3 in a row @ IMUK : 2019 Race Report

Rookie Goes for 3 in a Row at Ironman UK : 2019 Race Report


90 seconds…..

90 foookin seconds lol…..

Don’t worry, all will become clear shortly….

Looking over some of the comments online, it is quite clear that Bolton now has a reputation as being one of the toughest Ironman courses out there.

Nearly 300 poor souls  started this race but did not finish it which is a huge 20% of the starting field and my heart goes out to every single one of them.

If you got injured, I hope you are on the mend…

If you got a mechanical, we all feel your pain….

And if you missed the cut off, I cannot imagine how you must be feeling right now.

Make no mistake, this was a brutal day at the office…

But let’s cut straight to the chase here….

See the Black Dog Pub at the bottom of sheephouse lane towards the end of the bike loop???

Well, the journey you will go on to get to the Bolton start line combined with the reception that is waiting for you at this pub which has hundreds of supporters 3 deep on either side of the road making a noise that will make your spine tingle for the rest of your days…….

That experience alone…..

It is worth the Ironman entry fee tenfold my friend…..

But more on those wonderful supporters later….

Before we get cracking with the race report, it’s important that I frame it….

Over 1,600 people lined up at Pennington Flash this year…

Every single one of them has a story…..(most way better than mine)

Here is a story written from the very back of the pack….

Race eve

This is my 3rd Ironman in a row at Bolton but I am still like a big kid at christmas on race eve.

I somehow managed to drift off to a deep relaxing sleep at 8pm however was rudely awoken by the mrs turning me fan off at midnight which really pissed me off as I could not for the life of me get back to sleep…..

4 hours kip before one of the most gruelling days of your life is hardly the most ideal start to proceedings is it?

Pre Race

Check everything is in order with the bike (I always get myself convinced that something will have mysteriously happened to it overnight) and then its time to get the wetsuit on…

2.4 Mile swim – Lap 1 Target : 45min : Actual Time : 45min

Ask most seasoned runners and cyclists why they have not moved over to triathlon and the most common reply you will get is that the swim strikes fear into their hearts.

I used to feel like that once upon a time, but I now find the Ironman swim one of the easiest and most enjoyable parts of the day.

Lining up in the 1:30 pen, the first thing I noticed was that I was surrounded by some right handy looking lads this year….

After the national anthem played, I let out the trademark roar and was pleased to observe that many joined in this time…

The biggest thing that still fascinates me about the swim start at Bolton though, is how civilised it is…

At my level, It’s a case of “after you!”…..no…..after you! (wtf)

At 3 sisters Open Water swim training  in Wigan, you can have it ‘easy’ (nice and gentle novice focused) or you can have it ‘hard’ (mass start, tight bunch, pack swim where it often ‘goes off’)….

The choice is yours…

I always choose the latter


Practicing swimming in a tight bunch, mass start, pack is, in my Rookie opinion, the best open water swim training you could ever do as once you realise you are not made of glass, you actually start to enjoy the rough and tumble.

The point is, for the last 3 years, I have found the Ironman swim to be a relative piece of piss..

Yes there is the odd skirmish, but nothing like the weekly pack riots in wigan which are the open water equivalent of football hooliganism.

Anyhow, getting stuck into it, I stayed wide right and it felt like it took ages to get to that first turn.

I cut right across to be tight with the buoy and there was a bloke swimming breaststroke going for the exact same line……

I am not being funny cock, but you should not be allowed to swim breaststroke so close to the turn buoy….

It’s an ‘elbow to the skull’ waiting to happen if ever I saw one….

Thankfully I emerged unscathed and made my way round to the turn for home.

I noticed that Ironman kindly put even more huge bright yellow markers all the way down the home straight and this was very much appreciated.

I love being a 1:30 swimmer.

I find that 99% of people in this group ‘play the game’ so to speak.

They know how to relax in open water and, just like you, most of them simply want to get round in a nice, smooth, comfortable way in a sensible time with no drama.

Swim like them and they will welcome you with open arms….

