IRONMAN

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.

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Epicman Windermere

Epicman Windermere by Darren Horrocks.

The day started by parking up in a field of sheep and sheep shit, and I noticed a lot of “run route” signs in the field, which I dismissed as “these are spare signs they are using to direct spectators to the actual run route”, I was wrong, but more on that later.

I unloaded my bike and my bag, and walked up to transition and got everything ready, and then had a lot of time to think about how badly the swim was going to go, because I really hate swimming, it sucks, for me, there is nothing worse than having to swim to start a bike/run race. What makes swimming to the start of a bike ride even worse, is swimming to the start of a swim, those words “deep water start”, are some of the worst words I know.

Despite that, the swim start to EpicMan Windermere was by far the easiest and least problematic part of the day. I swam out to the start and slowly swam in circles (I cannot tread water) for a few minutes to wait for my wave to start, and then off we went. The swim was a simple out, turn and back, very little sighting to do, so I just got on with it. I don’t know why I was so worried about the swim, I kept up with the back of my wave, and ended up getting out not-last.

Then came what I thought was going to be the easy bit, how wrong I was. I knew that 56 miles on the bike wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t know that it was going to be so hard. Just short of 6000ft of elevation according to my watch. 56 miles, and 6000ft in the wind, and, the biggest climb was the start of the loop, a loop I had to do twice. After completing the first loop, that seemingly went on forever, I knew I had it all to do again. Half way up the first climb of the second loop is the first time my head went, and I had decided I was going to go until I couldn’t turn my pedals, then get off and give up, today wasn’t my day. But I just managed to get to the top of 1.8km 10% average climb, and roll down the other side, and that was just how the next hour went, climb after climb, convincing myself I was done, and then thinking “it wasn’t that bad”.

That was until I had 5km left on the bike, and I noticed a mountain in front of me, and not a flat landscape that took me to a lake, I looked left, I looked right, the mountain stretched off beyond 5km in both directions, and then it dawned “im going over this aren’t I”. I followed the road, and a group of cyclists on a club ride ended up behind me. I turned a corner, and saw a 1km long 15% climb in front of me, and “ohh for f**ks sake” just fell out of my mouth, which was met by a lot of laughter and agreement from the club riders.

When I eventually got back to T2, my back, as well as my head had gone, I couldn’t really stand up straight or put weight on my left leg, because my back wasn’t there to support it under me. I used T2 to slowly change my shoes over and stretch off and felt slightly less terrible, so went off onto the run.

The run was 4 laps of a 5.3km course, an undulating trail course through fields, forest paths, up and down rocky climbs, and about half way round, through the sheep-shit field. At the end of the first lap, I was done, I had nothing left, I only continued onto the 2nd lap because I knew that not far into the lap, that is where the toilets where. I thought I would just carry on to the toilet and then walk back and tap out. But, from nowhere after going to the toilet, everything sort of came back to me, I had enough energy, and got rid of enough pain to be able to run the flats and down hill, and walk up hill. So I decided to carry on, and immediately caught my foot on a rock, which immediately went numb, and I thought I had broke it. It didn’t hurt to walk or run on it (that came later), so I continued. The only thing to get me round the next few laps was knowing that every time I ran past the start/finish line, my kids were waiting and shouting and wanting me to finish. I hobbled through and got to the end, in what was the toughest 7 hours and 59 minutes I have endured.

I was told during the run from another athlete, “I have done a few of these, this is the toughest one I have ever done, not only that, this is one of the toughest half marathons I have ever done, and would be on its own”. Which was later backed up by a few other people making similar comments. So while I was annoyed at not hitting the 6 hours I was initially aiming for, the day was a very tough day, and people who do this every week said it was tough too and I made it.

The lesson I have learned is, research the course next time, don’t pick one of the hardest races there are as your first one just because it’s the nearest and my head is stronger than I thought it was.

 

Granfondo Stelvio Santini

Granfondo Stelvio Santini Report by Paul Platt

The week before the Granfondo the pros went through the same part of Italy and a stage of the Giro that finished on the Gavia Pass was changed due to the risk of avalanches. This got me concerned and monitoring the Stelvio Pass. This was the reason I signed up. The long route I was entered in also had the Mortirolo pass which has a fearsome reputation with Lance Armstrong calling it the hardest climb he has faced. I watched the giro go up this and wondered if I had bit off more than I could handle and thought about changing to the medium then on the Wednesday before we travelled they confirmed the Stelvio was still full of snow and the road still closed.

The week before I went Ian Stewart serviced my bike (Thanks Ian) and suggested I swapped my 28 cassette to a 30 for the climbs. Having done Fred Whitton two weeks earlier on a 28 and etape du tour two years earlier with similar 10k and 18k climbs over mountains thought I would still with what I had…mainly due to the fact my other wheels had a 28 on also. More on this later..

