Race Reports

Ironman Florida 2014 - 7:43 minutes from Kona



A year ago I punched the air with delight having managed to register on-line for this race, which sells out in under 60 seconds. A flat fast PB course in the lovely location of Panama City Beach on the north coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Heat-acclimatization training was done in Mid Sussex (with lots of warm layers on) plus IM Barcelona, Disney World Orlando and Apalachicola (Florida) Marathon. It was roasting hot for 2 weeks in Florida prior to the race and sea temperature was 78 Fahrenheit  (above 76 is too hot for wet-suit racing). On race day we had an angry sea with rip-tides, 40mph winds and air temperature 10 degrees Celsius.


We all froze on the beach before dawn, especially those who got wet doing a swim warm-up. At dawn the decision was made to cancel the swim. Even we poor swimmers were a bit disappointed, because we wanted to do a proper triathlon. The sea had been too nasty even for the safety kayaks to be deployed.


Spent a couple of hours trying to keep warm until it was my time to start cycling. There were nearly 3,000 of us setting off one every couple of seconds. I had a cycling jacket and a couple of space-blankets but some people had just a tri-suit.

The gusty wind played havoc with the deep wheel rims and I had to resist the impulse to stop for a bike check. It was like riding with loose skewers or headset, quite apart from getting buffeted sideways and having to react to avoid collisions. Fortunately, the course is separated from traffic and American roads are very wide.

Nice single loop course, mostly on flat good surface roads. A few undulating bits and one section on cracked tarmac that was rather bumpy.

Cycled well for 4 hours, managing to avoid drafting penalties and keep a decent pace. You have to surge past packs of riders and raise the heart rate temporarily, even though that's bad for burning energy reserves. If you stay with the pack you may get a penalty and faster riders will keep overtaking and force you further back. After that, I eased off a little (maybe lost form from a fortnight's lack of cycling or maybe just hurting too much from relentlessly battling the wind and keeping the aero-position for so long). Completed cycle in 5:22, though it was unclear if that was good or bad given the conditions and the rolling start.


Excellent enthusiastic support on a good flat 2-lap course with varied views and lots of shade. No need for the ice that was provided as it remained chilly throughout, despite the sunshine. A real boost having Helen and our two sons on the course to cheer me on. So grateful. Worth around 10 minutes off the finish time I reckon.

1:42 for 13 miles then completed strongly for total run time of 3:26.


Felt great finishing with a sprint. Kissed Helen and got medal. Given a results card stating I was 3rd in age-group. A few minutes later, my position was down-graded to 5th due to the rolling start and a couple of finishers coming in having started after me. Not bad considering 241 in 50-54 age-group.

Attended Hawaii World Championship Kona Slot Allocation Ceremony, but there were only 3 slots for 50-54 and the top 3 all decided to take those places. I missed out by 7 minutes 43 seconds.

My AWA (all world athlete) ranking improved from 10th to 5th on the basis of this Florida result. Shame they don't presently use the AWA rankings to determine who gets Kona slots. AWA ranking is calculated from points scored in the 3 best performances for each athlete each year.

Ironman 70.3 Miami - October 2014


We picked Miami 70.3 as a destination event to mark Mike's 50th. The aim was to roll together a weekend city break, hot weather, beaches, and cocktails with our first half ironman. A good question could be why bother with the last bit. But as the club T-shirt says, if you have to ask you will never understand.

Anyway, with the benefit of having done the event we have tried to come up with our top 10 reasons why:

  1. Ultimate bike racks. Where else can you lock your bike to a palm tree while you go for a practice swim off the beach?
  2. The weather. Hot and sunny, perfect for lazing around on the beach sipping Margaritas. But for doing a triathlon? You've got to be kidding. Fine if you're from the Sunshine State but If you're used to the rather cooler Sussex climate? Boy was it tough out on that run! They did have ice at the water stations though. Nice touch.
  3. The atmosphere. Wow. 3000 competitors and a build up like some major sporting event, national anthem, flags, completely over emotional commentator getting everyone thinking they are about to do something glorious. Complete load of tosh and we loved it.
  4. The swim course. With dolphins. Yeay, everyone likes dolphins! And jellyfish (and Emma can show you proof that they were of the stinging variety).
  5. The warm water. Nice, very different to Ardingly in October. But wetsuits banned! Meaning slow swim time for Mike with Emma coming in a few minutes ahead. Better not ask Mike about that, he's still coming to terms with it. He's trying to claim that the current was stronger for his wave.
  6. The super flat and fast bike course, closed roads marked by traffic cones for the entire route and hundreds of state police manning every road junction. Pity about the headwind though. And the really long, boring straight bit in the middle (from about mile 5 to mile 51).
  7. The run course. Spectacular scenery with palm trees, skyscrapers, blue sky and sparkling sea. Completely flat too. That's according to the race guide. Whoever wrote that forgot to mention the MASSIVE road bridge over the harbour (with one very real hill) that we had to run over FOUR times.
  8. The friendly atmosphere. Great to chat to other competitors from all over the world (particularly Latin America), even shouts of "go mid sussex" out on the run course from some chap from Brighton.
  9. The medals. The best (and biggest) ever.
  10. The party afterwards. Under the palm trees on the edge of the harbour, free beer, music and new friends. And more dolphins. And margaritas.


