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I am an Ironman

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By Al Ferguson

Al Ferguson is the CEO and founder of The Dadsnet.

Published on 21/07/2015

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I am an Ironman. Ok…half an ironman, but still! 

What possessed me all those months ago, when I press the submit button on the Ironman 70.3 UK application form, I’ll never know.

But one thing is for sure…

I can’t feel my knees!

I woke up early on Saturday morning, ready to begin my trip down Exmoor National Park. With the car loaded up with an endless supply of energy gels, my dad and I set off. 4 hours later and a few narrow escapes, what with my dad’s suspect over-taking manoeuvres, we arrived at Wimbleball Lake.

The setup of Ironman UK is great. I was impressed with the level of organisation and smooth running. Having 2000 athletes to organise can’t be easy, but they do this seamlessly.

I registered, had a wander around the merchandise tent and then went up to sort my gear out. Triathlon gear is a triathlete’s passion. We love the gear we choose to use and we like laying it out ready, stepping back and having a look. Admiring it before it does it’s job.

I went off to rack my bike, sort out my transition bags and get my head around the right exits for the bike & run.

I was ready. Now I just needed to actually do it!

0430hrs the alarm went off. Up, small bit of porridge and off to get kitted up.

At 0640 the 1st wave of 1000 athletes walked down, united in their anticipation of the hours of pain about to ensue, to the start of the swim. I was tucked up in my amazing 2XU V:3 wetsuit, which to be perfectly honest filled me with far more confidence than if I was without it. I also had my thermal skull cap and booties. I did look like a wally, but for me, I’d do whatever it takes to get through swim. It is a funny thing that having this kit, did make me feel so much better about attempting the swim. Somehow, having the right gear can provide an great boost to your confidence levels.

As the gun went off, I made sure I stayed out of the danger zone and positioned myself on the edge of the pack. I slowly got on with my business and took it a stage at a time. Before I knew it I was nearing the end and in record time. 42 minutes! That’s my quickest ever and the fact it was raining and choppy made me think I’d be far slower.

A fairly slow transition followed but most of the time was spent deliberating about whether to wear a waterproof or not. Turns out I made the right choice by wearing it, as it pissed it down for the entire bike phase. It was the wind that made it really interesting though. A wind and rain combination makes it very difficult to make up lost time on the downhills. I was forever on the breaks, fearful of skidding. Ironman UK Exmoor is notorious for the undulating hills. With a total of 3000m worth of climbing over the 56 mile distance, it is labelled as the hardest in Europe and my goodness… it was bloody hard!

The last 6 miles dragged on and on as if I was cycling through treacle. The corner into transition provided relief beyond anything experienced before. My cycle time was slower than I expected but I’m putting it down to the horizontal rain flicking in my eyes!

A quicker transition saw me out on the run in just a few minutes. (Thanks to the Zoot trainers that were seriously easy to slip on!) I was so happy to be off the bike that for the first few minutes I’d forgotten that I was practically dead on my feet. 13 miles to go and it’s at this point that your mental strength has to kick in. The run course isn’t short of hills either. Someone told me that the best thing to do when running is simply think about your next step, rather than the daunting distance that lies ahead.
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The fuel stations were a god send and pretty much marked each lap for me. I just had to make it to the next fuel station for another mouthful of energy drink or water. It was a bizarre concept because at the start there were hundreds of runners on the course, but all of them were at different stages of their race. Some had just started the run, like me, and some were finishing their last lap. It was pretty depressing watching the number of athletes deplete as they all finished their race whilst I was still plodding along. It came to the 12 mile marker and my eyes perked up. I was nearly there! That last mile seemed remarkably quick. Maybe it was quicker! Either way, the red carpet of the finish line was drawing near. As my feet touched the carpet, I could hear the MC mentioning my name. I was about to complete it! Unbelievably, I was about to do it!

I crossed the finish line with my hands in the air. I am very rarely feel proud of myself, but in this moment I was. I’d accomplished something that not many others could have done. At 3 minutes over 8 hours, I was pleased with having completed the race.

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I was an Ironman.

The next day, I was back at work. I couldn’t walk up a staircase and I couldn’t bend down to put my own socks on. Muscles, I didn’t even know I had, were aching. But…

I am an Ironman.

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37 Comments

  1. Bayou

    Great job on accomplishing your goal. Definitely something to be tremendously proud of! However…being an Ironman is reserved for completing a full 140.6m Ironman triathlon, not a 70.3 half Ironman. Doesn’t take away at all from what you’ve done, but don’t go telling you people you’re an Ironman unless you actually are.

