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Philip Graves: Ironman champion race report
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Wednesday 5th August 2009


Tags  Bolton  |  Ironman UK  |  Phil Graves  |  Philip Graves


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There is no doubting who was the biggest headline maker this past weekend in triathlon world. Many of us knew he could win, and perhaps hoped he would win: and 20 year old Philip Graves delivered on that potential, winning Ironman UK in Bolton at his first attempt over the distance. He is also, by several years, the youngest ever Ironman champion.

Exclusive to Tri247, here is Philip's race report.


Well, what an introduction to the world of Ironman racing! I think the only phrase that can describe it all is the Ironman motto itself, ‘anything is possible’.

I said after the race that I went into it with the infamous Top Gear phrase ‘how hard can it be’, knowing full well that there was a possibility I could have been described as ‘ambitious but rubbish’ in Clarkson's own words come Sunday night. Thankfully, this was not the case and there are absolutely no words I can possibly write that can describe how it feels to be the youngest ever Ironman champion in the 30 years the sport has existed!

Pre swim preparation

Turning up at the campsite on Friday to what can only be called a mud fest was a little frustrating, but it was an unavoidable scenario given the weather over the past few weeks up here. I was even getting sick of going out riding and getting rained on every single time, even if I was doing my best at trying to avoid the black clouds. Training had been going well as I said in my pre race blog, but when race day comes who knows what's going to happen, especially as I was entering unknown territory. I knew I was not the only one who would be interested in seeing how I would get on being so young. I have lost count at the number of people who advised me against racing; I wanted to get to Hawaii and I wanted to do it on my terms through an Ironman, not a 70.3 dual qualifying race and arriving at Hawaii with the prospect of my first Ironman being the World Championships.

The week preceding the race I was getting quite concerned as every day it just seemed a longer and longer race as I finally realised the daunting prospect of what I was going to try and do, however, I got had a good sleep on Saturday night as I felt there was no pressure on me and I was just eager to get going.

Really a triathlon is quite simple; you swim for a bit, run to your bike, ride your bike around some laps, get off and go for a run. If you do well you get a trophy, some money if you're really lucky and a few cheers, and if you don't, well, there's always the next race. This is what I kept trying to tell myself as I lay there in the water ready to go.

On the bike

Compared to the European Championships swim over 1500m an Ironman swim couldn't be any more different, and I wasn't going to be killing myself on the swim knowing I could pay for it later on in the day. I just sat on Steven Bayliss' feet and when he no longer wanted to lead I was kind of forced to take up the pace and lead out of the water. I am getting used to the longer runs up to T1 and although Bayliss passed me, you just can't miss anything before you go out for such a long ride.

And what a long ride it was - just under five hours! I did the first lap hard and by about 75km I was really hurting. To put it in perspective, I took five minutes from Steve on the first 60km lap and then just half of that in the next 120km, coming into T2 with just over seven minutes lead, and in what only can be described as a ‘right state’.

Running out, I felt I just wanted to finish and become an Ironman, it's a long time since I have been so tired! My legs did start to come around and from about 10 to 20km, I felt I was running ok. Sure, Bayliss had taken a couple of minutes off me but the gap started to stabilise at that point and I just focused on getting from one aid station to another without walking. At about half way through the run my legs just started to fall apart, my quads felt like lead and all the pounding was just horrific! Even at the far end of the course with 9-miles to go (about one hour of running), the legs were starting to completely give in. The thing is that I knew if I stopped it would be so hard to get going again and it was getting hotter and hotter, but when you've come so far I just couldn't give up!

Crossing the finish line

Through the park for the last time I saw Steve was by now pretty close so I just decided to let rip and go as hard as I could with about 2km to go. It was surreal running down the back streets in Bolton and then just turning a corner and seeing the finish and all those people. It felt very different to my win at 70.3! Wimbleball was just so emotional, winning my first Ironman branded event, but this time, I don't know how to describe it, I was just so happy! Personally I don't think I had the energy to expel any emotion when I crossed the line! I had been close to tears on the latter parts of the bike just because it was so painful and I was so exhausted though I feel everyone who raced can associate with that! The wind, the hills, all the junctions and rough roads and the long straights on the run. Ironman certainly is a mental challenge as well as a physical one. It's like digging yourself into a hole until you can only just see to make it out!

Winners trophy

Come Sunday, and being up on the stage collecting my Hawaii slot signalled the end of a very long road - though in reality it was like reaching the bottom of Mount Ventoux on a stage of the Tour de France.

There is still a long way to climb to the finish and I know the next part is going to be so much harder than anything I have ever done before! I have now conquered the UK - next stop, the world!

See you all on the road!

At the finish with the Yorkshire flag and announcer Whit Raymond


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Have Your Say
Re: Philip Graves: Ironman champion race report
Posted by loggo
Posted at 20:40:31 8th Aug 2009
Reply to this

I was lucky enough to see this really likeable young lad make ironman history. We British dont have that much sporting success to cheer about and I hope so much that he gets the recognition he deserves. Go to Hawaii Phillip and believe in yourself. Enjoy it and give it your best shot.

Im proud to call myself a fan of yours, keep us all up to speed on where your racing and I know one person who will be there to cheer you on.

Wish you all the luck and best wishes for the rest of your career. Best of British to you.

Warm Regards,

Jon S