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Triple Iron - My Journey by Big Ted
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Big Ted

Joined: 03 May 2009
Posts: 4991
Location: On a motorcycle, in the distance.

PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 4:56 pm    Post subject: Triple Iron - My Journey by Big Ted Reply with quote


Why do I do this stuff?

“Living a fulfilling life is a skill gained by experience and practice. Life is complicated. You wanna be good at it? Then do what all great people do. Break it down into bite size chunks. Practice each skill. Enjoy the journey because the perfect end result is never reached. When “The End” comes happiness will be mastering the “whole”, mastering life to the very best of your abilities.”

Well I guess the story begins before the Big Woody last year. I entered the Double Iron as motivation to get me through The Big Woody, since I had convinced myself before that race that Iron Distance wasn’t going to break me. Lots of people talk on the forum about the reasons for doing long events. That longer isn’t harder. It’s a fair point. But to frame my thinking you need to understand a few things about me.

I have no athletic talent. The only person I’m ever racing is myself.

For me going longer is tougher. I know this is an unpopular viewpoint, ESPECIALLY amongst the longer distance athletes who will tell you that sprints, olympics etc hurt in a way that the longer events don’t. They are right in some ways I guess.

But for me triathlon and endurance sport is not about times and beating others. For me it is expressing something deeper. A need to overcome. It is an emotional and mental battle as much as a physical one. It is a battle for survival. I believe that to go short is limited by physical talent. I can go as fast as my physiology will let me. And I’m a hard arsed bastard so I can hold that limit mentally for as long as I need to for a shorter event. One hour, two hours, 4 hours. Bring it on. But I can go longer and longer until I break down physically or mentally. How long can I go on for?

I guess what I’m saying is that these long events find me out mentally. In my training I have discovered depths and emotional battles that short distance session and races couldn’t teach me. And what’s really important is that these lessons are things that have made me a better man, not just a better athlete.

Let me put it another way. If you want to be a better swimmer, a swim coach gets you to isolate parts of the stroke, via drills, bed those in before integrating them into your swimming.

I see long distance and endurance events the same way. The overall swim stroke is life. The endurance event isolates emotional strength and puts it in YOUR control. You don’t quit cos of something someone else does which affects you. You quit because YOU give up. Yeah sure you can quit because of physical breakdown or cut-offs, and that’s cool with me. But “it’s too hard”, “I can’t do this anymore”, “I’m uncomfortable”, etc etc are the isolation of mental strength. Turns out the stronger I get at this the harder it is for outside people and factors in my life to break me in other situations. The isolation of “the catch” has led to an improved overall swim stroke.

And I have allowed other people to influence my success far too often. When people talk about discovering yourself thru’ sport or Ironman I now understand what they mean.

I had no idea what would happen during Triple Iron. But I discovered things even I was not expecting.

So that’s me. Who I am. And I guess writing all that explains to me why I did it. And I have to say until I tried to write it all down I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. I was about to do something incredibly tough, and I didn’t even know why. But I was worried that if I didn’t do it I might realise later why it was important and then I couldn’t go back and do it again.

Why did I upgrade from Double to Triple with 1 week to go?

“Set the goal low enough and you can definitely achieve it. The world will call you a success and heap its praise upon you. But the man in the mirror will always know the truth. Set the bar higher, shoot for your dream and you may falter. The world may call you a failure. But the man in the mirror will always know the truth”.

The training takes far too much time for a guy with a young family. Try looking your kids in the eyes and telling them you can’t join ‘em at the beach on a sunny weekend cos you have a much more “important” 150 miles bike ride to do that day. Or getting in after riding through the night to crash out when all your little girls want you to do is take them out on THEIR bikes. It’s not good enough and it’s selfish. As the training went on, I became an insult to the term “family man”

This had to end. As the training progressed I realised that DIMUK would be my only ultra triathlon. The plan had been to do the Triple in June next year which I had bought a place for. My wife would have supported this. But I couldn’t do it to her and the kids any longer. I would no longer be doing TIM next year. So now I was about to attempt an event which wouldn’t fulfil my dream of doing the longest multiple IM possible without sleeping. That is what TIM was in my eyes. To me, it DEFINED endurance.

Then one week before the event TC announced that he wanted to swap from triple to double (due to injury, the nutter). I don’t like benefitting from other’s misfortune. But this was an opportunity. One chance. One opportunity to fulfil my dream. I decided to bet it all on red. I had very low chance of finishing and I think on balance the other TT’ers didn’t think I could finish it and shouldn’t waste all my training on a DNF. But I would have been happier DNF’g this than completing the Double. And maybe, somehow, just maybe....we would soon find out!

I believed then, as I believe now, had I trained for the Triple from the outset, I would have done too much and either burnt out or ended up injured. I was injured from running as it was on the start line but other than that I felt ok. Lesson one – if you want to do a triple – train for a double!

The Training

“Your limit is defined by 3 things. Natural talent, training and base level. And to “complete not compete”, you need a lot less of all of these than those who want to sell books would have you believe.”

