TVR does Ironman Wales the sequel.

Ironman Wales took place on Sunday 10th September. Jackpot’s Tom Van Possum was showing fine form leading up to the event with a win at the half distance Steel Man.

Sequel’s are always  a difficult act to follow… Tom had previously done Ironman Wales in 2015 on what was a very eventful day. Here is how the story on his return unfolded …

An epic report for an epic day

With a return to injury free running and a new found love for swimming early this year, I decided to have another crack at Ironman racing, and return to Tenby. The tough bike and run courses play to my strengths, but really, I had unfinished business, and the lure of the scenery and local support around the town was too much to resist.

Race plan

Even Ironman races are won and lost by seconds, and I strived for the marginal gains to get me round the Tenby course as quickly as possible. I stacked the cards on the offensive side and went as light and aero as possible. On went the trip socks, shoe covers and non-flapping race number to improve aerodynamics. Bottles were left off the bike, and I rode with only half a bottle of super concentrated bottle of fluid nutrition, intending to pick up water bottles on the course. Vitally, I shed some weight and was 4 kg lighter than I’d raced at before.

The race

Wind was forecast for race day, not just a bit of breeze, but 45 mph constant winds and gusting faster. And rain. Rain was due to arrive at 1pm, just as I was expecting to finish the bike.

Every time I’ve recce’d the swim at Tenby conditions have been fantastic. This year, I felt confident in my swim and knew I could get round the distance and still feel fresh for the day ahead. I planned to follow feet and swim within myself. Sea conditions looked good as we stood on the beach waiting for the gun to go. It’s a rolling start and I started well, keeping the pace controlled and not racing off too fast. I did a lap of the swim course the day before to familiarize myself with the buoy locations and identify some landmarks for sighting the route. In the wash of race day, these landmarks were hard to sight, with pink swim hats bobbing up and down in front and I struggled to follow a straightline to the first buoy. The rest of the first lap was easy enough to navigate and I was doing a good job of following feet.

Onto the beach for the Aussie exit at the end of lap 1 and the clock said 30 minutes. Pleased with that. I did a much better job of sighting the first buoy on the second lap and swam a lot straighter. But after turning at the first buoy, swimming felt different, The wind had picked up and there was now some serious chop to get over on the long stretch to the second turn. Even though swimming got slower, I didn’t feel like I was having to swim harder and was still finding it easy to follow feet and nip round people when a faster swimmer came nearby. I swam 32 mins for the second lap, which indicates the slower conditions. My overall swim time was 62 mins, which is a PB for me in IM swims, for what felt like the least effort. Similarly paced people lost 3-5 minutes between the laps so with better navigation on lap 1, I would have been close to a 60 min swim.

Transition

They say transition is the 4th discipline of triathlon and this is even more so at Tenby. After exiting the swim, there is a steep uphill path to the road, followed by a 1km dash across the town to the transition area. Despite the increased wind, there was still no sign of the rain forecast for later in the day. Going back to my earlier comments about planning to race light and aero, this raised a dilemma. Light and aero aren’t terms that are associated with windproof or waterproof clothing. Despite having a pair of arm warmers in my transition bag, I shelled the idea of taking the extra clothing, believing the rain would hold off long enough for me to be off the bike in the dry, and even though it was windy, the temperature was fine.

Bike

Lap 1

Knowing that the hills at Tenby are stacked in the last 2/3rds of the ride, my plan for the first 1-2 hours was to ride steady and not push the power too much, intending to ride the final 2/3rd’s with a higher power than the first. The road to the first turnaround point is rolling but there are no major hills to note. The wind was blowing hard, which made for a stiff headwind going west to Angle. As the road dropped down to the beach at Freshwater West, the full force of the winds blowing from the Atlantic were slamming from the side and just holding the bike in a straight line was hard going. I was riding with a Zipp 404 on the front and an 808 on the back. I’ve got no idea how the guy near me with a disc and 808 on the front managed to stay upright. It was adbsurd.

