The day started badly trying to get 500 calories down at 3am. Breakfast nearly reappeared, especially when I passed the burger van at the lake! I went a bit off course in the swim with a basic error, but still did the time I expected for the 2.4 miles of 1:20. It was a bit washing machine like at times as there are so many swimmers in the water together. Not a place for the faint hearted or poor swimmer.
Then off through the muddy transition area onto the bike. I was going well until the descent of the Sheephouse Lane climb (20 miles) when my bike bars got a serious wobble and came loose. I was lucky to find one of the 3 race mechanics parked in a wild windswept lay-by. He said he could do a fix, but did not think it would hold out and I was told to pack in if the problem returned. I gave him his jacket back and he pushed me off and wished me luck – this was the low point of my day as I imagined it was all over, after everything. The long hours of training, the pain of running, the sponsorship, my spectators, all the on-line trackers, OMG! I limped on, dug deep and did a mind reset, it’s not called an Ironman for nothing as I was learning! With all chances of an age group medal now gone, I set my sights on a finish and limped on with fingers crossed. The spectators were amazing in some of the villages, with Tour de France like crowds turning out to cheer you on and people in various states of fancy dress or undress. Superman and Spiderman were both out there somewhere! The bike course was hilly and windy and tough! “Are there no flat parts of Bolton?” I shouted to a spectator? “No”, came the reply! When I came into the transition from bike to run, I have never felt so happy to get off a bike and be running and only a marathon to go!
The run was a 3 lap course of a wide tree lined road and down a steep hill into in the centre of Bolton, with a 6 mile run into this loop. My watch bleeped to tell me I was one mile in, so only 25 and a bit to go OMG again! You ran from the football stadium into the town to join the circuit and as I came up the hill into it, the noise got louder and louder, I wondered what it was and then as you turned onto the main drag, there was a wall of sound, one of the highlights of the day. What an atmosphere it was! I ran without even noticing to 10 miles, carried along by the incredible crowds who were draped over the barriers, sitting on walls, some in fancy dress, some with pints, there was music, cowbells, cheers, you just had to succeed in that atmosphere. The Bolton calls of “Cum on Vik e” rang in my ears and kept me going. Kids wanting a high five, one chap came out into the road to cheer me on every lap with a pint in his hand on each time,(I suspect not the same one!) I was thinking he might ask me to marry him by lap 3! At 15 miles I was starting to feel it, so moved to Pepsi and water and I did a bit of run/walk. Then I started to run again and apart from the steep hill, I ran all the way to the end and clocked my fastest miles at around 20. Three months ago I could hardly run at all and here I was pounding the hills and not a niggle in sight! I felt a bit like I could run forever. Each time you complete a lap you get a coloured wrist band, blue lap one, green lap 2 and red lap 3. I gained my colours and headed to the red carpet for the finish, with the spectator filled stands, the big screen, noise and Sarah and Dave who had waited to see me finish. A marathon time of 5:33 and a checkout time of 15:16. I was very happy and grateful to complete and I felt brilliant raising my arms under the finishing gantry. Hats off to the wonderful people of Bolton for such support, returning to the north was a total pleasure.
Now I am home I can look at the results and see what might have been. I was 4th in my age group and just missed a medal, bronze by 5, silver by 25 minutes and gold by not much more. But, yes, there is always another day!
Thanks to everyone for all the amazing support both at the event and also through the training. You need support all through the Ironman journey and from all your family and friends. My Ironman friends and mentors all told me the event day should be a celebration of everything. The hard part is the training, the resting, the nutrition, the dreaded plan and the black line you follow for endless hours in the swimming pool. Ironman is a recipe for obsession, keeping bug free, developing hypochondria, taking over your life and it is the only subject you have to talk about. My apologies for all of this!
My biggest thanks are due to my friend and coach Chris who has turned me into an endurance athlete with a diesel engine and I would not have done it without his plans, advice and experience, attention to detail and being a constant rock to me. I have believed in him all the way and his fantastic knowledge and understanding of what it takes.
The Martin fund went over £10k for Scleroderma Raynaud’s the day before the event, which is a huge total, way beyond my wildest dreams and big thanks to all who sponsored me. Martin would have thought me completely crazy, but would have been proud of my efforts. How did my bike keep going yesterday? I think my guardian angel was watching over me.
What next? Yes roll on Bolton 2017!