When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Home / News / Ironman UK report

Ironman UK report

Garrad Bailey was our Letter of the Month writer in Issue 261, July. Diagnosed with chronic renal failure he continues to defy the doctors, his most recent 'two-fingers up' being at Ironman UK. Here's how he got on…

Where can you go to get the best tasting Fish ‘n’ Chips? I thought Papa’s in Weston super Mare did the best, but oh no. To eat the best tasting chips you need to be in Bolton at the end of July next year, and you need to swim, cycle and run a total of 140.6 miles befor hand. Then, you will have the best ever tasting Fish ‘n’ Chips.

The road to chip paradise is a long and hard one (I don’t mean the M5/6, although that was long too). My training started just after Christmas, building a strong base, and then I started to increase the workload at about three months to race day. Training was six days a week, four of those days were two sessions a day, and my water bill shot up due to the copious showers I was taking afterwards. The training increased each weekend seeing 80-110 mile rides and 12-20 mile runs. Friday was river swimming 2,3,or 4k. Tapering off on the last two weeks was great, and I expected to feel like a coiled spring waiting to unleash its power, but felt lethargic instead.

Race day started off by getting up at 3am, meeting two other West Country Tri members – Mark and Jeannie – and heading off to the start. By 4.30am we were getting our numbers marked onto our arms and legs, and by 4.35am they’d worn off after rubbing in sun tan cream. There was a very large tent to change in, and the joy of publically rubbing BodyGlide into your testicles was liberating. What BodyGlide left was uses on my legs to help the wetsuit come off at T1.

The usual pre race nerves didn’t appear. I was calm, as if it wasn’t me that was about to do the race. I suppose that’s because I’d trained the distances so many times, it didn’t feel like anything special. Or, I’m just plain dumb and didn’t realise what was in front of me.

The three of us decided to walk down to the water, and as we did they started to move everyone else forward, so we were at the waters edge first. The start was at 6am, but you could get in 20 minutes before in order to swim the 300m to the start.

The advice given to swimmers is to position yourself towards to side, and nearer the back of the pack to avoid the skirmish at the start of the race. My view was that no matter where you start you were going to get hit, so I swam to the front and prepared for the battle. Having been punched by Julian Hodge (6ft2in, 16st – another WCTri member) in the Huntspill and survived, I was ready for anything! Come the end of the swim I’d been kicked in the face, and also had my goggles knocked half off, but fortunately my childish good looks remained. I didn’t manage to hit any swimmers during the swim, so punched someone in transition instead.

Two minutes in T1 and then off for the long bike ride. Bolton is a hilly course, comprising of three laps, but we’d trained for it, cycling 30-mile laps of the Mendips and Burrington Coomb. Come the end of the 112miles I felt reasonably good, sprinting off the bike into T2. Shoes left on the bike, just like a super-sprint distance event. 90 seconds later I was starting off on the marathon.

The first six miles felt hard… as did the last six. The middle 12 weren’t so soft either. So there you have it, 26 miles of hard. I had no idea of my time as my Garmin only wanted to ask me if I was ‘indoors now?’ for the duration of the race. There were no mile markers, so it was a case of my legs wanting to stop, and my brain telling then to continue. At about 22 miles I realised that if I keep pressing on I might get home in under 11 hours, and the chips would be hot.

Crossing the finish line was a fantastic feeling, I soon had a lump in my throat – but that’s my fault for stuffing the finisher’s Fish n Chips down my neck too quickly. After the chips came a massage, Gatorade and another portion of chips, followed by all three of us enjoying a glass of bubbly with our WAGs.

Ironman is a journey, and one that you need plenty of support, advice and help to complete. So thanks need to be said – to my wife for the weekends spent looking after children as I cycled and ran for hours on end, and for listening to the ‘broken record’ that is Ironman; to Jeannie for advice and information/tips etc (she’s done 12 Ironmans; and to Mark and Jeannie for all the hours of training together, pushing each other and the encouragement.

I finished in a time of 10:49hrs (1:02hr swim, 6:02hr bike and a 3:39hr marathon). I was 11th in my age-group (out of over 200 I think) and 140th overall – 1,200 competitors. Happy days!!

And finally, a few tips if you plan to do the big one:

Tip 1 – I put Vaseline in the toe of my socks, and talc everywhere else. At T1, even with wet feet the socks went on reasonably well. I didn’t need to change socks at T2, and the Vaseline meant that I didn’t receive even one blister!

Tip 2 – I didn’t think to put talc in my cycling gloves, and wasted time trying to get them on. Why wear gloves anyway? Because when you’re eating so many gels you WILL get some get on your hands and it WILL annoy you. With gloves it doesn’t matter.

Tip 3 – I squeezed all my gels for the marathon into a small running bottle, taking a mouthful at each aid station with their water. I didn’t have to worry about carrying a handful of gels, and struggle with sweaty hands to try and open them while running.

Tip 4 – Don’t ask for ‘extras’ during the massage. It was embarrassing for me, her and the police officer.

Profile image of Matt Baird Matt Baird Editor of Cycling Plus magazine


Matt is a regular contributor to 220 Triathlon, having joined the magazine in 2008. He’s raced everything from super-sprint to Ironman, duathlons and off-road triathlons, and can regularly be seen on the roads and trails around Bristol. Matt is the author of Triathlon! from Aurum Press and is now the editor of Cycling Plus magazine.