Ironman UK 2022 – Part 1 – Why?


By popular request this will be a three part blog:

Part 1 – Why oh Why? 

Part 2 – Narrative 

Part 3 – Technical Annex (what worked or didn’t etc)


I am 6 and a half hours and 97 miles into the rainy, windy and hilly Ironman UK bike ride when I hear a rhythmic swoosh swoosh swoosh – I look down and wonder if it’s my shoe rubbing against my pedal crank. It’s not. It’s a puncture. It’s a puncture on my rear tyre. The one with the busted(?) valve core meaning pit stop goo isn’t an option. I stop outside a house with views across the moors at the back of Entwistle Reservoir. A man dressed as a sort of “Macho man” Randy Savage is providing music and entertainment. It’s as good as any place to change the tube. Thirty cramp filled minutes later I’m on my way nursing a partially filled tyre but I won’t make a 7hr 30min bike and to get my C goal of sub 14 seems impossible. 

Ironman is a challenge. It is meant to be hard. It requires sacrifice, commitment, resilience, courage, determination, discipline, and other great buzzwords from motivational posters.

While some people on the internet (sorry internet person) are notoriously stupid there are some who think Ironman owe them a tee and a medal, that the race is an event or even a virtual event where you pay for the medal and just tick a box to say you did it – no proof needed. That Ironman is next weekend. Or any weekend. If you want the trinkets and trappings to show off that you completed the event (in the time) you have to do the work (or try eBay). 

The thing about wanting the medal, the tattoo or a time is that this extrinsic motivation, it is weak and falls apart once challenged in a demanding situation. It does not fulfil your basic psychological needs. Not wanting to get too ‘wannabe MBA because I’ve read an airport business book’ I’ll eschew Simon Sinek in favour of Nietzsche/Viktor Frankl “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”. 

Before this event I had stated I thought I could go sub 14 and possibly much better on a good day and I thought I’d have a good head-to-head with my brother as a fun race. 

At some point last year while bobbin’ on the ogin and dreaming of doing ‘normal’ things I entered IMUK. I hoped it would give me a focus and bridge the change from being away to getting back. I’m not sure it fully achieved that. As I look at the ‘wall of pain’ my wife has made while I was away this weekend it is obvious that endurance sport has been in my life for a long time and what I lack in talent I gain in an ability to suffer.

If we jump back on my bike on the hills, I am lazily grinding my way back to T2 knowing that I can take it easy and complete the bike well inside cut offs in 8hrs. I know I can then walk the marathon and finish in time. Having had cramp while changing the inner tube I couldn’t imagine I would have a good run. Maybe I can do a 5 hour marathon? I could pack it in and call it a good effort – I’d punctured – woe is me. I thought about times. I thought about how to explain letting people down. Then I thought about how I like running and how I had a plan (9 min on/1 min walk) so I should just do that and feed off the crowd. It’s not my first rodeo. To me completing an Ironman is a (corporate) manifestation of sacrifice, commitment, resilience, courage, determination and discipline that I lampooned earlier. 

Suffering – Resilience

Intrinsic process leads to extrinsic results. So, after cramping putting my shoes on in T2 I set off into the now sunny Bolton afternoon. I focus on the enjoying the run. 9 min on with a minute walking. I get into a rhythm. I stay in the middle of the road to avoid high 5s which require too much effort. Every lap I see people complete their race “You are an Ironman”. I think about how I will feel heading towards the finish. I realise my brother is half a lap ahead, 30 minutes, a puncture. I am not lamenting his excellent performance but the amazing experience we could have had running the marathon together and to finish together (our individual and separated marathon times were 7 sec apart). 

As I head back toward Bolton with 2 laps completed, I realised that my metronomic belief had me under 10 min/miles to complete the race in under 14 hours. The GPS was jumping around under the trees and so it was hard to know what to believe. I just kept moving. I passed my family who had given us great support all day on the course and finally got to run up the carpet and finish under 14 hours. I could barely believe it. Those immortal words “You are an Ironman” felt so good to hear.

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