After 2 hours I was still feeling really good, my power numbers were less than I’d planned but as I was constantly passing people I didn’t feel the need to push any harder. By the time we got to Tenby for the first time at about 110km, I’d passed 2 of the 4 female pro’s and a couple of the male pro’s. By now though, it had been raining for about an hour. And when it rains in Wales, it’s not a slight drizzle. It was lashing it down. Combined with the gale force winds, the conditions were some of the worst I’d ever ridden in. It was one of those days where you would b

e making alternative plans if you had intended to ride, and if you were riding you would be hiding in a cafe with a coffee and a scone. After it started raining, it wasn’t long before I started to get cold. After half an hour of being cold, I was shivering so badly that when descending holding the base bars, the front wheel was shifting side-to-side. As the road dropped in to Tenby and we passed transition, all I could think of was my arm warmers sitting in my bag. Damn. If only light and aero was also warm and dry. Into the headwind again from Tenby and I knew it would be about another 2 hours until I’d finish the bike leg and would be able to get a reprieve from the suffering. At times there was some brief rest bite fro

m the rain and it would ease of for short periods but just as I’d get dry, another downpour would start again. In fact, the greatest relief from the cold was the need to piss, but even this was short lived as the warm flow down my legs was quickly chilled again by the wind!!!

 

It was by far the grimmest experience of cycling I’ve ever endured and the idea of racing was out of my mind now, and it was just about surviving to get to the finish. A combination of the cold and nutritional errors caused by missing bottles and dropping food due to being cold and my energy was sapped. My legs had nothing to give and for the final 60km of the ride I averaged 170 watts, which is less than warm up effort! I was getting passed by back of the packers on their first lap and I was close to walking off the bike and pushing on the final climb out of Saundersfoot as my legs were cramping from the cold. On the final 5km downhill stretch to Tenby, I knew it wouldn’t be long to until I could off the bike but the idea of running was not something I was looking forwards to.

I knew that Bron and family waiting in Tenby would be concerned about what had happened with my pace and as I saw them as I entered transition and made it clear what was wrong. I’ve got to say that their support was absolutely fantastic and they had the best supporter’s banner for me in Tenby! Despite their feeling of comfort hiding onside the coffee shops around Tenby, I know their concern and anxiety from not knowing what had gone wrong was just as hard to deal with.

My total bike time was 5.58. It was slow. Slower than the recce ride I did 4 weeks previously in training gear. I lost 25 minutes in the final 65km’s to guys riding a similar pace to me in the first 115km’s (who also had the fastest AG bike splits.)

Run

Obviously, my biking legs were gone but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel running. I set off from transition at the pace I had planned to run at and didn’t feel comfortable, but it never is after riding 180km. After 2-3km the road starts to climb out of Tenby and I realised at this point my running legs were no better than my biking legs. I couldn’t hold the pace and as I tried to push, my legs didn’t fight back. It was time to start walking and try and get some energy back. At the next aid station, I stopped and drank as much coke and red bull as I could pick up and drink whilst walking through.

This wasn’t fun. It wasn’t the race I’d hoped or planned for. But the idea of giving in so soon didn’t seem right. Ironman isn’t supposed to be easy and I’ve got far more admiration for competitors taking 15 hours than those going sub 10 and chasing victory.

The run course is 4 laps of just over 10km, returning to Tenby at the end of each lap. As I approached Tenby at the end of the first lap, I had serious consideration to calling it a day. As I struggled through town and saw Bron and family, I stopped for a chat with them on the high street. It was clear to them that my day (in terms of placing) was done and we shared the sense of my disappointment that it wasn’t going to be the result that I wanted. I carried on and was still taking full advantage of the caffeinated and sugary refreshments at the aid stations to wash down the pro plus I was carrying. Laps 2 and 3 were not much better than the first lap. I’d got into a rhythm of walking through every-other aid station for a picnic and running the bits in between. I was able to run at a fairly decent pace but the uphill bits were still very hard. I don’t know if it was the fact it was only 10 km to go that i

t became mentally easier, but by the final lap, I was able to run the whole uphill from Tenby. At this point I spotted a familiar set of faces on the side of road, and crossed over to give the Coleman clan a hug and a thank you for their support. It was grim to be racing but it can’t have been much better to be supporting in such horrible weather. Again, a big thanks for making the journey down to Tenby and the support all day.

