IRONMAN World Championship Kona 2022

My first IRONMAN was in 2015 which was IRONMAN Texas. I finished but it was a brutal day during which I got second degree sunburn. That evening I called my wife and said never again. The next day I decided I could do better. The next year I did Texas and Chattanooga and then learnt that if I did 12, I could go to Kona and take part in the world championship via the Legacy program which then became the end game, take part in the world championship. This was originally supposed to be 2020 but Covid pushed it to 2021 and then 2022. During that time, I did other events making Kona my 22nd full IRONMAN and the 4th of 2022 after Texas, St George and Alaska. St George was the 2021 delayed World Championship being relocated out of Hawaii for the first time meaning I would take part in two world championships in the same year! Kona was also to be a big family vacation and from day one the plan was for my family to have the IRONMAN VIP treatment where they could place the kukui nut lei round my neck at the end and get to go out on a boat and see the swim up close.

We arrived on the Saturday, giving us a full week before the event to acclimatize and have some fun. It was a very long day, 3-hour flight from DFW to LAX, 3-hour layover then 6-hour flight to Kona but all flights were on time and our luggage made it with no problems! I had shipped my bike with TriBike Transport a few weeks earlier. The Kona airport is very small and all open air. The bags took some time to arrive, but we then hopped on the shuttle to Budget, got our SUV and were on our way to the condo we had rented on the Ocean front. There had been some jumping around where we were going to stay. Originally, we were staying at the Westin but that was about 45 minutes North of the main IRONMAN location, and we heard horror stories about how busy everything would be and wondered how race day logistics would work being so far away. A few weeks before we found the great condo that would enable us to eat at home, was 1-mile from the IRONMAN start so we switched!

Sunday, I woke up at midnight (because of the 5-hour time difference) so I went for an 8-mile run up to the main town then North up the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway for 3 miles then back again. I showered and then my daughter was also awake, so we went to the 24-hour Safeway to buy essential supplies. $500 later we had vital supplies like Oreo O’s, garlic knots and a lot of other useless stuff that we didn’t end up using most of.

You had to book your check-in time in advance, and I had booked the first available, 9am on the Sunday, and they were extremely strict checking your booking. There was a line forming at 8:45 and after a brief ceremony they opened on time at 9am. I was delighted to be given a coin for the event then all the other goodies; backpack, towel, poster, bib (x2 so you could keep one), cool bike sticker, regular bag and bike stickers. You didn’t get your chip yet; you would get that at bike check-in. Remember, this was a 2-day event. Women and older men were Thursday, rest of men were Saturday.

You also got ANOTHER coin at the finish which is the coin on the right in the pictures.

There were a LOT of things in the store and I decided to buy a lot of T-shirts, T-shirts and hats for family, I bought the event tri-shorts, bike shirt, running shirt, socks. A lot of cookies were spent (the word used for money with the kids). We then took some pictures around the event posters and participant names.

I went and joined Fitness Forever to enable me to train still while on the island which offered a 2-week membership and then at the request of the children we dined on traditional Hawaiian cuisine for our first meal, McDonalds. We went to the beach next to our condo, wandered round the town and then had another local favorite for dinner, Kona Crust New York Style pizza. I took it as a win as at least it had the word Kona in the restaurant title. It was great pizza!

Monday, I woke up early but had to wait until 4am until the gym opened. I trained till 6:30 and loved it. This is the first time I had trained in a gym for 2.5 years since Covid started. I have been training at home but having all the equipment was amazing. When we got home, I started training at Lifetime Fitness again 🙂 I went to the gym every morning except Friday and Sunday.

At 8am there was a Legacy function and I got to meet several legends of the sport! Dave Scott was very chatty and it was great. We talked a lot about weight lifting after he commented I was a big guy and didn’t look like a normal triathlete. He is very much in favor of strength conditioning.

My family had VIP check-in at the host King Kamehameha hotel. We had the boat package which meant they were taken out onto the water during the swim portion of the Ironman, then given great viewing, meals and then would be on the finish line to put the lei round my neck. They each got AWESOME stuff. Full backpack (the same as mine as an athlete), same towel I got but also got cup, USB power charger, an amazing satchel type small bag (which I stole and you see in the gear picture above), polo shirt, pin (shown in coin picture) and more!

For the rest of the day we once again explored the local town but everyone was pretty tired so we took it easy as that night we had the manta ray snorkel night trip. On the way out we saw the most amazing complete rainbow ever! We saw 14 manta rays and they came up so close to us. This was the kids favorite part of the entire trip and I have a great gopro video of the key moments and have linked to a little 5 minute version of some highlights.

Little taste of the awesome experience

On Tuesday my wife and daughter went for a half day horse trail ride while Ben and I found some great scenic areas and messed around.

Wednesday was beach day. We all messed around in the Ocean and I got sunburnt which was obviously a mistake. In the afternoon we met a photographer at a different beach and had a great set of family pictures taken and then some of me swimming and running. When we got back Julie took a few pictures of me in my bike gear. I had to cut the arms off the XXL bike shirt as it cut the blood off to my arms (money well spent). We also discovered Ultimate Burger at lunch which was probably the best burger I’d ever had.

Thursday was the women’s event and we watched most of the day. During the swim we could see them swim past the condo and on the run, they ran past the condo. We were on the TV from an aerial shot. We even picked up cups Lucy and Daniella dropped :D. I also applied lots of sunburn cream as I was pretty burnt from Wednesday. This would prove to be a problem 😀

Friday, I prepared my bags and also went to the IRONMAN village and bought a hat for my Omius cooling blocks (which required me to buy a complete set again) and a race belt with a small pouch. They also had the finisher gear so bought the jacket and t-shirt but didn’t allow myself to look at it until I had earned it.

My registered check-in spot was from 12-1 but they were not checking and a HUGE line in the sun had formed which took about 30 minutes.

Your helmet had to go on the bike then hang up your bags (which were under a shade). You got your chip on way out after being weighed. I had actually lost weight over the past 5 days, also not good.

It was pasta for lunch then Kona Crust pizza for dinner. I had bought a swim skin just for Kona (not wetsuit legal as too warm) but decided against it because of the sun burn and it was cutting into me anyway. I was worried when you added the salt water it would basically just chaff really badly and cause pain. I showered, applied numbers and a layer of sunscreen. I went to bed at 7am with an alarm for 2:30 but as usual slept terribly.

My family had to be at the VIP check-in for 5am and I had 7:20 start so we left at 4:30 for the one mile walk down from the condo. On the walk down I commented on how tired and achy I felt. I’m not sure if it was just the sunburn, had been a busy week or was starting to come down with the cold I’ve been fighting ever since we left Kona on Tuesday.

I had just got an Apple Watch Ultra and decided to test it at this event. I put it in low battery mode and turned off cellular. In my tests it would lose about 5% power an hour during exercise which meant it should handle even the worst day!

Once we hit the village we separated, and I went to transition. You had no access to your gear bags but could put nutrition on your bike (a Gatorade and water for me) and I pumped up my tires to 80psi. I switched to tubeless 25’s which means they run at a lower pressure. I also noticed everyone else had a swim skin, boooooo.

There were huge lines for the toilets but I figured the hotel would have urinals in their bathroom which they did and could bypass the lines so that was a great time saver. At 6am I joined the corral to start lining up. I saw Robert who had participated Thursday who advised to get up near the start as with such big waves may not even get to the start line on time in the water so followed that advice.

At about 7:10 they got my wave into the water where you swam about 100 yards to what is the starting point in the ocean with people on surf boards making sure you hold the line. I went to the far left and back a bit as I knew everyone else would be faster than me. I saw my family in one of the boats, which was really cool and we waved and blew kisses! You trod water for about 10 minutes until it was go time via the air horn. My wife took these pictures of me.

My legs felt pretty heavy, and it was a tough swim. This was my first ever 2.4 without a wet suit and the salt water was not as buoyant as I had hoped. There were also two waves starting after me which as a slow swimmer I knew would catch me about halfway. Sure enough at the turnaround point that caught me and for 5 minutes I was thrown around, punched in the face, kicked and generally abused. I like to think by accident. The water was clear but I didn’t get to see that many cool underwater things because I was too busy trying to sight the buoys (which I struggled with in the choppy waves) and generally focusing on how miserable I was and how much longer would I be miserable 😀

Remember this is the world championship. Nearly everyone there is there because they won age group events and the older men and all women (most also faster than me) were Thursday. The only people that would be slower than me would be other legacy athletes and even among them I was likely slower. My expectation is I would be last out the water and maybe last on the day. I wasn’t but was pretty close to last out the water as the empty bike transition attested. The swim was VERY slow, 1 hour and 42 minutes. My worst ever by a lot. The swim skin may have helped slightly if I had had it on, but that wetsuit clearly helps me a lot normally (as I’m normally 90 minutes)!

I would like to say this is how I looked exiting.

But it was not. These were from the Wednesday photo day. What I actually looked like was:

At the transition I saw my family again as I got my gear bag which was awesome. I put on more sunscreen, shirt, nutrition and grabbed my bike and out I went. As I exited the tent the sun came out. Grr.

There was some wind outbound against you, but I just felt tired. The swim took a lot out of me and honestly with the sunburn, lots of activity all week I was just a bit spent and first few hours were tough. It was very lonely since nearly everyone was in front and as very high caliber athletes I was not catching many people.

On the plus side I only stopped to pee twice 😀 All the aid stations had lots of supplies and even though they were every 15ish miles because of a lack of volunteers (an issue this year because of the 2-day event) it was not an issue and I changed water and Gatorade at every aid station and got a new gel when needed.

The headwind became a tailwind on the way back and I started to feel some strength coming back. The view of the ocean was great but you were basically on a highway for 112 miles surrounded by volcanic rock.

Total time was 6:11 which I was OK with but my average power was very low, around 160 which I think was just a function of how lousy I felt for the first half.

T2 was very slow as I knew my hands had got burnt on the bike as had my legs and was trying to apply lots of sunscreen which at this point could not do much. I had tried to apply more sunscreen during the bike but it did nothing.

Once again I would like to say these were pictures of me during the run.

But once again these were from Wednesday. Most pictures from the actual event would be me jogging, power walking lol.

I saw my family outside our condo on the way out at about mile 1.3 and again at about 5 and they made little signs and it was awesome seeing them.

If the bike seemed lonely the run was even more lonely. At about 6pm it got dark and many of the roads were not lit so I was running alone and in pitch black for large sections. They did warn us up front to have a headlamp if would be finishing late which I ignored although it was OK. You could see the white road line and the roads were in good condition so no tripping up etc. They had started to collapse the aid stations towards the end but still had all the supplies.

I jogged/walked at the start but the day just took its toll and had to power walk most of the last 16 miles but about 10 of those were with someone else power walking so that was nice!

My legs sunburn hurt, my feet hurt and I felt horrible and just tired but at mile 25 that all went away which was all downhill. I just started running and that final stretch down Ali’i Drive with everyone cheering made all the pain go away. Soon would get to see my family again and realize a huge goal.

Hearing Mike call out my name was amazing and then seeing my family waiting to place the beads round my neck was just the best.

You then went and got your morning clothes bag, finisher shirt, hat, medal and athlete finish coin.

You got your picture taken and then food was available in the recovery area but I skipped that to rejoin my family and grab my bike and gear bags. We hobbled to Tri Bike (which was on way to the condo), dropped off the bike then made it back where I collapsed into the chair begging for chocolate milk and pizza.

The Ultra watch was at 19% and for the last mile I turned on cellular so my family got better tracking on me. The only issue I had with the watch was at one point it asked me to confirm I was still training (rude) and at the end the screen was locked stopping me ending the workout. I think it was a mix of water and sleep lock. Holding down the crown eventually fixed it. I had it in manual mode between elements of the triathlon and not automatic as I worried if you paused on the bike it would think you entered T2. You can’t end workout with the action button which I think is a mistake but you do use the action button to switch between phases and to start. Overall, even if it took 17 hours to complete the battery would have lasted. The only other thing I don’t like is the activity details are only available on the phone and not via PC which is why all the detail shots are phone screenshots.

End state!

As usual I got no sleep that night and at 12:30 got out of bed and watched the recording of the pro race. My legs were not that bad Sunday mainly because I just didn’t stress them during the marathon as I just felt so crappy. For the next 2 days we took it pretty easy and headed home Tuesday. Kona airport was fine if pretty minimal. We made our connecting flight even though we were a little late and had to run between the terminals and somehow even our bags still made it!!! The LAX to DFW flight was a bigger plane and we had little mini cabins each with fold flat seats like international business class so that was awesome and the kids thought was the greatest thing ever. It was on this flight I really started to feel pretty sick which is why only posting this race report so late, been feeling under the weather since been back.

Did I have the day I wanted? No, not at all. I had done quite a bit of running ahead of this Kona to condition my legs. I had done a lot of cycling and was in great shape. I hadn’t swum enough but I was OK with that. I had hoped to PR at Kona but was obviously far from it. It was just not my day. Whether it was just an off day, the sunburn, the fact it had been a hectic week and I just started the day tired, the start of my cold, maybe everything it was far from my dream day. But I finished like many other of my past IRONMANs. I toughed it out and completed the goal, to take part in Kona and finish number 22. 8 years in the making and definitely once in a lifetime.

And with that this was my swan song for Ironman. I have achieved the goal and I think now it’s time to focus on a different set of challenges. I want to spend some time focusing more on my weightlifting. I want to do the Leadville 100 trail run in 2023. I’ll always find some other crazy thing but my desire to swim-bike-run was completed with Kona.

As always I couldn’t have done this without the support of my amazing wife Julie and it was great she and the kids were there for this one and medaled me at the end. Thank you!! Xoxo

🤙 Mahalo

Ironman Alaska

This is the inaugural year of Ironman Alaska, being held in the capital Juneau. This would be my third Ironman of 2022 (after Texas and St George) and my 21st overall. I’ve never been to Alaska so was excited to be traveling somewhere new. Leading up to the event there had been some stress from participants related to lodging (some limited hotel space but in the end many locals rented out rooms or entire homes) and bike transport (I used TriBike Transport which was awesome as always) but I think it worked out well for nearly everyone.

As it turned out there was another stress, temperature, specifically of the swim :). As we got closer the weather reports were getting worse. Lots of talk of cold temperatures and something called an “atmospheric river” which conjured up visions of solid walls of water falling from the sky but the locals said “we call that rain”. The real concern was the swim was looking like it could be close to 55 degrees with even colder air temperatures.

I had planned to use my sleeveless wetsuit with the extra arm sleeves like for St George however that was 63 degrees. I panicked so on the Tuesday before leaving I rented a sleeved wetsuit from PlayTri and also had an O’Neil thermal shirt. Obviously hugely breaking the “nothing new on race day” but worth it. I already had thermal booties, extra under cap and silicon ear plugs. I had to get an XXL as when I tried on the XL at the store the seam on the arm ripped 😦 They were very nice about it and only commented “you are not built for triathlon and you are not built for our wetsuits”. I also bought a Gore-Tex very light jacket and gloves for the bike and potentially the run.

I flew out on Thursday (for the Sunday event) using Alaska Air which I’d never flown before but they were AWESOME. The food was great, pancakes with sausage at breakfast and a great chicken sandwich at lunch. The view as we approached Juneau was amazing and as we were landing it felt like the mountains were right next to you.

