Ironman UK, Bolton 2013

August 21st, 2013 by

Despite this event being one of my key goal races of the summer, sometimes things just plain and simple don’t go to plan. And so my day in Bolton earlier this month can be more or less summed up by the below picture taken just before I jumped into the water…

Bolton swim

Looking a little confused. Not as confused as I would be about 3hours later out on the bike course!

Ironman UK is fast becoming a big event. In years past it has lagged behind the other major Ironman events on mainland Europe (in my opinion) and indeed when I won the race in 2010 it was by no means as big an entity as it is now. This is a great thing for athletes of all abilities racing here in the UK, however when an event reaches this size I believe it goes without saying that a high degree of professionalism must come attached to it. Therefore I was sad to see too many aspects of the race falling too far below an acceptable level on race day. Anyway…

Bolton t1

I am fast gathering a good collection of pictures with me chewing on my sunnies as I leave transition areas the world over. – I figure I can’t drop or lose them this way.

I didn’t swim well for some reason. In fact I didn’t swim well in Frankfurt the month previous and I am a confidence type of swimmer… I like to be able to swim at the front of a race (indeed I am used to being able to do so in long course racing) but with Harry Wiltshire and Dan Hawksworth leading the charge it was no disgrace not being able to lead the way on this occasion. However, I struggled to hold onto these two leaders plus Stephen Bayliss over the first swim lap and as the second wore on I dropped off the back of this lead group and had a 30sec deficit as I ran through the change tent in transition. Although frustrated at my poor showing in the water, I reasoned that Ironman is a long day and anything can happen. Not a truer thing I could have told myself!

I left T1 (above) and good friend Nick Saunders shouted 35secs at me, which didnt worry me. I figured I would bridge back up to the leaders by the time the bike course hit the loop at the 25k mark. However about 20secs later as I mounted and made to leave the Pennington Flash Park where the swim takes place I hit a speed bump awkwardly and lost an energy bottle. By the time I had retrieved it I was now at 75secs in arrears and all of a sudden I had made work diffcult for myself!

I worked hard at the start of the bike but frustratinly couldnt get a sight of the leaders. Given I have grown accustomed to leading these races here in the UK over the years (or at least being in the lead group) I was starting to doubt myself and my pedalling. Nothlesless at about 40K I finally got a good gauge of where they were as I saw them climbing the hills in front of me and I spotted the lead car and flashing lights of the motorbikes. It was still around 45secs now but crucially I had glimpsed them and I figured at worst I would catch them by the end of the 1st full lap of 3. I wish!

I never saw them again! For a good portion of my ride till this point I was accompanied by a tv motorbike. After a while I began to suspect that there was a lack of direction signs and I questioned the driver and cameraman as to whether we were on the right road. Almost right on Q I hit a dual carriage way road that I knew had nothing to do with the race route and my heart sank. I’d gone extremely off course 🙁

The bike sped off in the direction we had just come to try get a handle on where the course actally was and I realised pretty quickly I’d gone way off course as the bike took a good few minutes to come back and let me know where to go!

As it turned out there was a fork in the road and I should have taken a left hand turn off of the road we had previously been riding on. What disappointed me was that there was no obvious sign pointing left and the mashall who was stationed at the junction really wasn’t ready to do his job. I appreciate that being at the front of the race we in the Pro race can take each mashall we reach for the first time by surprise, but by the same token we shouldn’t end up acting as guiney pigs who provide some form of  ‘dry run’ practice before the masses of the age group field roll through.

I eventually got back on course and the first person who I overtook was the womens leader Lucy Gossage… and as good a race as she was having I had clearly lost a huge amount of time due to my detour. My race was effctive over. I wasn’t racing to complete the event, I was there to try and win it again. With many more races left in the year I made the decision that I would make my may to T2 and finsh up for the day there. – It is always very disappointing no to be able to finish a race – most especially one like this – but it was the only sesible thing for me to do on the day, and I reluctantly handed in my timing chip.

The good thing was I was able to make my way down to the finish area in Bolton town centre (and let Ali and family know that I was actually ok and explain why I had totally dropped off the athlete tracker) and meet up with the Stirling Tri Club crew who were cheering on all the other members making their way onto the marathon course, and despite some worsening weather conditions they all did a great job and seemed to enjoy their day.

Onwards and there is always next year!