In the end, my split for the last 10km lap was 5 minutes faster than each of my previous 3 laps. I crossed the line with a marathon time of 3.35, my slowest at any Ironman. My overall time was 10.45, my slowest to date and my worst IM result, but one of the performances that I’m most pleased with. The conditions were widely described by people as being biblical, and some of the worst at any Ironman ever. On reflection, I should have dressed for the conditions, but I took a big risk chance  sticking to my plan. On another day, the rain would have held off and the dice would have landed in my favour. But that’s the beauty of racing and we get stron

 

ger from the mistakes we make.

Later that same evening, whilst re-feeding with fish and chips, we were looking for the next opportunity to race, but sadly both IM Italy and Barcelona were full for this year, so it looks like another season of IM training and racing for 2018. Roll on another iconic race and a holiday to Nice in June.

 

Welldone Tom, we all look forward to following you on your next Ironman.

 

Gimme, Gimme, Gimme

 

Fernando, Dancing Queen, Take a chance on me.  Yes folks, Jackpotters were all playing the best of Abba while web pages refreshed to follow Richard Knell-Moore on his Ironman Sweden in Kalmar in August. Here is what Rich had to say.

“Coming of the back of 2 years consistent Ironman training and racing, I felt ready for the challenge at Kalmar although life has certainly been doing its best to disrupt my preparations along the way. I was hoping to build on the back of a good performance in Copenhagen last year, aiming to find 20mins in order to get under the 10hr threshold.

Having a few injury troubles meant that I didn’t know quite how I would go, but I decided to get on with it and enjoy the event.

If you haven’t been to Sweden, it is highly recommended. A beautiful place and they really love this IM event. Kalmar is a small town, with a great vibe. I’ll spare the tourist review, but there is a good reason why this event is so highly rated!

Tunnel Visioned Rich Knell-Moore

With a more subdued race start in Kalmar than other races, the rolling start swim sets off from the harbour, round and back up a canal, under some bridges with crowds right over you on the banks.  Under a last bridge and then fall into a very short transition. I came out with a respectable 58min swim, which considering some chop was pretty pleasing.

Now the bike was the primary reason for going to Sweden as it’s quite flat. The only risk is the wind. I settled into the bike quickly, heading out over the 6km long bridge to the neighbouring island, where you turn South and into some headwind for 40km, then bash across and back north with a healthy tailwind. I was getting pretty annoyed with a load of drafters, especially as we were flanked by officials that failed to act at all. I avoided it at first by intention, then by accident as my saddle moved as I hit a speed bump. (That’s what you get for tinkering with things a week before you go). On the plus side, I wasn’t getting irritated by the drafters any longer.

You then turn and head back towards Kalmar, climbing over the island and then over the bridge into what is now a fair headwind. The speed dropped from 38k to 26k. Trying to hold onto the speed with-out going to deep into the energy bank.

The second loop heads North and is a lot more sheltered on the main land. I picked up some food and pressed on, enjoying the ride. I then managed to pick off a number of the riders that had been drafting earlier.

Back into transition, a great feeling of being only a limited number of bikes already back after a satisfactory 5:03hr split. Despite being slightly down on what I had planned for, I felt pretty good leaving T2. The marathon was where I had planned to make the gains over 2016.

You head through the crowded town streets for 3k and then it is a 3x lap course. In-escapable crowd support, with “heja, heja, heja” ringing in your ears it’s almost impossible to not set off to fast.

Now, I’m not a fan of Powergel gels which caused some challenge as I couldn’t stomach them and I somehow lost the gels I had left in my race belt. Made it round the first lap with a nice pace, moving pretty well. Second lap felt long, and some more extended aid station walks trying to get energy consumed. An interesting choice of crisps, lemon slices and pickles weren’t much help and nor were pieces of bagel. Bloody impossible to eat!

