Well, what should have been the easiest most exciting blog I've ever written is gonna turn out to be my most difficult one to date.
The Lakesman, Set in beautiful Keswick in the heart of the Lakes takes some beating as a venue for a long course triathlon I think you will all agree. But why do this instead of an M dot race with a chance to qualify for the worlds. Well its practically half the price, you can spread the payments out and it is organized by a triathlete for triathletes. And I'm just skimming the surface. Couple that with the fact that the race director Paul made the decision to spread out the special needs around the course at the race briefing due to the tropical conditions and to ensure our safety then you just know you are in good hands at a great event with organizers who really care about the health of the athletes who as he said "are amateurs who do this for fun", something we all llose sight of from time to time. So, Paul you and your team take a bow, that really was a touch of class and something other event could really take notice of!!
The race, well how much fun was that. I went to the start with Johanna and our beloved springer Charley who couldn't understand why he couldn't go swimming. The girls, well, still in their pits asleep. I met a pal at the start and one of out IMTC athletes Ricky Dewhurst at the start and watched him destroy his swim cap, which was funny to me but a nightmare for poor Ricky who was doing his first long course, you really don't need the stress do you. While rick was getting his new cap I wandered into the beautiful Derwentwater which was surprisingly warm, and swam to the start gate. Loads of room I thought until the horn went and as always all that so called room disappeared. still you just get on with it. To be honest I just wanted to swim steady and relaxed as a lot of the work this year has been bike and run based at the moment, so I didn't expect any fireworks. That,s exactly what happened. I exited the water in 49th position with a very uninspiring 1:12:16 swim. The main thing was I was nice and relaxed and ready to hammer the bike. A nice quick T1 of 2:11 and it was off on to the fast 112 mile bike course.
"We believe that this is a simply superb route for a 112 mile triathlon bike course. Athletes will take in several miles of well-known local time trial routes as well as more undulating sections, all on generally excellent road surfaces. Whilst not flat, we have minimised the elevation and it currently comes in at less than most of the other UK based races of this distance". That how the organizers describe the bike course and that is exactly what it is. I had ridden the course a couple of weeks prior to the race with my good friend Andy Turner and had completed 95 miles in 4:30 without really killing ourselves. The plan was to ride with a normalized power output of about 240 watts for the ride and hopefully run a good marathon off the bike. Straight away on the A66 I was passing a lot of athletes which gave me heaps of encouragement. I was eating every 20 minutes which is standard for me on an Ironman. The only thing that was worrying me somewhat was the heat, it was scorchio and still really early in the day, already I was thinking about the run and the sufferfest that was on the way. This wasn't gonna be a case of who was the fastest, but, who slowed down the least!! by the time I was on the coast road heading towards Silloth I was basically on my own seeing very few athletes. I passed a guy just before the turn round who confirmed I had just moved into 4th about 4 minutes down. Brilliant, feeling great hitting the numbers with relative ease and gaining all the time. There was no need to change anything. On my second loop at the top end of the course I saw Lee and Carol Spoor, two of the biggest triathlon fans you could ever meet, this as always was great and the encouragement from them both for the rest of the day was second to none, so a massive thanks guys xx The rest of the bike was pretty uneventful, I continued to pick another couple of athletes to get to second and was informed I was 40 seconds down. The pass came at a perfect time in the perfect place, uphill. I saw the second placed athlete fighting with his bike with the lead car in front of him in a climb, I was gaining quickly without having to kill myself, but wanted to pass on the hill mainly because of the mental aspect. So that's what happened I passed just prior to the top of the hill still sat and on the aerobars, the sight of me disappearing into the distance along with the lead car couldn't have been to great for the guy now in second. Well this was a new experience leading a race on the bike with a lead car and pulling away all the time. Then it hit me. I had a chance of breaking 5 hours for the bike, new goal time. Going through Keswick to T2 was brilliant and load. The announcer had already warned the spectators that I was due in town, and man they were noisy. I got off the bike in a time of 4:53:53 the fastest bike of the day by some 18 minutes, chuffed doesn't even get close. All the hours on the wattbike doing ridiculous amount of intervals seems to have paid off. Another new experience being the only bike in T2 and having my bag emptied prior to me getting to the transition tent. Add to this my own pit crew handing me kit and spraying sun tan lotion on me and I was out of there in 1:56.
