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Whatever happened to: Alan Ingarfield
Posted by: Annie Emmerson
Posted on: Friday 16th May 2008


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Last month in our new series, 'Whatever happened to...', Annie Emmerson spoke to her old team mate and good friend, former Olympian and European bronze medallist Sian Brice. This month we go a little further back to an Ironman athlete who started racing in the early 80s. Now the CEO of Boardman Bikes, Alan Ingarfield, who describes himself as 'just an ordinary athlete', was the former UK Ironman record holder. But, as Annie found out, there's not a lot that's ordinary about the triathlete who completed an Ironman in 8:37:19 16 years ago.


AE What are your first memories of triathlon all those years ago?

AI A friend of mine showed me a newspaper article whilst I was floating around in the middle of the Atlantic on HMS Hermes. The article was about the Hawaii Ironman (in around 1982/83) and he said "that would suit you - you're a nutter!"

AE So when and where did you actually take part in your first triathlon?

AI My first triathlon was at the end of 1984 at the Tanners Hatch triathlon, it was an 800m swim, 32 mile bike and 16 mile run. The bike leg finished at a different location to the swim and I got there before my dad, brother and a friend had arrived with my running shoes (long story) so I ran three miles in bare feet until they pulled up in the car and threw them out of the window - they were all too scared to hand them to me.

AE Apart from running shoes being thrown out of the window at you mid-race, do you have any other funny stories about yourself whilst racing or training for Ironman?

AI My first ironman-distance race was the Silver Spoon in Peterborough in 1985 and whilst on the bike I got really hungry (a bit before Powerbars, etc - Mars bars maybe!) so I called out to my family who drove past and ten minutes later my Mum passed a cheese and pickle crusty roll out of the car window - it took me a good ten miles to digest one mouthful!

AE Thankfully you obviously improved on your nutritional plan during your races as you became the UK Ironman record holder?

AI Yes, I was the first Brit to break nine hours, with a time of 8:37:19 at Roth in Germany in 1992. Mike Lockwood (the clockwork mouse) chased me hard that day and finished in around 8.40. It was good for both of us to be in that race otherwise I think we would both have gone slower! I did the bike section on a steel 653 Reynolds-tubed road bike, our bike manufacturer tells me I would have gone ten minutes faster on the Boardman AiR TT/1 (I might have to make a comeback!).

AE Who broke your record?

AI I believe Julian Jenkinson went faster a few years later at another event in Germany. (Ed: with our stat man, John Levison out of the country sunning himself in Lanzarote, we're not sure exactly of the time or where, but we can confirm it was Julian who broke Alan's record).

AE Tell us a little bit about your triathlon career.

AI I raced from 1984-1995 and competed in around ten+ Ironman events, I also raced Nice triathlon (4k, 120k and 32k old course) six times and did have the second fastest UK time on that course behind Simon Lessing (6 hours 15 minutes). I ran 1:48 for the 30k in the 1995 World Championships, Mark Rowland (Olympic Bronze Steeplechase in Seoul Olympics) and a friend of mine, kept popping up on the run route and all he kept shouting was "come on you donkey!" (referring to what he considered was very slow running - he was a 3:51 miler, so fair enough!) I also did the Ironbridge half many times and got eighth in the World Pro Tour there. I got the second fastest run that day and outran Greg Welch - he won the Hawaii Ironman that year - although he did stop at a pub on route for a sandwich (he bonked on the bike after having his legs ridden off by Mathew Belfield). I also did lots of short course races over the years.

AE Do you think Ironman has changed since you were racing?