Fabulous support from the family had me back on track, through the grandstand and out for the final lap. The suburbs you head through really do like a street party and there were some many going on, that it was a massive boost.

Managed to pull the run back into shape and ran the last 4k. Heading into town had me picking the pace up, enjoying the event, the crowds and support to cross the line in 3:57.

Despite being a tantalizing 5 mins over the 10hr mark, I was well pleased with the days work. Perhaps the ice bath wasn’t the best idea as I could not warm up at all; and felt dreadful for a while. Once warm though, fed and a couple of beers, the hero hour party was something else!

About that 5 mins – see you in 2018 Kalmar! Anyone?”

Fantastic effort and well done Rich.

 

The Devil Mud Run

Jackpot’s Chris Brown ventures into the world of Obstacle Course Racing. Here is what he had to say…

“On Saturday 16th September, I succumbed to doing one of these obstacle race things.  You know, the type that always have “mud” in the title and/or various combinations of hard sounding words like Warrior, or Tough Warrior or Fucking Titanium Hard-core Warrior.  Anyway, it was for a friend’s Charity so I’d turn up, walk round with them and try not to get cold or bored.  This one was the Devil Mud Run.

The group warm-up led by the usual army-wannabee complete with battle fatigues (just to make sure you know he’s hard, but the closest he’s ever been to an Afghan is the local dog show) and forced banter, aka team-bonding, at the start didn’t raise expectations too much, neither did the overcast skies and intermittent drizzle.

Gun went and, of course, the first bit was running uphill as the sound system blasted out Chariots of Fire tunes (that was a 400m race, guys). The pumped-up teams in their matching tops sprinted away at 15minute/5k pace.  Not far into it, we were met by the first obstacle, three wooden barriers about 7 foot high.  I was also met by scores of panting, over-weight mud runners who had shot their bolt not two minutes into the event (I say event because it isn’t officially timed).  Then on top of the barrier, I look down at the fat shorties who are never going to get over this first wall.  “Going to be a long day” I thought to myself.

But what transpired was so far from those negative thoughts.  The shorties were lifted over the wall by other runners, not always in the same ‘team’ and, whilst they still fell behind, the mass pushed onwards.  My thoughts of it being a walk in the park were blown away.  Without a doubt the course was tough, all off-road, through some lovely countryside but taking in every metre of incline they could find.  The basic trail was muddy enough, but the organisers had added their own sloppy, grey clay, clinging mud to narrow sections as well as wooden and hay-bail obstacles to navigate. They all became quite good fun, laughing at how stuck some people could get and figuring out your own best way through the mess of terrain and mess of people.

The whole thing took a minute short of two hours and for a good 80% of that my HR was in race zone, so it was a bloody good work out.  Add in a few laughs and pleasure at helping somebody through a (sometimes literal) sticky patch instead of racing past them, the fact I was actually overtaking people whilst running, subtract the cuts and bruises, and you end up with a really good day out.”

The Triathlon relays 2017.

An in depth report from the inside of the mind of Charles Hickman.

“Come to the relays, they said. It’ll be fun. Long experience has taught me to be suspicious of any such statement but after putting it off for the last few years I thought my time had come. Little did I realise that it would take up more time than an Ironman day, require exposing myself multiple times, involve performance enhancing drugs and blowing my peak heart rate to new levels.

I arrived at the venue, Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham, before 9am, just as the male, female and open relay race started. I’d been warned it was chaotic and it didn’t disappoint. Before long, while there were still people swimming in the lake, there were cyclist whizzing around its circumference and even runners dodging the cyclists coming in the other direction. Meanwhile athletes were bustling in and out of the three transition areas in various states of dress. What the hell was going on?!?

Gradually it all became clear. Each team had four members, designated to go in a specific sequence through each leg. All members of the team complete the swim before moving onto the bike, and then finish with the run. The key was to be in the right place at the right time to hand over the wristband in order to continue the race. The distances per leg (and by each team member) were: swim 2(0.5) km, bike, 60(15) km, run 20(5) km.