  2. Yet Another Blogging Mummy!!!

    Wow. Well done. Sounds an amazing achievement. I did a blog post a recently about the Balance Bike Championship Series. So maybe in a year or two’s time, your son could be starting to follow in your footsteps

  3. A Real Ironman

    You’re a finisher, not an Ironman.

  4. Tim

    Congratulations Al, that really is one hell of an achievement. Just goes to show what can be achieved if you set your mind to something! There is *no* way I’m following in your footsteps, though …

  5. Rob

    Amazing accomplishment. I mentioned it on the Facebook Group but as a guy who has ran a few half marathons and one full, the Ironman stuff is just a whole different kettle of fish. Great job. #bigfatlinky

  6. Musing Mumma

    That is awesome! Well done. You’re making me think I really need to get back into running and achieving my goal of doing a marathon. And I totally agree about the gear – great gear somehow makes you think you can do anything!

  7. John Adams

    Very impressive Al. I fear an old ankle injury stops me from doing anything like this (ie long distance running) but I would have loved to have given it a go. I can but imagine what that cycling must have been like. Good work. #BigFatLinky

  8. Luke Strickland

    Well done! I’ve felt the call of the Ironman, but Olympic Distance triathlon was enough for me. When are you doing the full ironman?! #bigfatlinky

  9. Michelle Reeves (The Essex Barn)

    Woo hoo – go you! Don’t listen to anyone who says you’re not an Ironman because it wasn’t the full distance – you’re amazing for even attempting this! I’m doing my first half marathon this Autumn and frankly, it seems like a walk in the park now after reading this so that you for that too :) #BigFatLinky

  10. Chloe

    Well done. What an incredible accomplishment. You must be really proud. I could never imagine doing something like this. I struggle to push the pram up a steep hill let alone complete something like this. Well done! :-D x #bigfatlinky

  11. Laura Bovington

    Wow, what an achievement. I would have stumbled at the 4.30am start let alone the rest of everything you went through. You must be so proud of yourself. Well done. #bigfatlinky

  12. Mummy Fever

    Congratulations! A great achievement – triathlons are not for me but my 8 year old daughter has just started, came 3rd in her first one! I’m sticking to the marathons instead :) #bigfatlinky

  13. Elizabeth (Wander Mum)

    Brilliant achievement Al. Well done. Amazing. A really tough challenge. Question is, what’s next? Have you got the bug now? #bigfatlinky

  14. Alexandra Hurton

    What an achievement and inspiration for your boy. I am not surprised you ached the next day. I wouldn’t be able to complete one of those tasks so it really is amazing and huge congratulations! #BigFatLinky

  15. Kelly Edwards

    Oh my goodness… I struggle to run up the stairs, let alone swimming, cycling and running for 8 solid hours! Way to go! #BigFatLinky

  16. Becky, Cuddle Fairy

    Congratulations on your achievement! That sounds like such a tough race. Well done beating your best time swimming – it’s amazing what adrenaline can do! #bigfatlinky

  17. Ali @ Mum in a nutshell

    well done and are you completely bonkers? I watch The Grizzly endurance run which goes through my village every years and for a split second think I may like to do it next year, then I gather my senses and forget about it. Seriously, though, congratulations. #bigfatlinky

  18. Sarah Howe

    Amazing Al I am so impressed! This sounded so hard core – not just the distance but the weather and the terrain. I bet you are really proud of yourself as you should be!! What’s next? xx #bigfatlinky

  19. Hayleigh Tague

    Wow, well done! I really struggle with fitness so I’m very impressed!! Keep up the good work! #bigfatlinky

  20. Sarah Norris

    Enjoy your sense of achievement…..you surely deserve it !!
    I know what you mean about equipment. I am a horse rider and, whilst some equipment is actually better than others, the biggest difference comes from the sense of security or feeling of empowerment that particular piece of equipment gives you….in other words an element of placebo effect. I loved my ‘magic hat’ and rode much better in my ‘special boots’ !! Well done, and hope the stiffness ends soon
    #Bigfatlinky x

  21. Jade Munro

    I read this while eating cheesecake. Who feels like they can’t touch their toes now?!

    Congratulations! What an amazing achievement. It must be incredible knowing that you, and you alone, were able to push your physicality to those extremes.

    Inspiring stuff!

    Thanks for hosting a great linky!

  22. Fola Lewis

    Wow! What an accomplishment. Hope you keep it up and go again next year and beef your record. :-)

  23. Annie Robinson

    Wow! Am seriously impressed. Great achievement! #bigfatlinky

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