IRONMAN UK 2005 – Sherborne Race Report
I arrived in Sherborne in the early afternoon on a scorching hot day to start registration and collect transition bags, pre-order some photos, and have a wander around
the TRIUK Expo. We were staying at the Half Moon Hotel in Sherborne (recommended), which I booked up very early this time, as last year we were
accommodated in Poole, which left quite a distance to travel each day on the country roads. As the room wouldn’t be ready until 3pm, it gave us plenty of time to
soak up the sun in a couple of beer gardens (orange juice only!). That night we gave the pasta party a miss and decided to eat in the hotel restaurant; thankfully, we
were residents as it was absolutely mobbed and other competitors were being turned away. (Note #5) A couple of hours later, I packed my Bike & Run transition
bags, only to find myself unpacking and checking them again before going to sleep!
Race Brief, Bike Rack & Bag Check-in
Got up around 8.30 for breakfast, after which I checked the contents of my transition bags (yet again) and noticed I’d forgot to fill my fuel belt with my race
nutrition for the run. Check, check and re-check – it pays off. After I’d sorted that out, I headed up to the race area around 10.30am - on what was another scorching
day - to put my bike together and give it a short test ride. After a massage at the transition area to ease off the car journey stiffness (well worth it), I spent a couple of
hours checking the bike and convinced myself I was good to go, so headed off to transition to hand in the bike and bags. As I now had an hour to kill before race
brief, I had a wander around the EXPO and relieved myself of a few quid. I attempted to do the same at the drinks stall, as it was now extremely hot, only to find
that they didn’t accept Scottish notes! Despite trying to reason with the stall holder, she wasn’t going to budge. Fortunately, I managed to find some pound coins
back in the car, which bought me a small bottle of water. However, the money incident had wound me up and is worth noting if you are travelling to another country
(Note #1 - England?). Anyway, 2pm came and it was time for the race brief, where I bumped into Roy & Chris. The briefing clarified a few issues, thanked the
various parties involved in making the event possible (volunteers - well done) and then went on to questions. As the heat in the marquee was building quite
substantially with 1500 competitors crammed in and the sun baking down, people started to leave as soon as the questions started. I felt it was time to get away from
race scene for a bit and headed back into Sherborne to join Pauline for some lunch and a stroll. Later in the evening, it was an early meal in the hotel and tucked-up
in bed for 10pm – ready for the 3am rise!
Alarm first rang out at 3am, quickly followed by a poke at the snooze button - I was staying in Sherborne after all, and it was only 5mins up the road to transition.
Second time the alarm went off, I crawled out of bed and stared out at the darkness through the bedroom window. After a quick wash and a bit of scrambling about,
I was ready to leave. Pauline was having a lie in as the race wasn’t due to start until 6am and she would just be standing about whilst I pottered about in transition.
Transition didn’t start filling up until around 4.45am, with people generally adding their race nutrition and bottles to their bikes, and checking tyre pressures etc. As
the type of race nutrition for the aid stations was published quite late – it was Gatorade - I had decided to stick with what I’d tried in training – Leppin Energy Boost
(Carbs drink) and Maximuscle Recovermax (Protein/Carb mix).
I was pretty much set up and continued to scoff the odd banana and drink plenty. I was quite surprised by the number of 1st timers I came across and, from
announcements on the Friday night, it looked like there was just over half of the race entry having a go for the first time. It was now nearing time to get the wetsuit
on and hand in my bag with dry clothes for changing at the finish. As I emptied my swim kit out onto the grass and started to get changed, I couldn’t help but notice
that it was quite a chilly morning, with still no sign of sunlight and only a light layer of mist hanging about. A short time later, the tannoy crackled into life asking
competitors to make their way to the holding area as the race was likely to get underway very soon.
To cut a long story short, we were all down at the water’s edge for a further two hours in our wetsuits, waiting for the mist to lift and for the race to get underway.
During that time, everyone was doing their best to keep warm as the grass was wet and very cold. Fortunately, I had managed to catch sight of Pauline in the crowd
and managed have a natter to pass the time before finally being given the go-ahead to actually enter the water (Note # 4). About 10 mins after that, everyone was in
the water and the race got under way. As I had experienced the turmoil of previous open water starts, I decided to hang back and have a bit of clear space to get into
my stroke - it was going to be a long day regardless and a few seconds at the start wasn’t going to make much difference. Thankfully, the swim went as planned and
I managed to stay out of trouble, exiting the water in around 70mins without any incidents. Then it was a gentle jog through transition to get ready for the bike.
On exiting the water, plenty of volunteers were on hand to help get the wetsuit off if required. There was also separate mens/womens screened areas for those who
wanted a complete change of clothing. I took advantage of this as I had decided that 112 miles in a damp trisuit with minimal chamois didn’t appeal at all. Instead, I
opted for cycle shorts and top which I had tried out in training.
