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Ironman UK, Bolton 2013 -anything is possible!

Ironman UK, Bolton 2013 -anything is possible!

My triathlon journey has been a long one, my first one London 2003 was done as a charity challenge and the Olympic distance was completed in 3 hours and 56 minutes!

My first mid Sussex triathlon was the following year, I finished in 193rd place out of 195 with a time of 1 hour and 50 minutes!  Over the years I enjoyed the multi discipline of triathlon but never really took it seriously until I joined the MSTC last year. So enrolling to do an Ironman was a big big challenge for me!

The preparation for the Ironman had gone reasonably well up until three weeks before race day when I strained a calf muscle on a steady lunchtime run. I did not do any further exercise apart from swimming until the big day, now that's what you call tapering!!

A delayed set off and horrendous traffic meant we arrived in Bolton a lot later than expected and didn't get chance to register or attend the first timers briefing , this meant we had to do a lot more running around pre race day than expected . We did however get everything done and I enjoyed a chicken and pasta meal and was able to settled and relax in the room to get an early night! Now you would have thought that a hotel that doubles its standard rate for the Ironman weekend would not hold a wedding reception the night before hundreds of triathlete's had to rise at 4 am to complete one of the toughest endurance races going! Of course they did, two floors below our room, people outside shouting, cars hooting until after 2 am, just what you need.

Notwithstanding this race morning went well, I awoke at 4.30 am to have my usual pre training breakfast of some cereal bars, bananas and a hot mug of tea, the only plus side of the hotel was that it was a 5 minute walk from the swim start at Pennington flash, I was therefore able to put my wetsuit on in the room and walk directly to the lake.

We were ushered into the water for a prompt 6am start, I was planning to go to the back of the mass start but inadvertently found myself right in the middle of the pack, this made the first few hundred meters interesting with lots of arms and legs flailing everywhere. It did soon settle down and I managed to swim at the pace I wanted to. All the coaching I had received and the swims at Ardingly had paid off as I felt comfortable throughout the 3.8km swim and exited the lake in 94 minutes, which was around the time I had estimated.

I took my time in T1 to ensure that I was ready for what I expected would be a seven hours on the bike , the only glitch was that I had managed to lock the buttons on my Garmin and was therefore unable to get it to operate after the swim ! The bike ride started well I seemed to overtake more people than overtook me and I managed to continue doing this even when I started to eat the buffet I had prepared on my crossbar. As those of you who have completed Bolton know the main feature of the bike ride is Sheep House lane, it's bad enough the first time let alone the third, most of my training rides had been from one point to another, having to do three 50 km laps really seemed to affect my enthusiasm and I was really feeling tired by the third lap. The third climb was really tough and not wanting to do the walk of shame I kept digging in but this caused my quads to cramp a few times which was quite unpleasant. I kept the wheels turning albeit very slowly .This was further impounded by a change in the weather as torrential rain had joined the wind that was already quite strong. I was secretly hoping to finish the bike course in less than seven hours but actually finished ten minutes short of eight hours, towards the end of the ride I was really feeling fatigued and couldn't wait to reach T2 and dump my beloved bike.

