Iron Man UK – 19th July – 14:45:50

Bolton was home to Fred Dibnah. He climbed chimneys and became a TV star.  When he died a statue was erected in his honour. Bolton was home to Nat Lofthouse. He was one of the greatest English footballers. When he died a statue was erected in his honour. Bolton was home to Vernon Kaye. He presented the TV show which tried to drown celebrity’s – “Splash.” I’m guessing when he dies he too will get a statue!

If he doesn’t get a statue then he will, at least, get a mention in a remembrance book at Bolton Wanderer’s stadium. It lists all the Bolton fan’s that have died that day….which is a bit creepy. Do they phone up the hospital and check who the recently deceased supported? If they haven’t got any names that day do they go and kill off a pensioner?Bolton

Which leads me to Iron Man UK which was based at the stadium. The race is a 2.4-mile  swim, a 112-mile  bicycle ride and then a marathon 26.2-mile. I was doing the race with my twin brother – Andrew.

Registration/Setup

Registration and Transition 2 are based at the stadium. Its convenient for parking and easy to get to/from the motorway. The expo/merchandise is smaller than Iron man Frankfurt (which I’d visited a few weeks beforehand) so don’t wait until after the race to buy anything as it will most likely be gone by then.

You can request a special needs bag for the bike section but its not given out automatically so I had to ask for it.

We were staying in http://www.hiexpressleigh.co.uk/ which is next to the swim start but about 10 miles from Bolton. It was a good choice as we could walk to the swim in the morning and they supplied an early breakfast and a pre-race dinner.

After registration we parked the car in a multistory next to the finish line. The car park’s are free at the weekend so it guaranteed we wouln’t have far to walk after the race. We took a bus back to Leigh and picked up the race essentials. Some sandwiches for our special needs bag. I wasn’t going to spend all day racing without eating some real food!

Unfortunately the hotel room didn’t have a fridge so I created one from ice cubes and a sink. I suspect I’m the only one racing who eat a subway sandwich!Fridge

Our pre race rest comprised walking to the cinema to watch Ant-man. It was rubbish but watchable. I got to bed about 20:00 and set the alarm for 04:00

Swim (01:21:46)

The rain was pelting down when I got up. The start was only a short walk away so instead of getting clothes wet I wore the wet-suit from the hotel to the start line. As I walked along I passed people in wetsuits who also were also wearing rain smocks! Why??? Surely they can’t be concerned about the wet suit getting wet!

The swim is a rolling start so you queue in a line and enter the water and start swimming. Where you stand in the line represents how quick you think your swim time will be. I queued towards the back. If you’ve done the Great Scottish Swim then its almost identical to that format.

The swim is two laps of the course. The queue start meant there was no getting battered and bumped at the beginning of the race. The second lap was tricker as the weather was abysmal which made it tough to spott the buoys. I was surprised when I got out to do so at the exact same time as my brother. I hadn’t seen him at all on the course during either lap!finisherpix_0955_006476

Transition 

There is only one tent. Other races have two (one for male, one for female) so if you want to get naked you have to do so in a corner of the tent that’s blocked off. Its pretty pointless as its not very well blocked off so you can see everything. I apologize to anyone who got an eyeful. I can only claim that the water was very, very cold.

Bike (07:46:48)

It was still raining when we came out of transition. The forecast was for the Sun to come out within an hour but I wore waterproofs. I’m glad I did because the weather forecast was wrong and it was mostly a cold and very windy ride.

The first section is a 14 mile urban ride to the start of a two loop circuit. The circuit has two hills on it. Neither of which is particularly difficult as we are used to Scottish hills. The support on both is excellent as a lot of people come out to cheer you on as you make your way up.  The wind never abated on the laps and it felt it was more against than for me.

Nothing much interesting happened on the ride other than a man rode into the back of Andrew at the special needs section. Luckily neither Andrew or his sandwich were hurt. At another point we took a wrong turn but we weren’t the only ones who did so and it was quickly rectified.

