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Barcelona Ironman - The Return

My 1st outing as an Ironman apprentice was in Barcelona in 2014 Those that have read my previous blog about the event will know that i didn't have such a great time of it and to say i was in a world of pain both physically and mentally is some what an under statement.

Barcelona Ironman 2015 was time to lay those demons to rest.

The moment i finished the Ironman Barcelona in 2014 i was disappointed, not so much with the time. But with the way the event broke me down to walking pretty much most of the marathon. It was not something i had planned for, it was alien to me and i wanted to run as much of the marathon as i could. I felt like i had achieved nothing, even though i had a medal to prove it i just felt like i could of and should of done better. I had a great swim and a good bike leg and having blagged out of many run sessions off the bike in training i couldn't really expect too much during the marathon. What i was relying on was the fact that i was an ok runner. The biggest factor i overlooked and is as obvious as the sky is blue is the fact that running off the bike on already tired legs is a completely different thing altogether. "IF YOU DONT TRAIN YOU WILL BE IN PAIN"

As a coach/ PT i know that in the grand scheme of things my result was not bad at all and would be telling my clients that they should be proud. Taking my own advice sometimes is really hard and i was having none of it and what was worse was the fact that i had a year to wait before i could put it right.

The entry was done for 2015 and i was ready to start my base training. I had a small matter of pacing round one of my clients at The Chelmsford Marathon and to be honest ended with my client not finishing for a multitude of reasons ( but thats another story ). This was probably a god send and now was the time to focus on some good solid winter training. The first week went by and then the next and before i knew it 4 or 5 weeks had passed by and i really had no MOJO to train. I had drifted through the weeks without any consistency and my running was non existent. I didn't miss it and it took all i had to get out for a run. No matter what i done to inspire myself i just couldn't string any workouts together. I had mixed feelings about training which consisted of wanting to get out and run but making excuses so i didn't have to go. I have never been like this in the past and couldn't quite understand what was going on. Had i burnt out, did i need a break or was it the stress from running a recruitment company that was like the biggest thorn in my side.

Fast forward 8 or so months and my prep had not been great to say the least. I had managed to get some training in toward the end of June in readiness for The Outlaw full Ironman, i had done some great cycling and a little bit of swimming and i had even managed to get back to running. The outlaw event in hindsight was always going to be a bridge too far but with my stubborn attitude i just hit it full on. The swim felt like forever and somehow i managed to swim 4.2km??? not quite sure how thats possible in a marked lake but i did. When i got out on the bike i tried to settle but my hip was hurting me, i thought it may settle and argued with myself for 50km before i finally gave into sense. I pulled out and was whisked away by a rescue bus. I knew i was injured because i was not pissed off in the slightest, i was hurting and hurting big time. I spoke to Arron who is my physio and he made a phone call to his friend who was the lead physic at Outlaw and he got me seen immediately. I would be on restricted training for 2 weeks then back in slowly. BUGGER.

I was going on holiday 4 days after the Outlaw and could use this to kick start my running. Barcelona was 11 weeks away and i had a choice, suffer like i did the year before or get my head down with some decent training and try and limit the suffering and maybe, just maybe it would be enjoyable.

On holiday i made sure i ran everyday and started with a gentle 5km on the treadmill, by the end of the holiday i was unto 12km and feeling bloody good about running. The following weeks after i got back from holiday were fairly good introspects of training. I had managed to get some midweek stuff in but made sure that my weekend training was very specific and overtime i got on the bike i made sure i ran off the bike, distances were good and i started to feel like i could and maybe would enjoy Barcelona. One of my last sessions was the full bike and run distance split over Saturday and Sunday, 80km Bike with 20km run off the bike on the Saturday and 100km bike with 20km run off the bike on the Sunday. Both sessions felt great and i was buzzing. The only thing i was concerned about was the swim, i had managed to do about 10 swims in about 3 months and not swam since august whilst on holiday.

As a new tri club we tried to get as many people to do The Clacton Tri. The race was 2 weeks out from Barcelona and was a perfect training event for me just so i could get into the sea and run through my transition prep. I felt great within the event and it was good to see other members from the club running along the route. My run was effortless and i stuck to Ironman pace. JOB DONE.

Barcelona Ironman 2015

We arrived in Calella and checked into our hotel. The others were arriving later that night or the following day so myself and kerry went for a walk and had a glass of wine or two. I could feel the atmosphere already and i was buzzing inside. Last year i built this event up too much but this year i was back to prove that i can tactically finish this race and finish strong.

