Race Reports

Quintuple Ironman 2013 race report


What is it?
5 x iron/day format.
Total of 19k swim, 900k bike & 211k run in 80hr40sec.

Where is it?
Monterrey, Nuevo León , Mexico, 18-22 Nov 13.


Monterrey was like I expected a Mexican city to be... colourful, but a bit crappy with lots of heavily armed police in big trucks. Even race site security had kevlar helmets and semi-automatics. There is quite a lot of drug related gang violence in Mexico.

Type in 'Monterrey deca' in Google and it comes up 'Monterrey decapitation'; last year 49 mutilated bodies were found in one of Monterrey's municipal parks. But most of the violence is gang-on-gang so I guess it's pretty safe... you just hope not to be caught up in any crossfire or that they don't take a dislike to your lycra bike shorts.

However, we found most of the locals to be charming. The race venue was Parque Espana where we swam in an open air 50m pool in wetsuits, and completed bike & run loops around the park.



The bike course was very juddery; after day 1 I took to wearing 2 bike shorts to dampen the vibration.

The weather was variable, from 31'C in baking hot sun on day 1 down to 6'C on the last day. We also had thunderstorms and torrential rain. Strong winds on day 5 brought down a power line so that it was held up by a tree only feet above our heads on the bike course.

In Europe the race would have been suspended for H&S (half way through the final day) ... but I needn't have worried... this was Mexico; some park employees built some sort of gantry to raise the line higher above our heads while we continued to cycle underneath.



Some people don't like the idea of short looped courses that are often a feature of ultra distance triathlons but there are benefits. You're never that far away from your support crew or medical attention if necessary. During the event you get to know the other competitors (double, triple, quin & deca) as you occasionally run and bike together, offering each other support or telling jokes.

I was able to witness the fascinating duel between Kamil Suran and Antal Voneki as they battled it out for title of IUTA (International Ultra Triathlon Association... governing body of ultra dist tris) World Champion 2013.  

They both came to the race with similar points so winning the continuous deca would be decisive. Half way through their 422k run they were still within 4k of each other!






(Right: Kamil, taking a short nap during 422k run. Note ice bags)

By day 3 you've got yourself and support crew into a pattern. A daily routine of discomfort becomes your new 'reality' and acceptance of it is necessary. The discomfort (aka pain) and fatigue involved normally comes in waves, and it is vital to remain upbeat. Everybody was managing 'issues'.

Mine was a dodgy back; in March I had prolapsed a lumbar disc and torn another. That had severely disrupted my training and I had to miss 2 build up races over the summer. I owe a debt of gratitude to the pain specialist at the Nuffield. He scheduled a root nerve injection for me a couple of weeks before so that the optimum window of benefit would coincide with the race.



Lugging my bike box and the long flight didn't help... the days before the race it was causing me pain again just to walk around town. During each swim I had to limit the power I put into the stroke to keep my back happy, but the juddery bike course was the worst part. Normally I enjoy the bike the most, but each day I couldn't wait to get to the marathon.

Note to self day 3: 'tell my wife not to let me do anymore of these races!

Completing these races would not have been possible without a lot of support. The ladies in the 24hr race kitchen would make you anything.... as long as it was Mexican.

My eldest son Ben was my race crew. He has crewed a few of these races for me. Ben did a fantastic job of looking after his Dad, and I couldn't have done the race without him.

As well monitoring/managing my hydration, nutrition and electrolyte intake he was always thinking of innovative ways to take care of me like putting sandwich bags of ice in my bike jersey back pockets to keep me cool or duct taping a bag of ice into a neck scarf for the run. We also had a great time hanging out in Mexico before and after the race.



The last 5k of the run on day 5 produced my fastest run splits as I was just so excited about the

prospect of finishing... finally. I had forgotten my day 3 'note to self' and was already thinking about the next challenge...?

Ultra distance triathlon is not going to be everybody's cup of tea but recommended if you think you'd enjoy small intimate races with great camaraderie and the opportunity to explore your personal mental and physical endurance. You don't have to be fast; you just need to keep moving.