Now for what may be another controversial opinion. I’ve got loads of books about running and cycling and triathlon. If you needed to complete the training they say to get round, my training this year would be enough to get me round a half ironman (which it did twice with success!)

How much training have I done on average since 1 January this year? 8 hours. Yes, that’s right, I was about to attempt TIM on 8 hours training a week.

Now according to the books I shouldn’t be able to get round. Not even uncomfortably. But what is so often forgotten is “what’s your base level?”. What I mean is that there is a hell of difference between a lifelong couch potato doing 8 hours a week training and rocking up at this thing than someone who has done and trained for multiple endurance races.

My base is about 3000 miles a year of leisure cycling/commuting for 5 or 6 years. Come race day I estimate I have run 700 miles in my entire LIFE. And swimming started 18 months ago. (Well, I could do 25m as a kid and then gave up. I tried once as an adult with breaststroke but 1 mile took 1hr 15 mins, and I couldn’t walk for a week afterwards, so again I gave up). So not a huge base either really, but it’s fair to say that I enjoy cycling and drew comfort from my cycling base.

Why am I telling you all this? Well it’s just that I see lots of posts about the training people have and haven’t done. I hope the above puts things into perspective for people and gives them confidence that they can enter a tri, be it a sprint or whatever without months of training. Just get fit. Enjoy yourself. Can you swim 400m with rests between lengths? Can you ride a bike 12 miles? Can you walk 3 miles? Then stop buggering about and enter a sprint tri. That’s how I got going last year. NEVER be intimidated by some of the volumes that are talked about – you don’t need them and I don’t care what any coach or book says.

And to the kinds of willy wavers who post crap like “I’ve swum the channel once, completed the Race Across America 3 times and run seven 100 miles ultras, but never done these sports one after the other, do you think I could get ready for my first sprint tri in 4 months or should I give it another year?”, I say shut up and stop putting off novices. Yeah, I’m being extreme but you all know the sort of posts I mean. It certainly puts doubt in my mind about what is/isn’t possible when I read those things. I certainly found posts from athletes on other threads leading up to the Triple who had done huge amounts more training than me for IM and were worried about getting round!

Only YOU know whether you are ready. And you never know if you’re ready until you give it a go. So to beginners reading this who are wondering how far they can go I’d say just enter a sprint and then see if you finish. Then do a bit more training. Then do an Olympic. Still didn’t break? Want to go further? Ok then. Do a half Ironman. And so you continue the cycle until something breaks you. If the olympic breaks you, that’s cool. You discovered that. I have respect for that. I don’t have time for fear of failure these days – life’s too short.

The Triple came very close to breaking me. It is the first race where I stepped over the edge. I went too far (see below!). I may never recover properly. But I found my limit. I LIVED A LITTLE. I meet far too many “safe” people who don’t.

Anyway, my training consisted of amongst other stuff about 4 swims of Double Iron distance, a 225, 163,135, and a few 125 mile bike rides. A 7.6k swim/100k bike brick. Oh and 54 and a 27 mile run/walk, as well as a few 13 miles runs. The point of these key sessions was to feel things mentally. To visit “darkness” and deal with it. If you followed the thread you’ll have read about these things in detail. Seeing and dealing with darkness is what gets you through. The other option of course is to be proper athlete with years of training and experience behind you. I didn’t have that so I had to go out and get hurt in training. Not conventional and no coach would ever recommend it, with good reason. But it was my choice. Physical ability was non-existent. Physical conditioning wasn’t going to happen in time. And what with the one IM distance race I had completed last year finishing second to last in 15h 15min I wasn’t what you’d call an experienced endurance athlete! So I had to go out beyond all the realms of common sense and get hurt. And deal with it. Push through it. No real physical gains from that, all mental.
It’s a good job I did because when I upgraded to the triple, the training I had done and the experience I had was certainly going to be less than every other competitor. It was less than most who were doing the double I think!

And so onto the race:

The race brief

“Meeting your idols is always disappointing. But not when your idols are your friends.”

I was bricking it meeting the other athletes. When you turn up at an IM you think everyone looks like a “racing snake”. Imagine what it’s like at an Ultra Distance tri? But it wasn’t like that. It really wasn’t. Everyone wants you to do well. Being a contributor to the thread helps cos you have some background with people you’ve never even met. Yeah, sure I sensed a few were thinking what right has this jumped up prick got to do the Triple on so little background/training. But that’s cool. People are entitled to an opinion.

I never thought I’d say this. I felt happy amongst these people. They were nice people. You’ve got some of the most incredible, committed and talented athletes in this country (on the planet?) in that room and you don’t feel like an impostor.

I collect my race no. from Steve Haywood. We shake hands. I am race no.1! In the first ever TIM to be held in the UK! I am ecstatic. Steve tells me that no. 1 has never finished the race in the last 2 years. I thought it was a strange thing to say to an athlete just before a race. Was Steve playing mind games? Giving me another reason to get myself across the line? Did he read my posts on tritalk and was using my emotional makeup to motivate me further? Or was it just a bit of conversation that he had no idea might have scared the living sh1t out of me at that stage. I still don’t know. I’d like to think he knew exactly what he was doing.