The next morning we met up with Brad and Darren at breakfast and they decided to go for a ride a bit earlier so i told them roughly were to go and off they went. I waited it out a bit for the roads to get a bit drier and headed out around mid morning, i turned left out of the road from the hotel and about 500m up road came upon the roundabout that you use to go back out on the IM bike course. Immediately the memories of last year were fresh in my head. On the ride out i just thought about what i wanted to do during the bike leg and felt the need to tell myself to not go too hard up the hills, the first 15km of the route is slightly undulating and if you push too hard you legs won't overly like you when it comes to the marathon. The course was as i remember it and my excitement was rising along with my anticipation of failure again. Back at the hotel we saw Brad and Darren who enjoyed their bike ride albeit they went in the complete opposite direction. Darren was going through some emotional highs and lows and Brad was obviously nervous and was asking about a million questions. I remember how i felt last year and tried to answer as many of their questions as i could, hoping to ease them a bit. Later that night we caught up with the others who had just arrived, Keely & Ivor - Arron & Vicky, we spent some time with them in the bar and i proceeded to have 3 glasses of wine and on the last occasion forgot to get my wife a red wine, that never went down well lol, keel does love a glass of red.

Saturday morning was here and we had to attend the obligatory race briefing, I had arranged to meet one of the guys i coach, Joe. The plan was to go to the briefing then go watch his wife Natasha run in the Iron Girl race and then for a swim in the sea.......( the sea was hideous, the waves hitting the shore were not nice and was chucking people on the sand bank like rag dolls). During the race briefing the build up is quite intense, this is where it all becomes very real, 2000 athletes sitting there cheering, some with smiles others with a look of fright on their face. Game on......

We strolled over to watch Natasha race and she done bloody well and came in 11th place, happy days and well done. We all then decided to get some food before we had to rack our bikes and just chilled out, myself and joe were going to meet up at transition and rack our bikes a little later.

Once at transition we sorted our bikes and joe asked a few questions and we went through swim/bike/run entry and exits and bag hanging strategy, we double checked everything was good and whilst doing so we could hear waves breaking on the beach behind us. Our new plan had been to rack the bikes and then go for a swim just to acclimatise. We talked around to the beach, the sky was a bit grey by now and the sea looked rough, very rough. We both just looked at each other and laughed, there was no way we were gonna get in there so jogged it on. Back to the hotel it was. The next time we would see each other would be in transition the next morning.

Breakfast was an early affair and i tried to eat some food, this consisted of egg on toast and a cup of coffee. i was meeting joe at transition and walked down with Brad and Darren together. No matter how many times you do an event, you always think you have left something behind. Not so bad in a marathon but when it comes to Triathlon you have so much gear to think about your second guessing all the bloody time. I went through my checklist about 5 times. Still the same answer as the first time, everything is here. OCD. Everyone was getting nervous, we had since put our wetsuits on and were getting ready to head out for a little practice swim, this morning the sea was not as bad as it had been and the water was quite nice to be honest. Once finished we all made our way back to the start area and hoped we would bump into our wives and supporters. We were looking around for them and soon spotted the crazy bunch and made our way over to them. We had our pics taken along with high fives and hugs and kisses. It was great to see everyone and most of all my wife who tirelessly supports me on this crazy quests. I think she secretly loves it. It was now time to make our toward our respective pens for the new rolling wave start, on the way I shook Joe's hand wished him well and gave him some final instructions, "Race within yourself until the final 10km of the run then smash it if you feel good".

Within the start pens, you could see some drones with cameras attached to them and the announcer was introducing the elite athletes. Everyone ready and the countdown began, a deep heart beat sound effect in the back ground and 10,9,8......3,2,1 and Geronimo by Sheppard came blaring from the PA system. I had shivers all over me at this point and that song is truly etched in my memory. The swim was not too bad to be honest apart from the odd idiot thinking that grabbing hold of your leg is the done thing whilst swimming, a swift pickup in leg kick soon put paid to that little tactic though. I put myself in the 1hr 25 min swim pen and managed to get out in 1hr 26mins......i was well chuffed, i had done literally no swim training and i was only 1 min slower than last year BONUS. The marshals were there to help us get out of the water and in some cases the sea didn't feel the need for help and spat a fair few people up on shore with an almighty bang. Onwards through the crowds toward transition and i was looking for my wife, i pretty much ran past her at one point but went back gave her a kiss and ran off. Its the last i can do as mentioned before her support for me is tireless and really helps motivate me.

Into T1 and it was time to start the race nutrition, first job was to eat the peanut butter sandwich. Get changed and then get out on the bike, i was def not going to hurry as in the grand scheme of things a bit of time wasted here would mean i could be comfortable out on the bike. Last years nutrition was pretty rubbish and i had cramp to the point that i could not run, this year i was not going to let that happen, i had made sure i bought salt tablets with me and was going to drink at least a bottle between water stations, i had broken all my food up so all i had to do was reach into my bento box and take a small bite size portion. I was off, going through Calella was awesome with all the people cheering you on, it gives me such a buzz. I got to the first roundabout and as i went round i could see a couple who i strength train, Jo & Rob Good. They started cheering and shouting out my name, bloody hell what a buzz. I was on such a high i shot up that first little hill. My legs felt good on the bike and my speed was good, i was eating and drinking to plan and going faster than i hoped for without even really trying. i was about 5km away from the turn around point and saw Brad coming toward me on the other side of the road, we both gave a shout out and soldiered on, Brad was about 10km in front and it was nice seeing a familiar face. To be honest the bike was such a nice ride all i ket saying to myself was slow down, don't go mad, it just felt too easy. In hindsight i probably could of pushed it a bit harder but at the time all i was worried about was having to run off the bike, i certainly didn't want to go through the same HELL as i did the previous year. Onwards. As i made my way down toward the roundabout i could see Kerry, Keely Vicky, Ivor and Arron all screaming and taking pics, i gave them a wave and a salute and off i went going round i saw Jo and Rob again being met with a wall of cheers again which helped power me up the incline for my second lap. Coming into the final turnaround everyone had gone to get a spot to see us come in from the bike and ready themselves on the run course. i saw Brad again and went slowly passed and gave him some encouragement to follow on behind me, brads legs were having none of it as the final hills took there toll. He was soon back with me though as we entered the town of Calella and we rode into T2 together. I had beaten my bike time by around 30 mins, i was bloody chuffed and i felt good. Well as good as you can expect to feel once you have done 180km.

