Monday, August 2, 2010

IM UK Race report

Well Ironman No. 3 is done and dusted. I've made this report a bit longer as people have complained the previous Im reports were a bit short ; ) Ironman UK has moved location recently and this was the second year it has been held in Bolton and the surrounding area. We initially wanted to do Challenge Copenhagen but got seduced by the chance of a Hawaii Ironman slot (not on offer at Copenhagen) and went for the two-for-the-price-of-one (training build) and planned on doing both races. When you arrive in Bolton and have a look around - the first thing you think is “bloody weird place to have an Ironman”. Many of the youth look like they are hoping for some impending violence and if there isn't any maybe you would like to be part of some? The town centre is quite nice though, well planned with large pedestrian only streets and there were some nice country-sides in the area that we would ride through.

After Vanessa had her accident two days before the race it really changed the mood of the whole trip. So many questions were up in the air. Vanessa decided to check in her gear and decide after an easy run and swim the day before the race. We were worried about a host of things, but foremost was getting hit and infection on the swim, falling on the technical bike course and the jarring and increased inflammation on the run. She has about 8 stitches in her lips and gums. We hired a car (one day too late) and the lady in the local car hire store was tying to be kind but in the Northern English way we were becoming accustomed too was a bit too kind - “Oh you're really black and blue aren't you dear. Your face really is all swollen isn't it - what a pity.” Looks at drivers licence - “Oh that's what you should look like you were such a pretty thing weren't you dear” Ness is struggling to hold in tears - “Oh you're a bit upset about it aren't you dear - I can see that, I imagine you would be wouldn't you”. Husband walks in the office - “Oh John look at the poor mischief that happened to this lovely girl – and look at her photo here on her licence such a difference isn't it”. You'll get back to looking like tat don't mind dear”.....I was sitting there biting my lip thinking “Just shut the F&$# Up ad give us the keys!”. Anyway once we got in the car some impersonations gave us our first giggle since the accident.

Our ironguides coach Alun Woodward (Woody) was fantastic throughout the whole ordeal, we spoke on the phone several times and he really went the extra yard for us. We feel so fortunate to lucked upon having him as our coach – all the training schedules are enjoyable and acheivable, we don't have to do crazy volume or be tied to devices, he's flexible for us to add our own input into our race schedule, always talks great sense, seems to be right all the time and knows more about how to train, and race triathlons than anyone I've ever met. He was on the UK national tri team so knew one of he organisers and spoke with him to try and get Vanessa her own guided canoe in the swim to prevent getting elbowed or hit. The organiser spoke with us, but rejected it due to not having enough canoes (35 seemed like plenty to me though...) they did agree to give her a pro swim cap so she could start 20 metres ahead of the pack and stay 10m wide of the pack.

Race morning and Vanessa's swelling had gone down somewhat and she was going to give I a go and drop-out if things went bad. The swim cap never eventuated but 30 minutes before the race Vanessa was approached by some of the medical staff strongly recommending she didn't race due to the risk of algae and infection from birds that live in the Lake. They wanted to make sure we weren't going to sue if she got an infection. Knowing Ness eats about 3 kg s of fruit and vegetables a day, hasn't had a cold in over 15 years and was on antibiotics, I thought is was worth the risk. Ten minutes to the start and another medic was telling Ness not to race, and she was almost going to pull out. Not an ideal prep. She entered to water for the 200m swim to the start (really!). But had to withdraw due to hypothermia after one lap.

Swim 54mins

My swim went OK, just about latched on to the front pack but couldn't maintain it and dropped back to stay with the second pack. Felt like I was swimming at an easy level and drafter more than I normally do. After really enjoying the swim recently this one was pretty horrible. The Lake was cold and I couldn't stop worrying about Vanessa, doubting recommending her to start. Just that the medics she was approached by were overweight and I didn't think they understood how so many infections occur to people who are unhealthy in the first place. Anyway exited the water and saw the clock on the way out saying 53 minutes and thought – that felt easy, and – no way I can swim 53 minutes that easy it must have been short. It was.

