Ironman distance open water swim

Once a year COLT organise a timed ironman open water swim at the lake that we use. Two years ago I recorded 59 minutes. I wasn’t super fast, so the course was definitely a few laps short. Last year it took me 1 hour and 15 minutes, maybe a little long. This year the buoys have moved slightly, so a GPS watch was given to one of the canoeists. He canoed two laps, in a straight line between each buoy. I can’t remember the exact distance that was recorded, but the distance was set at 10 laps for the full ironman swim. The Captain announced before the start that if we swam in a perfect line between each buoy we would probably be a couple of hundred metres short. No one swims in a straight line.

Listening to the Captain giving us our instructions on a nice sunny evening.

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There was an extra canoeist who would record our numbers each time we swam past, although it was our responsibility to shout out our number each time. About 25 swimmers lined up for the full distance, all resplendent in yellow swimming caps with numbers on the side.

Hobbit is at the front with the small stylish beard, Andy Ley without the beard, and at the back, me with the proper beard.

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And we’re off. Some swimmers took it seriously by running into the water, others had a more relaxed approach.

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Usually the open water swim starts at 7 pm, but all of us doing the timed swim were set off 15 minutes early. When the gun went off I walked into the water, no running in for me. This was my longest swim since Enduroman (race report here) and I had only swam a couple of times in the last few weeks, so I wasn’t sure how I would cope. I was wearing a nose clip as loads of people had been suffering from hay-fever like symptoms due to the pollen on the top of the water. I was also using my trusty Blu-tac ear plugs.

I set off at a nice relaxed pace, but didn’t feel too great. My wetsuit was rubbing at the back a little. I still hadn’t bought more vaseline after losing mine at Enduroman. At the start of my second lap there was all of the regular swimmers to negotiate, although it made it easy to sight each buoy.

When there aren’t too many swimmers I don’t like to try and draft, but someone else did and every few strokes my feet would get a tap. I tried to ignore it, but after a while it gets annoying. Do me a favour, once or twice is OK, 20-30 times and you are a d*ck.

About halfway through I was lapped by a couple of people and then I lapped a couple of others. By the start of lap six I started to feel not too bad, and a couple of laps later I definitely started to speed up. The last lap was great and I rounded the canoe for the last time and turned for shore.

The stopwatch wouldn’t stop until you had passed the Captain sitting in his chair up the beach, so for once I did run out of the water. I recorded a time of 1 hour 13 minutes. Slower than any of my official ironman swims, but quicker than what I would do in a pool. This probably means that the distance was fairly accurate, and that most of the triathlons that I have done have had slightly short swims. Swimming is my weakest discipline, so I don’t really mind.

It was a good evening with a Q & A afterwards on Outlaw and IM Bolton, which I didn’t stay for as I was cycling home. One thing that did make me think was would I be able to complete another 40 laps on top of the 10 that I did. That’s the challenge if I do decide to have a go next year at a continuous Quin. We’ll see.

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Enduroman 2014 – Double Ironman

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Why would anyone want to attempt a double ironman? I asked myself this many times both during this year’s race and last year’s. Step back a few years to the 1999 Lanzarote Ironman. I entered this race with a couple of friends from the Oxford Tri club with the intention that I would use it as a stepping stone to a double ironman in Virginia that October. As many of you know, Lanzarote wasn’t a good race for me and I shelved any plans for ultra races and until this year I haven’t raced anything longer than Olympic distance (last year’s Enduroman doesn’t count as I didn’t finish).

Dry your eyes princess, the show must go on – Louise Goddard

Five years ago I stumbled across a leaflet for COLT in a local bike shop and promptly joined. Sometimes I even trained with them, but one thing I noticed was just how many from the club were training for their next ironman. You don’t need to go long. I have one friend who has been racing for 25 years and still hasn’t done a triathlon with an open water swim. It doesn’t matter what distance you do, the simple fact that you do triathlons makes you more awesome than 99% of the population.

Two years ago I found myself with a little more time to train, so I joined up with the Sunday morning rides once again. I struggled, and on one particular ride, if it wasn’t for John Sutton giving me a gel I would probably still be out there. Slowly over the course of the summer my fitness improved along with my stamina, until in October I managed a 200 km ride. I thought to myself that maybe 2013 would see me having a go at an ironman once again. I then realised that I knew that I could finish an ironman. I also knew that I wouldn’t be anywhere close to qualifying for Kona, so why not have a go at a double.

