IMUK 2018 – Supporter

Once again I didn’t race IMUK, but as usual I was supporting for a couple of hours. When I’ve been a supporter before I’ve always cycled to Adlington and been part of the famous COLT Alley on Babylon Lane. The photos below were from last year.

This year, due to time constraints, I drove down to Horwich, had a quick 17 mile tile hunting loop around Bolton, and then stood on the Chorley New Road near to the roundabout for the Bolton football stadium.

While this didn’t have the atmosphere of COLT Alley, it was a good place to be as there wasn’t anyone else near me. The triathletes had also done about 11 miles at this point and there isn’t much to look at or many supporters once you’ve left Pennington Flash.

With 19 people from COLT there were many to cheer on, although I tried to clap for every single person, not just those from COLT. I gave a special cheer to those sporting good quality beards, especially one bloke from Rochdale Tri. Nearly everyone acknowledged me, which put a huge smile on my face. What was also good was that most of the COLTs would recognise me before I spotted them, making my ‘job’ easier.

Chris ‘Hippy’ Wild was first COLT past me, although I would have missed him if he hadn’t shouted, as there was a very angry shouty woman in a camper van complaining about her life in general and the poor choices that she had made.

Some of the COLTs I had no idea who they were, so a simple ‘Go COLT’ had to suffice. I thoroughly enjoyed cheering people on for a couple of hours, making a welcome change from racing. I also didn’t take a single photo as I was too busy cheering, oh well.

What about next year? Will I be racing? While I would love to cycle up COLT Alley I’m not a big fan of the M-Dot commercial enterprise, and the high cost of entering. I did enter last year, but pulled out (read about my Ironman journey here). I also worry that if I raced at IMUK people would find out that I’m actually a bit shit. I might do Lanzarote next year as it would be 20 years since I raced there, my one and only M-Dot branded race, but I might change my mind.

To finish, big well done to everyone who raced. You are an Ironman!

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Wetsuit or no wetsuit?

With all of the hot weather that we’ve been having, there has been some talk that IMUK might be a non wetsuit swim. This won’t happen. The organisers will take the temperature early in the morning and probably from a boat near the middle of Pennington Flash, just to make sure that the temperature is below the upper limit. In over 20 years of triathlons I have never done one where wetsuits were banned.

I’ve done some long swims, including Ironman, double ironman (here), triple ironman (here) and a 10k swim in Salford Quays where I ripped my wetsuit minutes before starting. The swim in Salford was on a very hot day, and I didn’t overheat in my wetsuit, although my drinks bottle almost melted.

But, if wetsuits are optional, should you go without?

Hell No!

I’m not the strongest swimmer or the most efficient, so for me it’s a no brainer. A couple of weeks ago at Isoman (read about it here), because I was only doing the swim I went without a wetsuit. I didn’t get cold, but I was seriously tired at the end of the 7+ mile swim and would have been much quicker if I’d been wearing my wetsuit.

I have raced once without a wetsuit. I did the Cockerham Triathlon in 2007, my first race after moving to Lancaster, and because the swim was less than 400m, the time I would have saved from wearing a wetsuit I would make up with not having to remove it. For me, if the swim is 500m and the water isn’t too cold, then I would possibly go without a wetsuit, but for all other races, I will be wearing one, no exceptions for me from now on.

Ironman UK Bike Route Update II

A few days ago I blogged about the possibility of IMUK having to alter the bike route (read about it here). IMUK have now announced that the route has been changed, and reduced in length to 95 miles. I was expecting the route change, but I was also expecting that IMUK would make up the miles somewhere around the other side of the course. Not enough notice for the police and the local authority I presume.

So, the revised route, what is it like? Hilly and technical. The revised route heads over Anglezarke Hill, which not as long as Sheephouse Lane, it is steeper. The descent is also very technical and very steep. Additionally, you lose the long fast section from Belmont to the M65. Anglezarke is not a hill I would want to ride on a tri-bike, but if you’re steady and it’s not wet, you should be OK.

Finally, I’m not sure where the masked Mexican wrestlers from Sheephouse Lane will be, although they are making a stance for your extra 17 miles.

Isoman Race Report

or to be more exact, Isoman swim only race report.

Why only the swim? Why not the whole triathlon? Me and my beautiful wife had both entered the triathlon. I was doing the full race and my wife just the quarter distance, although the quarter still had a 1.75 mile swim, so not an easy race. We arrived at the race venue on the Friday and had a look around the lake. All good. We had a look at some of the run route. Again all good. We still had an hour before registration opened so we decided the drive one lap of the bike course. The lap was approx 15 miles, I would have to do it four times and my wife just the once.