View from the plane

I’d arranged for a car to pick me up from the airport and they were kind enough to quickly take me to the athlete village which was at the high school so I could check-in, collect my race packet, chip and backpack before heading downtown (about 10 miles South) where I was staying at the Baranof hotel. It was in the car where I learnt that Juneau had a temperate rainforest which is why it rained so much there. I also learnt it was in 4 different climate systems which is why you never know what the weather is actually going to be. What it was predicting as I arrived on Thursday was heavy rain (the atmospheric river) for Friday and Saturday and maybe into Sunday. The water temperature for the swim was around 60 but was dropping.

The hotel was basic but clean. Everyone was very friendly which would continue for the entire trip. The locals were amazing. The nicest and most welcoming people you will ever meet. The room was very small but quiet. It didn’t have a fridge which was a disappointment and the reception said they didn’t have any. No chocolate milk for John. I headed to the grocery store which was only 1/2 mile walk away. Grabbed water, sports drinks and a few other things. On the walk back I grabbed a cheeseburger from a street truck, had a little wander around the local stores (where weed was very popular) and back to the room where I went to sleep at 6pm. Remember Juneau is 3 hours behind Texas and I wanted to try and stay as close to Texas time as I could.

Slept great. Got up about 2am and went down to the little gym. Did some running and biking then lifted what weights they had then went for a little walk outside and took a picture of the scenery which was great. During the day there was about 3 big cruise ships where the people would tour Juneau for the day.

I had nothing to really do on Friday since I’d already checked in at registration and bike and bag drop off was Saturday (since a Sunday race). All I wanted to do was go to transition to check my bike had arrived safely. The start, T1, T2 and finish were all at the University campus next to Auke lake which was away from the athlete village (which was unusual) however IRONMAN were running shuttles every 15 minutes from downtown both to the athlete village and then to the transition. This was very well run and I barely ever had to wait. I grabbed the shuttle to transition which dropped you off at the end of a very long road. From the shuttle drop off it was 1/2 mile to the actual transition area. It was raining but I handled it like a champ (not). This would not be the last time I would be in the rain.

My first walk to transition from the shuttle drop off

My bigger concern was doing this walk AFTER the IRONMAN on Sunday but oh well. Got to the transition. TriBike Transport had my bike, I quickly peddled it around to test the brakes (which barely worked in the rain) and could change gear then gave it back to them (since I had no way of getting it back downtown). I then walked down to the swim start (which was about 1/3 mile walk downhill which clearly meant would be 1/3 mile uphill after the swim to transition). Many people were doing test swims and most were saying “It’s cold when you get in but after 100 yards really not bad”. My preparation consisted of putting my hand in the water at the edge and going “brrrrr”. I also stuck my head under the cold shower in the hotel for about 3 seconds but decided that sucked and why punish myself multiple times. I’d just suffer on the day. 🙂 I figured with my long sleeve wetsuit, thermal shirt under I’d be fine. I walked back up to transition then back to the shuttle where a shuttle was waiting and back to downtown.

For lunch I went to Salt where I had amazing French Onion Soup then cheeseburger and fries. Not my normal diet pre IRONMAN but my options were limited and I could find no where to get pasta. Back to the hotel where I did a little bit of work, recorded my weekly Azure update while sitting on the bed as my room had no usable desk then Dominos pizza for dinner. Then to sleep at 5pm which was glorious.

Didn’t wake up till about 4am which was just fantastic as I knew I’d get little sleep for the next 2 nights. I went for a little walk then packed my bike and run transition bags. It was looking very likely the swim would be around 55 and was going to be raining for most of the day. My focus was on finishing the event and didn’t really care about transition times. I therefore was going to wear swim trunks under the wetsuit, I would then change into tri shorts and bike shirt and then at the run would change again into run shorts, thermal long sleeve shirt, fresh socks. I packed my transition bags accordingly. My bike bag also had my gore-Tex rain jacket and gloves and planned to continue the gore-Tex jacket onto the run as well. No food was allowed in the bags overnight as they would attract Yogi and Boo Boo so the food would be added the next morning where we would have access to bike and bags.

I walked to the shuttle, headed to transition, got my bike from TriBike transport (which was soaking wet), put my bike stickers on (forgot a towel so was not great) and dropped everything off. As usual I wrote my number on all my transition bags in addition to the sticker which was especially critical as most likely the stickers would be falling off with the non-stop rain.

After dropping everything off I walked back to the shuttle for downtown. Then Salt again for onion soup and cheeseburger (yes, still terrible as pre IRONMAN food but still limited options), watched some movies then Domino’s pizza again for dinner. Went to sleep at 6. I planned to get up at 2am and leave the room at 4am however I woke up about 11pm and never really went back to sleep.

Shuttles were due to start at 4:15 to transition which opened at 4:30 but I left the room at 3:50 and when I got to the shuttle stop at 4 the shuttles were already there and I got to transition at 4:20 ish. The little 5 minute walk and then time to get ready for the planned 6am start.

Pumped my tires up to 90 PSI based on the expected wet roads. Put some drinks on my bike and added nutrition to my bike and run bags. The transition tent was open so I went in and boy was it heated. Must have been 110 degrees. I put on my booties and wetsuit (I was already wearing swimming trunks and thermal shirt). I walked down to the swim start where I put in my silicon ear plugs, double cap and put Vaseline on my face and hands as I had read that while it would rinse off it would lessen any initial cold water shock. There was also talk of pouring water down the suit before entering but didn’t do that. They were obviously very concerned about people panicking in the cold as they kept announcing “take your time starting”, “exhale as you first put head in the water”.

At around 5:45 Mike Reilly made an announcement “This is an important announcement for the athletes. The water temperature is the coldest measured all week, 56 degrees, and with guidance from our governing body the swim will be a single loop of 1.2 miles. We will start at 6:30 instead of 6:00 and total time available for the Ironman will be 15:50”. Not going to lie, I was pretty relieved as I had been very concerned about the cold. Some around were disappointed but most seemed to agree it was the right call. After the event I heard the volunteers state that the last 1/3 of the people getting out would never have made another lap.

The 15:50 adjusted total time was because the swim normally has 2:20 to complete so when halved you remove 1:10 from the normal 17 hours. Later on they actually changed their minds and the time allowed was the full 17 hours which caused a fair amount of confusion. I’m assuming they extended it because the transition times were so long because of the cold and rain and didn’t want a DNF of 50%.

At the delayed 6:30 they started to get people into the water. They let in 2 people every 5 seconds. That is very spread out compared to the regular 4-5 every 3 seconds. I think this was to give people more time to adjust to the cold and not feel pressured. Also it was a fairly small amount of participants giving them more flexibility. Out of the 914 that checked in only 832 actually started the swim. A typical IRONMAN may easily have 1,500 or more.

Auke lake

People self seeded based on their estimated swim time. I got in the 1:30 group. As I entered the water I quickly got my face in and yes it was cold, but honestly not that bad. My body never got cold for the entire swim and even my face and hands were fine. I was slow, took me 49 minutes compared to my normal 45 based on 90 minute full. I swam a very different line than normal. I did start out on the outside but somehow I found myself quickly on the inside of the buoys (yes I was that idiot that swam across everyone) and quickly had to adjust but I then just swam directly between the buoys which made sighting very easy. The visibility above water was great, under water you couldn’t see much however the water tasted like bottled water but I was careful not to drink much knowing that many in front of me had peed in it! The swim was very easy. A few people bumped into me but less than normal and was no biggy at all. The second half of the swim felt very fast and ended in no time. I think I would have been OK if it had been the normal 2 loops given I didn’t feel cold at all after the 1 loop but who knows. Could have gone down hill and I also had the thermal shirt etc so many would have been in a worse position.

Then the about 1/3 mile run uphill to transition. I didn’t take my wetsuit off at water edge, instead stayed in it to avoid getting cold during the hike to transition. The tent was PACKED but still very warm and I was pretty slow, I think total was 23 minutes which included the hike and then just getting the wetsuit off, getting dressed in bike kit then grabbing bike and heading out. The bike was two loops along the highway.

I think it started to rain nearly straight away as I got on the bike. Lucky I had purchased a gore-Tex rain jacket and gloves which were awesome. The rain didn’t cause many problems as the route was completely straight with only the turnaround for the two loops meaning minimal braking or turning. That part was great. The course itself was tough. It was never flat. It was up or down. About 1/3 of each loop was this chip seal road which made it tougher. Couple with rain and wind made for a tough bike ride. You often shared the road with cars that while considerate was a little close at times.

At about mile 25 I felt like I was sinking and soon was nearly kneeing myself in the face. Yep, saddle had fallen down. I just had it serviced so thanks a lot for that 🙂 I stopped and about 5 minutes later had raised it and off I went but had not raised it enough so shortly after stopped again and had to move it. Also my left shoe was having trouble clipping in which was causing issues and snapped out a few times. Time for new cleats on my shoes I think! Had to stop to pee a bunch of times (no clue what is going on) but overall I found the ride fine. There were a lot of false flats/declines but really didn’t find the ride particularly hard. It was hard to maintain power as was always up or down but my normalized power was around 217 I think. The rain made it a little miserable and you were really focusing on the road so I missed a lot of the amazing scenery. The aid stations were always well stocked and the volunteers were fantastic. Off the charts energy from everyone.

I think my left peddle power is off so much because of the pedal problems.

6:43:17 was my bike time which I was happy with given the toughness of the course and the mechanical issues. My bike was just caked in mud. They had cloths in transition but could do little against the muck all over my legs 🙂 Into completely dry kit and put my jacket back on (but not the gloves). As soon as I started running I had a pretty bad pain in my quad making me limp. I quickly applied some deep heat (had 2 little sachets with me) and after a few minutes it went away. My plan was to jog the downhills and some flat but walk the uphills. I figured this would nicely mix up running and walking but that was not the case. This run course was some kind of mystical MC Escher course and it seemed like you were always going downhill or flat so i was always jogging. This was of course impossible.

The run course.

After a couple of miles I came across another runner doing the same as me, Matthew, and we ran together for much of the first 16 miles which was great to have someone to talk to. It rained on and off for the entire run. When it stopped running I would take off the jacket and tie round my waist.

Start of the run
Someone to talk to!

The run was two loops and 2 of those miles each loop were through an enchanted forest which was beautiful. There was not aid during that portion but it warned you ahead of time so you could grab extra drink etc. There was even a rainbow at one point during the run. I think Mike Reilly was at the end of it.

Enchanted forest segment

After running much of the first 16 miles I walk/jogged the next 10. In the end my run time was just under 5:45 and was happy with that. Like the bike course the run had great aid support and had equally awesome volunteers.

Run stats

Mike Reilly was there to call me over the line and I even gave him a fist bump as I crossed the line. The medal was huge and awesome and then they gave you your finisher shirt and hat. My total time was 13:51:48 and it felt great to finish. I came in the top half of my division, gender and overall but I never care that much about that. I felt I gave a good effort and am proud of the accomplishment. They had pizza and other food available. I grabbed my morning clothes bag, my gear bags and bike. I dropped the bike at TriBike then took the long walk to the shuttle where one was waiting, to downtown, walk to hotel then into the shower to try and clean off the dirt caked all over me. Had a bagel for dinner as nothing else was open and a bunch of protein bars.

Someone posted this on Facebook.

As usual I couldn’t sleep. I think I drifted off around 1:30 and was woken up by my alarm at 2am as a taxi was picking me up at 3am for my 5:20 flight home!

In the end 725 finished out of the 839 who actually started. Which is a pretty normal DNF rate I think. If they had not halved the swim and not increased the time available to 17 hours likely would have been much lower number of finishers which would not have looked good for the inaugural event. I know some people are grumbling about the change to 17 hours not being clear mid way through but ultimately the “standard” time would have been 15:50 given the shortened swim so anything above that would be a bonus that should not be relied upon.

Overall it was an amazing event. Juneau is a small town but it really got behind the event and I really can’t think of an IRONMAN I have done that had better support. Huge congrats to the entire team, volunteers and town. Thank you for having us!

IRONMAN World Championship St George 2022

I booked this when it was just IRONMAN St George and then it became the World Championship as once again Corona virus blocked Kona (which I was supposed to be at 2020 and 2021 for my legacy slot). When it became the World Championship you were given the option to stay or transfer. I of course stayed! This is the first time ever the World Championship was outside of Hawaii and the course at St George is tougher with 7500 feet of elevation gain on the bike and 1500 on the run. Add to that the heat and the wind, wow. In for a treat!

St George Utah sits at about 3000 feet so a little altitude but really not too bad and its super dry with very little humidity which makes it easy to dehydrate. My uber driver on the way from the airport said “electrolytes, lots of electrolytes”. The weather forecast was around 90 degrees and windy. Great, sounded just like Ironman Texas I had completed 2 weeks earlier (so yes was still a bit fatigued from that!). The practice swim was cancelled because of high wind so something everyone kept an eye on.

I stayed at the Advenire hotel which was 5-minute walk from the IRONMAN village and finish line and it was a great hotel. I arrived on Wednesday afternoon for the Saturday race to give me a buffer from any travel issues.

I quickly checked in and went to the village for athlete check-in and to buy stuff. The Athlete store was at the entrance of the village and only once you went through the store could you walk through the rest of the village and to athlete check-in. It was grander in scale than any regular IRONMAN I had done and it was exciting to be in the midst of it but I suspect Kona will be another level completely. I bought some event swag like t-shirts, water bottles, name towels then headed to athlete check-in.

You were given your number ahead of the event unlike other events where your number is allocated at check-in. It was all digital and very fast. As you entered check-in YOU GOT A COIN!! Yay.

You were given your bracelet, packet with two bibs (one to keep, one to use on run), extra event sticker and then went and picked up the backpack which had all the other gear bags and goodies in it including towel, luggage tag and poster (but no flag). You did NOT get your chip, that would be at bike check-in Friday.

I walked over to TriBike Transport and picked up my bike then back to the hotel. I walked over to Pizza Factory, had dinner then back to the room. There was a huge amount of talk on Facebook about the cold water of the swim, the 60-degree temperature and I started to panic. On Amazon I quickly ordered a second swim cap (so could double cap) and silicon ear plugs which I overnighted to the hotel. Thank you Amazon! Then to sleep.

Thursday was an easy day as I really had nothing to do. I had a great breakfast of egg whites and pancakes, I had a burger at the hotel for lunch and baked ziti at Pasta Factory for dinner. I was playing loose with my normal plan of pasta and chicken for my meals. I would regret this Saturday! I did take some pictures around the M-dot statue.

The only thing I had to do Thursday was to put on my bike stickers and drop back off at TriBike Transport. They were providing a T1 shuttle where they would take your bike to T1 and then have a bus Friday to take you there to do the actual bike and bike gear bag check-in. I did lay out all my gear and put in the clear gear bags. The bags were smaller than the regular bags for other events so was a bit of a squeeze for my bike gear!

Friday was bike, and gear bag check-in. You already selected times in advance online but they never enforced them. I had picked 7am run bag check-in and 8am bike and bike gear check-in. The bike was point-to-point so T1 and T2 were different locations.

I walked to T2 to drop off my run bag at 7am then walked to tri bike transport for the shuttle at 7:30 which arrived at 8am at T2. I got my bike from TriBike then dropped off at T2 and bag in the transition tent. The swim looked like a really nice location.

Then 8:30 shuttle back for lazyish day with just a few work calls. What was nice is both T1 and T2 were in tents so your gear bags were in the shade.

Lunch was ziti again then pizza for dinner. That evening I showered, put on sunscreen then my tri-tats and tried to sleep. I didn’t sleep well at all.