So who's up for it next year??

PS. for those that want to know how we did, we both got round more or less in our target times. Emma in 6.30ish and well inside the top half in her age group which was an outstanding result given that 95% of her group had carbon TT bikes (she was on her trusty aluminium road bike) and that all the photos show that she was enjoying the event WAY too much. Mike came in just under 5.30 despite a shocking 53 minute swim and managed a not unreasonable 10th in his age group.

36 mins off AG win at Ironman Barcelona 2014



This was the inaugural "Ironman Barcelona" with a massive field of 2,600 athletes. In previous years this race was branded "Challenge Barcelona" and had half the number of athletes. Evidence of the Ironman/Challenge turf-war that is underway.

A pleasant wet-suit sea swim with a dry start from the beach. The bike course is fast, flat and hot with an all-closed-road cycle on good surfaces. The run is also fast, flat and hot but offers some shade along tree lined beach-front promenades.

The start is in waves with 3 mins between age groups, which allows a bigger field with less congestion on cycle as less athletes exit the water simultaneously.


The race venue is the lovely beach resort of Calella, which is 80 minutes drive from Barcelona. A bit like hosting an Ironman in Brighton and calling it Ironman London. Catalonia is terrific with great climate. Autumn poolside breakfasts and outdoor suppers in the numerous restaurants.

Hassle-free registration, briefing and racking with everything within a 1km radius. Lots of good value hotels nearby. I used "Hotel Mediterrani Express" costing 111euros in total for 3 nights, which seemed insanely cheap to me for what was superb accommodation within 300 metres of start and within 800 metres of Transition. Nice quiet room and a good pre-race sleep.

Roasting hot in the days prior to the race with heavy thunderstorms forecast for the race itself.


Lots of texts and face-book messages from well-wishers. Massively appreciated. Thanks everyone.

Heavy rain with thunder and lightning on race morning. Got soaked inflating tyres in Transition and the disc was too wet for the valve patch to stick on, but faithful duct-tape came to the rescue as usual.

Put wet-suit on in the dark because the generators kept failing (probably flooded) then trudged over to swim-start through muddy puddles.

Did a warm up swim and was ready to begin when announcement blared out that there was a problem and more news would follow in 2 minutes. Being a poor swimmer, I was almost hoping for a cancelled swim due to electrical storm risks. However, I quite fancied the wave-start swim and the water was rather nice. Announcement then declared the race would continue as planned with just a 30 minute delay.

We were all starting to get cold by the time our wave marched to the start-line. Limbering-up started in earnest and the Frenchman in front of me suddenly did some elaborate clenched-fist arm movements, landing a direct hit on my chin. Maybe I should change from triathlon to boxing, because I coped with that punch quite well and regained consciousness in time to sprint into the surf.


A nice swim with the added interest of getting swum-over every 3 minutes by the aggressive elite swimmers from each of the wave-starts that followed ours.

Wasted some moments in T1, putting on a rain-jacket for the cycle. Further rain was predicted and I thought the jacket may reduce road-rash if I came off (like I did at Bolton a few weeks earlier). Sun came out and I roasted in my jacket but I was not prepared to waste more time removing the jacket. Got lots of comments along the lines of "are you warm enough Englander?...ha…ha…ha". Blasting past at an average speed of 22mph for 5 hours was the only answer I needed to give.

It was a nice cycle on 90% flat surface. The slight inclines and descents were very welcome, because its rather painful being on the aerobars constantly.

Delighted to enter T2 without mechanical problems or punctures. Started the run with just 6:37 on the clock, which was uncharted territory but something I had fantasised about. Sub-10 hours seemed off the menu but my PB of 10:57 (Challenge Roth 2012) and even Lawrence Wintergold's club record of 10:37 (Outlaw 2010) seemed within range. Small matter of needing to avoid bonking on the run like usual.

First mile was the slowest at 8:28, whilst the sun-cream was applied. Managed sub-8 mins for mile 2 to approx mile 18, then started to slow down as usual. Took a salt tablet every 10k and paid attention to fueling/hydrating. Pace never dropped off badly and by mile 23, I was confident of hanging-on.

Practically sprinted the last 800 metres and felt terrific (stored that memory to dip into next time the going gets tough). Tears of joy finishing in 10:07 with a 3:30 marathon. Actually thought I may have made the podium.


Felt great and scoffed lots of free food plus a free beer. Collected my stuff and texted my lovely wife, Helen, who informed me I was just 36 mins slower than the age-group winner but I was placed 13th. The top 3 had all finished in practically the same time, which must have been a bit of a scuffle.

