6.45am on an overcast Sunday morning, I pull the car into a deserted motorway services just south of Lancaster and wait for friends. Stood in shorts and t-shirt, passing motorists looked for a second and went back to their thoughts and their journeys. Little did they know that I was about to experience a day of epic proportions. Standing there in the light drizzle, goosebumps forming on my forearms, I spared a thought for the 1300 men and women who just down the road were already swimming like their lives depended on it. It wouldn’t be the last time that I had goosebumps that day.
Ironman UK takes place just outside Bolton, and is essentially a local race for me. This year COLT ( City of Lancaster Triathlon ) had 17 athletes competing, 12 of whom were experiencing the pain and elation of Ironman for the first time. For the past 3 years the club has supported in Addlington, a small village on the bike course. It has now become known as “COLT Alley”, the black&white supporters take residence with our flags and banners and scream our heads off. It doesn’t matter where you are from you will get screamed at.
I stood there from 7.40am until 4.30pm, me and my clubmates never stopped clapping or screaming at people. My hands were red raw and my voice had gone when I arrived home. Add to that a nuclear sunburn, after I made the rookie mistake of only applying sunscreen at 8am, and not red-doing it because it was overcast.
Each time a COLT shot past we went ballistic, goosebumps every time! I’d trained with some of these people for the past 12 months, a couple of which had only got into triathlon through reading this blog. It was an amazing feeling seeing them put their bodies on the line and watching the smiles on their faces as the passed us each lap, not one of them once didn’t crack a smile or give a thumbs up. Not even the sub 10 hour guys.
I didn’t make it to the run course, after 9 hours, of clapping and screaming I was knackered. I saw the last COLT safely past. It was 10 minutes to transition. I headed home and kept in touch by phone and the athlete tracker. What a day though, what an atmosphere, the banter with the riders, just amazing. If you’ve never experienced an Ironman race as either a competitor or a supporter, go and do so, you won’t regret it. Go and shout at strangers, from all parts of the globe, I guarantee you’ll get a smile, and it will make you smile.
So the club got a range of pbs, newbie Ironmen and for the 3rd year on the run we’re sending people to Kona. Richard Mason and Chris Wild both qualified, it couldn’t have happened to two nicer blokes. It’s been their dream for years and both really deserve it. It was just the icing on the cake for Team COLT.
A special mention MUST go to Team True Spirit, a team of British armed forces men and women who had been injured, and we are taking horrendous injuries. They became Ironmen and raised a hell of a lot of money at the same time. I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO INSPIRED AS I WAS WATCHING DOUBLE LEG AMPUTEE JOE TOWNSEND come past on a handbike. That guy should be the definition of brave, inspirational and tough. He and his team mates got the biggest cheer of the day. As the French would say Chapeau.
I had some great news yesterday, the book has sold out worldwide, what is there in shops now is all that’s left. However it will be going for another print run in the next week or so. Far surpassing my wildest dreams for a book that I thought would be very niche, and read by a few hundred people at most, not the thousands that have. So a great big thank you to everyone that has supported me with my writing, by reading my blogs and the book. My hands are still sore from Ironman UK but I’d just like to offer you a small round of applause as a thank you…..clap, clap, clap.
Finally, I’ve been invited to be a weekly columist at one of the USA’s largest traithlon websites, EveryManTri. It’s a great resource with some quality articles. My column will be published every Sunday, check it out here
And finally ( I promise ) good luck to all the Pirates racing at Ironman Regensburg this weekend.