Injured

Before I start, I’m not some elite athlete whose livelihood revolves around triathlon, I’m just some guy who enjoys the training and taking part in triathlons.

Since the New Year, I’d really got my mojo back. As I touched on in my last post, its took me a fair while to get rid of the Iron Man hangover but I’d done it, and was working towards my main race this year, IM Austria. I’ve got a few other bits and bobs in there as well, but that was the A race for this year.

I said “was” because about 2 ½ weeks ago, I was in the gym with my trainer doing some core and weight work. Nothing heavy, just some reps to keep my strength ticking over. Felt fine, did the first 15 reps ok, had a quick recovery and was onto my second set when at about the sixth one, I felt something go pop in my back. I’ve never had any back trouble so this was something new, and it hurt like hell, and believe me, the rest of the gym knew about it as I launched the weight at my trainer, swore at the top of my voice and hobbled off. Whilst the initial pain was in my back, the pain was now all down my right leg, I couldn’t put any weight on it at all. It was a really strange pain, whilst it really hurt, it was more of a tingling sensation, a sort of cross between cramp and pins and needles. I managed to hobble about and get some feeling back into it, tried to stretch but it was just too painful. Fortunately, my wife was in the gym so she was able to drive me home, and on the way out, a mate gave me a number of a local chiropractor and I booked myself in for the next day. Got my lad to go to the chemist for the largest dose of anti inflammatory pills he could legally buy and just tried to rest as well as I could.

The chiropractor was one of those typical converted house type surgeries, so when it was my turn, I shuffled in leaving everyone else in the old lounge. The radio was on some sort of easy listening channel, but I didn’t really care too much for them playing “Dont fear the Reaper”. Anyway, explained what I did and where it hurt so got asked to get on the bed, which was at right angles to the floor, which was a new one on me. Just got told to face it, hold on and I got electrically moved into position, nice touch. Soon was getting prodded and poked, and got told to move onto my side, knees up a little so she could lean over me and manipulate my back.

“Thats fine, now breath in, and out.”

“In and out.”

“In and…..”

“SHHHIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTT”

On my last in or out, I’ve forgotten which now, she pushed onto my back, there was an almighty crack and I swore very loudly. So loudly that unless Motorhead was on the radio playlist at full volume, anyone waiting in the lounge will have heard it, and perhaps be a tad unnerved.

“I wasn’t expecting that.” I croaked.

“I know, cos if you were, you wouodnt have let me.”

Fair point I guess. I managed to hobble out and drive home but it hurt like mad down my right leg. It was a constant throbbing and no amount of tablets seemed to help. I went another couple of times that week and whilst it made the movement better, the pain was still there, and while the pain was still there, I was really struggling to sleep.

The main concern was a lack of movement in my right foot. If she applied any pressure on it, I couldn’t fight against it and my foot went all wobbly, so not really ideal for running. It actually made me even more clumsy than I am now, I’d tripped up a few times during the week because I just couldn’t lift my foot so she suggested I get a scan. Fortunately, I’ve got private health which without discussing the politics of it, helps enormously in speeding this kind of thing up. The chiropractor wrote me a referral note, which I took to my GP on the Friday whilst I was getting some extra strength pain killers. I was booked in to see a specialist on the Saturday morning and had my scan the following Monday.

The specialist seemed a decent chap. He seemed to confirm everything the chiropractor had previously said but then said something that worried me

“Once we’ve got the scans back, we’ll have a better idea of what to do. I think you’re in the grey area between rest making it better or opening you up, but don’t worry, I’m not knife happy so hopefully it wont come to that.”

Knife happy??!! Shit, that thought hadn’t even crossed my mind, I was only interested in when I could start training again.

I think that was when it actually started to sink in that this was a reasonably bad injury, and the likelihood of doing much this year wasn’t good. As I’m typing this, I should have been in the 10k at Oulton Park, next week the duathon at the same venue and the following week the Wilmslow Half Marathon. Then there was the Wilmslow sprint tri, the half iron at Stafford and my main one, IM in Austria. I’ve accepted this month has gone, and tried to convince myself if I can get right this month, then maybe I could have a stab at Austria, but its leaving it far too late. I’ve not trained in 3 weeks now, cant see myself back within the next 2 at best and even if that happened, I’d have about 9 weeks to get myself ready and I’d end up rushing through the training, possibly aggravating the injury again. At the end of the day, I do this for fun, the events will still be there next year, and I just need to get myself right. Doesnt change how gutted I feel though.

