My ironman started while I was volunteering at last years event I was handing out drinks and words of encouragement to people who were going to accomplish probably the hardest thing they had ever done in there life and I thought I want to do that, I knew I could run, I could ride a bike, but I couldn't swim. I had always wanted to have swimming lessons but other stuff gets in the way and you never seem to have time, I needed motivation so I thought the best way was to enter imuk the next day and then learn to swim it was a challenge to myself, I phoned 3 swimming instructors and explained that I had entered ironman but couldn't swim and asked could they help, I spoke to two of them and left a message for the third but none of them got back in touch, then one night at the track I mentioned it dave who told me Johnny knew someone who's dad was a swimming instructor, Johnny introduced me to him and he said his dad worked at hindley pool and I should go down the next day and he would help me, so I turned up the next night and met John spilain I was a bit nervous but John reassured I would be ok he said get in and let's see what you can do i nervously got into the pool and he said swim towards me it was then I thought he must think I can swim a little bit but I'm not very good, so I explained to him I can't swim at all I can't even float he said that it's ok as I will not have any bad habits and that he would not bother teaching me breaststroke as this would not be suitable for ironman he passed me two woggles I've seen children using these in the pool to help them float and I felt a bit stupid using them when the people in the other lanes made it look so easy, I put one woggle under my arms and one under my waist and attempted to swim about five yards, my ironman training had started, over the next few months I would have good and bad days in the pool on a couple of occasions I got out of the pool early and said to John I can't do it I could never see myself being able to swim 2:4 mile miles especially in open water but he kept reassuring me I will come one day and everything will click and that once I can do a length we can build on that, at this point I could only do a length aided by a float and even then I would be gasping for air when I got to the other end, I thought to myself what was you thinking paying £400 to enter ironman you've wasted your money but John gave me a target of doing a length unaided by christmas then one Tuesday night at the end of November I managed to do a length this gave me the boost I needed I thought to myself if you can do one why can't you do another and another over the next few months I practiced a lot on my own I couldn't run because of an injury so I used this time to practice swimming sometimes going five times a week, by February I could swim about thirty lengths in an hour but I still had to stop at each end to get my breath
John let me try my wetsuit out in the pool so I could see the difference it made, I couldn't believe it, I done twenty lengths that night without stopping the buoyancy made a big difference and my stroke seemed more relaxed I was still tired but no longer gasping for air at each end, John taught me what to do if I got tired or in trouble in open water a lesson that would come in very handy in the future. I carried on improving having good days and bad days by the beginning of April I could do a mile in an hour, this was great seeing as I started at nothing but it would put me right on the cut off time for the swim and everyone had told me I would probably do more than 2:4 miles on the day because I would be swimming wide to avoid getting into a mass brawl and it is hard to swim in a straight line in open water, all the time I was practicing at hindley the support and encouragement from the A&t members was great always telling me I was doing great and giving me little tips to help me improve one tip I got at the end of a session one Tuesday night I put into practice the next day at howe bridge and I knocked twelve minutes off my mile time this is when I started to believe I would get out of the water before cut off, but I had not been in open water yet so I was not getting too excited, I still had my knee injury but things happen for a reason and if I was able to run I probably would have done less swimming, may was to be a good month for me I tried open water swimming for the first time and wore cleats on my bike for the first time ( and I didn't fall over ) my first open water swim at at sale water park joan Cooke was going down and suggested I should try it she was doing an aquathon everyone had wetsuits on except joan ( she's hardcore) the swim went well after nervously getting in and getting use to the the cold I managed to do two 450m laps so feeling confident I went down to the flash the next day to have another go there were a lot of familiar faces there all giving me encouragement and Ian bushrod said he would swim with me, the flash seemed more daunting than sale it's a lot bigger, darker and seemed to be colder so having Ian with me helped I done two 450m laps again and was happy with my swim breathing was ok and I wasn't nervous I could see the other swimmers doing the full 1900 lap and it seemed impossible for me, on my 4th visit to the flash I got chatting to Neil who asked me how it was going I told him I had had just been sticking to the 450m loop and had not been out any further he suggested I try the 750 so I thought why not I've got to do it sometime so I got in and started off confidently but about 200 m out I started to feel cramp coming in my right hamstring so I stopped and started treading water until it eased off I looked around and all I could see was one swimmer coming towards me it was getting late and most of the swimmers had finished