Ironman UK

July 20th, 2017 by

I had my heart set on racing Ironman UK ever since my 4th place in Ironman Texas. I wanted to give my best shot at winning an Ironman this year and I figured this would be a good opportunity for me. Especially since it’s a couple of hours up the road on very similar roads to what we’re used to.

It wasn’t all smooth from getting back from Texas to now. I think when you race an Ironman apart from the initial soreness and fatigue it just seems to take something mentally from you as well. I was very happy with my performance in Texas but a month down the line I found myself pretty unmotivated, not enjoying my training particularly and even though I was doing my sessions there wasn’t really any flare in there at all.

About 5 weeks out from Bolton. I had Dann B’s week long wedding in Santorini to force me into a rest. Super excited about a mid season holiday and feeling pretty naughty about it. I packed up my BMC mountain bike, my On’s and my Speedos and jetted off to one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been with my wife. We had an amazing week out there, I trained one session every day just based off how I felt. Some easy runs, some max hill reps on the bike and run and some swimming in the sea. I also had a couple of solid parties obviously to wash it all down but in general I came away from Santorini FRESH and motivated. When I got back home I vowed to go all in for Bolton and see what happens and I arrived in Bolton feeling very good about life. Just shows a bit of rest doesn’t do any harm and I knew deep down that slightly underdone but motivated is way more important then overdone and over it!


There were a few things about Ironman Bolton that scared me a bit but the main one was the lack of predictability about it. The weather is always an issue up there, very, very, bad road surface, twisty and very hilly course which would slow down the riding time dramatically, especially if you managed to get yourself lost! All in all, even if I had the best possible race the winning time would be in the 8hr40’s which is about 40mins longer then I’m used to. Which is obviously not ideal when you’re racing an Ironman. I put all this at the back of my mind, tried to get to know the course and roll with it.

After the earliest start ever of 5:55am the gun sounded and we made our way round the course in Pennington Flash lake. I felt good and sat at the back of the group of 7 of us. After the first lap I knew I was in a dodgy position and I moved up to 3rd and soon realised that was a bloody good move because for the whole last 1900m we were essentially starting at the back of the Age Group field due to the rolling starts. Obviously it’s hard to follow each others feet while passing a thousand people but because I was in 3rd I could just about and behind me the guys who all were stronger then me on the first lap got themselves lost between the amateurs!

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 08.02.54

When we exited the water straight away we noticed very wet weather and I realised it was going to be a grim and sketchy first lap of the bike. Romain Guillaume gapped Harry Wiltshire and I straight away but it was alway my plan to let him do his own thing so I wasn’t too worried about that.  After 20k Cyril Viennot joined us and we rode together for a while, got lost briefly at one of the roundabouts and then he buggered off on the main hill Sheep House Lane. I rode 355w up there for 9mins and Cyril must have been closer to 400w. That’s not the way I can afford to race so we had to let him go.

We barely saw a motorbike referee the whole race hence why we took a wrong turn early on…(Thanks for that) but coming into one corner following Harry I drifted within the draft zone and sure enough a referee was standing there and pinged me straight away. 5mins stand down penalty at the end of the bike…Of course I had to keep my cool but deep down I knew the win was probably impossible now. I rode ok, I had decent legs I guess but I kept on making silly mistakes along the way which cost me time. I just wish the referees would be a bit more reasonable sometimes and use a bit more discretion…I’m not a cheater and 5mins penalty when you see a just a snap shot of the race isn’t acceptable. As is giving me a penalty in Texas for accidentally dropping a energy bar on the bike. (as if I want to drop an energy bar?!?!)

run finish

I came into T2 2nd after a better 2nd half of the bike. I believe Harry ran into some mechanical issues unfortunately for him and I served my 5mins penalty. It was about 2.5mins later when Kirill Kotsegarov and a few others trickled in so I ended up running out in 4th. 12mins down on Cyril and 2.5mins down on Kirill. The bike was harder then I’d usually ride in an Ironman so I was worried how my legs would feel but fortunately they felt their usual bouncy selves and I set off in pursuit, a little bit too hard as usual…

After the first out and back section I got an idea of what was happening behind me and I knew that so long as I ran ok I’d be safe for a 3rd place because the gaps were quite big. Over the next 10k I managed to claw back a minute on Kirill but the gaps were not coming down quickly and I had certainly set off with a lot of ambition and was hoping to be closer quicker. Between 10-30k I was still pumping out 3:49 average pace which is good for a 2:40 marathon and certainly too fast on this course but I still wasn’t and closer to Kirill and by this point I was getting really tired. In the last 15k I started taking on cola, I took a few short walks on the steeper hills and the negativity started to consume me and I realised that this last minute probably wasn’t possible to close today. Do you know how hard it is to see someone in front you’re expecting to pass for 38k, only to hold the gap the whole time! I must have given up the chase about 5 times!

I grovelled up the final set of hills on the last lap generally looking forward to sitting down finally and then at the last turn with 4k to go I started to feel a lot better and Kirill was about 40 seconds ahead and obviously not feeling so hot anymore! My team manager Bob and my family were out on the course and willing me to be strong and push for 2nd and I thought about how much nicer it would be to man up and come away with a result you had all but given up on. So I made a decision to go for it one last time, all out, and close the gap slowly but gradually.  The gap came down surprisingly fast in the end and I passed him at full speed to try to demoralise him into thinking I was feeling amazing! I think my last split before I attacked was 4:05 and my split when I passed Kirill was 3:22.

Ironman uk finish

So I crossed the line in 2nd. 6mins behind Cyril Viennot. Not exactly what I wanted and not the smoothest of races but I’m really proud of how I raced and a podium can never be sniffed at. My run split was 2:46 for 42.8k on a very tough course which gives me a lot of confidence in my running going into Kona.

A big thanks as usual to my family, Luc Van Lierde, BMC Etixx, and friends. Without you it wouldn’t be possible to race at a high level in this sport. Congrats to my competitors and of course the Pro ladies on your close racing. Thanks also to the volunteers and spectators. Finally a big congrats to everyone who muscled it out on this very challenging course. This is not an easy Ironman option, the course presents so many extra challenges and takes more time and energy them most Ironman races just to complete. You don’t get one meter for free here and anyone who gets round it can be very proud of your achievement.