What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then – Tips For First Ironman

Posted on June 9, 2014. Filed under: FAQ, first time ironman, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman nutrition, ironman regensburg, ironman tips, new ironman tips, outlaw ironman, race review, regensburg, triathlon |

Ironman is tough.  It took me to the brink.  It pushed me further than I ever thought was possible.  It changed my life.  It made me believe anything is possible.

Ironman is like few other events.  It gets under your skin.  It occupies your thoughts.  It makes you do (even more) irrational things.

You only cross an Ironman finishing line for the first time once.  And between that unique moment and the second finish line there are literally hours and hours to contemplate what you would/could/should do differently.  In three weeks I won’t be a first time Ironman any more so I wanted to capture the thoughts that have rattled around my head during hours in the pool and on the road.  This isn’t a useful read for a 10 hour ironman but is just the stuff that I know now that I wish I had known before my first Ironman.

So, where to start?



Ironman doesn’t require any kind of special magic gene.  Loads of people have done Ironman as their first triathlon and have done it within a year of deciding to do it.

However, you can’t blag it.  You can definitely blag a 5k, a 10k, a half ironman and I have even, quite uncomfortably, blagged a marathon.  However, if you try to do the Ironman without training for it you will either end up on the sweeper truck or in the medical tent with your tongue hanging out your head and a probe in your ass.  Ironman is tough; but very do-able.  Support and knowledge is easy to come by; you just need to provide the motivation and the time.

The most important thing it to have a plan.  Plans are easy enough to  come by, Don Fink’s Iron Fit is imperfect but a starting point – devour it, diary it and live it.  If you have a good base it takes 30 weeks to get ready, the plan isn’t rigid, but you need to be consistent.



The key thing about training for Ironman is consistency.  Boom and bust training shipwrecks many a fledgling Ironman campaign.  The basics are pretty simple – long stuff is easy and essential; shorter stuff is harder; make sure you can tell the difference between hard and easy; have easy and hard days; then RECOVER.

Also, you are not training for a standalone marathon or a Tour de France stage so make your long stuff of a length you can RECOVER from AND maintain CONSISTENCY.  There really isn’t any need to run 20 miles and your consistency will suffer if you do.

You need to train most weeks, most days, you need to eat pretty well and you also need to be able to schedule some time off.  But, most importantly, it is SUPPOSED TO BE FUN, so when real life inevitably gets in the way don’t melt down, don’t panic, just trust the plan and roll on.  The plan works.



In Andreas Raelert’s world record Ironman time of 7:41 the swim took 10% of total race time. In Ironman cut-off times the swim is only 14% of time.  So, the swim is relatively unimportant, right?

Not really – the swim is the entry question for Ironman.  Even if you are an expert bike/runner two hours in the water is going to screw up your nutrition, your legs and your mind before you start the day.  And, more importantly, if you miss cut-off the day is over before you get on your bike.  So you ignore the swim at your peril.

As a lifelong competitive swimmer I have two thoughts on swimming that are not always popular.  Firstly, I agree with controversial Ironman (and swim) coach Brett Sutton, for most prospective Ironmen you need to swim miles.  3800 metres is a hell of a long way and a lot of people train less than 2,000m sets with drills in them.  You wouldn’t skip your long run or ride so don’t mess with the swim – do the distance and do it regularly.  And secondly, while open water is brilliant fun, it is often a wasted training opportunity unless you are incredibly disciplined.  It is essential to acclimatise and get used to the wetsuit but for most beginners pool time is much more valuable and a better use of time.

And while the swim is important it is ALL about the bike.


20110806-223111.jpgIT’S ALL ABOUT THE ENGINE

I kinda like the roots of Ironman.  In 1978 when 15 guys did the first Ironman they cycled in tennis shoes and denim shorts and drank beer when they ran out of water.  Now triathlon magazines are the modern day snake oil salesmen and ooze with £1000 magic products that promise to turn middle age, overweight weekend warriors into iron legends.  They don’t

Magic products have only ever ended in disappointment for me – either they are completely shite and get filed in the Magic Product Cupboard or they are OK but don’t really deliver the promised “marginal gains” and I am frustrated at my gullibility.  Yet again.  In fact, losing a few kilos and training smarter would have been significantly more effective!

You need a bike, a wetsuit, and trainers to do an Ironman.  You can accessorise with goggles and cycling shoes etc but the basics are very simple.  In this Ironman campaign I have only bought new aerobars (because my “cool ones” were completely the wrong shape for my mangled and re-pinned wrists) and new tyres (because the old ones were threadbare).  I confess I have been tempted by 60mm carbon wheels and aero helmets that would make me look like a bellend but, to be brutally honest, they have no place on a chubby cyclist’s bike.  The quality of the training and the engine you build are what it is ALL about.

Looking back I have spent money on three things that I think have made a big genuine difference.  I think that will be my next blog post!



I’m not sure I fully understand why people doing exercise eat as much as they do.  I have a feeling that glossy marketing has temporarily trumped good science.  I got lured into this in Ironman 1; although normally very analytical, marketing got to me and unravelled my common sense – I ate more than I needed and I ate packaged sports nutrition products that I didn’t really need.

The great thing about some sports nutrition is that it is portable.  The bad thing is that it is basically sugar packaged in different glossy portable packages.  Sports nutrition is great for racing; but I would imagine scientifically (real science not marketing science) that it is pretty fecking awful to your body, your teeth and your hormones to eat it at any other time.

For Ironman 2 I have been running up to two hours only on water and riding for three hours on water and bananas or soreen malt loaf.  I feel 100% better for it.  I will use gels and bars when I race because they are portable.  My pre-event preparation will be porridge with banana and my post event recovery drink will be Austrian beer.  After several years of testing the catering plan the basic principle of keep it simple just works for me.



I remember reading about Ironman for the first time and was fascinated by the concept of getting a tattoo to mark an achievement.  Everyone has a view on getting branded – for what it’s worth I got one two days after I became an Ironman. I love it.

However, the concept appears to be a minefield so here is my tuppence worth…..

Is it OK to get an M Dot if you didn’t do an Ironman branded race?  Hell yeah, if you travelled 140.6miles in under 17 hours you ink whatever you want on your body.

Is it OK to get an M Dot if you did a 70.3, middle distance or half Ironman?  Hell no.  See previous answer.


That’s it.  I’m still learning every single day.  Maybe after I complete my second Ironman I’ll have new insight.


Less than three weeks to go.  Bugger.

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The Confidence to Trust

Posted on February 27, 2014. Filed under: Austria, computrainer, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman nutrition, ironman regensburg, marathon, regensburg, strava |

Ironman is a long, long journey.  And it hurts.  Both physically and socially.  There really isn’t any more sugar coated way to put it.

The biggest challenge, though, is overcoming The Doubt.  How do I know I am going in the right direction?  How do I know that this run in the pishing, sideways rain is taking me one step closer to the finish line?

It’s been interesting to pause and reflect.  With Ironman 1, forward momentum was fuelled by blind optimism; I knew I could do it.  Ironman 2, however, is a very different beast – I have absolute trust that The Plan will get me there in the best shape.  And the trust is not blind trust, it is informed and it is conscious.  As I waddled around the Regensburg marathon course talking to myself like a gibbering loon I had time to contemplate the cut corners, the missed sessions and the bad eating decisions made under the intoxicating spell of blind optimism.  Sure I made it but if only I had just stuck with The Plan………

Although I was hard coded as a numbers guy, I’m pretty relaxed to nonchalant about numbers these days.  Hell, I am even a guest speaker on the behavioural impact of numbers in performance management.  But I do like to have a few numbers to give me the confidence to trust The Plan.

In the past I relied on the trend in my average pace on the bike or running but, now, I train more “in the moment” so averages make little sense.  For example, if I am doing hill repeats there are intense efforts with rest periods – the averages are nonsense. And also I warm up and cool down properly these days (forceably on account of the oldness) so averages paces are genuinely all over the place depending on how I do it.  So, if I am not relying or stressing about my average minutes per mile, what on earth do I use? Well, there are three things that give me confidence that I am on track.


I don’t really like Strava but it serves a purpose.  Let me explain for the uninitiated.  Strava is a website that stores routes and times that people complete and can share.  Ultimately it is a useful training log, but it has evolved into an internet based platform for digital willy waving.  Middle aged chaps (mainly) find an obscure part of their local neighbourhood, welly round it in a balls to the wall effort, and declare that they are the King of that little piece of road.  They then defend it to the death as if it were the Alamo.  And like Lance Armstrong on Mont Ventoux, Eric from Accounts can also dope digitally in a desperate attempt to remain the King of his Mountain (although it may even be flat).  It is a pure silverback, alpha male pastime for book-keepers and chaps that work in personnel.

So why do I use it?  Well, it’s simple – I use one run climb and one bike climb that I have done for years now as a measure for where my fitness is.  Whenever, I upload my activity to Strava it tells me how I have done on those climbs compared to previous efforts.  And the great news is that in the last month I am now doing those climbs at the same pace I did straight after Ironman 1 and I have 17 weeks still to go.  So far, so woo hoo.