The top guys had taken 15-20 mins off me on the swim and maybe the same amount of time on the cycle. However, my run was second fastest with just one guy in my age group being just one minute quicker.

I don't see me becoming a good swimmer any time soon, but I reckon I could risk pushing harder on the cycle now that confidence in my run has increased.

Florida Marathon in 3 weeks then Ironman Florida the following week. Bring it on!

Brighton to Brighton Sportive 2014


Last year I did the Challenge Route of 85 miles and without thinking entered straightaway for this years event but thought I would have a crack at the Classic Route 107 miles!

Well that year flew by and it was suddenly time for THAT ride!!! Before June I had managed to bash out a few long rides but no where near 100 miles and since June I have not had the time for various reasons to log up a long ride. So I was a little apprehensive when I arrived at the start on Hove Lawns where I met up with fellow MSTC riders Andy Miles and Jeff Woodall.

Although it was a little misty the forecast for the remainder of the day looked good! Once registered we were amongst the first to set off and for quite a few miles I was able to keep up with Andy and Jeff but then they disappeared off into the distance!

I won't bore you with the details of the route but needless to say there were hills involved and the ride took us out West and up to Hazelmere via various sometimes very narrow country lanes. The Classic timing checkpoint was at a place called Fernshurst and after a brief stop I began the journey back to Hove.

I have to be honest there were times on the return journey when I said to myself "how much bloody further" but I managed to dig deep and eventually arrived at the foot of Devil's Dyke which was the last "big" hill before dropping back down to Hove Lawns and the finish.

Well that was the furthest I had ridden in one lump for some time so I was pleased to have completed the ride and was even more pleased to find out that I had attained a Gold Standard, which for my age group was 8hrs 20 mins and my time was 7hrs 28mins 5secs which included 13 mins of timing and feed station stops. Jeff flew round in 6hrs 32 mins 29 secs and Andy in 6hrs 52mins 49secs both achieving Gold Standards as well.

A cautionary tale from Ironman Lanzarote


Letter from Coventry Tri Member Joe Reynolds: Written to the British Triathlon Federation and published in Tri 220 Magazine

I want as many people as possible to realise that the cover from the BTF is sometimes less than that of the race organisers and that using a BTF card abroad can leave people at a dis- advantage.

On Saturday 17th May this year I took part in the Iron Man Lanzarote race. Unfortunately I got into difficulty on the second lap of the swim and had to be withdrawn from the competition as I had taken water into my lungs, probably as a result of being 'swam over'.
This resulted in me being admitted to the Lanzarote Hospital where I spent the next three days, the first night in Intensive Care. The care I received there was excellent and the prompt action of the marshals and medics on the course probably saved my life and I am grateful to the organisation.

My problems arose later. I was informed at the reception of the hospital that the Hospital Fees would be paid by 'Iron Man'. On the third day of my stay a member of the hospital staff informed me that this was not the case and that responsibility was with my Federation. After telephoning my Federation (British Triathlon Federation) they informed me that responsibility was with the Iron Man organisation. I telephoned the Race Organisers and a was told that as I was a member of the BTF, and therefore had not taken out a day licence, that responsibility lay with my Federation (BTF). This was later confirmed by e-mail that had I purchased a 'Day Licence' the Race Organisers' Insurance would be responsible but as I had a licence from my own Federation that the Federation's insurance should cover me. The hospital I was taken to was a private hospital and would not accept the E111 card.

On being discharged from the hospital I paid my own bill in full (€3561.20) as my travel insurance did not cover 'extreme sports'. After talking to a number of my colleagues most of them were unaware that they would require specific race insurance and all of them believed that they were covered by their race licence. I am fortunate in that the sum involved is not so high that I will endure serious financial hardship but it could have been a lot higher had I had an accident on the bike course requiring surgery and a longer stay in the hospital.

A lot of triathletes in the UK enjoy competing Iron Man races abroad but most of those that I have spoken to were unaware of the implications should something go wrong. The point of this letter is to make other triathletes aware of the situation when racing abroad as I do not feel that the race organisers or the BTF have made this clear. I would advise any athlete competing in Iron Man races abroad to forget about their BTF licence and buy a Day Licence from the organisers regardless. Very few of us read the 'small print' or the 'terms and conditions' when we sign up for races, and I accept that it was my responsibility to have done so, but when we enter a race we enter to finish and think that it can't happen to us. It does however raise the question as to whether there is any value in an 'age-grouper' triathlete buying a BTF licence. There were twelve other patients in the hospital who also had no insurance.

This was not my first Iron Man competition, I have finished four races over the distance including Lanzarote in 2011 and I have been racing triathlon for over twenty years, not only in the UK but all over Europe and also in the USA (A Day Licence is compulsory in the USA). The response of the BTF is that their race insurance covers me for £25.00 per night not including the first night. I have filled in the forms and am awaiting the result. I do not intend to resign or leave the BTF, it was not their fault, I just feel that the issue should be given more publicity.