My back is a lot happier now that I've stopped provoking it. 




See the 'World Cup Ultra Triathlon Mexico' Facebook page for more photos.

Follow this link to a video of Johns 5 days of Ironman



John Liebers


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Got a late entry to IM Wales via Nirvana Travel. A triathlon addict's impulsive last minute decision to race. Paid only a small premium for getting a place this way after the race had sold out. Would use Nirvana again if need be, because the package included a great hotel (a stone's throw from race start) and free cancellation insurance. The Nirvana rep organized a cycle course tour by car with a local cyclist as a guide.

Everything (Hotels, Expo, Registration, Briefing, Transition, Swim) is in one place at Tenby. Straightforward drive from Sussex. Totally hassle-free. The locals are super-friendly and take great pride in hosting the race.


The Swim

Near perfect conditions with calm relatively warm waters in the beautiful Bay. Mass beach start then an unfussy 2 lap swim, punctuated by a short dash along the beach between laps.

The run to T1 is 1.3km through the centre of Tenby. Longest transition run of all ironman races. An extra transition bag for shoes is racked at swim exit in order to do this 1.3km run. Last year an elite competitor lost his Kona slot because he handed his wetsuit to his girlfriend on the way to T1 and therefore got DQ'd after he had finished the race.


The Cycle

Very scenic ride on mostly closed roads in a coastal National Park. Some opportunities to make the most of a TT bike during the first 50 miles, but after that the course is particularly hilly and technical with some very steep winding downhills. My brakes were inadequate in the wet on those steep sections, so lots of time was lost by having to be over cautious.

Biggest mistake of the day was leaving my nice warm jacket in T1. It rained several times during the ride and by mile 50, I was freezing and shaking uncontrollably. To have accepted outside assistance might have risked a DQ. Fortunately, I discovered that I had got a plastic cape in my pocket (as you do), so I put it on to get warm. Ruined the aerodynamics somewhat. During the ride, I heard onlookers shout "go batman". After the race, I heard people chatting about a cyclist wearing a bin bag who had become known as "the bubble".

Tenby has a "heartbreak hill" that is almost as good for crowd support as Challenge Roth. Tenby has half the competitors and less than half the crowd numbers but the vibe is superb.


The Run

Barely a flat section on the four lap course. Lots of lively crowd support through the town, passing pubs and hotels. Plenty of walking uphill and running downhill. Good banter between athletes and plenty of switchbacks to keep spotting people. Lots to take one's mind off the usual drudgery of the ironman run. Ideal cool temperatures and dry conditions for this part of the race. Got a bit confused at the end of the third lap and took a wrong turn towards the finish line. Had to double-back a few hundred metres to restart the fourth lap. Great joy visiting the finish for the second and final time.


  • 20 DQ'd for dropping litter
  • 10 DQ'd for drafting
  • 4 DQ'd for failing to serve a penalty

Not a fast time for me (almost 2 hours slower than my Lanzarote effort a few months earlier). Not surprising, considering the neglect of training during 3 weeks backpacking in Sri Lanka (got home just in time to taper 2 weeks before IM Wales).

Loved the race and loved the location. Usually, as I cross the finish line I swear I'll never do another ironman. This time I immediately rebooked the hotel for next year and paid the registration fee as soon as entry came on-line a few days later. Upgraded brakes and a warm cycling jacket should make Tenby 2014 even better.



Overall Rank:582





AK M50-54

















Jim "Bubble" Graham

Ironman UK, Bolton 2013 -anything is possible!


My triathlon journey has been a long one, my first one London 2003 was done as a charity challenge and the Olympic distance was completed in 3 hours and 56 minutes!

My first mid Sussex triathlon was the following year, I finished in 193rd place out of 195 with a time of 1 hour and 50 minutes!  Over the years I enjoyed the multi discipline of triathlon but never really took it seriously until I joined the MSTC last year. So enrolling to do an Ironman was a big big challenge for me!

