After nearly a year’s worth of training the 17th July 2016, the IronMan UK event at Bolton, rushed over the horizon to meet my fellow Chippenham Tri entrants Mike Bright and Jim Hutchenson with open arms to them and what felt to me to be a kick in my solar plexus. For almost all of the 48 hours until the start I was a quivering wreck, petrified that I would fail, especially at the swim stage. Notwithstanding the reassurance given to me by my wife Kim, Jim, Mike, many others and coaches Michelle and Chris.
The weather forecast was perfect – some cloud and 21 degrees. Kim got me suited up and I went to the back of the rolling start passing Mike going the other way. At 6:20 I walked into the water and I was off. One lap later I had to do the ‘Aussie’ exit and re-entry and was re-assured to see how good my time was for me. Had to concentrate harder in lap 2 to keep my technique acceptable. Received one kick to the head dislodging my goggles and causing a breath of water into the lungs but I re-grouped and pressed on concentrating on the buoys as there were less swimmers to follow now. It seemed to take forever to finish lap 2 but then I was out, saw my time, saw my wife and cheered for joy. At last I could settle down and enjoy the race.
So I ran into T1 being careful not to trip and face plant into the mud. As always the wetsuit was a sod to take off and I damaged my tri top so a quick change of gear was needed. Got the bike and carried it over the mud to keep the transmission etc clean and then we were off and I waved goodbye to Kim.
The first part of the course was easy and then I got to lap 1 of 2 and climb 1 of 2; the laborious Sheephouse Lane which took you to the top of the beautiful moors. With Chris’ voice in my head “eat, drink, cadence! Eat, drink, cadence!” and driven on by the massive support from the crowds lining various parts of the route, I pressed on. I used the downhills to give my backside a rest and tried to keep my average speed up. I went round one bed too fast and skidded and wobbled all over the verge but somehow stayed up. When I got to the stop of the second climb for the second time I cycled into a ditch but only pride was damaged.
In the meantime, not all roads were closed and there were some other cyclists out. Coming towards me in Chip tri colours was a cyclist. It was Chris! He cheered me on and I shouted something; probably “Eat Drink Cadence”.
I saw my time was good and pushed on back to T2 at Macron; quickly changed and then started the run feeling a bit tired but OK. I had really given the swim and run 200%. The first part of the run alongside a rail line and canal into Bolton was scenic and went well but it was getting warm and I was getting tired. I was also getting queasy and my tum said no to anything now other than water or isotonic drink. I was hot and out of fuel. I couldn’t maintain my 9:15 minute miles. Tried 10 min miles but that wasn’t going to work. I made a deal with myself. I would walk through every feed station and up every hill and I broke the whole thing down into 3 mile runs. It worked and I did my 3 laps spotting Jim on one lap and Mike too. There was shouting from the crowd in the town centre – from Kim in one place and Michelle in another.
So the finish appeared and I crossed the line to cheers and a voice saying “Alex Ralton – You are an IronMan”. I had done it; I couldn’t believe it, I wanted to cry and when I saw Kim I think I may have done a bit. I still feel emotional about the achievement.
That leaves one last, difficult question – what next? – Alex Ralton