I am lucky enough to have an indoor trainer that measures effort.  So every 6 weeks I do a test known as a critical power test, to assess progress and to re-base my training efforts.  The braw news, as they say in these parts, is that my last test was an improvement on the previous one.  It wasn’t a dramatic improvement, but neither would I expect it to be.  After a 6 week training block I increased my critical power wattage by 5%, albeit off a really weak ass base.

This is important to me for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, I want to survive the bike intact and be able to RUN an Ironman marathon and secondly, it is confirmation that the bike work and the power work that I have been doing in the gym are paying off.   Put simply, I did the bike wrong in Ironman 1, but now it is my focus.  I NEED to do it right this time around.


As a big laddy I will never be a very fast runner or cyclist over long distances.  Being a former swimmer and rugby player means that I have a lot of muscleage above the waist so, in effect, I carry weight that is of little use in Ironman apart from the first hour in the water.  Therefore, being as lean as possible when I race will just make everything easier on my legs.  More good news!  Since the middle of January I have dropped 8% of my bodyweight.

The biggest concern when losing weight is that you lose power and I have had to adapt my diet specifically to retain muscle (and therefore power) while obliterating hard-earned lard.  As my critical power test went up the science stuff is working.  The most commonly used number in cycling is power per kg of bodyweight because that really is the crunch point.  In 6 weeks I have improved mine by 14% and I still have a lot of ass to lose.

So, with 17 weeks to go I have absolutely no idea what my average pace is.  A couple of years ago that would have had me in a fluster.  But deep down my confidence to trust The Plan is stronger and my resolve to see The Plan right through to the beach in Klagenfurt at 7am on the 29th June is galvanised.

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A new year, a new chapter

Posted on May 30, 2012. Filed under: escape from alcatraz, Half ironman, Half marathon, ironman, man flu, regensburg, run, triathlon, virgin london marathon, vlm |

It feels like time to dust down the blog again.  It will give me a chance to do some good and it will give you the chance to smile while I break my body and suffer a little more discomfort.

Like me, the blog has been resting since last year and as I resuscitated it this week two things came to light.  First of all my url of ironman39 is a bit “last year” these days but apparently ironman40 is taken so I will have to come to terms with my age being frozen in time in cyber space.  And secondly, the blog has had on average 10 hits a day even though it has had no updates.  I became horribly alarmed, and terribly self conscious, when I realised that most hits came from google searches for “bulging speedos”.  Had my blog been infiltrated and hacked by some devious porn barons?  No, it all became clear that my review of the Ironman Regensburg swim “The Swim – Froth, Speedos And Bulging Eyeballs” was the source of the attraction.  But it is fair to say that the goolie googlers have let me feeling a little grubby.

Since Ironman Regensburg I have been considerably more effective talking about my historic achievements rather than doing anything.  I’m like a second division footballer turned pub bore who can talk his way through all 14 hours and 58 minutes of Ironman pain and 30 weeks of preparation.  However, after Xmas I thought to myself I should probably stop talking about it and get out for a trot given that I have a marathon to run.  That seemed like loads of time to train, ride any bumps in the road with the weather and injuries and still put in a decent show in London.

And then I got man flu.  Seriously, it started as man flu but then after three trips to the docs (I know! At my docs it would normally take two years to squeeze in three visits with their waiting times) it was diagnosed as a respiratory tract infection – oh yes, it was a proper illness.  So, me and my proper illness spent 5 weeks convalescing eating Yorkies and watching the telly and talking some more about being an Ironman until I felt good enough to run.  Getting back out running was fantastic, fresh air, the dull ache of tired muscles.  Bliss.

Symmetrical Bandaging

And then I got blisters!  I should be able to laugh in the face of a blister – after all I frequently say that you can’t stress a man who has run 4 hours knowing that his toenails are falling off but this was different.  Now the theory goes that my immune system was compromised because of my proper illness but quite quickly I went from having blisters to having elephant toes.  However, I ran on.  Then, as normal, a few weeks before a marathon I went to see a chiropodist to get my feet race prepared (or as my training partner would far less kindly say – get a pedicure).  As I was taking my socks off I warned her that my toes looked a wee bit alarming but not to stress because I could still run fine.  Her response of “you know its not good to have pus seeping out of your toes, right?” did not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling.  In fact, I think she was just downright rude to then put a mask and rubber gloves on!

Anyway, we started an old school negotiation – “you wouldn’t stop running if I told you to would you”, “mmmmmm”, “OK, do you think you could keep you’re toes dry for 3 days?”, “mmmmmm, I could try”, “right, lets try something pragmatic then”.  And so the next hour went on where she asked me questions that she already knew the answer to until we settled on a topic I was more comfortable with “what would you really want at the end of a marathon?”.  Without hesitation “beer and pizza!”.  Der, obviously!

So, after almost nearly keeping my toes dry for three days while I tried not to run too much, the pus stopped seeping.  Several weeks later my pinkies are still a different colour from my other toes.  They look like they have been strangled…….but at least they are not sore.

Even the dancing shoes were bled on!

On the fourth day after the pedicure I was getting on my turbo trainer in the garage when I slipped.  To be absolutely crystal clear on the degree of stupidity involved in this, a turbo trainer is my bike, securely fastened to a stationery roller that will not move under any circumstances.  It’s like falling out of a car seat…….with your seatbelt still on!  Now, when I say I slipped – I’m not actually sure of the exact dynamics or chronology of the tumble but my later crime scene investigation suggests that my shin made contact at high speed with the teeth of the chain ring.  I’m a big boy but I am prepared to admit it nipped and I may have uttered the eff word, however, what I wasn’t prepared for was the blood.   Describing it as a gushing torrent would be like describing Niagra Falls as a trickle.  I hobbled to the kitchen leaving a trail of gore and used most of a roll of kitchen paper to stem the flow but it just wouldn’t stop.  After 10mins I thought I might have to go to work without biking so I hit the first aid box and kept applying plasters until it stopped bleeding.  And then I got on the bike and rode for an hour.  It was sore, I was bruised and eight weeks later I still have a hole in my shin.  OK, maybe the photos don’t look that dramatic.  But it was proper sore.

Avert your eyes if squeamish

Just to to top things off, after managing my longest run of 13miles, while on a plane back from London I felt the familiar rasp, then the nose run.  The man flu was back!

And then on the Thursday before London I went for a lovely run along the canal for 13 miles with Shakey.  The next morning I woke up and wee Roar clearly wasn’t at his best.  I guess with hindsight the projectile vomiting was probably the giveaway but I seemed to be more focussed on his pink cheeks. Inevitably, two days later I fulfilled the olympic ideals of further, faster, stronger in the new event of barfing and remained nil by mouth (with the wonderful exception of chicken noodle soup) until the Thursday before the marathon.  As anyone who knows even a little bit about marathons knows that this is carb loading time my preparation couldn’t have been more imperfect.  My target was that if I couldn’t eat a meal on the Thursday I would withdraw.

There is a lot more to follow in the coming weeks as I tell you how I fared in London and a bit more about my “Escape”.   Which I guess I haven’t mentioned!  In January I discovered in that, against the odds, in the second ballot for international “athletes” I had been accepted to Escape from Alcatraz.  So with that and some other open water swims coming up there is a lot more to come and I will need all your support through the summer.

If  you want to get notified of updates to the Blog you will need to put your email address in the “Don’t be shy, subscribe” box on the right hand side of the page.  However, in the meantime let me introduce you to the charity that I am raising money for this year.  Just before Christmas I was involved in a charity “Jailbreak” for the Make a Wish Foundation organised by a very dedicated colleague and I am exceptionally proud that we raised £17000 in just a few days and granted some wonderful wishes.

Let me tell you a bit more about the charity…….the Make-A-Wish Foundation UK is a charity with a single purpose – to grant magical wishes to children and young people aged 3-17 fighting life-threatening conditions.  Make-A-Wish has granted more than 7,500 magical wishes over 25 years. The wishes transform lives!  This year alone 1,400 children will ask to have their special wish granted. And they want to grant a wish to every one of these.

For many families the Make-A-Wish memory can be the last happy memory they have of their child having fun in a magical world, surrounded by family and friends – rather than memories of days and weeks of painful treatments and hospitalisation. The memory of the wish may be of their child laughing and enjoying being a princess or zoo keeper for the day or meeting a favourite celebrity. In years to come, the family can look back and remember that special time.

It’s important, it makes a difference and you can help me.  Please give as generously as you can.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

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The Aftermath

Posted on August 25, 2011. Filed under: baby, bike, farky, ironman, ironman regensburg, man flu, race report, race review, regensburg, Rory, run, swim, triathlon, Uncategorized, wetsuit |

The morning after the Ironman I really hadn’t slept much.  However, I got up and made a pot of coffee, washed my Ironman mug, sat down on the sofa and relived the previous 24 hours………

A few months before I went out to Germany an Ironman had advised me to take an IV drip as I crossed the line to boost recovery.  I also suspect it was a badge of honour to be recounted in war stories for years to come.  I had fully expected to be a veteran of the medical tent; I also expected to be a blubbering wreck as I crossed the finish line to end a two and a half year journey from michelin man to ironman.

