Jonny Swims, Cycles and Runs To A Top 15% Finish!

So, that came around quick. It only felt like yesterday I was standing with 2,400 other nervous athletes of Ironman UK 2014 about to launch myself into the lake a year earlier.

A year later, after making the decision back in September to put myself through it all over again, I am standing in my rain jacket being battered by the wind and rain leaving it to the last minute to change into my wetsuit. This year was different though (aside from the weather), there was the added motivation that I was raising the much needed funds for the Amy May Trust… all the motivation that I required to push through on the day. After countless of nervous trips to the toilet, it was time to make the dreaded walk to the lake.

I had been calm and focused all week, but nothing prepares you for the walk down to the lake. You can always sense the nervousness amongst the other athletes, presumably asking themselves why they are putting themselves through this, as I do, quite frequently along the whole course. The swim start this year was better controlled, with people seeding themselves into the time they expected to finish the swim in, rather than last year when the organisers threw 2,400 people into the lake at once which caused mass panic leading to people trying to drown you just to get ahead. Apart from a couple of torrential down pours, the 2.4 mile swim this year went well. I found a good rhythm and aside from a few kicks and punches to the head, completed in good time and was off and running to Transition 1.

Transition 1 is always chaotic with everyone jostling for space to get changed. After getting into my cycle gear and running out of the tent to my bike, my cycle shoes filled up instantly with mud and water through the ventilation hole in the bottom of the sole. I wasn’t sure whether I was more annoyed that I’d have to spend 112 miles on the bike with wet mud filled shoes or that I may have ruined my clean white expensive shoes. Nonetheless, I found my bike and got going.

The cycle was eventful to say the least. The rain continued to pour with strong winds preventing any build-up of pace, the surface water led to receiving a mouthful of dirty water every time you passed another cyclist and there were a few nasty crashes I witnessed. After a few short miles I was soaked and feet were numb… not a good start. The cycle course is a 2 lap circuit with a number of large intimidating hills which get progressively harder throughout the day. The crowds were out in force and braved the weather to scream, shout, blow horns and encourage you up every climb. After hitting a pot hole and losing a water bottle and a few gels from my back pocket the cycle went without a hitch and glided into Transition 2 focusing on the small issue of now facing the marathon with 122 miles of tough cycling already in the legs.

Transition 2 is always less drama, as the field has spread out so enough room to gather yourself, get some fluid and energy food in and get changed. The only scene that concerned me was the number of athletes already on chairs and temporary hospital beds, pale as a ghost and on a drip. Obviously the weather and course had already taken a few victims. Setting that at the back of my mind and relieved of the fact I had clean dry socks and shoes on – I was off.

The run is always the most daunting part of the day, knowing the legs are already fatigued and the thought that the day is far, far from over. I started strong, getting into a steady consistent pace and even gloating to my mate after 8 miles that I felt reasonably fine. That didn’t last long. My legs started to feel heavy and the miles start dragging to the point all you can think about it stopping. Stopping is never an option, the thought of letting people down and getting this far without finishing would be soul destroying and quite frankly embarrassing. I press on but at mile 17 I crash big time, legs have popped and my head feels like its floating 10 metres above me. Luckily a fuel station wasn’t too far away so I loaded up on as much energy drink, gels and bananas my stomach could handle. I had to keep running to prevent my legs from seizing and within 5 minutes it felt like someone switched the light back on and I was running back at the same pace. Nothing ever gives you the sense of euphoria than knowing you have all but completed the Ironman, the last 3 miles I up the pace and empty whatever else is left in my legs. The crowd again keep you going and the elation of running onto the red carpet and crossing the line can be pretty hard to put into words. A mix of emotion, pride, happiness and damn right pain rushes through the body all at once.

After a quick mandatory trip into the recovery tent to be greeted with pizza, finisher’s shirt and medal I was free to meet my friends. I finished the day on 12 hours and 14 minutes, bettering my time of last year by 36 minutes and finishing in the top 15%. Another Ironman down and after a week of recovering I am already planning the next…

All that’s left for me to do is thank all those who were part of the journey with me. Firstly, I was proud to have raised so much for Amy’s Trust and the opportunity that Amy’s Mum and Aunt (Susan and Julie) allowed me to be part of the Trust. Amy was in the forefront of my thoughts all day and kept me pushing when things got tough – this was for her. Secondly, to my best mate Dean Kerchell who drove me everywhere I needed to be, kept me calm throughout the weekend and the runs alongside me motivating me to keep going – also a mention to Nikki and Adam for driving up to Bolton on the day to support me, can’t thank you enough. Lastly, big shout out and thanks to every single person that made donations and sent me messages of encouragement, the support I received was completely amazing and I bloody love you all.

Keep supporting the Trust everyone and let’s continue to raise as much awareness as possible.

Jonny