AI I think the whole sport has changed a lot. When I started racing it was all about the ironman-distance and most of the top guys and top women competed at all the distances. If you look back to what Dave Scott and Mark Allen were doing all those years ago their times were incredible! I don't think Ironman has moved on that much, I guess there is so much focus now on the standard distance that a lot of very talented athletes may never dip their toe in an Ironman race. I was a very ordinary athlete (Ed: not sure about ordinary) in fact I didn't learn how to swim front crawl until I was 21 (Ed: neither did I...) . I didn't even own a bike until I was 21, we lived on a busy road in London as kids and mum and dad thought we'd get run over; my dad's brother had been killed as a child when an army lorry ran him over so my Dad was very nervous about us riding on the road. In a few years I would like to train a group for the ironman-distance, when I buy my place in the French Alps (watch this space!), as I think I have a few tricks up my sleeve on how to prepare for those events, after all if I could do 8:37 many others could go much faster!

AE What were your strengths as an Ironman?

AI I was always quite physically strong and could handle high mileage, I also had an ability to put up with discomfort (everyone needs that who does long distance events) I was also pretty balanced across all three disciplines.

AE Which current Ironman athlete to you most admire, male or female?

AI Obviously Chrissy Wellington; what a brilliant performance that was last year and I'm sure she has plenty more to come. I also like Steve Bayliss and think he's really starting to move up now.

AE What are your fondest memories from your time spent as a triathlete?

AI I really enjoyed doing the big events like the Almere Ironman, Nice, Roth, etc. I should have probably raced more on a local level to rack up a lot more wins, however the sport to me was such a buzz when competing against the best athletes as I always saw myself as an average bloke and often felt quite surprised at some of my performances. One thing I'll never forget is something a family did for me in Holland at the Almere Ironman - it used to be a very big event, with, I believe, 100,000+ spectators coming to watch. While I was asleep the night before the race, the family that I was staying with went out on their bikes and painted my name every 1km on the marathon route! I had a dodgy bike ride that year and was well down the field in something like 37th place and I was seriously thinking about not doing the run, in fact my Dad (who was my biggest supporter!) had to talk me around in transition. Anyway I decided I would run a couple of kilometres and then call it a day. After 1km I saw my name in the road and again at 2km and at 3km the family where standing at the point where my name was, again! I thought sod it, I can't pack it in now after what they've done for me, I got goose pimples all over and it brought tears to my eyes. I ended up coming in ninth place that day and learnt a lot about myself.

AE You spent some time working with the famous 'pose method' coach Dr Romanov (who has also worked with the likes of Leanda Cave, Tim Don and AJ, to name but a few). How beneficial was this to you as a coach?

AI Nick is probably the most knowledgeable coach that I have come across. It was long after I had retired and I was doing some work with UK Athletics and Steve Freestone, then a local triathlon coach, and I got to meet Nick. I ended up going over to Florida and spending some very valuable time with him. Obviously Nick is known mostly for his 'pose method' of running, however he has an incredible knowledge of conditioning training and special methods of recovery training. I have used Nick's methods when working with athletes from other sports and I personally use Nick's conditioning methods in my own fitness programmer. Apart from the above, Nick is a really nice guy and incredibly giving of himself.

AE You shared a house with Sarah Springman, what was it like, to live with such a formidable athlete and person?

AI I spent the winter of 1988 with Sarah in a house in Perth, Australia. Sarah is not actually as scary as people may think, in fact she's a lovely person and was great to train with as she was extremely dedicated. I think we only ever had one row in all the time in Australia and that was when Sarah tried to get me to stick to the cleaning rota she had put up! I was really chuffed when I got a card from Sarah after her first race of that season in Lanzarote as she had won the event by a good margin - I think I helped as I had certainly pushed Sarah on the bike that winter!

AE You're now CEO of Boardman Bikes, how did you get involved in the first place?

AI I had the idea to create a bike brand and thought who better than Chris Boardman to do this with. I guess the timing was good as Chris was thinking on similar lines and many people over the years had approached him with similar ideas. I think the big difference with my approach to Chris was that he would be 100% involved in every detail of everything! You don't need to spend much time with Chris to realise the guy is a real perfectionist. It's easy to see with Chris why he was so successful on the bike and now in his role as Head of R&D and coaching for British Cycling.

AE It's a competitive market out there so how's Boardman Bikes doing?