I hugged the Rev who made me feel incredibly welcome. I also meet a few of the athletes from the forum. We collect our pasta for the pasta party and I don’t know where to sit. The Rev waves us over and chats in his usually enthusiastic way about all things triathlon. If you haven’t met him I challenge you not be inspired by his enthusiasm. Thanks for making us feel so welcome mate.

We met the Mashes (who it turned out were to be key to helping me finish) as well as PSF, Repoman, Pink Sally, Amberetta, Symes, Slackos, Carlito, fimm, reptile, Dickie and I can’t remember how many others. TC doesn’t recognise me from the Big Woody. Should’ve kicked him the knee. Mind you I didn’t recognise Deke having met him before. And he didn’t kick me. So I decide to spare TC.

The official Race brief goes ahead, and I then meet several other TT’ers Swordfish4, Knightlancer (who is much nicer than you might think!), aaronb1985 and others I’m sure and I retire to bed. I can’t sleep and the last time I looked at my watch it was 12.30am. So I had about 3 hours sleep prior to a 60 hour endurance event. Ah well, don’t want to make it easy on myself!

The Swim

“Break the task down into little bits. Select the hardest part. Do it first. The rest will seem easy.”

For all the madness of the triple this was the part I was most scared of. Two reasons: whether I could physically withstand 456 lengths of swimming; and if I could, whether I could make the cut off. My training told me that the shoulders would become sore at 6k – that’s only half way through. The stroke would shorten and as I approached 8k (my longest ever swim) the 400m splits would slow to around 12min and sometimes more. This was ok for the double. With the advantage of the wetsuit the cut off of 3.5 hrs was in my grasp. But for the triple you have 5 hrs i.e. you have to swim faster. For longer. At the race brief Steve had said that the cut off for the swim would be extended to 6 hours which was great for me. Unfortunately I still didn’t know if I’d hold up physically.

We started and the other guys in my lane knew I was the slowest swimmer and let me go last. But something strange happened. I kept up with them. I ended up passing them. ALL of them. I was leading my swim lane within a few hundred metres of the start. I felt great. I quickly lost count of the lengths and decided to follow Mr Mash’s advice. “Just swim until someone tells you to stop”. Nice one Mark – it worked mate.

At some point I took a drink break and the lane counter told me I had done over 5k already. We weren’t even 2 hours in yet!! I felt great and the shoulders weren’t hurting. I carried on. The double Iron split came in at around 3h and 5 mins. UNBELIEVABLE. All I had to do was keep moving forward and I was going to make the cut off! At around 9k though the wheels came off a little and I began to slow down. Dickie Ginn who had swum consistently began to take length after length from me. His swim was INCREDIBLE.

I had a couple of mind wobbles but by now RiRi was poolside as was TC and I think a few others. I heard some shouts of “Come on Ted”, TC said something or other encouraging. I think I may have spotted the Slackos as well? I took a long hard stare at the other end of the pool. I was hurting and exhausted. I had been swimming for 4 hours or so. Body in bits. A couple of times I questioned the point of it all. I started to cry, my upper lip was not stiff.

But “there are those that break and bend, I’m the other kind” said the great Steve Earle. This is where the swim was won or lost. One length at a time.

Soon the lane counter said I had done 10.2k. I had just swum 10k!! That was my objective today. Anything else was a bonus. I swam strongly for the last 1200m on adrenaline. Steve Haywood was poolside encouraging me.

Eventually they stopped me. I couldn’t get of the pool. I was broken already. Later in the day the lane counter told me he didn’t think I’d make it through the bike after that swim. I don’t think Steve did either as he had to pull me out of the pool, take my wetsuit from me and make me drink. He made me promise to drink 2 bottles of drink before I went out on the bike. RiRi was in tears. I was too exhausted to cry.

But far from that being the end it was just the beginning. In my head I had done the hardest bit of the day. Not sure of the split cos the mat is outside the pool, but I will have finished the swim in less than 4h 45min which is 3 consecutive 1h35min IM swims, Less that 12 months ago it took me 2hrs for the Big Woody swim. If I had any doubts about being “good enough” to do this event I had just sent them packing. Bring on my favourite discipline. I’m not stopping now till I’m a TRIPLE FCKING IRONMAN.

The Bike

“Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life = The Cyclist’s advantage in Ultra Tri!”

When I was entered in the double I reckoned if I could get to the bike I had 3 advantages over many of the competitors. I had trained right through the night a couple of times to learn to deal with it and had learned loads about the effects of the cold, sleep deprivation, lack of light etc. But more than that I had always done my training with breaks on the bike like I knew I’d have to take in the Double so my average speeds although low were REAL ones as far as what was possible in this event go. So as the average speed dropped of I was mentally ready for that. I had also done a swim to bike brick being the full length doubleiron swim (7.6k) going into a 100k bike in the dark. VERY tough session and I don’t mind admitting I intended to go further than that on the bike that night but I QUIT. But in a weird way I felt cool with that session. It was like DNF’g. I found a mental weakness that I would never let happen again. This would prove invaluable in the triple.

If you think about the Triple bike for too long it just hurts. 336 miles. 540k. Cycling though most of the day, the whole night and then most of the next day too. If you get nutrition wrong you are rogered.