The preparation for the Ironman had gone reasonably well up until three weeks before race day when I strained a calf muscle on a steady lunchtime run. I did not do any further exercise apart from swimming until the big day, now that's what you call tapering!!

A delayed set off and horrendous traffic meant we arrived in Bolton a lot later than expected and didn't get chance to register or attend the first timers briefing , this meant we had to do a lot more running around pre race day than expected . We did however get everything done and I enjoyed a chicken and pasta meal and was able to settled and relax in the room to get an early night! Now you would have thought that a hotel that doubles its standard rate for the Ironman weekend would not hold a wedding reception the night before hundreds of triathlete's had to rise at 4 am to complete one of the toughest endurance races going! Of course they did, two floors below our room, people outside shouting, cars hooting until after 2 am, just what you need.

Notwithstanding this race morning went well, I awoke at 4.30 am to have my usual pre training breakfast of some cereal bars, bananas and a hot mug of tea, the only plus side of the hotel was that it was a 5 minute walk from the swim start at Pennington flash, I was therefore able to put my wetsuit on in the room and walk directly to the lake.

We were ushered into the water for a prompt 6am start, I was planning to go to the back of the mass start but inadvertently found myself right in the middle of the pack, this made the first few hundred meters interesting with lots of arms and legs flailing everywhere. It did soon settle down and I managed to swim at the pace I wanted to. All the coaching I had received and the swims at Ardingly had paid off as I felt comfortable throughout the 3.8km swim and exited the lake in 94 minutes, which was around the time I had estimated.

I took my time in T1 to ensure that I was ready for what I expected would be a seven hours on the bike , the only glitch was that I had managed to lock the buttons on my Garmin and was therefore unable to get it to operate after the swim ! The bike ride started well I seemed to overtake more people than overtook me and I managed to continue doing this even when I started to eat the buffet I had prepared on my crossbar. As those of you who have completed Bolton know the main feature of the bike ride is Sheep House lane, it's bad enough the first time let alone the third, most of my training rides had been from one point to another, having to do three 50 km laps really seemed to affect my enthusiasm and I was really feeling tired by the third lap. The third climb was really tough and not wanting to do the walk of shame I kept digging in but this caused my quads to cramp a few times which was quite unpleasant. I kept the wheels turning albeit very slowly .This was further impounded by a change in the weather as torrential rain had joined the wind that was already quite strong. I was secretly hoping to finish the bike course in less than seven hours but actually finished ten minutes short of eight hours, towards the end of the ride I was really feeling fatigued and couldn't wait to reach T2 and dump my beloved bike.

I had stayed on my bike for the whole duration so I enjoyed a walk and stretch around T2 wondering where I was going to get the energy to run a marathon. As I started my run I seemed to regain my enthusiasm, running was a luxury after spending that long on the bike! I knew I still had just under seven hours to run my marathon , I kept informing myself that even I could do that ! Even in the first few miles I passed people who were already walking, I wanted to run as long as I could without having to stop, I did this for probably the first 25 km or so. After an initial point to point run there was again three 10k laps to complete, again this didn't help, knowing you still had to do the same run another two times after completing the first lap. I kept at it though and even started to believe I would now become an ironman, I started walking up the steep parts of the route, the continuous rain seemed to help and the vocal support of the locals really spurred me on! Complete strangers shouting your name really does help you along! I stopped each time at the feed stations and took on anything now, gels, drinks I had never heard of, I even drank cheap cola. I was certainly getting my money's worth ! Entering the final lap seemed to give me a new found burst of energy , my quads and calf's still felt really tight and my knee and ankle joints were hurting like hell but I know had the determination to get this over with and decided that I was not going to walk any of the last lap , I kept running even at a slow pace and felt good as I passed many people , as I turned to finish the last turn I knew I had about 5km to go , I continued running as I knew that finishing before 9pm ( 15 hours ) was possible . Even setting myself this target I did still have to have a rest and walk parts as even the downhill was hurting my knees. These breaks were short and I did run for the remainder of the race , it was such a relief to turn into the finish and hear the noise of the spectators at the finish line , although I wasn't quite expecting what confronted me , the noise , spotlights , camera flashbulbs , this was my minute of fame ! I almost felt like a celebrity! I wish now that I had savoured it more and had stopped to embrace my wife and family and walk over the line high - fiving all the kids along the finish straight, but I just wanted to get over that line and went for the grandstand finish and ran to it. I was seven minutes over the 15 hours but that was irrelevant now! I had done it , as the announcer bellowed from the sound system " Dean you are an Ironman "