Saturday was the big day. The shuttles were based on swim time based on age. I was the last wave for males so 4:30 bus boarding for 7:30 swim start. I left the room at 4:15 so got up at 2:30. There were lots of school buses and it took about 40 minutes to get to the start/T1. Once there you did not have access to transition bags but you could access the bikes. I pumped them up to 95 psi then just relaxed. I chatted to a few people about random Ironman things. As usual I stopped sipping the Powerade 90 minutes before start time and had my gel and 5-hour energy 60 minutes before along with a final potty visit 🙂 This routine seems to work well for me.

Straying from my pasta and chicken for 2 days prior for lunch and dinner and pizza for final dinner taught me a lesson. My stomach was a little dodgy at the start of the day and some during but not too bad. Live and learn. Back to my strict eating in future!

Much talk had been made of the swim and how cold it was, 59 degrees leading up. On the morning it was 64 degrees, still cold. I only have a sleeveless wetsuit but had purchased extra neoprene partial arm covers and as mentioned had my double gap and ear plugs. I also put on my neoprene booties.

The swim was in waves based on gender and age. Within those waves which started at set times 6 people were let in every 10 seconds. I was in the last male wave and seated myself in the middle. As I got in the water it was a little shock of cold but not too bad, at least not initially. The swim course was basically an out and back with a turn but you swam to the left of the buoys except for the final part. This was hard for me as I always breath to the left so it meant I had to constantly sight lifting up my head making my neck get sore. Also the wind started to pick up so was pretty choppy water. Near the start of the swim I thought a boat went past me as something very fast went past creating a wake. Nope, was a human being!!! It was insane! Aquaman does IRONMAN apparently.

As the swim progressed my wetsuit clearly is not very well fitting as cold water kept flooding in so I never got warm and was steadily getting colder. Near the end my body was shivering and I kept trying to bunch my fingers to try and warm them up a little. I didn’t work and when I eventually finished at 1:38 I was shuddering. On the plus side the double cap and ear plugs worked great. Normally I swim 90 minutes so I was a lot slower. Not sure if that’s the booties, my body just not doing as well in the cold, not swimming straight because of sighting issues. There were wet suit strippers as you exited to help and then into the transition tents where there were lots of volunteers. They had to help me tighten my shoes as I didn’t have control of my frozen hands 🙂 I was looking forward to the bike just to warm up.

At the start of the bike I had my usual challenge of having to overtake people as I’m much stronger bike than swim AND I started last in the men however not as bad as usual as it was overall a high standard of athlete given the world championship status and most were age group winners of other events. There were a few people just riding the left and I’d have to shout out “on your left” however this was only the first 10 miles. One disappointment was the gel at aid stations. Aid station 1 only had only with caffeine and stations 2 and 3 had NONE! Pretty bad but luckily I carried a few for just this type of situation but I was panicking a little. Later aid stations DID have the gels still.

The bike had crazy elevation gain, 7500 feet. It was always up or down, you were constantly changing gears but really got brutal once you hit around mile 65 ish. I knew this so was holding back at the start to ensure I had energy for the hills. On the big ascents I would drop to my lowest gear but kept pushing the button hoping that if I pushed enough times another secret, emergency only gear would appear and help. It didn’t. Many people were pushing their bikes up the hills, many others were zig-zagging across the road (to reduce the slope) and to the credit of the marshals those people were given penalties for dangerous behavior, at least some of them. I was able to ascend fairly comfortably though in the bottom gear. I would stand occasionally for maybe 30 seconds just to stretch my legs.

A big part of the elevation gain were two huge ascents. On the first huge ascent there was someone in front of me with “Don’t Give Up” written on the back of their shirt vertically. As he was bent over as I was approaching him all I could see was “Give Up”. Tempting 🙂 I had not driven the course (I never do) nor really studied it so I was never sure when the ascent part was finished and I kept thinking “this must be the end” but nope, little flat bit then up again. It seemed to last forever!

The benefit of huge ascents are huge descents however in addition to the hills it was hot (around 90) and also a lot of wind. This came into play during the descents as what goes up must come down. You had cross wind gusts that would try to push you over. I didn’t care. I worked for my uphill and was going to reap the reward of the downhill. I tucked into aero and tried to make myself as small as possible. I also willed myself to have all my weight going straight down to be impossible to knock over 🙂 It seemed to work as I bombed down both the huge two descents getting up to 46.5 mph. Weeeeeeee

The combination of the hills, elevation overall (3000 feet base), heat, lack of humidity and wind made it very tough. I was very happy with my 6:29 time but I think I was under hydrated by the end that would hit me on the run. My average power was low but its a function of times I was not peddling at all, then just hard to judge what to do with the unknowns. I was doing about 220-230 up the hills.

My huge fear was true when I got to the run transition tent. My hook was empty. Um. I looked on hooks around and found my gear. I assume someone picked up mine by mistake then found theirs and put mine back on theirs. Thanks for nothing 🙂

I had a stitch at start of the run so struggled to maintain any kind of run/walk. My mouth constantly felt dry, no matter what I drank I could not get quench it. Also I couldn’t get my heart rate where I wanted it. Tried to run/walk and then power walk with occasional runs. The entire run my stomach didn’t feel right and just complete dry mouth. I couldn’t stand the thought of Gatorade or gels in the later half. I think I got dehydrated during the bike and never could recover. I suspect the same for many people. During the run there were huge numbers of people vomiting, I assume it was the heat.

The bike course was hilly, so was the run course with 1500 feet of elevation gain. Most was not shaded and just hot for the entire first loop of the two-loop course. I made it through and had plenty of time so was not worried about not finishing in time.

There was some confusion about time people had. About 75 people got pulled off course during the last 6 miles of the run when they had plenty of time. To IRONMAN credit they made it right and adjusted them to a finish time and are sending them medal/swag.

I finished in 6:09:33 for a total of 14:41:24. Pretty slow but given how tough the course was and the conditions I was happy!

At the end you got your medal which was huge and awesome. It was so heavy it almost hurt my chest as it bounced when I walked. Then you got your t-shirt, hat, got your finisher picture taken and on your way.

There was a food tent but they had run out of cheese pizza and only had stone cold pepperoni. They also had some kind of chicken and rice. I threw the pizza away, got my morning clothes and T1 bag then was directed to pickup the T2 bag and bike from the T2 location. It was late, I was tired so just took my bike back to my room for drop off at Tri Bike Transport Sunday morning. The first thing I did in the hotel was go to the restaurant and order a cheeseburger and fries for room delivery which was awesome!

In the end the DNF rate was 21.9%. Very high compared to the normal DNF which is about 10% I think. Overall I’m happy with my bike time on such a tough course and even my overall time is not too bad for such a tough course on a tough day.

The amazing volunteers throughout the entire course really were the best and it was just an amazing event. The town was amazing, the people amazing. Just a great experience. THANK YOU EVERYONE and kudos to IRONMAN for organizing something so special.

As always I couldn’t sleep a wink. Combination of stress on the body, adrenaline, lots of caffeine and sugar. At 6:30 I left the room to get a medal picture by the M-dot statue then queued for the store to buy one of every finisher item. $500 later my shopping was complete.

I walked to a bakery to buy a sandwich for lunch as I knew the tiny airport had no food then went back to the room until I ubered to the airport. There my Uber driver was an amazing 84 year old. He was the baby in Gone with the Wind, was married to Raquel Welch and basically Ubers to get out the house now during his wife’s medical care. Amazing! He told stories about being friends with Fred Astaire and also when he was 11 Clark Gable drove him in a jaguar and noted they snuck the jaguar into the portrait at the very bottom in the middle!! You can see it.

So my first World Championship of the year! Now on to Alaska then Kona. Time to work on my swim and run.

IRONMAN Texas 2022 Race Report

The one with all the wind

Well, IRONMAN full distance number 19 done and overall I think it went well and enjoyed a fair amount of it despite what was a tough day during the bike portion.

This was my sixth time taking part in IRONMAN Texas (2015,16,17,18 and 19 done previously) so I felt very comfortable with the course and logistics (which are very simple) which helped minimize stress ahead of time. Leading up to the event the weather looked good in terms of temperature, maybe 85 high and no rain. It looked likely it would be wetsuit legal. All good. As the days got closer it was looking like it was going to be windy though. That is not good for the completely exposed 80 miles on the toll road. This would end up ruining the day for many people!

Prior to the event an athlete check-in time was selected online via the Active website. As normal the check-in was available on Wednesday and Thursday (3 and 2 days prior to the event day). You also received a QR code via email that you presented at the onsite check-in. You were not told your bib number ahead of time. Like 2021 they are allocated at athlete check-in which also means your name is not on the bib.

I arrived at the Woodlands about 10am and even though my scheduled check-in time was 1pm I checked in straight away and they didn’t say a word. It’s all digital now, no more paper forms. You show your QR code and ID and that’s it. If you had any waivers to sign you sign them on the iPads the volunteers have. First they gave you your chip. Then you walked to another table and they fetched a packet, I was 1004, just 3 away from my dream 1007 (Bond, James Bond) and they were going to switch if for me but they had already scanned it. So close. They put on my wrist band, quickly ran through the packet content, wrote number on a swim cap then I went on and collected the event back bag, the 5 event plastic bags for gear and yes the flag was back! Awesome. This whole process was less than 5 minutes.

As you exited you picked up a ticket for the bike and gear check-in time on Friday. This was to simply spread people out but as it turns out they didn’t pay any attention to this at all.

The exit from check-in did not lead straight to the merchandise store which is the norm but I walked through the village and bought a few things. They did not already have the finisher gear out which they did for the races in 2021. And that was it. All told I was there for about 15 minutes. I did run into Kevin who I chatted to at Ironman Tulsa in 2021 and was nice to catch up and we grabbed a bite to eat that evening. I really just relaxed the rest of the day. Pasta and chicken for lunch then egg white omelette, potatoes and toast for dinner at Cheesecake Factory (it just sounded really good). To bed at 7:30.

I slept well and woke up around 3am (my usual). I did a bit of work, laid all the gear out for the bike and run bag. Put stickers on the bags, bike and helmet, packed up the bags and got things ready to take to the bike and gear check-in at transition at 10am. It’s just shy of a mile walk from the finish/athlete village so I set out about 9:30 and they never asked to see the check-in time ticket. They didn’t take pictures of the bikes this time (like they have at previous Ironmans). You just racked your bike then gave the volunteers your bike and run bag at the two bag stations (you didn’t place them on the floor yourself in the rough position like at other events). Like athlete check-in it was very fast and efficient.

It is a shared T1 (swim to bike) and T2 (bike to run). The swim is a point-to-point with an out and back for about 1.5 miles then the remaining down a canal to get to transition.

I bought a few things at the HEB opposite the transition then walked back to the hotel. I had to have lunch in the room (was staying at the Westin which is at the finish line) as I had a work call so did room service pasta which a chicken breast on the side which while tasty was a tiny portion of pasta so was still hungry. I had bought some little Debbie oatmeal crème pies which I intended to eat during the bike so a couple of those helped numb the hunger 😀

I watched some movies and then had my traditional pre-race evening pizza for dinner. I wanted to try something new with my goggles that often fog up so I sprayed the anti-fog solution on and decided to just let it evaporate over night and not mess with it again. Totally worked! Back at the room I showered, applied a layer of sunscreen then put on my race tattoos. Chatted to my family then to sleep. While I woke up a few times I actually slept the best I ever have before an Ironman and got up feeling pretty good at 3am when my alarm went off.

I ate a bagel and drank a chocolate milk (my regular pre-training food) then browsed Facebook etc. I saw a great post with a way of thinking about the day:

“Make your race a playground not a proving ground”

I really liked that and decided to make that my motto for the day. I would focus on enjoying it. Transition opened up at 5am and so I decided to leave the room at 4:30. I packed my drinks to put on the bike and had a Powerade I would sip on till about an hour before I was due to start and another half a bagel to nibble on. I also had my gel and 5 hour energy I would take 45 minutes before due to start.

I walked down to transition and even though it was not 5 it was already open. I went straight to my bike, they had the regular technicians and bike pumps available but my bike neighbor offered me his pump so I pumped both tires up to just below 100, put on the drinks and set off on the 1 mile walk to the swim start which is a pleasant enough, easy walk and helps you relax. At the transition they also announced water temperature was 75 and wetsuit legal. Woo hoo!

Once I got to the swim start I just hung out. The age groupers were starting at 6:40 and it was the regular self-seeding into 10 minute groups based on your estimated swim time. I always swim 90 minutes so go to the 1:21 to 1:30 group at the back. This means I would be getting in the water about 7am. Within each group they let in 4 people every 4 seconds (or something like that). It helps spread everyone out and takes a lot of the stress out of the swim. It’s also a very wide course so its easy to just swim on the outside (which is what I do) to avoid most people. It was a very clear day so sighting was super easy. At 6:15 I put on my wetsuit, dropped off my morning clothes bag, ate my gel, drank my 5 hour energy and joined my swim group.

Saw this on Facebook that was taken by a photographer whose name I now can’t find 😦

I had not done a huge amount of swimming leading up to this race just because of, well, life. I had done a few 30 minute swims in the pool over the past couple of weeks and that was it. At dinner with Kevin he had given some swim tips (him being a good swimmer) that I had decided to focus on during this swim.

  • Thumb and index finger enter the water first. This then encourages elbow up since already in that direction
  • Be long, i.e. reach out for the apple then put it in your pocket as your hand exits by your hip
  • Rotate your hips with your shoulders when you breath

And that is what I did. I treated the swim as a training exercise and just tried to focus on those 3 things. I took it SUPER easy. I finished in 90 minutes as usual and felt great! The out and back in the lake was uneventful. They added an arch near the turnaround on the swim that you swam under (to make sure didn’t cheat). I also focused on keeping my head relaxed. Often on the bike my neck aches looking up and I realized a lot of it is from straining during the swim. This helped greatly during the bike portion and didn’t get a sore neck.

I kept to my plan of swimming out about 20 feet from the buoys and no one got near me. When you turned down the canal part for some reason people turned into idiots. People were swimming all over the place, I got punched in the face twice but kept telling myself they didn’t mean it and were likely stressed. The canal was dirty as ever and with each swim stroke you got stringy crap in between your fingers. I mean the main lake was solid brown and you couldn’t see anything but the canal was worse.

Emerging from the depths of gunk 🙂

One problem I commonly have on previous Ironmans was needing to pee during swim and having to pee constantly on the bike. My new sipping on Powerade and stopping hour before solved it. So thats my new routine! They had wetsuit strippers to help remove your wetsuit then a short run to grab your bike bag, into the transition tent to apply the various lubes, PR lotions and sunscreen. I took a really long time (15 minutes) but honestly not a worry for me. Lots of volunteers in the tent and most of talk was about how brutal the canal portion was with people flinging fists everywhere. They had sunscreen available in transition (1 and 2) both pumps and individual packets you could take which was great.

Then out onto the bike course which is about 22 miles to get to the Hardy toll road where you repeat 2 out and backs of 20 miles each way (so 80 miles on the toll road). The toll road surface is smooth, has a few rolling overpasses but is completely exposed. There was plenty of aid stations on the course that were well stocked and as always the volunteers were awesome. The weather forecast had not changed. It was expected to have 25mph wind coming head on for the outbound but then would be tailwind for the 20 miles back. Obviously, twice.

Sure enough as soon as you got on the toll road the wind hit you and it was pretty discouraging putting out 200 odd watts and going 13 mph. Within the first 5 miles one of the good people on their second loop shouted out “do you have bike tool?”. His aero bars had fallen off and were dangling down. I pulled over with him and spent 7 minutes getting his aero bars back on and he was on his way 🙂 7 minutes was really going to make little difference to my total time but he was very stressed. I kept telling him to relax, it’s OK, we’ll fix it. We did and he was on his way.