Start thrashing around in circles like a one legged duck that has just seen a shark and they will send you packing.

Want to learn how to relax in open water?

Go to 3 sisters in Wigan every wednesday.

Don’t live in Wigan?

Count your blessings….

Go to you local tri club, show them this blog and ask where your nearest open water pack training sessions are….

If they do not know, find a different tri club…

Finished lap 1 in 45 min so bang on plan.

Swim Lap 2 : Plan 45 mins : Actual : 48 mins

lap 2 in the flash is an absolute piece of cake.

Yer out and out animals are long gone leaving you surrounded by people of a similar ilk.

I decided from the outset that I was going to try and swim in a perfect straight line with the Buoys and fairly soon I noticed something amazing….

The ‘pack’ was swimming wide right.

They did this the entire way round the loop.

This meant that I had the ‘perfect line’ all to myself.

I couldnt believe my luck.

‘Why are they all over there?’ I said to one of the lads sat in a canoe half way round….

‘I’ve absolutely no idea’ came the reply.

It suited me down to the ground mind and off I went doing an impression of pac-man eating up all the yellow buoys one after another

I was all alone and I was bored as fuck.

Finished lap 2 in 48 minutes which I was annoyed with as it felt much quicker.

Total for the 2.4 mile swim : 1:33 – 3 mins over plan.

T1 – 12 mns

I didn’t want to get me brand new tri suit wet as it had  Iron Rookie written all over it and I was paranoid that the letters would start peeling off making me look like a right dick for the rest of the race…..

I made my way into the ‘nude’ changing tent and it resembled a seen from a gay orgy….

Trying to change your tri suit in an area the size of a sixpence when you are rushing, stressed out, clammy and surrounded by blokes with their cock out standing far too close for comfort is an experience I never want to repeat again.

Handing my bag over to the excellent volunteers one of them gave me a massive ‘go-on Rookie’ and this was just the tonic I needed to set me on me merry way.

I’d made back the 3 minutes so was now perfectly on plan.

14 Mile ‘Pre loop’ Flash to Bee Hive : Plan : 45 Mins : Actual Time : 52 mins

This was fairly un-interesting really except for the fact that when you got to Chorley New Road, there was a long stream of athletes coming the other way having already ‘doubled back’ on themselves and a few of them gave you that smug ‘i’m kicking your arse’ look

I was interested to see how many would be ‘coming the other way’ when it was my turn to double back mind…

Instead of a ‘long stream’, there was more the ‘odd trickle’.

I had allowed 45 mins for this pre-loop but I came in 7 minutes over plan.

Starting the main circuit 7 minutes down is not exactly dreamland but i gets stuck into it all the same.

Main 47 mile bike circuit Lap 1 from the Bee-Hive : Plan 3:45 : Actual 3:38

I’m going to write this from my personal experience of the wonderful supporters on this new bike circuit which is the number 1 reason why I keep coming back to Ironman UK.

On feed station 1, you had about 40 umpa lunpas from warrington tri club handing out drinks and a few of them shouted ‘go on rookie’ at me which I loved

These Umpa Lumpas were on their feet all day for us Ironmen and when their work was done on the feed station they came into the town centre to support the run, dancing away until the very end.

Those umpa lumpas are going to become the stuff of folklore.

On the hills out of Breightmet, a chinese lady started whooping and clapping then started running up the hill next to me in flat shoes chatting shit with a big smile on her face and she intrigued the hell out of me.

She was mad as a box of frogs but I loved it….

And they say us Ironmen are off our heads….

On the ‘new’ climb next to the golf course I could hear a couple of lads behind me cursing the hills already…

“I am from the south downs so we are used to climbing down there’ he said…

“But not one hundred and twelve fukin miles of it’…..

He made me laugh that hard I nearly fell off my bike.

When we got to Holcombe Hill , large numbers of tri rochdale were stood at the bottom doing a great job at getting everyone up it, not just their own.

Half way up Holcombe and Ramsbottom Running club had made an absolutely stonking effort.