I’d got my plans and expectations all done for the events this year. I’m never going to be troubling anyone at the sharp end of the races I’m in, I just do them to test myself, and I guess this is just another test in a way. I had all my timings in my mind set out that I wanted to achieve, but they’ll still be there next year. I guess the one silver lining is that I don’t have to get up at 6 in the morning to do a quick run, or go into the garage to do an hour on the turbo while the wife watches the soaps. And I don’t smell of chlorine permanently. I’m jealous of watching people out running and on their bikes as I’m driving past, but guess thats just human nature. Once I get my results back, hopefully it’ll be just rest for a while, and then once I can do some exercise, do it gently. There’s enough races next year, and if it means me missing this year to be right for next year, then so be it. At least I wont have the IronMan hangover I had this Winter. I’m already planning next year, what races I want to do and this time, I’ll be better prepared as I’ll be able to appreciate better what I’m doing as its been taken away from me this year.

Ironman Hangover

When I first did this blog, I’d read quite a few others, and in a good percentage of them, as soon as the target event had been done, there was a huge gap between blogs. I remember thinking, that wont happen to me, I’ll be able to keep it up no probs.

So, 6 months after my last entry…….

In my defence, I’ve been busy sorting my house out. We had to move out for repairs that we were told would take up to 16 weeks, we finally moved back 18 months later so most of the end of last year was took up with sorting various contractors. Its pretty much done now, but as I’m typing this, the drive is still awash with vans.

The one thing that I’d read about was the Ironman hangover. I sort of touched on it in my last blog all those months ago, but in reality, it lasted a good few months. I kept thinking I’d shook it and I’d got back into the routine of some training, but it never really happened, I ended up having more comebacks than Frank Sinatra. Its a really strange feeling. The idea of doing an Ironman had really pretty much took over my thinking for 12 months. The preparation and training, trying to fit another hour swim or turbo in when I could and not having to do it gave me a really empty feeling. I really enjoyed the year, and felt so much better for it, both physically and mentally. Its something that I did, on my own and on the day, it was just me. Yes, the spectators and family give you all the encouragement that they can, but the only one who drags their body round the course is you, and nobody will ever be able to take that away. Once its done, where to next? Not having the routine or an aim proved quite a struggle for me. Add a couple of holidays into the inactivity/recuperation period, then Christmas, and I’d soon put on some timber, and at my age, its not that easy to get it off. So when I finally dragged my arse into gear, it was quite hard work.

I thought my base fitness would count for something, but I was seriously surprised at how quickly I’d lost both my endurance and what little speed I had. I was doing 3 mile runs that just a few months ago were a warm up, now I was blowing at the end of them. That might have been the thing that shocked me into getting myself sorted, there was no way I was going back to how I was a few years ago. I started on the turbo, managed a few swims and kept plugging away on the runs. Its took about 6 weeks, but now I’m feeling a lot better. I’ve done 5k worth of swims each week for the past 4 weeks, turbo about 3 times a week and hit 10 miles on the runs a couple of times. I’ve still got quite a way to go, but its a start, and I seem to have got rid of my Ironman hangover at last.

IronMan….The aftermath

I’ve not done any updates here after IMUK as firstly I’ve been away, and secondly I just wanted to see what the aftermath was really like. There were three things that probably surprised me most.

Firstly was how tired I felt in the days after IMUK. That was something that nobody mentioned, and it really hit me. I can only describe it as being similar to jetlag, but it took me the best part of a week to fully recover and get back to normal. I didn’t expect to sleep much the night after finishing. Having loaded myself up with all sorts of sweet and caffeinated stuff during the day, coupled with the adrenalin still pumping round , I think I finally got off at about 2 in the morning. Bearing in mind the lack of sleep the night before due to the early start and nerves, I guess I should have expected some tiredness, but I just wasn’t quite prepared for that.

Secondly, was the aches and pains, or to be perfectly honest, the lack of them. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t leap out of bed on Monday morning and do a 5 mile cool down run but they were no where near how I expected them to be. Yes my legs were a little stiff, but that was it. I just put on my compression trousers from 110% playharder that come with pockets to fit the supplied ice packs and that was it. By Monday evening they were fine, the only ache was the pins and needles sensation I had in my left hand, which I’m guessing was down to the pain in my shoulder during the race. That has taken quite a while to go away to be honest, but googling the problem, it seems a common ailment.

Lastly, was the Ironman blues. I’d read about this, where you’re on a real downer after the event and didn’t think I’d suffer from it, but I did, and for a while. I guess the problem is it has took pretty much the last 6-9 months of your life, be it training or whatever, and the high you get finishing it is just that, a real high but you do come down from it and come down with a crash. I felt pretty useless that first week afterwards. I didn’t have any training, no focus on anything and adding the tiredness in, I was pretty grumpy with everyone. The lack of a routine didn’t help. I didn’t have to be up early to get out for a run, or get to the pool for a certain time for my swim, I just plodded around. It almost felt like my best mate had moved away, there was something missing. As I’d read about it, I was sort of prepared for it, but even so, it was a strange feeling.

