Team JMC triathletes Nick Isherwood, Chris Heys and Adam Critchley all took part in Ironman UK last weekend and all three completed the gruelling course.
Here’s Nick’s account of the race…
Race day began with a 3:30am breakfast – a challenge in itself, followed by a short drive down to Leigh for the swim start at 6:00am. After last minute bike checks in the huge transition area, athletes were asked to enter the water. Although the water wasn’t too cold, there was a long wait on the deep water start line whilst all athletes took positions around 200m offshore. After a mass rendition of oggy oggy oggy, the gun finally went off at 6:10am.
The swim was, as expected. carnage as 1400 people tried to find clear water. I was lucky and got on the feet of a similar ability swimmer who pulled me out to the first turn buoy but my problems were just about to start. Only a mile into the race and my legs were beginning to cramp, and at the end of the first lap when we exited the water for the timing mats I was in real trouble. Both legs were now severely cramped and I began to wonder how I could contemplate a second lap.
The sheer will to continue coupled with the thought of a DNF drove me on and I forced myself out into the lake with both legs cramped to swim another 1.2 miles. Getting through that swim was the most difficult period in racing I have experienced but I was surprised to see only 1 hours 20 on the clock when I finally made it back to dry land. After hobbling into T1, I spent 14 painful minutes stretching before I could begin the bike section but was grateful to still be in the race.
The relief of being on the bike and the change of position allowed my body to overcome the cramps, and for the first time I felt back in control. Time to get the hammer down. After fuelling up and 30 mins of riding I was feeling ready to tackle the hills and began to overtake weaker riders and those who had left me behind in T1. Focussing on my nutrition and not pushing too hard I began to knock the miles out, holding an average pace of 17.4 mph for the 112 miles and enjoying the unbelievable crowd support along the course. After making it safely into T1 after 6 hours 26 mins (unlike many riders who had fallen foul to tricky descents off the climbs) I changed for the run.
Although fatigued, my legs felt surprisingly fresh as I began the marathon but the Ironman was never going to be this easy to tame. Making it through the first feed station, the leg cramps from earlier returned and were now coupled with GI distress from the gel diet of the day. I was frustrated as I expected to clear a 4 hour marathon off the bike, but the effects of the last few hours were now kicking in. The wheels slowly came off and my marathon consisted of a run, jog, walk, stretch, repeat strategy for the next 5 hours but I was in no way alone.
The British summer had arrived and as temperatures soared, the rate of walkers and dropouts increased. Epic spectator numbers screamed every competitor through the long run into town, within spitting distance of the finish line and back out of town again for another lap. After collecting my final lap band (a glorious feeling) I was inside my final 4 miles. Throwing down my last gel, and flat pepsi I shuffled my way into Bolton and approached the finish line but this time I was to hang a left into the finishers chute.
The finish line for Ironman is like no other. It is the most rewarding, electric atmosphere and I felt like a world champion as I high fived the crowds on my way to a 13 hour 23 min finish.
To finish an Ironman is to win, and the sheer nature of the event is about overcoming hurdles and pushing yourself beyond the limits you thought existed. Most peoples times had gone out of the window as the temperatures rose, the pros times were down 30 mins on the previous year and the number of DNF’s had increased dramatically so simply crossing the line was more than rewarding.
The announcers call of “Nick Isherwood, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” will stay with me for a long time. I have always wondered how people drive themselves to complete the Ironman, and now I can wear the M-Dot with pride knowing exactly what it takes. Again? Maybe…