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Sat 19th Oct 2019
Jo Carritt: second at Ironman UK
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Monday 12th August 2013

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Last week's Ironman UK in Bolton saw long time Tri247 columnist Joanna Carritt achieve her best 'M-Dot' finish to date - second place to race winner Lucy Gossage. Not surprisingly, she "thoroughly enjoyed the whole day" - here is her report.

Ironman UK 2013 Report - Jo Carritt

With heavy rain having fallen through the night, the forecast for the day was typical for Bolton during the summer: sunny spells with high likelihood of rain. The rain started almost exactly at 5:59am – by which time all 1500 athletes were zipped up in their wetsuits, and I was bobbing on the start line with the other pro athletes. With a relatively small group of us, the majority being British athletes who have trained together at some time or other, it felt friendly and relaxed.

The mass of age group racers in the water behind us would start on the same gun, offering a rough start but also the prospect of a good draft when the faster swimmers pass me. Unfortunately the visibility through the water in the Flash is less than the length of an arm, and which adds to the likelihood of an accidental punch in the eye and makes it more difficult to locate and stay on feet. That said, I did a reasonable job, swam strong and was rounding the Australian buoy in 26 minutes. The second lap is a hundred meters or so longer and much more spread out / less frantic – and my total swim time was 56 minutes. A best for me, and on my way into transition a friend yelled to me that I was in fourth. The rain had stopped by then, but considering the forecast I opted to throw on a light rain vest for the ride and had put toe covers on my bike shoes also.

It was not the most slick start to my ride; there are a set of very aggressive speed bumps to negotiate on the road out of the site, which I was well aware of having lost all my drinks to them in when I raced here in 2010. I made it to the very last one this time, going quite carefully to avoid a repeat of that ..and could not believe it when my 500ml bottle made it’s leap for freedom. A nearby spectator offered to run back and fetch it for me…but in my haste to get on the road I declined – I was thinking that I survived in 2010 without a drink, it would be OK. Naturally within about 15 minutes I felt really thirsty, and spent that first 30km riding with an eye out for any discarded bottles that I might stop and pick up in order to wash a gel down with. There were very few people on the road around me, other than the periodic appearance of the film crew’s motorcycle, who informed me that I was in second place. Given that I’d passed none of the other girls on the road, I figured that my rush through transition had paid off and I’d made two places up in doing so. It was worth sacrificing my drinks then! I just hoped that this early deficit would not come back to bite later in the day…and rode “on power” which at this point in the day felt very conservative.

The UK Ironman bike route consists of an initial point-to-point section of about 30km from Leigh to Rivington, and from there we ride three times around a 50km lap. Each lap starts with the climb up Sheep House Lane, which has a tea house with large garden at the bottom. Perfect for spectators - and so this part of the course was thick with loud and welcome support. I’d managed to pick up a drink at an aid station just prior, the sun was out and I was really enjoying the day. There were a lot of people who knew me out on the side of the road, many of them offering information about my time to the leader, who I now knew to be Lucy. I also knew that it would be unlikely that I’d be making up any time on her, and true enough, each time I had any information that gap was greater. Believing Bella to be somewhere behind me (I was not sure how that had happened as she is by far a stronger swimmer than I, as well as having enormous experience and so unlikely to have stuffed her transition), my prime concern was of not getting caught. I was feeling really good on the bike – not amazingly strong but really in control and comfortable riding at a consistent effort, which on a course like this – with frequent undulations, turns and short steep pulls, is important…and did seem to result in my passing a lot of guys who had bolted off ahead of me early in the ride.

By the second lap the roads were becoming busier with age group riders at the back of the field – nice to see a few that I knew, but also required a constant focus to pass safely and politely, with frequent need to ask people to move over to the left. I have to confess that this became frustrating for me … I did not wish to take this out on them, but it was hard to stop myself from expressing anger at those who were coming to a complete stop at aid stations and not bothering to move out of the middle of the road. I have to say that the atmosphere on the final lap was much more like a low–key sportive event than a “race” …and I half expected to see some fancy dress along the way. With vehicle traffic building by this time, riders getting tired and loosing focus a bit, I did feel that it was not entirely safe to have racing athletes and “casual completers” on the same stretches of road. This is something that I understand Ironman are aiming to address with the change to a two- lap course here for next year.

At around half way through the ride I was told that I was in fact in third place, and Bella was indeed ahead, but not by too much. I had settled into a pace on the bike and just focused on holding that as the ache in my legs grew – but this news slightly changed my mentality. I figured that if I pushed it a bit more I might be able to limit the gap, and be in sight of her on the run.

This happened sooner than I expected! Having finished the ride in the start of a light showering of rain, and made a very painful 200m barefoot run across the school playground into the indoor transition area, I was told that Bella had left there just two minutes ahead. I felt really good at that point, and although I know well what Bella is capable of, two minutes was a lot closer than I would have expected it to be. I set off on the chase, in the company of my 'third female' bike escort.

Similar to the bike course, the run route begins with a point-to-point from Rivington to the centre of Bolton. I like this aspect of the race – not only is it a net descent, but takes in the canal and allows 10 km to get into a pace without having to make any turn around. With everything still to race for I was careful not to run too fast for those first miles, but did hope I was doing enough to gain on Bella. As it happened, after about only about 2km we passed the second placed female’s bike escort, who was then obliged to ride with me whilst Bella was having a loo stop! Wow! That was easier than I expected, I joked to the camera crew…and sorry to Bella, but picked up my pace to get as far out of sight of her as possible. On a good day she’d run faster than I have ever managed over Ironman and the next time that I saw her, at the turn around onto the lapped portion of the course, she was worryingly close behind.

The support along the Chorley New Road was amazing as we lapped our way up and down the hill three more times….there were many people that I knew from my years of racing on the domestic scene, and I had a couple of friends who had made the trip over from Calderdale especially to ROAR. They were riding up and down the course with encouragement and also some split info. By 25k I was 12 minutes ahead of Bella, but had become aware of Amy Forshaw (from my old tri club and racing her First ironman as a Pro), moving at speed and with apparent ease not far behind her. I reckoned that she was more of a threat to me. I was definitely running scared, which seems to be the best scenario for me in terms of my motivation, but also made me pretty paranoid about any time stopping for aid or the toilet.

Getting through the final 9 km lap was tough, as always, especially knowing that Lucy the race winner was by this time about half an hour ahead of me and would very soon be crossing the line. Fortunately I came upon a friend of mine, who’d passed me early on the bike course but was struggling with pace now. I focused on catching up to him, and we ran together fro a few kms which was a boost for both of us (he eventually secured a Kona slot . With just 2km left to go I asked Caroline for a time check. Ten-to- four…. So I had 10 minutes to cover 2km for a sub 10 hr finish. At the pace I was running I felt this should be possible, and sped up a little. I’m not sure therefore how my calculations went wrong, as I crossed the line in a time of 10:05…in second place…just as the heavens opened and heavy rain set in for the rest of the evening!

This was a best ever placing for me and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day. Although there are aspects of this race that could do with improvement, and it is a tough/slow course, It has improved each year that I return, in particular due to the growth of support that the local community offers on the day. I’ll be back!

Jo is a Skechers ActivInstinct Performance Team athlete, and is proudly supported by Skechers, ActivInstinct, Virgin Active, Timex UK, HUUB wetsuits, Nectar Sports Fuel, Forgoodness Shakes, Specialized and Wings Transport.

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