Friday, 4 November 2016

2014: Ironman (registered trademark) v Bob Graham

2014 was given over almost entirely to the Ironman.  Well, with a fucking four hundred quid entry fee I was going to make sure I had a successful and enjoyable event.
I am a shit swimmer, and swimming is shit - let's get that settled before we go on.
I did become a member of an excellent swimming pool in Warrington which is on the way to work.
So I'd drive or cycle to the pool in the morning, do my swim workout and then go into work.
I suppose you can't expect to start a sport absolutely from scratch at fifty odd years old and expect to get even half decent at it in a year. Actually, I suppose you can. But I didn't. After months of early morning torture my legs were still sinking and I still could only breathe to one side and I could still only go at one pace. But you know what the biggest problem was?  All the fucking nonsense they keep spouting about it all being "in the technique."  With a couple of years of hindsight I can agree that a fair bit of it must be in the technique - but I reckon there's a hell of a lot more of it in the training.  It's like some fat pleb never doing any speedwork and thinking that he'll get an 18 minute parkrun pb if only he can learn to run with a forefoot strike. I frequently berate people for listening to other people and asking other people's advice and not making decisions for themselves. I take some of it back, because I was guilty of the same thing.The upshot was that I spent about eight months thinking about the catch and pull, pushing my face and chest in the water, keeping my feet high, trying to roll, high elbow recovery - and never really exerted myself. I never trained for the Ironman swim, I just practiced.  Having said all that, when I took to Pennington Flash and the Three Sisters open water swimming I found it really enjoyable. So much so that I got into the water on the day totally confident, and I genuinely swam the 3.8k with a smile on my face.

I've been into cycling for a number of years. I got my first mountain bike about 13 years ago and became a bit of a cycling addict for a while. I'll swear that there was a delivery from Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles every other day for a couple of years.  I did trips up to the 7 Stanes and a road trip around ALL the welsh MTB trail centres and up to Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. I even went so far as to take myself to Alpe d'Huez to ride the legendary Megavalanche course:

I did start to get a bit sick of cleaning every speck of dirt off with a toothbrush every time I went for a ride, and on every ride contemplating that that new squeak or rattle was going to cost me ANOTHER £120 at least.  But I was addicted to two wheels so I got myself a road bike too. And before Sheephouse Lane was even a twinkle in Ironman's eye - that was the first ride I did on my carbon fibre pride and joy. I'd obviously watched too much of the Tour and I think I expected to float up it effortlessly - or if not an effortless float, then at least a powerful surge. Imagine my dismay then, when after clicking onto the granny ring and then down through the gears, I was reduced to an arduous grind. Back at Rivington barn cafe my shiny new bike got me into a conversation: "I bet it's a lovely ride." I agreed, but inside I suppose I was a bit disappointed; the poetry had turned to prose.  Having said that, over the next couple of years I became a dedicated roadie and I would regularly go out and ride the Lakeland passes before I'd even heard of the Fred Whitton. And a couple of times I rode an epic 200 miler taking in every hill I could fit in: Moss Bank, Crank, Shaley Brow, Ashurst Beacon, Parbold Hill, Red Rock, Sheep House Lane, Broadhead Road, Sharneyford, Cragg Vale, Saddleworth Moor, Isle of Skye, Holme Moss, Snake Pass, Winnats Pass and The Cat and Fiddle. The first time I did it I got to within five miles of home and then got dragged off my bike by some drunken scroat's dog. I never did get round to going back to throw a steak laced with rat poison over his back yard wall.

So I had the foundation there when it came to IM training. I'm lucky enough to live near The Endurance Store - as shops go the best of its kind that I know of. They organise, motivate and co-ordinate a huge number of events and training groups in the area, including a chaingang on Winter Wednesday nights: 10 laps of a 2 mile circuit round an industrial estate - 20 miles of pure unadulterated leg-burning joy; and a Sunday morning ride between 60 and 100 hilly or flat miles, including loops of the Ironman course.

And the running - well running is just running. One thing I did practice was running off the bike. The first couple of times I did it I ran a mile after a five hour bike ride and I thought "Yikes, I'll never be able to run a marathon like this."  The next time I did it I ran five miles and finished thinking, "I could do this all day."

I've always looked down on triathlon as a bit of a hoity toity executive sport.  You do need a certain level of disposable income before you can even start. And let's face it; every bugger that you meet seems to be a flippin' triathlete these days, and after Nazism I'm always suspicious of things that seem to be all the rage all of a sudden. I'd always vowed that I'd never do an Ironman, but when you get to a certain age there comes a point where you either do it now or you'll never do it and you can never be certain that you won't regret it later -  a bit like the biological clock, I suppose.  And the price! I'm used to getting a full day out running on the fells with fully stocked checkpoints, a tee shirt, a bottle of beer and a meal at the end all for a fiver. But as my mate Steve Kav pointed out: you may as well do it while it's on your doorstep. If you decide to do it later when it's moved miles away then all the reccies, travel and accommodation will cost you another few hundred quid.

So that was it then.

I reckoned I  could do sub 12 hours and I worked out the paces accordingly.  I reckoned 90 mins for the swim, 6.5 hours for the bike and a 4 hour marathon.  And I executed perfectly. Experienced triathloners will have spotted the flaw. I didn't factor in the fourth the discipline "transition" aka getting changed. This totted up to 15 minutes, giving me a finishing time of 12 hours 12 minutes. Bollocks.

Having said that I had a great day out. And if you pace yourself right it's dead easy.  And the relevance of the title of this post?

In terms of difficulty, I reckon old Bob will beat the shit out of Ironman every time.

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