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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

My Ironman Bolton by Dave Sloan


Another sleepless night, the third in a row, and it was a 3:45 alarm to tell me that it was officially the day that the last 12-months had been leading to. It was just a case of a quick breakfast and a short walk (taking in the drunken Leythers have domestic dust-ups on their way home from the Waterside) down to Pennington Flash to do a last few checks of the bike, stand in a long queue for a portaloo and nervously wait in line in a position that 'should' reflect my swim time to start the race. It did help that I had Neil and Michelle to keep me company during this period, and as the klaxon went and we shuffled towards the waters edge it suddenly became real - I am going to be doing an Ironman today!

I must start by saying that the support at such an ungodly hour was amazing, thousands of friends and family members crowded the shores of the water to do their part to help us achieve that toughest of goals of becoming an Ironman, this would be the scene for the day as all of our loved ones would drag their caffeine fuelled bodies around the North-West to catch a glimpse and a photo of us and prove that this is not a solo expedition in any sense of the word.

Back to the race...

The staggered swim start was very much to my liking, I have had a few bad experiences over the season with panics in open water because of the amount of people around me on the mass start, but this seemed to do the trick. I know it's different for others and I appreciate that it doesn't necessarily suit the top swimmers, but for those in the middle-to-back of the pack it is definitely a positive.
There was the usual kicking and shoving throughout the swim section of the race, but I found myself picking out Neil towards the end of the first lap and had a quick motivational nod before going back into the water to not see each other for the next eight hours. The second lap of the swim was a bit slower than the first, but equally as uneventful, at that time of the morning you just want the swim over with so that you can get on with the bike leg of the journey. I suppose I should be grateful (and proud) that I have been able to get my swim to a decent enough level to be that confident in it. Total swim time 1:17:02.

T1 was a mud bath! 

On to the bike, to put it into perspective, this would be the equivalent amount of time to a day spent in the office.
I got out of T1 ok, straight to business, with an idea to stick in my Granny Gear (bottom cog on the front ring) all the way to Chequerbent Roundabout to allow my legs to wake up after the long swim, this definitely helped set my pace for the day, but then again so did the fact that I had to stop to change my tyre at mile-3, to break the valve on my spare and then put the one with a puncture back onto my bike which I would then need to periodically pump back up along the route. At this point I must thank Mr Hyde (Senior) for his help when all I wanted to do was bang my head on a wall (luckily none present) and Barb for her help on Babylon Lane, without you guys I don't think I'd have even finished the bike leg!
The bike was much harder than expected. I've done the route a couple of times in training, but on the day it is so much more difficult. I don't know if I was working too hard on the flat sections to try and claim back time or not, but I worked to my power meter as planned over the previous 8-weeks and the final ascent of Hunters Hill was horrendous! But it's not the Ironman for nothing!
Along the route I passed, but mostly was passed by, many familiar and friendly faces, short words of encouragement or experience exchanged and a shout of 'SLOAN' from Mr Joslin as he passed me much earlier than expected. Overall I didn't perform as well as I would have liked on the bike, but I was still enjoying myself and soaking up the atmosphere of the great crowds and spectators and still drinking up the amazing atmosphere that had kept me going since them klaxons nearly 9-hrs ago. As I came down the hill into T2 I saw Phil and Claire on their way out onto the run course, and prepared myself for jelly legs at the start of the Marathon still to come!
Just a little wobble on dismount, when I couldn't get my right cleat unclipped and nearly had a tumble, but otherwise I was finally off the bike in a total of 7:11:02.

T2 was all about suntan lotion and clean socks, an absolute treat!

Ok, time to chase them down! The run was my baby, what I'd been training for all year and the first 6-miles did not disappoint, clocking an average of 7:45/mile, I was flying and the jelly legs were purely a thing of myth! I had finally caught up with Claire around 8-miles, words cannot describe how proud I was (and still am) of her for avoiding me for so long, I was still feeling strong at this point as I approached the A&T marshals and got an amazing cheers from those guys, before arriving into Bolton town centre, which was a party atmosphere and was very infectious with many a friend and family member within the crowd to really boost the adrenaline. Numerous high-5's later it was back out and up the dreaded hill (time for a little walk), which was much the same as the first time around, but I had started to feel that the thermostat had been cranked up a little (I also noticed that a bit more alcohol had been consumed by the crowds). As the miles ticked down I managed to try and give encouragement to those I knew as we passed, a nod or a wave mostly, and before I knew it I had done 20-miles and was coming into town for the penultimate time, with only a single lap to go. I think this is where my brain switched off. I had been on the go for 12hrs and it had had enough. My thighs and lower back started to ache and every step was painful when I tried to run. I managed the loop around town with a stop to get some much needed motivation from mine and Claire's families and friends and set off on a death-march around my last loop. I was lucky enough to share some of this time with Anthony Hart who tried to talk me into running, but I was not listening and he soon left me behind. It was only 3-miles later when Emma Higgins shamed me into running and I knew that the A&T marshals would soon see me walking that I mustered up enough energy to run down the hill, then the last little bit from the water station to the finish line. Marathon time - 4:14:07. Total Ironman time 13:02:50

I wasn't as emotional running down the red carpet as I anticipated, but seeing Claire finish less than 20 minutes behind me really made me proud for her and there was perhaps a little tear at that point! 

I would again like to thank everybody who came out to support and marshal, to those who have helped me get to the start line and those who have spent numerous hours training with me and listening to my complaints for the past 12-months, you are all greatly appreciated.

So, what does the future hold? Immediately, a few Ultra Running events towards the end of the year and I am looking forward to getting involved in club events again, I may even try and qualify for the club cross-country and road championships, definitely no spring marathons next year by doctors orders. Ironman? Well, never say never.....

David Sloan

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