My repair stop and dropping a drafter on the second loop.

It took about 80 minutes to go Northbound as you battled the 20-25 mph headwind and was pretty miserable. BUT, then you turned round and weeeeeeeeeee. Many times I was going vroom vroom as I effortlessly went 30 mph and completed the southbound 20 miles in 40 minutes. Then you did another u-turn and had to repeat for another 80 minutes misery but at least you knew you had 40 minutes of awesome coming. Another bright spot was only had to stop to pee once at about 30 miles. I drank the on course Gatorade and then water with Nuun. I stuck to the planned nutrition.

  • Ate an oatmeal crème pie (170 calories) in T1
  • Half a waffle at minute 20 and 40 of the hour
  • Tootsie roll snack bar (50 calories) at minute 30 of hour
  • Mauten gel on the hour
  • Another oatmeal creme pie at mile 56 and another at T2 before the run

That’s a lot of calories. With the Gatorade likely about 400 an hour on average but I felt great. Never struggled on the bike. Heart rate never went particularly high. One good thing was while it heated up to maybe 80 on the bike, the sun was not super strong. I alternated Gatorade and water with Nuun every 10 minutes.

My cadence and power was pretty constant. Obviously my speed varied depending on if was going into the wind or had it behind me.

While the wind made things harder than usual I really didn’t find the bike that bad but I consider the bike my strongest discipline. I know some found it very tough which is likely why some people were drafting. On the second loop into the wind someone was trying to draft me which is where I went up a gear and just dropped the hammer and left him. Go cheat off someone else. There were quite a lot of people in penalty tents which was good to see. Also on the first loop because I start the swim later and am slow on the swim there are lots of slower cyclists ahead of me that I have to overtake and many of them were not staying on the right so I was constantly having to shout out “on your left” so I could get past safely. I heard 300 people DNF‘d (did not finish, i.e. had to stop) on the bike portion alone.

Vroom vroom

Once you finished the toll road portion I think it was about 8 miles on the small roads to get to the finish which was quick enough and soon I was at T2 where a volunteer took your bike for you, grabbed the run bag, into the tent (for a 10 minute transition as I reapplied sunscreen etc) then out for the run! The only real problem I had for the entire bike was sweat in my eyes. I’m going to try something different for St George with the little channel stick on brow thing.

My plan for the run was 2-minutes run, then 2-minutes walk for as long as my quads would take it! As it happened was for about 15 miles which I was very happy with. The run course is great. It’s flat and 3 loops of a very pretty course that has great crowd support and lots of aid stations each mile that were always well stocked. You also go through Hippie Hollow that the rule is you have to run through 😀

At about mile 15 I had some bio freeze applied to my quads which helped and I still attempted to run a little however I had so much time there was no danger for me and my goal was simply to come in under 6 hours which would ensure my total time was sub 14.

It was around this time I realized how brave many people are. Because my swim is OK and my bike is strong even on a bad Ironman I still have 8 hours for the marathon part meaning I can walk slow and would still have time to finish. I’m not really worried about not finishing (outside of a medical/equipment issue). There are many people who have very real concerns about not finishing in time but still push through for 17 hours. That is amazing to me and shows great strength of character!

For the run my nutrition was a Maurten gel every 2 miles along with a lick of base salt. I would drink Gatorade at the water stations and also had a little bottle I carried with water with Nuun that I would refill at the stations. I felt pretty good during the run. The last 8 miles was a lot of walking but i found someone to talk to who was walking at same pace as me which was great.

Mike Reilly was there to call me across the line, “John Savill, you are an IRONMAN”. YAY! As you crossed the finish line there were the catchers to ensure you didn’t fall over and helped you through the various stages. You got your medal, finisher shirt and hat. The medal is awesome and doubles as a belt buckle! Finisher picture and then I grabbed 2 slices of cheese pizza which I quickly devoured.

Because I travelled on my own I had to grab the morning clothes bag from the finish, walk the mile back to transition to get my bike and bags. I then tied the bags together, put them round my neck then rode the bike BACK to the finish which is where my hotel was at. Once in my room I ordered a burger from room service, drank a chocolate milk, ate a Twix, called my wife, showered then my burger arrived which I ate some of.

One first for me is I didn’t crash post event. Yes I was tired but I had no tingling lips, no body shaking. just, tired which was AWESOME! I will be sticking with my nutrition plan from this Ironman for every other!

Then to bed, which as usual offered me no sleep. I can NEVER sleep after an Ironman. I just laid in bed unable to sleep. At 2:15 I gave up. I got up, packed and by 3am was in my car where I drove back home arriving about 7am. On the way home I stopped at Buc-ees and ate 2 sausage, egg and cheese breakfast burritos.

Many people wrote about how brutal the event was. Yes, the bike was tough but overall I felt it was a great day. Obviously I live in Texas so I am more used to the heat and humidity. If you came from a colder climate then I’m sure the heat combined with the windy bike really took it out of you. I think many others I have done were far tougher because of the course or heat or other conditions. I really enjoyed this Ironman which is great as the Tulsa and Coeur d’Alene of 2021 I found pretty miserable.

In the end I think about 400 DNF’d. 2232 started and 1838 finished. Therefore about 17% DNF compared to 10% regular so definitely a high DNF.

So that’s it. Overall very happy with my performance and more importantly very happy that I enjoyed the event. As always a giant thank you to the organizers, police, other support and the amazing volunteers.

Only change for next IRONMAN is ensure get sunscreen on hands more (as they burnt) and on my back at shirt edges (as burnt there as well a little). Key wins from this IRONMAN

  • Nutrition and drinking
  • Swim technique and relax neck during swim
  • Spray goggles night before

Now, St George!!!!

IRONMAN Coeur D’Alene 2021

My second IRONMAN of 2021 (4 weeks after Tulsa), and while this got off to a rocky start (American Airlines changed terminal 3 times and then delayed the flight by 3 hours as they couldn’t find a crew) once I was actually at the Coeur D’Alene (CDA) resort (where I stayed) I quickly started to love CDA! The driver that picked me up from the airport (Steve) was just the nicest person and had lived in CDA a long time. I choose to arrive on Thursday for the Sunday event in case there were flight issues and obviously glad I did. I had registered for a 9am Friday IRONMAN registration time so it really didn’t matter what time I arrived Thursday.

A week before all talk on the forum had changed from water temperature (definitely wet suit legal, around 65) to the outside temperature which was at one point up to around 102 but in the end it was 100 degrees so, well still horrible. My plan (like Tulsa) was to basically drink water with Nuun (electrolytes) for the 3 days leading up so I would be well hydrated. Water on it’s own will actually flush out your electrolytes and they even stressed that during the athlete briefing.

This was a few days before and made me cry slightly.

Check-in at CDA resort had been online so once I arrived it took 30 seconds for them to check my name and give me my room key. Up to my room in the tower (5th floor) and WOW. The view was just amazing. I unpacked and tried to get to sleep.

I woke up at 1:15am (2 hour time difference and I normally get up at 3am CST) and hotel gym didn’t open until 6am so that was no good. I therefore decided to run outside. So at 2am I went for a 6 mile gentle run around the town and must have said to myself at least 5 times “wow, this place is beautiful”. It had lots of nice little stores, the kind you see in the movies in small towns. This is where I need to retire to! Once back to the room, showered, did a bit of work and at 5:40 went for the 1 mile walk to the Lakeside store to buy milk and a few other things (that opened at 6am). Was a nice little store and the checkout lady was very friendly and chatty.

So beautiful at 5:30 am!
I had to get a picture with the moose 🙂

Back at the room ran to they gym for 15 minutes of quick weights, attended a work meeting then had cereal. The IRONMAN village was 5 minutes from the resort so at about 8:45 I headed out for registration which was super fast. No flag, no poster and a generic back pack (booo) and like Tulsa you got your number assigned at the registration so no names on the bibs, I got 1087. You also picked up a card for bike check-in time slot for Saturday. I grabbed a 9-10.

Then through the store where bought a few things and, like Tulsa, the finisher gear was already available. Quite a few vendors in the village and then grabbed my bike from TriBike and back to the hotel counting the minutes until I could eat lunch!

Lunch was pizza at Fire Pizza which was tasty. I looked around the stores, bought some things at the dog store, toy store and candy store (for the family, honest) and then back to the hotel. On my way into the resort I saw Lionel Sanders and he was kind enough to take a selfie!

I had to record my Azure weekly update video which took about an hour to record/edit and then packed my “bags”. Now, CDA in 2021 is a “traditional” transition and this was evident (and had been communicated in advance) that there were no run or bike transition bags. You got a morning clothes bag (not really sure why) and then bike/run special needs. With a traditional transition you have a larger area at the bike rack but all you gear is just at the bike rack however you organize it. They said they had six bikes per rack instead of the normal ten to give you more space. This means you basically take everything down with you Sunday. The only thing you drop off Saturday is your bike! I always put my gear in a zip lock bag anyway so I just prepared my gear the same way. All of my nutrition is in the fridge hoping to try and keep it slightly cooler for as long as possible.

I watched the athlete briefing (there was also in person options). Dinner was spaghetti bolognese at Tito’s (and cheesy garlic bread AND the awesome garlic loaf they just brought out, so much food) and after that was just back to the hotel to relax. Sleep at 7 and hopefully up at 3.

Well, woke up at 2am and had a little 2 hour walk at about 4am and it was already starting to get light. It is because of how early it gets light IM CDA starts at 5am for the professionals and 5:35 for the age groupers. The 5:35 is to allow the pros to complete the first lap before us age groupers get in their way. I sat around watching movies then checked my bike in at 9am then proceeded to just focus on relaxing, hydrating and pizza for lunch then pasta with chicken for dinner. Like Tulsa I showered, put on my tritats and applied my first layer of sunscreen. 7pm bed time with alarm set for 2am since transition opens at 4am.

I didn’t really sleep well and at 2am got up had some chocolate milk, a blueberry bagel and just continued hydrating. I put on another layer of sunscreen and tried to relax. At 3:50 I left the room and headed to the single transition that would be home base all day! Weather forecast was still calling for 100 degrees!

This next part is after the event as I sit at the airport waiting to fly home. Brutal, that is the only word that sums it up, just brutal. The air temperature did indeed hit 100 however when you consider the roads radiate the heat (and are designed to for melting snow) the actual conditions were worse. When the pros finished (which was just as it was getting the hottest) a reporter on the local news showed the asphalt was 135 degrees so no clue what it would have been 5 hours later after 100 degrees. You were being cooked from both directions. My bike computer said it registered 109 as the max. After all the smoke cleared out of 2085 people who started the day, only 1535 finished, 26.4% DNF (did not finish) including a number of pros like Heather Jackson and Lauren Brandon. Lionel Sanders also suffered stomach issues and finished an hour behind the winner, Sam Long. The average DNF for IRONMAN is 5% (7% for Kona).

Pretty much summed up the day

But I did finish, it was just hell pretty much for the majority of the time 🙂 Let’s rewind.

You setup everything at your spot. I opted to just put my bags under my bike, I didn’t lay anything out but others laid down a towel and arranged everything ready. Whatever worked for the individual.

Great lake swim

The swim was a basically an out and back two loop affair. You get out of the water briefly between loops to run over a timing mat and then back out again (this proves you actually did 2 loops not 1). It was a self seed based on estimated finish time and they let 3 people in every 5 seconds. There was the opportunity to quickly get in the water so acclimatize then rejoin the queue if you wanted to (no thanks, I’ll just take the shock when I start :-)). The water was about 70 degrees and felt great. I had no issues in my sleeveless wet suit other than my hands getting a little cold. The water was pretty clear and overall a nice swim. I got kicked in the head pretty hard once and hit in the head once which was mainly people zigzagging around. I think everyone is a bit out of practice 🙂 I really liked the two loops, the swim felt shorter being broken up into basically 4 parts, swim out, swim back then repeat. I’m going to try and focus on that in future swims as often I have no clue how far I’ve gone nor how much further. There were great volunteers to help you out the water between loops and at the end (but like Tulsa, no wet suit strippers, you were on your own). Swim time was 45 minutes first lap and 50 the second lap. I think the second lap was slightly longer if you consider lap 2 you have to cut back over so overall I think were similar speeds.

On to the bike. My transition was very slow (15 minutes). I was taking time to apply more sunscreen etc but honestly given the projected heat I knew it was going to be a “finish” day as opposed to any time goal. The bike was two loops. There was lots of discussion about how much elevation gain there really was. Officially it was 7000, some bike computers said 5300. My watch said one number and the bike computer a completely different one but I would say it was hilly. There were a couple of very LONGGG climbs. Now what goes up must come down and you got to go down fast which was fun but you spent a lot of time going up hills. There was a do not pass section on one of the big down hills which was understandable given the bit of road we had but frustrating. I along with a few others got stuck behind someone just riding their breaks the entire time down on the first loop. They need to ride their race and it was no wrong doing for them, just sucked it impacted us 🙂

There were plenty of well stocked aid stations and made a point of replacing water and Gatorade at every aid station to get cold ones. The heat was OK on the first loop and as I started the second loop I was feeling pretty good and confident. That would not last.

Great picture from Justin Luau

It was getting hotter as I started the second loop and everything was just a bit tougher. I stuck to my nutrition and drinking (a waffle every hour and a gel every hour combined with water/Nuun and Gatorade) but for the entire second loop didn’t pee once (compared to twice on the first loop) and it did occur to me “I’m not drinking enough”. It was just harder. I wasn’t a huge amount slower but was slower. I wasn’t putting out the same power. Towards the end it was at the 100 degrees (but actually hotter because of the ground radiation) but it was very dry so you were not pouring with sweat, it just evaporated. My shorts and shirt were just crusted with salt. As I was finishing my loop 2 I saw people starting the loop and about half were pushing their bikes up the first climb. Very rarely have I seen people pushing bikes up the hills and these were not super steep, just very long and I remember feeling so sorry for these people that were going to be pushing bikes up a lot of hills in bike shoes which would be torture. My feet were hurting a little and I think they were basically cooking. But all that said I was quite happy with my bike time given the hilly course and very tough conditions. I sat for nearly the entire ride and my cadence was about 70 the entire time and tried to keep average power about 190 when peddling but obviously with all the hills there were periods much higher and periods of 0 (when I was going wheeee down hill).

At transition my leg cramped up for about 3 seconds when I lifted it over the bike to dismount but that was the only time I had any cramping in my legs (phew). Once again I took time to put on more sunscreen but my protein bar had melted into sludge and was inedible and my 5 hour energy was the temperature of coffee and not drinkable. I had put them both in a little thermal wallet so that test failed 🙂 back to the drawing board. My gel was also really hot but that I had to just take. My plan for the run was to adjust my speed to keep heart rate below 135. Well, my heart rate was 135 before starting so, yeah. Also I didn’t need to pee at T2 so I was pretty sure I was dehydrated big time so decided to walk a little to try and rehydrate but the problem is once you go into a deficit its hard to recover especially when you are still moving in 100 degree sunshine with more radiating up from the pavement under you.

My nutrition plan was a gel every 20 minutes and occasionally grab some potato chips when available. I had some Nuun to add to water in a little bottle but didn’t have many left after the bike so that was a problem. For the first hour I was able to run/walk and did the first of 3 loops in 2 hours however as I started the second loop I realized a number of things.