So back to the Ironman's logo of anything is possible , well this time last year I never ever thought I would be able to finish an Ironman and if Dean Allen can do it anyone of YOU can do it !

Many of my fellow club members have been so instrumental in helping me achieve this goal, your advice; coaching, training and race tips, support and encouragement gave me the confidence to believe that "anything is possible ". My sincere thanks go to you all! Thanks also to those of you who have sponsored me; I have raised nearly two grand for Help for Heroes.

I also want to make special mention to Jeff Woodall who trained so hard for Ironman 2013 only to have been seriously injured in an accident two weeks before the event. Jeff would have finished a lot quicker than I did. Hope you are there next year mate!

Dean Allen

August 2013

Ironman Zurich 2013

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I trained diligently for Ironman Zurich but the non-neoprene swim drained the energy reserves and also piled on the minutes.

I only took up swimming to do triathlon and I have only ever really been interested in wet-suit outdoor races. Hence, an effective leg-kick has not been developed. Lack of wetsuit did not seem to bother the top swimmers as they don't need the buoyancy.

The cycle went perfectly to plan with average pace of 20mph and heart rate average below 140 (only crept up to 145 very briefly on a couple of occasions). Terrific bike course with several spectacularly scenic sections. Combination of flats, hills and some sharp turns. Maximum speed 47 mph. This is the part that made it all worthwhile.

The run pace was conservative due to the conditions and resignation that the poor swim had destroyed Kona aspirations. Nevertheless, by mile 15 there was nothing left in the tank.

Personal best cycle of 5:31 (beating my Challenge Roth 2012 effort by 6 mins)

Worst ever swim of 1:55 (45 mins slower than expected)

Worst ever run of 5:43 (did London Marathon 3 months ago in 2:56)

Slowest ever overall finish time of 13:18


(These sentences are taken from an email sent to finishers after the event).

This year´s race goes down as the hardest competition ever realized in Zurich. Not only because of the heat but also because of the non-wetsuit swim which was an additional challenge for many athletes."



Ironman Switzerland is a good race that is highly recommended (Challenge Roth by contrast is a great race...just a bit better in all ways, especially crowd-support and race management).

Lake Zurich is beautiful with clean water. Probably a very pleasant swim under normal conditions.

The cycle is terrific but has a few sharp turns combined with steep descents that could prove tricky in the wet (and it often does rain in Zurich). Lots of rules and novel ways to get in the penalty box (such as non-aerobar sections and  no-overtaking sections).

The run has several underpasses and switch-backs but lots of crowd support and feed-stations.

Jim Graham

Ironman Lanzarote 2013 Race Report

Many people consider this an iconic race, with its own special challenges and history. Certainly it is one of the tougher races on the official ironman circuit due to heat, winds and hills. Maybe it is difficult for Brits to get ready to race in the heat so early in the season, having trained in the cold. Lanzarote is a cycling and triathlon paradise so some serious competitors spend time training and acclimatising on the island for weeks before the race. 

Having said that, Lanzarote ironman is great fun and suitable for all abilities. You can take it slowly because there is plenty of time to finish. At the race briefing there were  plenty of people doing their first ironman and one person was doing their first triathlon! 

They let finishers go across the line with their kids, which a lot of races do not allow. It was all pretty friendly and laid back. Despite stern warnings at the race briefing, I did not see anybody get a penalty.



