My first experience of Ironman was when I arrived in Bolton on Friday to register and attend the brief. The finish line was set up and it looked awesome. I remember thinking to myself, I can't wait to run down there. Saturday was back to Bolton to drop off my bags and bike in transition and as it was a nice day, I walked round most of the run course again just to see if the hills in the park were as bad as I'd remembered, luckily I'd built them up to be worse than they were.
Sunday morning, I was picked up at 04.10am after having very little sleep and really struggling to get my porridge down. We arrived at Pennington Flash in plenty of time to set up the nutrition on the bike and to have a good look around, taking everything in. Bike position remembered I'm ready.
Out of transition and bumped into 2 friendly faces, Sarah and Pete so wetsuit on and passed my bag to Pete. Spotting loads of people I knew that were doing the race or were there just watching actually helped with the nerves.
I positioned myself in the self seeding queue for the swim, I went in the block that was a little faster than my expected time but I hoped I might be able to get on some toes and get dragged round. I found that I kept picking the wrong feet to follow. After lap 1, I was still with a big pack as we all jumped in for lap 2. Again I felt like I pretty much swam on my own apart from the plonker who kept hitting my feet til I did a few big kicks.
Climbed out of the water wetsuit half off and into a gel I had in my pocket.
Transition 1 : 6m 39
Not sure what happened in here. Everything seemed to go OK (apart from the slight queue for the loo) but it's a pretty long time to be in transition
Bike: 7h 22
Mounted the bike well and started picking off people straight away. The course is fairly flat until you get through Bolton so it was time to get on the bars and build some speed. This all disappeared as I hit the hills, my skinny legs only like flat and downhill, something that me and coach are going to work on.
It was like a game of cat and mouse, I was passing people but any big climb they'd catch up. I'd only finally leave them if there was a decent stretch with no big climbs. I had some awesome support on the route which definitely helped me loads though.
Coming towards the end of the route, I kept developing a pain in my knee. The horrible feeling of not being able to run kept going through my head.
Anyway transition approaching, feet out, upto line, not bad and I was into T2
Transition 2: 4m 33
I know what took me so long this time, my toes blister on long runs but I find the glove type socks work well. These are never quick to get on at the best of times but in a race with boiling hot feet, they were a nightmare.
Run: 4h 06
As I set off on the run, the pain in my knee thankfully disappeared and didn't return. I was surprised how good I actually felt, for the first 2 laps everything just felt good. By the end of the 3rd lap my legs were not playing anymore. I still felt like I had the energy but my legs were tightening up. Once I got onto lap 4 I thought to myself, 10k that's all it is. Pick up the pace a bit and finish strong. Unfortunately my hamstrings weren't listening and they wanted to plod, feeling like they would cramp when I tried to go faster.
I couldn't even manage to speed up once I'd hit the town, it was just a matter of keep running, I had avoided walking the whole way around, I wasn't about to do it now.
As I came round the town hall and the marshall pointed for me to go down the finish chute, my heart started pumping. I headed up to the line and couldn't wait to hear her say "Stephen, you are an Ironman"
Total time: 13h 04
I'm really happy with how everything went, the swim was only a couple of minutes over the time I'd trained for (still my quickest over the distance by 6 mins), the bike was just as expected and the run was unfortunately 6mins over what I'd trained for but again, my quickest ever marathon.
If I'd have saved a couple of minutes on each I'd have been very happy to see a time of 12h....
Until next time!