IMUK report by Jonathan Kearsley (Apologies for late publishing – Editor)
Alexa, play thunderstruck. 4 AM I’m up, breakfast already planned out weeks in advance. Strong coffee, porridge with raisins and honey. Checks the bags, checks the bags again everything’s packed.
Now I need to apologize, Chris and Katie gave me a lift to the start, what they got was me with headphones in hardly speaking. Chris says stop being nervous it’ll be fine, easier said than done but I believe him. We get to Leigh sports village I don’t remember anything about getting the bike ready or any prep. I find myself stood on the red carpet. The crowd at Pennington is amazing considering its 6am on a Sunday morning even better my brother had made the swim. It meant the world but I’ve no idea what we said to each other didn’t even wish him Happy Birthday, but a hug off Phil was what I needed, he grabbed my hand told me “I got this”.
Now all I wanted to do was finish, time never mattered just bloody finish. 2.4 miles (3.8km for any remainers) swim in Pennington flash, no worries I wasn’t nervous for this, the plan was always swim to wake up aim for an hour and don’t kill yourself chasing a time. 5 minutes to the start I’ve gone and stood with the 55 minutes swimmers in an effort to not get caught in the washing machine behind. The national anthem, what do you do? Do you sing? Stand with a hand on your chest? Opted to play with goggles. THUNDER!! THUNDER!! Good old AC/DC they really know how to start a race.
The swim went to plan near enough apart from the WWE inspired swim strokes some seem to have adopted. 1 lap down get out of the water and run taking swimmers on the run on the Australian exit the crowd is so loud, couldn’t help but wave my arms to get a reaction, Brilliant. Run off the pier and get into lap 2. This lap seemed to take forever to get to the top of the lap at the top I found myself in a big group of swimmers, it was great 10 of us all jostling down the back straight. The competition feels good a peloton of swimmers drafting taking turns at the front seeing who will put the first kick in. 200m from the swim exit I decide to kick get to the front and finish the swim strong, but this is the only time this race will feel like a race. Ironman quickly turned into survival. Got out the water in 79th 1:01 on the watch. Capable of faster but this was the plan. Wet suit rolled down to waist straight away hat off goggles off. Run. Phil stick a hand out for a high 5 I’m miles away. Platty screaming my name it’s hard not to get carried away.
T1 I take on fuel and get to the bike.
Confidence at an all-time high I get to the mount line a group of friends just next to it, this is amazing, the photo of me with no visor on I’m really that happy. Now the night before Darren joked that he hoped I had an accident on the bike so he could set an iron distance time before myself and at 10 the night before Ironman is not what you want to hear. He’s since apologized for what happened next as this was not his fault but coincidence. As everyone will have already heard me moan about I came off the bike at the second speed bump. I learned this week watching the Tour de France that you don’t feel pain for 10 seconds usually after a bike crash, this is true. I peeled myself off the floor and got to the bike signalling to others to not help a Marshall asks if I’m going to carry on and if I’ll fine. Of course I told him as I fumbled my way around putting my chain back on. I get on the bike and finally make my way out of Pennington. Down the road my sister in-law cheers me on I love that she was there with my nephew but I really didn’t want her to see the holes in my clothes that had torn or the blood coming from my shoulder not that she’d worry but I just didn’t want her to tell Mum.
Pain had now fully set in as I made my way into Bolton, great, all confidence was now gone. I’m not a cyclist, I’m hardly a runner what am I doing in this race. Thank god I can swim. For the hills I drop down to little cog and tell myself that it’s going to hurt but it will be over tomorrow and you can relax then, but for now just try and enjoy it you’ve paid to be here. I get on a flat and work through the gears feeling ok considering I try to move to big cog, bike says no. Cursing the crash. This was going to be a long day. I’d love to describe the course but I have no idea where we went. Basically, hills, potholes, hills, hills, Then the Black dog pub. Great pub people 4 deep screaming at you cycling through the middle of the crowd. Top of sheep house the masked wrestlers out in force they like my bike, I didn’t at the time. Cycling down sheep house is amazing. Much easier that way. Cycle to Bolton 1st lap done 65 miles+ in my head I’m over two hours in front of cut off. I’m having a picnic, might as well enjoy this nonsense. Pull out a ham and cheese sandwich bit warm and slightly squashed but I’ve looked forward to this. An oompa loompa strolls over clearly eyeing up the sandwich. “Alreet lad” “You’re from Wigan you should be eating pies” To his amazement I pull out three from a back pocket. That’s shut him up. Little did I know this 15 minute picnic caused an issue with my tracker much to my mum’s amusement. The second lap was horrible, I didn’t enjoy it, everything was hurting, stupid speed bump. If I got anything right on that bike it was nutrition second time at the top of sheep house, done. It’s all downhill now, Chorley road never felt so long. Made it to T2, confidence is back a check of the watch says 8 hours to finish a marathon. The race was done now nothing would stop me finishing.
First question, how’s Chris, where is he? Katie said he was doing fine but had snapped his chain. T2 grab bag take time and get ready. Full change was the right call. Harriers vest on sorted. “Alright mate can you help me out of my top I’m stuck?” course mate. “Mate can you pull my top down?” Hmm ok, no eye contact.
Just a marathon, I get out of the tent too so many familiar faces, almost everyone I knew was there, it was amazing, I thank everyone who came out and supported that day. It made the day so special to me.
Quickly I find I can’t run normally the dull ache had set in across my back and this was going to hurt. Quick deals made in head, ok run the town centre, any hills are now a walk, walk the feed stations and just keep moving forward. From seeing friends on the course to my dad running with me the first half I got finished in 2 hours, a 4 hour marathon is always good. Lap 3 my head had gone apart from the town centre everything was a walk, I knew I would finish so perhaps had lost my urgency but this was hard going. Just when I needed him though Chris, he’d caught up and was now on his second lap.
He dragged me through 4-5 miles of what should have been a walk at a relatively decent pace couldn’t ask for anything better, I’m about to finish Ironman my best friend is running next to me and I’m actually starting to enjoy myself. I run past Lucy and Mum 1 lap left!! As we take our predetermined stroll through the park Chris is playing tig and man from Chorley tri you are still it! Chris looked fresh and far be it for me to keep him he’s in this race to, so off he set down the road like a gazelle, sickening the man hadn’t trained for this one bit and he’s about to blag an iron man. What a guy. Come on Johnny, get moving, a group of friends shout until I reach a jog, can’t hide anywhere. I took a red bull and with 1 mile left I pushed, I knew that it would be over soon, I caught a small group of people all finishing we all put arms round each it was really nice. Im gunna sprint this, if I don’t I’ll walk, Bolton town centre was electric loads shouting your name. Perfect. I got to the red carpet and had to slap it, finished. Mr Kearsley you are now an Ironman!
From 20.5 stone to an Ironman yeah I’ll take that. Again a huge thank you to everyone who supported that day it was brilliant. I’m not stopping at 14:21 though.