I had stayed on my bike for the whole duration so I enjoyed a walk and stretch around T2 wondering where I was going to get the energy to run a marathon. As I started my run I seemed to regain my enthusiasm, running was a luxury after spending that long on the bike! I knew I still had just under seven hours to run my marathon , I kept informing myself that even I could do that ! Even in the first few miles I passed people who were already walking, I wanted to run as long as I could without having to stop, I did this for probably the first 25 km or so. After an initial point to point run there was again three 10k laps to complete, again this didn't help, knowing you still had to do the same run another two times after completing the first lap. I kept at it though and even started to believe I would now become an ironman, I started walking up the steep parts of the route, the continuous rain seemed to help and the vocal support of the locals really spurred me on! Complete strangers shouting your name really does help you along! I stopped each time at the feed stations and took on anything now, gels, drinks I had never heard of, I even drank cheap cola. I was certainly getting my money's worth ! Entering the final lap seemed to give me a new found burst of energy , my quads and calf's still felt really tight and my knee and ankle joints were hurting like hell but I know had the determination to get this over with and decided that I was not going to walk any of the last lap , I kept running even at a slow pace and felt good as I passed many people , as I turned to finish the last turn I knew I had about 5km to go , I continued running as I knew that finishing before 9pm ( 15 hours ) was possible . Even setting myself this target I did still have to have a rest and walk parts as even the downhill was hurting my knees. These breaks were short and I did run for the remainder of the race , it was such a relief to turn into the finish and hear the noise of the spectators at the finish line , although I wasn't quite expecting what confronted me , the noise , spotlights , camera flashbulbs , this was my minute of fame ! I almost felt like a celebrity! I wish now that I had savoured it more and had stopped to embrace my wife and family and walk over the line high - fiving all the kids along the finish straight, but I just wanted to get over that line and went for the grandstand finish and ran to it. I was seven minutes over the 15 hours but that was irrelevant now! I had done it , as the announcer bellowed from the sound system " Dean you are an Ironman "

So back to the Ironman's logo of anything is possible , well this time last year I never ever thought I would be able to finish an Ironman and if Dean Allen can do it anyone of YOU can do it !

Many of my fellow club members have been so instrumental in helping me achieve this goal, your advice; coaching, training and race tips, support and encouragement gave me the confidence to believe that "anything is possible ". My sincere thanks go to you all! Thanks also to those of you who have sponsored me; I have raised nearly two grand for Help for Heroes.

I also want to make special mention to Jeff Woodall who trained so hard for Ironman 2013 only to have been seriously injured in an accident two weeks before the event. Jeff would have finished a lot quicker than I did. Hope you are there next year mate!

Dean Allen

August 2013

BRAT Birmingham Triathlon

BRAT Birmingham Triathlon

Now having historically spent a fortune on pre-race hotels and then arriving "in the nick of time" to rack my bike in the morning, I observed that many triathlons have adjoining campsites, and thought this could reduce stress levels on the day. So three weeks before the race found me walking around camping shops looking at tents, discarding any that did not have enough room inside them for my bike, an exercise mat, sufficient storage space for race stuff, space for a large inflatable mattress, oh, and sleeping/living space for my long suffering wife.

After identifying the object I required, 3 days of watching and waiting on E-bay boiled down to an electronic game of chicken with my winning bid arriving 2 seconds before the auction ended. 1 x Outwell Montana 6 tent is now in my possession. Phase one of my plan was complete, phase two (going racing) could now commence.

After a leisurely drive to Tamworth, we arrived at the West Midlands Water centre in plenty of time to register on the Saturday, pitched our tent, sat back and waited 26mins for the kettle to boil via the 12v power supply. Our next door neighbours then arrived with their "charming" children, and promptly started having a domestic before striking camp and arguing about which car the kids would travel in for the journey home (and which one of them would therefore have to "put up with them").

The allure of camping was becoming clear to me.

Once they left however, things started looking up as other triathletes started arriving and comparing bikes. Take-away was planned, purchased, and consumed - and I retired to my bed which was kitted out with feather pillows and a duck down duvet (my wife does not do sleeping bags).

I awoke at 5:30am to force down my pre-race breakfast of oat bars, bananas, and fluid. By 06:10the bike was racked and I had achieved a PB in the porta-loo.

Now, whilst it is great to be on-site with zero stress, I now had everything ready with 1hr 20mins until race start. An unprecedented level of organisation for me.

Race brief followed, with a small panic when I noticed that no-one else had the same colour swim hat as me - it appears the BTF were using this event to get rid of their odd stock, and the colour bore no relation to my wave. Wetsuits were optional at 19.5 deg, but as I sink like a stone without one, I opted to keep mine on.

Everyone appeared to be organising themselves according to the swim lanes at the Dolphin, so I joined my fellow "athletes" on the far left and we got given the horn. Off I went drafting where I could and for once steering a pretty good course to the 750m buoy. Downhill to the finish line and out the water in an uneventful 27mins, but just to stop me getting too cocky, my tri suit zipper tag got caught in my wetsuit zip, and my first flap of the day began in earnest.