I made a conscious effort to start of nice and easy on the bike and started getting some nutrition down my neck after about 15mins. For the first 60mins, everything
went smoothly, although it was hard letting others pass me without responding – I kept reminding myself to stick to my own race plan and heart rate. Approx 12M
into the bike the first Aid Station approached - I dumped my empty bottle ready to replenish and took up position behind those in front. After collecting my bottle,
the unexpected happened and some muppet hit me full force from behind and sent me flying off my bike – obviously too busy looking at the bottle he was collecting
as opposed to the cyclists around him! We both then ended up being helped off the road as support staff started tending to the cuts and gashes. The next 10 minutes
felt like an eternity as I started to assess the situation and wondered whether I’d be able to continue. My right calf had taken the full impact of his front wheel and
had seized up totally; my right elbow was sliced open, as was the knee (this was probably the lowest point in the race for me). That said, assessing the situation, my
thoughts were that 17hrs is long time and as long as I was going forward, the finishing line would be getting nearer, so I decided
to get back on the bike and see if I could at least complete the cycle leg. I would have to reassess my running abilities later.
I grabbed my bike and went to check I had sufficient nutrition on the bike, only to discover my protein/carb mix and
concentrated leppin drink had both hit the road at the same time I did! So much for the advice in not trying anything new on race
day, I had no choice now but to continue by using the nutrition provided (Gatorade). I took the next hour very easy as I tried to
stretch out my calf and adjust to not being able to use my tri bars because to the gash on my elbow. Very soon, spirits were on
the up and finishing the bike seemed like a distinct possibility, so I decided to up the effort to try and make back some of the
time I’d lost (Note #2 – big mistake). The next few hours were pretty steady going as I concentrated on trying to keep my pace
and continue to eat and drink. However, around the 88 mile point, my appetite decided to ‘exit stage left’ and I found it a real
struggle to get nutrition down, only managing the odd dried apricot and gel – this didn’t bode well if I was going to make it out
onto the marathon. I managed to get some comfort from the fact that not too many people were going past me and, signs were I
wasn’t the only one going through a bad patch. Despite the lack of energy and the somewhat hilly final stages of the bike course,
I continued to push on and try and keep my cadence up in the hope I would be okay when it came to the run/walk off the bike in
Transition 2. Very soon, the hope of getting to transition took on a more urgent appeal - the need to find a porta-loo became
rather desperate as my digestive system went into revolt. Fortunately, it wasn’t too long before I was heading back through
Sherborne and into the transition area.
Once in transition, it was first-things-first and a stop off at one of the many loos. This gave me a few minutes to collect my
thoughts and decide if the marathon was an option. I felt well-and-truly drained of all energy but, that said, my calf didn’t feel
too bad and I was definitely capable of walking/jogging. Add to that, I still had about 8 1/2 hours left before cut off – finishing
was a distinct possibility and I definitely wanted that T-Shirt! At that time, I also remembered a quote from John Collins in
one of the Kona Ironman Wolrd Championship DVD’s I have, talking about the Ironman race, during which he stated – “…If
you give up in an Ironman race, no one else really cares - but you’ll always know”. After collecting my run bag I went
off to get changed, during which I heard the tannoy announcing the arrival of Bryan Rhodes, the first finisher! Another
moment of frustration passed as it had been a private goal of mine to get out onto the marathon before the winner crossed the
line. Anyway, down to the business of putting Vaseline on various body parts in preparation for a long final stage. It didn’t
feel it at the time but my results showed I spent around 15mins in transition between the bike and run!
Despite feeling a bit light-headed, I jogged out of transition and immediately
stocked up on some gels and bananas. The first part of the run was through
Sherborne, which was lined with people, with many of them shouting out my
name – my spirits were immediately on the up. About 10mins into it, I
passed Brad and Martin lying on the grass soaking up the sun – very
tempting to flop down and join them but I just about managed a smile for the
camera and jogged on by. I continued through Sherborne and out onto the
main road to Yeovil - which was a part of the course I wasn’t looking forward to. This part of the course felt the
longest: running along featureless dual carriageway, all the time knowing I had to do it all again on the return leg.
Once again, at about 4 miles into the run, a portaloo became the priority. I won’t go into details but this pretty
much set the theme for the marathon, as the nutrition I was taking on was pretty much going straight through!
Once into Yeovil, again there were plenty of people about encouraging all the competitors and this certainly helped
the time pass quicker. Throughout this part of the run, I also found myself alongside other athletes running at the
same pace which provided a welcome moment of distraction as we had the chance to exchange a few words of
encouragement with each other. Slowly but surely, the miles ticked by and a regular check of the watch confirmed
a finish was still on the cards. At about the 10-mile point, I passed Niell & Roy jogging along, enjoying a chat –
they certainly looked a lot better than I felt and at least they wer heading for home.
The next goal for me was the turnaround at Montacute House. Unfortunately, this was preceded by a long uphill drag from the main road which brought me to
shuffle pace but I was still moving forwards.
