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A loooong report on a looooooong day

Where to start in the story of doing the double? I suppose we go back to September when I finally got over my running issues from trying to learn to forefoot run in the name of speed. This meant I had the confidence to run back and fore to work (7 miles). I joined a new gym where I could swim before work and nearly always had a lane to myself. This was going to be a long term plan to try again to break 9 hours at Ironman Austria in July 08. When there was the mention of a double ironman on, I found myself strangely interested, in the same way that the first Ironman in the UK got me interested in 2005 and the first New Forest Middle Distance did in 2006. First time events are part of history and they have an appeal to me. Thinking about the double was one thing, but the moment I bit the bullet and entered I found my life took a radical change. Without going into too much boring detail, the mindset to prepare for this event took over all areas of my life. I started running with my mp3 loaded up with audio books, which then became personal development podcasts, management training stuff etc, all about having action plans, dealing with problems, decision making and motivation etc. I found myself strangely hooked on them and applying principles to both my workplace and my training. This gave me 2 things; unlimited mojo and the ability to see anything as possible. When applying this to a double ironman, it meant that I had to be able to train to see normal ironman distances as small and insignificant distances. For example, training with members from Rugby Triathlon club I would need to be able to run 26 miles on my own and then go to a 7am start meeting to run 15-20 miles with others. The running was always going to be the hardest part of the preparation as from day one of training, my intention was to run 52 miles, not walk any of it. The winter of running was so enjoyable. Using Ironman Talk podcasts which I tried to regularly contribute to, Interviews, audio books or leadership stuff was becoming inspirational and was running until I finished the podcast rather than finished the route. Using my new headtorch from meant that there was no excuse to stay in because it was dark and I actually looked forward to running in the dark more than in daylight. It was a shame when the torch got packed away in March. When you have a feeling that anything is possible, you start to look at new challenges. For example, running to the In-laws house in Corby is 35 miles away and normally a long cycle, but why not run it one day. On Christmas eve, loaded up with 4 episodes of Ironman talk I did it, and walked an extra mile just to hear the last 10 minutes of the show. After that I entered the Draycote 35 mile race (7 laps of a lake), something I always thought was too far. In February, on the day of the race, I realised that 35 miles was still not enough so ran the 9 miles there and intended to run the 9 miles back to give me the DIUK distance. It was not to be though as I got involved in the race for places and stayed with an early 6.30 mile pace for 25 miles and then started to slow. I ended up coming 7th in 3:57. However I had to get a lift home as I was totally bollocksed. I learned a valuable lesson though that I had to run my own race, not get involved in what others are doing if I was to go further. Meanwhile, the swimming was going well and regular swimming was bringing times down taking the distance up and I was enjoying it. Bike training was a little different. A winter on the fixed Pompino doing regular weekend centuries and a few gym bike sessions through the week was keeping the cycling ticking over but one thing was a little hard to swallow was that I was going to have to sacrifice a Time Trial season if I was going to be strong enough to ride 224 miles. For years I have chased fast 10s, 25s and 50s but this year it was not important and distance was the key, not speed. After the Draycote 35, I took a week off running, but then during a circuit training session I do most mornings at work, my left calf muscle tore. Same injury as what put me out for most of the 2007 season. It was a disaster as after Draycote, I thought that as long as the pace was easy I could run all day and had planned out a route that I could run to my Dad’s house in Wales over 2 days in the Easter holidays. 56 miles over a day with regular breaks, then an overnight stay in Tewkesbury and 56 miles the following day would have been a great challenge and one I really wanted to do, and in fact needed to do in order to make 52 miles seem an achievable distance. But with the injury, perhaps a sign, it was not to be and all through March and Easter holidays I was unable to run. The momentum had been lost out of the training and I was not able to run until I had a few trips to the Rugby Tri Club physic John Harnett, who I must say…sorted it out. The Rugby Racing Cycle Club time trials had also started and I made a decision to ride them on my road bike and not contest them. The reason being that I did not want to come away thinking that I need to be able to go faster and start sacrificing distance for speed. Every club TT became a part of a 50-60 mile ride or part of a run bike session. However, James Heaton in the club had a great winter and started producing fast time, taking my club records and became the man to beat. I had to resist temptation to rise to the challenge. Through April I was back running up to 25 miles and cycling in the evenings was a little easier. Dave Loughran, the Planet X boss had sorted me out a nice little sponsorship