A weekend in Stafford for IM 70.3


If I’m honest reflecting back on it I’m not quite sure how I managed to do it, not from a fitness point but everything from logistics and changes in prep etc it realistically could have gone very wrong, but it went right and I’m very thankful! Here’s a few of the ups, downs, arse aches & highlights.

It starts driving up to Stafford Saturday morning, firstly I had to gig the Friday night so not getting into bed till 1am didn’t start things right for Saturday morning, then we were delayed a bit leaving followed by horrendous traffic and awful weather on route, meaning arriving at the registration with less than an hour to spare (after arguing with security about parking and dumping the car on double yellows right outside a church, which we found out after had a wedding on and the party were not best pleased 😲)

So race pack in hand I knew we had to get to T1 15 miles away and back for T2 in an hour & race brief in 90mins, sat nav on Friday had said Chasewater is 20mins away when I checked….. Stafford was grid locked….. 40mins to get there (and a second £5:30 on the toll to use the faster road) parked half a mile away leaving the car looking like it had been stolen, stuffed my transition bag on my back and cycled as fast as I could in jeans, in the wind & rain with trainers sliding about on clip on pedals. So error 1, not enough time, error 2 I have 70mm rims on the bike and slick summer tyres, I was being blown all over the place and slipping when exceeding force, let alone the pothole & loose road surface dodging…..

Get there, rack up in 5 mins flat and run back to the car heading for T2, sat nav finds a back road & suddenly it’s like a chase out of the dukes of Hazzard. Arrive back in Stafford dumping the car and running to T1 with my bag to get there at bang on 1600 as they are ready to close up, PHEW!
Then a coffee & race briefing, meet up with Racestrongs Kelly briefly & realise with all this going on we’ve not checked the location of our accommodation or checked in etc, look on the phone and it tells us we’ve 90mins todo that, race brief was an hour….. car was dumped at the trading estate right next to KFC drive through ERROR 3 night before big race day KFC is not the wisest of choices, but not eating all day and rushing about the drive thou sign became a homing beacon!

Get to hotel & car Park was full (only booked the place to guarantee parking) so driving round to park where roads wouldn’t be shut stuffing KFC in my face, a walk to the hotel & proceed to be tired but sit in bed like an insomniac till way past 1030pm knowing I’m up at 415. Well I woke at 3am and that was it. I’d had a conversation with Lee Friday and had totally changed my nutrition plan for the day, just having my usual shake for breakfast at 4am and just taking Racestack in a bottle to consume before the swim, (also a GU gel for after the swim, two bottles of doubled up tailwind on the bike with a little pack of three peanut butter protein balls & a bag of skittles. For the run I was going to use on course nutrition) so a little anxious and maybe ERROR 4 due to them back of mind demons about the changes on race day.

Head off to Chasewater a self seeding and getting in the 45 min chute, which proceeded to take an hour whilst being stood next to the smelliest Frenchman that kept trying to ask me questions about this race I had never done…. I just smiled and was filled with self worry about ERROR 5 – new goggles. Those that have swam with me recently may have noticed my bent face or something appears to not fit many goggles on the market right now, my mentality was use some others that are recommended as they can’t be worse that what I got. These were huub and we ok till I went “Crock eyes” for sighting and the right side filled up. So twice I had to adjust during the swim. The water was 15 degrees and felt it, Seeding at 6people every 5 seconds it was a little hectic but had good width on most of it. All the bouys to the left except last one and a right turn that got a little congested and I really clobbered something on a forceful right stroke. It turned out to be a women on the chin as she was breathing to her left. She scream & shouted, I stopped foolishly. She wasn’t a Tri athlete and was just a swimmer doing the relay part and had a male friend with her taking part like myself we exchanged brief word as you can in the water and he proceeded to attack me, to which I took a real hard kick from him to my wrist, I had felt a pop, it felt bloody painful & though I’d a busted wrist, alas the pain went quickly and I could move it. The pop was my Apple Watch being released from under my wet suit cuff and it ripping off my wrist was the pain…. ah well, iv a garmin now anyway 🤣
I almost wanted to call it a day there, beaten up a bit & £450 sat at the bottom of the lake gave me determination to push on, out of the water a crappy long run to transition. I couldn’t feel hands or feet so that was testing, but got done, had a gel, pulled on some extra padded shorts as ERROR 6 – iv not cycled more than 38 miles on a trip this year, and that was broken up with a stop at box hill and a stop at newlands corner so tender butt was on the cards. Luckily I guess I couldn’t feel my legs for the first 40miles on the bike due to cold of the water BUT the weather had turned, it was sunny & dry. My fears of deep rims & summer tyres were put to rest. And ERROR 7 – I had a bike fit just 13 days before…. it could have been bad BUT it worked, the bike worked with me and only a couple of lull moments were had. I flew past feed point one at 12 miles, 2 at 28 miles and was busting for a pee so had to stop & queue up a couple of mins at stop 3 the 40mile mark. I had stayed on the tailwind drink only and at this point stood waiting I had the little protein balls & also prepared my bike bag with the skittles. Continuing the “undulating” cycle I had consumed a bottle & half & a couple of hand fulls of skittle and was on the homeward 10k feeling good & knowing I’d had a much better ride than expected really was lifting my spirits coming in at 3:02. T2 I breezed though then realised I was still carrying my bike arm sleeves ERROR 8, so went back and put them in my bag, which proceeded to fall off the peg & I get called back again…. ERROR 9 I decided that the trainers I bought a month ago would be worn in by now, then realised as I was leaving transition I had only done a park run a 10k & a 5k in them, but here we were ready for last leg of Ironman.
The run was feeling good, the sun was now pretty hot & I took a salt tablet as I’d felt a bit of thigh cramp coming on the bike hills I didn’t want it to manifest running. Well the route has a couple of hills one of them a right bastard upto a castle and was a two loop run. First loop ok, grabbed water & electrolyte & a gel BUT by mile 8 I was feeling it, I was on par for sub 2 and tried to keep pushing but needed something inside me, mainly liquids on this change of nutrition (it could have just been mental too as I’m used to cliff bars on the bike & break one in bits for first part of run) So I grabbed a banana at mile 8 ERROR 10 and almost immediately after finishing it I puked somewhere between mile 8&9….. this brought on a walk to mile 10 combined with cramps kicking in from the hills (missing my sub 2 by 6 mins) and I grabbed a coke to get rid of puke mouth! The coke almost made me heave again but also gave me the boost to tackle the hills as a 30/30 run walk. I did them and as I was on last descent I saw John-Luke on his way up. 2 miles to go I had a couple of little walks and picked up to a nice trot back into town. Round the corner & over the line with (you gotta see the video) a bit of Morcambe & Wise 😝🤣
All in a good race, lots of errors but they didn’t have drastic effects, some even enhanced it. The course was OK, I could’ve been at Frensham pond for the swim with a cycle back via surrey hill area to Godleming and done the run round there the areas very similar in all aspects. I wouldn’t rush to do it again purely due to the traffic logistics & if I’m honest I was a little disappointed in the whole Ironman presence, after seeing Lanzarote many times & going to Vichy last year, both being very OTT i guess I had high expectations, forgetting those both host full IM too so I guess have double the budget.
It was however still a good race to be part of, missed sub 6hours by 7mins but can see where I can shave that off hopefully, if I’d made the 1:58 run as planned and on par till I puked I would’ve done it, but it’s still the best yet. If you want to do it I’d say go for it, don’t let my logistical nightmare put you off, just go FRIDAY and make sure you book it at tier 1 as that’s about the max pricing I’d pay todo it 😉
If you’ve read this far….. well done!!

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