They had a DJ belting out the tunes and then probably about 100 on either side of the road pushing you up in true tour de france style with cow bells ringing and everything.

I really appreciated the effort that Ramsbottom running club put into this – I think it is absolutely fantastic the way they have embraced Ironman coming to their village for the first time – Same again next year please Rammy!

Up the Grane and you had three or four nutters from some tri coaching group stood in the middle of the road shouting everyone on – there was only three or four of them but they were making the noise of 50.

Through Edgworth and another one that has embraced Ironman coming to their village for the first time.

There was a real party atmosphere around the place, the streets were lined with hundreds of locals and you could get some real speed going through this section so you would just hear their shrieks of whooping as you whizzed by.

Over to the Forest of Doom and my mate Damo, a multiple Team Dean Ironman, stood there waving his Lancashire Flag and ringing his bell on top of a hill in the middle of no-where.

He was still on his feet 10 hours later shouting all the athletes up chorley New Road.

You then had Tri Rivi on the final feed station……

Ace them lot…

But without doubt the most magical sensation of the race was what happened when you got to the black dog pub at the bottom of the sheep house lane climb.

As I approached I noticed a Carlise United Flag (A sign that COLT were here) and I smiled at the bloke sat on a deckchair beside it.

He gave me a knowing smile back as if to say “You just wait till you get round there Rookie”

As I turned the corner, there must have been a good few hundred 3 deep on either side of the road going absolutely mad as I made my way inbetween them.

The noise they made and the look on their faces.

It was like how people behave when their team has scored a goal at the football.

It’s a memory I will take to the grave.

It was a potent mix of Invictus, Team Pie, Wigan Triathlon, Tri Rivi, Chorley, Tri Preston, Knutsford and COLT..

Trust me, experiencing this as a ‘competitor’ is worth the Ironman entry fee tenfold.

I had tears in my eyes after.

The world famous wrestlers on top of sheep house put the icing on the cake and those boys need no introduction.

Can I just say thank you to every single person stood outside the black dog today – the way you were with me when I am not even a member of your club was absolutely unbelievable.

The most beautiful thing about this was large numbers from Wigan were there and instead of taking their rugby balls home because Ironman removed their hill (Hunters) they united, came to Bolton and created one of the most magical sensations I have ever experienced at Ironman to date.

Towards the end of my 1st lap local boy Brian fogarty came stomping past and you could hear him coming a mile off.

“Go on lad” I shouted and I swear, cool as a cucumber, he replied “Cheers”

That man rode a 5:11 bike split.

Can we just pause whilst we refelct on that for a second please?

A 9:30 Ironman and a 5:11 bike split on this ‘brutal’ bike course???

The man is a legend.

Anyhow, back to the ‘real world’ and ‘Here we go again’ Round to the Bee-Hive for lap 2

47 Mile Bike Circuit : Lap 2 From the Bee-Hive : Plan 4 hours : Actual Time 4 Hours

If I remember right I made up the 7 minutes so started lap 2 with the target being 4 hours, exactly as planned.

This second lap wasnt pretty.

I was losing the will to live even after the hills of breightmet and the golf club climb early doors.

No idea how I got round to be fair…

Thinking of the supporters waiting at the Black dog got me through it.

I also remembered a trick in training where I broke it down into four x 1 hour slots.

1st hour you are 25% done.

2nd hour you are half way there and so on.

1:30 and disaster struck when me puncture toolbag snapped off me bike frame.

I’m not surprised as it weighed a tonne, I had 3 spare inner tubes, about 6 lead weight co’2 cannisters, 4 metal tyre levers, the works.

I went for broke and dumped the bag with a friendly local as I didnt have room for it anywhere else.

It really was shit or bust now….

If i’m perfectly honest with you, deep down inside, I didnt believe I was going to make the cut off for large chunks of this second lap.

The long slow climbs on the bike course (exactly the ones I hate) were relentless and they were eating me for breakfast.

My thoughts were, “I’ve had a good day and so long as I get to the black dog for one last celebration in front of those brilliant supporters, that will do for me.”