Myself, my brother in law set off to Italy Friday morning in high spirits and excited for the challenge. We arrived just South of Strasbourg on Friday and went out for Pizza and drinks. Saturday morning early start and through Switzerland, this is when we started to realise why snow had kept Stelvio pass closed. Two passes in Switzerland where closed and we had to detour via a tunnel and car transporter. This got us in to Bormio around 15:00. Straight off to the expo to register. One of the rules of entry is you are given a Santini cycle top which has to be worn in the event. Me being a short arse ordered small….panic I couldn’t even zip it up 😂😂😂. I had to change it to a LARGE!! The Italians like their kits skin tight! From the expo we decided to climb some of Stelvio while we was there. We weren’t the only ones with the same idea. I got about 11km up the climb, took some photos and decided to not continue the further 11km and be fresh for the event.

Morning of the race…
Up at 5:30am for hotel breakfast, ready and roll to the start. The race started at 7 and I crossed the line about 7:15. The cut off in Bormio was 14:15 before the last 14km and the 11km climb of Cancano to the finish. 7hrs to do the 88ish miles. Sounds easy or so I thought.

First 25ish miles where mainly downhill and was averaging 28mph without any effort. The temperature started at 8c and by 9am was about 18c. I had a skin on and had to remove this on the first small climb. The first real climb came “Teligo”. It’s just under 6km at average 8.3%. I went up this with very little difficulty although it was getting hotter. The descent was lovely. Then there was a long section which brought you to a food station just before Mortirolo at 49miles. I was speaking to people on the ride and it seemed not many where doing the Mortirolo due to not wanting to miss the cut off. I arrived at the food station at 10am. I thought 2hrs up Mortirolo and still 2 hours to get to Bormio which was roughly 20miles away. What I hadn’t realised was how much Mortirolo would take out of me and from the bottom the final 40km was ALL up hill.

The Mortirolo is 11.4km, average of 10.5% and max 23%. First 5km was hard work but progressing. I then started to get cramp. I kept battling through. The cramp went. Brilliant. Around 7km it was getting harder and I was having to go into the red due to the 28 cassette to get to the hairpin and get any few seconds of rest bite I could. 9.4km in and it ramped up to 23%, I decided to hit it hard and then the guy in front unclipped right in front of me, I couldn’t get round him, I will be honest if I would have got up the 22% so far in to the climb I very much doubt it. That was it I was off, too steep to get back on until the next hairpin and then jumped on and got through the next 1.5k and I was at the top. I was broken!! I needed a 10min rest before decending the mountain, I didn’t fancy trying 6mile of mountain decending without a clear mind. At the bottom I went into the food station and then 5 mins later was off on the final 40k uphill to the end. I got to Bormio at 14:10 wow that was close. Mortirolo and the around 30km climb to Bormio with the now 28c weather had put me in a dark place. I started the Cancano climb and at a drinks station looked up….all I could see was switch back after switch back up the mountain to some towers about 4 mile away which I knew was near the finish. For the first time in any event including marathons, ultras, Ironman’s and other events I was VERY close to quitting. I knew it was only 4 mile away but I could get my head around how I could climb that last section of the mountain. I sat having a drink next to a Columbian. With my broken Spanish I said “muy difícil” and “estoy no bien”…translating this is very difficult and I am not good. He laughed and then he said in English “I think I am finished”. We agreed we where finished and then I said “shall we try a few switch backs together”. He surprisingly said “yes”. So we set off and then on the switch backs I felt better. I came in the finish and I had completed. What an event. It tested me to my limits!! I road back down the mountain and on to the hotel to have a few drinks.

Ironman Mallorca 70.3

Apologies the publisher is running very late!!

Ironman Mallorca 70.3 race report….

I love cycling in the sun, I don’t mind hills and I’d long since decided that the half Ironman distance is the event for me….doable at my current level of training, no killing myself on the day, just enjoying a good solid half-day’s training with a medal and food at the end! What more could you want?
So a few years ago when I found myself spectating at Mallorca Ironman 70.3 during a cycling holiday, I decided I’d like to come back and do it one day.
And I’m so glad I did!

A friend (also competing) and I flew over and arrived in Alcúdia late Wednesday evening. We had a few glasses of wine, deciding sensibly to refrain for the next couple of nights, and got a relatively early night. Thursday was a busy day: first registering for the event and collecting the necessary transition baggage, stickers and touring the expo, then picking up our bikes, returning briefly to the hotel to change into cycling gear and then squeezing in a quick 25 mile loop up the coast to check out bikes were ok. Following lunch in Puerta Pollença and a lovely photo opportunity in Cala San Vicente, we returned to Alcúdia for a quick dip in the sea to acclimatise. It was much warmer than 3 sisters!