Over the winter I let it slip to a few people that I was training for an Ironman, although I told them that I wasn’t planning on doing an M-dot race. I’m on Strava and a few people started to ask why I was doing 6 km swims and 200+ km rides if I was only doing an ironman. A few weeks before my big race I did tell a few people that I was actually going for a double. Some of them didn’t call me a nutter.

My training for last year had gone well and on the eve of the race I was feeling confident that I would finish. I was out of the water in 2 hours and 15 minutes and on the bike 15 minutes later. (The swim was probably a bit short). I was soon into a good rhythm on the bike, stopping every 2 laps for more water and gels, and every four laps for food. I didn’t have a support crew (big mistake), but Earthquake Dan (a cross channel swimmer) and Graham Marcassum (a triple ironman finisher) took it upon themselves to be my unofficial crew.

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Dan and Graham had provided invaluable support at last year’s race, so it was great to meet up with them again and have an emotional photo at the end of this year’s race.

Once I had completed half of the bike course I started to feel even better and pushed on, finishing the bike course in third place. I then set off on the 52 mile run at my 5 km pace, overtaking the leader as if he wasn’t moving, much to his surprise. Funnily enough I almost collapsed after 5 laps and spent the next hour in the medic tent. I headed back out, but much slower and then had another sleep after 18 laps. I was feeling worse than I had ever felt in my life and was ready to quit, but Dan pushed me to continue. Two laps later, after six hours of `running’, and not even half way through the run I did quit. I was mentally and physically more spent than I had ever experienced. I quickly packed my bikes and kit into my hire car, hoping that no-one would see me and made my escape feeling thoroughly dejected.

I was spending the next couple of days with my parents who live near and decided that I had had a valiant attempt but that I wouldn’t try it again the following year. That decision lasted for less than two days and once I was back in Lancaster I started to prepare for another attempt in 2014. My mistakes, apart from no support crew, had been that my nutrition plan had been spot on for a single ironman, but not nearly enough for a double. I also discovered that most people would only use gels every now and again, opting for ‘real’ food instead.

I took it easy for a few weeks but I was soon cranking out the miles. The summer of 2013 included a 10 km swim in Salford Quays (horrific), the Bowland Badass (even more horrific) and numerous 150+ mile rides. The only problem was a persistent calf injury that seemed to come and go at random intervals, although it was getting worse. In the end I booked an appointment with Brett Fletcher at the Uni sports centre, who had me up and running within a few weeks.

The weather on the whole at the start of 2014 wasn’t too cold so I managed at least one 150 mile ride every month, including riding to Scotland and back in the middle of March. I also managed a 156 mile ride one Saturday, with the Wrynose or bust sportive the following day. A week of tough cycling in Abdet also helped. My last really long ride was after Easter with 188 miles in less than 11 hours. I knew that my swimming was about that same as last year and my cycling much better. The only problem was that the longest run I had done was a half marathon along the canal, which was completely flat. The run at Enduroman is tough to say the least, but Brett felt that my calf would hold up so I entered.

One of the main reasons that I failed last year was my lack of a support crew and both James Harrison and Chris Wild had said that they would be there for me. Matt Hirst and Andy Ley then volunteered as long as they weren’t working. Many other people from COLT had also expressed an interest in helping if I needed extra hands, another reason why COLT is the best club in the country (world/universe). In the end Andy couldn’t make it, but Matt had use of his camper van which would easily hold all my stuff and numerous bikes.

Hurry up, the barber’s catching you. The end is not near – Gary Smith

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The greatest support crew in the world… ever. I had many comments and messages after the event letting me know how great the guys from COLT were. This might be a cardboard cutout of Jim though.

Friday morning Matt arrived at the crack of 9 am and we were soon loaded up and ready to go. I had tried to be organised with all of my cycling gear in one crate, running gear in another, food in a third and my swimming gear in a separate bag, but there was a lot of stuff. When you’re going to be out for such a long time you need clothes for every eventuality. In 2011 it rained for almost the whole weekend, while I had found the first few hours of the run last year to be very cold as the temperature had dropped to 5 degrees. Julie Sibbert had also made two trays of flapjack, a banana loaf cake and a chocolate cake for the weekend, which took up the remaining space in the van. Ian you’re a lucky man.

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The party bus all loaded up and ready for the road trip down t’south. Two bikes, one for the day and the other for night riding.

