Ironman UK in Bolton

Published: Sun 29 Jul 2018

Both G-Squad's Graeme Stewart and local club athlete Patrick Haston took on Ironman UK this year in Bolton.
Graeme finished up with the top athletes in an impressive 08:48:18 to take 15th overall. Patrick finished in 11.56.58

A great effort for a man who not content with doing an Ironman is also taking on a building project, on top of an already busy family and work life. Read Patrick's account below of how to get the best out of yourself during an Ironman day, even if you haven't managed to get as much training in as you'd have liked:

"This was to be my third long distance triathlon and I had a good idea of what was ahead of me. Bolton is unusual in that it has a split transition. There were buses laid on to take the athletes from the town centre to the start and T1 at Pennington Flash, a lake a few miles south west of the town.

I hadn't had the best of preparations so I reset my goals for the race. I planned to take it at a very steady pace, make sure I took on board plenty of food and kept hydrated, especially important because it was forecast to be in the mid to high twenties.

The swim was a rolling start, we lined up on the land in a long pen with markers for predicted times, just like the start of road race. I joined some distance back. This sort of start is a lot easier than a mass start because your chip time doesn't start until you enter the water, so it's not such a mass scramble. It's easier to swim slightly wide and keep clear of the main bunch. There were two laps in the swim, with an Australian start (you get out of the water, run along for a few metres and then run into the water to start the second lap).

I was looking for the bouy marking the first turn and was a bit disappointed to see how far away it was. It felt like I had been swimming for ages! That was my first reminder of just how long an IronMan swim is. At least the water was warm. In fact it was so warm that the pro's had to swim without wetsuits. To pass the time I focused on my technique, ensuring that I was maintaining good form and swimming efficiently.

I didn't feel hugely confident so I tried to stay out of trouble. It would have been more efficient to draft another swimmer but I felt more comfortable having clear water in front of me. My nod to efficiency was to exit the water with an empty bladder.

I wasn't rushing in transition but I still managed to forget my Garmin. Next time I will put it on my bike. Another error was to take too much water on my bike: I had a water bottle mounted on my tri bars and two more behind my saddle. There were plenty of feed stations and I could have managed with just the one.

My new helmet performed brilliantly, as did my new bike. I'd practiced with them so I was used to them both. I wear glasses, and my new helmet has a visor that protects my eyes from the wind, insects and the sun. It wasn't cheap but I didn't regret a penny.

The bike route was twisty with a few wee hills; nothing as big as Essich hill but enough to be a challenge. There were crowds on some of them and it was a great feeling to cycle up past cheering spectators, it felt like being in the Tour de France!

On the bike I concentrated on eating and drinking regularly, although without a watch it was hard to keep track. I had to do it by feel, which basically meant eating as much as I could comfortably manage. As in the swim, I focused on my technique, keeping in a low gear with a high cadence. I tried to make sure I was never pushing hard on the pedals. It seemed to work because I passed more than I was overtaken but it always felt comfortable. Although I wasn't fully fit I still had one of my best bike legs. This was probably helped by the bike route being slightly shorter due to ongoing wildfires in the area.

At T2 I was able to find my bike rack spot quickly using the landmarks I had spotted when walking the transitions the day before. My transition would have been quicker if there hadn't been a queue for the loos but I calculated that it was better to go then than have to break my run later.

The run was four laps, with a section through the town centre, a seriously hilly bit through a park, and a long out and back section. The heat was severe, and I realised I would have to take on much more fluids than normal. I decided to walk through every feed station, and there were loads on the course. I remember Jill suffering from drinking too much water during a very hot Outlaw a few years ago and ending up in hospital so I mainly drank the isotonic drink provided and sometimes cola for variety. I also grabbed a cup of water to pour over my head. Sometimes the water had ice added, which was lovely.

I ran at a very steady pace, much slower than my normal marathon pace, and combined with all the walking, my run time was very slow. But I think I judged it right for the conditions. I kept a bit back for the final lap, but there wasn't much in the tank and I was only able to pick up the pace a little, but it was heartening to pass so many people, many of them reduced to walking.

In terms of preparation, this was easily my worst race, but by making smart decisions on the day I achieved a much better result than I deserved."