Ironman UK 2015 by Dean Hanwell


I suppose everyone who signs up to their first IronMan thinks about the date and the event itself at some point everyday leading up it, whether that be for a brief second or a good hour. 

Reading up on the opinions of others, speaking with previous Iron men and women, planning what your going to do for each leg (would like to do), deciding what your nutrition will look like, what your going to wear (fashion&comfort) or considering the potential pitfalls during an event of such distance and time were the standard thoughts I had. 

You spend that much time thinking about it in some way or explaining what it is (always a great response 'How far!?') that for me I was pretty much raring to go and get the bloody thing over and done with. The last thing you want to end up with is a DNF for some reason or another! You'd have to wait a while, and think all over again...

Pre race: 

Myself, Neil 'The Penguin' Gray and Owen 'Granite Man' Barden (all IM virgins) travelled to the Macron on the Friday afternoon, attended the race brief and registered without much fuss, apart from Neil kicking off on security for not letting him get back into the expo...he got his way in the end. We also bumped into Ian 'The Silver Fox' Roche and Jay 'Beast Mode' Muscart which was great, feeling more settled seeing familiar faces from the club making the usual race chit chat! 

Me and Neil then went to Pennington Flash on the Saturday, had a little swim and racked our trusty steeds (numbers 724&725) next to each other. Feeling good after this knowing we just had to turn up and get on with it we made our way back home. 

The alarm goes of at 3, usual feeling that you've only just gone to bed, like going on holiday but with a different excitement. I make my way to the Flash with my mum, dad and Fiancé Becky, my bro Matt heads to Hunters Hill a little later.

So I do my standard toilet rituals (going a lot) and make sure my nutrition is all sorted on the bike. All good and I even find a port-a-loo with a really small queue which I returned to a few times. Happy days!

By now I'm in my wet suit doing what I usually do for any event, placing myself in a zone where my arousal levels are moderate. I remain composed while still firing myself up just enough. Then after a stretch it's a standard kiss and cuddle with the family. 

I see Neil and Jay pre-swim and I wish them luck as we make our way to our predicted start pens, I go for 1:10-1:15 planning for my time to be around 1:15 but making sure quicker swimmers are just in front of me and I get into the right area. 

I wee myself twice and take on a gel before walking down the pontoon into the water and starting my swim. I start relaxed and get into a good rhythm and can recall maybe 3/4 times only where I make any sort strong contact with anyone else. The main one was getting cracked by someone at the back of the head, it hurts but composure remains and I don't let it worry me. 

After 1 lap I Aussie exit and check my watch, happy with the split I continue in a similar fashion knowing I will tire slightly towards the end of lap 2. I start to do my usual basic mathematical calculations which I recall from Primary School and times lap 1 by 2 adding a few mins on.

This lap is like a different climate, jungle rain bouncing down, impairing the sighting of buoys and eventually I feel the cold towards the back end. I pee twice more during the swim, I must be hydrated enough I tell myself, either that or I've developed a water infection. When I exit I look at my watch and see 1:15, pleased with this and on track but feeling cold I jog steadily into T1 to get myself sorted for the impending bike leg. 

The rain by now is a joke and transition is a steamy wet affair. I decided to put on my arm warmers and gilet, the benefit of this soon becomes apparent. I exit T1 hearing the shouts from mum, dad and Beck making sure I mount the bike sensibly in the conditions and off I go. Time for brekkie number 2 and I crack on with the flap jack. I'm
Thinking that 180km seems really long now and the conditions do nothing to inspire although I tell myself it'll get better and it's all character building. 

The bike plan is to stick to the heart rate and whatever that average speed ends up being then so be it. I want to stick to my plan. If I do this and struggle I can't complain, if I don't and struggle I'll be very annoyed post race. I want to run well off the bike and finish strong if at all possible. I'm not sure if it is but that's my aim.

After about an hour or so the rain starts to bait but this is soon replaced by some uncalled for wind and for the majority of the ride it's about, especially after Sheephouse HC The atmosphere and my sense of excitement starts to increase on the bike leg Knowing that by Hunters HC I will likely see family and friends from the club as planned as well as many other spectators I don't even know. I approach Hunters after a steady ride so far, as soon as I turn the corner and here the cheers and support I think "bollocks to the heart rate I'm pushing on up this hill". I over take good few and know full well this is not part of the plan but I can't resist and I love it!!! I see nobody I know and I'm genuinely disappointed but as I get back onto a flat and approach the Rigbye Arms pub I see Mick Heyes being an absolute class nutter! This spurs me on and even though I speed up again I manage to either hear or see Paul Williams, Chris Ryan, Gemma Sampson, photographer for the day in prime position Rob Fletcher and of course my family who I couldn't wait to see! Cries of "Oooooh Oooooh Oooooh" and cowbells/rattles make it a great buzz and off I go for lap 2.

