As some of you will know, I’m fairly new to triathlons but managed to step up to 70.3 in June when I knew I could crack the 2K swim. That was a major achievement for me and I thought completing UK Ultimate 70.3 was the big one for the year. I had planned to finish 2021 with Ludlow Sprint Triathlon but then Ironman put on a 1-year-only 70.3 at Bolton. My son had done the full Bolton 140.6 and I wanted to experience a little of what he did - and it was a one year deal - so I booked it up.
After completing UK Ultimate 70.3 I only had a couple of weeks active recovery before I was back into training again, this time following a plan from coach Luke. I never knew more than a week in advance what I would be doing (as agreed) which made it all the more interesting.
Over the next 14 weeks I trained hard and Luke's plan helped me prepare for both the bike and run courses with plenty of strength work to simulate a hilly bike course, and also lots of off road hill running. I also practised a lot of short interval speed work for the swim.
This shows in my results where I was only slightly slower than at UK Ultimate but Bolton had a much bigger elevation gain for both bike and run.
It was a tough race - maybe one of the toughest I’ve done.
Nicky came with me and we registered and racked my bike and bags on Saturday. First the red run bag in T2 in Bolton, then off to Pennington Flash to rack my bike and blue bike bag. While at T2 I was able to survey the lake and realised how far it seemed all around. The view of the swim was more daunting than at Ultimate because it was a single 2K lap, with no islands of trees to break up the view to make it seem smaller like at Alderford. All I could see was one big 2K loop! The practise swim had been cancelled on the Saturday while they got specialised machines in to clear as much of the thick weed away as they could. That made me a bit more nervous too.
There was no Ironman merchandise at registration for this event due to it being put on quite late in the race calendar, which probably saved my wallet from a beating.
I tried and failed to sleep properly the night before and was up at 5am to shovel down the obligatory porridge pot. Then off to the start in the dark, parking at a nearby Morrisons and walking with my bike bottles, tool bag and after-race white bag containing clothes, food & drink.
I was fairly relaxed about the day and waited around until about 7:30 when it was time to give in my white bag and get into my wetsuit. All I needed was Dave Harley there to give me a wetsuit wedgie to get it nicely fitted (like he did at the relays) which Nicky struggles to do :-) I positioned myself at the 50 minute marker, then it was soon 8am - time to go.
Because of the rolling start the water seemed congested with people all around. The lake seemed dark and dirty and still had quite a lot of weeds in it. At around 200 metres or so I panicked, couldn’t get my breathing under control and seriously thought I might have to abandon it, but I took a bit of time to compose myself, focus on where I was heading, steadied my breathing and regained my composure.
I struggled to get into a rhythm with all the people around but started to enjoy it after about half way. My time was as expected - 53 minutes. I was actually 42 seconds faster than at UK Ultimate but that had an Australian exit so both were roughly equal. I thought my sighting was poor but I was only 73m over 1.2 miles so better than I thought.
I was helped out of the water by a nice marshal then ran into T1, giving Nicky a dirty-pond-water kiss on the way and wrestled with my wet-suit as I went.
In T1 I consciously took my time to regroup, dry off and have some fuel before the bike, which ate into 10 minutes of my race time. I could have gone quicker but it was probably time well spent.
It was a tough hilly bike course. There were a lot of up-hills to contend with. I couldn't exploit a lot of the down-hills either because of the tight bends and rough road surfaces. I kept things controlled without pushing too hard because I could feel my legs tiring and I needed something left for the run. I was pleased that I was only 14 minutes slower than UK Ultimate even though the elevation was 84% greater at Bolton. Being one of the slower swimmers meant a lot of people were already on their bikes, so it was a fairly lonely ride. I was passed by a few but I also passed a few, especially on the up-hills. I saw 3 on the roadside repairing punctures and one also had a broken derailleur which meant he was stuck in one gear - not good on a hilly course!
Even though it was a hard, hilly route, it took in some lovely scenery along the way, with quite a lot of support in various places and soon I was back in Bolton heading in to T2. Again I took transition steady, changed my socks for the run and had some fuel. It would have been a lot quicker but I had to have a toilet break ! Without that I would have been sub 7hrs !
My run started with a fair amount of discomfort in my glutes and lower back. I know bike-to-run is hard but I have practiced a lot and never felt this before. I wanted to break 2 hours but I struggled to increase pace over the first half of the race. During the second half the pain started to ease off and I knew from the first lap where I could push on, so I did, and managed to bring the pace to sub 2 hours in the end. My right soleus started tightening a lot at 10 miles but luckily held out ok. I was only 1 minute 23 secs slower than UK Ultimate but Bolton had 306% more elevation so I was happy with 1:57:26
Training has been fairly intense (for me) and as usual I had to watch my weight to make sure I didn't lose too much being a skinny chap anyway. On the day I was lucky with the weather. I had packed my transition bags for every situation, so I ended up leaving most of the gear in transition, wearing the minimum for a warm sunny day.
I knew it was going to be a lot tougher than UK Ultimate because of the increased elevation on the bike & run courses but overall I was very happy with my results. I had trained well, been injury free (just the usual aches & pains) and was as prepared as I think I could have been. Thank you to everyone who has helped and encouraged me on the way.
I’m glad I experienced a bit of what my son and some others in TTC have done for the full Bolton 140.6 but I did think to myself at the end I could not do all that again…