Jim had to work most of the day so was driving down on his own and meeting us there, while Chris had been working in Gloucester and we would pick him up on the way down. Matt had been worried when I mentioned that I might burn a couple of mix CD’s for the journey, but I started him off gently with The Lancashire Hotpots. A bit later and after hearing `F**k like a beast’ by W.A.S.P. Matt was phoning Andy Ley for help.

A couple of hours of easy listening (for me) we picked up Chris and his bike. I wanted to ride one lap of the course when we got there and Chris said that he would ride it with me. The music then improved with a cover of the classic Dead Kennedy’s song `Nazi pigs f**k off’ by Napalm Death. One of Terry Wogan’s favourites, but an obscure song by Belle and Sebastian had Matt smiling as we rolled into the New Forest and to the event HQ.

The event is held at Avon Tyrell, an outdoor activity centre, that Enduroman had almost taken over for four days. Chris and I unloaded our bikes, got changed and headed out for one lap of the course, leaving Matt getting chatted up in reception. I had wanted to do one lap before the guys doing the ‘long’ race had finished their swim. We were back 36 minutes later having completed the 11.6 mile route at a nice gentle 19 mph. Chris was impressed with my pace, but I was a little concerned about how high my heart rate had gone. I put it down to pre-race nerves.

After a quick change and unloading the van I took Matt and Chris for a walk around the run loop. Matt was decidedly unimpressed as he was worried about getting mud on his clean white trainers. We stopped off at the lake to watch the triple swim, who had been in the water for over three hours. The technique for some wasn’t good; “I hope my technique doesn’t look that bad by the end of my swim tomorrow”, I said to Chris.

Just as we left the lake to look at the other half of the run lap one of the competitors climbed out of the lake and started to walk towards the changing marquee. I looked at watch and was mildly impressed, but it turned out that he had injured his shoulder a few weeks earlier and couldn’t continue. Not everyone is as tough as Matt Hirst. The whole of the centre is built on a slope, so on the run you’re either going downhill or uphill. The final part of the lap is the steepest with exposed tree roots that have been painted with flourescent paint. The run would definitely sort the men from the boys.

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Serious pre-race preparation from my support crew to make sure nothing goes wrong. I’d been in bed for about two hours by this point.

At the end of the lap is a small turning circle with a timing mat where I would cycle around 20 times before running around 48 times. Around the perimeter most of the support crews had already set themselves up with gazeebos ready for the long weekend. Chris wanted to take a photo of the Enduroman gantry with me, but I was reticent because that was where the medic tent was. “Don’t worry”, replied Chris, “this will be the only time you’ll see the medic all weekend.” Wrong.

Good luck Robot Boy! If you can do Tough Mudder you can do this. Suck it up, eat like a fat bird on a tour of Cadbury World and crack on! If you pass out this year, I fear that means you’re a pussy and should therefore be clean shaven…! Hoo-rah! Ta very much! Hehe! – Lau Robinson

Before long it was time to register and pick up my goody bag and Enduroman hat. Jim then arrived just in time for dinner (tea) and while we were eating Chris wrote down what nutrition I would require and when. This plan soon went out of the window, but it was a good idea at the time. Then it was off to the race briefing, which was when I realised that I had an excellent support crew as Chris made copious notes.

We watched a few of the triple competitors coming and going on the bike course and then at 10 pm five guys set off on the 200 mile run, completely bonkers. Matt, Chris and Jim then headed to the bar while I went to bed. Apparently they staggered to bed just after midnight, but I was fortunate to be comatose and didn’t hear them.

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4.30 am, I’m an ironman not a postman. Great comment from Andy Holgate – “He just wakes up and looks like he just stepped out of a salon.”

To be fair to Jim he didn’t utter his famous catchphrase once, even though he did look a bit rough. Soon we were all downstairs faffing, although all I needed to do was rack my bikes, eat and drink something and then finally squeeze into my wetsuit. I even had a hair bobble to streamline my beard and keep it out of the way.

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Almost ready for the start of the swim. Beard tied up and gimp hood on.

I asked Chris to check my tyre pressure while I was swimming and apart from that there wasn’t a lot for my crew to do. They could go back to the house for breakfast and hopefully they would return in time for me to exit the swim.