I saw the boat but it was over the far side of the flash watching swimmers who were doing the big loop, the swimmer coming towards me asked if I was ok I told him I was I t was just cramp and it was easing off I set off to swim again but only got about 5 yards before the cramp came back I stopped again treading water the other swimmer must of been concerned and asked me again if I was ok I told him yes and then all of a sudden I felt cramp coming in my other leg I was now finding it impossible to tread water and was flapping my arms to stay afloat the other swimmer shouted out to me "are you sure your ok " it was then I started to panic I was struggling to stay afloat I felt the water going over my head while I was trying to breath, I said to him think I need help can you get the boat I then remembered what John had taught me and rolled over onto my back and waited to be rescued it seemed like ages before the boat turned up but it was probably less than a minute it's very disorienting lying on your back in the middle of the flash when the boat arrived I was relieved to say the least but also embarrassed, that night it must of played on my mind because I woke up in the night gasping for air. I went back to the flash on Thursday I thought the best thing to do was get straight back in I started off ok but only got to the first bouy which is only about 25 meters away and I started to panic I could feel my heart rate going up and my breathing was all over the place I had to turn around and even the 25 meters back to the shore seemed miles away and I wondered if I'd make it, I got out composed myself and decided to have another go I started to swim out again and this time I didn't even get to the first bouy before the panic set in, I got out and called it a day I would try again sat morning, in the meantime Ian & tracy had found out what had happened and said they would meet me at the flash on Saturday and swim with me, I met them at the flash they tried there best to keep me calm and said they wouldn't be far away should I get into trouble I swam out with them and as I approached the first bouy I panicked again and quickly turned around I could could here them shouting me back telling me I'll be ok but I couldn't get back to the shore quick enough I did go back in but the same thing happened again. I went home gutted thinking it was all over but not to be put off I thought maybe it was just the flash I had a problem with so I decided to go to sale water park in the afternoon the water was clearer and it was not as big I got In felling ok but after swimming about 30-40 yards started to panic again and had to get out this time I didn't get back in and I knew then there was no way i could do the ironman i said to tracy that's it I'm out can't do it for the next few days I was convinced I could not do it, word must of got around and I got a phone call from Anthony hart, Anthony had been great help to me over the past months letting me tag along with him on the ironman bike course giving me nutrition tips and doing me a bike fit, I've also must thank Jane and cath for getting me out on the bike and the brick sessions, thanks girls! Anthony told me to give it another go said he didn't think I was a quitter and should go back to the flash and don't swim if I don't want to just get in the water and float or tread water So that's what I did the following Monday paid my £6 just to float in the flash, I had heard about three sisters on Wednesdays and that it was clear water and only 5 ft deep in most places so I thought I would give it a go I looked on the website and found out it was time trial week but you didn't have to do it if you just wanted to swim it was ok so I went down there put my wet suit on and waited for the briefing he explained the different distances and the said if you just want to swim you will still have to swim in the same direction as the other swimmers so as not to get in there way when I heard this I thought I might as well go and get changed now because there was no way I could swim even one lap my confidence was at zero I knew if I went back and got changed I would not be back in open water the fear would of won I remember telling tracy the day before I was going to give it another go because I have always told people you can do anything if you put your mind to it so I should practice what I preach and get on with it, I bumped into Phil Riley and he gave me words of encouragement he's another one who's been a great help over the past few months always there with encouragement and advice, so I got in let the 3 groups go off at one minute intervals then set off myself about 30 seconds behind the last person the first 100 yards was tough breathing was all over the place but then I started to settle down I think knowing I could stand up in most parts calmed me and my breathing settled and I started to concentrate on technique about 500 yards in I caught another swimmer and passed them the first time ever I had passed someone, my first swim in sale water park 4 weeks ago i was trying to keep up with a duck swimming alongside me I started to tire and the duck left me for dead, as I completed the first 750 loop I was feeling great so thought I'll do it again this was allready the furthest I had ever swam without stopping half way around the second loop I was feeling that comfortable I started to think about a third that would be over 2k by this time I had passed about 5 more swimmers so I set off on my 3rd lap when I got out he shouted out my time and said deduct your start time this gave me 1:07 for 2150m the longest and quickest I had ever swam I was now full of confidence a calculated I could do the ironman in about 2:00-2:05 but could I do it in the flash? I met Ian and tracy down there on sat morning