I remember very clearly one young lad, about 8, supporting on one of the shorter hills. The first time I saw him he was shouting and encouraging everyone. Saying "your amazing, brilliant, the best". He's doing it again 2 hours later and this resonates greatly with me. I choke up and thank him, this is what it's all about and I've got goosebumps!

A very windy lap 2 includes my third wee on the bike (need to practice staying on the bike Al/Dani style) and I'm feeling it now. My neck is hurting and I'm out of the saddle a fair bit. I look down at my food bag next to my seat post and notice that I've lost my saddle bag including all of my mechanical equipment. I'm now praying for a safe, puncture free ride for 60km. Energy is fairly good but I cant wait to start the run by about 140km. I get into the last stretch of the bike and look out for people I know. I hear, then see LJ from work (Everton ladies) and she's shouting "go Deano" which was awesome. I also see my good mate Mac and his missus Claire, these familiar faces mean a great deal by now and only serve to inspire me and inject the energy needed. Brill!

In T2 I struggle initially to find my number, then I find it and get sorted in a much less wet and steamy tent than T1 which now seems so long ago! Cap on. Change of socks. Gels in race belt and off we go. Feeling great for the first 3km but resisting the temptation to run any faster I make my way out on to what I hope will be a great run atmosphere - I wasn't disappointed! 

Got to around 10km and start to have my first dip in energy levels. This continues to 15km then I pick up again. By now I'm on the Bolton town centre loop, it's tedious lapping but the amount of support is class and again I'm overwhelmed by the shouts of encouragement from people I don't know shouting "go Mersey Tri" or reading my race belt "go Dean". As I pass the finish area for the first time I see the family again, massive pick me up again! Owen Barden is running opposite me by now on the laps, he's running well and we take encouragement from each other's performance so far on our IM debut knowing that we will finish. He also pushes me on as I know he's a strong runner! I see the MT supporters group again...this time Mick has a traffic cone and he's shouting down it! I can't help but laugh even though I'm buggered! 

As the time passes I jump in a port-a-loo for run pee no.3...I later hear the family are worried when tracking the splits thinking something has gone wrong. It's like a festival bog and I'm trying to pee while avoiding throwing up. Stomach cramps are now common on the run and I can't stomach another gel. I'm stupidly trying to workout why pretzels are at the feed stations...after realising (salt) I stop for a light lunch. Pick me up! There was a point around 25km where I was pretty much smoked. I'm thinking how will I recover, can I recover or will it just get worse? I dig in and work through it and recover after about 32km. 

The support of one woman on the run course (the one who kept going "woo-hoo" and high fiving EVERYONE) was annoying me for 2/3 laps. By lap 3 I'm thinking you know what, like the young lad earlier this is brilliant, I high five her back and say thank you! She's worked hard too! 

More great support on the course from Matt Eglin, Tam and her sister. Matt runs with me for a few mins (lazy) and that passes the pain - Cheers!

I'm pleased to see Ian Roche is now running and he will be fine and put down a good split I'm sure! Also Neil Gray, he looks positive and I'm chuffed for him hoping he'll be ok with all that run training he's done!!! (50 mins to spare in the end - EASY).

I turn around at the feed station and I've got about 5km to go. I stay steady for 2 then feel ok knowing I'll be finishing in 3...I pick up the pace and attempt to finish strong as I had hoped I could. For some reason I feel awesome and start to motor passing lots of other runners...I'm buzzing by now and I start to grin taking off my hat with 1km go for the finish line. The line arrives and so does pure elation! 

I've done it! 12hours 3 mins and 21 seconds - I'm an IronMan! : )

Nobody can take that away from me, what a day! I embrace with my family and friends (tears) and say thank you! The support from Becky has been amazing and her unselfishness throughout the whole process is very much appreciated (Sunday rides at 6am). My mum and dad also deserve a special mention (chief supporters). A day at a triathlon is much harder than 2 hours of Sunday morning football! My bro Matt too, he completes his 70.3 a week later and I'm equally if not more proud of him then as he is of me today! 

The buzz I was told about for an IM was better than I thought. The support blew me away! On reflection as I lay horizontally on a sun bed in Tenerife:

I've earned this of course and I'm inspired. BUT the most important thing I'm thinking is: I'm able to do this, I'm lucky enough that physically I can. Some people do this with massive challenges or simply cannot, and that inspires me more! Push yourself to reach heights you aren't sure you can reach and be the best you can be...while eating cakes and boozing a bit along the way!