The lake for the swim is fairly small so we had to do 28 laps. Last year I mentioned that it felt a bit short as we had only to do 26 laps. Should have kept my mouth shut. The lap counters were positioned on a small jetty off to one side and you would shout out your number each time your passed and they would repeat it back to you. If there wasn’t anyone else around you could stop and ask how many laps you had done. 23 of us set off at 6 am and we would complete two laps without stopping to shout out our numbers, allowing the field to spread out a bit. With each buoy only about 70 metres apart it was almost impossible to go off course. Competitors could also place bottles and gels at the start/finish point and because the lake was so small you could grab a quick drink and only lose a couple of seconds.

I was soon into a nice steady rhythm, although it is amazing how soon I had lost count of how many laps I had done. This would also be the longest swim that I had done in my new wetsuit. My old one which I had used for 13 years had finally fallen apart last summer; more BlackWitch than neoprene. My new one was a lot more flexible in the shoulders and far more ‘floaty’. It wasn’t long before I started to lap people and then was lapped myself, but I didn’t worry about it. I was swimming at a pace I was happy with as there was still a very long way to go.

After I had done at least 18 laps I asked the officials how many laps I had done. “13,” came the reply. Bollocks. By this point I had started to feel slightly sick, something I had not encountered before in a swim, and the feeling stayed with me for another five or six hours. I put this down to my homemade blueberry and pomegranate ricecakes, which was annoying as I had made these a couple of times before and they had been great.

The water temperature was about 16 degrees, nice and warm, especially as I was wearing my special rubber gimp hood to keep my head warm. An Indian competitor in the triple had found the water to be exceptionally cold, but he was used to swimming without a wetsuit in temperatures of over 25 degrees. Towards the end of the swim I was actually beginning to feel a little warm and was glad when Dan announced that I was about to start my last lap. He then radioed the marshall at the start to expect #40 to finish in a few minutes, letting my support crew know to be ready for me.

Being on the last lap was a real boost and soon I was clambering out of the lake with the help of Chris Ette. I was third out of the water in a time of 2:21:49, slower than last year but still not too bad. The funny thing about ultra triathletes is that hardly any of them are decent swimmers. When I did a 10 km swim in Salford Quays I finished about third from the back.

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A nice sunny day for a swim. Hippy was ready for me with a drink while I struggled to remove my goggles.

Chris, Matt and Jim were waiting for me and helped me up the hill to the changing marquee, handing me food and drink and taking my goggles, hat and blu-tack ear plugs from me. Once I was sitting down it took all of us combined to pull my wetsuit off, with Jim suffering from whiplash.

It was then time to grab my bike and head out for my best leg of a triathlon, which this weekend turned out to be my worst. Shoes and helmet on, Garmin searching for satellites, a couple of gels in my pocket and I was ready for the first of 20 laps of an undulating bike course. Not having any COLT kit, except for a winter cycle jacket that is too large and a swim hat, Chris had lent me his short-sleeved cycle top so that I matched my support crew.

Success in the sport is, above all else, about enduring suffering. – Niamh Lewis

On my first lap of the bike course my heart rate was up above 160 bpm, far too high, but it didn’t seem to be dropping when I slowed down, so I ignored it. My plan was to complete two laps without stopping and then swap water bottles, grab a drink and something small to eat before heading out again. I would then stop for 5-10 minutes every four laps, stopping at 16 laps for an evening meal.

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Jim swapping over my water bottle while Chris puts more gels and cereal bars into my back pockets. I would drink some electrolyte while I was stopped.

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Sweeping around the turning circle after completing yet another lap. The beard does have a slightly dazed look.

My plan soon went out of the window as I gradually felt worse and worse. I think I had the start of a cold. I knew I shouldn’t have snogged Andrew Mccracken at the time trial the previous Thursday. I continued at a slightly slower pace but during the ninth lap I almost fell asleep a couple of times, scaring myself. I decided to have a lie down for half an hour. Considering the amount of times that I had ridden 150 miles, lying down after 110 miles was a sure sign that all was not right.

I tried to put out of my mind the fact that everyone was now overtaking me. This was the lowest point of the whole race for me, and if Chris hadn’t been there with me I think I might have pulled out. I really didn’t want to let everyone down so after my rest I was back out on the bike again. I wasn’t very fast, but the laps kept being ticked off. The support crew had also gained an extra member as a woman who was supporting her husband had swapped allegiances. In truth her husband had got water in his goggles during the swim which had scratched his corneas and had had to go to the local A & E. He was now back at the centre but was having a lie down; his wife hadn’t completely abandoned him.

