Tag Archives: Ironman

I am (half) an Ironman – Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire

This one’s for you Mum.

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire

A bitter sweet day. Last week was Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire, keen readers among you will know that this was the race I’ve been training for since mid last year. However, it’s safe to say that the last 12 months haven’t been the best. Injuries are one thing, family tragedies are another. I had been struggling with a niggling calf injury for 18 months. This had greatly affected my running, to the point that I hadn’t run much more than 10k this year. With this in mind the prospect of a Half Marathon was not something to relish!

However recent events put things in to context. Tragically my mother passed away very suddenly a month before the race. Training went out the window as emotionally I had no focus anywhere but the obvious. I was in two minds as to whether or not to do the race given everything that had happened. As Mum had been one of my key supporters though, it was obvious what I should do. So at 7am on 12th June, I lined up with 2286 other folks on an overcast day at Chasewater Reservoir. But first, a quick rewind…


Registration was available from the Friday but as I was working, I opted to do this on the Saturday before meeting the good lady in the evening to check in to the hotel for the night. Bridgtown Cycles were kindly offering free bike safety checks before the race, so i popped in there on the way.

Afterwards, my first mistake, I headed to Chasewater and it wasn’t until i’d removed my bike from the bike rack and walked part of the way there that I realised that registration was at Shugborough Hall… an hour later, upon arriving at Shugborough things were looking up. Irritatingly due to my own stupidity I had now managed to miss the earlier briefing, meaning that I would have to come back to Shugborough again for the last race briefing. The registration process was very straightforward and as I was now in no rush I took some time to check out the Expo. 2 minutes later I was on my way… I checked my ‘Run Bag’ in since I was there and had the time, then it was back to Chasewater to rack my bike and check in there.

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 Registration
I guess this counts as a warm up – right?
Through my own stupidity I’d given myself a pretty good warm up it seems! After finally attending the race briefing I learnt one issue. I had checked and been assured that I was ok to wear my race belt under my wetsuit. The race director said otherwise, thus I’d have to try and gain access to by ‘Bike Bag’ on the morning – one stress I could have done without. As it turns out, it wasn’t an issue at all – phew!

Race Day

Waking up before 5am is never fun but I felt surprisingly calm. On the mantra of nothing new on race day, I had bought my own breakfast along, even though the hotel was offering an early breakfast for competitors. Bringing my own bowl and spoon may have been a bit much mind… I applied my sunscreen, got ready, triple checked I had everything and off we went.

My wife dropped me off as near to Chasewater as she could and went off to park the car. She had ambitions of seeing me through the swim and then trying to catch me at a few pre-arranged points on the bike. This turned out to be nigh on impossible and something I hope they can look into. Closed roads are great for athletes but rubbish for supporters trying to get around. I have suggested some guidance on how to access certain key spectator spots going forward, I shan’t hold my breath though!

I had spoken at length with my coach about nutrition strategy and some general guidelines for the race, so I ran through these in my mind and checked everything was where it needed to be.

I  loaded my nutrition on to my bike, sorted my race belt issue and then set about gathering myself for the morning ahead! This was far and away the largest transition I’ve been in and there was quite a buzz around the place! A perfectly timed visit to the facilities and then on with the wetsuit. I walked down to the start, handed over my ‘End of Race bag’ with my dry clothes in and fortunately bumped into my wife – something we hadn’t planned as we assumed it would be impossible! I also bumped in to a guy I had been chatting to on twitter in the months leading up to the event – good to see you Dan.

The Swim – 35:36

The swim was a rolling start where you placed yourself where you figured your time would be – there were number markers starting from <30 minutes. I estimated between 30 and 35 minutes and placed myself accordingly. My age group (35-39) was first off after the Pro’s, so we got a good spot to watch both Male and Female Pro’s set off. With that, we made our way on to the pontoon and waited an anxious 10 minutes.

As it turned out, despite my position I was somehow quite near the front, not a lot I can do about it now! The hooter went off and we made our way in to the water; straight away I felt what seemed like a wash of people coming past me. My lack of race start experience and slight nervousness in the water maybe to blame? Either way, I didn’t set off very quickly and felt like I was going backwards, I desperately sought some feet to draft off but had no luck.