As I ran down the finishing chute I high-5’d the whole right hand side of the bleachers, then the man who may or may not have shouted (and I couldn’t have cared less) “Dougie, You are an Ironman!” and finally I fell into the arms of the lady who would escort me out of the finish area.  She put the medal over my head and gave me a rather dapper gold foil blanket.  After a few steps she tried to pinch my blanket which almost got her into a lot of trouble but she explained it was just so that she could get my finishers photo.  OK then.  She then, however, crossed the line.  Admittedly I was walking on medieval, cobbled streets on feet that had blistered within an inch of being mince but I don’t think there was any need to direct this hobbling, hunchbacked shrek in the direction of the medical tent.  Oh no, I didn’t need no doctor assessing me.  In fact, as opposed to a badge of honour there was no way wild horses could have dragged me into the medical tent even if my ass had been doused in petrol and set on fire.

Instead, with clear presence of mind and an inexplicably recovered digestive system I headed straight for the first food tent and inhaled two salami rolls.  A volunteer then gave me my white bag and I had instant recall that in it was a soggy pair of shorts, no flip flops, no towel and no underwear.  I hobbled to the shower block with another salami sandwich and a bit of cake and proceeded to take off my filthy, cold wet tri suit and socks and put on clean, cold, wet shorts and put my bare blistered feet back into my trainers that I had just run 26.2 uncomfortable miles in.  I just kept telling myself I was now an Ironman and I could handle it.  I also had my mobile in my white bag so I made contact with the sherpas.  They wanted to know where I was – “I’m getting another salami roll”.  Then – we are at the food tent – oh, I’m at the medal engravers.  Then – we’re at the engravers – I’m getting my finishers t-shirts. We are at the t-shirts – I seem to be on a shuttle bus.  To where?  I’m not really sure.

The Sherpas eventually track me down at the beer tent

It turned out that the shuttle bus was going to T2 and the beer tent.  My next update caused general concern – “I’m just having a beer, a sausage and a bit of cake”.   It made perfect sense to me to have a beer – I had barely drunk in 6 months, I was in Germany and I was a brand new Ironman.  With hindsight I can see why it may not have been an obvious choice as a recovery drink if you hadn’t been thinking about that beer for over two years.

I chatted to Pam and the Farkies for 10minutes before they headed off to the appartment to get the kids to bed and then Grant would come back for me and my kit.  With half an hour to kill I did the only thing I could think of – wrapped myself in my foil blanket, got another beer and sausage and watched the Ironman world go by.  I sat on the end of a long beer hall type bench and saw an Italian lady that I had seen earlier in the day – she had been a spectator but she had been running alongside her boyfriend who had been in particularly bad nick.  I could only assume that the prone lump under the foil blanket was her boyfriend and I watched as she pulled little bits off a piece of bread and put them into his mouth as if he was a baby sparrow.  Looking at the state of him I was devastated until I saw the unmistakeable flash of bling and it all became clear  – he was an Ironman and he would be fine.

After I finished my beer I went and got my transition bags and made my way to the bike racks.  As I went through security there was a girl in her foil blanket sitting in the road who looked like she sat down for a rest and then fell asleep.  When I found my bike it took me about 10 minutes to work out how to get it off the rack – it wasn’t difficult, I just wasn’t that bright.  I wrestled my bike back and bags to the beer tent, got another beer and settled down until Farkie got back.  For the first time, again huddled in my foil blanket, I think the magnitude of what I had achieved and what I had put my body through hit me and I had a quiet moment to myself.    At this point, probably about an hour afteer I finished, I thought I had better let a few special people that had been on the journey with me know that the mission had been accomplished and I had survived.  It was only over the next couple of days I really appreciated the number of people that had followed my progress hour by hour and the sheer volume of messages of support that I had received.  That Ironman Live collapsed when I only had 700m to go seems to have spoiled a few Sunday evenings and filled Pam’s inbox for days to come.

Farkie collected me and when we got back to the appartment asked if my bike would be safe in the car.  My genuine, and totally honest response – “If I ever see that effing bike again it will be too effing soon”.   Once I had bounded up three flights of stairs I cracked open another beer, had a giant bag of crisps and bored everyone else to sleep.  And then I slept the sleep of a brand new Ironman.  That means that between adrenaline, caffeine, sunburn, blisters and muscle pain I slept for an uncomfortable acccumulation of about 8 minutes.

A quiet moment with Ironbaby

The morning after I did a short blog update that I signed off “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.” And that remains so true – I still have a few contact scars, my feet and back are not in the best of nick and my current outbreak of either manflu or ebola (only time will tell but my money is on ebola because my nose was bleeding) may mean that my immune system is shot but I still get a bit choked in quiet moments when I think about what I have achieved.  Back to the words that originally inspired me in Becoming an Ironman – this was my own challenge, it wasn’t to prove anything to anyone else but I have become my own hero.

The Pirates abandon yeller and black to go incognito

The afternoon saw the Pirate Party and that reminded me why I became a Pirate.  Your own drive, resilience and sheer bloody mindedness can get you so far but in the really dark moments when you get an “AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRR” or a “Go Pirate” you get a massive tailwind that takes you a long way forwards or just makes you smile.

Back into the realms of TMI but when I thought about it afterwards despite drinking litres of water and beer across both the Sunday and the Monday I didn’t actually pee from the time I took my wetsuit off at 8:06 on Sunday until late on Monday afternoon.  Now thats dehydration!

And eventually after 4 months of waiting, two days after the Ironman I got to take my wee boy for a swim. I may be biased but I would say he is a natural.

Yes dad, you have told me the story about the day you became an Ironman




Sleepless Night


The Longest Day

One Guy, 5 Stone, Two and a Half Years and Two Races

The Swim – Froth, Speedos and Bulging Eyeballs

The Bike – Rain, Rain, Hill, Rain, Rain, Hill, Ouch

The Run – 42.2km of Hanging In There

The Aftermath


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The Swim – Froth, Speedos and Bulging Eyeballs

Posted on August 13, 2011. Filed under: baby, farky, ironman, ironman regensburg, race report, race review, Referee, regensburg, Rory, run, swim, triathlon, wetsuit |

I am not totally a control freak but I do prefer if people would just do what I tell them to.  So, with more than a little pleasure we were all sitting in the car outside the apartment by 515am as requested.  The satnav was programmed for Neutrabling and off we set to find the 5000 space car park that I had failed to spot the day before.  Probably the key difference that made it easier was that at 530 there was pretty much a traffic jam on the autobahn in one direction and there were now Ironman motorway signs up so we just followed the crowd.

530am, half a bottle of sunscreen and then it rains….

As soon as we parked I jumped out, grabbed my wetsuit and made my way to the shuttle bus.  Upon seeing that there were about 20 people in the queue already my patience snapped and my need to keep moving overwhelmed me so I decided just to walk to the lake.  With 140.6 miles to cover, what difference was another mile and a bit going to make?  And then after a few minutes the heavens opened.

T1 was pretty chaotic as people grabbed the giant plastic bike bags and put them over their heads and passed them over the fence to their Sherpas; so being a newbie I did the same thing.  I guess as it was hosing down people started putting on their wetsuits before 6 am so, being a newbie, I did the same thing.  They were also doing stuff with their transition bags but that is where my imitation had to end as I’d already forgotten what had been explained at length at the race briefing.  I found some friendly nearby Pirates – Happy Chap, Toucs and Ironwolf – and they pointed me in the right direction. Clothes for after into the lorry, blue bag next to the bike and chuck your wetsuit in when you finish – simples.

I was by now soaked to the skin and the flaws in my plan were starting to become more apparent.  With economy of packing in mind I had only brought one pair of shorts so at the end of the race I was going to be slipping into some sodden shorts. And to make that a little more uncomfortable after 112miles on a bike and 26.2miles running I had forgotten my undies. And I had forgotten to pack a towel so showering was going to be interesting. And worst of all, I had launched my White bag into the lorry with some gusto, walked back to my bike and then pondered why I still had my flip-flops on.  This meant that after the race I was going to be wearing my trainers until I eventually got to bed. Mmmmmm, going commando in cold, wet shorts with the same shoes I had run a marathon in and no massage because I would be absolutely stinking and salt encrusted as I’d had no shower.  With hindsight, the finish didn’t look like the nirvana it once had so may explain why I spent so many hours loitering out on the course rather than just getting finished.

I’m just about the middle in a black suit and blue hat

The swim warm up was really calm justas the sun was rising.  The rain had eased, the air was really still and there was a general hush across the millpond as the mist lay low on the water. With 10minutes to go we were pulled out of the water, did a bit of hand clapping, Mexican waving and mumbled along to the German national anthem.  Out of 2100 rubber suited characters I found myself next to one of the Pirates – Wild Will – who gave me the best advice I got all day – “Don’t take anything personally in the swim”. Given my short fuse that was very sage advice as time and time again my patience was tested.

Did this pair not get the dress code email?