tracy was doing the big loop Ian didn't have long as he was working so I decided to start with the 450 loop with Ian, we swam out together past the first bouy feeling fine past the second no sign of panic and back to the start we stopped ian asked how I felt and if I wanted to go again so we set off on another lap Ian had to go after the second lap I found out later he was late for work because he had stayed with me, brilliant guy! I set off again to do another 450 lap but thought ironman is getting closer only 3 weeks away and I've got to be swimming out further so decided to do the 750 lap when I got to the 3rd bouy to turn left I thought it's all or nothing I've got to get a long swim in the flash under my belt so I carried on to the next bouy this would be 950m I got around ok and decided to go again but was now thinking about cramp coming again as this would be my longest swim and it was cold my fingers and feet were numb there were times when I was out in the middle of the flash and you start to think what if I get cramp what if it's choppy and you can't breath properly if you think about things like this for too long you can feel your heart rate rising and can understand how you can easily get into a panic I've read about different methods to calm yourself down but for me I pictured myself going over the finish line and what it would feel like and this worked for me, swim completed 2800m this was to be my longest swim before ironman I went back to the flash twice more but shorter swims 950 and 1500. So to race day eventually at this point I want to thank all the A&t members for getting me here could not have done it without your support and encouragement, what a great bunch of people.woke up the morning of the race feeling quite calm I knew the first 200-300m of the swim was going to be tough but knew if I could get through that it would get better so after the last minute bike checks and toilet visits wished people good luck quick kiss off tracy then off to get in line i positioned myself near the 2hr sign there was probably only 20 people behind me after hearing the national anthem then the gun go off it seemed like ages until I got to the start when I got to the timing mat I realised you couldn't walk all the way in you had to step off the end of the ramp something I had never done before I usually walk in stand there for about a minute while I get use to the cold and then start swimming so I knew this was going to take my breath but there was no going back now there was no way I was not going to get in and once I was in I was not going to bo towed back by a canoe it went as planned first 200m trying to calm my breathing down and trying to find space then I started to relax got a couple of kicks and bumps but nothing to major made sure I went wide to stay out of trouble just wanted to get the first lap out of the way I knew the second would be easier because there would be less people more spread out when I got out after the first lap I could here the noise from the a& t crowd think they were more shocked than me, ran over gave tracy a kiss then back in I wasn't feeling tired at all and enjoyed the second lap really concentrating on my stroke I couldn't believe how many people I passed I was convinced before the start I was going to be last out, getting out of the water after ther second lap was tricky I had given it everything in the last 400m and my legs were like jelly when I tried to get on the exit ramp, I passed the a& t crowd again the support was great into transition got a well done from Scott priestly, transition went pretty well only the mud was a problem got my bike and ran to the timing mat as I approached what must of been a speed bump I thought I heard a beep so went to cock my leg over my bike then I heard someone shouting no! I looked up and it was Chris and Louise I had not crossed the mat so had to push it a bit further, I took it easy on the way to rivington because I knew what was coming, because I had spent so much time learning to swim I had not been out on the bike enough I had done one loop of the ironman course so I knew what to expect but my longest ride with hills had been 67 miles I had had done 75 2 weeks before but that had been southport and back which is really flat so I knew the second lap was going to be really tough I felt as long as I get the nutrition right I would get round I made sure I drank 2 bottles of isotonic between each feed station 1gel and 1 salt tab every hour I did pick up half a banana 3-4 times and this seemed to work for me I didn't think I would see anyone from A&t on the bike so I was surprised to pass dave Sloan Snr first time up sheep but this was short lived as he flew past me going down into Belmont and I wouldn't see him again for about 10 hours, the crowd support on the bike route really does help takes your mind off the pain Babylon lane is like a carnival atmosphere, hunter is also great seen scot and Clair on hunters well I heard Clair about half a mile before I seen her, once I got to the first cut off with just over an hour to spare I felt better but I knew any minor breakdown like a puncture would put me under pressure unlike some of the others I was lucky I really felt sorry for the others dave had a bad start getting a puncture early on that hindered him all day Jane had 3 Anthony's chain snapped he was lucky to get going again and Mathew had to pull out due to sickness so I consider myself very lucky, I knew all I had to do was get around in cut offs on the bike and I could walk/ run the marathon I had a time in my mind for the bike wich was 8 hours don't know why because I had never rode that far before but i wasn't far out 7:58 after nearly 8 hours on the bike I was glad to get off and by now I was starting to imagine what it will be