The course was one single point to point and at the first buoy, turning left, there was a long drag to the next turn. This was a lonely time as I saw no-one, I  caught one guy, but he disappeared again. I stuck to my rhythm and tried to focus on being efficient. At the next turn I had caught a few people up but when I turned I seemed to be alone again. I checked my sighting and noticed that whilst I was heading straight for the next buoy, everyone else seemed to be over to my right. I had already planned to push at this stage so did and I passed quite a few people. The final buoy was a right turn and in to the finish.

I glanced at my watch as I got out and was a little disappointed to have gone over 35 minutes but the distance also read long. Whilst contemplating this my left calf subtly mentioned that it had a small issue with cramp. The veins in my neck in the photo below give some idea as to my thoughts on this. After refusing medical assistance(!?) I stretched it out and went on my way for the rather lengthy trip to T1. It later turned out, I was 67th out of the water, so not too bad.

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 Swim Exit

The Bike – 2:35:14

The journey from swim exit to bike mount was a little over 400m and thus my T1 time was a little tardy at 5:50. I was very impressed with the volunteers in the tent though, helpful without being in the way. I got my socks, shoes and helmet on fairly quickly, dumped my bag and ran to my bike. I spotted Hayley yelling at me at the bike mount, I think it was encouragement too!

The first part of the bike course was pretty horrid. In the race briefing they had told us that there was no overtaking and no aero bars due to a poor surface and speed bumps! As you can see below, they weren’t wrong!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 Start of the bike
Just the thing the Triathlon bike was invented for; bunny hopping speed bumps!
I had driven the bike course the previous week so knew that the first 10 miles were fairly technical; narrow lanes, loose gravel and some short, sharp hills. I set off at what I thought was a fairly steady pace and kept an eye on cadence and heart rate, noting that I needed to bring the latter down to the mid 160’s as per my plan.

About half way my lack of experience came back to bite me. Despite thinking I had gone off steady I seemingly hadn’t. (I would later learn I set a new 40k Bike PB of 1:09 – whoops!) My legs started to feel very tired on the hills so whilst my heart rate was good, I felt like I had little to give. I was drinking and taking gels to my pre-prescribed plan but felt a bit flat. I was having some good to and fro moments with a few folks too, until the faster cyclists from the next wave went past like I was on a BMX!

To keep the excitement high it was about this time that the ‘light shower’ that someone had mentioned hit. It seemed a little more like a monsoon though and I found myself struggling to see out of my visor, it also hurt when it hit me! There not being a lot I could do, I soldiered on, wondering at times why on earth I was doing this and remembering the opening lines of the post as I did.

I knew in advance that there was an evil hill at Cannock Chase, not too steep but a long steady drag of around 10km. The support from locals at this point was fantastic though and it gave me a good dose of encouragement though sadly not speed. My legs hadn’t come back to me and I pushed as best I could but was passed by a handful of riders.

Thankfully at the turnaround something clicked back in to place and I was able to push on the last 6 or so miles to Shugborough. One thing I wasn’t too pleased with was the number of 90 degree bends placed at the bottom of steep descents, this was exacerbated by the weather but still…

The ride into T2 was great as well, most of the supporters had gathered here, not bothering to venture out on the bike course. The volume of support as we arrived was fantastic. Thankfully I had no issues with cramp as I jumped off the bike. I think the fairly long run in from the dismount line may have helped as well as coach telling me to up the cadence on the last part of the bike. T2 was also a bit more respectable at 2:45, again fantastic support from volunteers but still a long run through it!

This was the first time i’ve really ridden my Tri bike in anger too and I have to say, I loved it. I think I might be after a new saddle though – ouch! I was due to go back for another bike fit leading up to the race but due to events that occurred I never made it. I think I have work to do to get more aero!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 Out on the bike
Out and about on the bike – thankfully dry at this point!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 Front on on the bike
Suffering on the bike!

The Run – 1:48:54

As I may have mentioned already, due to injuries I haven’t run very far this year. In fact I haven’t run more than 6 miles! So it was with some trepidation I left T2 with a Half Marathon looming… I had run the course the previous week so knew what to expect. The mix of terrain was loose gravel, tarmac and trail and the rain had done us no favours! The gravel ended up with large puddles and the trails were more like a cross country course. The support however was fantastic, everywhere you went there were people cheering you on.