Bizarrely, I had expected the start to be an emotional experience but I found I actually became very calm and task focussed and through the whole day never really thought much further than the next milestone and never thought about the finish until I was about 3k to go in the last lap.  Eventually, we got the one minute to go signal and I knew that the start was now at any point in the next 60 seconds.  After what seemed like an eternity I saw the lead canoeist instruct his brood to get themselves the heck out of Dodge, the signal went and the maelstrom began.  After about 3 paces into the water, the bottom disappeared and we were swimming.  Well, swimming after a fashion – the water was white, there were feet, hands, heads everywhere and the punches and kicks rained down.  After about 20 strokes I found myself in about 8 meters of clear water and breathed easy.  After about another 10 strokes my dream of a simple swim in my own wee bubble was shattered when all hell seemed to collide right on top of me.  And at that point had someone offered me a way out of the water and back to my bed I would have grasped it with both hands.

Swimmer Soup

The first length was 1k down to a giant yellow Powerbar bottle on the far beach and I can safely say that through the fists, feet, splashing and darkness I didn’t see it until I was right on it.  Other than the general stramash the first length was un-noteworthy, however, at the turn things got interesting again as the field converged. By this point I had gathered my nerve and my old water polo instincts came into play and I gave as good as I got with sharp elbows and pointy toes.  I was swimming stroke for stroke at the same pace as a chap in a red suit (I don’t think he was Santa so he has some fashion questions that need to be answered) who had an absolute aversion to swimming straight.  One minute he would be next to me, the next he would be right across my face.  As getting way from him was the only solution I took a very long route to the outside of the field for the first return up the lake.  At this point something quite awful happened.  I literally came face to face with a pair of speedos and a hairy, beer enhanced belly.  I might as well have spotted Jaws underwater for the speed that my face recoiled and popped back above the surface.  I resisted the temptation to barf, again swam away from the offending obstacle and carried on.  Only later on the bike did I again come in contact with the speedos.

Pam and Rory are brave for the camera

The next turn was uneventful, however, for 5 or 6 minutes I presumed I had to be leading the race as I couldn’t see anyone else. Then it turned out that we were swimming in a channel that was about 50metres wide and I was at the wrong side of it. So completely disregarding Pythagoras (and I did actually think about it given the loneliness of long distance swimming) I swam diagonally for pretty much the whole length adding a huge amount of distance in the process and eventually finding all of the swimmers that were beating me who I had momentarily lost. The good thing about the extra distance was that it delayed the final turn.  This turned out, for some reason, to be where the roughest boys and girls played.  Normally I breathe every 4th stroke unless I need a breath sooner for any reason so when I took a punch square on the right goggle lens, I breathed on the very next stroke and by complete chance took another punch. After 4 punches I stopped believing in coincidences and I stuck my head under the water and kicked like I was being chased by the speedo man to get out of trouble.  It worked – I was out of trouble – however, my right eye was now squished right into my goggle lens and it was more than a little uncomfortable. So with great reluctance I stopped for a second to release my Marty Feldman eye and then got back on my way.


I honestly had no concept of pace given the general physicality of the swim. I had given Pam and the Farkies an anticipated time of 1:15 to 1:20 primarily because every swim I have done this year was exactly on 1:15 pace. As I exited the water I was cramping a little in my feet and stumbled on the beach but I could see the Pirate Orca just getting her wetsuit off her shoulders a few metres ahead. I had problems with my Garmin all day and when I looked down and saw 1:06 I assumed it was just another problem. I only got confirmation from Pam out on the run that it had been 1:06. It is safe to say that I was delighted with the time and if I had got the amount of training time that I should have in the water in advance I am confident I could go well under the hour.  The sherpas it seems were less impressed with my speedy swim as they almost missed me – bless them.

T1 was less of a blur than usual for me and completely out of character I actually managed to find my bike on my own. I had had a long run out of the water which meant that I would have a short run with the bike. This was good as I run with a bike in hand with as much elegance as a cow walking downstairs.  I passed my Sherpa shouting party now armed with cowbells on the way out of T1 and then it was time to face the bike. Like it or not I was now clad just in a helmet and sleeveless Lycra for the next 180km.

Thanks to Sherpa Les Farky for the photography.



Sleepless Night


The Longest Day

One Guy, 5 Stone, Two and a Half Years and Two Races

The Swim – Froth, Speedos and Bulging Eyeballs

The Bike – Rain, Rain, Hill, Rain, Rain, Hill, Ouch

The Run – 42.2km of Hanging In There

The Aftermath


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Half Iron Shakey

Posted on July 26, 2011. Filed under: bike, cycle, farky, great scottish swim, Half ironman, Half marathon, ironman, ironman regensburg, knockburn, knockburn middle distance, Pentlands, Referee, regensburg, run, shakey, swim, Threipmuir, triathlon, wetsuit |

Sometimes we have people that come into our life for a reason.  Sometimes they are special, really, really special.  Three weeks after completing our Half Ironman Shakey has eventually managed to type a race report using both of her thumbs and her nose to operate the space bar.  It is understandable that she took so long as English isn’t her first language (or second or third either for that matter) and she views the world through a particularly odd lens. Last year the guest spot in the blog was pretty common with Pam’s monologue on ducks and tirade at Arse and Shakey’s Great Weegie Dook race report being particularly memorable examples.  To be clear at the outset, this isn’t one of the classics as the girl is clearly getting older and less sharp witted but if you hold on to the end I’ll make an offer you can’t refuse.

PARENTAL WARNING – Shakey is from abroad.  Apparently if foreigners say “feck” in front of their Ma it is not a swear word.

January 2010

Stumpy – “I’m signing up for an ironman”

Shakey – “hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha”

Stumpy – “I’m serious”

Shakey – “hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha”

Stumpy – “I’ve bought all the books and lycra so I know I can do it”

Shakey – “hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha – now you’ve made me snort tea all over my computer, tell you what if you survive then sign me up for next year –  hahahahahaha”

January 2011 –

Stumpy – “Here’s your half ironman training programme. You’ve got twenty six weeks.”

Shakey – “……………….Feck”

And so it began, six months floundering in swimming pools and lochs (and the bath on those days when I couldn’t face the shame of armbanded toddlers going faster than me), pedalling a bike (trying to either (a) dodge a bus, or a truck, or a pimped up micra or (b) keep my legs in time to the rocky theme tune as a spin instructor shouted at me), and legging it around Edinburgh and Fife doing my finest Forest Gump impression. Oh and all this while clad in varying forms of lycra and rubber……

When we received the news two weeks before the event that the good folk at Aberdeenshire council had opted for a weekend of covering themselves in mud and drinking in a field (the Knockburn Half Ironman coincided with T in the Park) instead of staging their first Half Ironman, I’d be lying if I didn’t give a little woop woop of joy.  Alright that’s an understatement I was running round my flat delirious with relief that I wouldn’t have to go through with the insanity.  I’d been saved!!!! Woooooohhhhhooooooo!! But then the phone rang……

Stumpy – “It’s been cancelled”

Shakey – “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha……….yyyyyeeeeeeeehhhhaaaaaawwww”

Stumpy – “But we’re still doing it.”

Shakey – “………………………….Feck.”

So at 6am on Saturday 9th July I was rudely awakened by my alarm and the day i became a half ironman began.  Generally when you sign up for any race event you focus on just crossing the finish line and hope for good bling/goody bag/free tshirt.  What you don’t think about is the seedier side of things, i.e the dawn rising to choke down a bowl of porridge and some precautionary/Imodium/ibuprofen/paracetomol or whatever other tablet you can get your hands on – thank god the drug testers were still in bed.

The plan was a 7.30am rendezvous at Threipmuir for an 8am start in the water.   Now as this was not an official Half Ironman event, we were denied the usual glamour of a triathlon, i.e. portaloos, safety canoes, lifeguards, coastguards, ambulance services, road closures, cheering crowds etc etc.  However thanks to my pal Nicole Hatch we did have a race director/race marshal/someone to call 999 in case I needed fished out of the loch and slightly bemused onlooker all rolled into one.  Oh and she also gave me a lift to the start line as I had written off my car, or more accurately an Audi A5 had, the week before the race.  (As a word of warning to anyone travelling down Leith Walk you do not have right of way when turning onto Duke Street).   Needless to say it was a leisurely stroll to the water’s edge from the car park as even loonies aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to hop into a Baltic loch at 8am on a Saturday morning.  As much as it pains me to admit it Stumpy is a faster swimmer than me so I was first into the water (although to be fair he’s got about 60 years more experience in the water than me and swam for Scotland, and water-skied for Great Britain….. or something like that, I tend to switch off when he starts to regale stories of past athletic glories…).   Not to completely lose out on all the structure of a well organised event we did have a prerace briefing…

Stumpy – “OK, swim down there to the rock jutting out, swim straight across the loch to the opposite side, come back down this way until you’re parallel with the boathouse and then into the shore”

Shakey – “Can I put my feet down?”

