Ironman UK 2022 Review
Standing on the side of Pennington Flash, as the rain began to fall. I stood at the very front of the swim start with a huge sense of relief. Firstly because last year after having to pull out of the race due to the travel restrictions in place but also many make the start line with niggles, and some are not so lucky don’t make the start line with injuries or illness. Ironman training can be relentless, and when you push yourself close to that line, many cross over it. I also stood there thinking I’d done some of my best work so far in the lead-up to this event, so I had no reason to be stressed or nervous. I was going to go out there, enjoy myself and hopefully have some action at the front of the race!
So first into the water, feeling fresh, I start off pretty hard. Two reasons for this…
1. To get warm 😂 the water was a bit fresh on entry but not too bad! Especially compared to my first open water swim back in the UK back in May.
2. I wanted to get any weaker swimmers off my feet and then the plan was to work with any other stronger swimmers who stayed around me.
So I get to work, and the aim was for something in between 55-56mins. I knew this was slightly below 70.3 pace and something I could sustain but factored in potential traffic on the second loop. Strangely halfway through the first lap, I get a stitch 🙈 never experienced before, don’t really know why now but I pushed on through it. The first lap done, just a few seconds down on a small bunch of swimmers in front. Jumped back in after the aussi exit to start the second lap. Learning my lesson from the first time I did IMUK 6 years ago I wasn’t going to swim around people this time. I stuck to the race line and worked my way through the swimmers on their first lap (sorry anyone I swam over or felt I got too close 😂)
Swim done, out of the water in 56mins dead. Ignore the tracker, not sure where it got 54mins from!
But super happy here, especially for a non-salt water swim
Ave Pace: 1min28sec/100m
Cadence: 40rpm Overall: 6th
Age Group: 1st
Get to work at my target power. For those that don’t know, you ride a section of road first until you hit the bike loop which you then repeat 3 times. In this first section, you can get a bit of speed going and stay aero, as a result, I quickly made my way up to 2nd overall as I started the loop. The leader had shot off in front with a serious time gap via information from a few spectators were sharing with us, but I wasn’t stressed just cracked on and had fellow athlete Dan Elliot for company whom I knew from my time when I was previously involved in TriCentral and plenty of times racing together and against each other on Zwift during the pandemic. We shared a few laughs as we swapped 2nd and 3rd repeatedly for the first 1.5 laps. Admittedly at this stage, I was slightly above my target Normalised wattage, so I slightly backed off thinking I want that good run off the bike. This resulted in some of the stronger riders behind starting to move past me during the remainder of the bike but I wasn't far from them as I could see on the out and back section. I think this is by far one of the hardest Ironman branded bike courses, especially with the new course this year. It was relentless with the amount of time spent climbing vs in aero. During the time spent in aero, many of the surfaces at that time were poor or felt like they had a headwind which definitely resulted in slower bike times than in previous years in my opinion.
Still, I got into transition 2 in 7th place. Still super happy and ready to run!
Distance: 180km (on the dot!)
Ave Pace: 32kph
Ave Normalised Power: 250w
Watts Per KG: 3.28w/KG
Ave Cadence: 79rpm
Elevation Gain: 2937m (this seemed to be accurate looking at other people's data also)
Age Group: 2nd
The deal-breaker, THE RUN!
Anybody who knows Ironman knows it all comes down to the run. Many blame a bad run performance on their “run fitness”. 10% of the time this may actually be the case but for anybody who knows, the run performance is mainly based on the bike. Did you fuel well enough during it, did you train your stomach well enough to tolerate that fuel or did you overdo the bike effort-wise! Time to find out.
So on we go, 4 laps of the run course to go which ventures into the town centre, through queens park which includes the one major hill and then an out and back along Chorley new road. The plan was to feel comfortable for the first half and then suffer in the second half but to maintain pace. The first lap is a weird experience, it's quiet on the run course with only a number of athletes there and the crowd slowly starting to build. But the first half goes well, I get to 21.1km feeling pretty good. I get there in 1hour36min, holding 4min35sec/km, I had dropped a place to 8th but was super happy, feeling great, exactly where I wanted to be. I couldn't really see others in the field pulling away but at the same time but also I wasn't pulling them back either. By this stage, the run course was a lot busier and the whole course is buzzing with people supporting all the way along it. Then km number 24 arrives, this is where the suffering begins and the legs begin to not want to play ball!! I expected to suffer at some stage but still when it hits you hope for the best. On this occasion, my legs began to turn to lead and I could feel my run form start to fall apart. At this stage, it's easy to start to think negatively especially as I could see another two athletes beginning to close me down and those in front beginning to pull away. So I started to focus on two things. 1. My form, especially around my stride and the recovery phase by pulling my heels up (not falling into the ironman shuffle). 2. Breaking the rest of the run into sections. The first lap of each lap is the hardest bit with the hill in queens park followed by a gradual uphill to the turnaround point. So I broke that up via the aid stations thinking "get there asap, walk for 5-10secs for water, then go again" which seemingly worked for me. Finally, I get to the final turnaround point, with just less than 6km to go, it was time to leave anything I had left out there, murder mode on! Eventually making it to the town centre where the atmosphere was on fire by this point. Hitting the red carpet, I could hear my name being called by people cheering but in all honestly, my eyesight was a bit of blur by this point and the only people I'd spotted were my family right by the finish line. Crossing that line to hear for the fourth time " You are an Ironman..."
Ave Pace: 4.47min/km
Ave Cadence: 177rpm
Elevation Gain: 370m
Age Group: 3rd
It's a close call with Ironman Copenhagen in 2019, but this was probably the most enjoyable Ironman that I have done to date. It was by far the most challenging one too which was in the proof as 17% of participants didn't make the cut-off for the bike, which is usually around 12%. I 100% wouldn't have done as well as I did on this course without being in the UK 2 months prior to the race. It's absolutely brutal but I love it. Dubai is an amazing place to live and train but I remember my first ride back in the UK thinking I'd become weak when it comes to riding uphill. But I had time to get stronger and adapt, which I think it did as best I could in the time I had. I also think that my running improved dramatically during my time in the UK, the cooler conditions allowed me to run at a faster pace, for a lower energy cost resulting in more quality running. Would I do Ironman UK again, 100%!!! But at this moment in time, I don't think it'll be next year. I've other races that I'd like to tick off but I'm not thinking about that just yet. I'm enjoying some downtime with some easy sessions and then it's time to get ready for Ironman 70.3 World Championship In Utah!! For those wondering, I did qualify for Kona, but like so many others it was just too expensive to make happen with only 12-14weeks until the actual event. But that's ok, I'm excited about the 70.3 worlds!
Overall: 9th Place
Age Group (30-34): 3rd Place
Huge thank you for all the support, I'm very lucky to know so many great people who genuinely wish the best for me and help make this happen. So I really mean it when I say thank you!!