Fortunately, we’d arranged to go away for a few days the week after, and then we had a full 2 weeks away with the family in Portugal. The few days away was spent in Wales. I took my running stuff as its pretty much my favourite place to run, but I could only motivate myself to get out the once, and even then it was an easy 6/7 miler. Didn’t feel comfy doing it, and didn’t really enjoy it, so I didn’t do it again, and even promised my wife I wouldn’t take my running gear away to Portugal which I did at the time through gritted teeth, but in hindsight, it was the best thing I could’ve done. I had a full 2 weeks just sat in the sun, doing nothing and completely relaxing which recharged everything. There were days when I wanted to go for a run, but I couldn’t so no matter how much I wanted to, I just had to sit there. I did a little bit of swimming, but nothing major so I came back pretty much ready to start over again.

This is my first week back doing any sort of training. Monday I went to the gym for an hour with my PT. It was probably quite a light session, but the squats and core took their toll. Tuesday, I had a brief 45 minute on the Wattbike, really just to loosen up the legs that were a little stiff from the gym the day before. And today, I went out on the bike for the first time since IMUK. Only did about 30km but it felt good, and when I got back, I put my running shoes on and did an unplanned 5km run on top of it which felt great.

So, hopefully, I’ve got my mojo back now. I’m in the South Manchester Sprint tri in September, which is the same course as the Wilmslow Sprint so I’m going to aim for that. There’s also a few other events about that I fancy just to keep me ticking over. I have got plans for next year, but that will involve a chat with the wife and probably a new handbag but will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Malcolm, you are an Ironman

So you spend a few hundred quid a year before the actual event, then spend the months leading up to it getting up at daft o’clock to get a few extra miles in on the bike or run, lock yourself away in a room on the turbo for hours on end, feel constantly hungry, for what? A day of pain and torture, competing in whatever weather is thrown at you and 30 seconds of glory running down the finishers chute, is it really worth it? Oh yes!!

My IMUK experience started on the Friday as I went up to the Macron Stadium to register and attend the first race briefing. Not having done anything like this before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was so smooth. Give the helper your race number, she gives you a form. While you’re signing your life away on it she disappears into the racks and brings you out am IMUK rucksack. In it are your race numbers, 3 bags, a race program, swim hat and some other bits and bobs. While she’s giving you that, you also get your wrist band with your race number, and once that’s on, you become an athlete, an ironman in waiting. This gets you access to athlete only areas and also means you only wear short sleeve shirts until the race so everyone around sees the band and knows that you are in the IMUK race.

I had a quick mooch around the IronMan merchandising, which given the costs of entry, I thought was quite reasonable. I also had a look around the other stands in the expo, and picked up a bike cover from the Powerade stand to cover the bike in transition once I’d dropped it off.

Then, it was off to the briefing. As there was two, I thought it would be a reasonable split between the two, but it felt like everyone was in this one. Whilst they had a serious message to get across, it wasn’t too overbearing, particularly when they said something like 1600 out of the 2000 were first time IronMan racers. Made me feel a whole lot better, and I’m sure it was the same for alot of others around me. I hope I’m not the only one who did this, but I couldn’t help looking around at everyone, eyeing them up and trying to think if they looked like they’d done more or less training than me, looked fitter or just generally looked like they knew what they were doing. To be fair, there was quite a mixed bag, some obvious first timers, some who’d done a few full distance races and a handful of Mr Universes so looked like it should be ok for Sunday. Getting out of the Macron car park after the briefing was a nightmare so I just had another look at the Expo, grabbed a drink and eventually set off when the traffic had cleared abit more.

Saturday was always going to be a messy, long day as had to deposit gear at T1 and T2 and also had my two little ones doing the Ironkids. Drove into the centre of Bolton with the kids, parked up and soon got a taste of the atmosphere. Could hear the commentator on the Ironkids and there was groups of parents with kids in their green, Ironkids shirts. My 5 year old was off at 1145, and 3 year old at 1220 and by 1115 the heavens had opened. Fortunately, it was still quite warm so me and the other IMUK competitors could wear t shirts to show off our athlete band to everyone else, and those that didn’t could use the IMUK rucksack. To be fair to IronMan, they put on a really well organised event, the biggest of its kind apparently and it ran so smoothly, which was a common theme of the weekend for me. They even had Craig Alexander there starting the races, handing out some of the medals and just generally being there. My 5 year old had her picture took with him, even though she hasn’t got a clue who he is, or what he’s done. The two little ones both had the same run, a 500 metre jog with Dad around the Town Hall and up the finishing chute for their medal. The oldest was a little nervous but once the helpers got everyone doing some warm ups before hand, she got into it and tore off around the track. The youngest wasn’t keen at all and had to be carried round by Dad, who was being extra careful not to slip in the wet and put himself out of the race the day after. After we were all reunited and medals were shown, we went our separate ways, kids and mum home to refuel after their Ironkids and dad to park his equipment.

