August 26, 2014 | Posted in:General

Below I will try and succinctly outline my experiences during the run up to and during the IMUK 2014 in which I beat my Personal Best!!!

Friday consisted of going to the Ironman UK Registration Tent at the Reebok (sorry Macron) Stadium in Bolton and registering which basically involves picking up my ‘free’ backpack with my numbers etc. in there. At this point I also broke the cardinal rule of purchasing some new Goggles and Socks to wear on the Sunday. I also brought some race nutrition in the form and Guu Roctane Gels and Salt Stick Tablets. Oh and some new Chamois cream which is a must.

I then went back to Pennington Flash for a quick dip and swam around the much reduced course that they set up to test out the new goggles and to remind myself of the key places to sight during the swim so that I can run through this visually throughout the remainder of the weekend. I also made an effort to simulate making my way from the water to T1; again to help visual the process and to make sure there are no surprises for me in store on the day. I then made may way back to the Macron Stadium to attend the Race Brief which doesn’t really give you too much in the way of information that your shouldn’t already know but, for me anyway, it helps to set the stall for the remainder of the weekend and is a good source of motivation.

This is the lightest day for me in many senses of the word. After eating all of the food that I want to on the Friday, trying to stick to healthier type Carbs, I try to eat light snacks throughout the day so that my stomach never feels too full during the day.

The day consisted of packing my Transitions Bags, which I find can be one of the most stressful things to do as you are constantly second guessing yourself and pack and un-packing your bags to make sure that you haven’t forgotten anything or you have enough nutrition and ‘aides’ in the bag that you may or may not need on the day.

Once this is done it was a matter of making my way to T1 in Pennington Flash and T1 at the Macron Stadium and racking my bike and leaving my T1 and T2 bags behind. I then made my way home and chilled out enjoying my traditional glass of red wine the night before.

I woke up early feeling engerised and fine in myself that I had done all the preparation I could to make it to the start line feeling confident. I made sure to get to the Transition in plenty of time and took my time making sure to leave it as late as possible before going into the water as experience told me that you don’t want to be in the water too long, but you don’t want to leave it too late as there are always people streaming into the water as the hooter sounds! So far so good…

I decided that I would start at the front of the group as I am confident of being in the hustle and bustle of the ‘mosh pit’ that is the mass start of the swim. The hooter sounded and I decided to go for it in the first hundred metres or so to give myself a bit of space. That was until someone knocked my goggles off during the first 25 metres forcing me to swallow what felt like half of the Flash and started me off on what felt like a panic attack.

I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t put my head under the water, I was wading in a sort of breaststroke type fashion with a mass of 2,000 people swimming right over the top of me. I thought that I was done! I mean really done, I couldn’t swim, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe. I must admit that for a split second I did think of quitting, I very small split second!

Then I started to think about all of the effort I had put in during my training and the effort my family and friends who where there watching me had made and I decided that I could carry on regardless. I had to start front crawling very slowly breathing every stroke on the same side for a couple of minutes and then every other stroke until I could resume my normal stroke. I did this halfway down the first straight before getting into my usual rhythm. Once I got into my rhythm I took my time for the rest of the two laps, drafting wherever I could and generally going with the flow. Upon finishing my second lap I was happy with my 1hr21 swim time, especially after the start that I had.

As a learn from this I would not recommend getting into the thick of the action at the start of the swim unless you are confident that you are going to record a fast time (sub-1hr). Also, if you do find yourself in trouble the worst thing that you can do is panic, just take you time, change up to breaststroke if you need to and slowly put yourself back into your rhythm. You have put too much effort in to quit at this point!!!!

T1 was completely as expected, I knew where my Bag was, where the chairs were for getting changed and putting my shoes on and ultimately where my Bike was. I think that this was from reshersing this on the Friday after the Swim and on the Saturday after racking my Bike. Make effort to reherse this and continue to run through it mentally over the weekend. These are the simple things that make your day so much smoother and let you get off to a relaxed start on the bike.

I set off nice and easy on the bike, and continued to do so for the first out and half a lap (about 40miles) feeling really strong and overall I felt good. My nutrition was spot on to plan and I aimed to drink 1.5 litre of liquid per hour which is a bit over the top but it was extremely hot on the day (for the North of England anyway) and somebody as big as me needs to drink, drink and drink some more when conditions are like that. I did start to tire and flag on the back end of the second lap but this was due to the heat and the hilly undulating course (one of the Pro’s said that this was a 30 mins slower course than last year due to the hills) but kept my heart rate down and maintained a steady cadence whenever I could and made it to the end of the bike pretty much intact and looking forward to getting off the bike and starting the run.

My aim before the event was to try start the run with 9 hours or less on the clock. I did so in 09:01:16 which I’ve got to be pretty happy with on a tough Bike Course in tough conditions. The aim from there was to beat my PB of just under 14 hours which I knew would be pretty difficult considering the heat. The marathon course is a tough drag and is by no mean flat! One good and bad thing is the repeated three 6 mile(ish) laps at the end. They are good in the fact that there is a massive concentration of the spectators watching the event who make a hell of a lot of noise. The they are bad in the sense that you can see the athletes infront of you with 3 of the arms bands that you collect on the completion of each lap before you have even started your second lap!! There are also plenty of aid stations on the Run which provide a good array of the nutrition that you need.

Overall I beat my PB which was all I really ever wanted to do and am really proud of my achievements. Also, I raised over £1,000 for my chosen charity Scope which I am immensely proud of!!!

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