I had only told a few privileged people this but I was aiming for a sub 3 hour marathon. All the numbers in training suggested that this really was a possibility. The only thing that was bugging me was the fact that I had just ridden my fastest ever bike split for 112 miles and man was it hot, really hot. I had made some plans with the family and friends who were dotted round the course with special needs, mainly coke and ice!! Not a new experience but a real good one was having a lead bike to keep me company wit ha top bloke on board called Micheal. The plan was to run between 6:45 and 6:50 minute miles thus bringing me in, in under 3 hours which was happening quite easily for the first 15 miles. Add to this having Micheal going ahead at every aid station and warning the volunteers I was approaching and all was well in the world of Joe, pretty unusual pre ordering aid on a race i think you'll agree. On lap one I was about 20 minute up on the second placed athlete, so I knew someone would have to run a world class marathon to catch me if all things went to plan, but often does that happen on an Ironman. I was given coke from the family and ice from my pal Andy each lap, I was chuffed to see Adam Critchley and Chris Heyes on the only hill on the course giving me loads of encouragement. I had told Micheal that I was aiming for a sub three marathon, and until the middle of lap 4 out of 5 it was still on. Then the ageing body fired me a couple of warning shots, within 200 meters I had a twinge of cramp in my right calf and my left hamstring. That forced me to basically change my race goal to winning but without the 3 hour marathon, with that I slowed to 7:20 minute miles. Not a crisis as the guys told me I was now about 30 minutes up on second. The last lap was a case of hold the pace and enjoy. Encouragement and comments from the other athletes and volunteers was amazing, all suffering in the heat and on the course together but still clapping and shouting encouragement, what a sport. The run back to the finish was unreal, Micheal shook my hand and congratulated me prior to the park simply because of the noise. I walked down the finish chute not worrying about the finish time. All I wanted to do was find the family and all my friend who had been incredible all day keeping me going in the heat. I walked over the line with a marathon time of 3:05:25 the fastest marathon of the day by 13 minutes. My finishing time was 9:15:41 a PB of 14 minutes beating my previous best set at Challenge Roth in 2012 by 14 minutes. Chuffed, totally. What followed was another new experience, loads of photos with important people, interview with the press and a video to promote the event, mad as!! the second athlete over the line was Paul Roger in 9:46 so during the run I extended the lead to 31 minutes.
As always a massive thanks to my girls for their support my best pal and beloved springer spaniel Charley for being the best running partner I could ever wish for. All my friend on the day, Andy, Charlene, Adam, Chris, Lee, Carol, Sue and Ed, IMTC and all the backroom staff you know who you are, Ian Murphy for the continued support as a coach and friend, my sponsors Lantec and first rate credit union and Summit Physio for keeping the old body in one piece.
So why was this so difficult to write. Every day since the race things have been getting worse and worse for me and my girls. Charley came back from the lakes early Monday morning with the girls and started to fall ill. As the week progressed he got worse. A visit to the vets resulted in him having suspected pneumonia and a course of anti-antibiotics was administered with the instructions to take him back if he didn't improve. He was back again on Wednesday and Thursday still deteriorating, then again on Friday when he was sedated to have a chest X-ray. Sadly this confirmed that he was hemorrhaging into his chest which was collapsing his lungs and he lost his fight dying early Friday afternoon aged just 20 months. To say that our hearts are broken is an understatement. The only comfort we can find is the fact that while he was alive he couldn't have possibly been more loved, and he spent his last weekend surrounded by all his best mates including Andy's dog Izzie. One word describes our relationship perfectly. PALS XXX
Till the next time
Take it easy