First stop was the Macron again. This was to dump the red transition bag that had the running gear so a nice easy, quick drop and back in the car to Pennington Flash where the swim would be and T1. The weather had picked up abit by now but because of the numbers of people at the Flash, the overflow car park on the grass was being used, and it was getting quite muddy. I got the bike out and waded through the mud and water towards T1. I knew they’d want me to put my helmet on as I went in, but it didn’t stop me not doing it and having to get to the bottom of my transition bag to find it. Bag repacked and into T1 where you had your picture took on entry with the bike and numbers showing, presumably for security. I found my rack, row E about half way down and hung my bike up, then had a brief wrestle with the bike cover to keep the elements off it overnight. Into the tent to dump the blue bag with the cycling gear and on the way out, pick up the timing chip. All done, all very easy and all very real now.

Back home to see my Ironkids and it was feet up, carb up and hydrate. Bed by 9 and to be fair, probably managed to get to sleep by 1130, only to woken at 230 to my Ironman alarm.

This is it, this is what you’ve been doing all this shit for for the past 6 months, just believe and you can do it. Everything was ready so downstairs and made myself the traditional IronMan breakfast, porridge, banana and coffee. Was hard work spooning it down but it was needed so made short work of it. Last time I was eating at this time in the morning, it would have been something considerably spicier with a large amount of liquid sloshing about inside me, but I’m a changed man now, hopefully. Sneaked out of the house so as not to wake anyone and off I went. First thought was it was foggy, where’s that come from? Then after what felt like no time, I was back at the Macron parking the car.

I’d arranged to get the shuttle bus provided by Ironman down to the Flash, so parked up, walked down to the bus, got on and it set off, again, all very smooth. Another thought came into my head about the last time I’d been on a bus at this time. Probably was the same time I’d been eating at this time but it would have been the all night 263 to Altrincham coming home from Rockworld in Manchester, times have changed abit.

By the time we’d been dropped off at the Flash and wandered over to T1 it was about 430. Had some space either side so quickly got my bike sorted with the drinks and nutrition for the ride. Once that was out of the way, quick toilet stop and it was time to change into the wetsuit. Went into the tent to change as there were some seats to sit on which made life a little easier. The changing areas in triathlons make me laugh as its full of blokes asking each other to zip each other up, and this was no different. There was abit of nervous laughter and jokes but it generally felt quite serious, guess it was finally here and everyone was trying to get prepared mentally. I’d emptied everything out of my bag, lubed and got into my wetsuit, just need to put on timing chip now. Shit, where is it? Looked in bag, through my clothes, everywhere, it had vaporised in the journey from the bike to the tent. Slight flap, went through everything again and it still wasn’t there so got my shoes on to go to the officials, and there it was, in my shoes for safe keeping so I didn’t lose it!!

I remembered a few people saying it took ages to get into the flash, so once I was suited up, I dumped my white bag which had my change of clothes for the end of the race with a helper and made my way towards the water. There was already a fair queue, but nothing like the toilets!! I could hear everyone was getting called to the water and we started to shuffle forward using both the exit and entrance to get in. As there were so many first timers, everyone seemed to be aiming to be at the back on the right to avoid the fisticuffs at the start at the front so I just kept to the middle but held back a little.

The national anthem came and went, then it was the klaxon and away we went. I waited for the biff, and waited and waited and nothing, was pretty impressed with that start, what’s to worry about?? Tried to get a drag off the swimmers in front but they were going at some strange angles to where I was sure we should have been heading so I just did my thing. I might not be the fastest swimmer, but I’m quite confident and I knew where I was heading, and the water was quite murky which meant it was a little difficult to pick up on feet in front. The swim to the first buoy seemed to take an age, and my hat managed to work its way loose a couple of times which was annoying. Went a little wide on the first couple of turns to avoid any aggro as there was a little bit of bunching and on the leg back to land, found myself in some clear water. Think I was giving a tow at this point as I felt a few taps on my leg but I was quite happy, in fact I was quite fletered to be doing it, and I was in my comfort zone, swimming quite comfortably. I could see the buoy I was aiming for quite clearly but it seemed to take an age to get to. All of a sudden, there’s more bunching but the volunteers did a great job of getting us out and onto dry land to run around to start the second lap. Exited the first lap in 46.18 which I was a little disappointed with as I was hoping for south of 40 but felt good so just cracked on with the second lap, and more importantly from a personal pride point of view, I hadn’t been lapped by the professionals which was a slight worry that I had.