I was so scared of the bike initially that I decided for the first lap I would cycle at a pace that didn’t require any effort from my quads. That lap took nearly an hour, I was passed by loads of people but I still took the same approach on the next lap. My support (brother Russell) hadn’t got me anything to eat yet (not to plan!) so I stopped at lap 2 to pick up a sandwich which I ate on the bike. On lap 3 I stopped for a drinks change and was straight off. The Rev, pink sally and Steve Haywood all tried to tell me I was going too hard at it, I should take it a bit easier, put a rain jacket on for the cooling down of weather we were experiencing. I think I may have annoyed them all by refusing all their advice. I felt bad, these being the very people who had shown a lot of support for me up to this point, but I figured I’m an experienced cyclist and I know how my body reacts to various things in this environment. So guys I was listening, and I took EVERY other bit of advice you gave me through the event but as I explained to Steve, I had a proper break planned for the next lap. I stuck to my plan.

I actually felt strong at this point. I hit the 4th lap (of 24 – scary) and until then I felt great. Laps 5 and 6 were awful. Whilst I had rested for a few mins before lap 5 I think the trigods got angry with me for enjoying the triple. They decide to punish me by taking away my bike legs for 2 laps.

Again my training came in useful here. I knew there’d be a lull. Effects of the swim. Laps 7 and 8 I rode strongly and the first IM bike was done.
And so it went on. I kept churning out the laps. The nutrition and liquids kept on going in. The Mashes kept on being encouraging every time I saw them at their marshalling point. I remember getting to about lap 12. Important cos then you are half way through. I STILL felt strong. I saw Repoman and talked to him. He was at the same distance as me (or one less/more? – I don’t recall) and had taken a 40 min sleep and just done another lap. I asked him if he felt better for the nap. He said not really.

Now I was pretty set on not sleeping if I could get away with it. My ambition was to do the Triple without sleeping. That defined endurance to ME (not saying that’s right or wrong but it was MY ideal result). Seeing Nick like that meant I would crack on. No sleeping while I still felt this good.

The laps ticked by. I saw Knightlancer and PSF who both said they couldn’t believe how fresh I was looking. They had both had nutrition problems. I felt fresh and no problems whatsoever with my stomach. I was eating as many chicken/bacon/mayo sandwiches bought from Tesco as I could! It had worked in training and it was working during the race. Again, nutritionally incorrect I guess per the books. But I was in a better state than most!

At some point during the night (around 2am ish) I was beginning to feel tired and my eyelids went droopy. At almost exactly that time another racer pulled up alongside me and asked if could ride with me for a while because he was falling asleep. We chat a lot and turns out I’m riding with Neil Kapoor who is, how can I put it, at the other end of the running and endurance spectrum to me. I enjoy his tales of Deca Ironman, Badwater, Spartathlon, his 2.34 mara pb and all his other amazing athletic feats. I tell him about the time I actually got picked to play in goal for Keyingham U14 football team when their first choice ‘keeper defected to Withernsea U14’s and that at least I got my fingertips to the penalty that resulted in us losing the Sam AllonTrophy. Whilst he doesn’t seem impressed with that, we have a good chat for 2 and half laps before Neil needs a sleep. (feckin Badwater, Deca my arse – cant even ride through the night with a numpty like me!) On a serious note Neil had done IMUK the weekend before, had done no training and wanted to see how he was in prep for a double deca event so it’s not surprising that even guys like him need to sleep under those conditions. I have to thank Neil for getting me through the night and would wish him all the best with his newborn daughter. He knew more than I will ever know about the world of endurance sport, and maybe he’ll remember a few things I told him about my experience of being Dad and combining that with endurance sports. If it helped him at all, even a little bit, or just reinforced what others may have said, I’d feel like I had shared a little something of the amazing experiences I have had as a father in the same way he shared experiences of being an amazing athlete.

Anyway, having left one of the greatest endurance athletes on the planet for dust and with the sun coming up I was still feeling great! (BTW, Woody32 – YOU are the man. Middle of the bloody night that guy was out there making a racket and cheering us all on. Amazing!! You the man mate, you really are.)

I rushed on and with about 6 or 8 laps to go I have my first rough patch on the bike. Nothing too bad. Just running on empty a bit. Knightlancer had mentioned that Mrs Mash’s lemon drizzle cake was to die for. I had vowed to wait for a bad point till I begged some off her. Here it was and I pulled up and asked for some. Mrs M produced a box that contained all the riches of the world. Nutella cake, chocolate flapjack etc etc. But I did not see these treasures. I had eyes for only one cake. I wanted the famous lemon drizzle cake as favoured by 8 out of 10 top endurance athletes in an independent test.

Now maybe I got some of Mrs Mash’s “personal stash”. Maybe she added a little too much sugar. All I will say is that whatever is in it is either illegal or she should sell the recipe to Powerbar, Hi5 or Science in Sport. That stuff is feckin rocket fuel! I banged out a 52 minute lap after eating it! I feel too bad to ask for more but come 4 laps to go I am flailing a bit again.