Problem solved in the 150m run to the bike, and my T1 began properly. Drills were OK, and another 100m run with the bike put me at the mount line.

So excited was I to be racing, I had gone about two miles before I realised my Garmin 310 was still showing timing for "T1" - so accurate pacing of my bike effort was going to be down to judgement rather than data. After about 10mins, I realised I had a shadow, and I spent the next 55mins swapping places with my new "friend" exchanging a bit of good natured banter each time. Nutrition worked well, with gels and water going down at a well-judged 15mins before the bike element ended.

The bike course itself was great with two loops of a course that has a couple of hills, but nothing too challenging. There was a very tight 90deg left hander which one guy screwed up taking out a Volvo coming the opposite way. He ended up with a dislocated shoulder, but the Volvo will need a new wing, bonnet, windscreen, and roof, as he managed to dent to break all of these on his way to the other side of the road.

Anyway, into T2 (slick drills on removing feet from shoes), and out onto the run pausing only to take on more fluid.

My biking buddy (Stuart) put on a spurt and came past me as we came out of T2, and we started our four lap run at about 7:30 pace. Each lap took us up and over a huge earth berm (about 80foot tall and 600ft long), and after the first lap I succeeded in getting ahead of Stuart. I then spent the next two laps overtaking another racer only for him to take offense and put in a spurt, so after wearing him out a bit by doing it a few times deliberately, I put in a big push and dropped him (heh, heh, heh). One more lap and we reached the finish. Big sprint, great finish, and then heard my new PB time over the tannoy - 2:22:17 - oh yes, who's the daddy.

Grabbed some water, and turned to shout encouragement for Stuart as he came into the finishing straight - I had a great race with him, and he with me.

The event was superb, the marshalls excellent, and I made some new friends - it kind of sums up triathlons.

Looking forward to racing again on the 22nd September at the Portsmouth Triathlon - closed road racing should make for a fast race! Our campsite in Southsea has already been identified - but I will be buying a kettle that boils quickly.

 

Andrew Lennox

Ironman Zurich 2013

Ironman Zurich 2013

I trained diligently for Ironman Zurich but the non-neoprene swim drained the energy reserves and also piled on the minutes.

I only took up swimming to do triathlon and I have only ever really been interested in wet-suit outdoor races. Hence, an effective leg-kick has not been developed. Lack of wetsuit did not seem to bother the top swimmers as they don't need the buoyancy.

The cycle went perfectly to plan with average pace of 20mph and heart rate average below 140 (only crept up to 145 very briefly on a couple of occasions). Terrific bike course with several spectacularly scenic sections. Combination of flats, hills and some sharp turns. Maximum speed 47 mph. This is the part that made it all worthwhile.

The run pace was conservative due to the conditions and resignation that the poor swim had destroyed Kona aspirations. Nevertheless, by mile 15 there was nothing left in the tank.

Personal best cycle of 5:31 (beating my Challenge Roth 2012 effort by 6 mins)

Worst ever swim of 1:55 (45 mins slower than expected)

Worst ever run of 5:43 (did London Marathon 3 months ago in 2:56)

Slowest ever overall finish time of 13:18

 

(These sentences are taken from an email sent to finishers after the event).

This year´s race goes down as the hardest competition ever realized in Zurich. Not only because of the heat but also because of the non-wetsuit swim which was an additional challenge for many athletes."

 

Bottom-line

Ironman Switzerland is a good race that is highly recommended (Challenge Roth by contrast is a great race...just a bit better in all ways, especially crowd-support and race management).

Lake Zurich is beautiful with clean water. Probably a very pleasant swim under normal conditions.

The cycle is terrific but has a few sharp turns combined with steep descents that could prove tricky in the wet (and it often does rain in Zurich). Lots of rules and novel ways to get in the penalty box (such as non-aerobar sections and  no-overtaking sections).

The run has several underpasses and switch-backs but lots of crowd support and feed-stations.

Jim Graham