Firstly the crowds were amazing. The locals were so supportive. So many people were out with hoses drenching us to help cool us down. There were people giving out ice pops during loop 1 & 2 (they had gone by loop 3) and those ice pops were almost life changing events. In my head angels were singing. In total I had 2 orange and 2 grape ice pops. Those people are hero’s and statues of them handing out ice pops should be forged in bronze and put out on the lake shore to remind us of them forever. But I digress. All those amazing people with hoses soaking us was great, it helped cool us but there is something else jets of water does, it washes off all the sunscreen that was not even applying that well anyway because of how messed up my skin was. So as I started loop 2 I realized my legs, hands, back were all getting burnt. I kept applying more sunscreen but was not applying well and then could not use the hoses anymore so wasn’t cooling down. I decided not getting badly burned was more important than cooling given I got second degree sunburn during my first IRONMAN back in 2015 Texas.

The second thing I noticed was the idea of Gatorade, gels was now repulsive to me. I just didn’t want to drink Gatorade or eat gel. I knew I needed the calories but my body was just rejecting it. I could force down sips of Gatorade and a bit of gel but not much so that meant now I was dehydrated and not getting enough calories. Yay, only 17 miles to go. I decided to not really try and run on the second loop and to instead try to focus on getting my body working again by drinking more but ultimately all I could do was slow the decline 🙂 By loop 3 I was struggling and any running was exhausting. My sun burn was worse BUT at least the sun was setting during my 3rd loop so less direct sun and more shadow so the sun burn problem went away. About 4 miles left I drank a bit of chicken broth and Pepsi and helped a little. At this point my lips and hands were tingling a lot which for me is a sign of imminent crashing (I think its blood sugar too low) and the Pepsi/broth helped. With only 2 miles to go I was struggling so much.

During this whole time I was passing people passed out on the ground being tended to by the amazing fire department and volunteers. People were throwing up all around. I made a point to ask people if they were OK which is pretty stupid really “oh yes I’m fantastic, I just decided to stop and pretend I’m dying laying on the ground/throwing up over this tree, thanks for asking”. No one replied like that but mentally they all said that to me.

I had not slept well last few nights and it was now late so I was mentally tired as well consider the 2 hour difference from Texas and the fact I normally go to sleep at 8pm. Even though I only had 2 miles to go it actually crossed my mind to just fall on the floor so this would end but I quickly came to my senses and plodded on. As the finish line approached and I turned the final corner I started “running”. In my head I was running but I suspect my body was doing something no one else would call running but whatever. As I crossed the finish line and Mike Reilly called out “John Savill YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” it was worth it. I remember looking up at him, giving him a thumb up and he gave me a big old smile.

As I crossed the finish line my legs just went and the volunteers caught me. They proceeded to hold me up, get my medal, hat and t-shirt then walked/carried me to the photo spot. “You better be quick with this one” they said to the photographer. They kept asking if anyone was with me and seemed concerned I didn’t and wanted to take me to medical.


I told them I just needed food so they got me to the food tent and it was bratwurst in buns!! I thought it would be pizza and it did not seem appealing but I needed food. I got a brat in a bun, put on ketchup and took a bite. Fireworks exploded into the sky, harps gently played. It was amazing and I instantly felt better. I ate the whole thing, went to transition and packed up my stuff. Took my bike to Tri Bike Transport then went back to the food tent to get a second one which was an equally life changing experience as the first. I walked the few hundred yards to the resort and collapsed on the bed.

Once I had a little rest I had 3 glasses of chocolate milk, a Twix finger, showered, applied silver skin lotion on my burns and went to bed where I didn’t sleep a wink all night as usual. At 4 I just got up, showered again and went for a little walk. I took some pictures of the medal 🙂

IRONMAN even used my picture in the Medal Monday post which was cool 🙂 The Facebook forum was full of people discussing how it was the hardest IRONMAN ever and it was the certainly the hardest one I have ever done. The bike course was tough and the heat just destroyed. Kudos to everyone whether you finished or not. If you DNF’d don’t let this stop you from trying another. This was an anomaly and they are not normally THIS hard!

My standard finisher pose 😀

I would just like to thank everyone involved. It was a fantastic day even in harsh conditions. The IRONMAN team, the volunteers, the crowds, the police, medical, fire department, everyone was just awesome. Without them I never would have finished. You are all amazing! Thank you!

Finally a huge thank you to my amazing wife for supporting me on my never ending crazy goals 🙂

IRONMAN Lake Placid Race Report

Also known as “suddenly Boulder doesn’t seem so tough” 🙂

Lake Placid was my 3rd IRONMAN this year, 6 weeks after Boulder which itself was a very tough day with the altitude and high heat. Lake Placid also marks my 10th IRONMAN just 2 more to go (Wisconsin and Chattanooga later this year) until I can apply for the legacy program and at some point the opportunity to partake in IRONMAN Kona.

My training since Texas has not been going great. I think doing an IRONMAN every 6 weeks is very aggressive and I’m fatigued physically and mentally however the last 2 weeks have gone pretty well and I think most of it is mental and was feeling mentally strong and in pretty good shape. Placid was going to test that 🙂

Like Boulder, my family came with me. We flew into Montreal and spent a couple of days there where we took the kids to the science museum and wandered round the old town. I went to a Tim Hortons and ate Poutin and a maple leaf donut. This was about as Canadian as I felt possible 🙂


We drove the 3 hour trip to Lake Placid on Thursday where we checked into the High Peaks Resort which is the host resort for IRONMAN Lake Placid. Note that although its the host resort it is actually pretty far from the village and the transitions. There are many other hotels much closer FYI. It was a nice enough resort though and the staff were very friendly.

When we arrived we went and registered at the convention center which was all very standard and then went and registered the kids for the IRONKIDS run on Friday and the VIP passes so the family had a good view at the finish line. As usual bought a few things in the store including a complete Lake Placid IRONMAN tri shorts, running shirt and bike shirt in addition to a donut IRONMAN bike shirt 🙂

Lake Placid is a small town but there are a lot of places to eat with a huge number of Italian restaurants so lots of pizza and pasta choices 🙂 There is also a Ben and Jerrys ice cream store which we may have frequented daily. Also a nice chocolate shop with giant chocolate raisins!

On Friday we had the IRONKIDS run. It said it started at 2:00 however before the half mile run they had the kids dip and dash who all had to finish so the run didn’t actually start till 2:45 and it was a hot day. There were a lot of very grumpy kids. I definitely think it would make more sense to tell people different start times for the various events.

After the run I laid out all my gear. This event added lip balm sunscreen as on boulder my lips got a bit burnt. As it would turn out sun was not a huge problem for Lake Placid 🙂



Saturday I took my bike and bags down to the transition area. The run and bike bags are kept together on a set of hooks which was pretty cool. Your morning clothes bag went on the same hook on Sunday so was easy to collect everything at the end of the day.


For the rest of the day I pretty much did nothing. Pasta for lunch and as always pizza for dinner. We watching Paddington Bear 2 in the room 🙂 I bought tri-tats for this event so put them on before bed. Went to bed around 8:30 and actually slept pretty well. I got up at about 3:15 to eat my apple sauce, protein shake and bagel. I checked the weather forecast and it had stayed with rain starting around 8am and finishing around 12 with temperature of 55 going up to 72 later in the day. Greeeaaaatttttt.

I walked the half mile down to transition, pumped up my tires, put on a bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water (which I never even opened) however the morning clothes bag drop off was at the transition and so I just hung around the transition area sitting in the men’s changing tent rather than going to the swim start. The water temperature was about 74 so wet suit legal, woo hoo! With an hour before the 6:40 age group start I put on my wet suit, applied the spray on lube around my neck, put on some sun screen and put my morning clothes bag on the bottom hook next to my run bag then walked down to the swim start.

It wasn’t raining yet but was 55 and pretty chilly. The swim course was two loops (really just out and back) but they were really keeping people pretty tight on the swim course not letting people stray too much out by way of people in canoes telling you to move over, which meant frequently you would bump into people, get stuck behind people and a few times get kicked by people. It was a rolling start where you self seeded into your estimated finish time. I know a few people with anxiety around the swim were unable to finish because of how bunched together they made us. I thought the swim was fine though, finishing in 1:29:59 (no matter where I swim I’m always 1.5 hours). Sometimes it’s good to be a bigger person so if people do knock into you its fairly easy to knock them back out the way. 🙂 You have to get out the water between loops and they had some water to drink which was nice. It started to rain during the second loop which made the water a bit choppy. Overall the swim in Mirror Lake was nice and you had great visibility to see the buoys so was easy to stay on course. I also saw the underwater line a few times that connects the buoys and if you can stay on it provides the shortest path without having to sight the buoys. Problem is everyone tries to do that 🙂


After the swim its a run to the transition area (which really wasn’t that far, I had heard half a mile but was nothing like that). Grabbed my bike bag off the hook, into the tent, put on my new bike shirt, applied the butt chamois butt’r stuff which really helps with the saddle pain and is much better than a bar type thing I used to use. Applied some sun screen, stored my nutrition and out I went. Into the rain. I turned on my bike computer but it was having problems finding GPS so didn’t register the first .25 mile of the ride but thankfully started showing my speed pretty quick. It was now raining a lot. A lot of cold rain, in the cold. 55 degrees. This would be the state of the entire first loop pretty much. I was freezing for most of the first loop and it was a cold that felt like it was going down into your bones. My new white socks were basically black by the end.


Additionally there was a 15mph SE wind which just was the cherry on top of my misery Sunday 🙂 It hit you as a headwind but somehow never was a tailwind and rather a cross-wind trying to blow you over as you went down the hills. It was a tough course and normally you get downhill back from the uphill’s and Placid had massive downhills BUT because of the rain my brakes were barely working so I had to go down really slow. I would pull on the breaks and they responded with “meh, don’t want to”. A brake placebo. The first loop took 3.5 hours. I was looking at a 7 hour bike ride. I’m not sure how much better I would have done without the rain but it really was just very tough. There were a few flat sections but mainly it was up and then a short down. You can see the elevation data below (this is for both loops). It stopped raining by the second loop and the road dried up plus I now knew the course a bit better so I took the downhills much faster. I got up to 45 mph 🙂 weeeeeeeeeee. The second loop was definitely better than the first but I really wasn’t any faster on the second loop and my total bike time 7:01:57. Wow! My slowest ever but also I would say the toughest course ever with worst conditions ever. I feel I tried hard during the course so was pleased with it. It’s a very hard course but the scenery was amazing and the miles did go pretty fast. There were aid stations every 10 miles and lots of porta-pottys along the course which was lucky as I guess because it was so cold I had to constantly pee on that first loop 🙂

im lake placid 2018 Bike Data


Another quick transition and on to the run. It was actually great weather for the run. Around 70 degrees but lots of cloud so no bright sun beating down on you. The course was hilly (surprise). I felt tired getting off the bike but not drained. My plan was to run downhill and flat and walk the uphills and I mostly stuck to that with the odd extra bit of walking when required. It was great seeing my family at the half way point (I also got to see them mid-point and at the end of the bike). They had orange Gatorade on the run course which surprised me, normally its lime 🙂 I brought my own nutrition and had a gel every 30 minutes, this time I used ones with caffeine! Apart from that it was the same as all the other IRONMAN events with water, coke (which I had a couple of times), redbull and later on chicken broth. They also had various types of food. The run is two loops and the volunteers throughout the event were amazing as always and the crowds were great. Everyone talks about the finish line at Lake Placid being second only to Kona and it was amazing not that I remember much about it 🙂 I was really tired and basically had tunnel vision on the finish line. I forgot to even make some kind of victory pose. I just ran across the line 🙂 Final time on the marathon 5:20:37 giving me a total time of 14:15:59 when you add in the transitions. That time is way off my best however this was a very different course, very different conditions and I really gave it my all. Sometimes I finish an IRONMAN and feel like I could have done better. I feel proud of this one and am really happy with my performance.


And the reward 🙂 Medal, hat and t-shirt goodness. You also got a mini-towel to celebrate the 20th anniversary.

I picked up my bike and bags, dropped my bike off at Tri Bike Transport then walked back to the hotel (about half a mile). Showered, ate 1/3 of a sandwich my better half got for me then completely failed to sleep all night like every other night after an IRONMAN. Could not sleep a wink. I wish I knew why. I can only guess its eating nothing but sugar all day with caffeine and I never normally drink any caffeine so am pretty sensitive to it I guess. At 5am I left the room and wondered around the town and took a picture of the lake. Really was amazing location.


At 6am I walked down to the store to join the queue. I was about number 20 in the queue and by the time it opened just before 7 there must have been a hundred people behind me. Bought the finisher jacket, t-shirt and polo as normal then headed back for breakfast with my family.

Overall Lake Placid IRONMAN was awesome. As usual the IRONMAN was a great experience. Super well organized, amazing volunteers and you just live to hear Mike Reilly tell you that you are an IRONMAN 🙂 It’s a very tough IRONMAN, I would say the toughest I’ve done. I was chatting to people who had done it in previous years and they said it was harder this year but its a great course, great finish and you have a great sense of accomplishment when you finish. It should be on everyone’s list to do. As the multiple signs on the course point out “if it was easy, it would be called your Mom” 🙂

Two more to go this year, six weeks till Wisconsin then 3 weeks after that Chattanooga!



IROMAN Chattanooga 144.6 2017 Race Report

Sitting in the airport the day after the 2017 and wanted to share experience of another awesome IRONMAN event. This is my second year of participating in the Chattanooga IRONMAN after also participating last year (where there was record heat and DNFs (Did Not Finish)).

I arrived on Thursday and checked in then went off for some dinner. Friday morning I got up and checked in. Took about 5 minutes, show your ID, check some forms, get your backpack (like the style of this years), chip, bib numbers and swim cap and you’re off (after a quick exit through the store). I brought my Xbox with me for this IRONMAN so spent most of the day just playing that. For lunch I had a baked potato with chicken in it then dinner was spaghetti with meat sauce. Saturday is gear check day which is super simple for Chattanooga as everything is in the same place. Since I started using a Trisuit its actually a lot less to pack now but I lay alley gear out on the bed, I compare to the gear list in the athlete guide and also visualize putting everything on from feet to head to make sure I don’t forget anything. Shoes, socks, bike shirt, nutrition, bike helmet then for run running shoes, socks, knee supports, nutrition belt with bib, glasses and hat. Also put sunscreen in both bags. I took my two transition bags down (run and bike) and picked up my bike from TriBike Transport. The drop off is behind the athlete village so you drop off your bike then as you exit drop off your run and bike bags, that’s it. Quick tip, try and tie you bag as much as possible just incase it rains overnight to avoid your gear getting wet. Also don’t have your tires pumped up all the way to avoid them popping over night. Lunch was bread, paste with marinara and grilled chicken breast then dinner was spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic knots. Also had some candy 🙂 Early to bed.

