Final thoughts on Escape and the Next Challenges

Posted on June 27, 2012. Filed under: big swim, big swim nottingham, big swim nottingham 5000m, bike, charity, cold shock, escape, escape 2012, escape from alcatraz, escape from alcatraz 2012, ironman, ironman regensburg, MAF, make a wish, make a wish foundation, make a wish foundation sponsorship, outlaw ironman, outlaw triathlon, outlaw triathlon relay, race report, race review, speedo, sponsorship, swim |

I have now escaped not only Alcatraz but also San Francisco, California and the United States.  As I sit back in dreich Scotland I can look back with pride on being an Ironman AND an Escapee.  That is one mighty tough course and despite the time of my swim my Garmin trace shows that I almost got the swim right.  But that last left hand turn at Marina Green cost me over 10minutes and a shed load of energy.  My toenails that were a little shoogly after VLM finally gave up the ghost and ended up in my socks at the end of the race.  A magnificent experience! As promised the next two events can now be unveiled and will, unfortunately for me, be on back to back days and, unfortunately for you, they are both open water swims and therefore as dull as a murky boating pond.  Open water swimming is always murder.  There are inmates at Guantanamo that broke after waterboarding when threatened with a 200 metre open water swim.  It is dark, it is cold and people swim over, under, beside and through you.  Your goggles come off, you are spooked by all sorts of flora and fauna and your fellow dookers inadvertently punch your lights out.  And some folks wear speedos. The first event is something that I committed to the day after Ironman Regensburg at the Pirate prize giving.  Knowing that Ironman was not on the authorised list of events for 2012 but wanting to sail again with the Pirate Ship of Fools I agreed to join Pirate Gladys (a bloke and chief Pirate mincer) in a relay team – a year ago that seemed an innocent enough conversation in a German beer garden.  A year passed and it turned out it was a real commitment and not just a tipsy biergarten promise.

So, on Sunday at 6am I will take to the water at the National Watersports Centre, Holme Pierrepont and start the Outlaw with 1050 other triathletes (although technically as a relayist with only one sport I can drop the tri and I guess I am just an athlete which, to be honest, is one of the few times I could rightfully wear that title).  The Outlaw is probably the best Iron distance race in the UK and most of the guys that I start in the water with are racing to hear “you are an outlaw” 140.6miles and many hours later.  The smackfest of an iron distance swim is probably the bit that most people who are doing a relay instead of the individual event are trying to dodge.  I am a simple guy with one strength so I am one of the few daft enough to think this is an honour!

It seemed crazy to travel all the way to Nottingham to swim 3.8km so thats when I did something a touch rash and decided to enter myself in a 5000m swim.  Oh yes, you read that correctly 5000 metres, 3.1 miles and probably an hour and a half of sensory deprivation.  The Big Swim seems to run in parallel with the Great swims but at this distance I, for one, would describe it as a Great Big Swim.  I do this on Saturday afternoon with a handful of dedicated swimmers, apparently some Olympians and without doubt a rowing lake full of fellow muppets.  This is extreme muppetry and I may actually have to sponsor myself  just to have an additional incentive to get to the end of the  misery as quickly as possible.  I aim to get straight on to a massage table after the swim and get my poor, reconstructed shoulders knocked back into shape and then hopefully have a comfortable night’s sleep to get myself ready to do my relay team justice on Sunday morning.  This is a Great Big Nasty Old swim that I look forward to having finished already!

Holme Pierrepont is also a bit of a personal trip for me.  Twentysix years ago, when I was a front runner in a few sports rather than a middle aged back of the pack plodder, I was at a British Waterski Racing Team training camp at Holme Pierrepont.  On my last run of the last day of the camp I came off my ski at just over 70mph, displaced the front of my face to the back of my head and was left with a few aches and pains.  Being a tough kid and probably half concussed I obviously manned up and felt fine so my dad drove us 8 hours to Aberdeen and then I had a pretty grim sleep and a wee swim in the morning to “loosen up my shoulders”.  I was then sent straight to A&E.  I had broken three bones in my neck and spent the next 6 months in a brace!  I haven’t been back since (to Holme Pierrepont, not to A&E, which I have visited many times since) but 26 years later I know exactly where it happened and I look forward to swimming right through the spot on Saturday afternoon, pausing for a second to reflect that I could so easily, and justifiably, have given in to the perpetual, grinding aches and pains but instead do what I do.  Brrrrrrrr.