The following day, we had to rack bikes at 3pm and collect our timing chips from transition. This also involved packing the aforementioned transition bags with everything we’d need for the race. Stressful! Made a couple of rookie errors like walking 2 miles in flip flops and forgetting factor 50, but once everything was securely in transition it was feet-up time around the pool.
Race day morning was a 5:30am start for the special early breakfast the hotel put on for athletes. Apart from thinking porridge was a bowl of jumbo oats covered in boiling water, the rest of the offerings were substantial enough to fuel us for the next few hours, and off we went to the start, stopping briefly at transition to put nutrition on bikes.

There was a warm up opportunity prior to the start, so I had a little swim in the sea, and got my usual pre-race nerves and worries that my wetsuit was restricting me (memories of previous experiences rearing their heads). A quick rearrangement around the shoulders and I was ready to go.
The rolling start at Ironman events makes for a more civilised swim entrance, unlike the scary ‘washing machine’ fist fight in a mass start. I managed to get some great drafting, and coupled with millpond-like sea conditions produced my best swim ever. Sub-32 minutes, I thought I’d read the number wrong on my watch!

Into T1, quick drink of water, carried bike shoes with me as my bike was racked at the opposite end of the longest transition in the world (fact!) and onto the bike to start the course with a fast flat 15 miles to the foot of the climb. This consists of a 7 mile uphill, with I think an average gradient of about 5.5%. Not steep, but blimmin long! Following a technical descent with several switchbacks to contend with, the rest of the course is relatively flat, and if you haven’t burned your legs out on the climb (I did), should be pretty fast (I wasn’t!).

I was absolutely desperate to get off the bike, I always am, but having done very little on the bike this year I felt this event really found me out. After what seemed like an eternity, I was back in Alcúdia and quite happy to chuck said bike in the nearest skip. Instead I racked it back where it belonged and quickly headed out onto the run.

By this time the temperature had risen considerably, but conditions were helped by a slight breeze and lots of water stations. The run is a 3-lap route along the coast road, past the raucous beach party of support, then ending on the beach along the famous Ironman red carpet, where you hear your name on the loud speaker announcing ‘you are an Ironman’ (whether it’s a full or not haha!). Pretty uneventful run, managed to keep moving forward and eventually cross the line in just over 6 hours.

Swim 31:55
T1 6:02
Bike 3:33:13
T2 3:47
Run 1:54:46
Total 6:09:43

All in all, a superb event and a great location. Definitely recommend as a warm-weather option, and can also be done as a relay!

 

Ultimate Half Iron by Chris Green

UK Ultimate Half race report by Chris Green

After having man flu and lurgy all week I wasn’t really expecting much from UK ultimate half tri. Feeling crap and sick in the car I wasn’t looking forward to it.

Transition all set up wetsuit on pretty pink cap covering the battle braids walked down to the start to thunderstruck Jonathon going mental shook my hand and that’s last I saw of him until the run.

I placed myself at the back of the pack on the left as had to keep all buoys on right, we got acclimatised and I could still stand up but water up to my neck, after 3 or 4 mins we were away. Slow and rubbish start for me as I couldn’t get my head into it at all, the water was just deep and green. It took me half a lap to calm down and sort my head and breathing out. First lap done in 25 mins and out the water, little run with pressure on to make sure I nailed the dive with all the women watching about to start. That was probably the fastest 100m I swam trying to get a bit of a lead before the women came. It wasn’t long before I got swam over by lots of yellow caps but it gave me feet to try and follow and I was much happier with my second lap and did it under 24 mins total swim 48:26 total time, not a bad transition considering the distance from the water to bikes under 6 mins before out on the bike.

The bike course was amazing. The first half was slightly down hill and second half slightly up but more rolling than climbs, it was easy to stay on aero bars and never been happier to have di2 just flicking through gears. Easily think I could of pushed harder but happy with 3:05 for the bike distance.

Second transition was under 3 mins and as I was putting my shoes on I heard Jonathon shouting at me that he had done his first of 3 laps.

Out on the run the plan was to just go out at steady 8 min miles and see if my chest would let me just run, it seemed to work for the first 4 miles with a hi 5 to Jonathon as we went past each other. Taking the micky out of the St. Helens tri guy and the Warrington road runner there was friendly banter on the first lap and a hi5 to Jonathan on the second, then I made a friend from tri force in sterling and ran with her for the end of second lap and most of the 3rd with my pace slowing all the time. A bad stitch and unable to breathe I walked the water stations as the water was in cups. I wanted was half marathon under 2 hours and I got it with a 1:55 and Jonathan cheering me on. I ran under the finish stopped watch 5:57:58 really happy with that as epic man last year was 7:15 finish time! Jonathan finished in 5:12 28 mins swim 2:48 for the bike and 1:44 for the run so about 12 mins in transitions.