deal with Powerbar. Kevin Milnes at Powerbar sent me a lorry load of the stuff I was now using anyway but that was great having everything I needed to train and recover. I felt a little lucky though as I’m not really in the Stadler and McCormack league. However, most grateful. On a little idea had emerged into a race. On 1st May, when Market Bosworth OW swimming opened, there was an unsupported IM distance event. Supported by the boot of your car, swim bike and run the full or half ironman distance and doing all off your own watch. Just what I needed at this point. The event was great and I just raced on my own, at a controlled pace and finished in around 9.30 hours. At the end I was a little tired but certainly not difficult and at this point I realised 2 things. Firstly, that I could soon be in the shape to go sub 9, and secondly, that a double ironman was doable. From 24th to 31st May, I went to Lake Annecy for my own little training camp with members from Rugby Triathlon club. What a great week that was!! Swimming 3-4k a day, cycling 60-100 miles a day and doing a 40 hour training week was the boost I needed to get my bike fitness back. We returned on Saturday 31st, but then went to Beauleiu, New Forest to race the Middle Distance event. With James Gilfillan and Mark Stenning there, I was not really in any mindset to win the race, especially with a 40 hour week in me, but was just going to see how I felt. However, after a really effortless swim I got on the bike and rode well, but after 30 miles it was like a switch of power flicked on and rode through the field and took the lead on the run to win the event. I was chuffed and regarded it as my best ever race. My next event was the BDCA 100 mile TT, which on a windy day was a very tough event, but was always going to be a trial for Austria rather than a race itself. I rode at a steady 250w all the way, finished in 3.53 feeling very fresh, did a 10 mile run straight after but was a little disappointed to be so far behind Planet X Legend Sir Ian Cammish. Run your own race though remember!!. National 50 mile TT was 2 weeks after and a 1.48 ride was a great result for me, however work began to get very busy and I soon lost the momentum in my bike training in the run up to Austria. This was recaptured by stepping up to try and ride with Wayne Randle and Mark Lovatt in the National TTT. The gods were with me that day as Wayne got a puncture. I thought that was the hardest thing I would ever do in my life. July 13th, Ironman Austria. In a brief report, I swam well and started the bike very relaxed. At half way I really wanted to pick the pace up but never felt strong. I was disappointed with the bike ride as I expected faster but at 240w it was bang on my target. The run was solid, but struggled with cramp towards the end but never felt like I was pushing hard at all. 8.52 was a great achievement but I felt a little low, almost upset that I had not gone faster and not trained to go faster. Was this the right way to prepare for a double or had I sacrificed too much? I recovered in 2 days after Austria and was back training for the final push. During the last 10 days of training for the Double, I ran 5 times, 3 of which were over 26 miles, cycled 400 miles on the Stealth (which included 2 trips to the DIUK bike course) and swim 5k 3 times. Maybe it was going to be too little too late but in the final week before the event, I almost wished I was doing an IM instead as I felt absolutely great. But how can you be ready for a double ironman. How do you ever train long enough to be able to race one?? I was about to find out. I had a race plan as follows: Swim in a wetsuit, swim 180 lengths in the first hit, then drink Powerbar Drink and Nuun, and then drink very 60 lengths until the swim finish. Bike- Cycle in a skinsuit in full aero kit and tri shoes. Eat a powerbar or flapjack on every lap, just use nuun and powerbar drink for the first 112 miles. Average 200watts, 40 minute laps and allow 1 minute stop per lap. At 112 miles change helmet, shoes and kit to extra padded shorts, cycle top and switch to water, coke and solid food such as jaffa cakes, more flapjacks, bananas and mars bars. Last 3 laps were going to be in the dark, so high viz vest and front light. The pace would inevitably slow up. Run- Use compression tights from the start, run 1-2 laps then stop and eat. Run with either camelback, water bottle or gel belt with whatever I feel like eating or drinking and most importantly, RUN 52 miles. For me, personally I have never walked in an ironman and a triathlon is a Swim, Cycle and Run. So therefore if I was going to personally feel happy, I had to run the whole thing. Ok, no one would see me walk, but I would know and I would rather pull out than be forced to walk, no matter how tough it gets. That’s the Hurtbox concept! Winning the race was never going to be the aim, but finishing in style was. I could never control anyone else’s performance anyway. Run your own race!! But I certainly thought I would ride away from everyone on the bike and have a solid run. Onto the race…. The swim- Target time 2 hours - Finish time 1.59 I always intended to swim in a wetsuit, having swam at Hawaii I would have used one there. Speed over comfort at the start was important for me. After a brief chat to the others in the lane, Darryl Carter, Paul Bennett and Martin Smith, we agreed a start order. Martin was intending to swim 1.15/100m pace. Bloody hell…you go first matey! Whistle goes and I get on Martin’s feet. Through the first 250m, and I do a PB of 3.26. Yes, in a wetsuit I am faster in the pool, but it was warm and Steve warned me of people