We set off in the car and the bike route immediately took us onto a dual carriageway, and turned left onto another dual carriageway. Worrying, but not too bad. The next few miles were kind of industrial until we popped out onto another dual carriageway, uphill, busy, with a left filter lane to negotiate. The photos below were from the race the following day.

The route turned off the dual carriageway and headed into the countryside along some very pleasant roads, before once again throwing you straight out onto the dual carriageway. Back at the venue neither of us were happy about the cycle route, so after a chat with the race director we dropped down to swim only entrants. Back in the 90’s the Bournemouth Olympic Distance Triathlon used to be mainly on dual carriageways, but one lane was coned off and the race was early on a Sunday morning. I would have been on the bike at Isoman from 11 to 1-ish, on a Saturday. Far too busy to be safe.

The race director apologised but said that there wasn’t a lot they could do in Redditch, as there was so many busy roads. Maybe don’t hold the race in Redditch!

The morning of the race was far more relaxed as we didn’t need to rack bikes or set up transition. Instead we ambled to the swim start and waited for the off. The full race/swim was off at 7am and Helen would be off at 10.30. As I was only doing the swim I decided the make it a bit tougher by going without my wetsuit.

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There were only three of us without wetsuits. As we waited in the water for the gun to go off I spotted TC, the numpty, arriving late and rushing into the water after the start. At least I wouldn’t be last out of the water I thought with a smile. The water temperature was fine without my wetsuit and I was soon into a nice rhythm. The long swim involved eight laps and I planned to stop for a drink at the end of laps two and four. It was a lot harder than I expected and was glad that I had a couple of gels with my water bottle.

At the end of lap five I was feeling tired, but I spotted Helen next to the feed station which gave me a boost. Lap seven was really tough and I seriously considered stopping, especially when faster swimmers from the half or quarter overtook me like I wasn’t moving. Half a banana and a drink and I knew that I could manage one last lap.

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I dragged myself out of the water in a time of 4 hours and 34 minutes. Not last. My longest swim both time and distance, and my longest swim by a very long way without a wetsuit. It also appeared that each lap was a bit long, as most people took longer than expected and recorded more, so it was probably nearer to 7 and a half miles instead of the advertised 7.

Originally I had planned to head back to the car, get changed and faff about for a bit before seeing Helen finish her swim, but I had taken so long she finished only a few minutes after I did. My beautiful wife was well pleased, it had also been her longest open water swim and she had enjoyed every minute of it, except for losing sight of a buoy one time and having to swim a bit extra.

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In the heat I was very pleased not to be doing the whole triathlon. In previous years the winner has taken just over nine hours, this year only the winner went under 12 hours. We were finished and back at Helen’s brother’s house by 1pm and Helen had enough energy to go for a short bike ride while I had a sleep. The swim only event meant that we could enjoy the weekend and go out with the outlaws for a posh pub meal, so it all worked out in the end.

 

Ironman UK Bike Route Update

For those of you living in the south, or those of you not too good on your geography, there is a large fire on Winters Hill at the moment.

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Why is this important? Well, the IMUK bike route goes up and over Sheephouse Lane, which is next to Winter’s Hill, and is currently closed to traffic. Firefighters and the army are using it as a base to combat the fire. This morning the A675 from Bolton to Belmont was closed because of smoke from the fire. If I was to look for an alternative route, the A675 is what I would use. The BBC has stated that the fire is expected to continue for at least another week, and with no rainfall predicted, the current IMUK bike route looks like it will have to be changed.

The race organisers are aware of the situation, so I assume that they must be working on an alternative route. I doubt very much that the race would be cancelled, and at worst it might involve three or four laps of the second half of the route. It would be a shame if Sheephouse Lane was closed for the race, as along with COLT Alley (Babylon Lane) it is one of the noisiest and more iconic parts of the route.

I think that IMUK should publish a revised route as soon as possible, so that supporters can find alternative places to cheer. I’m intending to be near the Bolton football stadium in Horwich, cheering everyone one when they still have a hundred miles to cycle. I’ll be wearing a COLT shirt and be sporting a rather large beard. Wave or say ‘hi’ if you see me, and good luck if you’re racing.

Isoman is almost here

Two days away in fact, and I am quite nervous. It’s a funny distance race which I’ve blogged about before (here). 7 mile swim, 61 mile bike and then a marathon. I’ve swam over 100 miles so far this year, which is more than I’ve ever done in a full year, although my longest swim has been 7km, not 7 miles, and I didn’t look too good at the end.

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Cycling should be OK, although I don’t have a Tri-bike any more, or even clip on tri bars. I’m not too worried as I know from experience that getting aero after a 7 mile swim is hard, as my neck, back, shoulders and arms will all be tired from the swim.