There was another large support crew a little bit away from the main turning circle, who had come prepared with pots and pans. Every time a rider went past they would make loads of noise and shout encouragement. By the end of the day I was always grateful to see and hear them, even if I didn’t appear ‘compos mentis’. Big thanks to the blood, sweat and beers team.

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At some point during the afternoon Chris headed out on his bike to do a couple of laps in the opposite direction to cheer everyone on. Coming out of the village of Burley it was great to see him sitting by the side of the road shouting nice things at me. I later found out that he had got lost as all of the direction arrows faced in the other direction.

Different competitors and support crews survived in many ways. One crew enjoyed having a laugh and had handed their man a completely peeled banana on one lap, so he responded by asking for random things at regular intervals. Matt had asked COLT to send him messages that he would pass onto me a various times over the weekend. I remember Louise’s comments making me laugh so hard that Matt had to repeat it. I have added some of the best messages. A big thank you to everyone who sent messages, although Andy Ley is a potato.

After 13 laps the call came out that everyone going out had to have night gear. I swapped onto my road bike which had lights on it and pulled on my fluorescent gillet and headed out for another lap. It was a pleasant change to be on a road bike instead of my tri bike, especially when negotiating the two cattle grids on each lap. When I returned the centre had just started to serve dinner (tea) so it was the perfect time to stop for some real food.

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Some point during the night and Chris and Dan ponder the meaning of life. I think I had more sleep over the weekend than these two.

With only six laps of the bike course left I knew that I was at least going to finish leg 2. I don’t remember much of the next few hours, although I do remember Matt and Jim getting silly and Chris suggesting that they go to the bar for a rest. At 18 laps I again started to fall asleep while riding so I went back to bed for another hour. Chris told Dan where I was and he replied that he wished more competitors would take a break instead of continuing when not in any kind of fit state.

Minutes after I had climbed into bed Chris woke me, although it was probably closer to an hour. To give you an idea of how dedicated Chris was he even opened a tin of corn beef hash for me, which looked and smelled like dog food. After eating half the tin I could see the appeal of becoming a vegetarian. I followed my gourmet snack with a quick cup of coffee and then blasted through the last two laps. On my last lap Chris again jumped on his bike, but this time in the correct direction to check that there wasn’t anyone lying in a ditch. He rode beside me for the last couple of miles, which made a nice change as by this time in the morning that was hardly anyone else cycling.

Near the end of each lap there is a small climb up Braggers Lane. Last year I had managed it in the big ring every time, but this year I was using almost every gear, so it was a welcome sight when it was done and I could almost freewheel back into the turning circle for the last time. Total time for the bike was 17:45:41. Three and a half hours longer than last year.

Only 52 (hard) miles left. Chris asked if I wanted another quick sleep, but I was running on adrenaline and wanted to at least get a couple of laps under my belt. Matt and Jim were both in bed, separate beds I believe although I’m not sure, so Chris helped me to the changing marquee. Last year the temperature had dropped to 5 degrees over night, so I changed into leggings, fluorescent long sleeved thermal top, gloves, hat and head torch.

Keep those pedals turning, you’re on fire. – Danny Rogerson

I then set out on the first of 48 laps of a very demanding course. Hardly any flat bits, some very technical sections, a very wet and muddy part near the lake and a very steep climb over exposed tree roots. The temperature hadn’t been as hot during the day this year, so the night was warmer and at the end of my first lap I removed my gloves. Only 47 laps to go.

My plan was to not look at the full number of laps, instead only look at the next four laps. I also expected that I would need a rest every 8 laps or maybe sooner. After 4 laps Chris asked me if there was anything I wanted on the next lap, so remembering the crazy guys from earlier I asked for an avocado and a cheese grater. Not very original but it was the best I could come up with at the time. Ever the hero, Chris went and found a cheese grater and started to jog after me as I started my next lap. He found me crumpled in a heap with a couple of other runners checking that I was OK.

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This was taken much later in the day, but you can see how badly I was wounded. It was touch and go as to whether I would survive 🙂

“I couldn’t find an avocado,” Chris said to me, “but I’ve got a cheese grater.”