Once I got the other side of the forest of doom though, I noticed I still had an hour to get to Queens Park.

10 minutes to Belmont, 20 minutes over Sheep House, 15 mins to horwich, 15 minutes to Queens Park….

You can do this Rookie.

You’ve still a chance here lad.

When I got to the black dog for the second time, most of the supporters had fucked off into town.

Can’t say I blame them, I would have done the same.

There were still a good 50 or so ‘hardcore’ left who made a great effort but it was nothing like the first lap.

However, it was now all about my battle with the clock.

I got a handshake off one of the wrestlers at the top of Sheep-House and I powered over to Queens Park like a man possessed.

Where I got that energy from, I will never know.

I reckon the wrestler gave it to me when he shook my hand.

One thing is for certain…

The Iron Gods were smiling down on me today…..

90 seconds I made the T2 cut off by.

90 Fookin seconds……

Can you believe that shit?

T2 : 7 mins (a world record for Iron Rookie)

When I got to the transition tent the referees were telling people that they had not made the cut off but when they told me I had done it I felt like I had won the lottery.

I was shocked at how well people were taking it when they were told they had not made the cut…

They were like ‘oh ok then’ and I am not certain I would have reacted in quite the same way….

I would have been like ‘ive still got a mara in me yet, let me onto the run course….. now!‘ 

But at the end of the day, if we choose to enter Ironman, we have to respect the rules and the cut off times, tight as they are, only serve to make the medal even more sacred than what it already is.

Lets have it right, if they said ‘don’t worry about it cock, finish when you can’ the event would turn into a farce and the medal would become meaningless.

Those that came into T2 just under the permitted time have my heart felt sympathy all the same though – I do think if you are within say 15 minutes of the T2 cut off then you should be given a free golden ticket to come and try again next year.

Anyhow, I was looking forward to lying down, going the bog (which I hadn’t done for the last 10 and a half hours despite feeling like I was going to shit myself on several occasions) and getting a nice cup of tea….

I had given it my all plus 50% and I was absolutely goosed.

How long have I got in here ref?

10 minutes came the reply…..


I have to be out of here in ten minutes?


Watch this people.

Making T2 ‘check in’ is one thing, but you still have to be out onto the run circuit by 10h 40min, otherwise it’s game over.

Instead of the relaxing ‘re-charge’ to prepare myself for what now lay ahead, T2 involved me charging around like a headless chicken stressed to the max rushing to get me trainers on whilst trying not to collapse.

Hardly the best preperation for a gruelling marathon is it?

The Run : laps 1-3 (31.5k) 4h 30 min

I was in a right state when I stumbled onto the run circuit.

A fella grabbed me straight out of T2 and said “I know you said it was going to be tight Rookie, but Bloody Hell”

The pain/fatigue you are experiencing mixed with the ecstacy of making the cut offs, it’s a very potent drug.

I staggered into town celebrting with every single person who called my name.

Half way up chorley street hill, The amazing ‘DJ turtle’ left his decks and started marching towards me to give me a warm embrace….

90 seconds I said, arms aloft……90 fukin seconds.

I was high as a kite.

Once the ecstacy wore off, the reality of what lay ahead kicked in.

How the hell am I gonna do this mara? I thought to myself.

In training, I had built up to running 3 laps of 1:10, walking only the park, but I knew from past experience that I could walk/run in 1:30 laps.

My strategy was set….

I would shuffle the flat bit through town, walk the park, walk all the way up chorley new road, then jog back down again x 3.

If I could do this in 4:30, this would leave a huge 2 hours to complete the final lap.

I have no idea how I got through that run.

Then again, It was the supporters that got me through it.

Sarah W, Jan, Damo, Big G, Turtle, Blackburn Road Runners, Bolton Tri, the amazing volunteers, the other athletes shouting me, plus I seemed to have acquired little pockets of support dotted all around the town centre once again which was just ace.

Thanks be to the iron gods, my strategy worked a treat.

I completed lap 3 in 4h 30min leaving me 2 hours to complete the final 10k.