getting headaches and taking wetties off. I then took the lane lead and went though 1k in another PB of 14.16. The swim was feeling easy, very hot now, but I was swimming long, gliding and very relaxed. The others in the lane showed perfect etiquette and there was no slowing on the turns. Very civilised. I managed to take every 250m split and stopped at 180 lengths for the first drink. I knew I was well ahead of the others in the lane as they had already stopped a few times. Darryl must have been in 2nd but I had passed him 4 times. The rest of the swim was quite enjoyable, and I maintained concentration throughout, no issues, no cramp, no wetsuit rubbing or any fatigue. It was nice to finish in 1.59 Very happy with that. Swim splits show nothing slower than 4.06 bar the two drink stops at 170 and 270 lengths. I was first out of the pool by some time, but there is this Ironman instinct to do a fast transition. That’s what it was. A skinsuit on, shoes and socks, helmet and off. All in about 4 mins. Not as fast as most IM races but did not hang about. The bike: Target time 11.00 ride time, with stops 11.20 Having ridden the course on the stealth earlier in the week and having done 4 laps on a road bike, 40 min laps were very realistic, averaging 21mph. I headed off with 2 powebar drinks and started drinking and eating immediately. A fast tailwind got me out to the turn averaging 25mph and 16 mins, and then turned into a wall of wind. It was not until Yoxall roundabout on the return leg, at about 8 miles that I saw the relay team soon followed by Hanno coming the other way. This meant I had a lead over 2nd place by about 15 minutes. I had been riding 34 mins before I saw Gary Foord coming the other way who I thought would have been my main rival. In through the first lap, and no one from my team was there, luckily I still had a powerbar and a bottle with me so just chipped on. Another 15 laps seemed a long way, but it was warm and dry and I just felt like a long bike ride today. First lap was 39:52, spot on! (taken from start, to transition and to Eastern avenue again). Second lap was same story, ate a bar, drank my bottle and what is great about an out and back course is that you see everyone and know how fast they are going. I was pulling away from Hanno and took a split off Gary Foord showing me 6.50 away from lapping him. This inspired me to push the pace a little and came round to finish lap 2 a little too fast. Because I was on the mission to make up time, I was a little rash in transition, rude to support team and missed things. I got one bottle of nuun and a flapjack. Back out and on it. It was on this lap that Joe Shipper in the relay team caught me, impressive stuff. He stayed for a chat, then went ahead but never really pulled away. He was later to have a bad patch at 45 miles and I pulled him back. I continued top pull away from others and churned out the laps, I was almost 2 mins behind lapping Gary Foord when he stopped for a time out at the end of lap 6. I went through IM distance in 5.15, which is fast for a single IM so I was feeling great but ready to switch to solid food. I picked up 4 bars and jaffa cakes in transition but really never felt like eating them. I tried but kept spitting out. I washed what I could down with water but it was too difficult to eat. Why in a race, when in training you feel like you could eat a horse. On the next lap I got powerbar gels (8 in a bottle) and managed to put the lot down. Not much was happening out there, it got much more windy ( proves it) and I was pulling further away. I caught Hanno, who stayed with me for most of a lap and as night fell it became a really weird experience. I expected to go though bad patches but the only thing that really bothered me was the aero helmet which got too much after 170 miles. I changed shoes just for a…well just a change but I did have one problem at lap 13 when I followed a jacket potato trailer through Yoxall and hit a drain….yes a bloody drain again and my seat post dropped. I forgot to fix in transition, but then rode with Rob Moorehead-Lane for a bit and had to stop twice to get my post sorted. This helped him to the finish as he stayed ahead for most of the lap. In the dark, some peoples lights were awful, others were like supernovas. Mine was great and lit up the road enough to ride at full speed. I caught Steve Howes from Coventry tri and ride with him for 2 laps. He was looking great at this point. I felt a little depressed with one lap to go as my mans undercarriage had become one with the saddle. I ambled round the last lap thinking that I was tired, but then Gary Foord overtook me like a man possessed. I let him go for the final time through Yoxall but then thought, hell, I’m not tired to chased him down and passed him. Lap times dropped after the first IM distance, but I never suffered, never really felt pain, cramp or fatigue. Never felt dehydrated or hungry, just annoyed that I could not eat more of the food I had brought. I was happy to get off the bike though, and felt surprisingly good, in fact much better than I did after the Austria bike leg 3 weeks previously. Bike splits below, most include a 1-2 min pit stop per lap. The fastest 38:12 and Slowest 47:20 Total time: around 11.05 to 11.10 (forgot to stop watch) Ergomo shows a ride time of 10-56 The Run: Target – 8 hours, but run all the way. Off the bike I needed to wash, to a cold water bottle shower was done and into the run gear which felt great to be out of bike shoes and off the saddle. I wanted to gently run the first lap to get the route and stretch the legs a little so no food or drink on the first lap and gently ambled