like to here your name when you cross the finish line transition went well quick slap of suncream and Vaseline and off but it wasn't long before I was walking the first hill is only around the back of transition short but steep I planned not to run any hill even at the beginning no matter how good I felt it's the first time I have been so disaplined in a marathon I usually go a fast as I can for as long as I can but I know from experience this can sometimes go horribly wrong and I had to look at the bigger picture don't mess it up now, in my head I broke the marathon down and set myself 4 mini targets 1st get to the town centre where I knew the A&t support would be then 3 10ks I was starting to tire just before I got to bark St but when you see all the familiar faces and here the support it really does give you a boost I saw tracy here who was probably more emotional than me she asked if I knew my swim time? I didn't because I forgot to start my watch then she told me I got 1:43, I couldn't believe it, tracy ran with me for a while, she's gave me great support over the past year putting up with me especially on my bad days at times I think she thought I had took on to much but she always stayed positive, I ran into the town centre on what seemed like fresh legs, I was pacing my run on how I felt because in all the excitement of getting off the bike in one piece I had left my watch in transition it felt liberating not to constantly looking at my watch, I was now about 8-9 miles in and was feeling better than I did at mile 1, I was looking forward to collecting my first band I set off up the hill deciding to run 3 cones and walk 1, I was enjoying the run, I saw a few A&t teammates on the opposite side giving them a shout and a thumbs up, I had heard from tracy what had happened to Anthony with his bike and he had also been sick in the water I knew he had been ill in the week leading up to ironman and an injury had prevented him from getting enough runs in so when I saw him I was releived to feel like that from the swim and still finish takes a lot of strength physically and mentally, Phil gave me a big shout from the other side, think he was surprised to see me he was probably wondering if I was still in the flash, I saw dave and not long after with Clair hot on his heels, I got to the feed station at the top of the hill feeling good and was looking forward to seeing the A&t support crew, I don't think they realise how much of a boost it gives you knowing that they have been there from the swim until the last person comes in from the run, lyn boylin deserves a mention for all the work she done organising the volunteers she has given up a lot of her time for for the club, I gave tracy a quick kiss going into bark St for the second time then I saw Ian bushrod followed by tracy chadwick waterfall I owe those two a lot for getting me back in the water when I thought about calling it a day, it was good to see Steve chadwick there giving his support knowing that it should of been him only for his accident but I've heard he's already singed up for next year, coming out of the town centre I caught up with Michelle who was starting her last lap we ran together for all of her last lap catching up with Jane on the way we stuck to a run /walk pace which suited us both we chatted with Jane for a while but it seemed like Jane knew everyone, she knew she was going to finish and was just enjoying the atmosphere, she's another one that helped me a lot when I first went out on the bike with Jane and cath I thought how had can it be but let me tell you they're a couple of tough women, as we ran down the hill on Michelle's last lap we picked up the pace a little I think she could smell the finish line, as we got into bark St again I could see dave Sloan Snr again not too far ahead, as I turned around at the edge of the red carpet Michelle went straight on and I heard her name called out, I couldn't wait until that was me and set off to catch up with dave, I did pass him not long after but then had to stop for a toilet break and he passed me again if I wanted to catch him now I could not afford to run/ walk up the hill I would have to run it all but dave must of had the same idea because try as I might the gap was not closing but just as we rounded the feed station for the last time dave stopped to refuel and I took advantage and passed, my legs were now feeling a bit wobbly after running up the hill but I didn't care in 20 minutes I would be an ironman I passed the A&t crowd again and got a massive cheer gave Tracy a hug and a kiss, this is the point were you get to feel a bit emotional but thankfully no tears ( that's not cool and doesn't look good on your finisher photo ) as I come into town for the last time is was good to catch up with Chris Whittaker considering he doesn't like running he was looking good, I was also good to see all the A&t finishers still there giving there support some of them must of been there for hours but it's great to think somebody who has finished 4 hours before you have is still there supporting you, thanks lads! You might not know it but each and every one of you have given me little nugets of information and tips that I put together on the day that made my ironman enjoyable. As myself and Chris approached the red carpet I said after you, you don't want me on your photo but being the gent he is he said you go first so I headed down the red carpet to unbelievable cheers then I heard the words I had imagined so many times in the flash, Brendan Loughrey you are an ironman! What a feeling, thank everyone at A&t for your help and support couldn't have done it without you and thanks to tracy for believing in me. Hope this inspires someone else to give it a go.
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