Stumpy – “Only if you want to drown.  Now man up and get in”

And in I went.  I think everyone is pretty clear of how one heats oneself up when plunged into 10 degree waters in nothing but a rubber suit and hat, don’t judge me but let’s just say I took care of business and set off.  Propelled by a fear of hypothermia/drowning/something nibbling on my feet (and not the type of fish that they keep in those tanks that appear to be all the rage in beauty salons now…. What are they all about by the way?!!?).  I cranked up the pace and made some good progress in the water. My game plan was to stick fairly close to the edge of the loch as, I’ll be honest, my confidence in open water swimming generally errs towards slim to none when there are none of the aforementioned lifeguards, safety canoes or coastguards within a 100m radius.   However as I scraped my knee on some rocks I realised this was going to be a long day if I didn’t just “man up” and get in the depths.  Surprisingly my arms, legs, lungs all held up ok and before I knew it I was on the home stretch.  My elation was short lived when I looked up and saw what I thought was a white cap ahead of me in the water. “How the feck did that happen?? Surely the old man hasn’t passed me out?? He must have taken a short cut?? And he could have at least stopped to say hello??” and so on i ranted to myself.  As I came into the shore, fizzing at this stage partly at the injustice of being overtaken but mainly because he hadn’t stopped to offer me some of his usual words of wisdom, it dawned on me that the white cap was in fact a swan and Stumpy was still swimming.  Oh dear maybe I’ve bonked/hit the wall already…. Or maybe I should just invest in some new contact lenses.  By some miracle (or really just to avoid him moaning at me) I had hit the target time set for me by Stumpy 6 months ago and I crawled out of the water in about 45 mins.  Not exactly Olympic qualification times but for someone who 18 months previously refused to get her hair wet let alone put her face in the water and swim, not a bad effort.

Once Stumpy had emerged from the depths we sauntered back to T-1 (thats triathlon talk for the car park) to get lycra’d up for the bikes (the one advantage of this being an unofficial event was that there was no running deliriously up to a field filled with what appear to be identical looking tricycles trying to look out your own while trying to claw yourself out of a rubber suit).

Now when Stumpy first told me he was joining the pirates (an online group of like minded nut jobs who are not affiliated with any triathlon clubs but do them all the same) I chuckled at visions of him rocking up to start lines with an eye patch and parrot strapped to his shoulder.  Unsurprisingly the reality of what the pirate uniform looks like is very different….. And oh my, it is so much better than I could ever imagine and so worth getting up at the crack of dawn to see.  Dragging my sorry ass out of bed at 6am on a Saturday suddenly became one of the best moves I’ve made all year as suddenly i was faced with stumpy sporting this (actually he didn’t look as good at the start as these guys did at the end of an Ironman!).  Boys and girls going to Regensburg you are in for a special treat!!!

After a few minutes of hysterics I managed to pick myself up off the ground and calm myself to get kitted up for what would turn out to be a 96km instead of 90km cycle (Despite allegedly being an accountant, stumpy can’t count).  A quick visit to the facilities (yes I did previously say that there was no portaloos so use your imagination and don’t judge me – it was going to be a long day) and we were off.  Thankfully the sun appeared about 10 mins in and stuck with us for almost the entire cycle, so needless to say I regretted my decision to forgo the sun cream and I finished the day with some interesting tan (sunburn) lines.   Now as a foreigner (or economic refugee as I now like to be called) my geography of anywhere outside a 2 mile radius of Leith walk (where I live) or Dunfermline (where I work) is fairly poor so for the cycle I was reliant on the old boy for directions.  Little did I realise that he is in fact some sort of middle-aged Evil Knievel wannabe and so our entire route was on back roads where wee boys were drag racing their ma and da’s beamers – there was a particularly close shave with a 3 series outside Winchburgh where stumpy almost lost an ear! For the most part of the cycle we stuck together and as Stumpy had kindly loaded up the Temptress with energy bars/gels/drinks for us he was in charge of nutrition and hydration.  About 60km in I fear I did “bonk” and my legs slowed down as my mind started to wander….. I’d like to report I was lost in deep meaningful thoughts but I wasn’t.  All I could think about was chips.  A quick stop for Stumpy to fix my brakes (which worryingly kept coming loose despite his repairs) and get some energy stuff on board sorted me out.  As marathons have been the longest endurance event I’ve taken part in my mindset on eating when competing has always been that you don’t.  The main concern when running is getting plenty of fluids on board and avoiding the trots but this wee blip on the bike has made me realise that water/powerade/lucozade is just not enough for the serious stuff.

As we crossed the Kincardine Bridge it felt like we were almost there.  We’d gotten over and survived the hump of it so all we had to do now was get back to Stumpy’s pad in one piece, ditch the bikes and run 21.1km.  All sounds easy on paper eh? Throw in though an irrational, angry blue van man, two cyclists and a banana and you’ve almost got a disaster on your hands. For details see Stumpy’s account of the incident but I can testify that the man was indeed a tw@t.

We carried on through Fife and finally we hit 90km…… but something odd occurred….. we didn’t stop, we didn’t even slow down, in fact if anything we sped up.  My oh my was I witnessing a first, had stumpy in fact got something wrong??!  Unfortunately my glee at this was somewhat eroded by the fact that I had appeared to have lost feeling in my feet and as I was now on main roads dicing with motorists this could be a problem.

Shakey -“Are we there yet?”

Stumpy – “No.”

Shakey – “Are we there yet?”

Stumpy – “No”

Shakey – “Are we there yet?”

Stumpy – ………..silence

I wore him down and eventually we stopped.  A quick change into running gear, thankfully Stumpy decided to put a t-shirt over his swashbuckling one-piece and save us from being arrested for public indecency in Dunfermline town centre and we were once again off.  For the first time all day, apart from when I was dreaming of french fries and chunky chips and wedges, there was a deafening silence.  Running a half marathon is bad enough , but try to do one after a 2km swim and 90 (96!!) km cycle and you’ve got a very special type of torture.   The realisation about 5 mins in that we had no water or money did nothing to raise spirits and so we plodded on for the first 3/4 km deep in thought… me focussed on finding the nearest loo, Stumpy focussed on how he could make it over the fence onto the motorway to end it all.  A quick pit stop in McDonalds and we started to get a new lease of life.  Before we knew it we had hit Costa and Subway for cups of water and we were almost 10km in… Half way….wooohoooo!!  Unfortunately the chat restarted but fatigue and dehydration was having an impact on the quality and we shared some deep and dark secrets….

Stumpy- “You had those new Galaxy Counter sweets yet”

Shakey – “oh yeah the ones that are like naked minstrels? They’re brilliant”

Stumpy – “Pam and I ate a whole bag last night. But I still think I prefer maltesers”

Shakey – “Me too. I like to pop 2 or 3 at a time and crunch them”

Stumpy – “Nah, too quick, I go for one and try to suck all the chocolate off…….”

You get the picture.  Thankfully the rain/thunder/lightening kicked off then and drowned us out.  As we approached the bridge (big shout out to the 4×4 who decided to drive on the hard shoulder to make sure he got us with a proper tidal wave) I spotted our race director/race marshal sheltering in a bus stop.  Nicole had been trying to catch us all day but as Stumpy had spectacularly confused miles and kilometres in the race briefing she kept missing us.  We mugged her for water and Lucozade, shouted we had only 2km left to go and headed straight into the rain and mist that shrouded the bridge.  The legs were starting to ache now and the last 2km suddenly felt as long as 20km. We kept at it though and we were at our turning point and heading downhill to the finish line before we knew it.  At around 4.30 we finally crossed the finish line to the rapturous applause of Nicole, John, Pam, Rory and Allistair.

Stumpy now goes on to the madness of Regensburg (if only he’d had a normal mid life crisis and bought an aston martin) but I shall retire to Malta for a week to even out the questionable tan lines acquired in my first ever half ironman.

As much as I cherished the company, I was doing all of this for another reason.  In December of last year, Linda Hunter, a former colleague and friend of ours at Sky passed away suddenly.  When we heard that at age 46 she had suffered from a stroke we were all stunned. In our naivety many of us had thought strokes were something that affected only older people. And so in Linda’s memory I’m hoping my endeavors can raise some funding for the Stroke Association.  It isn’t just about the one event though, the whole painful schedule looks like this…..

19th June – Lochore Open Water Sprint Triathlon

9th July – DIY Middle Distance Triathlon (Half Ironman)

17th Sept – Dublin Half Marathon

22nd Sept – Great Scottish Swim (2km open water)

2nd Oct – Great Edinburgh Run (10km – this is really just to boost my ego after having the inevitable beating it will have take in all of the previous events)

22nd Apr – London Marathon 2012 (That is of course if they organisers decide to give me a place!!)

If you can spare anything at all I have a justgiving page here.



And there it is – three weeks worth of Shakey’s work.  I can safely say that the last 6km of the ride felt like they lasted 10 lifetimes.  What she didn’t say in the race report was that her feet were sore or maybe she did – I just blank it out now.  It was no coincidence that she speeded up in the last stretch as I was trying to get away from her to escape the earache.  Now on return from her holidays she has gone all maternal on me – are you eating well, drink loads of water, I know you’re not very good at sleep but your  body will be really needing it etc.  Despite all that it is fair to say that Shakey now lives by the HalfIron mantra “Pain is temporary, Pride is forever”.

Anyway, as most of you know I decided not to raise money for charity after putting heart and soul into it last year so that I could focus on Project Regensburg,  However, having lost Linda far too soon this is very close to my heart and I will make a magnanimous offer which can only really end in tears for me.  As it stands tonight Shakey has raised £1080 with her efforts so far – if the total were to be £1250 by the time I blog on Sunday night then I will reluctantly post the one photo  in existence of me in my one piece Pirate suit.  And who knows, pictures of Shakey in a rubber suit could be added to the gallery if demand is high enough!  Having already appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News in glorious technicolour sporting her trademark dodgy fake tan lines she is already way beyond public humiliation.