There was one large hill on the course, thankfully on tarmac, but with 3 laps of the course not something to look forward to. I set off at a reasonable speed but trying to be steady. I had planned to do 8 minute miles (thus a 1:45 race) but as time went on, I slowed a little. The weather continued to be horrid but I stuck to my plan and waded through.

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 A wet first lap of the run
A wet first lap of the run!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 Still wet, but on to Lap 2
Still wet, but on to Lap 2!
I finally saw Hayley again as I started my final lap (just to my right in the pictures above) and I found this very emotional as she hadn’t managed to get to see me on the bike. Having had another chat to myself and my mum it gave me a boost to finish as strongly as I could. So the last lap was about giving the last my legs could.

I was passed in the last mile and knew that I didn’t have a sprint finish in me so opted to finish with the chute to myself. It was at this point that emotion hit me. I knew I would cry at the finish but the sheer relief of finishing and what I had used to channel myself there hit me pretty hard. No glory photos for me, arms aloft…

I must apologise to coach too, my run form was horrendous!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire Run to the Finish
Note the excellent form in the run to the finish!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire Finish Line
An emotional finish to Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire
Hayley was there to greet me, I’m not sure she quite expected the emotional mess that I was but seeing her fuelled the fire a bit more. Thanks for being there as always….

Overall Finish Time – 5:28:19

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire Run 2016 Support Crew Hug
A much needed hug at the finish!

In Summary

At the finish I was disappointed. I had always wanted to go Sub 5 hours. In the build up I knew this wasn’t going to happen but I couldn’t help feeling as I did.

It didn’t take long to realise that I was happy with my result. It was never going to be the best day  but I had thoroughly enjoyed myself, somehow! Despite entering T2 and offering my bike to anyone who had £50 it didn’t take long to casually check what other Ironman 70.3 events were upcoming… I urge anyone who thinks they might like to, to enter one.

It’s wonderfully horrific!

Some stats from the day (official link):

343rd out of 2287
316th Male
53rd in Age Group

I have now amassed 2503 ‘2017 IRONMAN All World Athlete Status Points’ too – whatever they are!

Ironman 2014 Kona World Championship UK TV Highlights

A quick heads up for those in the UK, Channel 4 broadcast the Ironman 2014 Kona World Championship UK TV Highlights at 7am this morning. The programme is available for the next 30 days. (Sorry to say guys that at the time of writing 22/01/15, the Channel 4 highlights have gone, I’ve not yet found any other sources either, sorry folks!)

Ok, through some random exploring i’ve managed to find non-highlight versions on YouTube, i’ve put these in a separate playlist. It’s not ideal but if you’ve a spare 10 odd hours to spare…..

I’m sure if you have an interest in Triathlon you already know the result but it was a great race, with good performances from many UK athletes and some top performances from all the pros! I did a write up on the results earlier with some of my random thoughts and musings.

There is a focus on the leading European contenders; defending champion Frederik Van Lierde, contenders Jan Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle.  On the ladies side, Daniela Ryf, Caroline Steffen, Rachel Joyce and the very non-European Mirinda Carfrae (no event would be complete without mentioning her!) A bit of a change from the US highlighted stars like the usual NBC Highlights I end up watching on repeat via YouTube! Oh and no idea why they chose ‘voice over guy’ as the commentator!!

I’ve added an Australian edit of the highlights to the YouTube list below, it’s solely focussed on the athletes with no real age group information but it’s a decent watch!

Finally the USA NBC highlights show has appeared on YouTube too, it’s not the best quality at the moment but hey. As before I’ve added it to the playlist below so please enjoy.

Ironman 2014 World Championship Kona

Given my current situation of being house bound the decision to stay up and watch the whole of the Ironman 2014 World Championship from Kona was not a difficult one. Thanks to Livestream this was also a possibility.

Whilst it might be a long day for the athletes, being a supporter from the UK wasn’t easy either as the race started at 5.25pm UK time. I eventually called it a night just as Rachel Joyce crossed the line for 3rd. I wish I’d have known that Jodie Swallow was going to come home 4th as I’d have stayed up to cheer on another Brit! Having only previously seen the NBC Highlights shows I missed the regular updates on what was happening outside of the live pictures. I can understand how difficult that must be for the broadcasters though.

The Swim

I don’t think there were too many surprises in the men’s swim, Andy Potts is consistently up there, but the ferocity of he and Jan Frodeno trying to get to shore first was impressive so early on! Sebastian Kienle was nearly 4 minutes down but his time was on par with other years. No dramas in transition either.

