all cost mentality. My word I’ve been in friendlier fights. Punched and kicked in the face several times within the first 10minutes. We hit the first turn boy and 2000 triathlete minus the fast as ones all wanted to get a close to it as possible saving time and making the course as short as possible. This is where I realised breast stokers are they worst (Sorry Dobber). People were swimming front crawl until the boyes then breast stroking round it. Breast strokers kick like mules. A couple of them to the chin and goggles and you know about it. All so they seem to manage to kick to in the balls! I don’t know how but they do! There’s one thing worse then been kicked in the balls and that’s been kicked in the balls whilst your face is under water. You have to wait to gasp for air on your first time breathing then scream on the second time you come up for air. I thought twice about going near a breast stroker after this. I pressed on and got the swim done.
T1. Right the swim was behind me. I just needed to compose myself make sure I am comfortable and enjoy the bike ride. I had spray sun cream in T1 which worked well and I made sure I was fully lavered up before setting off on the bike. On the bike the weather was over cast and temperature was quite cool. Well pleased I put the expensive spray cream in T1 bag. My plan was to average between 16-17mph on the bike as I knew I would be able to run ok if I stuck to this. So I stuck to this. I hit Sheep house climb for the first time and just podded up no issues but at this point there was no point pushing on and blowing up later in the ride. On the decent I felt something hit my hip, I looked down and one of my arm pads on my skies had fallen off. Gutted about 30mile in and I would have to put my arm on the metal. Right, deal with it. these things happen. So I rolled my arm warmer up and positioned it on my arm where I rested on the ski. I hit the bottom on the decent and was greeted by team Dobber. Thanks guys.
I had an eating plan however after my first wrap of peanut butter and Nutella I took a powerbar bottle and drank half of it. The stomach issues started, which totally knackered my eating plan. However I knew I had to eat so I force feed myself. Towards the back end of the ride I knew I needed to eat so I went back to what I knew worked, winegums and water. It was starting to heat up at this point so I was taking bottles of cold water putting them in my tri suit just to keep me cool. No drama other than hitting Hunters Hill for the second time at 93/96 miles in which I think is twice as bad as Sheep house purely as it’s so steep. One guy shouted 400 meters to the top mate and I thought, f**k off I know it kicks up again. Made it to the top and thought right just get back to the Micron now. I had one more climb to go to the bottom of the Sheep House climb. At the foot of this I saw more friends and family all cheer and screaming at me which was great. I hit the climb and the crowds were amazing. There was only room to be in single file now and I felt like I was on a mountain stage at the TDF it was amazing. After that it was literally downhill to the Micron.
T2. Again more family here, shouting at me which was great. Handed the bike over at this point I was told Mike was out on the run. I hadn’t seen Mike at all since the start but I had guessed that he would have been out the water before me. I still didn’t know by how much time but to be fair I wasn’t interested!
I had packed my cheaper sun cream which was actually a cream so I set about applying this to myself as the sun came out just in time for the run. Ever tried applying sun cream to your back yourself? Not easy! Quick toilet stop and I was out running.
The Run. I had stuck to my plan on the bike averaging 16.8mph so I felt fine on the run. I eased into it sticking to my 9:30/10 min/miling plan. I had put caffeine energy gels in my running bottle which tasted crap, but it was all I had until the feed station. I had planned not to stop until the first feed station on the loop and I had gels as well as the horrible gels drink so I ran through the first without stopping. I also planned to save energy on the run by walking the hills. So the first walk came up to the loops. I turned on to the loops and started running straight away. I saw Mike at this point but still had no idea how far in front he was. We cheered at each other and cracked on. I hit the first feed station and the turn point. This is when I worked out Mike was at least 4 miles maybe more in front. I had a chose to make. Run hard and catch him or stick to my game plan. Phil had said don’t break plan until the last loop. So I thought just stick to the plan.
The crowds were amazing and I was feeling good. My mum was on her bike with my step dad and a couple of their friends so they shouted and cheered me on as well. Every time I saw somebody I knew and they cheered me on I felt like crying. On one of the laps my mum shouted that Amy and the girls who could not come as they had a show they were so proud of me. My god that was it my chin was wobbling everything. I had to tell myself to man up! Emotions were defo high when you are putting yourself through this much pain. I completed the first lap. My god this was going to be a hard Marathon! The flats weren’t really flat more rolling and there was a bloody monster hill in it. Well it felt like a monster hill after swimming 2.4 miles and riding 112 miles.
My nutrition was good on the run and I was staying well hydrated. There was people collapsing on the course which was quite scary, also people running and vomiting at the same time. However I felt fine and comfortable apart from I was starting to realise I hadn’t covered all my back with sun cream or the backs of my arms! I hate sun burn with a passion and this is a mistake you can’t afford to make so I was mad with myself for this. However I couldn’t do anything about it now I had to finish.
Second loop between 14 and 20 miles the wheels fell off! I needed the mother of all wee’s but my brain wasn’t working so I every time I got to the toilet and there was queue I just pressed on! However I could run as I was so desperate. I saw Andy at this point just starting the loops. He didn’t speak much, he was in a very dark place! I felt for Andy but I knew he was a good runner so expected him to still pass me any time. This didn’t happen. I had to stop and go. I thought just stop and the next feed station and use the toilet. I walked to the next station and queued.
Finally my turn. My god what the hell had the guy before me eat!! Also he could have flushed!! My next question was how long can I hold my breathe? Anyway I got over my ordeal and cracked on. I saw Andy on the second loop again and he had picked up which pleased me. I ran the town centre everytime, people had travelled to see e do this so no matter how painful it was I was running.
On the way out on the last lap I saw Mike at the top of the hill. My god he must have been flying on that last lap as he met me at the top of the hill. We high fived and he said “finish strong”. Right I was running and running as hard as I could. The only time I would stop was at the feed station at the far turning point. Take on more food and water then continue running. This worked a treat and I just got stronger and stronger. I got my 3rd and final band. At this point I was telling myself I’m never gonna see this point again, I’m never gonna have to walk that hill again, I’ll never see you cheering me on again, thank you but do one. I was on a mission, I was gonna be an Ironman nothing was gonna stop me! I was over taking everyone. I hadn’t felt this strong all day.
Finally I hit the last downhill, I checked the time 19:27. I had predicted 19:30 for me to finish. I wasn’t gonna let this slip past. 19:30 it would be not a second longer. Head down, press on. I saw Andy at the feed station at the bottom of the hill and I tried to do for him what Mike had do for me. I slowed and shouted at him to crack on. The last lap is the shortest and easiest! I continued.
I hit the carpet everyone was there. The crowd was chanting Ric you are an Ironman!! It’s one of the best feelings ever. All these people had come to watch use all achieve this massive feat. I was so pleased with myself.
I finished at 19:29:18, Swim time 1:25:20, Bike 6:40:25, Run 5:04:59. My plan was swim 1:30, Bike 7:00, Run 5:00. So pretty spot on. T1 bang on 10:00, T2 8:34, to long, but this was my first Ironman and I was always gonna PB!
Total time 13:29:18.