Thoughts from the Ironman UK Course

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I’m sat in a typically soulless Premier Inn with two nights till race day. Admittedly I’m a little tired, but with a planned lie in tomorrow bed seems less urgent. You see tomorrow’s weather isn’t looking that hot. If I repeated today and trained early all I’d do is get my race kit dirty! So lots more sleep, a big, big breakfast and then maybe light training if the clouds look good.

Thursday was a very long day for me. Starting at 4:10am so I could get in a proper brekkie before driving to collect Toby. Sure it added a bit more time to my journey, but I was glad for the company. We made pretty good time up the motorway stopping for coffees on route. It was definitely a milky coffee day so skinny cappuccinos were my preference. Word of advice – do not buy coffee from Caffe Ritazza. I love coffee, but this was so bad I chucked most of it away. It was one of those cappuccinos where you were glad to have far too much frothy milk!

This isn’t about bad coffees though. We got to registration sometime around the middle of the day. The advantage of turning up early on Thursday is all was quiet so rego took no time at all. Unsurprisingly some kind of cycle training DVD was in the goodie bag! I think every UK Ironman event I’ve done has had one. The expo was small, expensive and uninteresting which is great – I don’t need the temptation. I still did the habitual Powerbar purchasing which was silly given I’m sticking to real foods at the moment.

Skipping past lunch (a lot of chicken, a theme so far this trip). We went for a drive round the course. Toby had been up the week before attempting to ride it with mixed success. Having two of us there made it easier for him to guide and me to drive. It was an interesting mix of cross referencing a map I’d loaded into my Garmin and the paper map. The race booklet maps leave a lot to be desired and don’t go far in making the course clear. Whilst we think we got it in the end we’ll be relying on marshals on the day.

I’ve seen discussions about the course, but until yesterday had no real idea what to think. Overall impression is that it is a reasonable challenge, but not exceptionally tough. I don’t think it’ll be a fast course mainly due to potential winds, the road surfaces and constant pace changes. The climbs are fine, nothing much of note, but the regular undulation will require regular changes of gear and pace. Make sure your gears are well tuned they’ll get a workout!

Overall I liked the route. There’d been an air of negativity on the journey up and during rego. A lot to do with the potential for cold and wet conditions. Sunshine whilst we drove round the bike lifted the mood and some positivity crept in.

This morning I did an hours ride just to keep the legs going. Whilst I wore gilet and arm warmers I was pleased that I felt pretty warm. In race conditions if the weather was like today then things should be fine. A set of light arm warmers in my bike bag will do me. I’ll shove an extra bike jersey in there in case things change though. The ride confirmed the influence of prevailing winds and road surfaces. Whilst my effort was easy, the pace was also low! I hope with a swim getting the heart going I’ll be comfortably putting out a few more watts.

Back to Thursday… During our travels by car Toby pointed out some of the run course. It’s all very vague, more so than the bike course. That’s definitely coming down to needing marshals to point me in the right direction. At least I’ll have pros ahead to work things out! There’s a few bits of hill in there from what I can see, but nothing to really worry about. I’m aiming to feel good on this part of the race and work to my strength.

Checking into my hotel about 5:30 in the afternoon brought an end to all my driving. Shamefully I opted out of a ride with Toby so he headed off back to where he was staying. I just wanted to chill out exhausted from sitting on my arse in a car for hours on end! I called this hotel soulless, but the staff are friendly and it looks great from the outside. All of that means the quality of the restaurant is extra disappointing!

Pleasingly I stuck to Paleo eating through Thursday and at least the start of today. I’ve been eating more, but mostly fruit. Oh, and a lot of chicken! Paleo ended at midday today when I consumed some bread. I’ll admit to feeling a bit guilty, but the stomach distress induced by a 20 minute run convinced me I needed to switch to more processed food and less raw veg! So in the last two days I’ll be eating carbs again, but not over-doing it. I’ll probably not opt for that whole Powerbar carb loading game this time!

As mentioned I got my bike ride in before breakfast today. I rode down to the race start and a little way up Sheep House Lane. It’s really pleasant riding round here, spectacular views and lots of little climbs to make you work. I realised it had been a while since I’d been out for a ride on a chilly morning like that! I actually enjoyed it. Once I was back at the hotel I was straight over for the breakfast.

Breakfast here is all you can eat. With self-service on the continental selection, but unusually you order your cooked food. I felt slightly awkward when asked the question of how many eggs I wanted. I nervously ased for three which was fine, tomorrow I’ll go for more! A paleo breakfast at an all you can eat buffet was managed. Tomorrow I will hit the breakfast hard and with no restrictions!

After brekkie it was over to the race venue for the practice swim. We had to be walked to the reservoir to stop us running amok in the private Anderton Centre. Then counted into the water! Toby was straight in and I followed after him and headed out for one lap. Whilst I couldn’t catch him I felt pretty good. The water was cool, but far from cold. The plan was a lap to get an idea of how race day might go. I kept a moderate pace throughout and was surprised only one person came past me. I wasn’t going that fast I think most people didn’t do a lap or messed about before starting.

So feeling like I’d had a good, solid swim I checked my watch as I left the water. 35 minutes for one lap! Terrible. I can’t have been going that slowly and my slightly wide course at the last turn couldn’t cost that much?! The southerly wind had created a bit of chop and some waves on the reservoir, but nothing that significant either. I was frustrated as I walked back to the tents. Fortunately catching up with Toby confirmed that he thought the course was long too and had found it slow. It looks like the buoys aren’t in the right places yet. So on Sunday swim times will either be slow or the buoys will be different.

Since then I’ve had my stomach issue inducing run, dropped off the Paleo routine pre-race and gone and watched Harry Potter. I wouldn’t recommend it that much, it was a bit slow and way too focussed on teenage angst. I’m glad to have left all that behind me a long time ago and it wasn’t done well enough to make me want to be reminded of it! I am embarrassingly keen to go and see GI Joe in my recovery weeks though! I mean come on, all that action, guns, women in leather…

Weather will dictate what if any training gets done tomorrow. It’ll be short, easy sessions in the dry if at all. No swim as the hassle of going to the one hour window is too much. A lie in will do me much more good, they worked well in Roth I found. I’m feeling pretty good about the race now, the negativity is gone and I’m keen to give it a go. That’s it from me till after the race, hopefully with a good report.

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