Jan Frodeno & Andy Potts Lead The Swim - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Jan Frodeno & Andy Potts Lead The Swim – Photo by Paul Phillips
Jan Frodeno Swim Exit - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Jan Frodeno Swim Exit – Photo by Nils Nilsen

The women had an extra person in the frantic dash for shore but again no real surprises; Jodie Swallow, Meredith Kessler just followed Amanda Stevens out. Mirinda Carfrae was nearly 6 minutes down at this point. Overall the women’s swims were all a bit slower than previous years. Meredith Kessler seemed a little slow in transition though as she wasn’t seen leaving with the others.

Amanda Stevens Swim Exit - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Amanda Stevens Swim Exit – Photo by Nils Nilsen

The Bike

No real surprises on the bike either, Andrew Starykowicz setting the early pace, however he wasn’t to power away as in previous years. Sebastian Kienle and Maik Twelsiek (lovely bike!) chased him down and by half way were both in front. They would swap places once and Kienle would eventually finish 3 minutes ahead of Twelsiek. Last years winner, Frederik Van Lierde had a good bike split and was my tip to win based on his marathon performance last year. Jan Frodeno suffered a flat and was penalised 4 minutes for not changing it in a designated area – he sounded quite baffled by it. The penalty put some pressure on Frodeno and he lost over 7 minutes directly but he stated the cost to his rhythm hit him worse. Andy Potts was having a great bike too, around 7 minutes up on his ‘usual’.

Andy Potts Leads Bike Train - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Andy Potts Leads Bike Train – Photo by Nils Nilsen
Ben Hoffman Bike - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Ben Hoffman Bike – Photo courtesy of Slowtwitch.com
Frederick Van Lierde Bike - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Frederick Van Lierde Bike – Photo by Nils Nilsen
Maik Twelsiek Dimond Bike - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Maik Twelsiek Dimond Bike – Photo courtesy of tririg.com
Sebastian Kienle gets Super Aero - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Sebastian Kienle gets Super Aero

The women were led out of T1 by Jodie Swallow and Amanda Stevens. I’m not sure what happened to Meredith Kessler from the swim but she was nowhere in sight. Thankfully Meredith was soon back on track, dragging Mary Beth Ellis up to Jodie. Somewhere in the first 30 miles Jodie received a penalty for drafting an incident no one is quite sure of, not least of all Jodie.

At the half way stage the order settled down, Daniela Ryf had moved into the lead and was pulling away. Rachel Joyce was 2nd with Mary Beth Ellis 3rd. They would stay like this until the run, Jodie recovering to 4th, just over 5 minutes down which makes you wonder what might have been as in the men’s race. Previous year bike star Caroline Steffen once again performed well to come home in 5th. At this point Mirinda Carfrae was 14:32 down on the lead and I was confident that Rachel Joyce was on to win it.

Jodie Swallow & Amanda Stevens Lead out of T1 - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Jodie Swallow & Amanda Stevens Lead out of T1 – Photo courtesy of Slowtwitch.com
Jodie Swallow Bike - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Jodie Swallow on the Bike – Photo courtesy of Slowtwitch.com
Michelle Vesterby Bike - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Michelle Vesterby on the Bike – Photo by Nils Nilsen
Rachel Joyce Bike - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Rachel Joyce on the Bike – Photo courtesy of Slowtwitch.com
Daniela Ryf Bike - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Daniela Ryf leading the Bike – Photo courtesy of Slowtwitch.com
Mirinida Carfrae Bike - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Mirinda Carfrae on the Bike – Photo courtesy of Slowtwitch.com
Leanda Cave on the Bike - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Leanda Cave on the Bike – Photo by Paul Phillips

The Run

Sebastian Kienle never looked in trouble on the run, he kept it steady and overall the gap never really changed. Ben Hoffman was having a good dice with Frederik Van Lierde for a good portion of the race until the Belgian appeared to suffer toward the end. Prediction number one gone… Jan Frodeno didn’t disappoint, posting one of the fastest run splits, as I said earlier, without the bike penalty this might have been an incredibly exciting finish. The eventual result would be: Sebastian Kienle from Ben Hoffman with Jan Frodeno rounding out the podium. A fantastic result and effort from all and huge congratulations from little old me! A special mention for Andy Potts too, a mammoth performance. He’s clearly been working hard on the bike and run. One thing of note his T2 time was almost a minute slower than Frodeno, who he finished just over a minute behind…. could have been an epic finish.