Second lap was pretty much a repeat of the first, had my own space, was into a rhythm and sighted ok. Just plodded along, keeping an eye on if I could sneak a draft from anyone but it didn’t happen and soon enough, I was turning in for home. Again, bit of bunching at the exit, but the volunteers did a grand job getting us out of the water. Finished it in 1.38.02 which again, was a little disappointing. Wanted to be on the bike 90 minutes after the start so I was already going to be about 20 minutes down on my estimate, but on the plus side, that was one stage over with. Didn’t want to run through the exit lane until I had got my balance properly, nothing worse than a rubber clad Bambi trying to rush into T1, especially as the cameras were there. The jog into T1 gave me my first taste of being in front of a crowd, and absolutely loved it. Grabbed my bag and into the changing rooms. Had already decided I was going for a full change prior to the event, not a chance I was going to do 112 miles on a bike in anything other than my cycling shorts so T1 was abit of a faff,especially as it was quite crowded in the changing area. I was also quite methodical about what I did so I didn’t forget anything such as my race belt which I did in the Wilmslow sprint, it was a long day and an extra 30 seconds won’t matter was my thought, although that almost came to bite me on the arse later.

Gentle jog to the mounting area and away I went, on the 112 miles I really wasn’t looking forward to. First two thoughts were don’t fall off clipping in and don’t fall off over the speed bumps and two minutes later, that was achieved. On my way out of the Flash, I saw an ambulance coming in with lights on and thought “poor sod, not even got onto the bike and someone’s being carted away”. Only on the Monday did I find out it was for a chap called Andy Holgate, the author of a couple of triathlon books that have probably inspired a number of people like me. He was riding behind someone who launched their nutrition over a speed bump, he had nowhere else to go other than over it and that put him off the bike, into hospital and out of the race.

The first few miles went quite easily. Just tried not to get carried away, work within my average speed aim and when I could get my speed up down a hill, take the free speed. I’d recce’d the course a few weeks before, so sort of knew my way around and what was coming, the ascent of Sheep House Lane being the first big obstacle. Came round the corner to the start of the hill and could see the first big group of spectators. Probably didn’t need the smell of the food as I’d have swapped a sausage barm that they were having for my apple crumble energy gel in an instant but that was soon forgotten as I started up Sheep House. I’d spent a morning doing ascents up here the previous month so knew what to expect but the spectators gave great support and encouragement, it really was a big help. Sheep House can probably be broken down into 3 climbs, the worst for me being the longer, steeper one with a 90 degree left hand bend at the top so you lose momentum to climb to the summit. Just after this bend was a big group of supporters, parked up for the day having a party with loud music and lots of encouragement. Its groups like this at locations like this that give a big lift to people like me who need all the help they can get. And a little further on was a group of blokes dressed in afro wigs, speedo’s and mankini’s, not your average dress code for being at the summit of a hill, but very much appreciated by the competitors I’m sure, made me smile and forget some of the hurt which was well needed.

Sheep Hill done, and now the descent. To be honest, I’m not great at downhill, I don’t trust myself with the speed but this time I tried my best to use the downhill to my advantage, seemed to be a little quicker but still had people coming past me. It was around here that I started with a pain in my left shoulder blade. Everytime I looked behind me, tried to get on the aerobars or hit a big bump, I got a really bad pain in my shoulder, felt like I’d been stabbed and a couple of times it made me yelp out loud it hurt so much. I wouldn’t blame this entirely for my bike time, but it did slow me down a little. For the next couple of hours, it was really all I could think of and whether I was going to be able to finish, it hurt so much. People say that you go to some dark places in an IronMan triathlon, and this was it. I knew I was going to hit this at some point, but I wasn’t quite prepared to be hitting it so early. I just concentrated on how much I’d done already, not on how far I had to go, and it dragged me out of my hole. The other think that helped perversely was the other big hill on the loop, Hunters. I’d not cycled up this, only driven so I knew what it looked like, just not what it felt like, and it hurt!! Steeper than Sheep House but not as long is a simple description. There were some walking it already but I was determined to make it up, and by keeping on the bike, it changed the pressure points on my hands, which in turn gave me some relief from my shoulder pain, so thank you Hunters, I think!! There was also a short, sharp hill just after here that I wasn’t ready for and once I got to the top, I cramped in my quads quite badly so had to pull over. I stretched it off, popped a salt tablet and set off again a little bit gingerly.

Then it was pretty much do it again for the second lap. I’d got half way in exactly 4 hours which again was slower than I wanted but bearing in mind my shoulder, at least I was still going forwards. Before I got to Sheep House the second time, I had to go down Colt alley. This is a stretch of road that the COLT tri club have made their own. First time round, there wasn’t too many people there but this time was different. I turned onto it to be greeted by a mass of people, 4 or 5 deep on both sides with horns, whistles, drums making a right racket and giving so much encouragement. There was only room to get through single file but it was such a buzz I forgot about any aches and pains and piled through there with the biggest smile of the day so far. Top experience and thanks to all at COLT who make that area their own.