As for the marathon, I’ve done one half marathon this year, which was slow and painful, and I’ve been plagued by an injured calf muscle, so we’ll see how it goes. I don’t want to pull out, but I don’t want to injury myself for the rest of the year.

Race clothing? Last weekend I went out cycling wearing my tri-suit, which felt very strange. It does look good though.

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My shoulders did get a little burnt from the sun, as they are generally never exposed. The forecast is high 20’s and very little shade on the bike or run. Therefore, I made an emergency purchase of some tri-shorts from Wiggle. I’ll wear these for the whole race, but put on a cycling top for the bike leg, and a T-shirt for the run. I went for a steady 3km run in my new shorts this morning and they feel good, and match my running shoes, which is nice.

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I don’t have a time in mind for finishing, although sub 11 hours would be nice. Here’s hoping it all goes well.

Ironman Loop

I’m not doing Ironman UK this year (or any year), but when the legendary Chris Wild organises a gentle recce of the loop, it’s rude not to go. I’ve done the loop a few years ago when it was three laps, but I’ve never done the newer two lap version, plus, I’ve never done the final section into Bolton. As an added bonus, my beautiful wife Helen wanted to come along, even though she also has no plans to enter IMUK either, or any ironman race.

Nine of us set off from Queen’s Park, which is the new location for T2 instead of the Reebok Stadium, and gently headed out of Bolton along the main road, all the way to Adlington and Babylon Lane. This section of road has the noisiest fans you’ll find anywhere on the course, mostly from COLT (The City of Lancaster Triathlon Club). The photo below makes it look like a large hill, but I guarantee on race day you’ll fly up it.

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Yesterday, it didn’t look like this. After Babylon Lane the first tester of the day arrives in the form of Sheephouse Lane. Again you’ll find noisy supporters near the top, many dressed at masked Mexican wrestlers (?). It’s a long climb, but the steep sections are fairly short. The descent is safe-ish as well. Into Belmont and it’s a fast main road for the next few miles, followed by another main road, which isn’t really conducive for a group of nine triathletes having a chat as we cycled round the route. Some of the driving we saw was unbelievably bad.

I should also point out that in places the road surface is absolutely terrible, especially near Wheelton where you cross over the top lock section of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. It’s also quite technical here, so take it a little easier. During the loop I was asked if I would use a Tri-bike or regular road bike if I was racing. My answer is whatever your most comfortable with. If you use a Tri-bike make sure you can descend safely and that you can climb. Also make sure that you don’t have a silly cassette without low enough gears for the two big climbs. As for tyres, I would go with 25mm if they will fit, and I would sacrifice a little speed for durability. My choice of tyre is a Specialized Armadillo, but Conti 4 seasons or Schwalbe Marathon Plus would also work well, instead of puncture prone Vittoria or similar.

We didn’t have a cafe stop on our loop, but we did stop a few times for nutrition, or ‘biscuits’ in my case. Proper race nutrition isn’t really my strong point. I was seen eating a bag of Hula-Hoops on the run during my Triple Ironman.

ironman route

On the route everyone is wary of Sheephouse Lane, but the other climb, Hunters Hill is just as bad. It’s not as long but the steep section is steeper. I was riding with a compact chainset and a 12-27 cassette. I had one gear left up Sheephouse, but used the bottom one on Hunters Hill. At the bottom of the hill you can see a white house. This is the end of the steep section and you’re nearly there once you reach it. Again on race day there will be hundreds of people to cheer you on, many of them drunk as there is a pub at the top. The pub are also happy to fill up water bottles when you’re out training, or lend you a pair of pliers is you can’t remove the funny washer thing from your inner tube if you get a flat.

At the top, while waiting for the puncture repair, another group of cyclists appeared, one of them wearing a Hells 500 top. Always good to meet a fellow Everester!

From the top of Hunters Hill it’s only a few miles back to Babylon Lane, where you’ll begin your second lap. We were tempted by the brilliant Phil Walton for a brew, but time was getting on so we headed straight back to Bolton. Once again the traffic was awful, something you won’t need to worry about on race day, but be careful out there on a recce.

We did 60 miles, which included one full lap and the out and back section from Bolton, although the ‘out’ section on race day will be from Pennington Flash, but is about the same distance. The route does look a little like a phoenix rising out of the ashes of Bolton.

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One of our little group, Tammy, was ecstatic with completing her first full lap of the course, and given how much she’s improved over the winter, she’ll have a great race day in July.

As for me, I’ll be stood on Babylon Lane with a burger or chocolate, cheering you on, doing my best Seasick Steve impression.

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Wherever you’re racing this year, have a great one.