I actually got about 6 hours sleep which is great for me before an IRONMAN. Got up at 3 am, ate some bagel and 20g of protein powder with water. Checked my morning bag again, wetsuit, timing chip, cap, goggles, bottle to put on bike, drink to put on bike and an extra drink for while waiting to actually start since you get to the start about 2 hours before it begins, extra bagel and a 5 hour energy. Transition opens at 4:30 so I left the hotel at 4:15 and walked down (was about .5 mile). I got there and there was already a big line but once it opened it moved fast. They numbered you up (they write your bib number on both arms then your age on your calf unless you do this yourself with something like TriTats) then I grabbed my bike and pumped the tires up to 100 (there are always plenty of pumps around or people willing to share, never had a problem). Put on my bike bottle with Gatorade and a bottle of water. Walked through the two transitions checking my bags were still there (always a panic point) and then off to jump on school bus that takes you to the swim start. At the swim start you line up along the path that leads to the point you jump in the water. You completely self seed. It was wetsuit optional and I choose to wear a wetsuit as I hadn’t done much swimming nor done open water swimming without the comfort blanket that is the wetsuit and so I decided to wear it. It’s sleeveless so I never get hot in it. There are toilets where you get off the bus but none down at the actual water entry point. The queues for the toilets near when it was about to start were insane and people just started going in the woods, even the girls! 🙂

You swim downstream in the river and last year I did 1:09 whereas my normal swim is about 1:30-1:35 so the current helps a LOT. As soon as I jumped in the water and started swimming it felt like I was moving FAST. I was very controlled, I consider the swim a warm up and want to save my strength for the bike/run. It’s a straight line course and I finished in 59 minutes! I couldn’t believe it but yay! I’m the one in the middle 🙂

A quick walk up the ramp, grab the bike transition bag, into the changing tent. I bought myself a new helmet for this event. It’s one where the visor is part of the helmet. While yes its supposed to be more aerodynamic I actually bought it as I always experienced discomfort having the glasses sitting under the helmet. It would rub over my ears. This fixed that feeling. I look like weird bug person 🙂

On to the bike, had a quick gel and was off. I felt fast. The course for the bike is two loops and its 116 miles instead of the standard 112. This is because of the nature of the possible routes available however since the swim is helped by the current I think this balances out (although my butt and neck were very unhappy with the extra 4 miles 🙂 ).

There are some big hills but it gives back, i.e. you go up but then you get nice long downhills where you can recover. One of the downhill parts is near the end of the loop and I got up to 36mph, super fun, I actually found myself saying out loud “wheeeeeeee”. It was a warm day however there were clouds that gave relief but on the second loop you started to feel the heat and things were getting tougher. I was drinking a bottle of the Gatorade every 45 minutes I think with a little bit of water sprinkled in between. On the hour I would have a Gu then at 20 minutes I had half a waffle and at 40 minutes the other half. That gets me about 430 calories an hour which seems to work for me. I did slow on the second loop but still pretty good. All-in-all I finished in 6:19:18. My guidance would be just take it easy on the bike. Remember, you have a marathon (26.2 miles) still to do. If you kill yourself on the bike you may gain 30 minutes but the run will easily take that back! On the course they have aid stations about every 15 miles where they have bottles of Gatorade, bottles of water and also bananas, Gus etc. I carry my own nutrition so don’t use that but if you train with the same nutrition they give out it can reduce what you have to carry. I just stick 6 waffles and 7 Gus in my bike shirt and I’m done.

With the bike done it was back to transition, grab the run bag and then get back out there. At this point as I started the run I was sitting at 7 hours and 40 minutes. My PR was 13 hours and 2 minutes. If I could run a 5 hour 20 marathon or less I could beat my PR and break 13 hours which has always been my goal. I set out steady and jogged at around 5.5 mph for the first 8 miles (slower for the odd incline) which you can see in the breakdown picture below but at mile 8, oh boy and I’d been dreading it as I remembered from last year, you hit hills, BIG hills. Once you get up the big hill, you run down it then have to run up again, then down again then back up the hill you ran down. It’s about 3 miles total that includes very hilly portions then its flat (ish) to 13 where you get to do it all again.

I got to 13 miles at 2 hours and 30 minutes. If I could do the second in 2 hours 50 I would meet my goal but I was feeling drained. I was struggling to run and kept walking plus I was getting the tingling in my lips which is never good. I kept doing math in my head of how fast I had to run as I got slower and slower until it was starting to look impossible but then something wonderful happened. Now I’m a huge Superman fan and Superman is powered by the sun but it seems to have the opposite effect on me. What wonderful thing happened? The sun started to go down. I got a second wind and just went for it. The math still seemed like I would fail as I’d need to be over 5 mph and I had all the hill section but I just wanted to do the best I could. I ran when it was flat or downhill but walked up the big hills (but at a fast pace). I was making time up, the math in my head started to look possible again until on the final incline I got mile 24 and I had 30 minutes left. 30 minutes to go 2.2 miles. I could do that almost walking and it was only a few more minutes up hill then it was down and flat. At the top of the hill I started to run and kept running. At mile 25 I had over 15 minutes left. I could walk but I didn’t, I sped up. The crowds were amazing, I could see the finish line and I crossed, 12 hours 54 minutes and 53 seconds. I PR’d and broke 13 hours. As I crossed the finish line my legs kept giving out but I didn’t care. I knew I had broken 13 hours. Got my picture taken grabbed pizza but was unable to eat it. Drank some water. The pictures below sum it up, pain but relief, joy and then just overall happy its done!

I headed to pick up my bike then as you exit the bike pickup they give you all 3 of your bags all tied together (which is awesome, run, bike and morning clothes bag). I dropped my bike off at TriBike then started the long walk back to hotel carrying all 3 bags. That was hard and slowwwww. I couldn’t eat anything still even back at the hotel. I forced about 40 g of protein powder with water in me but really couldn’t eat solids. I showered then got into bed but could not sleep. Same thing happened in Texas. Not sure if its because consumed so much sugar during the event or something else but all night I just laid there. I went back and looked at my times (below).

This shows the actual position out of totals (however I really don’t care about this part). My goal is to try and improve my time.

At 4 am I got up, packed, showered again, set off out the hotel at 5:30 to find breakfast then at 6:30 joined the queue for the IRONMAN store to buy my finisher polo, t-shirt and mini-jacket (the full jacket is great this year but I already have it from Texas and Santa Rosa so decided to get something else). Even though the queue is big it moves fast. And now at the airport going to Orlando to speak at Ignite (big Microsoft conference). UPDATE – my luggage went to the wrong airport so that was fun 🙂

Once again a great event. They all are. The volunteers are AMAZING and just never stop giving. THANK YOU!!!

This was number 6. Half way to my goal of 12 so I can apply for the Kona lottery.

Up next, Florida in 6 weeks!

IRONMAN Texas 2017 Race Report

Well the muscles have healed, I’ve had some sleep so it’s time to write-up my race report for the 2017 IRONMAN Texas which was on 22nd April 2017. This is my third straight year doing Texas and it was awesome. The course was great, the other participants were all great and friendly, the IRONMAN team were great, the volunteers amazing and the spectators awesome!

I went into this IRONMAN feeling optimistic about setting a new Personal Record (PR). My previous best was 14 hours 30 minutes for 2016 Chattanooga (I don’t count the time for 2016 Texas as the bike course was shortened). I had changed a few things:

  • I had focused more on running. Completed a number of marathons. Did more running post my long bike ride on Saturday. More hill running (on treadmill)
  • I changed my drink from water with Nuun to Gatorade. When combined with the Gu and waffle this raised my hourly calories from about 230 to 400 an hour. I think previously I was not consuming enough during the bike leaving me  short on energy for the run
  • The temperature was to be between 70 and 75. Much cooler than the 95 all three of my other IRONMANs had been

I still did all my training on the treadmill and spin bike but had put in more mileage. The only time I trained outside was the few marathons I did and a 10 minute bike test I did following the new tires I had put on my bike the week before the IRONMAN (this turned out to be a huge disaster that I’ll talk more about later) as part of a tune-up I had done by a travelling bike service.

In terms of timing, the onsite registration is 2 days prior to the event while the bike and run bag/bike bag drop-off is 1 day prior. I live near Dallas which meant the Woodlands (the location for the IRONMAN) was about a four hour drive. I got up early Thursday, went to the gym for some light cardio and weight training then drove down to the Woodlands. I went straight to the IRONMAN village which has the registration tent, store and partner tents.

Registration is fast. You give your state ID and they write down your bib number on a card. You then go into the registration tent, go to the waiver desk where they give you two forms. You check the details, enter some contact information then give them back in. You then pick up the transition bags, grab your bib numbers, get your IRONMAN bracelet put on which has your number on it and will stay on you until after the event and your timing chip which will attach round your left ankle (grab a safety pin as well to help really secure it on the morning). You will also grab your fancy backpack (or whatever the style is that year) and a few other goodies. You exit registration to the store which does not have the finisher gear yet but will the evening of the event and the next day.

I then popped over to TriBike Transport to make sure my name and bib number was on the valet list. Normally I ship with TriBike but for Dallas I just drive the bike down with me but the valet service is $40 and simply gets them to pick up your bike and run/bike transition bags the night of the event and bring it back to the IRONMAN village for the next day. This means you don’t have to worry about it after finishing the IRONMAN and worth every penny to me!

Then off to Macaroni Grill for my ritual pre-IRONMAN diet of marinara pasta with grilled chicken breast on the side for lunch with water. I will have the same for dinner, the same for lunch the next day finishing off with a cheese pizza from Grimaldi’s for dinner the night before the IRONMAN.

I checked into my hotel (which I had the bad luck of a room that had a door to adjoining room which had a young family containing a toddler that screamed and shouted all 3 nights I was there till midnight which because of the door seemed like was in the room with me meaning I didn’t sleep till the kid did) and laid all my gear out in 3 piles on the floor: clothes for the morning, bike transition bag content and run transition bag content. When I think about the content I need I run through in my mind getting dressed from feet up to head to make sure I’m not missing anything. The 2016 Texas athlete guide had a great checklist:


Remember if you are not wearing a trisuit you also need to pack things like bike shorts/shirt, run shorts/shirt etc. I packed the bags and set them aside for drop off tomorrow. I don’t use the special needs bags (these are available on the course for things like extra nutrition, spare inner tubes etc but you don’t get these back at the end so put in nothing of value). I then proceeded to veg out and just watch reruns of The Office.

On Friday I had a bagel for breakfast and some fruit then went to the transition point with my bike, run and bike transition bags. Everyone is super helpful and will direct you. Find your row for the bike (don’t have the tires fully inflated, you pump them up the morning of), hang it up by the saddle then drop off the bags. Then off for pasta, pizza and more The Office reruns.

Friday night I only got a few hours sleep because of nerves and the loud kid next door but at 3 I got up, had some apple sauce, a power cake, packed my morning bag and just hung around. At 4:30 I headed out. I park at a garage by the IRONMAN village then walk to the transition area which officially opens at 5:30 but they normally open earlier. Here you go pump up your tires to race pressure (100 for me) and there are technicians up at the front to do it for you but also people bring their own who always share. This is where my bike nightmare begun. I pumped up to 100 PSI and my front tire no longer spun. The new tires they put on were bigger and when pumped fully were hitting the frame. I’m not a bike expert at all. This was stupid on my part to change tires the weekend before and even though I did a quick test I hadn’t pumped to 100 and the company that did it never thought of it either. My solution was to lower the wheel slightly which seemed to fix it however I suspected gravity would be my enemy over time when I started riding but nothing I could do at this point.

I then walked to the swim start where they do the body marking and you can drop off your morning (white) clothes bag which will be moved to the finish line available when you finish. You also drop off the special needs bags if you have them and then wait.

The water temperature was wetsuit optional which means you can wear a wetsuit but you start after the people who don’t wear them and you are not eligible for age group awards. Not a concern for me 🙂 so I opted to wear a wetsuit since I’d injured my shoulder in training and my entire swim training consisted of 2 half mile swims and 1 one mile swim! Everyone is super friendly and generally happy to chat. The lines for the restrooms were super long so make sure you give yourself enough time. It was a rolling start with athletes self-seeding which means people are constantly entering the water and you choose when you enter. If you are slower don’t try and get in first as people will be swimming over you so put yourself in the right place. I entered the water about 6:50 and the water was great temperature but solid brown. You could not see ANYTHING in there at all. I settled into a very easy pace and I tend to stay on the outside as I don’t want to get kicked in the face and an extra few minutes is not going to significantly impact my 14 hour time. It was a straight up and down course and then a right turn into the canal. The canal portion was disgusting. I was constantly getting long strings of something in my hands and on my face (last year the swim course was changed as the canal was too polluted to swim in) but was still swimming easy and felt good. Then at the end its a sharp left just before getting out where everyone funneled together and got knocked around a bit. People were on hand to help you get out the water and undo the wetsuit. 1:28:15 for the swim which for me is good and I got out feeling great with very little energy expended.


Now a run up, grab the bike bag and into the changing tent. I get changed into my bike gear and this took a while. My next IRONMAN (Santa Rosa) I’m going to try a trisuit to avoid the changes from swim to bike to run. I then run up to the bike and its very muddy. I grab the bike and walk it to the mounting line. I got on the bike and my shoes would not snap in to the peddles. The mud had clogged everything up. I pulled over and stomped my feet to get the mud off then my feet clipped in and off I went. The first 20ish miles were on normal roads before going onto the closed off highway on which I would ride two loops.

About 60 minutes in I started to hear a very loud screeching noise and could not work out what it was and I noticed my legs were getting tired. Noise went and came back louder than ever. I pulled over and sure enough my front tire would barely move. I had been fighting the tire as it had slipped up again so was rubbing on the frame. Damn. I loosened it again, pulled it down a few millimeters and tightened. It spun and off I went again. About 30 minutes later the massive screeching again and I saw one of the mobile mechanics on the side of the road (there is great on course support with motor bikes roaming helping cyclists if you have a problem). He basically told me what I was doing was not going to work (as I had found) and the only solution was to let air out the tire. He let out a lot of air until it no longer rubbed on the frame. So now I’m on a tire without enough air pressure but better than it was and off I went no longer worrying about the tire. Lesson learned here is to not make changes just before an event and test in the same circumstances as the actual event. Stupid but not a mistake I’ll make again.

The part on the highway (80 miles of the 112) was basically 20 miles South in a straight line, 20 miles North back and then turn and repeat once more. There were a few small rolling hills but nothing bad and as soon as you went up you would go down straight after it. After completing the first Southbound 20 miles, turning and going North and with about 10 miles until I was going to turn to go South again a strong wind started that was blowing almost directly South which means straight against you which slowed down and was getting stronger but in my mind I was thinking in 10 miles it would be behind and then yay! I turned and with the good tailwind I was going about 23-24 mph for bits and the wind was only getting stronger. As I neared the turning point I was filled with dread and sure enough a massive headwind slowing me to about 15 mph for the remaining 20 miles of the highway. I saw people by the side of the road bloodied and heard the wind had blown people off of bikes. For once being heavy worked in my favor 🙂

Once you left the highway there was about 12 miles left which was all still going North which meant all still had the massive headwind and sucked and was so happy to see the transition area. Bike was 6:10:15 which was slower than I had hoped (6 was my goal) but with the tire problems and the massive headwind I was fine. In my head I was thinking I had to do 5:30 for the marathon to hit 13:30 which was my hopeful goal.

My nutrition went well on the bike though. On the course they have stations every 10 miles giving out 750ml bottles of water and orange Gatorade in addition to bananas etc. There are also restrooms as the stations and amazing volunteers. I took Gatorade at every stop and occasionally a water. Every hour I ate a Gu (that I took with me) and at 20 minutes and 40 minutes I ate half of a waffle (which I also took with me). About 400 calories an hour.

At the transition they take your bike and re-rack for you and I went and grabbed my run bag, went to change tent and changed into my running gear. Then out I went (after quickly getting another round of sunscreen from the volunteers outside the change tent). On me I had 5 Gus and 5 waffles along with two small bottles that I planned to fill one with water and one with lime Gatorade (that they have on course). I ate a Gu quick and while I initially planned to walk at first I felt pretty good so decided to just easily jog and looking at my old running watch was going about 6mph. At the water stops (which are every mile with water, Gatorade, red bull, coke and then every few miles have Gus, blocks etc) I would ask them to fill up my bottles as needed which they always did.

