Ironman UK – Bolton: my third 140.6 Ironman!

By: Richard Miller

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional! (Murakami)
Ordinary people, extraordinary goals. (Me)

Daniel mentioned earlier in the year he was going to compete and complete his twelfth Ironman, which would qualify him for a Kona legacy slot and I instantly knew I had to join him.

Along with Valentina, Daniel, Nicky, Luke, Rick and Steve, this was the most number of Hampstead Triathlon athletes competing in one 140.6 event.


Preparation and tapering had gone well, apart from an eye infection, creaky shoulder and stiff neck. All carbed up and with a plan, arrived in Bolton with Daniel on the Friday.

After registration and the race briefing, pinching yourself this is for real, butterflies begin kicking in. We headed to our hotel, which can only be described as a throwback from the 1970’s soap Crossroads!

Saturday was taken up with taking our bike and run gear to a split transition. T1 was next to Pennington Flash where the lake swim was and T2 back into the town centre.

The rest of the day lazing around.

Race day

3am alarm, first thing I see is Daniel’s cheery face!

Pre Ironman breakfast, pot of porridge, banana, energy bar, salt tablet, all forced down with green tea.

Into the the lightening sky at 4.30am for a 30 minute taxi ride to Pennington Flash. We arrived amongst the hordes, to a surprisingly calm atmosphere.

First things first, putting all the race nutrition on the bike, checking everything was good to go and then on with the wetsuit. Transition closed at 5.45am and after dumping our street wear bags, joined the thong to find a place in the swim queue.

The idea being you self seed yourself based on your predicted swim time.
This can be a lonely and nervous experience, but luckily bumped into Rick and together with a bit of banter, found our way into the line.

Swim

Corralled like penguins at the 1 hour 20 marker, the National Anthem booms from the tannoys, the line begins to move towards the waters edge.
Under the start kite and onto the pontoon, the rolling start ensures you move forward and jump into the water. We are off!

The water is a pleasant 21 degrees, the first thing is to spot your sighting line following the yellow buoys and towards the large orange turn buoys, they are a long way off.

Finding a rhythm and relaxing, the rest of the day ahead plays in your mind.

After 1900 metres we are are out of the water for a 50 meter Australian exit, before entering again where we had started for the final loop.

The swim went well, no dramas and at approximately 1 hour 20 minutes, climbed out of the lake, aided by a volunteer.

Stripping my wetsuit to my waist, a jog to the changing tent at transition 1 (T1).

Transition 1

For the first time, I had decided to wear a special trisuit, which meant I did not have to strip off and change into cycle gear.

On go the cycle shoes and helmet, hit a gel and hand my wetsuit in a bag to the waiting volunteers. The tent was a steamy fog from humid bodies, all doing the same thing, quite amusing.

Bike

Onto the bike, which would be home for the next 7 hours or so.
The first 30km were relatively flat and quick and good to stretch the legs, get some speed and find a rhythm.

Into Bolton town centre for a short cobbled section (Paris Roubiax), which was horrendous on a TT bike. Out of town, joining an approximately 65km anticlockwise loop which was to be ridden twice to make race distance of 180km.

My nutrition strategy is to sip my preferred isotonic every 10 minutes, from my hydration unit which is mounted at the front of the bike. However, leaning down to take a swig, all I got was air! Bloody hell it’s empty! I stopped at the first feed station, taking one of their bottles and emptying into the hydration unit, only for the liquid to seep straight out of the bottom, the tank had split.

I had a spare bottle behind my saddle and another aero bottle containing salt solution on my downtube, this was going to have too be plan B.
We rode onward into the Lancastrian moors, beautiful countryside and villages.

The support from locals was amazing, great to see so many people making a day of it and the volunteers, manning junctions in the middle of nowhere.
The original profile of the route was 2030 metres (6660ft), but the organisers changed that to 2690 metres (8860ft).

The roads at times were agricultural and I suffered two mechanicals where the chain came off on descends and jammed between the crank and the frame, Boy Scouts were there to help me.

A large amount of time we were seated climbing, spinning up in the granny gear, before plunging down the other side on steep descends with 90 degree bends in the road, caution was on point, although sadly some athletes did not.

Laps

The start of lap 2 meant a welcome stop at the personal needs station, where I had spare isotonic, peanut butter and jam sandwich and pork pie. The pie tasted amazing, taking away the nasty sugar taste in my mouth.

Lap 2 seemed to go quicker than the previous lap, but it was exhausting and needed maximum concentration and effort all the way.

Swinging into transition 2 (T2), not much to do but put on run shoes, cap and find my running legs.

42.2 km (26miles) awaits, the small issue of running a marathon, after a very long bike ride. One of my endurance strengths is my pacing and I quickly found my rhythm.

The route went through the city centre, into Queens Park and out of town on a never ending drag, 4 laps to be completed. Only one climb on the course which was in the park, but nasty and on the first lap my right quad seized with cramp. My absolute agony, must have been a picture to all the spectators watching.

By half way, I realised I was close to a sub 4 hour time, so it then became a balance of keeping the pace going and body management. Cramping again hit me on lap 3 and I decided to go for the Red Bull (I hate the stuff), but it genuinely did give me wings.

Run


A wise old coach a few years ago, told me to always race to the finish line, regardless of how you feel, what your goals are.

His words helped push me forward, because I knew I was one of the quickest athletes in my age group on the run and if I got it right, be able to climb the age group leader board.

Onto the red carpet, crowds screaming, across the finishing line 13 hours 17 mins, arms aloft and a 3 hour 59 mins 50 secs marathon in the bag! Not a bad days work!

The Bolton great and good were there to give us our medals, photos, staggering to the recovery area, numb with exhaustion, but exhilarated and proud to have finished.

My best Ironman result, 3rd place in age group, did not get a Kona slot this time, but have Ironman Wales next, where I intend to slay the Dragon!

I must say some thank yous:

  • My family, Christine and Diggy, they put up with a lot!
  • Daniel and all at Hampstead Triathlon, you guys are incredible!
  • Nick and Giant Camden, thanks for the support, expertise and quality bikes, I’m riding a Giant Trinity Advance Pro
  • Gareth Pymm, cycle coach and guru!
  • Muswell Hill Peleton, for those gentle rides (not), that stretch every sinew!
  • Tanya Selby for tweaking my run gait.
  • The Laboratory Muswell Hill, pool, watt bike and strength and conditioning.

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