round. Running through the woods was great, it seemed to take the boredom out and I was at the turn in no time. The wind was back as you ran back to the finish which was going to get harder. I got to the end and stopped for water, gels and coke. I placed my orders for the next lap but I was getting more and more concerned with the lack of solid food. There were others who had stopped on the bike and had 30 minute or so time outs for food. Why the hell then was I doing this like a triathlon? Even in adventure racing I would take 15 min food breaks and just run with a stitch for a bit whilst I digested it. I have heard of people running IM marathons just fuelled on coke, but this was a bit longer. Even Jelly babies were hard work. In my box I had Pringles, powerbars, flapjacks, mars, snickers, bakewells, malt loaf, bread, jaffa cakes etc. But nothing looked like I wanted to eat it. Powerbar gels, 4 at a time were working going down with water and I ran a few laps with bottles of coke but ended up pouring most away. My biggest problem in IM racing has always been cramp. IMUK, IMA, Hawaii etc. Cramp in the hamstrings in the last 5 miles. So far though, nothing. The nuun tablets were working well. Physically I was going well but I had a moment mentally when I hit 11 laps. I had ran 13 miles, but still had 39 to go. How the hell do you run another 39 miles. I was almost in tears with the concept, but I knew what I had to do. That was look string for my support team, make a few jokes and just tell that I had to HTFU (youtube it if you don’t know) Getting through the 26 miles was great and psychologically it was all downhill and needed to keep chipping away. Using the sun coming up was also good. 4 more laps until its light enough to see, 3 more laps, 2 more laps etc. All the way through the run I knew I was going to win the race, that was not important, but I looked at my pace and the overall time and for a long time I was headed for under 21 hours. It defied belief how fast that was. I also thought that if I don’t stop on every lap for a chat with the team, I could go under 21 hours. I really suffered with this concept. 8 people had come to watch me and stayed through the night. If I just used them to take stuff and run I would go sub 21, but they were as much part of the team as me, I needed to talk to them, I needed them to know how I was feeling so this will be the first of what they know of how I felt during the first 30 laps. I never felt like food or drink was doing anything for me, I never felt hungry or thirsty. I took proplus to keep me awake. I had cups of warm soup and tea to look forward to during the chats but always in the back of my mind was that I was stopping for 1 minute per lap, and I CAN go under 21 hours. Shall I just tell them I want to grab stuff and go? When I was gaining another lap on Hanno, I just ran straight through and made another lap so I was 9 or 10 run laps ahead, around 2 hours. I felt guilty though and apologised. Run your own race, maybe…but this was no longer my race, a lot of people made a big commitment to helping me though this. 20 or 21 hours was not going to matter, what mattered is that over the last 12 months I have had the discipline to get up at 5am, to swim those lengths, to ride the miles and to run the nights. I had eaten the right things, said the right things to the people I would come to rely on and justified to everyone why I was doing this event. The last daylight laps in the early hours of the morning were the most difficult, 32 to 37 seemed to take forever but every time I got to people like Tom and Helen at the run turn, I felt inspired as it was one more down. Every single shout of Towel or whatever pronunciation on Hywel came my way inspired another 100 steps of running. I never felt that I would be better off walking than running although my pace was not at about 10 min mile but I kept moving at that pace. Laps 37-42 were easier, it was coming down quickly. More and more of my support crew were there, and my Dad finally made it to come and see an event he has no understanding of why I entered it. Lap 42 was the easiest of the lot. Seeing many more people suffering more than I ever did was hard, I made a point of thanking every run marshal personally and got to the end of what was on hell of an event. I finished knowing that it was so much more than just that race north of Birmingham. Total time: 21 hours 31 minutes (traffic light stops to be subtracted) A year of commitment was behind that race and although I know I could go faster, I have no intention of doing another one. I was happy to finish, but somehow felt depressed it was all over and 21 hours of fun had to stop. This was a team race, so big thanks go out to Planet X for the bike and kit and all the support through the year. Powerbar for the nutrition supplies. Rugby Tri Club for the support through the night; Pete, Sooty, Keith, Emily, Dave, Julie, John. My Dad for questioning my sanity, Pam and Vic for not thinking I’m mad but most of all my Julie for putting up with me all year and staying with me through the whole race. Without the team, I would never have got to the start line, let alone the finish. Steve and his team organised a fantastic event and certainly one of the best things I have ever done. He did over and above what any event organiser would ever do and did it all without making a penny on it. So a big thanks to the Enduroman team too. A big well done to all those that took on the challenge, too many to mention by name, but if you had a are indeed hard enough, whatever the result. Highly recommend doing the event, but I’m not defending the title next year.