Bike 5.45
The bike course was tough and slow. There were some hills but nothing crazy, just one long one we had to do three times. The road surface was poor with chip seal roads, lots of tight turns and some traffic too. I started with a group on road bikes and they would take off on the hills and I'd take over them on the flats. They took off when we reached the first big hill. I was trying to ride easy, had my Garmin to show just cadence, distance and time, but I hardly looked at it. Couldn't find a good group to ride with for the first lap – one guy passed me on a tri bike but he was really racing hard sprinting out of corners and flying down descents. We stayed together for a bit but he was not a great riding mate. At one stage there was a barrier across half or our side of the road and a Marshal standing next to it. I thought the barrier was to stop cars and when I got near it the Marshall (whose job was to direct people) didn't point to the left so I went to the side of the barrier and kept going straight. He then called out I as supposed to go left. I thought “I shouldn't expect everyone to behave like Japanese – had it been Japan there would have been four Marshalls and all four pointing to the left as if their life depended on it. This 6'4” jolly but dlightly dopey looking English bloke obviously thought the plastic barrier was going to do his job for him and was a bit too much bover to point to the left.

Eventually I came across Bella Bayliss (female favourite who won past 2 IMUK and 15 x IM winner) and a coupe of guys and we did the rest of the bike together. Bella got a few hometown girl calls from the Marshalls as she skipped into the wrong side of the road and sticking a bit too close to the other rider right in front of the Marshall before he rode off. I went through a tough patch between 120-15kms, but came out of it (thanks to a packet of salt and vinegar chips) and finished feeling strong.

Run 3.45
Onto the run and as I'd bike pretty easy was feeling great. The first (fateful) 5 kms was cross country out and back with lots of mud and big puddles. I had been warned by Woody several times not to go out hard and run at 3:15 marathon pace (4:35-40 min/km). This is really where I made the biggest mistake of the day. I though I was running about that pace, but the lead Agers coming back on the loop were running so much faster than me, and the guys I got off the bike with were running away fro me too (except Bella – she wisely let the rest of us run off). As the track was so uneven I didn't get to look at my watch much and kept having to leap over puddles which lifted the pace a bit. I didn't realise I had run that section so quick until I finished the race and spoke to Vanessa who had earlier spoke to Woody who had been – umm – disappointed... Wish they didn't publish that split on IM live as have been reminded of it by several people = ). And I didn't disappoint them with a crap last 15kms. Bella Bayliss came up to me about 15kms in and I ran the next 7kms with her and her minder on the bike. The marathon course goes right into the finish chute in front of Bolton town Hall about 20 kms in and there were a couple of thousand people there going crazy cheering for Bella, so tat was a real buzz.
A couple of kilometres out of the town hall there was a long climb and I started to crack. Those first 5kms had come back to bite me. I finished with a run/walk/depressed feeling. The IM run is really just about survival. Got some great support from Anne from the Tokyo Triathlon group - “Come on Bevan you can do it you're the beast”. I was feeling more like a pussy at that stage but it was great support all the same and gave me a lift. I thought I had paced the day perfectly, had nailed my nutrition, hydration and taken plenty of salt but was still melting down on the back-end of the marathon. Just not cut out for Ironman I thought. Finding out about the pace I ran the first 5kms was almost a relief as it gave me something to work on. The finishing chute is really the highlight of this race and I was stoked Whit Raymond was announcing, most like Mike Riley, but for me the “You're an Ironman” thing is a wank and Whit is the best in the business for me and can't believe his endless energy. The after party was also the roll own, but I was 15th in my AG and the top 3 all took their slots. I was surprised to find out I would have got a slot had I been in the 40-44. But didn't deserve one anyway.

All in all it was an event we won't look back on fondly. I did not know what had happened to Vanessa until I finished and couldn't see her on course so knew she'd dropped out and spent the whole race worrying about her and wondering what happened to her. The race overall is not one I'd recommend to friends. Not really where one would normally choose to holiday – the race was a bit too spread out – parking, expo, T1, T2, finish and pasta/post race party were all in different places, the organisers were trying to save cash – the bike mechanics were on site only the day before the race and they charged us 10 pounds for ten minutes work (never been charged by a race mechanic before), post race food and after-party food were poor, the drinks at the after party were left over pepsi, gatorade and water - which we were all sick of the sight of, we got a finsher's hat – you had to buy a T shirt. But enough complaining probably not in the best state of mind at the moment. 53rd out f 1,100 is not too bad and even if I ran well I still wouldn't have qualified my AG was especially tough this year for some reason. Onto Copenhagen in two weeks to make amends, hope I am able to recover and Vanessa is able to get some success on the board after all her hard work.


  1. Thanks Bevin, a truly dashing write up... Where did you get the salt and vinegar crisps? I feel homesick. Not!!! Go and crush Copenhagen with Vanessa. A gem of a city with a natural paleo palette.

  2. Who is the chip monk in the QR wetsuit?