The run is 3 loops of a roughly 9 mile loop which is super flat with great spectator support throughout. You run through some park areas, some nice housing areas and the canal area. The run was feeling good so I decided to just run non-stop for the first loop. The temperature was probably around 70 (the high was 75 for the day) which was amazing and I was breathing great. I got round loop 1 without having to walk and decided to keep going into loop 2. At around mile 13 my times were great and I constantly do math to work out “if I walked now at 4mph what time would I finish in” and I had worked out I could now walk and still finish in 5:30 as I was at about 2 hours 10 minutes for the half and my breathing was getting more labored. I decided to walk for a bit to recover. I guess I walked for about half a mile then started running again. In my head I was now thinking to break 5 hours for the marathon which was very doable but I knew I was slowing down. I ran for another 3-4 miles then walked again a little for about 5 minutes but then ran again. I was also getting mild tingling in my lips.


I had planned a Gu an hour and a waffle at the same intervals as the bike but was unable to eat the waffle at all as my body made it clear to me I would be sorry if I even tried. This meant I was just having 1 Gu an hour and the Gatorade meaning I was way short on my calories for the run. I also was licking base salts every couple of miles. I didn’t want to take banana, pretzels, broth or anything else as I had not trained with that.

I was at about mile 22 and was at about 4 hours and 5 minutes. I knew if I wanted to break 5 hours I would have to run the next 4.2 miles with no walk break so off I went. I don’t have a tri watch so had no clue of my overall time. I knew I was at about 8 hours after the bike with the swim and two transitions but not an exact idea. I really wish I had as if I had known I probably would have pushed just a tiny bit harder. At your final loop you split off right to the finish line which is a few hundred yards left. You down a slight decline with people cheering your on and you just find more energy and speed up (no one will ever know you walked/crawled bits earlier on). You take a U-turn and run up the final slight incline to the finish line. People high-five you as you run and you cross the line and those words you have been waiting for “John Savill, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”.

As you cross the finish line there are volunteers to basically catch you as once that adrenalin wears off you tend to collapse a little. They wrap the metal blanket thing round you and walk you to get your medal, hat and finisher t-shirt and then get your picture taken.

My marathon time was 4:55:45 which I was delighted about. Sub-5 was amazing for me as part of the IRONMAN. I still don’t know my final time though. I know its around 13 hours but not sure if over or under. You then walk to the food and I grabbed some pizza (which was stone cold) and a can of coke. I then found a chair and sat down. At this point I get a terrible tingling in my face and lips. This happens to me every time. I’ve tried to research and its either lack of sugar or lack of water. Not sure which. I just sat in the chair trying to eat but couldn’t really and had a few sips of coke and water. I sat for about 10 minutes. The tingling didn’t really go away but it does not panic me anymore. I went and picked up my morning clothes bag to get my car key and made my way to the car park where I grabbed my phone to text my wife and look at look at my final time. Sadly the tracking site still had not updated to show me finishing the run nor would it the entire night! It was not until next morning the site updated my times so I could see my final time!

Drove to the hotel while chatting to my wife on the phone. I knew it was around 13 hours which was still awesome and I was delighted. Made my way to the room, drank a protein shake, half a milky way but couldn’t really eat still. Jumped in the shower then went to bed and didn’t sleep a wink of sleep all night. I just could not sleep. Not sure because I was buzzed about the time. Maybe the amount of Gatorade I had consumed during the day. But zero sleep but that was fine. I just did an awesome IRONMAN.

About 3am I just gave up even trying and tried to check my time again which had now updated!!! 13 hours, 1 minute and 54 seconds. I just missed 13 hours but I crushed my previous best by nearly 90 minutes. I suspect the extra running training and the cooler temperatures coupled with the additional calories thanks to Gatorade was the reason but no idea what the bigger impact was. If it had not been for the bike problems I would easily have broken 13 hours but oh well. I’m happy with that.

At 6 am I got up and drove to the IRONMAN village. I got breakfast at the Westin (where I’m staying next year to avoid having to drive on the day and stress about my car key getting lost in the morning clothes bag 🙂 ) then off to the store to buy an awesome finisher jacket and t-shirt. I then picked up my bike and bags from TriBike, put in my car then drove home which I arrived at about 11:00am. Pancakes for lunch then it was III forks for dinner and a tasty steak 🙂

Next up is Santa Rosa in 3 months time. It will be warmer and the bike hillier. What will I do differently? I need to focus on my swimming, carry on improving my bike times and run times but I’ve just bought the Fenix 5 tri-watch so I’ll better know my times and will buy a tri-suit to cut my transition times. I need new running glasses as I lost them at the finish line. I also need to think about 2 Gus an hour on the run as clearly waffles don’t work at that point. I’ll be taking my bike to the bike store and getting the front wheel replaced with a smaller one!

Completely opposite to what makes sense for the IRONMAN I’m trying to gain muscle wanting to get to about 205 from my current 195 but that will probably take about a year as its slow to gain with all the IRONMAN training. I’m happy to have lots of goals and believe I can still improve all round.

In summary an amazing experience. I love the IRONMAN events. I love the volunteers and the spectators and the IRONMAN team. They are always well organized even when factors beyond their control get in the way.

Most I love my wife and my family without whose support I would be unable to train and participate in these events.

See you at the next one!




Motivating Yourself for Training

For most people actually working out is not the problem. The problem is getting to the gym, the problem is finding time, the problem is there is always something else that needs doing. The reality is if you really want to do something you’ll find a way, if you don’t you’ll find an excuse (the Rock said that!). It’s very true. When I don’t want to do something I’ll find a million reasons why I can’t. If I want to do something I’ll always find a way. You need to motivate yourself to want to train and that motivation will be different for everyone.

What does not work is someone else’s motivation. Someone else wants you to lose weight, someone else wants to run a marathon so you need to run with them. Sure you may get bullied into training for a while but someone else’s motivation is destined to fail. They may lose their own motivation which means you both quit or you get fed up with them so quit to “show them you don’t have to”. You need to find a motivation for you.

Now, that motivation could very well be something that will impact someone else. You want to get fitter so you can play more with your kids. Great! You want to lose weight to look better for your partner (without them pestering you to). Great! You want to get healthier to improve your overall quality of life and set a good example for your kids. Perfect. You want your wife to look at you the way she looks at Stephen Amell on TV. Make it happen! It’s still your choice and something you want to do. If others benefit as well that’s just extra goodness.

Motivation has to kick in at different times during training. There need to be long term and short term motivations.

  • There is the motivation to decide and maintain training. This is a long term motivation. I like to train to be healthy, so I can protect my family, to set an example for my family and to allow me to eat complete crap occasionally! Work out what yours is. A mission statement for you.
  • While training there is the motivation to push yourself. To run that extra 5 minutes. To go for the extra set. To do some abdominals. Here you may ask yourself “why are you here?” and you’ll answer with your long term motivation. You have a goal. You are here to achieve it so work and achieve it! There may also be short term motivations. “Hey, if I run 10 more minutes that’s 150 extra calories I’ll burn. I can totally have a red velvet buntini after dinner” (I love those things). OR “hey 150 more calories burnt, that’s nearly a 1/20th of a pound of fat burnt, woo hoo!”. Beating your personal best! I ran at 6.7mph last week, I’m going to run at 6.8mph this week.
    I have Arnold Schwarzenegger in my head a lot when I train (or Arnie as he likes me to call him… in my mind). “Come on John, you can do it <with an accent>, push it harder, my grandmother in Austria lifted more than that, don’t be a girly man”. Arnie is my life long idle 🙂 Pick someone you look up to and let them motivate you during training! Train with someone where possible and motivate each other during training. It’s also great so you can spot each other!
  • When you want to give up there is the motivation not to. You are tired and still have 20 minutes left of cardio and an easy exit is right there. How not to take it. Once again there is the long term goal but this is where you need a mind shift a little. As long as its not some sharp pain indicating injury but rather just muscle aching from working out then we need to push through. You need to say to yourself “this is uncomfortable and it kinda sucks but you know what, its OK to feel this way. I’m getting stronger”. It’s a mind shift but its vital. I struggled with running long distances until I had this mind shift. You’re going to be uncomfortable but you’ll get through it and next time you’ll be able to push a bit harder. That much closer to a goal.
    I’ll say movie quotes to myself when I’m tired to get myself fired up. I’ll play the scene from Rocky Balboa in my mind when he talks to his son about its how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward (go buy the movie but if you are cheap search for Rocky Balboa Inspirational Speech). I’ll remind myself what a fantastic, easy life I have that this is the hardest thing in it and others have it far worse to survive and am I really going to give up. There was a news video of a little 8-year old boy with Cerebral Palsy completing a triathlon. At the finish line he pushed aside his walking aid and just ran. He fell, got up, ran, fell down, got up, ran and he finished. Seriously the tiredness I fell, do I truly believe I have it worse than that brave little 8-year old boy. Hell no. He motivates me more than anything else and I think of him often when I want to give up. Go watch it at . When you want to quit remind yourself of that brave little boy and ask do you have some excuse better than him?
  • When there is some tasty food I really want but know I shouldn’t. I’ll remind myself of my long term motivations. I’ll remind myself really its just a short term fix and I’ll just want more and to instead eat something healthier however at the same time I believe occasionally have a treat. Just watch the portion and frequency but it’s OK to treat yourself now and then.

In my bedroom closet I have a set of pictures I look at the start of every day. You can see it below. Maybe you have a mirror you can place some pictures on, or notes, or anything you want. Some people get a little tattoo but I wouldn’t get “lose 10lbs” written on your body anywhere important and there are less permanent options. You just want something to keep you going.


Everyone is different. There is no one motivation for everyone but I strongly urge you before embarking on a training regime to work out your motivation (and see a doctor to make sure there are no problems) as it will help you keep training rather than aggressively embarking on a super training goal and then fading out within a month. Look inside yourself for why you want to train and think of ways to remind yourself of it. And I’m focusing on training but really this applies to anything in life. Education, stopping a bad habit, starting a good habit. Motivate!

The History of The Iron Brit

Where it all began and today’s training.

A new year and I’ve decided to create a new blog (and twitter and for the first time an Instagram whatever that is for but I’ll work it out). I’ve had another blog and twitter handle for a long time over at and @NTFAQGuy that focuses on my computer related activities such as technical how-to videos and books I write but for this new blog I wanted to focus on my training related activities.

I’m currently training for three Ironman events this year:

  • Texas (end of April)
  • Santa Rosa (end of July)
  • Chattanooga (end of September)

These are not my first, I’ve done three previously (I’ll get to that) but for those that are not sure an Ironman is a triathlon event and the distances are:

  • 2.4-mile swim
  • 112-mile bike ride
  • 26.2-mile run (a full marathon)

At the end of this you get a shiny bit of metal, bragging rights and then you go get a tattoo of the M-Dot, you can see mine below.


Most Ironman athletes are lean, designed for speed and grace. I’m not. At all. Now over 3 months recently I dropped about 20 lbs of fat but I’m still at around 200 lbs. which is very big for an Ironman and definitely does not help but I have lots of conflicting goals, but that’s OK!

My goal for this blog is not 100% clear to me right now, I have a few thoughts but it may evolve over time:

  • Something to track my progress
  • A place to share guidance for people that ask for training/diet advice however I want to be very clear. I’M NOT TRAINED TO GIVE TRAINING OR NUTRITIONAL ADVICE. I’ve found some things that work for me and happy to share but everyone is different
  • My wife wants me to set her some programs for her training so I’ll share those here as “Wifey Workouts” but many beyond women could use them to get started
  • Random thoughts

For this first post I want to set some background to who I am, my goals, what I’ve done so far to establish some trust and then what training I did today.

I’m British. Born and raised in London and have been in Texas for about 13 years. I love it in Texas. People are friendly, it’s a great standard of living, loads to do although it can get a bit warm 🙂.

When I was very young my father and I did various martial arts. I started out with Karate (various forms) which I enjoyed.


But then I stopped and I have a very sweet tooth. I don’t eat salad. Or vegetables (except potatoes when served with a steak or cut up into little fingers with a burger or hot dog). I like pizza, pasta, burgers, hot dogs, cakes, sweets. You get the idea. People think because I train a lot I like nothing more than to eat salad. I don’t and won’t. Part of the reason I train is so I can eat tasty things but we’ll get to that as well. I put on weight and this picture sums it up pretty well. I guess I was about 10 (this was a joke picture taken at Disney World).


I remember at a school event one of the teachers said to me in front of my Dad (who was very fit, rode the bike to work every day) “John, looks like you’re eating too many packets of crisps” (crisps = chips). Well that next day an exercise bike appeared in my bedroom and each night I would go on it. There was no malice here by my Dad. There was no meanness. It was to help me and it did. I would watch TV or listen to radio programs (the original BBC Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy was a favorite of mine) as I peddled my little butt off. Now today I think people would frown on this type of “body shaming”, I don’t know. It came from concern for my health and love and it gave me the awareness of my body that at least kept me training. I lost weight and we started doing martial arts again. I remember one Saturday going to piano lesson and this little Asian lady who I saw every week said “You’ve lost weight, you used to have face like apple”. Thanks!

My Dad and I did Tae Kwon Do, Kempo Jujitsu, Aikido, Thai Boxing. There were nights I did 4 hours of martial arts. Two hours of Tae Kwon Do then straight after 2 hours of Kempo Jujitsu. It was awesome. I did this 6 days a week. We never cared about belts. We learnt what we could from different systems and found things that worked for us. To this day, I practice combinations from all the different martial arts. I was never good at many things but I was good at that.


Well at 18 I had to get a job and at night I would study for a degree in computer science which I got. I rode my bike to work each day as at first I could not afford the train fare. Rain or shine I would ride 15 miles from Welling to London then 15 miles back in the evening. In the morning after riding my bike to work I would go to the gym and do weights, punch bag etc. As my career progressed I could afford the train and you get soft and riding my bike in the freezing rain became less attractive so I became a “fair weather rider” then eventually I stopped riding altogether but I would still get up at the crack of dawn and go to the gym before work. I was fit and strong but I loved my bad food so no matter how much you train if you consume more calories than you eat you will put on weight and I did. Some people I trained with bet I couldn’t lose 2 stone (about 30 pounds) in 3 months but if I did they would buy me a big steak dinner so I went on a diet for 3 months and lost 2 stone. This is important as it’s the same diet I used again recently to trim down. The diet? Actually simple:

  • No wheat based products (so no bread or pasta which killed me)
  • Nothing fried
  • No fast food
  • No dairy (milk, cheese, butter)
  • No candy, cakes
  • No soda

I basically lived on chicken, beef (lean), potatoes, rice, tomato and onion. Oh, and delicious water. Now if you like salad great. If you like fish, great. If you like vegetables, great. You can eat that but I didn’t. I would have the odd bit of fruit but honestly didn’t and don’t like that much either. Just watch the quantities! Portion control is key. I don’t know if this is any “fad” diet today but it worked. It probably worked because I hated every bite so you would not overeat but it worked and I kept the weight off and then added tasty food back but with a bit more control. It’s interesting when you do this type of diet as when you come off it you can’t eat burgers. It tastes terrible as its so greasy but I got them back 🙂

Time carries on and I moved to America. I carried on training before work every day at 24 hour fitness initially and now Lifetime Fitness. I also got back into martial arts taking up Krav Maga and quickly they asked me to become an instructor so I would go out to LA every few months to go through instructor training and certified at Brown Belt Krav Maga Worldwide instructor level and completed the Black belt training but at this point I had got bored with teaching. It was supposed to be my hobby but I was the senior instructor at the school and just was not enjoying it so I stopped. Krav is not like a Karate where everyone is a black belt. It took me about 7 years to get to Brown Belt instructor level it took more to complete the black belt training. You go out to LA for each phase of instructor training (which is a full week) so you can teach that level. During this time I also completed things like the Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) which is a one week course given to police and army self-defense instructors and I was allowed to attend as I taught several police officers and that was great. I wanted a new challenge.