‘Team Jackpot Racing Men’s 1’, put together by Mika Brown, navigated the race with deceptive ease, actually finishing the swim in first place and impressively holding onto third club position by the end of the run. So, when the morning’s race was over and Jackpot were awarded the bronze medal, mixed ‘Team Jackpot Racing’ had a lot to live up to.

The Jackpot mixed team, in order of the sequence we would race in, was made up of the big man himself, Chris ‘Dad’ Brown, Kathryn ‘Kool’ Dickinson, Helen ‘Kinetic’ Drew and myself in last position. Four athletes born in four different decades; two men, two women. But with one single focus: to swim, bike and run to the best of their abilities. And in my case not to balls it up (Charles ‘Balls-up’ Hickman).

Chris had knowingly given himself the short straw for the swim by volunteering to go first – when the most number of swimmers would be racing at the same time. Chris, of course, likes a good fight so handled the fracas with ease and was soon smoothly handing over to Kathryn. It was not long before she too was exiting the water and passed the band over to Helen, leaving me to take her place in the waiting pen.

While I stood there waiting it occurred to me that, having just met Helen for the first time, I really didn’t know what she looked like – replete with swim cap and tinted goggles, nor her me. I worriedly started to asses each swimmer as they ran up the exit ramp over to us. So it was with crushing disappointment that I spotted Helen on her second pass of the waiting pen looking for me. I’d missed her! I’ve ruined the race!

Fortunately I think it had only cost us a few seconds but it certainly urged me on into the water. There was plenty of room by now on the swim course but there were also lots of slower swimmers to navigate around, which meant quite a lot of sighting. On exiting the swim, Chris was easy to spot in the adjoining bike transition area – no doubt he’d made good use of his elbows to get to the front of those waiting. I passed him the band and he was gone. It felt weird exiting the water after only 500 meters and then just standing there. No bike to desperately find and mount.

The results show we had done well. Our team was the fourth fastest club and 12th overall out of the water. Helen and I got back to the main spectator spot just in time to see Chris begin his second of three laps on the bike, and to pass some encouragements onto Kathryn who headed off to the bike transition ready for Chris finishing. Chris was riding well, deploying the skills and fearlessness learnt from his car racing to gain ground around the four sharp corners of the course. Meanwhile, as last relayer, I could put my feet up and soaked up the sun’s rays – bizarre in the middle of a race.

Some time later, Mika told me to head down to transition – we had just seen Helen complete her second bike lap. Mika was being a great team supporter, keeping us in line and telling us where to go. As I fussed over my bike in transition I suddenly thought I had miscounted Helen’s laps and missed her coming in – yikes! Thankfully moments later I saw her fly in on her ‘radar-avoiding’ TT bike and so was ready for the handover by the time she dismounted and passed the band on to me. Phew!

I’d thought the bike course too short, narrow and busy to be able to get up any real speed but not so. It was quite exhilarating zooming past slower cyclists as I tried to target those with yellow race numbers – signifying they were the last relayer of their teams like me. I’d been warned about the sharp bend on one of the corners of the course around the lake. Haha, I’d said when I’d been told the anecdotes of athletes going too fast, narrowly avoiding crashing or flying off into the grass out of control. Nod, nod, smile, smile. So what did I do? Took the corner too fast, narrowly avoiding crashing. Plonka.

On my last two laps I suddenly started to hit runners coming in the opposite direction. These were the top relay teams who were already out on the run. Although there were teams of all abilities, there really were some top class athletes competing on the day (including current and ex pros). I tried counting the runners to gauge our position; I didn’t count many, and in actual fact we were still in a competitive fifth club position, 16th overall.

The run was the leg that most members of the team were concerned about. Chris had long said it was his least favourite discipline and Helen had crashed in a race a few weeks before, leaving her with a shoulder and ankle injury. Thus far, Helen had raced much more competitively than her injuries and subsequent lack of recent training would suggest. Could she carry it through on the run?