Very shortly afterwards, I found myself approaching the entrance gates to the long driveway leading up to the house. By this stage, the sun was starting to set, and
the realisation that it would be well-and-truly dark when I finished began to sink in. Once again, the volunteers at the turnaround point were fantastic and full of
good spirits and words of encouragement (much needed at this stage). Knowing I was now on the way home was a huge mental boost and, although I continued to
feel pretty crap and still regularly visited my old friend,the porta-loo, I couldn’t help but smile to myself. I took time to out to reflect on the challenges the day had
presented thus far and the fact I was at long last heading home, and finally spared a thought for Pauline who was waiting patiently at the finish, camera poised. The
return leg through Yeovil saw a vast reduction in spectators as darkness had finally fallen and the temperature had started to drop. The volunteers and marshals
continued to provide welcome sustenance and encouragement along the route although, by this time, I was so sick of bananas and gels I would have loved to have
got my hands on something like a bacon roll or a Big Mac.
After Yeovil, it was back out onto the dual carriageway and the last long uphill drag. This time I found this part of
the run much more enjoyable, as I only had around an hour to go and could feel the smile getting bigger. For much
of the journey along the dual carriageway, there was a constant stream of
cars going in the opposite direction (finishers) all flashing their lights and
honking their horns in encouragement and - to my surprise - I even had
the energy to give them a thumbs-up or wave in appreciation.
Very soon, I was entering Sherborne again, this time with only a couple of
miles to go. Even with only a few runners around me at the time, you
could still feel the collective energy and pace start to lift in anticipation of
the finish line approaching. Winding back though the streets we last
visited some five hours ago, I was very quickly becoming a melting pot of
emotions as I could now hear the commentator clearly and see the glow of
the lights from the transition area. Entering through the gates of
Sherborne castle grounds I almost laughed out loud as the delight of
approaching the finish finally came to the surface and, ninety seconds
later, with crowds cheering all around the finish, I finally crossed the line
– an IRONMAN!
Once again, Brad & Martin were on hand offering their congratulations and so too was Pauline, as glad to see me cross
the line as I was to be crossing it. It had been one hell of a long day at the office, a rollercoaster of highs and lows but, in
the end, when I crossed that line, it became just one big high. Next stop -the tattooist.
For those of you thinking about an Ironman in 2006, I would thoroughly recommend it and hope I have given you some idea of what the day entails for the UK’s
own Ironman event. I have listed some points below which may be of interested to first timers and would also recommend the book “Going Long”, which I used as
a constant reference guide over the last year. So, whether you just want to finish an event or if you fancy qualifying for Kona, RAFTri now has a wealth of
experience with ‘M-Dot status’ amongst its ranks who I am sure will only be too happy to give advice. For those with Kona aspirations, who better to call on than
our own Mat Stevenson with an awesome result this year.
Below I have detailed the results for competitors that had RAF or RAFTA listed as their club.
Race No Forename Surname Total
27 AL HADNETT 11:00:07
469 CHRISTOPHER STURGESS 11:41:33
571 DEAN BETTS 12:08:33
1211 ROY BRUNNING 13:25:18
686 NEILL GOWANS 13:25:18
256 MICHAEL DEWAR 13:41:55
799 SEAN MCHUGH 14:31:12
For those interested in heart rate data:
HR [bpm] HR [bpm]
20 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13
12 14 15 16 17 18
0:00:00 2:00:00 4:00:00 6:00:00 8:00:00 10:00:00 12:00:00 14:00:00
HR: 130 bpm
Calorie rate: 608 kcal/60min
Person Sean McHugh Date 21/08/2005 Heart rate average 136 bpm Limits 1 120 - 147
Exercise IMUK 21 Aug 2005 Time 08:10:10 Heart rate max 170 bpm
Sport Swimming Duration 14:42:47.4 Distance 233.0 km
Note knocked off bike @ 2.26, started again @ 2.31, injury to calf foot, elbow, knee. Selection 0:00:00 - 14:42:45 (14:42:45.0)
Points to note:
1. Make sure you have the correct currency in use by the race nation.
2. Stick to your race plan as tried in training – exceeding your endurance heart rate at any time will only ensure your tank empties before you reach the finish
line. Regardless of how you feel, I would recommend sticking to your plan until at least 13 miles into the run.
3. Find out what race nutrition will be available on the course as early as possible and try and train with it well in advance of the race. If you don’t – take loo
roll with you.
4. Take nutrition in a disposable drinks bottle to the swim start – if it is delayed, you’ll have something to drink, rather than starting your race dehydrated.
5. If you are travelling, ensure you plan where you are going to eat in the days leading up to the event– Sherborne is quite a small place and you can quickly
find yourself running out of options if you haven’t booked a table in one of its restaurants. There’s nothing worse than going hungry before a race.
6. Remember your initial goals (ie to finish). The closer you get to race day, it’s amazing how your goals start to shift towards other possibilities. If you’ve
never completed an Ironman before, your only goal should be to finish - anything else is a bonus.
7. Remember, everyone competing will go through highs and lows – just keep going.
8. There is always someone having a worse day than you! - someone at Sherborne did the majority of the bike course without a saddle due to the rails breaking!