AI Incredibly well! The tie-in we have with Halfords/Bikehut has enabled us to create the best value for money bikes in the UK market (the reviews we have had speak for themselves) simply because the buying power of Halfords has enabled us to leverage the best prices from the manufacturers and suppliers and these savings have been passed on to the customer. The bikes are not only incredible value, they are also fantastic performing bikes. We have also invested heavily in R&D on an Elite element of the brand, Dimitris Katsanis (the GB Cycling team's designer of all the track bikes) is our designer and he and Chris have ideas in the pipe line for some very sexy equipment. The Elite range will also be available through a number of specialist bike shops as well as the new standalone Bikehut stores.

We are also studying other markets to see which fit with the brand and the USA is a good fit for us - we have plans to launch the brand there in the near future.

AE You're in a great position now being able to give something back to the sport by sponsoring some of the young and up-and-coming triathletes, that must be a good feeling?

AI Yes, this is a real buzz for me, I get told off by other members of our team as I would like to sponsor every athlete that writes to us! I can remember being on the dole and super-gluing holes in my tubs before races as I was so skint, so I do understand what it's like to try to be an athlete without sponsorship. I should probably hand this part of the business over to someone else in the future that's a bit more hard-nosed (I've completely blown the budget this year by miles!).

AE Which athletes are you currently sponsoring and do you think there's a chance that someone will bring a medal back from Beijing.

AI On the triathlon side we are currently sponsoring Alistair Brownlee and Will Clarke, in addition Jonny Brownlee is currently riding a prototype frame for us (well done to Jonny at the Europeans last week, by the way!). We also sponsor Josh Lawless who I have been coaching since he was ten, I think he will be a great Ironman athlete one day.

Obviously Alistair and Will are going to Madrid in a couple of weeks and I hope they both do well, they are both superb athletes and I think over the next few years Mr Gomez better watch his back because these guys are coming up fast!

AE Is it true that you come from a boxing background and have trained a female boxer who won a European Championship medal?

AI Yes, I did some boxing as a youngster, I also did judo and played table tennis with a vengeance! In the past few years I have been doing Brazilian Jujitsu (got too many broken ribs though!) and have dabbled with a Russian martial art called Systema which I plan to study to a greater degree.

I did all the conditioning work for Shanee Martin over the last few years - I did have a part share in a boxing gym for a while. Shanee fought for two world titles last year, in the first in Hungary she was completely ripped off, so much so that the woman who got the decision was supposed to fight her again in a re-match (she's not fought since). The other, Shanee lost fair and square in Germany. I attend all her fights and it's heartbreaking when you get a bad decision from the judges. I also trained Julius Francis when he fought Audley Harrison and I have trained a couple of World Class MMA (mixed martial arts) guys.

AE Many athletes stay in the sport for years and years, some retire and come back, but you seem to have made a pretty clean break, any thoughts to ever return to the sport?

AI I think triathlon is the best sport in the world and I really loved every minute of training and racing (well, nearly every minute!). I have had thoughts of making a return, however I have also bulked up a lot (that means got fatter!). Unfortunately I do know what it takes to perform well and I wouldn't want to come back and not do myself justice. I would certainly like to get involved in coaching again in the future. However, at the moment the Boardman Bike brand is my main focus. One thing that does tempt me back is seeing all the kit that we are producing as I would love to ride our current Elite bike in anger, I'll have to give up those cakes though!

AE What next for Alan Ingarfield, former UK Ironman record holder?

AI I want to see the Boardman Bike brand grow into an international brand; I would love to see the bikes in the Tour de France and I want to support the athletes we are sponsoring the best I can. I still have some fire in my belly for training and competition and I look forward to testing myself in the future. My main goal in life though is to put something back in to sport and to help others achieve their goals - when I have the time I'll hopefully make a good coach.


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Have Your Say
Re: Whatever happened to: Alan Ingarfield
Posted by alan percy
Posted at 07:55:01 12th Mar 2012
Reply to this

Now the name of Alan ingarfield takes me back a bit , A blast from the past. Please to see he and Chris doing really well.