Ironman 2011

October 01, 2011  •  Leave a Comment

For those not aware, Ironman UK is not some cheap franchise of a Hollywood blockbuster but a test of mental and physical endurance – a 2.6 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and finally a 26.2 mile run. Now anyone that’s met me will know that perhaps I’m not best qualified to make any sort of informed comment on any of the above disciplines!

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The peak of my sporting achievements are having once stumbled around the Great North Run before deciding that me and running didn’t get on, along with surviving a few seasons of Rugby League and I’ve discounted my football achievements as I think I racked up more post match pints than minutes on the pitch!

Having set out my “sporting legacy” you can now see how woefully unqualified I am to comment, however this is the internet qualifications go out of the window!

I first looked at the individual parts of Ironman and thought the cycling sounded a long way, the run, well we’ve established I barely did half that so fair play that’s a long way, but the swim, 2.6 miles? That hardly sounds on a par with the length or run and cycle, or does it?

Yes granted 2.6 miles trips of the tongue pretty quickly it was only as my mind wondered from the mind numbing boredom of a trip to the gym leading up to Ironman 2011 that I actually gave it much thought.  I’d done my usual 6km warm up on the bike, followed by random throwing about of weights and pushing/pulling of various machines for long enough to make me ache in the morning, followed by a 10 minute “warm down” on the treadmill were I sometimes run as far as 1.5km………I’d convert to miles but it sounds less!

Its at this point I reward myself with a dip in the pool followed by the only bit I actually enjoy, the 15 minutes split between the steam room and sauna! Having done 20 lengths of the 15m pool, off I trotted to the steam room. It was then the mental arithmetic started (it was fine tuned by use of my mobile phones calculator in the changing room if I’m honest!) anyhow, the long and short of it was I was around 230 lengths of my nice, warm, quiet pool short of 2.6 miles.

Pardon my French, but bloody hell! Its about now it dawned on me that not only is it a long way they also do it outside, in a “flash” that I’ll be honest I have to think twice about letting the dog go in let alone contemplate jumping in myself!

So joking aside I already had the utmost respect for anyone entering the Ironman, I now had added respect as I viewed the swimming aspect in a whole new light and that’s before I’d seen it first hand. I did cover the cycling stage of Ironman 2010, but this year wanted to see all three stages to get a real feel for it, plus its not every day an event of this magnitude lands on your door step I want to take every opportunity I could to bag some decent shots. With this in mind I pitched up at Pennington Flash in Leigh at 6am on a cold grey, almost typical English “summers” morning to watch the swimming start.

I have to say its all very civilised the competitors file down queing in an orderly fashion to get in the water, showing endless patience as people slowly acclimatise to the realities of open air swimming in a large Wigan lake.

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Competitors then swim out to the starting line, spirits, from the safety of dry land appear high and then it starts – and I’m not sure the still shot below does it justice, perhaps youtube does. However, it looked brutal! 1300 people kicking, swinging arms seemingly moving as one mass and in a manner that would have lifeguards at your local swimming pool breaking out into a sweat as they blew whistles if it were mass of young teenagers doing the same thing!

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Once warmed up by the swim its out of the lake and onto the bike, I can only presume it must be freezing to jump out of the water and almost straight onto a bike then to start propelling your wet frame through the cold Lancashire morning at speed on a bike – my old gran would have a fit if she saw this, there’s no way your doing this and not waking up with a cold in the morning she’d be saying!

On the bike competitors make there way out of the built up areas of Lancashire and up in to the West Pennine Moors for 110 miles of cycling with over 7000 feet of climbing to cope with – I’ll be honest, I’d be shattered doing it in the car! Watching these guys go hell for leather on the three circuits of the moors its impossible to have anything but respect.

Now cycling, how to photograph cycling? I rattled a few off with high shutter speeds looking to get clean crisp shots and it just doesn’t do it justice, after reviewing a few shots I was making them look static, hardly fair given the effort on there part!

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So time to dust off the panning technique that so rarely gets practiced……………. The problem I find with panning, and I’ll not bore you with techniques, is its hit and miss for me, some you bag and are delighted with, others you don’t and its frustrating, especially if that’s the person who goes on to win you’ve just captured as a blurry mess! Given it’s a photography blog, I’ll let a couple of shots do the talking and you can see the rest here if you like!

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I captured the start of the running, and these guys do make it look easy, again I’m no expert in the fine art of marathon running but they seemed to set off at a decent pace and it was about this point I made the call that I’d got the shots I’d come out for, it was time to head back to the gym followed by the pool to see if I could get any closer to that 2.6 mile swim – I did, by 3 lengths – I reckon in a mere 6 weeks or so I’ll have bagged enough lengths of the pool to clock up that “easy” 2.6 miles, well if you add them all up, not in one session!

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Anyone local to the north west should get out and support this in 2012, it’s a great event if you’ve not seen it before, both viewing at the change over points, along the track and I’m sure at the finish line (I’ve never made it that far!) make for great spectacles, its not often you see some of the worlds finest endurance athletes swim/cycle/run past your doorstep when you live in the sleepy back waters of the North West, go support them!

Good luck in Hawaii to the 50 who qualified.

Cheers Marc


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