From a guest  authors point of view I am going to deliver technical training to Pam and the Farkies to update the blog during the Ironman to keep you up to speed with progress and maybe even post photos and videos if I go slow enough for them to capture me.  But I’ll be warning you now I’ll be in the Pirate suit.

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Over the hump…..

Posted on July 18, 2011. Filed under: bike, cycle, Half ironman, ironman, ironman regensburg, phelps, regensburg, Rory, run, shakey, Sky Procycling, swim, Team Sky, triathlon, Uncategorized, wetsuit |

With only three weeks to go now and with the hardest training weeks behind me I feel like I have metaphorically gone “over the hump”.  There is still a lot to be done in the coming weeks to keep everything ticking over and to try to stay something like an ideal race weight (to be honest that boat has long since sailed but I am now concentrating on damage limitation as I reduce the volume of training).  The last week of training didn’t go well and in almost 9 months of training I actually let work interfere for the first time last week and lost a couple of key sessions.  I flew to London on what is known as the “red eye” on Thursday morning and didn’t get home until after 10 on Friday – when my alarm went off at 530am I snoozed it and then when it went off again at 7 I got up, got a handful of vitamin C, downed it and went back to bed.  Fatigue and the immune system can be a killer at this stage of the journey so instead of heading out for a 7 hour cycle in the persisting rain while knackered I took some unplanned rest.


A bit unintentionally I seem to have a collection of pictures for this blog post that just make me smile.  I can’t really think why I don’t have any interesting pictures of bikes in interesting places so instead I have pictures of people (mainly my boy) and monkeys (just funny).

Shakey contemplates a witty first line for her race report

As a starter, this is not just a gratuitous picture of a monkey.  For sheer digital dexterity, this macaque that managed to take it’s own picture with a stolen camera deserves some space on my blog.  However, from one talented hairy monkey with opposable thumbs to another.  This monkey represents my training partner Shakey (you could tell from the sunburnt legs in the last post she would be hirstute!) who promised me a race report from the half ironman weekend before she disappeared on holiday with the Maltesers.  Like much of the time I spend with Shakey I would have been as well asking the monkey for a race report.  I now like to call this monkey Shakey.


Speaking of Shakey, after the long haul last weekend we managed to get one 6mile lunchtime jog in before she went off to Malta to try and even up her sunburn lines.  It was pretty hard going on tired old legs but it was reasssuring for me that I could get back on the horse after a long distance effort and without much recovery time.  I followed that up with a long run along the Thames on Friday morning where I spent 3.5miles running out towards Richmond saying hello to everyone I passed with absolutely no reaction back and then on the run back east I was fully expecting to be arrested for being too jolly at 6am.  I always thought it was a myth but there is a real north/south divide that I haven’t seen in any of the other cities whose pavements I have pounded.  Having said that it might just have been me as the two gentlemen in suits canoodling on a park bench in Twickenham seem to be quite friendly towards each other.  Get a room boys – it might be 6am but you’re not invisible!

Right Roar, another couple of lengths backstroke and then we're done

Last week was a hard swimming week with two 4k swims which I am pretty sure are the longest swims that I have done since I retired from competitive swimming when I was 18.  For the avoidance of doubt, I can confirm that 4k is quite a long way.  I don’t have any pictures of me swimming (that’s not strictly true actually – I don’t have any pictures of me swimming that I would post on the internet) however the next Olympian in the family was caught in action in deep water over the weekend.

It turns out that when we stay at the flat the designer stainless steel kitchen sink is a useful bath cum commonwealth pool substitute.  Oh, how our lifestyle has changed with young Phelps swimming lengths of the kitchen and using the dining room table as a changing room!


However, his Ironman aspirations haven’t ended just with the swim leg. Rory apparently has been enjoying the fantasy July that I aspire to – sitting in his bouncy chair watching the live coverage of the Tour de France.  If he could walk he would probably makes his way to the fridge, find the coldest Kronenbourg in there and sit right back down to cheer on Team Sky.  It seems though that having watched all of the cyclists he fancied his own pair of Oakleys in anticipation of getting a bike.  I know there is a serious reason for them but baby shades just make me laugh and laugh.  They’re a bit like dressing your dog up in a santa suit!


With the end of heavy training also came the session that I dread – an hour long deep tissue massage.  Now the theory here is that that masseur sorts out all the muscle damage that has been done in training and reprogrammes the muscles.  In the past I have seen Merell the 5 foot power house but because I could only go on Sunday I had an appointment with Pavel.  Just from his name I should have known that I would suffer some brutal eastern european torture but I wasn’t quite prepared for his persistence in removing troublesome knots in my muscles.  Normally, Merell concentrates on my legs at my request but I think Pavel played dumb with his English, spotted a weakness and went for it.  I haven’t had my top half massaged since I had shoulder reconstruction surgery in November for two reasons – firstly, as a swimmer I can work round injuries in my shoulders quite effectively and secondly, and most importantly because Iknew it would hurt like hell.  And so it did – I like to think (because it is a fact) that I have quite a high pain threshold, however, when massaged or getting physio my reaction to muscle trauma is to sweat (my last physio told me that is quite a common reaction).  Sunday afternoon was certainly warm but when I saw pooling sweat on the floor underneath the hole in the massage table streaming off the tip of my nose I had to tell Pavel to get his pokey sausage fingers out from underneath my shoulder blade tout de suite.  Even now over 24hours later I keep waiting for the bruising to appear from some of his more brutal therapies.

Mmmmmh, bikes

After I was finished I sent Pam in to see Pavel as she has been suffering from a bad back and if nothing else this would give her some new pains to concentrate on.  This gave me and the boy the opportunity to chill out in Stockbridge.  I’m not sure why but he insisted in popping into a bike shop before we went to Starbucks for a coffee.  We wandered around for a while and Rory pointed out the bikes that he might like for Christmas.  He said that it is never too early to get one as the price of carbon fibre might shoot up at any time.  It turns out that he quite likes hinging oot with dad in bike shops.

Anyway, the next 3 weeks may see more blog posts as I try to fill the hours that have suddenly appeared in my schedule as I taper towards the race.  Or indeed I may not post at all as I find something else to fill my time.  Sometime before I turn 40 we may even see a race report from Shakey or I may go to the zoo with an ipad and give it to a Monkey to do a blog.
Three weeks to go!
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The Big Weekend

Posted on July 11, 2011. Filed under: baby, bike, Half ironman, Half marathon, ironman, ironman regensburg, knockburn, knockburn middle distance, Pentlands, regensburg, Rory, run, shakey, Sky Procycling, swim, Team Sky, Threipmuir, triathlon, Uncategorized, wetsuit |

Get yourself a coffee, find a comfy seat and put your feet up because this is a big one.  A month before Ironman you need to do the Big Weekend – a half distance training event.  About a year ago, after I did my first Half Ironman, Shakey decided that she wanted a piece of the action, however, the event that we signed up for – the Knockburn Half Ironman in Aberdeenshire  – was cancelled so we had to do it ourselves.  This is the story of our DIY Half Ironman with a few meandering detours along the way.


When the alarm goes off on a day when you have promised someone that you will join them for an 8 hour endurance event it is tempting to hit snooze, roll over and pretend you knew nothing about it.  However, with a heavy burden of responsibility I dragged my ass out of bed, applied lubricant, got on my yellow lightweight gimp suit and loaded food, bikes, cycling gear and rubber suits into the car.  The weather forecast was typically Scottish in the 24 hours before the event – sunny and 20deg, white cloud and 15deg, thundery rainstorms and so on literally changing on an hourly basis but as I drove up into the Pentlands it was overcast but with sun breaking through.

I arrived in the Threipmuir car park, which was understandably empty at 0730 on a Saturday morning, to meet Shakey and Nicole who, very kindly and with the patience of a saint, would be providing bike security and support for the event.  After a bit of bike unloading we discussed the weather and I pointed out to Shakey that although I already have a bit of colour I had already applied a double dose of P20 all day sunscreen and asked if she wanted some.  Shakey, who has the complexion of Casper the ghost’s albino brother who has been kept in a cellar, politely declined and said that she would be “grand” – more on that later.  I think Shakey sometimes confuses her fake tan for a real tan and she will no doubt become a little more l’orange and be spotted falling out of nightclubs now that she has achieved Z-list celebrity status in the Edinburgh Evening News.  It’s a jolly good read although the lady who calls her an “inspiration” has clearly never met her!