Like crack cocaine, that stuff is addictive to 85% of first time users and I find myself hammering on the door of their motorhome on my knees begging for more. And like all drug dealers the first hit is free. The second comes at price. Before I know it I give up my carbon fibre x-wing bottle holder in return for an eighth. Ok I made that bit up. But I would have done.

My Achilles is hurting now (I have ridden 280 miles). On returning from the lap I tell my brother to get me a cup of tea while I nip to get the Achilles checked out. After about 15 mins I return with the achilles feeling better ready for my tea with lemon rocket fuel. He hasn’t got me tea cos he didn’t know how long I’d be! Well the idea is that you get the tea and it cools down whilst I get physio and then I can get going again. Well I didn’t know that he says. FFS. Don’t worry I say. And off I go again leaving clear instructions for a cup of tea next lap. This was one of only 2 balls ups that Russ made which I think is pretty good for a single sleep deprived crew member supporting a triple and a single IM athlete (RiRi). Could have done with that tea though. Bastard.

The last couple of laps I ride with Monique. She wants someone to ride with and I am feeling unusually sociable for me. Well what actually happens is she catches up with me. I ride away from her on anything slightly downhill due to me weighing twice what she does. Then she rides away on the uphills. She is a lovely, pleasant person, does most of the talking and is another great runner. I really enjoyed riding with Mon cos I felt that she wanted someone to ride with and I was doing my bit to help an athlete far more talented than myself. It’s nice being a domestique! Was a pleasure riding with you Mon.

So the bike was done. And I STILL felt fine. I felt like I could run no problem at all. I give my bike to Steve and tell him that I have over 29 hours left to finish this sucker. He questions that asking me what time I had set off. He has forgotten I’m doing the triple!! Maybe he’s just amazed that after that swim I did a 25.5 hour bike split. I know I was!

The Run

“Only one thing is certain
This will be our hardest battle
And the enemy will not fall easily
We know that we will want to give up
We will enter darkness
And we may walk, without shame, from the battlefield
Having stood side by side with our fellow warriors as battle commenced
Or we can find another way
A way through the pain and the tears
And in those moments the choice will be ours
We can remain good men
Or become great men
Become heroes”

I have 29 hours to do 3 maras. Steve tells me all I have to is keep moving and I can finish this thing. It’s as if he knows what is going to happen in 16 hours or so time. I quickly realise that if I can get through 1 mara in about 7 hours, that leaves 22 hours to make the cut off, which I would definitely have a shot at. Then it will be down the body holding up physically.

The run is 63 laps of a circuit. Its 78 miles. That is a mind boggling number to a guy like me. Its 10% of all the running I have done in my life. But at least the legs feel good.

I go to my tent with my brother and there is crap everywhere. We can’t find my run gear etc and he is getting tired and irritable. I tell him he has had a tough 30 hours, he must be tired and so he should go back to the hotel for some sleep and I will take care of myself. It’s only his second mistake and I feel good so I can cope with the situation.
I am going to walk the first 3 laps which I figure will take an hour and take it from there.

As I go round the run everyone tells me how good I look. I sure feel good. I’ve been on the go for more than 30 hours and I feel fine. There is one problem. I am starting the run slightly injured and since I have 29 hours to do it, it would be silly to do much running early on because if I injure myself I could DNF when in fact I have enough time to walk the lot and make the cut off. Purists won’t like that. Fck the purists.

And the first mara goes ok in about 6h 45 or something like that. But some of the running I saw going on....

Knightlancer and Carlito were fantastic runners smooth and even paced throughout. I saw a little of TC on his way to winning the Double and no sign of an injury there!

My clubmate Nick Riggs looked amazingly smooth and recorded a 9h 47 ish run – quality work mate. He was incredibly enthusiastic about what I was doing and I really appreciated t.

Paul Thompson stops for a chat which is nice of him. We may be opposite ends of the field but he’s just a nice guy. More focussed and committed than me I’m sure though!

Reptile - mate when I saw you toward the end of the bike I thought it was all over. And then you appear fresh as a daisy a few hours later with some of the best looking running out there. And you continued to encourage me right the way through.

Neil Kapoor, Monique – awesome runners and they both shouted words of encouragement

PSF – WTF? Comes SPRINTING past me at one point, literally. I asked him about it later. He was looking bad for the cut off apparently so “decided to get a quick lap in”. Nutter. Never seen anyone so up and down through the run, but when he runs, he runs strong. Impressive stuff mate and I’m really pleased you made the cut-off.

Dickie – Consistent and strong, just like his bike and his swim.

Slacko – acknowledges me every time he sees me, checking my happiness score...

Scottg – looking good – in control.

Amberetta – do you ever NOT smile?

SJB – Steadily on his way to a deserved success!

The Rev – really wanted to see him finish the bike and get on the run.
He’s been a bit of an inspiration and is always offering to help me with my swimming, In fact the first time I ever believed I was in with chance at making the DoubleIron swim cut-off was when he invited me to swim at his pool in a wetsuit and I cranked out 5k in just under 2 hrs. I was asking pink sally every lap “was the rev coming in soon?” Then finally he was there. I gave him a hug and my pace quickened for a little while. The Rev was there. We were both gonna finish this sucker. This is how I had wanted it to be.