In terms of organisation there aren’t many toilet spots on the loop and support vehicles seemed to be few and far between. It didn’t cause us any issues but its worth noting that help might not be immediately at hand.

This years bike split times are much slower than last year’s. This has a good analysis of it http://www.coachcox.co.uk/2015/07/20/ironman-uk-2015-results-and-analysis/

finisherpix_0955_001229Transition 

There was only one tent so a similar system of nakedness replied. Again, I apologize for anyone who got an eyeful.

Run (05:04:09)

The weather in Bolton was nice as the Sun had come out (at last!) We had a strategy of running the flat/downhill and walking the uphill. After two minutes of leaving transition we came to the first hill. It felt strange to stop but a strategy is a strategy!

The first part of the run takes you into Bolton City Centre. Its pretty dull slog along a canal as there are no mile markers. I had to rely on a GPS watch to know how well/badly I was doing.

After this there was three loops of the city center. The amount of supporters, or they may just be people who like to watch other suffer,  lining the streets was unbelievable. At time I was running into a wall of noise. A wall that likes shouting encouragement. Unfortunately I do better with criticism  so I just ignore the encouragement but I do appreciate the atmosphere. Without it the run would have been a struggle. One women did make me laugh as she shouted “two for the price of one” after spotting myself and Andrew.

The loop is surprisingly hilly. A steady climb out of town and steady descent back. As the hills were long I abandoned the hill strategy and replaced it with the Cone game! I’ll share this wonderful game so you too can go slightly mental on a race.

Its very simple. The course is lined with cones so pick a number of cones to run past and then a number to walk. On the way down the hill on the first lap we’d do a 4-2 strategy. 4 cones running, two cones walking. On the way back up the hill 3-3. The strategy would change depending how we felt so if we were tired we could drop to a 3 cones on 4 cones off etc

From this I learnt that Andrew has trouble counting as he’d say “was that the second cone or the third?”

I also believe I could now recognize every Cone in Bolton! By the end they all had individual personalities. I might have been going loopy. It was a really good way to get through the run as we could always see where our next run or walk section was.

Their was a lack of toilets on the route but luckily neither of us had any issues on the day. We both just eat a little bit of everything in moderation and that worked fine.

The finish was excellent. Big crowds and the man saying “lain…you are an iron man” but better than that their was the free pizza.

finisherpix_0955_057343

Overall (14:45:50)

A good experience that means I’ll never have do another one! I’ve always preferred shorter races and this didn’t change my opinion although I would like to know – If I did  an Iron man abroad would they say “you are an iron man?” or would it be”eres un hombre de hierro” or  “vous êtes un homme de fer” or …

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Barrathon – Saturday 23rd June – 01:48:56

Barrathon is a half marathon that circumnavigates the island starting and finishing in the main town – castlebay. Aptly named because their is a castle in the bay. Other towns should also name themselves litteraly as the things in them.  Edinburgh could be castlerock and Glasgow could be sectarianriver.

The best way to describe the race would be “undulating.” If I wasn’t going up then I was going down. Towards the end of the course their is a long hill climb. It’s not as bad as the one in the Harris half marathon but coming after all the undulations it did feel a slog! After that its a mile downhill back into town and onto the post race buffet.

Points of note

  • For accommodation I’d recommend http://www.barra-accommodation.co.uk/list/self-catering/fluran-caravan/
  • The post race buffet was good but the queue for it was very very long!
  • Three days in barra is enough to see everything
  • Hire a bike to get around. Nothing is too far away.
  • They have a potato festival. Its the highlight of the year according to one local. Its the only time her husband gets drunk.

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Brian Goodwin 10k – Friday 19th june – 44:07:00

A few years ago I tried to run a 10K in under 45 minutes. After numerous failed attempts I finally achieved it at this race. I checked my watch after the race and it said the distance was 9.8km’s…

This time I went along with no expectation of a time and ran at a steady pace. At the end I was surprised to see I’d run under 45 minutes. i checked my watch and again it said the distance was 9.8km’s

So either my watch is wrong or I take a short cut on the route 🙂 either way I’ll accept the time!