I am still impressed how straight I swim

Anyway, we had an “arrangement” that I would give Shakey a 20minute start in the swim and then we would complete the rest of the event together.  So we wheeled the bikes up to the reservoir and left Nicole to look after them while she fought off the midgies that were about the size of Spitfires.  Shakey was first into the rubber suit and the long pause before she set off swimming was a clear sign that she was trying to warm up the reservoir.  As her PR machine pointed out in the Evening News, Shakey is new to swimming (I am apparently the unnamed “coaxer”) and I had thought that the headstart was reasonable but on a gloriously still summer morning she went off like a shot down the loch – mainly due to fear rather than athletic prowess and I am still not sure how she would have reacted had she seen the brown trout leaping three feet in the air in her wake.  20minutes later I got into the water, got my head down (tried not to think too much about what Shakey had been doing up ahead) and set off at a reasonable pace down the loch.  In a half mile long loch I hadn’t appreciated how difficult it is to sight someone else swimming  so about half way round and mildly concerned for Shakey’s wellbeing I paused for a few seconds to have a good look and ended up engaging in conversation with a fisherman who very politely asked if I could swim somewhere else.  As he asked nicely, I obliged and headed back down the loch to finish just under 2km in 31mins which is a much quicker pace than I have been averaging.  And before you ask, Shakey actually finished a few minutes ahead of me completing the course in the target time we had set for her at the start of the year.

As a veteran of one Half Ironman I can certify that the only soft option that we took was that transition was done at a leisurely pace.  So we sauntered back to the cars with our bikes while still dressed in rubber suits.  In a style that could only be described as very Edinburgh, a few dog walkers cast us disinterested glances as if it were the kind of thing they saw every Saturday morning.  I like to think that they were looking at Nicole as the odd one as she hadn’t gone for a walk with her bike in a gimp suit.  With one small towel between us we dried quickly and got into cycling kit ready for the off.  And then we stopped.   And Shakey disappeared into the bushes in cycling shoes and helmet to “powder her nose”.  And then we were off in matching Team Sky cycling kit – just like a pro team but without the competence.


The bike turned out to be in beautiful weather and after about half an hour Shakey nipped into the john of a service station to strip down the layers and, of course, because we had been on the road for half an hour she needed a pee.  Early on we rode side by side and had a nice chat but as Shakey’s chat deteriorated I started to push the pace on a bit.  But then I felt bad about my selfish mental self preservation and started to drop back again because Shakey had stopped even trying to initiate conversation and I got worried about what state she was in.  Quite often endurance events come down to mental strength as much as stamina and if you go too deep inside yourself it is difficult to come out.  So I dropped back….

“What’s up?”

“Just thinking”

“Thinking about what?”

“What I’ll eat later.”

“What do you fancy?”

“Just wondering if I could have two starters before my main course”

…….and so it carried on.  Somewhere around 70km her feet got sore and so did my ears and, to my eternal regret, I had mis-measured the course and for an additional 20minutes I had to listen to feet stories.  I would have loved to drag Shakey through the 100km landmark distance but with ears bleeding I pulled up at home 7km over half iron distance and 3km short of the century.  Her feet quickly recovered.


Now I consider myself a polite and considerate kind of guy, however, I received some feedback that I was F-ing ignorant during the ride.  Just after coming off the Kincardine Bridge (where I will confess to breaking the law because I should have dismounted and walked across) a fellow road user decided to approach Shakey and I, who were riding side by side on a three lane stretch of road, with his hand pressed on the horn from several hundred metres behind.  Probably ill advisedly, I gave him some the univeral signal of displeasure and for the first time in my cycling career I had an angry man approaching me with fists clenched.  Noting that he had neither a gun or knife in hand I took the opportunity to finish the banana I had just peeled as he opened with “I am a cyclist too you ignorant f and riding like that is the heght of effing ignorance” although to be clear he didn’t actually say effing.  Now at this point I had to suppress a snigger as a fella the size of a sumo who had let himself go launched into his interpretation of the Highway Code and we ended up having a pantomime “it’s legal”, “no it’s not”, “yes it is” debate.  At this point Buster Bloodvessel threated to punch me out – I still hadn’t unclipped my pedals so it would have been about as fair as Mike Tyson punching out Darcey Bussel in lycra in stilletoes.  Thankfully, if only for his heart and blood pressure, he decided not to punch me and to get back to his sausage roll and lard ass sandwich in his van leaving Shakey and I at the side of the road.  We would probably have taken his registration and called the cops at this point except as he spluttered into the distance he would probably have had a view of me just about falling off my stationery bike as I overbalanced with one foot still clipped in while stuffing my banana skin in my pocket and Shakey had to catch me.

And for the record fat boy, if you could read, section 66 of the Highway Code says “never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends”.  Stick that up your fat arse.


As we pulled up at home Pam thought it was awfully funny that we were dressed the same and, to be fair it probably was quite funny, as typically we don’t have the same taste in clothes.  But we didn’t care as we horsed down a pint of water and got into our running shoes.  We left our mark at home as we left a steaming, stinking pile of cycling gear and I left Pam with a throbbing big toe.  I think I can safely speak for both of us when I would describe the first three miles of the run as the absolute low point of the day.  We didn’t talk for the first half hour with the exception of asking if the other was OK.  I am happy to confess, and this is a compliment, if Shakey wasn’t such a tough old bird and had suggested that we turn back I would quite happily have done so.  However, in 25deg temperature with no water, no money and 13miles running ahead of us we resorted to contingency measures and hit Mickey D’s for water and a quick audit of the facilities.  We followed my Regensburg plan perfectly with 9minutes of running and 1 minute of walking and surprised ourselves with the pace that we managed to maintain.  Water stops followed at Costa Coffee and the Subway and then the skies opened, the thunder roared and the lightning lit.

By about 5 miles in we were back on talking terms which was good from the point of our friendship but, for our sanity, a continued cold war would have been preferable.  When you spend so much time together without a telly, conversation can always take bizarre twists but with added hypoglycaemia and fatigue we rambled from the dull to the surreal and then right on through to the plain weird.

As we ran up the ramp of the Forth Road Bridge with flash flood water flowing over the top of our trainers we saw a couple of forlorn characters in a bus shelter.  Due to some confusion (entirely mine) between kilometres and miles and some incompetence (entirely Shakeys – “I’ve miscalculated the distance do you know Nicole’s phone number?”, “Sorry, no”, sometime later……..”Does Nicole not have your phone?”, “Oh yeah – I forgot”) we had missed Nicole at the Kincardine Bridge but now, for some inexplicable reason, she had gone to the trouble of finding us again with her other half John.   We could have said “hi” or “sorry we miscalculated the distance” but instead we dived straight into her bag and downed so much Lucozade and water that we made ourselves feel ill with 2miles still to go.

Well the last two miles were just a valedictory trot and the last kilometre got close to a sprint as we sniffed the end.  Nicole had prepared an official finish line sign and John, Pam, Rory and Allistair were there to celebrate the end of an epic day out.  Medals were presented under a biblical storm and then we left the Bridge.


Artist’s impression of Shakey’s sunburn lines

After showers,  banana smoothies and cups of tea I inhaled a two course curry and a heap of fruit and then I woke up and polished off a bowl of porridge and a bagel.  Rory got a long walk while I stretched out my legs and got the last News of the World (fully expecting an orange Shakey staggering out of Fingers Piano Bar in the D-list column) and then we went out for lunch when I recovered my car and I hoovered up another couple of courses at the Bridge Inn at Ratho.

I received a text later in the evening that Shakey was feeling the heat which was confirmed in the morning to be sunburn.  It turns out that she probably should have used some of my P20.

I am sure that before Shakey heads off to Malta for some R&R that she will contribute her own race report to immortalise her first half iron distance event.  That is of course if she doesn’t try and serialise it in the Daily Mail now that she is officially a media ho.


To avoid complaints here is this week’s gratuitous Rory shot.

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Summer at last!

Posted on July 5, 2011. Filed under: baby, bike, brad wiggins, cycle, geek spot, Half ironman, ironman, ironman regensburg, knockburn, knockburn middle distance, regensburg, Rory, run, shakey, Sky Procycling, swim, Team Sky, triathlon |

Dad's tales of Ironman training proved overwhelming for Rory

As forecast, the weekend has left me puggled.  Work ended up being even busier than I thought – I took a rest day on Friday (from training) and worked through to just after 2am; I was up at 630am and out for a 7 hour ride; back at work from 3pm through to 2am, home for a quick cat-nap and back in from 7am to 4pm giving me another unplanned rest day on Sunday.

I haven’t drunk caffeine for a couple of months now but when I got to work I was instantly attracted to full sugar Coke to top my system up after the ride and get me through to the early hours.  Having been off the caffeine, combined with the volume I took in I was alternately giddy and sweaty but with a speeding pulse I made it through the day no problem.  When I got home Pam forced me to sleep against my better judgement and I woke a couple of hours later with an incredible caffeine and adrenaline hangover.  By the look of my boy on Sunday morning he was suffering sympathetic fatigue for his old man.

Anyway, fine weather has finally arrived in Scotland which has given me the opportunity to train in a climate more like what I will face in Germany and test my resolve against the elements.  Saturday morning was a lovely ride which provided some rich material for my bike photos.  I headed out over the hills past Knockhill and took in Dollar on the way out to Aberfoyle and then back through Stirling on a 105mile epic ride.  Nutrition strategy worked well with Clif Bars, gels, water and almost 2 litres of carb replacement drink.  It was a course that had a very similar profile to Regensburg so it was great to get some long stretches down on the aerobars and tested some new muscles that I haven’t used in a lot of the hillier courses that I have been over.  It turns out that being forward on the bars for long periods can leave you a little chafed in the moving parts – despite padding and a liberal application of vaseline I still needed to borrow substantial amounts of Rory’s Sudocreme to sort myself out afterwards.

