Ironman UK, Bolton 2015
July 22nd, 2015 by Fraser
2nd place – 8:51:06
L-R: Myself, David McNamee and Joe Skipper
With a quick glance you would be forgiven for reading this blog and believing I only write a race report when I’ve completed the Ironman distance and also managed to finish 2nd… however I have simply been rather tardy on the writing side of things these past 10 months. Back on track now!
I have fond memories of racing in Bolton, and with good reason – five years ago I won this event, and although on the one hand it seems like only yesterday it often seems a lifetime ago too. Having also finished 2nd in 2012 I know that there is something about racing IMUK that suits me and my style of swim/bike/run. Bearing that in mind I set about coming back this summer for another attempt at getting to the city centre finish line before anyone else. – No easy task given the list of athletes who had signed up to race; between those of us on the start list there were 4 of us who had won won an Ironman event previously, (although Stephen Bayliss didn’t end up racing) a further 2 who had completed the distance in under 8 hours (including the Australian David Dellow who did that in Roth, Germany only last weekend!) plus fellow Scotsman David ‘Maccers’ McNamee who has been having a stellar debut long course season already this year as well as Joe Skipper who in May recorded one of the fastest IM distance bike splits ever. Safe to say this may have been a small group of Pro men lining up to start at 05:55 (no, thats not a typo either…) in the murky waters of the Pennington Flash lake but that quantity certainly wasn’t a reflection of the quality. – Any result was to be hard earned.
As I mentioned, I know this course pretty well from my previous visits, and although the bike course has been lengthened to a 90k lap since my last race it still very much suits the way I like to ride including plenty of hills, changes of road surface and generally providing a consistently demanding route. Energy sapping it most definately is.
With this in mind I knew I must be ready to race the entire bike section of Ironman UK. This might sound like a fairly obvious goal but the truth is I have struggled over the full 180k distance enough times because of a plain and simple lack of fitness. – Most notably in my previous outing at Ironman South Africa in March. I was confident I had done the required milage leading into the weekend and I hoped I would feel good enough once on the bike to be able to capitalize on my own knowledge of the course and perhaps get ‘out of sight and out of mind’.
After a fast swim 4 of us exited the water towards the front of the race, but this in fact was a couple of pairs. I was leading the second pair out around 30secs behind ‘Maccers’ and a French athlete. The heavens had truly opened whilst we were in the water and I ran out of transition alongside David Dellow in what felt like rods of rain. He lives and trains in tropical Queensland and without doubt is used to high humidity but perhaps not this particular type! He most likely needed an extra 15-20C to feel comfortable as was demonstrated by his wearing of full leggings and a long sleeve top under his wetsuit (I’ve never seen that done before) and indeed I never saw poor David again. I caught up to the front pairing and by 25K into the ride we must’ve been in the midst of a mini monsoon. I figured this was as good a time as any to go even harder and try an attack to break things up. I pushed hard for 10mins and this effort resulted in reducing it to just David and I at the front of the race. I knew once we were ‘out of sight’ we would become ‘out of mind’ and ideally we could isolate ourselves to the fore of proceedings from there on in.
Until around 160k we swapped turns leading the way and setting the pace, the both of us not without our own portions of worriment however – David losing one of his tribar arm pads after hitting a pothole (for the remainder of the ride this must’ve been pretty high on the ‘that-damn-well-hurts’ scale I decided) and I myself managed to crash accelerating out of a junction. I guess we were both lucky that neither incident stopped us getting on with staying out of sight and out of mind. Over the final 45mins of the ride I pulled away for a solo arrival to T2 with around a 3mins lead over David and something in the region of 8mins back to Joe Skipper and more like 10mins back to those behind him. Sizable time gaps but nothing is ever certain in an Ironman and these guys were all formidable runners, so I had to concentrate on getting through the marathon in as best a manner as I had ever done before.
Leading a race is always fun and I did my best to enjoy the position I was in and focus on mini targets along the way towards the finish. The first of those came around 5K where we had a short out and back section which allowed me to see what sort of damage David had done to my race lead. I know how good a runner he is and how likely it was that he would catch me – rather than could he catch me – of course depending on if he was holding up ok after the previous 6hours or so of racing. He looked ominously good at that point! Despite running my first hour at as good a pace as I would have expected to be able to, he had eroded all of that lead I had left T2 with. There was nothing I could do other than keep pushing on at my own (hopefully) sustainable tempo as he passed me by and hope that at some point further down the road I could reel him back in.
For the most part of this marathon I felt like I was running rather than surviving. I had a few wobbles during the back half marathon but in general terms I am happy with how I managed those 42Ks and a marathon time of just under 3hrs on this ‘lumpy’ course isn’t too bad, especially after the previous even lumpier 180Ks!
I was always concerned about how those behind were looking and although I lost a good chunk of time to both Joe in 3rd and Victor del Corral from Spain in 4th over the first hour their wheels slowly fell off and I thankfully held enough time over them during the closing miles.
The final lap – although painful – was a time to be able to try and smile and engage back with the incredibly supportive crowds that lined the run course. It really makes such a big difference to the whole race day experience and it is certainly something about racing at home in the UK that I appreciate and enjoy a tremendous amount. Thank you!
Winning this race again was the goal I had set myself and I was under no illusions that this would be an easy task given the other guys who had signed up to race. I knew though that I was healthy and in good shape, that the course suited me and most importantly I was looking forward to it. That I didn’t win doesn’t leave me disappointed at all. I was able to go from gun to tape and feel like I raced well all day and that’s never a given at this level. Furthermore, if I couldn’t hit the tape first I’m really pleased that David was able to. From my side of the fence it looked like he had a brilliant day and I know how hard he works in training.
A large function of racing in Bolton was also to try and gain more points towards my goal of qualifying for Ironman Hawaii in October. I’m still a little short of being able to do that in July but I will make a plan of attack for hopefully gathering those remaining points during August. For now though I’ll set the more immediate target of climbing the stairs pain free by the close of the week 😉
Photo credits / thanks go to Darren Wheeler, Mark Pearce and Lance Randles.