Sheep House wasn’t much fun second time around, but plodded on up, probably quicker to walk to be honest but got up there then enjoyed the descent. Being towards the back meant there wasn’t as much support this time round as quite a few had headed off to the run, but there was still a fair few offering words and encouragement, and believe me, it was appreciated. If Sheep House wasn’t much fun, then Hunters almost killed me. The steepest hill on the course coming in second time round at about 95 miles in just isn’t funny, and I’m sorry, it beat me and I had to walk the last bit. Having said that, I was still moving forward and if this IronMan malarkey was easy, we’d all do it.

All the way round, I was aware of the time. Yes it would be tight to make cut off, I’d got about 20 minutes to spare at the pace I was going but I was probably one puncture away from a DNF so I was so careful to not go down potholes or ride over too much rough as my tyre changes weren’t the quickest and I wasn’t going to DNF because of that. At last, the final feed station came round just before 4 o’clock. The guys there gave the group of us some encouragement saying we had a good 15 minutes in hand and congrats, get down to transition and the run. About a mile down the road, it split, left to do the laps, right to T2 but there were a number of cyclists stopped in the right lane so we added to the jam. It soon became clear that the guy who was stopping us was a race official and he was telling us we hadn’t made the cut off. Now normally I wouldn’t argue with an official, but this time he was just in the wrong. We’d just been told we had 15 minutes by the guys at the feed station, the handbook said 4.15 at this feed station, the briefing said 4.15 at the feed station and we were just past 4.00. Fortunately, after a chat we were allowed to carry on, and I rode that last couple of miles as quick as I’d been all day. I knew as long as I completed the bike I’d finish so riding into T2 was a great feeling. Finished the bike in 8.22.51 which again I was disappointed with but bearing in mind my shoulder injury and the fact I had finished, I had to be happy.

The volunteers took my bike and I shuffled towards the tent where I got told I had 15 minutes to get into transition, which was about 10 feet away, even I could do that!! Bib shorts and cycling gear off, running gear, fresh socks and lots of talc on and I was off on the marathon, even remembered to turn my race number around the right way.

The weather had got noticeably warmer over the last couple of hours and heading out onto the run without the flow of air from the speed of the bike, it felt very warm. There was an aid station just out of T2 so I took some water on and poured some over me to keep my temperature down. I tried to run and actually felt ok so continued a few hundred yards only to be faced with a nice, big hill. Nope, walking that, and the next hill round the corner!! Onto the main road and got my act together and started to run. The plan was an 8 minute run followed by a 2 minute walk and keep that going as long as I could. Whilst it was hot, I felt ok so just kept at it. I felt my watch buzz at me so looked down and it was a distance alert, I’d got through 3 miles and that gave me a real lift. Not because I’d done that distance but in my mind, I felt good, I had a decent rhythm and more importantly, it felt like the time had flown so bring it on.

Onto the canal tow path and still felt good, was catching people up and whilst not exactly powering past, it gave me a target and an incentive to keep going. I was trying to work out what I could do the marathon in and what my finish time would be. I started hoping for a 4 ½ hour marathon keeping at my current pace which in hindsight was a tad hopeful, but it kept me going. Coming off the tow path and onto the main drag, there was quite a chunky hill, and that was another longer walk but when we got onto the loop, it was packed with runners and spectators which gave me another lift. While I still had 18 miles to go, I could see the end now and started running again. The heat was taking its toll now so I had to make full use of the aid stations, usually taking a couple of waters to drink and a couple to pour over me to cool down. I also had a couple of gels to keep me going and after the second one, I began to feel quite bloated, and each time I guzzled the water, my stomach gave some serious grumbles, serious enough for me to stop running and start walking. This was probably my low point on the run as it looked like everyone had at least one arm band which showed they were a lap in front, and there were an awful lot who had two or three, I had none and a dodgy tummy.

Shuffled my way into the town centre, which was downhill, I could hear the crowds and just that gave me a lift. I also seemed to remember being told that the flat coke worked for tummy problems so at the next aid station, I tried some. Whilst I was having that, I saw someone waving and jumping up and down in the crowd, it was my young uns and my wife, and that gave me a proper lift. Gave them all a kiss, got told I stank and ran on. The coke seemed to have worked so it would be just that from now on, not risking anything else. The crowds in the centre were amazing, such a buzz running through there, strangers shouting your name, giving you encouragement, really good feeling. Didnt even mind running past the finishing chute listening to people being told they were an IronMan, I’d be there soon enough.

Back out of town, and the enjoyable run in down the hill became a slow walk out up the hill, didn’t see anyone run that all day. On to the main road and the support here was just as vocal as the town centre, although I’m guessing it had something to do with the large number of pubs on the road, the hot weather and the packed beer gardens. Half way down, I got my first armband for my first loop and another massive lift to keep me going. Tried some pretzels at the next feed station, but they turned to some kind of salty sponge in my mouth which seemed to take all the moisture away I’d just put in, still, sure the salt did me some good and the fact it was savoury rather than the sugary gloop I’d been on day was a nice change.