I had a wonderful moment later in the morning when I got beeped at in Stirling when examining my map trying to find a way around the castle rock without going up a hill.  An older fella who I had been riding with earlier in the morning spotted me in my bright yellow cycling shirt and stopped to ask if I was lost.  I like how the Knights of the Road stick together.

The Temptress lounges at the Lake of Menteith

While the sun was welcome relief from the hail, rain and wind that I had suffered in recent weeks it still provides a lot of challenges.  Although I take electrolyte supplements in my water bottles I found I had some mild cramping.  Cramp is basically your body’s way of telling you that you are running low on electrolytes and salt so I have now ordered salt tablets that I will need to test (for compatability with my stomach) on my last long ride.

I passed the Lake of Menteith and stopped for a photo.  I always thought that it was the only Lake in Scotland but it turns out that it is one of 4 but the most famous.  There is a really boring reason why it is called a Lake which I choose to ignore as I prefer the legend that the local Baron betrayed Sir William Wallace and everyone else subsequently referred to it by the English name lake to indicate his true allegiance.

Anyway, it was a great ride with some good lumps and bumps but with long flat drags – all of which are perfect preparation for IM Regensburg.

Monday included a long run (just over 10miles) deliberately done at midday in full tri-gear and sunscreen to replicate a hot race followed by an hour on the turbo in the back garden with completely still air.  The run actually went so well that I completely forgot to rehearse my race strategy.  An Ironman marathon isn’t like a run of the mill marathon as it is done after a warm up of 112miles on the bike and a 2.4mile swim.  So, you need a plan and mine is a 9min run and 1min walk strategy which controls the heart rate, allows you to eat and drink when you walk  and actually keeps up a good average pace.  However, after 45minutes I realised I had forgotten the plan and was just jogging so it will need to be tested properly this weekend coming.  Unfortunately, I think I got myself so dehydrated that I had to dodge my morning swim today and I might as well have been jogging on slow roasted lamb shanks at lunchtime for all the use that my legs were.

Geek spot hasn’t been updated for a while so here goes.  Since I decided to start tracking mileage I have now covered 3400km or 2100miles and with my peak month still ongoing there is a bit yet to come.

The Tour de France started again this week and “my colleagues” in Team Sky have 3 of the top 10 places as I write.  I love the work that ozcycling do at LeTour so although they only have one hilarious video so far this year (bad translation) I have posted their analysis of how riders manage a “comfort break” in tribute to the Tour.

So, this week will see our home-made half ironman event after the cancellation of the Knockburn Middle Distance.  I am hoping for decent weather as at least if she has to drink a lot of water I won’t hear too much of Shakey pumping her gums.  On the other hand I could just make the swim last a lot longer amd I’ll never hear her with my ears submerged!  When we meet Pam, Rory and the rest of the support crew at the end of the Forth Road Bridge on Saturday afternoon I will only have one long distance session left before the drive to Germany.  It’s all getting very real now!

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Mental strength……..and just being mental

Posted on July 1, 2011. Filed under: Half ironman, ironman, ironman regensburg, knockburn, knockburn middle distance, lochore, lochore meadows, lochore meadows triathlon, Pentlands, regensburg, Rory, shakey, Threipmuir, triathlon, Uncategorized, wetsuit |

Tonight on my way home from an open water swim at Threipmuir I saw an eightysomething arthritic, fella standing hunched over his walking stick and thought to myself “I wish I felt as fit and healthy as that lucky beggar”.  I am at the stage in Ironman training where everything hurts all the time.  I wake hurting, I run, bike and swim when I hurt and I go to sleep hurting.  Well, actually that’s not strictly true I had a wee bit on the outside of my left heel just next to the deep, healing blister that I got at Lochore that was fine until last night when I missed a tumble turn and clattered my heel down on the pool deck and left a dark bruise about the size of a 50 pence piece.  Seriously, this nonsense is supposed to be good for you.

I must sort out first things first.  Thanks to everyone that gave me constructive feedback on the last post.  I get it – less about triathlon and feeling sorry for myself and more photos of Rory.  Seems like I have found my place in life – Rory’s dad and official photographer.  So here you go…….

This week is officially my third last week of ultra distance training with a “long brick” on Monday, a 7 hour ride scheduled for Saturday coming and a smattering of 3.5 – 4k swims and it has proven to be as much a challenge of mental stamina as fitness.

Shakey, the training partner with an attention span of a goldfish with dementia, frequently asks if I get bored on some of the long sessions.  And I think that is the difference between an aspiring Ironman (there’s some confusion in my head whether you have to complete an Ironman to be an Ironman.  After all, you don’t have to be crucified to be as christian!) and somebody who just likes to go for a jog.  I have developed a really hard-edged never give up attitude when I am training that I hope will see me good on race day.  I hadn’t really thought about it before now but doing the Lochore Triathlon feeling as rough as I did was more a test of my mental strength than of my stamina – I had a choice to quit when I woke up, I had the choice to quit when I got to the venue, I had the choice to quit after the swim, I had the choice to quit when I had to stop to throw up on the bike and then again when I finished the bike and I had the choice to quit at any point in the run.  But I didn’t and whether it was stubborness, testing my toughness, delirium or stupidity I found a new level of strength that I didn’t have before.

Digger, Shakey and Stumpy discuss rubber suit etiquetteMy final moments of lucidity at Lochore

It’s funny that before I started seriously training for Ironman I thought it was all about the emotion, pride of the glory moment when I stumble across the line late in the evening on the 7th of August as I hear “You are an Ironman” and someone places some giant bling around my neck and then I swiftly get put on a drip and throw up.  But I now worry that will be an anticlimax after the hours and hours of training that I have put in.

In December I made a conscious decision to dump the ipod not only because I had got fed up listening to “I gotta feeling” but because I knew I couldn’t wear it in the race.  Since then I have run only with the sound of my own breathing and my own thoughts rattling about my head which probably doesn’t sound like that much of a challenge until you notice that just about every runner and dog walker wears an ipod because they struggle with the solitude.  Sometimes, of course, I run with Shakey and that is because I can transcend a new level of mental toughness if I can spend a solid hour with her chuntering on in my lugs.  Likewise, on the bike, I always do my long rides on my own and time really flies even during a 7 hour ride as I focus very much on the task in hand – climbing, gear changes, eating, drinking, pacing, heart rate etc – and managing whatever aches, pains and weather that comes along.

So, all that navel gazing said, the focus of this week was the “Big Brick”.  This was a 6am start on Monday followed by a 52mile cycle with a great climb in Glentarkie followed by a run just short of 11miles.  I wore my exotic white cap in anger for the first time and drew only occasional pitying glances.  As I mentioned above I am now in the peak weeks and this weekend will involve a 7 hour cycle and a 2 hour run, next weekend a half ironman rehearsal and the weekend after another 7 hour cycle and 2.5 hour run.  Then I put my feet up for three weeks, eat Bratwurst and get the Rosetta Stone tapes out so that I can fluently order a beer at the end (or get my money back!).

Shakey and I had planned to do the Knockburn Half Ironman next weekend, however, we heard last week that it had been cancelled because they haven’t found enough mentalists like us to make it worthwhile.  With my never say die approach I have subsequently organised my own Half Ironman a deux as I still need to do a full dress rehearsal at half distance before I head off to Germany.  So, the swim will be a 1.9k route around Threipmuir which is in blue on the map.  (The red is tonight’s GPS trace which I am quite pleased with as I did just over a mile over three laps and it looks like I swam as straight as an arrow).  We are in the process of recruiting someone who is almost (but not quite) as daft as us to look after our bikes at 8am on a Saturday morning and take away our “used” wetsuits.  The ride will  take in 56 miles of Edinburgh, West Lothian, Clackmannanshire, Stirlingshire and the Kingdom of Fife followed by a  half marathon finishing at the end of the Forth Road Bridge.  Hopefully, either Pam or the paramedics will be there to pick up the remains and maybe even give me a thimbleful of champagne (I am now officially dry until race day but every race needs champers!) to fend off the pains and get me to sleep.

I should say at this point although loads of people have asked me if I am doing this for sponsorship I have to confess that after the amount of effort it took to raise £4000 for the Anaphylaxis Campaign last year I decided to be totally selfish and just focus on me this year.  The Shakester, however, is doing this as one in a series of events including the Lochore Sprint Triathlon, the inaugural Stumpy vs Shakey Half Ironman (trust me this will catch on!), the Great Scottish Swim, the Dublin Half Marathon, the Great Edinburgh Run and the London Marathon for charitable reasons that are also very close to my heart.  Just before Christmas last year a friend and colleague Linda “the Hunts” Hunter was taken away from us far, far too young from a sudden stroke.  Shakey is raising money for the Stroke Association and, although we know things are really tight, if you did want to make a contribution here it would mean an awful lot to us.

This weekend sees a very painful time for me.  A busy event at work means that I will have an unplanned rest day on Friday getting home about 2am, up at 6am for a 100mile ride followed by a 3mile run, back into work mid afternoon until midnight and then run 12miles on Sunday morning. On Monday I will rest or maybe stretch to another blog update!

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