I see loads of others as well. Aaronb says “you’re going to do it, aren’t you?” I smile, knowingly. At this point I am STILL feeling good. Later on I’d have a bit more of a chat with Aaron. Such a nice guy. He seems pretty disappointed with his performance and all I can offer him is that when he finishes this he has done an amazing thing and he should be proud of that. I know its crap mate when you don’t perform to where you think you should, especially after all the training I know you put in (more than most), but to do what you did at your age is fantastic. When I was in my mid 20’s I was too afraid to enter anything in case I didn’t fulfil my “potential”. Tell you something mate, that is the path to unhappiness. You got stuck in and finished it – well done!

Nightfall comes again. This is the bit of the race I was probably scared of. By now sleep deprivation should become an issue. The course becomes quieter. Many of the Double athletes have finished by now as the woods darken and I chat to other athletes I tell them that I feel fine but that surely at some point the body will HAVE to kick back. Still people tell me I look fine. How am I doing it? No caffeine hits, no red bull, no proplus nothing. I’m here. In the middle of the second marathon of the Triple Ironman and I FEEL FINE. No dark patches at all yet. I try to start each lap alone and catch up to another athlete and complete the lap with them. I do laps with the Rev, Hanno, Bruce, Russ, Neil Kapoor (did you know I walk faster than him? – he needs to work on that.). A couple of laps with RiRi too – couldn’t be happier!

Repoman asks if he can do some laps with me. Feck me. A proper, experienced runner wants to do laps with me!! Nick and I chat about crap really for those laps. Was it 3 or 4? I don’t recall. We find that we can’t tell the time, we discuss I don’t know what subjects, probably other races etc but there was lots of working out laps to go and time left and strategies to finish. Repo has had a tough day or two at the office and has considered quitting a couple of times and just wants some company. It’s good for me cos I know if I can get to daylight again my chances of finishing this sucker without sleeping go up exponentially. We question whether walking round 78 miles is really a sport. From my perspective I explain it is. I finished stronger on the bike than quite a few good runners and by doing that I left myself enough time to slow down a lot for the “run”. (e.g. I finished the bike ahead of Mick, Monique and Neil –who all absolutely fcking caned me on the run!!) I have played to my strengths today. I also explain to him that I feel that walking 78 miles is huge achievement and pretty knackering in itself! I really enjoyed those laps with Nick, he’s a witty guy and if I ever need to walk through a place like Lichfield again in the middle of the night and want a man I can discuss crack pipes with, I’ll be calling on him again.

Eventually Nick wants to take a half hour sleep. I am wired though so crack on. It’s not long before daylight comes and I STILL FEEL GREAT. I get a little worried about this. I have done near enough 2 marathons and been on the go for 47 hours or whatever it was at that point and I feel fresh. You have to have a bad low during a triple iron surely? Surely the body will kick back hard at some point? I had prepared mental images and experiences that I would refer back to when the going got tough. But I hadn’t needed anything yet. Think I had 12 or 13 hours, maybe more, to do the last marathon. I was gonna finish this and nothing could stop me! Nutrition was all good. Hydration was all good.


My goal was simply to complete this thing. Until now everything I did was directed at that and I had played it perfectly. But then I changed my goal. Repo and I think Russ C(?) were on the course now so I did some laps with them. We joked about setting times we wanted to finish in. But I really had done. I had resolved to run bits of the first mara, run almost NONE of the second one. Then push a little on the third if I was ok. And I was ok. So let’s see, if I can do 6-7 hour mara I can get well within 55 hours. OK let’s go for 55 hours.

I start doing a little more running on each lap. Some discomfort appears in my right ankle. It’s ok. It will pass. And anyway I HAVE TO MAKE 55 HOURS SO I CAN’T STOP.

Two laps later it hasn’t passed.

I stop and let Repo and Russ(?) carry on. I take off the dressing on my foot which I think maybe causing the irritation and inflammation. SO, I’M A FCKING MEDIC NOW AM I? WTF was I thinking? Sleep Deprivation messing with my head I guess. I HAVE TO MAKE 55 HOURS SO I CAN’T STOP. So I don’t stop to get it looked at and I do another lap. The pain is becoming bad. I pull the sock down a little and there is some nasty bruising/inflammation that has appeared.

I am irritated with myself now. I storm off to see a medic. He mutters something about a snagged tendon. He straps it and I ask if I am ok to run on it. He says that I can run on it if I can. It’s said in a way that on reflection meant “Are you crazy? You’d be in agony if you tried”. Whatever, I feel tired, and you can’t break me, and I’m only about 20 miles from the end. So FCK ALL OF YOU.

I am agitated and sleep deprivation is making it a bigger issue than it should be. The Triple Ironman dream is about to unravel before me and come crashing down.

I hobble away from the medic tent. My mood is becoming VERY low. Now I can’t run the remaining laps and I’d saved myself for this. It’s not fair. I don’t want to talk to the remaining athletes much now.