Back into town, I could feel my bladder was full, and this lead me onto another lowpoint, the IronMan portaloo. I’d been warned about this but nothing can really prepare you for it, opening the doors was like opening the doors to hell. There was everything everywhere and the hot weather had just enhanced the fermentation process, I came out of there feeling like I needed a 2 gallon tetanus.

The runners had started to thin out now so the ones that were left just kept encouraging everyone else, everyone was in it together and everyone was helping each other, whether it was words of encouragement or sharing painkillers, anything to help. The pubs were still full, as was the town centre and as I got my last band I started to feel quite giddy, I was going to finish and become an IronMan, I even managed to quicken my shuffle to what could almost be called a run.

Heading down the hill for the last time, I had a quick breather, I was determined to run the last bit through the town centre. I could remember the words at the briefing “Make sure you get a good finishing line photo” so I saw a decent gap between runners and went for it. Turning into the square this time I kept left into the chute and kept running down it. Onto the final approach, high fived a few and looked for the announcer to give me my moment, but he had his back to me, talking to the guy in front, I slowed and slowed until I got to him “Cmon, my turn now”, he’ll see me soon. Ended up having to stand in front of him pointing at my name badge but it was so worth it.

“Malcolm, you are an IronMan”

Brilliant feeling, so worth all the pain and something nobody can ever take away.

Got my medal, had my picture took and into the tent for the food. Sat down having my first slice of pizza when the devastating news came in, they’d run out of pizza!! Had a last sweep across the table for some cake and crisps, and then out to meet up with the wife and kids to get home.

Fantastic day, brilliant support all over and now, I AM AN IRONMAN!!

Last 2 boxes ticked

Whilst I’m strangely confident about completing IMUK, there were two little clouds that I wanted to sort before the event, and they were both blown away this week.

The first was to do with the bike. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m not the most confident on the bike, I’m beginning to enjoy it more but I’m not quick and its more a case of getting round than anything else. Last Sunday, I drove around quite alot of the course, including the famous Sheep House Lane and even my wife said “You’ll never get up here” as we drove past the struggling cyclists. I must admit, I did have my doubts so decided that rather than do my usual big Wednesday ride, I’d do a shorter ride in distance, but practice on Sheep House.

So Wednesday morning came, kids off to school and I drove up to Rivington. Parked up and there were already a few cyclists preparing to presumably go up Sheep House. I got myself sorted and off I went. Before I knew it, I was at the start of the ascent and approaching the first obstacle, the cattle grid. By coasting and bouncing over that, I lost some momentum but soon picked it back up. Yes I was in a low gear but I didn’t care, I was climbing up it reasonably easily and making good time. Sheep House lasts for about 4 km and can probably be broken into 3 uphill sections, with a couple of little straights and downhills to try and gain some momentum. As it was quite early still, I seemed to have the road to myself so I just kept talking away, giving myself some encouragement and before long, was nearing the summit. The hardest bit in my opinion was at the top of a particularly steep climb where there is a sharp left turn but it is still uphill, so any momentum you may have in the legs is lost in the turn.

Have to say, getting to the top, I was really pleased with myself as I hadn’t stopped once. It might have been done on fresh legs but for a not too good a cyclist, it was an achievement. I hadn’t really got a plan after getting to the top other than I wanted to do it a couple of times, so I just kept going down the hill. This is where I found out I’m a complete girl at descending as it was steep and I wasn’t particularly comfy at the speed I could have got up to.

I stopped before the left turn onto the main road and came back up the hill. I have to say, I found this probably more difficult than the other side but again, no stopping up to the top, and back down the other side to the bottom of Sheep House. Then it was turn around, and back up to the summit. Obviously a little more difficult on legs that had some climbing in them but I still did it. Had a couple of guys come past me, one asking if I’d was doing IMUK but I didn’t care. I’m not at the pointy end of the race, my first aim is to finish, I’ll worry about a time after that.

In the end, I went up to the summit a total of five times, including the one from the other side. I might have only done about thirty odd miles but I’d done 2605 feet of climbing and never stopped once, which in my book was a success, so box number one ticked.

My second worry was the open water swim. I’m a confident swimmer, not particularly quick but confident. I’ve been doing the full IM distance and more since the start of the year in the pool but not actually done an openwater swim. It was one of those “get round to doing” type things but with family commitments and other bits and bobs, I haven’t done it and now suddenly, IMUK is only a couple of weeks away and I have to try it to make sure I’m ok with it. Dont want my first openwater swim to be at 6 in the morning on 20th July, and then discover that I just cant do it.