This was tricky, as UK open water swims had barely started due to terrible weather this year. Got head-butted during the pre-dawn warm-up. Glad the goggles did not break but got a grazed nasal bridge..

A mass start from the beach, dashing across a few metres of sand before wading into the surf at dawn. Seeded myself about 100th out of 1,800. Then got overtaken by about a thousand swimmers in the first 20 minutes. It is a 2 lap anticlockwise course with massive congestion especially on the left side because of a left turn at the first buoy that is only about 150 metres from the start. I was literally on the marker rope on the left and mostly had to pull myself along the rope for the first half-mile as proper swimming was not really possible. Lots of people went under the rope to get clear water to the left and I don't think any of them got penalised for cheating. Next time I would either set off far to the right or swim to the left of the rope (putting hat with race number showing on right, so the marshals in boats on left can't see who I am). 

A little disappointed with 1:16 swim but it was not an unpleasant experience despite the turmoil. Nice warm water with plenty of fish visible and I avoided any significant contacts.



The cycle started with an hour of drizzle and apparently it has never previously rained at lanazarote ironman in its history of over 20 years. Just like being back home, so no problem for me.

There is hardly any traffic on the island and much of the bike course is closed road. A single 112 mile loop around the island with a great mix of long straight bits to "go aero" as well as hill climbs and some technical descents. Good surface except for a couple of miles on a dreadful road reminiscent of Paris-Rubaix.

Plenty of drink stations in sensible places, so you only need one bottle on the bike at a time. Grab a water bottle first and gulp down half then pour rest over yourself to cool down. Grab a bottle of energy drink to put in bottle cage that will sustain fluid intake until the next drink station.

Some very windy bits mean that discs are discouraged. I used Zipp 303 and Zipp 808, 11-27 cassette and 42/55 q-rings. Had no problems with the high winds or climbing the steep hills with this set up.

My usual slow swim put me near the back of the field, so I enjoyed overtaking nearly 700 cyclists. The first half was slower than planned at only around 18mph. I really got pedalling over the second half of the course and managed an average of 19mph overall for the 112 miles in a pleasing sub-6 time of 5:53.



Feeling confident following 2:56 London Marathon a month previously. Left T2 with 7:20 on the clock. Needed a 3:15 marathon to secure an Ironman PB.

Mostly flat coastal tarmac run with nice views. Set off doing 7:15 minute miles and overtook maybe 200 runners in first half-marathon. Weather got roasting hot after a while and I hit the wall at mile 18 then trudged home doing 12:00 minutes per mile. Saw all those PB hopes and Kona aspirations slip away. Finished run in 3:54 and was surprised it wasn't a lot slower having been overtaken by a couple of hundred runners in the last few miles. Nevertheless, it was absolutely awesome to finish an exhilarating race.

At Lanzarote they seem to let everyone run into the finish banner (not just the winner). Grabbed banner triumphantly and raised it above my head with a big grin like Chrissie Wellington. Then got photo taken shaking hands with the race director (who presented my medal). Nice touch, being treated much the same as the race winner.

James Graham

  • 01:16:03 swim, 1039th overall, 72nd in age group
  • 05:48 T1, 171st
  • 05:53:44 cycle, 287th overall, 13th in age group
  • 04:39 T2, 389th
  • 03:54:08 run, 283rd overall, 16th in age group
  • 11:14:20 finish time, 273rd overall, 16th in age group 50-54



Next day, I attended my first Kona slot roll-down ceremony. It was good seeing Bart from Holland punch the air and praise the heavens, as the last of the 3 slots in our age group rolled down to him. I had chatted to Bart as we checked tyre pressures on adjacent  bike racks just before the race start. Bart had come 5th in age group compared to my 16th. Not so close as to be annoying, but close enough to give me hope for next time. I had finished just under 30 minutes slower than Bart. Bart had qualified for Kona via Lanzarote a few years previously and he had advised me before this race that "it is all about the marathon". It's easy to ask advice but harder to act on it. 

Many thanks to Helen, Gemma, Angus, Monty and all at MSTC for your continued support.