Ironman UK 2008

September 9th, 2008 by

ironman uk 2007 swim start

Well, i didn’t finish. Just to clear that one out of the way. Unhappy? Of course. Stiff and sore today? Aye. But not really much worse than if i had emptied the tank racing a 70.3. My point being? Simply that i was never going to ruin the end of my season by simply finishing an Ironman, and thats what i would have done if i had pushed on past mile 15 yesterday during the run. I was there to race and i knew that the race would only really begin at roughly 18 miles. Anyway, the details …..

We arrived in Sherbourne on Friday and the rain was pretty heavy! On Saturday the rain was even heavier!! I wasn’t exactly pleased about the notion of 112 miles in the lashing rain but i knew it was the same for everyone and the cold had never been an issue for me before. I trusted everyones positive belief that ‘it would be fine’. They were right, more or less, if you discounted the wind, but it felt mild enough to me whilst walking to the race site at dark o clock to know i wouldnt need much extra clothing on the bike.

I treated the race exactly the same as any other and hit the swim start reasonably hard, getting to the front instantly, more so i was in control than anything. I knew there were a few lads there who could easily swim with me, and i had a look at the 800m mark going round the first bouy to see 4 strung out behind in a line. From then on in i barely kicked and threw in a few surges to break up the boredom (and the tight hip flexors!). Longest race swim ever complete. Check. Out of the water and i could only see Stephen Bayliss as i ran up to the change tent and into the transition area. We both picked up our bikes together and ran out side by side, at which point Blair said the gap was a minute!! I cannot get my head around how slow guys in long distance racing are at going through transition. I really can’t, i mean what do they do??

Out onto the bike and i felt fine, which was no bad thing given the undulating profile and dead road surface. Not to mention the wind…. it was Gale Force Nine up there on the back end of the loop. I settled into the sort of pace i hoped was suitable for this distance, but i wasn’t sure, this being IM No.1 and all. In fact at about mid way in the lap the tv cameraman (who would become a buddy over the next 6 hours!) asked me what i thought about Stephen being behind me. I honestly said that i was quite happy to have him about given his experience at the distance. I figured if he thought the pace was ok then i was happy enough to set the tempo. And it would be boring on my own. 112 miles is a long way. I kept eating and drinking. There is one serious descent on the course, i guess at 23miles and that is where Stephen came by, as he can drop like a stone, and i go downhill like a granny. Catching him back up was my only ‘oppertunity’ to get to ride as i like to in a 70.3, but i knew i had to throttle back everytime i felt myself picking it up. I knew we were riding well enough (nobody was catching us, and Spencer, in 3rd, had drifted out of view by now) so i had to save energy as much as possible. – It was all about the last 6-8 miles of the run after all.

The remainder of the bike went along those same lines. Me on the front for the first 60% of the lap and then Steven hit the front at the steep slope. I frantically charged after him, and we both tackled the hurricane on the top end of the loop. I kept eating and drinking, or trying to, but i realised at about 80miles that i was feeling a little sluggish, and thankfully an aid station wasnt too far away with bars and Pepsi, which i gobbled down. And chased after Stephen again, as he had sneaked off down the winding lanes once more! ‘Cheeky’ i thought. At the end of the 2nd loop i had got the time check that Spencer was at 5 minutes and Scott and Nick were at 11 minutes, so i was starting to only think about the run and trying to race Stephen, as to be honest, those gaps were pretty substantial. Oh, too early Fraser …. too early! To finish the bike course at Sherbourne we took a right down off the loop for the couple miles back into transition, at which point the lead car came back in front – and i saw the total elapsed time for the first time. Gulp. It read 5.53 which meant i was already over 5 hours for the bike course – at least 15 minutes longer on the saddle than i assumed the course would take – oh how time flies when you’re having fun? And so back into T2; longest ever bike ride complete. Check.

The run started well. I felt much better than i thought i would. And that lasted for, oh, lets see now, 2 miles? The run was a tough mother of a course. Split into 2 halfs – one through the castle grounds – like a cross country course – muddy, hilly and plain hard. The second half was through town, and although not muddy, was still hilly and twisty and well, hard. I bade Stephen farwell at just under 3 miles and settled into trying to feel positive and maintain my 2nd place. Seeing everybody who was out to support me helped loads, and i clikced through 6,7 and 8 miles well. Then at the start of the 2nd lap i started to feel like i didnt want to feel. I knew, despite the many ‘you’re doing great’ cheers, that i was heading down a slippery slope (quite literally on that course actually) and by half way i was shuffling rather than running, in my opinion. My gap over Scott and Spencer behind me was still at 5 minutes, but that to me was irrelevant. I knew it was over then and there, but you carry on don’t you? I got to 14 miles and mum was there, so of course i still ran. But walked for the first time aroun the next bend. Q camera in you’re face! Action. Blockbuster stuff!! Not. I ran again for a half mile, then walked some more. Had a talk to myself. Watched as a girl ran past me much faster than i was going. Still in 2nd place! I couldn’t pull out in 2nd could i? And then finally Scott came past, and then Blair found me and pulled me off the course – funny how the best laid plans go to pot under pressure. Gordon and i had talked at length about exactly this situation, and the course of action was to pull the plug, kick it, stop, quit, however you want to label it – but not to dig a hole that i couldnt get out of for weeks. And so we had a chat about it for a few minutes, by which point i was now down in 6th. More by necessity than anything, i jogged back to transition to complete my second lap so as to hand in my chip at 18 miles. – Exactly where i should have been getting stuck into the racing for proper! Never mind.

I can’t say thanks enough to everyone who was there to cheer me on – especially mum, Blair, Phil – and all the messages of good luck beforehand too. It was fantastic. The crowd support was awesome also – just the reason i knew doing my first IM at home would be best. And i really did enjoy the experience for much of the way – as big a learning day as it was.