2016 Ironman UK, Bolton
July 23rd, 2016 by Fraser
9th place (7th MPro) – 9:24:31
This is my ‘glad to be finished’ face after a long day of racing.
This was my 5th time racing in Bolton since 2010 and given it was my first full distance event since Ironman Hawaii last October I was looking forward to being back and certainly ready to get back on the horse, so to speak. Sometimes however, it just doesn’t quite pan out on the day as you had hoped it might.
Having not raced a whole lot so far this season, the event has always been my main goal for the summer, and first portion of the season. Mostly because it’s a race that I have always fared well at, and obviously enjoyed racing – it’s a home race after all – but also because I am racing for a new sponsor for 2016, Pewag Racing Team, who were keen for me to target the race too.
Having won here in 2010, and finished 2nd both in 2012 and last year too (plus having actually always been the first runner to leave T2) I have genuine confidence that I can compete with anyone on this course. The terrain has always suited me well and the weather has never created any problems either. Indeed, this year we even had a completely rain free day!
The marathon course was full of superb crowd support, all day!
One thing that has been significantly off par during the events I have raced during 2016 has been my swim. All through my years of racing long course I have relied heavily on a very strong swim setting me up for the day ahead. For some reason – and I still can’t put a finger on it – I’ve not been nearly as confident and my performances have been, by my standards, woeful. On Sunday morning, I knew that both Harry Wiltshire and Romaine Guillaume would be swimming fast, and that was my sole objective in the swim; stay with them. For approx 1800m I did just that, but was drifting, and then the invisible elastic snapped. I exited lap 1 of the swim some 15 crucial seconds adrift and by the time re entered to find our way through the age group field which was still entering into the water, I knew I was in trouble. Indeed my 2nd swim lap is probably the worst swimming I can ever recall, as if I was moving through glue. Mixed with cement. I was over 3 mins behind! – I couldn’t have been more glad to reach dry land and get onto my bike, no word of a lie.
Ironman, as we always read (and tell ourselves) is a series of ups and downs, I’m just not used to experiencing such frustrating dips so early in my day. Nonetheless I felt fine once I started riding, and I accepted that there were fast riders that would swallow me up from behind sooner than later, and that happened after 25K as we hit the steep slope of the infamous Sheep House Lane.
I was now in a group of 4 and enjoying the race again – we were riding strong, I was in relative control as we moved around lap 1 at a swift pace. We caught Harry around 70k and then moved away from him as we hit the second hilly portion of the loop. I was enjoying the day again, felt like I was competing and starting to think about our 2nd bike loop with only Romaine out in front of us on the road. And then I started to struggle. I worked hard to pull the boys back into vision, but the effort was really tipping me into the red, and just as we passed the sizable crowds of Sheep House Lane for a second time, I had to let the elastic snap for a second frustrating time.
More than likely I was in a sulky humph of a mood for the next 40-50Ks, indeed Harry was good enough to try and spark my spirits as he re passed me during the period, but I couldn’t hold his tempo, and just had to find a rhythm I could manage back to T2. I Finally arrived there in 6th position and some many minutes in arrears. I feared the marathon was going to be a gruelling affair….
Battling for 7th position with Graeme Stewart around the 30k mark
I began the run at a good pace, one I had aimed for in training, around the 4:05/k pace and I began to hope I could salvage a performance. That was short lived. By around the 5 mile marker I was shuffle-tastic and wallowing in self pity. Patrick Evoe, who I have trained with down the years in the States, came trucking by soon after and he encouraged me onwards. He looked solid and I think I told him as such. I was now down to 7th position in the Pro race however and I was starting to seriously wonder how on earth I could make sure the next 20 miles of running didn’t become a death march!
Once up onto the run course good and proper – we essentially raced up and down a main road leading into town centre for 3.5 laps – and as the crowds grew over the course of each subsequent lap, the run became a more bearable procession. And also I was able to see both mum & dad who were there supporting plus great friends Graham & Craig Coull who were out on course too. So I had fantastic friend and family support, plus cameos on the marathon from folk who have helped me immeasurably over the years like Phil Gray and countless others cheering me on. Despite never actually running terribly well I was in a sense enjoying the run, buoyed by all the friendly faces! Crucially the one thing that I didn’t do was to ever stop running. I never walked, just kept shuffling onwards and putting one foot in front of the other, reminding myself whenever appropriate that ‘the quicker you run, the sooner this is done’.
I could see throughout the run that the only other Scot in the race, Graeme Stewart, was closing in on me fairly quickly. He would catch me and I reasoned that when he did I would do my best to hold onto his pace for as long as I could. I had no great expectations of managing to do that for very long at all, but Ironman is a strange old event and you really never know what might happen. Just as I was starting to flag, I put one extra stretch of the legs into my cadence – a wee bluff essentially – and heard him let out a shout. I didn’t look back but I next saw him nursing a nasty stitch at the far turn, looking fairly spent. He dug in to make sure he got to the finish and we had an interesting chat about the dynamics of the tussle in the finishers tent, which was intriguing because I’d readily admit that I wouldn’t have held any hope that I could hold Graeme off prior to him catching me. Ironman really is a strange test once you get deep into the race.
On the carpet at Ironman UK, my 11th full distance finish
I had mixed emotions on finishing this race. I was genuinely pleased to finish, and do so without a complete meltdown as per in Hawaii on my last outing at the 140 mile distance – no long stints of walking at least. However 9th place overall is by no means what all of the training is for and it certainly isn’t what sponsors expect either so of course I was disappointed with myself throughout large portions of the day. Nonetheless having mum and dad watch me race for what I reckon is the first time in a decade was great, and at the end of the day none of this entire triathlon journey would’ve ever been possible without their complete support since childhood. So I had a levelling sense of perspective during the day as it’s only a race after all.
Absolute thanks to all of those who cheered and shouted for me throughout the day, I did my best to acknowledge it whilst out there.
Thanks to Paul Shanley from Tri247 and Peter Worthington for the 📸