Andy Robinson completes Ironman UK

Huge congratulations to SLOW member Andy Robinson who completed Ironman UK on Sunday. In tough, windy conditions Andy completed a 2.4 mile swim in Sherborne Lake, 112 mile cycle around hilly Dorset lanes and a marathon in a total time of 15 hours 44 minutes – well inside his 16 hour target.

Here is Andy’s report of the event:

The bare bones are:
Swim 1:41:10
Bike 8:04:27
Run 5:31:29
Both transitions 26:54
Total 15:44:00
Position 1124 out of 1193 finishers and 1298 starters

Ironman has been something I’ve wanted to do since completing the HalfIM down in Sherborne in 2003. Firstly I had to wait for it to be upgraded to the full distance, and then I kept comparing the injury situation with the entry deadline and thinking better of it. But just before last Xmas I bit the bullet and invested the £240 entry fee. Yes that size of fee makes it quite a commitment from the start.

Training had 3 aims
1) Work out how to swim as far as 3.8km
2) Build up the mileage on the bike
3) Avoid running injuries.
1 I just about managed; 2 worked fine, but 3 was something of a disaster area. No sooner had I got the calves sorted out when the back went into spasm. Training for the 8 months to 31 August comprised 76 hours swimming, 149 on the bike but only 53 hours running. The first 2 had a progressive build-up while the last had random fluctuations and nothing of any length.

Still I had thought through race scenarios, developed coping strategies and was there on the start line. First action on race day was to get my back taped up. I’d being seeing Helen Westerby-Cox and she had come up with a plan, but with my wife being absent due to a recent hospital op, I had to find someone to put the tape on. Fortunately a guy called Mike from the orienteering club was there supporting some Serpies and agreed. He was most bemused at my instructions to stick this weird pattern of tape on my back under a flood light at 5.15 in the morning.

Strategy for the swim involved a new top of the range wetsuit, plenty of Ibuleve on the calves and a determination to swim through cramp. Added to this I was last into the water and headed straight for the back of the lake where people were standing up. It meant an extra 3 minutes swimming once the race started but that was preferable to 10 minutes wallowing about. Basically it worked and although cramp slowed me a lot near the end I was out of the water only slightly over expected time.

Into T1 and what to wear? I selected short sleeve top and thermal vest on the basis of some sunshine. It proved only just enough as there was steady drizzle at times on the bike. I’d wanted to enjoy the bike ride but the nasty NW wind and frequent drizzle meant that was impossible; especially annoying was the last 6 miles of each lap being into the wind. Again a bit over predicted time but nothing to worry about and confident of finishing.

T2 and time to unleash the secret weapons – a cheese sandwich and packet of peanuts – tasted good. I’d noted that people who finished near the end averaged 24 minutes in both transitions and was determined to take that time and use it wisely. I’ve done enough long distance things to realise that time spent on a quality stop to sort out food and equipment is often recouped many times over before the finish is reached.

Onto the run. The coping strategy here was to have sections of walking right from the start. So I walked up hills; I walked at feed stations; I walked at mile markers and did some sums. Never running more than a few hundred metres at any time. As a plan I reckon it worked brilliantly; the back tape did its job perfectly and some hip trouble I’ve had only started to take effect from 19 miles. Lap splits of 1-42, 1-49 and 2-00 show the effect of the hip trouble and blinding by floodlights after dark.

The crowds were brilliant – although very much thinner by lap 3, except for the pupils of the boys’ school who were having a whale of a time. Those left had all gathered at the finish and made the last 200m a very pleasant experience. After the race they look after you well too; medal, T shirt and photo dealt with quickly and you are ushered into the area for changing, massage, sandwiches and a curry (korma with mushroom rice).

Was it the hardest thing I’ve done? Definite no. I was in no doubt all day and therefore had reserves left.

Would I do another one? Equally definite no. The job has been done. The box has been ticked . Its time to move on.