As the laps go by my mood worsens. Its broad daylight as I enter the woods with about 11 to go. Small black creatures are running around on the path which is covered in pine needles. The pine needles themselves have been laid into perfectly formed letters. Some spell out my name and other words that mean something to me. All sort of shapes and objects are appearing in the woods. I am hallucinating. Sleep Deprivation has knocked on my mind’s door and wants to play. Feck it. This is normal, keep moving forward.

The Mashes are on the run turnaround now, at the end of the woods. They sense my mood has taken a dive and Mrs M offers me choc flapjack which I gratefully accept. I munch on it for the rest of the lap, but the mood doesn’t change. Low mood brings on an enormous feeling of exhaustion. I complete the lap but I don’t feel great at all now. I try to smile as much as possible for the crowds and high five the kids as usual. But really, this is heading downhill. Fast.

The next lap I am not sure how long I was in the woods. I was stumbling around. Looking behind trees for things I KNOW I saw. Two other competitors come up behind me. I am scratching in the pine needles, “What you looking at Ted?”. “It’s the needles, they have words in them”, I think I replied. I still don’t know if those guys were really there or not.

The Mashes are at the turnaround point again. Mark said something about me doing great and I’m gonna’ finish. I think I said that I was worried about the cut off. Mrs Mash tells me to stop it, not think, cos my brain isn’t working anymore. I daren’t tell them what just happened in the woods in case I’m pulled from the race.

I set off again and burst into tears. As I try to finish the lap I’m no longer too sure what time of day it is and am a little unsure what is real anymore. I think I may have blanked some of the other competitors. Mood is getting very, very dark. The strange thing about all this is – you know its happening. The frightening thing is as you begin to get confused about what is real and what isn’t, you wonder when the point will come when you are no longer in any control at all of yourself. And that’s dangerous for lots of reasons not least because you are weaving your way down a footpath next to traffic. I wasn’t there yet, but how much longer could I go on? I now have 9 laps to go.

The next lap is the scariest of the lot and would turn out to be my low point. As I enter the woods and do my usual winding navigation through them I see a man up ahead with 2 dogs. Their barks become louder and louder. The dogs rush toward me from a fair way away. The bastard. He’s set them on me. It’s ok; I’ll hide my 3 foot wide, 6ft 4in body behind this tree sapling right here. They won’t see me there. I dart behind the different trees, looking to see if he or the dogs can see me. Dammit, they can. They are coming straight for me. There is only one choice. Run straight at them (despite the fact I can hardly walk with the pain in right foot).

No, can’t run, and now I am in full view of them. As the dogs jump playfully past me, my 70 year old male attacker says – “are you chaps really running 78 miles?”.

I make it through the turnaround and am in emotional and physical tatters. I can barely walk, let alone run and very real doubt enters. My thoughts become confused. What’s the point really? If you’re just gonna hobble you’re not really finishing it properly. Eyes droop. Hang on, did I go through the woods then or not. Did I see the Mashes? Did they count my lap? I don’t want to be here anymore. I’m going to fail. Everyone was right. I’m not good enough.

I come through to complete the lap and Nick Riggs from my tri club, who finished the double yesterday is there encouraging me on. “How many laps left?” he asks me. I can’t speak. Can’t smile. Can’t look anyone in the eye.

I am going to quit. I am not man enough to make it.

I show Nick 8 fingers, and carry on walking. Nick is a hallucination surely? Went home yesterday? Straight past everyone. No eye contact. I am in a bad place I want this to end. I am in physical and mental pain. The cut-off couldn’t stop me now. But total physical breakdown was about to. I ignore the wonderful crew on the aid station. Paul Thompson (Deke) asks me something about McDonalds and my hand almost tries to push him away. I can honestly say I have never had an experience like that.

I am a miserable arsehole and I don’t care. My race is nearly run and I am a failure. The next lap is spent meandering through the woods and trying to work out what of the last 4 or 5 laps was real and what wasn’t. I decide that I may be dreaming and that I’m going to wake up on the grass somewhere and have DNF’d. My pine needle path spells more and more words. Green glowing eyes peer at me from the woods.

I keep moving forward. I had discovered some deep, deep lows in my training but nothing like this. I had exhausted the body, deprived it of sleep. And when I was at my weakest and most vulnerable I had a made a simple error of pushing for a time and then getting injured and it has destroyed my race. And now the body was getting its own back. I was slipping into the world where I was no longer in control. Becoming paranoid and confused. It would not be long before they would pull me from the race. I wanted them to. I would not have resisted. I was broken and was becoming a danger to myself. I am not good enough. I am a failure. An inspiration to fcking nobody.

As I come round for the next lap Nick is no longer there. So he WAS a hallucination. I stop for a sit down. Riri gives me a good talking too. Apparently Nick was there but just for 1 lap! Maybe I’m not as fcked as I think. RiRi tells me how well I’m doing. She wants this for me. She knows I’m hurting but I see what this means to her. She’s the only person in the world who can look at me like that. It’s her eyes you see. It’s her deep brown eyes I first fell in love with and there they are again when I most need them. Of all the images and experiences I had stored away ready to get through the point of failure RiRi’s eyes weren’t there. But at that moment, in that look, she turned it all around.