Final Lap (10.5k) : 1:45

It took me longer than expected to walk thorugh town.

Once I got onto Chorley New Road, I soon realised that I was pretty much the only one left on the course travelling northbound.

There were plenty running the other way but no-one In front of me and no-one behind.

This was a pretty un-nerving feeling.

I hit the u-turn after exactly an hour.

“Surely I could walk back into Bolton in under an hour from here” I thought to myself.

As I’m marching back down chorley new road, I counted three other people coming the other way.

“Go on – keep going” I roared at them.

“Dont worry, i’m coming” one replied.


No fewer than two of the fuckers caught me up.

The commardary we shared marching down together was out of this world.

When we got to the bottom of CNR, they gave us glow sticks and seeing those glow sticks hobbling off into a silent, deserted park full of darkness was one of the most haunting things I have ever experienced.

I made it out of the park in 1:30 and it was never going to take me half an hour to walk into town from there.

On exiting the park the same guy who collared me after T2 appeared out of no-where and said ‘By the skin of your teeth Rookie’

I would like to know who this guy was as there was something mystical about him and I loved the way he kept popping up at the crucial points giving me banter.

There were plenty of Ironmen limping back the other way to collect their bikes and they made sure to give me some final words of encouragement.

As I came into the town centre I could hear the lovely Irish Ironman lady saying ‘our final athletes are now out of the park’

I thanked the DJ from Bolton FM for keeping us going all day and made my way round to the red carpet where thousands were waiting to cheer in the final few.

On crossing the line I got a ‘high-5’ from every single one of the wrestlers and to somehow feel that I was being accepted by these guys meant the world to me.

I stayed behind the barrier to cheer home the final finisher and then it was off to collect not one but 2 finishers T-shirts as they still had hundreds left.


I know some people out there, Ironman purists like, will be rolling their eyes at this.

Making T2 by 90 seconds, walking the mara, what a disgrace.

And they are right.

But in 1999, deep into injury time, Carlisle United needed to score a goal to secure their football league future.

In the final few seconds, they got a corner and their goalkeeper, jimmy glass, came and scored the goal they needed to keep them in the football league.

As you can imagine, all hell broke loose.

Did everyone turn round to them and say ‘what are you celebrating about?….you are still shit”


But the Carlisle fans did not give a toss….

They had survived….

And that is all that mattered to them…..

Point is…..

It’s the Same here cock…..

All I want is to ‘survive’ and ‘renew my stripes’ whilst celebrating with the supporters the whole way round the circuit….

To finish is to win as far as I am concerned.

Let us not forget that nearly 300 poor souls started this race but did not finish it.

How many of those would take a 16:45 finish and a guarnteed medal right now?

I reckon a fairly high proportion….

Afterall, the Course is ‘Brutal’, right?

One final word about that…

Do not let the fact people are saying ‘It’s Brutal’ put you off

Let them keep saying that.

It makes the medal even more sacred when you get it.

Same again next year Rookie?

Immediately After the race I said ‘That’s it, never again’….

But the wonderful supporters and the way they react to you…..

How can you experience that and not become addicted to it?

Besides, Ironman just sent me an e-mail….

‘Priority registration’ for 2020…..

What the fuck are you doing? said the mrs as I clicked on the link…..

Just seeing what the offer is babe….


Massive thanks as always to Ironman UK, every single one of the brilliant volunteers and Bolton council for getting behind this event year after year

Like this article? so will your mates – feel free to share it and don’t forget to ‘add’ me on FB where you will find my daily training log for 2020 updated daily, as it happens

By the way, have you heard about this book? its nearly 500 pages crammed full of hints and tips detailing exactly how I was able to go from zero fitness to completing an Ironman triathlon and covers super sprint, sprint, olympic 70.3 & full iron distances all from a ‘first timer’ perspective – please take a moment to read the reviews on amazon www.amazon.co.uk/Secrets-Ironmen-Iron-Rookie/dp/1974002322/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1540676777&sr=8-1&keywords=iron+rookie

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