Sebastian Kienle Run - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Sebastian Kienle on the Run – Photo by Nils Nilsen
Ben Hoffman on the Run - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Ben Hoffman on the Run – Photo by Nils Nilsen
Jan Frodeno Run - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Jan Frodeno on the Run – Photo by Nils Nilsen
Andy Potts Run - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Andy Potts on the Run – Photo courtesy of Slowtwitch.com
Sebastian Kienle Wins the Ironman World Championship 2014
Sebastian Kienle Wins the Ironman 2014 World Championship – Photo by Nils Nilsen
Ben Hoffman 2nd place finish - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Ben Hoffman 2nd place finish – Photo by Nils Nilsen
Jan Frodeno Delighted with 3rd Place Finish - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Jan Frodeno Delighted with 3rd Place Finish – Photo by Nils Nilsen
Ironman 2014 World Championship Top 3 Men
Ironman 2014 World Championship – Top 3 Men – Photo by Nils Nilsen

I don’t think anyone would have predicted the result of the women’s race looking at the times going in to transition. Daniela Ryf is unknown at the distance but certainly proven over the 70.3. She lead despite looking uncomfortable in the early parts of the race before stripping down to a sports bra. She was taking on fluids well but walking through many aide stations. She appeared to start to suffer near the harshly named Natural Energy Lab and Rachel Joyce was closing back in. Mirinda Carfare had moved in to 3rd place with 10 miles to go and was nearly 7 minutes down, it was clearly going to be close. Carfrae passed Rachel with around 3 miles to go and wasted no time passing Ryf with around 2 miles to go. She never let up and pushed right to the finish, either to be certain or as she knew the marathon record must be on. The race stayed in that order, Carfrae did break her own record, 2:50:26 is faintly ridiculous for the end of an Ironman! Jodie Swallow came though after a blistering T2 and an identical marathon time to Rachel Joyce of 3:08:45. I wonder if the presence of a certain former multiple champion cheering them on helped? Congratulations to all!

Mirinda Carfrae Run - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Mirinda Carfrae flying on the Run – Photo by Nils Nilsen
Daniela Ryf Run - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Daniela Ryf on the Run – Photo courtesy of Slowtwitch.com
Rachel Joyce Run - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Rachel Joyce on the Run – Photo by Nils Nilsen
Mirinda Carfrae passes Daniela Ryf - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Mirinda Carfrae passes Daniela Ryf – Photo courtesy of Slowtwitch.com
Mirinda Carfrae Wins the Ironman 2014 World Championship
Mirinda Carfrae Wins the Ironman 2014 World Championship – Photo by Nils Nilsen
Chrissie Wellington Cheering - Ironman 2014 World Championship
Chrissie Wellington Cheering, apparently losing her voice too! – Photo courtesy of @chrissiesmiles

Other worthy mentions to some other GBR athletes too:

Corrine Abraham had a fantastic debut, after a tough start on the swim and a time penalty on the bike she eventually finished 11th, with the 3rd fastest marathon of the day (3:02:47)

Leanda Cave was on form from both swim and bike but suffered on the run and slipped down to 18th eventually.

Harry Wiltshire had to work the hardest of all to get there, competing in 8 Ironman events in 2014. He finished 29th. Just pipped to top GBR finisher by James Gilfillan, an age grouper who put in a sterling effort on the bike. Fortunately for Harry he pipped Mirinda Carfrae by 55 seconds!

Paul Ambrose was another Kona debutant and finished a credible 30th, suffering in tough conditions. He had a good swim but struggled afterwards.

Lucy Gossage was on her pro debut, having already competed at Kona twice as an age grouper. She posted respectable times on swim and bike but suffered badly on the run, walking in many places. I’m glad she stuck it out to the finish though, something that makes me proud.

Dan Hawksworth and Cat Morrison both failed to finish, dropping out on the run.

One other interesting article I found on the way was a comparison of power output from Kyle Buckingham; the leading age grouper from last year who returned this year as a pro. The full article is on Slowtwitch. He clearly had to work a lot harder as a pro!!!