Ironman UK Bolton – 15th July 2018 by Chantal

So I heard only last week that the Bike for Bolton would be reduced by 17 miles due to Moorland fires which was a little upsetting as this would mean I would not actually be racing the full IM distance on Sunday. However more concerning was the potential for them to cancel the swim due to high Blue Green algae population. Predictably at the briefing, IM told us we were lucky to be doing the 96 miles in the first place and that closing roads was a big deal for emergency services etc which was fair enough. If anyone tried doing an addition 17 miles they would be disqualified. The potential cancellation of the swim was a rumour (but it was an issue as they did shower us after the first lap, and then after the swim. Weird to jump out then go back in but I have experienced that in Grafman.)

Friday, I packed all my stuff in the car and set off very early to get to Bolton for 9 ish Saturday morning to register in the town centre. I had to set up my bike in T2 which was in Pennington flash, 30 minutes from the Centre of Bolton. It’s amazing what advice you pick up at these things. One of the volunteers was very helpful and told me to deflate my tyres or they could burst in the heat of the day (which I did after learning there would be numerous track pumps available to use the next morning). I was all ready to stick food and hydration on the bike when the same guy told me this was something I could also do in the morning. I think I was all done by 1.30 which was well timed as I saw a massive queue of cars into the flash trying to set up by 4pm. Next stop was T1 which was a 20 minute walk to get to from Bolton town centre which was a pain in the bum but easy enough once I found it. Then checked in the hotel (20mins away) quick shower and back to Bolton centre for Race briefing. At this point I was a bit tired of the whole IronMan thing to be honest. It was all a bit much. Great business idea but it’s all a bit mad really! Also I learned at the briefing only 15% of participants were women.

3am – I was woken up by 1 of my 3 alarms. Drove to Bolton centre and picked up by a shuttle bus to take us to the Flash by 4.30 ish which was just enough time to pump tyres, go for a wee and put wetsuit on etc. The pros has a non-wetsuit swim but we were wet suit compulsory- water warmer than air temp at 23C! I went off in the wave predicting time for 1 hour 30 which I thought was a bit slow for me (I’m the ever optimistic/unrealistic. Once in the water I was expecting one of my weird panic attacks but I was fine! Probably because of temp.

I am a bit short sighted -1.75 in both eyes so I am always nervous seeing buoys and tend to rely on others- this was not a good strategy for Bolton. The buoys were so far away I could barely see them and those I could see I found it really hard to keep them as a marker. Anyway, the first lap was pretty awful as I didn’t even know what colour buoy we were aiming for (totally ‘forgot’ to read this bit in instructions). And to make matters worse on the way back I could not see a thing as the sun was in everyone’s eyes. Got out after first lap for an anti green algae shower then back in for the second lap which was better as I knew which colour to aim for. Overall swim was a pretty bad experience as I was kicked a lot by others which made me annoyed and interrupted my flow. I was unable to draft as water so murky I could not see with confidence. Much slower pace than I ever swim which was not great.

T1 was like 10 mins as I wanted to borrow someone’s towel (did not think to pack) to dry myself before applying suncream as I am so worried about burning although I had factor 50 P20 on prior to swim. I also couldn’t remember where my bike was!

Bike – 2 loops starting with a rather technical hilly bit and second less so but with a massive long hill at the end. Seriously I have never cycled such inclines. One of the hills came unexpectedly and I was in the wrong gear, lost my nerve, unclipped and had to walk down the hill so I could get up it again! Only I would do such a thing! I seemed to overtake quite a few people at the start and legs were fresh for the hills due to a long pre race taper. Happy with surviving the bike even though not full distance. Loved over taking TT bikes with my little trek .

Run- Out of all the 3 disciplined I always say I am a runner first and foremost but then why is the run always the most difficult! I must say off the bike I did not have heavy legs like I do after pushing hard on a half distance tri which made me think I did not push hard enough?

I had 4 laps of 10K to do around Bolton town centre and I was only 5k into the first lap when I felt quite a lot of pain in the sole of my right foot (this foot was numb in T2 so I suspected poor bloody flow from clipless peddles).

I kept running but then my negative thinking spiralled out of control as I thought about how many more KM I had to do and worrying I may injure myself (this is a big fear of mine). I stopped at a feed station to take my trainer off to massage the area which felt painful along a tendon and burst out crying ffs.

A lady volunteer was very sweet despite me telling her I thought IM was an F-ing stupid idea and I didn’t care if I was one or not. I asked her to get someone to take me off the course as I certainly was not going to spend however many hours walking it. Then she told me just to try to run to the next feed station to see if that was ok. Despite my reluctance to do this I started to run again and eventually the pain subsided enough for me to feel I wasn’t doing too much damage.

3rd lap was awful! Hips started to hurt as did inner ankle but by then I had not choice but to push on as was too close to finishing. By 4th lap I could barely move my legs- I had great aerobic potential but leg pain was unbearable and I slowed right down until I started chatting to randoms which took my mind away from negative pain thoughts towards finishing and I suddenly got a wave of energy to get me through to the finish. I didn’t even cry that much as I passed the line as I literally could not believe I had finished in a relatively good time.

This was the only time I felt some pleasure out of the whole experience which has made mequestion things a bit. A highlight was seeing Lucy Gossage as she passed me on her last lap. It was a hellish yet amazing experience all in all and many thanks to Meridian for your coaching and friendship to help me develop as a triathlete.

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