Running seemed like a good thing as in the past I had done the London marathon but never really liked running but Disneyworld were doing marathons and I LOVE Disneyworld so I decided to do that. They have something called the Dopey challenge (I’ve just signed up for the 2018). This is:

  • 5k run on Thursday
  • 10k run on Friday
  • Half marathon (13.1 miles) on Saturday
  • Full marathon (26.2 miles) on Sunday

I did the inaugural one and many other Disney runs and you get LOTS of bling! You get medals for each individual run, one for doing the half and full (the Goofy) and then another for doing all 4 (the Dopey).

Now I’m still doing lots of weights. I never wanted to be small. I was about 210 at this time. There is plenty of fat in there but also muscle 🙂 I did a lot of cardio but balanced to keep/gain muscle. Motivations are our own but being strong was always important to me. You may say “but you did martial arts and size does not matter”. That is a load of crap. Yes, with enough skill you can overcome a larger, stronger opponent but over 30 years of martial arts has taught me size and strength is huge, especially on the ground. I trained with Renner Gracie at the GST and he said the best thing related to size “for every 6 months of training it enables you to match someone 10 lbs heavier”. So if someone is 100 pounds heavier than you then about 5 years of training will help even things up assuming they have no training.


I did every Disney run and wanted something new. At Disney I saw someone wearing an Ironman finisher jacket. Now I had heard of the Ironman but never seriously considered doing one. I had never swam freestyle, I did breaststroke. I was pretty confident on the bike part and obviously could do a marathon but all those things together. Now this guy was pretty old so I decided that was next. I went home and signed up for the Texas 2015 Ironman in May. About 4 months of training time. I did an Olympic triathlon (about ¼ of the distances) once in England after I ran the London marathon but nothing since. I didn’t do a half Ironman first. I just went for it. I had friends who said I would fail that I was too big and would never do it. One even bet me to cook me BBQ dinner if I succeeded (that was a tasty meal).

So I learnt to swim front crawl (freestyle) started doing miles on the bike and running. Now ALL of my training was on a stationary bike at the gym and on a treadmill (which is how I did most marathon training). The weekend before the Ironman I went out on my old (14 years old) racing bike I bought in England for the triathlon I did there for 20 miles to get the feel of it but that was it. I didn’t use a coach. During this extra cardio I did extra weights to ensure I didn’t lose muscle and actually went up in weight to about 220 (some muscle and some fat as clearly since I was doing so much training I should eat everything I’ve ever wanted to right? 🙂 ).

I’ll do a separate, detailed blog post about my first Ironman experience for those considering but it was amazing. The support, the people are out of this world. My actual performance. Ugh! It was BRUTAL. In many ways. Now, before I go further I did not train enough, at all. A friend of mine says you have to pay the price. You pay in training or you pay on the day. Well, I paid on the day! The swim was hard and I wore a wetsuit but the bike! It was 100% humidity and about 95 degrees. I used a special sun tan lotion I bought at the triathlon store. Well, it was crap. On the bike ride I could feel my skin actually cooking. Now Ironman have their own lotion stations that smother you up and I used that for the run portion and always use now but the damage was done. I got off the bike totally dead. I found out the next day I had second degree burns on my legs and arms when I went to the Carenow where I got some silver cream stuff and bandages. Take a look. Also notice the chubbiness 🙂 This was taken the day after by my wife when I got home.

I still have tan lines on my arms from 2 years ago! Well I remember sitting in the transition tent thinking “there is no way I can run a marathon now” but then I realized I just had to. So I got up and basically walked 26.2 miles. You are not allowed headphones or music during an Ironman so it was just me and the crowds (who are awesome) but I was exhausted. I also get up very early so go to bed early so by 9pm I was mentally tired as well and the last few miles took forever but I finished. My final times were:

  • Swim – 1:37:31
  • Bike – 6:33:27
  • Run (walk) – 6:28:51

Overall time 15:09:50 with transitions (which were loonnnggggggg). BUT I FINISHED!


As I crossed the finish line I kinda was falling and someone caught me. They stood me up long enough to take the picture then I collapsed, was put in a wheelchair where I spent an hour in the medical tent where I experienced the worse pain of my life. Now there was an IV shortage so if you were consious they made you hydrate by mouth so I had to drink chicken broth however they saw the sunburn and tried to help me by putting a cold wet cloth on my legs. Well to this day I don’t know what happened but that cold cloth hit my leg and a cramp surged up my body into my stomach and I just doubled over in intense pain. My stomach would not stop cramping and I was just clenched over growling trying hard not to cry 🙂 I was an Ironman after all and Ironman don’t cry. An hour later I was allowed out the tent (they were amazing in there) and drove myself to hotel where I phoned my wife (who stayed in Allen as we have young twins). Turns out the runner tracking didn’t update for a while during the run so my wife who was monitoring suddenly got no updates for about 90 minutes where it caught up. She told me she seriously wondered if I was dead when it stopped tracking as she knew I would never give up so that was the conclusion. I swore I was done. Bucket list checked. Went to sleep.

I woke up, went and collected my bike and bags (I used the tribiketransport valet service which for $40 they pick up your bags and bike even if you don’t ship with them so you can pickup next day which is AWESOME) and bought the finisher jacket, polo and anything else to show I had done an Ironman J A week later I went and got the tattoo. On the drive home (which sucked as I was hurting from muscle pain and burnt skin) I considered what I had achieved and really felt that had not been my best attempt. I was sure I could do better. By the time I got home 4 hours later I was going to sign up for next years as it had been freak weather, I had not trained enough and it was not my best.

So I did some more training but really was not much better than the year before in terms of preparation (but a little better, I bought a new fancy bike which I was sure would shave hours off my bike time, I was disappointed) but fate was not on my side. Now the good news is I never visited the medical tent this time however there was very bad flooding for the 2016 Texas Ironman. So much that chunks of the bike course were gone so it was reduced to only 96 miles (if I remember correctly) so not really a full Ironman any more. It was still hot but during the marathon there was a massive hail storm. I was between stations when it hit so basically I was out running (walking) during a painful hail storm. I remember that my face was hurting but honestly I was too beaten to care much. I finished. Times and finishing below. Now they are better but remember the bike was 16 miles shorter!


So once again. Can’t really count this. I decided to do another Ironman that would be cooler weather so next day I signed up for Chattanooga (the only places left were Foundation which cost double but that extra goes to charity so I was OK with that). Chattanooga in September will be cool I said. That will give me a better shot I said as I don’t do well in the heat. We don’t have heat in England. I sweat. A lot (as we’ll discuss when I get to todays training).

I also decided I needed to shed some fat without losing muscle. I was confident I had about 20 lbs of fat I could lose that would help not having to carry it around on the course so I did my 3 month diet again I did in England about 15 years previous. Remember?

  • No wheat based products (so no bread or pasta which killed me)
  • Nothing fried
  • No fast food
  • No dairy (milk, cheese, butter)
  • No candy, cakes
  • No soda

Now. I made a few changes. Firstly I allowed myself a whole-wheat muffin in the mornings before training. Also on Tuesday night I would have cheesecake factory where I had large bowl of rigatoni pasta with marinara sauce with grilled chicken breast on the side and on Friday night I could have pizza. These were the nights before my big cardio days. I also think its good to give the body lots of carbs a couple of times a week to “trick” it. Also I have the occasional treat. When we go out for pizza we get ice cream after. If we go to movies I take some chocolate raisins with me (branchs are my favorite) and on Fridays I’ll have a couple of donuts for breakfast instead of a banana (one maple glaze and one vanilla sprinkle). I try to be good most of the time but like the 80:20 rule. 80% of the time be good but 20% of the time cheat a little. I enjoy Christmas day and eat what I want etc. On date night with my wife I’ll have tasty things. My typical training is:

  • Monday – 60 minutes hill running then hour chest and triceps
  • Tuesday – 60 minutes bike/swim/elliptical then hour back and biceps
  • Wednesday – 2 or more hours cardio then little shoulders
  • Thursday – 45 minutes elliptical and 1:15 chest and triceps
  • Friday – 60 minutes stair machine then hour back and biceps
  • Saturday – Hours and hours of cardio misery (bike then running but mostly bike)

Notice I don’t really do legs or abs but I’ve just started to add in 10 minutes of abs after every day as my wife fantasies about Jason Statham so that’s the goal 😀

I lost 20 lbs going from 220 to 200 and actually gained some muscle. I was eating a lot of protein powder (and still do). Also I’ve made this more of a lifestyle change. I still don’t drink any soda (in fact I don’t like it now even though Dr Pepper Ten used to be my favorite) and trying to just generally be better. After training I have 60 grams of protein and a banana. About 9:30 am have a 20 g protein shake, have lunch, at around 2 pm have 20 g protein shake, have dinner (at 5) then about 7:30 have 25g casein protein before bed (which is about 9pm, I get up at 4am most days). I’ve never drunk alcohol (except at Christmas, Baileys, yum), never smoked or tried any drugs so those things are not factors. My parents never drunk or did those things so were never exposed to them and with all the martial arts never liked the idea of them. Apart from eating complete crap my body was a temple 😀 I am a very happy, silly person (my wife will tell you). I’m pretty immature. I read comics still. I wear superhero under armor shirts when I train (in part to motivate me). I’ve never needed alcohol to have a good time.

So I was in better shape and done some better training so was ready.

Well guess what. Chattanooga had freak weather in 2016 and it was about 95 degrees. Unbelievable. Now the swim is AWESOME. It is downstream. There were pictures of plastic bags who made the cut off time :-). The bike course is 116 miles instead of 112 (I guess to make up for the easier swim) and it was hilly as was the run but I did it however my times really were not that great. Once again the heat sucked everything out of me but at least I didn’t burn or visit the medical tent.

2016chatironmanMy goal is to go to Kona, the ultimate Ironman and I’ll never qualify with my size/training so they have a legacy program. Do 12 Ironmans you can apply via a lottery so that’s my goal. That is why in 2017 I want to do three. That would get me half way there. I’ve also maintained training and focused more on running. I just did a couple of marathons and have up’d my Saturday training which brings me to today!!!

I don’t normally take pictures of weight or setup but wanted to share my setup a little and where I am now. Also because every villain in a movie is British I’m therefore untrustworthy so felt the need to backup what I say with a little evidence to build trust. My goal for today was more than last week which was:

  • 3:20 on the bike (about 70 miles)
  • 2:10ish running (13.1 miles)

Today I wanted to add 10 minutes of swimming first (1/4 mile) and 20 minutes to the bike ride. This is the first time I’ve swam since Chattanooga. This would be about 6 hours of cardio. So below was my planned nutrition.


I have one extra waffle and gu as my routine is for drink I add Nuun to my water and for food :

  • On the hour a Gu
  • 20 minutes past hour half a waffle
  • 40 minutes past hour other half of waffle

This gets me about 250 calories an hour and I drink about a liter of water each hour (starts of less then increases). I thought I would take some baseline pictures based on the scale at the gym which are below.


Now that bodyfat % is not right. I’m higher than that and I don’t care about BMI. Also you may think at even around 9% I have rippling abs. I don’t 🙂 There are numerous reasons for this

  1. Everyone carries weight differently. I carry it around my gut and hips. I have very little fat on my chest, arms, back, legs etc
  2. That is a percentage and I’m heavy. 9% of 197 is still nearly 18 pounds of fat. My twins were about 6 lbs each when they were born so I have 3 small newborns of fat on me 🙂
  3. I’ve never done much abdominal training so don’t have much under the fat except from working rest of body

But I’m getting there. That’s where I am right now.

So to the bike. 3:40 is the goal for today. Below is my bike setup. I take 3 bikes. One to ride on. One next to me to hang nutrition bag between and one in front to put ipad on. I’m here at 4am so will be in room till about 8am way before any classes start. I also put down towels everywhere as I’m disgusting and sweat huge amounts and even with these towels I have to get lots of wipes after to clean up for next people.


Well did the 3:40. Had to take a potty break at 1:30 and the clock reset but below is the final 2:10 which taking those averages over 3:40 makes it just under 78 miles and 2800 calories. I watched the last 2 hours of Hateful Eight and the new Jake Reacher movie during the bike ride. I preferred the first Reacher film but was still pretty good. Last week I watched Iron Man and Hard Rain, the week before was the 80’s Flash movie (still awesome). I like watching films as it helps the time pass and makes me look up which is important when actually riding a bike! My first Ironman my neck was killing me from looking up as I wasn’t used to it.


I had used up one of the 1.5 liter smart waters so in total had drunk 2.5 liters of water. I filled up my normal bottle from the tap (1 liter), put on my knee sleeves and did the run and did the 2:10, 13.1 miles. I don’t watch movies during the run and instead just listen to music as looking down is not ideal.


I got through the 1 liter in my bottle and most of the final 1.5 liter smart water so nearly another 2.5 liters drunk putting me at 5 liters total drank over the 6 hours of cardio:

  • 10 minutes swim
  • 3:40 bike
  • 2:10 run

I also had eaten 6 waffles and 6 gus so had consumed about 1500 calories and burnt about 5000 (would have burnt some during the swim, maybe 100 ish) so 3500 difference (lb of fat, but of course you don’t just burn fat). I stretched a little and weighed myself again before having a shower (I had flip flops and towel on so maybe 1 lb added)


So 191 from 197. 6 lbs less. Now that is not all water as we burn other stuff but maybe 5 lbs of water loss. 2.2lbs of water is 1 liter so I’m down just over 2 liters of water and I drank 5 during so my body has exhaled/sweated 7 lbs of water over the last 6 hours. Gross!

So now I’m home. Drank my 60 g of protein on drive home and just had egg white tacos with a few steak fries and low fat mac ‘n cheese in it which is awesome along with a little treat of punch to get my sugar up a bit. Dinner will be spaghetti bolognaise at Maggiano’s :-).


A good days training. My goal is to increase the swim, bike and run next week a little. I want to be in a much better place for the Texas Ironman this year and with 3 months of training still to go and being where I am right now I feel pretty good. I need to really focus on swimming during the week and mid-week runs.

I feel like the ending of Shawshank Redemption. You’ve come this far maybe you’re willing to come a little further. This was a very long post. About 3 hours sitting here writing straight after the training but it was great writing it. Made me think about a lot of things. Going forward they will be much shorter. I’ll post progress, post workouts for the wife (and others) and just other thoughts.

I am no expert, this is just what I do and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but I’m always learning. This may motivate you. It may give you ideas. It may just be interesting or none of them.

I am lucky that I get to try many things and none of this would be possible without my amazing wife Julie who supports all the crazy things I want to do, always encourages me and takes the full burden of looking after everyone including me!

If you take one thing from this let it be that anyone can do anything. You don’t have to be super lean, you don’t have to make things a singular goal. I truly believe that anyone can do anything. You just have to have will power and a true desire. You may not always do what you wanted. You may not always finish but that’s OK. The only true failure in life is to not try. I believe that absolutely. Watch the final minutes of an Ironman. It brings tears to my eyes, the heart and soul of these people that do not give up. They may not finish but they will do their best. Amazing to me. I mentioned I read comics. There is one part that sums up my beliefs from Fantastic Four 604 about trying and what true failure is and I’ll end with that for today.

Thank you and never let someone tell you what you can’t do.