“Thanks”, I replied as Chris picked me up off the floor. The surface was uneven and I had managed to find a large dip and had then tried to cartwheel down the hill. My knee was sore but I couldn’t really see how bad it was in the dark so I suggested that I meet Chris at the medic tent as I continued with my lap. I hobbled around the lap and met Chris, but there wasn’t a medic. I went off for another lap while Chris went to find where the medic was hiding. It transpired that the medic was actually asleep in his tent in the larger medic tent and on the next lap he had a look at my knee. He cleaned all of the dirt out of it and sent me on my way.

I have to point out that the medic wasn’t some kind of St John’s or similar. He had serious equipment and could probably deal with a bear attack without too much fuss.

Back running and a couple of laps later it was light enough to remove my headtorch, and as expected I almost fell over again. At 16 laps, a third of the run, I went for another half hour sleep. Another cup of coffee and I soon passed the point where I had quit the previous year, which gave me another confidence boost. It had also warmed up so I was now running in shorts and a T-shirt. Finishing the first marathon coincided with the battery on my Garmin running out. Chris lent me his Suunto watch so that I would have a record of my run to upload to Strava. As we all know, if it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen.

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Almost everyone walked up this very small little rise, and this is probably the only time where Jim has been able to run faster than me. Stop smiling you git.

Reaching the half-way point of the run was another boost as I knew that I was going to finish, no matter what. The problem was that my feet were killing me. I had started running with the plan to stop and rest after every 8 laps, but this was down to every 4. Apart from general tiredness, my sore feet was the only problem I had on the run. Chatting with TC (legendary ultra triathlete who finished second in both this year and last year’s double) after the race, he suggested that I get a pair of Hokas. Sorry Ian. Jim had even offered to lend me his pair before he had to leave and I had declined, doh!

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A few laps later and one lap before I was due to stop for a rest Chris asked me if there was anything I wanted.

“Bag of crisps and a sausage roll,” I replied. I had brought sausage rolls with me, but not crisps. I returned after a lap to find that Matt and Chris had sourced a variety of crisps. I tucked in and felt a lot better. More running then. Nutrition was one of the things that I got wrong last year and it was interesting to see what other people were doing. One person was using a squeezy bottle of honey instead of gels, someone else was eating peanut butter by the jar. Jay used army ration packs.

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The laps were still being slowly ticked off and I had seen the eventual winner Mark Dodgson start his final lap. Originally I had hoped to be finished by midday on the Sunday, but it was already past this and Jim had to leave. I had suggested to Matt and Chris that they pack up and head off and leave me to it as I was sure that I would now finish. I later found out that Chris and Matt had spoken about this and had both decided that they would stay until the very end, even if I didn’t finish until midnight. You guys ROCK.

On the Sunday there was also a half and a single ironman on the same course, just fewer laps. I had watched them start the swim as I was running. I had watched them on their bikes as I was running, and now I was watching as the first of the half competitors ran past me. Considering how much quicker they were running than the double and triple people, I never saw or heard any complaints if they were held up on the narrower sections of the course.

On the turning circle there was one particular crew who made ‘The Inspirational Sign’ and the first time that I saw it I asked if it was for me. From that point on, whenever they could see me running down the hill towards the turning circle they would shout ‘come on the beard’. Great stuff and it made me smile every time.

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With only a few laps remaining Matt encouraged me to keep pushing and with two laps to go I changed into a COLT T-shirt. One of the best things about an Enduroman race is that when you only have one lap remaining, you turn around and complete the lap in the opposite direction. You then get to cheer people on as they are about to finish and I was looking forward to my last lap.

Everyone got a big cheer as they started their last lap, and there was still loads of people on the course, doing one of the various races. Almost everyone congratulated me as I ran past in the wrong direction or gave me a high-5, and I’ll admit that half-way round my last lap I was almost in tears.

Pain is momentary, glory lasts forever – Ian Bailey

Matt and Chris had given a COLT flag to a young lad who had been supporting his Dad do the single ironman and he handed it to me as I passed. Running into the turning circle for the last time, the cheers, the handshakes, and the tears was an amazing experience. Time for the run was 14:48:16. It was a shame that Jim couldn’t be there and I won’t mention Chris’ sudden hayfever attack.

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A handshake from Dan before I crossed the finish line a broken man, followed by a manly group hug from Matt and Chris.

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I’d done it. I was a Double Ironman. Total time for the whole thing was 34:55:57 (yes that really does say 34 hours). I was unsurprisingly physically spent.