In transition i yet again decided not to rush, i had made myself another sandwich but i didn't eat it, i felt quite bloated already and made the decision i would stick to gels and fluid on the course. I had put all my gels in a race belt which i stuck on with my other race belt. I had a quick loo stop and i was ready to go out on the run. I was very apprehensive about this part, i started to have negative thoughts about last years effort and how it quite literally broke me down both mentally and physically. I WAS VERY SCARED to say the least. My mission was to not run fast and to just complete the job in hand.

I set off on the run out of transition and felt comfortable from the off, repeatedly saying to myself over and over RUN SLOW..RUN SLOW. The race belt i had put on with my gels in was getting right on my tits, it wouldn't do up tight and kept slipping down with the weight of the gels. I stopped running and took the belt off put the gels in my Tri suit and threw it away, at that point a friend from Havering Tri Club passed, it was Les Nottage, he asked if i was ok and on my reply of yes carried on. Right belt now in the bin i carried on running. I had only been running for about 5 or so minutes before the belt incident so tried to settle into my run. I was starting to argue with myself again about my run strategy and reasoned that i was at some point going to walk, so why not adopt the run system i had given to my client Debi. Its not rocket science but it does help. so around 20 or 25 mins i made the decision to do 5mins Run 1min Walk-5mins Run 1min 5mins Run 2 mins Walk then back to the beginning again. On the first lap i saw kerry and everyone near the 3km mark and gave them a big wave and jogged off. The next time i would see kerry would be around the 9km mark and as i came around the corner it was my turn to walk within my run/walk system. Kerry looked at me as if to say oh no not again, ( i could tell she thought it was 2014 all over again) i reassured her that all was good and in 10 secs had to start running again. This went on throughout the first 20km and i was soon approaching the point at which the wheels fell off last year. To say i was apprehensive is an understatement, i was quite literally expecting to fall to the floor like last year with massive cramp in my legs, but yet nothing..........I saw everyone again and by now it was the final lap out, i felt good and i felt in control, the run walk system was paying dividends and i was doing ok, my wife says i don't smile while i do these events but i was truly smiling inside. Last year when i went out on the final run lap, i was walking every step and was dreading every step i was telling myself off for giving up and really beating myself up. This year i was just tired, i was loving it and i felt bloody awesome, i felt like i had achieved my goal and i hadn't finished yet, it was then i reminded myself that 10km is a bloody long way and not to get to carried away. With about 1km to go i went passed someone in a black tri suit and they said go for it JB, i just put my thumb up and carried on i didn't have a clue who it was and was just focused on finishing. It was time for my 1 min walk, as i started walking Darren came along side me. Darren had changed so i didn't recognise him. Darren had a cheeky smile on his face as normal and after a bit of a chat i found out he had one more lap to go. This bought memories of doom back to me but i tried not to show it and tried to encourage as much as i could. Darren is a true gent and always makes me smile, he came into the ironman with such dread about the swim element that getting this far was a bloody great effort already, a true Ironman. We had got back to running and i had to ask Darren to slow down, it was too fast and i could feel the cramp twitching in my legs. With about 400m to go we had a hug and shook hands, i wished him well and to get the job done. Later Darren told me he had tears in his eyes as he went off on his final lap to hear the word "JON YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" coming over the PA system. After leaving him it was my turn to run down the famous finish line red carpet, last year kerry and co managed to get on the stands and see me in and this year i was hoping she had managed to do the same again. Rounding the corner i definitely sped up, i felt like i was running on air, i felt bloody awesome and then to my left i could see my wife trademark smile ( that trademark smile is what melted my heart the first night we met ). I screamed out "SMASHED IT' and ran past them all with even more vigour, those famous words were about to be spoken "Jon YOU are an IRONMAN" and yes today i felt like an ironman and i felt proud to of given it a better shot this time around.

I managed to do the ironman in over 1hr quicker than last year, i want to go faster and with the right consistency through training i will definitely get a sub 12 hour Ironman. My time 12hrs 50mins 17 secs.As normal i couldn't do these events without the support of my awesome wife, if there were medals for being amazing my wife would have the greatest collection. Thank you babe xxxx


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