4 August 2008


  • Will

    Absolutely incredible. Congratulations.

  • Norswmandave

    Hywel it was an honour to meet and and watch you in action truly awsome.

  • Glenn (Addison70)

    Run out of superlatives! Get in, Hywel! You deserve every accolade on here!

  • Rob

    Totally awesome achievement and a truely worthy champion. Hope our presence as the relay team didn't muck you about. Our report at:

  • John Davies

    What can I say that hasn't already been said, a truly awesome performance, I am so proud of him, the deternination to succeed and his dedication to the principle of the greed is an inspiration to everyone. Is it in the genes? Very well done, another fantastic effort. Hywel's Dad

  • Jack "sailor" Osborne

    looks like you left the rest for dust, the dust even cleared by looks of it. truely an inpiration to my upkeep at Harris and to help me suceed through sport and education. Well Done Sir! :)

  • Steve

    UTTER UTTER RESPECT! I would truly bow to you!

  • Anthony

    Complete respect is due, the dedication you show is inspiring and does make me question what I am capable off Well Done and enjoy your rest

  • Mike Gauntlett

    Truly awe insiring stuff mate between you and my brother you serve as constant inspiration. CONGRATULATONS TO THE FIRST DOUBLE IRONMAN CHAMPION.

  • Rob Mlane

    Mate you are a machine as has been said many a time but more importantly you are a star and an inspiration and a person to hold up to the world and show what can be done with discipline and willpower thank you for being there to prove to me what we can do when we use our minds to say "i can" rather than just making excuses. well done mate and god help whatever it is you next decide you want to do........

  • Monique

    Hywel, lovely report, and not too long when the subject is as interesting as this. I think it was pretty much the same feeling about the food for me, it wasn't doing anything for me but if I hadn't had it I would no doubt have felt the ill effects. Congratulations and hope to meet you again on some other event ( I think I've found my niche, finally). Monique

  • Jevon

    Absolutely fantastic. A credit to your sport, mate. Top bombing. Fully Ferrous

  • Toyota_Crown

    Never have I seen anyone so utterly focussed and zoned out as you on the latter half of your run. So you finally did it - and turned yourself into a robot. To the outside world, it seemed like nobody was home. Eyes/face glazed over. Lights out. But still going like a train. Amazing. To race that hard to put yourself into that state. Utter dedication. Before the race and during the race you were in great form. And answered the important question of Any pre race niggles? (i.e. excuses) with 'none'. Now that was the correct answer, and a man who was READY to become the first Double Iron UK CHAMPION! Honoured to know you

  • Rob Towers

    Hywel your a legend. One day in the future you will be sitting in a chair old and grey and it will suddenly hit you what a life you have lead, the sort that most people can only dream about. You have taken life by the scruff of the neck and said" is this the worst you can do? ". Awe inspiring stuff. Total respect is due. my only regret is thati was not able to be part of it on the day, still there is always next time ! you gonna have a rest now?

  • craig

    Respect mate ,well done.

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