I was in the transition area to see Chris come in, looking spent and sweating heavily – it was a hot afternoon – but he had given his all, and I think even he was pleasantly surprised by his split. There is a tendency, particularly if you are a longer distance runner, to consider five kilometres a sprint. Such an expectation is bound to end in disaster, even at half the distance.

It is perhaps with this in mind that Kathryn began the second relay of the run, looking as cool as a cucumber. As Mika remarked, it was perhaps a little too cool! Afterwards Kathryn said she had realised as much and had quickened her pace, putting in another quality performance for the team. Helen followed, ankle adorned with kinetic straps. She looked pensive, having the weight of performing well on her (injured) shoulders, regardless of the assurances from her team mates that it did not matter. So it was with relief when I saw her complete her run and enter transition. She had done well to retain our position in the club ranking – 7th.

Naturally I ignored my own advice and tried to run too fast. I’d already been warned that the flat, arrow straight run course around the lake was deceptively long on the return leg. You can see the finish but it just doesn’t seem to get any closer. I was blowing hard and knew I was seconds from melt down but I just made it.

Team Jackpot finished the run in 6th place by club, 21st overall. I’m proud to say this gave us a final position in the mixed relay of 21st overall, 6th by club. Total time 03:33:44.

I can see now why people recommend the relays. There’s a party atmosphere and it really gives you a sense of being part of a wider triathlon community, and racing in a team is a refreshing change from the usual lone pursuit of selfish goals. Per athlete, the distances are not very long but it gives you an opportunity to go hell for leather without having to worry too much about pacing. I certainly had that satisfied glow at the end of the day that only a good, hard day of racing brings. Big thanks to my teammates, particularly Chris for putting our team together; and congratulations to the men’s Jackpot team for their bronze. Oh, and thanks to Mika for the pill to make me run faster.”

Welldone to the Jackpotters at the relays and thanks Charles.

Jackpot’s Gaffer in his element.

Last weekend saw Chris Brown finding his feet in the Aqua Bike Event.  Here is what Chris had to say.

“The first thing you notice when looking round an Aquabike transition zone before the race isn’t the lack of running shoes in everyone’s set-up. Nor is it the ubiquitous top-end TT bike. More it is the size of the opposition. After years on the BTF’s money-making extravaganza, I’ve become used to racking next to those of a scrawnier nature. Not many of my regular opposition come in over 75kg and my usual next-door neighbour, Mr Blunt, is just 68kg with the accompanying height restrictions that go with the stature of a Mo Farah wannabe.

At this event, it’s very different. All the guys are 6-foot or taller and most appear to be closer to or above my own 82kg. I’ll not be suggesting a top-10 fight-off at this race!
Back to the event. It went pretty much along the lines of any other event we all do and know so well. Three things probably stick out.

First, from the klaxon, two guys swam full speed right across the front of us all, almost at a 45-degree angle, heading straight for the bank. My thought pattern went something like this “What have I missed? Is there strong current over there? No, it’s a lake aresehole. Is there a buoy I didn’t see? No, they’re all eight-foot-high and orange. Must be beginners. But can’t be with them swimming at that speed. Must be Tossers then.”

Second, there’s a foot-down-and-stop point on the course where two roads cross. We are specifically warned about it in the briefing. Someone even asks the question as to if it is a complete stop, which is affirmed. How then, does some daft bugger get DQ’d for not putting his foot down? Maybe the same tosser.

Third one only occurred to me about a week later. I came in sixth overall, just four seconds behind fifth. Looking at the swim and transition, I made up 90 seconds on him in the first five kilometres of the bike. When I passed him, he was behind another athlete but I assumed didn’t have space to overtake with me coming up the outside and the road being a bit ropey. However, over the next 15km with him behind me and increasing effort, I didn’t put a single second into him. Might explain why, when I patted him on the back and said, “Well done, just couldn’t match you in the last 500m”, he didn’t look me in the eye. Hmmmm. Maybe I should take to looking over my shoulder every now and then.

Onwards and upwards.”

Welldone Chris.