The main event on Sunday is the individual iron distance race.  It has been humbling to watch the online forums (I am not an uneducated oik by the way.  I know the plural of forum is fora but that just doesn’t sound right so I am just overruling it’s use in my tiny little corner of the world wide tinternet) ablaze with questions from maiden ironman decimated by self doubt and fear of the unknown with too much time on their minds as they taper.  The fantastically inclusive family of Ironmen, and in particular the Pirates, reassure, support, tease, abuse and cajole the newbies knowing that on the day everyone will be a great sport and help anyone in need.  I know a few prospective Ironmen read this blog; my tuppence worth is this….. You will have a sleepless night.  You will stand looking at the lake from the edge with your head full of nerves and thoughts of failure, injury and a broken nose.  And then as the washing machine stramash begins you will go through what I call Phase Too.  This is too rough.  I am too old.  I am too unfit.  I am too weak a swimmer.  It is too cold.  (Or his nasty big brother – it is too hot).  I eased off training too much in the taper.  My rubber suit is too tight.  That dunking took too much out of me.  I’ve eaten too little.  I’ve eaten too much.  Allow your mind a few moments to exercise the “too” scenarios as your breathing settles into a rhythm.  And then take control. Remember, for a moment, the anonymous quote I put in the VLM blog update.  “At mile 20, I thought I was dead. At mile 22, I wished I was dead. At mile 24, I knew I was dead. At mile 26.2, I realized I had become too tough to kill.” In the final weeks of peak training, when you did those 7 hour rides or the long bricks or the big weekend, you took something out of Pandora’s box that you can never put back in.  The only “too” that is important to you now is that you are too tough to kill.  You have the immense mental strength that overrides any physical conditioning or any weather conditions that might blow up on the day.  In under 17 hours you will be an Ironman.  You have already changed your life, your outlook, your attitude; when you cross that finish line you will have a name for it.  You will be Iron. The blog I wrote the morning after Ironman Regensburg signed off with “At the moment I hurt and the memories of the low spots are still fresh in the mind. The mental scars will fade and the physical scars will be covered by the the late summer sun but I will always be an Ironman.” But the night before Regensburg I posted the much more eloquent words of Kara Douglass Thom from “Becoming an Ironman”…….. “Ironman will trivialize past hardship and prepare you to minimize those to come. It makes dreams come true. You have what it takes to bridge aspirations into accomplishments. Crossing that line embraces self: confidence, sacrifice, reliance, invention, worth. Finishing makes you your own hero.”

Race strong Ironmen.  Be your own hero.

Pour a large gin, put your feet up in a comfy chair, turn the volume to 11 and celebrate how bloody tough we are




The Alcatraz Test Swim

Escape Complete

My Escape From Alcatraz – The Swim

My Escape From Alcatraz – The Bike

My Escape From Alcatraz – Some Pictures

My Escape From Alcatraz – The Run

Final Thoughts on Escape


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4 Responses to “Final thoughts on Escape and the Next Challenges”

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Wow…I watched all 3 mins 38 secs of that 2nd clip & still think you are mad, but in a good way! Have the docs discovered what made you flip yet ;0) Keep up the good work old boy!


apparently it was always an issue i had. My mate Stella just hid it from me!


Good Luck with the race. I’m in training for the Great North Run, and yesterday managed a PB of 1.9miles.. Little by Little! Hopefully an Ironman distance one day!


Best of luck with your training mate. The GNR is on my bucket list – you’ll have a blast.


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