What a great day and an honour to represent St Helens Tri at the 2019 Ironman UK event. A big thank you to my family, friends, teammates, volunteers and anybody else involved in the event.
I came seventh in my age group (Male 40 – 44) which was beyond my expectations for the day. I subsequently qualified for the 2019 Kona Ironman World Championships. Which is widely acknowledged as being the pinnacle of the sport for many professional athletes and age groupers. It is also one of the hardest triathlon events in the world to qualify for. I believe I am the first club member from St Helens Tri to qualify for Kona. What an honour, I am very proud.
Race day started with a quick walk up to the residence of my friend, teammate and Ironman legend Will Bardin who was also competing. Will’s sister kindly gave us a lift to the swim start at Pennington Flash. Bike was prepped and I managed to get a quick catch up with my St Helens Tri team mates and supporters. I then lined up at the swim start ready to go! After a quick blast of AC/DC we were in the water and off. I was looking round trying to catch the feet of faster swimmers for a good ‘tow’. The swim was fine ; I kept a steady pace and got out of the water feeling pretty good.
Once I had thrown on my cycling helmet and shoes, I was on the bike and out of transition. About 30 meters down the road, I heard a very load cheer. My visor and glasses were quite steamed up however, I could see a group of people shouting my name. I realised right at the last moment that it was Lisa, the girls (in custom made supporters T shirts!) and a group of friends. That was a real boost.
I was then out on the open road on bike which is quite a lonely place compared with the busy and intense swim start. A fellow competitor gave me a shout to let me know my energy bottle was nearly dropping off my down tube. I thought that was a great thing to do and I was very grateful. The weather at that point, was overcast with a few spots of rain. After 20 or so miles of undulation, we hit the hills. I was riding with a fairly consistent group of cyclists for the first lap and I made steady progress. I thought the support on the course was fantastic and it was a real boost seeing my family and the St Helens Tri supporters.
Coming into Bolton towards T2 at the end of the first of two laps, my energy bottle fell off in the road. This bottle was full of gels, so I made the immediate decision to stop, get off my bike and run backwards up the course to retrieve my bottle. At that stage of the race, it was too much nutrition to lose. I carried on trying to catch the people I had just lost. The second lap was tougher but I still managed to make steady progress. I lost my energy bottle once again on a bumpy downhill and just left it. I had done a ‘personal needs bag’ which contained nutrition, plus the Ironman nutrition stops had food I could use so I changed my strategy and carried on without my bottle.
I finally reached T2 and I jumped off my bike ‘ITU style’ and left my shoes on my peddles. I managed to pull this off ; I thought ‘wow don’t I look good’! I then heard from the marshal and the crowd ‘you have lost your shoe Cinderella’ so I actually pushed my bike and picked up one of my shoes as I went to rack my bike. I then noticed that there were not many bikes in transition. I felt quite energised and managed a sub 2-minute transition before heading out on the run.
As soon as I hit the run I saw people I knew, the support was amazing, and I felt like a super hero. I did notice that there were not a lot of people on the run course. Then somebody said I was in my age group top 10 : I had no idea until that point that I was well placed in the race. I just tried to keep a good rhythm on the run, stay strong and consistent. I had two low moments on lap 3 of 4 but I did manage to pick up the pace toward the end. The finish was great and going through the arch at the end was such a great experience.
After the race had ended, I collected my gear, met my family and friends and went to support my teammates. We had to leave early to pick up our dog, so we had a celebratory McDonald’s on the way home. The 14th July Ironman UK was a great experience what a day.
I had booked the following morning off to recover. Upon the realisation that I had come 7th in my age group, I went to the awards ceremony because I thought I might have an outside chance of qualifying for the Kona World Championships in 2019. At the time of the race, I was very much at the older end of the 40 – 44 age group. I knew I had trained and subsequently raced well, but my age combined with the fact that it was the biggest age group led me to the conclusion that Kona was off the radar. There were 5 Kona slots and I ended up with the 4th slot. I had to accept the slot in person there and then, which I did, and I was given an official Kona World championship Qualifiers Coin, a Kona Beer and a plastic ‘Lei’ or traditional string of flowers around my neck. How bizarre and uplifting on a Monday morning in Bolton!
What a really enjoyable race. The highlight for me was the whole build up, camaraderie and support on the day.
All the best,