Matt and Chris had already loaded up my bikes and it didn’t take long before they were ready to leave. I was staying an extra night so that I could be there for the breakfast of champions the next morning. I would then spend a couple of days with my parents who live nearby. To again prove how awesome my support crew were, I gave Matt a spare key to my flat so that he could drop off all my stuff once he returned to Lancaster.

I later found out that Chris had had to pull over and sleep for a couple of hours in his very small car, while Matt had stopped for Red Bull and coffee. I really couldn’t have done it without you guys.

My room was up two flights of stairs, great, but I managed to grab a couple of hours sleep before the evening meal was served. Like an idiot I walked down two flights of stairs before I realised that I had left my meal voucher in my room. Could have done without that. Chris had also left me a couple of beers, and after just one I was done in and was fast asleep by 9 pm.

Breakfast the next morning was a noisy affair as almost everyone who had completed the double or triple was there. Finishers T-shirts were the clothing of choice, red for the triple and orange for the double. It was also great to be able to chat with so many of the people that I had seen over the last many hours/days.

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Edgar Ette, the man in charge of the whole event got started with the prize giving. Oddly enough as he hadn’t slept for three days it was a fluid ceremony. Also strange that almost every prize winner was walking like an old man. Ghislain Marechal, the President of the International Ultra Triathlon Association was also there to award medals to everyone who had completed the triple. Ghislain had been competing in the triple himself, but had pulled out after two marathons, commenting that it was a good training session. He’s planning to do a continuous double decker ironman later in the year. Talking of nutters, the top three finishers in the triple had all taken part in a triple decker ironman the previous summer.

medal

During the race and immediately after finishing I told myself that this would be my last ultra triathlon. I had exorcised my demons from the previous year and had finished a double ironman. I wanted to continue to be part of Enduroman, but as part of a support crew for someone else. Unfortunately at the breakfast of champions when I saw the IUTA medal, I wanted one.

One thing that I know for certain is that I will be there next year in some capacity. The atmosphere, camaraderie and the whole Enduroman family is so much better than any other race I’ve ever done. Definitely better than a testosterone grunt filled M-dot race where the swim is so akin to a boxing match and the cost of the entry is £100 more than the double.

The full list of events for 2015 has yet to be finalised, but there won’t be a triple. There will be a double and entries are open from next week, but there’s no rush. For some strange reason the race doesn’t fill up as fast as an M-dot race. Why no triple next year? Enduroman are putting on a quin (that would be five). They are also putting it on in two different ways. You can either do an ironman a day for five days in a row, or you can do it as a continuous race. That would be a 12 mile swim, 560 mile bike and 131 mile run. I’m in if you are.

I love Strava

I love Strava. There, I’ve said it. Just over two years ago I did some overtime and with the money I bought myself a Garmin 500. I immediately loved how easy it was to swap between bikes and being able to upload rides to Google Earth or to the Geographical software that I use at work. A couple of weeks later I was on a Sunday ride with COLT when John asked me if I was on Strava. I’m not sure if it was John Bertram or John Sutton, but I replied, “What’s Strava?” Of course today everyone know what Strava is, but two years ago there was hardly anyone using it from Lancaster. There were fewer segments, but I could manage top ten placings on nearly every ride. I even managed a few KOM’s.

scotland

One particularly epic day where I rode to Scotland and back. A total of 255 km and hillier than I had originally thought.

Funnily enough it wasn’t segment hunting that got me hooked, it was the challenges. The first one that I completed was Rapha Rising during the Tour De France in 2012. That challenge involved climbing almost 7,000m in eight days. More than I would usually do, but I managed it with a day to spare. I began to then check every couple of days to see when the next challenge would start.

badges

Some of the Strava challenges that I have completed in the last two years.

So apart from the challenges, what else do I love about Strava? I love being able to track my progress to see how many PR’s I have managed on each ride. Unfortunately with the amount of cycling that I do these are getting harder and harder to obtain. Generally it’s either when I do a route that I’ve only done once or twice, or there’s a big tailwind.

Strava playback is a recent addition, where you can upload a ride and then see everyone that you rode with, rode past, or who passed you in the other direction.

I have also made some great new friends from Strava, so for me if you have a Garmin there really is no excuse for not uploading every ride and run. My training doubled from about 5,000 miles a year to 12,500 miles last year. Quantity not quality, but without Strava I would never have managed to complete a double Ironman.

https://beardsandtriathlons.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/enduroman-2014/