Report by Elswick’s Mark Turnbull. Enjoy the read & photos. I booked up with the Ponteland Tri group as an event like this is so much smoother, less stressful and more enjoyable when approached in numbers, and with 7 competitors and up to around 13 supporters it was fantastic. A mixture of Ironman virgins and hardened competitors looking for a time. Below: Left, Elswicks Mark Turnbull & Mike Russell & 5 make 7!
A brief diary of the weekend’s events:
Thursday – check into hotel – oh how we laughed when Mark Kelly and I, who were sharing a room, were told there were no twins left. Receptionist – “It’s ok guys the bed’s big” (it wasn’t). Luckily David and Sarah Levison swapped their twin room, phew! Registration and then a couple of beers (honest)… and then a couple of small red wines!
Friday – morning 1 hour easy bike planned – but (the Hotel porter man) broke my presta valve blowing the tyre up – omg! Mended it and went out a bit later, 6 miles down the road – bang it broke again and had to limp back to base. Getting that fixed was very stressful as I couldn’t get the right valve extender and it wasn’t properly ‘fixed’ until the Saturday. Friday afternoon – briefing by Mr Ironman, Paul Kaye and then an easy swim.
Saturday – backwards and forwards to a bike shop a couple of times and then an hour ride just to make sure everything was ok – no problems phew! bike racking, transition bag prep and eating lots.
Sunday – Race Day – we awoke to thunder and lightning, rain and rough seas. The start was at 8:20 ish so fairly late by normal triathlon standards. The overall race strategy was the same for 3 of us, myself, David and Steve: swim survival, bike 5 hrs (23 mph) and run 3:20 to 3:30 plus transitions should be an easy sub 10 hours.
Swim: I did 1:17 which was a pb for me, but I’d hoped for a quicker time in calm conditions. There was at least a 6 foot swell that provided a few comical moments but ended some races there and then with people struggling in the shore break. Once out it was a bit choppy with the wind/current blowing you down the course and then a struggle back looking for small buoys hidden behind the swell. The photo really does not do the 6 feet swells justice!
Bike: very flat and very busy is the best description, with a few rain showers making roundabouts treacherous. Unfortunately quite a few crashes on the slippy roundabouts including the overall winner, but also John Mc Gargill in our party who dislocated/broke his shoulder L – oh no everyone was gutted for him to say the least, but I think he’s on the mend already and booking up another. There was actually a hill put in that you had to climb twice, obviously on a 2 lap course, but we went up it at 20 mph with the wind behind! I can’t believe that some people were actually complaining about the hilly course – clearly never been to Northumberland. Three of the guys got penalties that seemed very random, more for ‘blocking’ when trying to get off the front of a group. My strategy was to start the swim as near to the front as possible, so as to be cycling at the faster end of the field and it pretty much worked. It mainly consisted of bridging over from one group to the next group, each one faster than the last until about 20 miles to go I couldn’t get off the front and had to sit in a peloton eating my lunch and taking in the scenery (in an Ironman!). Actually very frustrating as you feel you could go faster. Finished the bike on 5:05, just under 23 mph average.
Run: early target pace was 7:30/mile with an 8 minute backstop which I’d roughly worked out on the fly would get me to 9:59. I ran a 1:40 1st half and a 1:49 2nd for a 3:29 marathon. I actually thought I was fine for 9:59 until pretty much the finish. The final 10 km I had 48 minutes – no problem right? Didn’t factor the aid stations and stopping for another wee (aaaggghh) and finished on 10:01, 10th in the V 50 category. I’m chuffed with that – went for it, gave it a good crack and a minute doesn’t matter, it was a superb event and I achieved the target (very nearly). Time just slips away everywhere during the course of an Ironman, quite apart from being a slow swimmer, 3 wee stops, wet roads on the bike, a bit of nutrition walking on the run – all adds up and the clock stops for no-one!
Steve smashed all 3 disciplines out the park and finished 9:44!Very well done. David was ahead of me nearly all the way and would have finished an easy sub 10, but reached his sugar intake limit on the 2nd half of the run and finished just behind me – also a bit disappointed to miss the target.
Elswick’s Mike Russell made his long course debut, looking to have enjoyed the whole Ironman experience, relieved to have survived the swim and talking about next time already! Mark Kelly finished in a great time after some sporadic training and with a (self professed) alpha male body more suited to rugby than Ironman! Martin Hallissey (somehow not registered as Pont Tri) finished in an amazing 9:12, 8th in his category. That’s it, definitely recommended, would do it again in a flash. Finishers photos: Below left: The magic carpet & Elswick’s Mark Turnbull & right, Mike Russell.