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!