7.5 stone of weight loss, across 5 years and 35 races (including our club tri and 3 halfs), a mountain bike ride across Kenya and thousands of hours of graft culminated in my first full distance, Bolton IM on 4 July 2021.
Saturday was wet for setting up but nothing compared to race day which started with Thunderstruck (appropriate!) being played at Pennington Flash around 6am as we set off. The self-seeded rolling start, flat conditions and two lap course made for an easy and really enjoyable swim. Stick to the outside and cruise round treating it as a warm up worked well but little did I know that it was going to be the driest part of the race.
I took the time to change in T1 into my usual rainy spring day riding kit and whilst it wasted a few minutes, it turned out to be a good decision as the weather on the bike course was biblical. Rain came down in sheets constantly, filling in the famous Bolton potholes so you could not see them and the roads ran like rivers making those tight downhill corners interesting on the poor road surfaces – a real test of bike handling and bravery . Three laps, 3000(ish)m of climbing, sticking to the metrics and nutrition plan with iconic moments aplenty from the crowds at Belmont, the wrestlers at Sheep House, the guy in budgie smugglers and pink frilly cowboy hat throwing jelly beans at your face, to the Umpa Loompas dancing to techno always coupled with that dry northern sense of humour ensued. It was epic, brutal but genuinely exciting in equa
l measure albeit a bit frustrating as it was not the day to put the hammer down on the bike.
After a slow T2,
but another welcome full change of outfit, 4 wet run laps of Bolton beckoned including a quite steep climb through Queens Park, rolling out and back route along Chorley New Road, slippery cobbles in the town centre and even warmer and madder spectator interactions. Stick to the plan, remember the contingencies and be prepared to adapt on the fly went through my head on repeat. In the end I managed plan A being jog between and walk every aid station and to be disciplined on pace regardless of how the body felt either way. Whilst the last lap hurt, I stuck to the plan and used it as a victory lap high fiving the spectators, thanking the marshalls and drinking in the atmosphere. Thanks Tom Levy for that advice; priceless.
After a bit of red carpet showboating, I finally crossed the line in 13:00:35, (1:18 swim, T1 0:11, 6:21 bike, T2 0:10, 4:55 run) not too bad considering the conditions for a middle aged 14 stone ex-prop forward from the flatlands.