With this in mind, I made sure I had last Thursday as my first session at Pennington Flash, which is where IMUK swim is. Traffic wasn’t great so got there a little later than I wanted so once I registered, I started squeezing into the wetsuit. Have to say, the changing rooms at a triathlon makes me laugh as its full of blokes having to zip other blokes outfits up, not sure how that would go down in any other changing room, but for triathlon, its the norm. Tonight was no exception, and once I’d get a helpful chap to zip up my wetsuit, I wandered out.

There quite a few already in and a few more wandering behind me so I just went for it. Started walking down the ramp into the water, waiting for the initial shock and it never happened. Granted it was a nice, mild evening but it was surprisingly warm so I just wandered in up to my waist and got myself acclimatised to the water. Dipped my head in a couple of times so there was no big shock and off I went. Was worrying about swallowing half the lake, what it would taste like and if it would upset me but it was fine. Tried to follow a couple of other swimmers in front of me to help my sighting on the first lap. There are a few different distance laps, I chose the 750 metre one and soon found my rhythm. Soon I was on the inbound leg, back towards the clubhouse and it became quite choppy. Not sure if that is the norm, or what caused it as it wasn’t particularly windy but it made sighting and breathing a little bit more difficult, and there was a guy at the end who made the same comment.

On my second lap, I managed to get a little disorientated and turned at the wrong buoy. As I got halfway across, I saw there was a boat heading towards me so I knew I must have been on the wrong course. Couple of friendly words and I was back on the right lap. Finished that and thought I’d just keep on going. Was conscious of the time so tried to press on but keep an eye on where I was meant to be. I had a little shock at one point when a foot swam straight past me but other than that, was fine, didn’t get in anybody’s way and managed to sight ok, even though the swim back to the clubhouse was always a little choppy.

Did 80 minutes and thought I wasn’t going to get another lap in so started to make my way back to the exit. I was a little wary of the stories about being wobbly getting out as being horizontal for so long can affect the blood flow so I took it quite easy not wanting to fall over in front of anyone, but I felt fine.

So, thats it. The last two boxes ticked, and all ready for it. One last big bike ride this week then its taper time. Bring it on!!!

4 weeks left

Not really had much time to do any updates on here, but that’s just down to the fact that IMUK is now less than 4 weeks away and I’ve actually been hammering the training!!

To be perfectly honest, if it was tomorrow, I’m sure I’d do it, that’s how confident I feel at the minute. I’m not sure I really should be feeling that confident, particularly bearing in mind its my first full distance but bring it on. Only a couple of weeks training left, then its taper time.

So what have I been doing? Swimming wise, I’ve tried to be getting in the pool at least twice a week, but sometimes it has worked out better and occasionally it has only been once. I’ve swam the full 3.8 km distance 5 or 6 times now, last week I managed a 4.5 km swim and everytime, I just get into my rhythm and just plod on. Yes its boring, but I just try to occupy my mind with something and soon enough, its all over. The plan is to get a couple of open water swims in over the next week or so just to get acclimatised to it, but generally, the swimming seems fine.

Cycling is coming along. I’ve been doing plenty of work on the Wattbike and also getting at least one long ride in a week. The long ride has varied from 50 to 75 miles, but everytime I’ve been comfortable doing it, in fact I’ve surprised myself just how comfy I’ve been. The only slight problem is my tribike has now turned up and I need to get used to riding that. I’m sure I will, the benefits it should bring will hopefully outweigh the lack of miles I’ve done on it. I have to say I’m finding the aero position quite strange at the minute. It doesn’t feel natural at all, and the bike feels a little skitty over the surface but its something I just need to keep on at.

The only plans for the cycling is to try and ride some of the course and get a 100 mile ride in before taper time comes. Other than that, I’ll just keep practicing and getting used to the new bike.

Running has been fine. Lots of shorter runs between 6 and 12 miles, with a couple of 20 milers thrown in for good measure as well. I know I’m not going to be troubling anyone down the sharp end of the race, my goal this year is just to finish so for my longer runs, I’ve been doing a 8 minute run, 2 minute walk strategy and I’ve found this has worked fine. I was a little worried about trying this as I remember when I first started doing half marathons and couldn’t get round the distance without walking, the initial feeling in the legs felt really stiff after having a walk break, but I guess as I’ve got fitter over the years, that has improved and it worked really well. 20 miles is the farthest I’ve run, and I felt fresh at the end of it. In fact, I did an 18 mile run yesterday, and all day, my legs have not been stiff from it which is a big improvement from a few years ago. To be honest, the run 8 walk 2 strategy will probably equate roughly to run to an aid station, and walk through it as I take on fluid and nutrition so hopefully it will work fine.

So there we have it. Big training weeks, and only a couple more to go, bring it on!!

Good Week

Just a very quick update as I’ve had a really good week, and I wanted to share it.

I’ve done 6km swimming, 170 km cycling and 30 km running, my best week by far. Don’t feel too tired so hopefully things are falling into place.

Just need my bike to show up!!