I cannot quit. This is for her and the kids as well, not just me. They made sacrifices too. Not just me. During this low patch I have become selfish and inward looking. In RiRi’s eyes are all the reasons to keep going.

Then Pink Sally comes over. With some Bouillon or some such concoction. I do as I am told and drink it. She has some choice words (she is a crewing professional!) but I don’t remember them. Eat some food and I set out again.

The rest, food and my “Brown Eyed Girl” do the trick and I seem to snap out of it. I think I did the next lap or two on my own – by my insistence - and then one with the rev, and then one with a combination of TC and pink sally.

I have always said that when I did my ultra I wanted TC and the Rev there. They have both encouraged me and taken an interest in my progress over the last 18 months and they are certainly both legends of the ultra scene it seems to me. So it’s great that they are there for those laps.

So I motor through the remaining laps. Pushing as hard as I can get the damned right foot to go. As I begin the last lap I give Mr and Mrs Mash a huge hug at the turnaround point and I’m in tears. Those guys were amazing throughout, how they kept going I don’t know. At least I had man-eating dogs and ghost team mates to entertain me. Mind you, they probably stay high on lemon drizzle cake. I hug the Rev and anyone else who wants one to be honest. I’m gonna’ get the job done.

And I’m gonna get it done in under 56 hours. That’s faster than that bastard Bill Bradley in the Virginia Triple Iron 2008, who scared the crap out of me about 4 days before the race with his You Tube video and made me have a severe wobble. Back at ya Bill. I showed up and suffered, but I didn’t need to suffer for as long as you buddy!!

I approach the line and am high fiving loads of TTers. Fimm, Monique, Amberetta, Carlito,Knightlancer, Dickie, Deke and probably others are all there and it was lovely of them to watch me finish.

I’m a Triple Ironman. I have achieved my dream; something I believed was reserved for those on a different plane to me. I have done the ultimate endurance event, without sleeping. But more than that, when the going went beyond me physically and mentally I proved just how tough I can be and I will be a stronger man for it. That I do know.

The Aftermath

“It is impossible to go too far and survive. But at least make sure you can answer yes to the question: Did I go far enough?”

Everyone will take different things from all of this. I peered over the edge of what is possible and I scared myself a bit. For the first time I finished a race and felt like I was somewhere near the edge. This is the only race that came truly close to beating me. Mentally it started to take my mind. Physically it has not only exhausted me, but given me quite a nasty injury.

I felt fairly flat as I crossed the finish line and have felt quite down since then. This is not helped by the serious damage I seemed to have caused to my right foot. As I write this I can’t get to work or play much with my 2 little girls. I am walking with 2 sticks.

But that will all pass. I expect I’ll keep showing up at events like this, maybe not as a competitor but because I just like being around the people involved.

I’m not a dinner party, middle class bollox kind of guy. That’s not where I find kinship. But between 6th and 9th of August I hung out and shared an experience with a group of people who understood me, wanted me to succeed and helped me do that.

I have never experienced anything like it in my life.

A HUGE thank you to you all.

Final Thoughts

“The only people who can be called a failure are those who have never failed”

I’m not saying burn the books, they’re all wrong. And I’m certainly not going to try to say that coaches and experienced athletes are getting it wrong.

But I believe that both short and long distance tri are accessible by a far wider audience than currently get involved.

When I think about what stopped me all these years pushing myself this hard it was all too often because a book or some “coach/experienced athlete” told me what needed to be done before you should try something like this.

Go out and do something. If you fail, fine. But at least you tried. Achieving/finishing is glory. Everyone loves glory.

But having a go is what commands respect. Self respect. Being able to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning and feel proud. Glory doesn’t give you that.

And that’s something I isolated doing triathlon, that I have integrated into the whole “swim stroke” of life.

Thanks for reading

List of Thanks

Don’t know where to start here, I really don’t.

Russ – my brother who so ably crewed for me. Hope it inspired you mate and you have a crack at tri yourself soon.

RiRi’s mum and dad - thanks for the brown eyes.

Mashes – Mr for his swim advice, encouragement and marshalling and Mrs for the encouragement, marshalling and rocket fuel.

All the TT’ers who supported, shouted, took part. And thanks for all the kind PM’s and messages since the race. There’s just too many to list and if I do I’ll miss someone out!

My teammate Nick Riggs – your encouragement and you supporters were just first class mate.

Woody 32 – the man with the cow bells – you the man!

Pink Sally – you’re a legend you are. Everything the Rev says about you is true. If Carlsberg made support crew, they’d probably be pink and just like you. Thanks for everything.

I had a MAJOR wobble a few days before the race and I want to thank Mrs Slacko, Pink Sally and Mrs Mash in particular for helping me through that one on the forum.

ALL the marshalls were just incredible – never known the marshalls be so instrumental in helping me make it through a race.

Steve, Eddie and The Enduroman Team – lovely people and an amazing event – try it – you’ll love it!
"Cycle on your bicycle,

Leave all this misery behind"
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great work, Ted. That's why I do this stuff. It's been an honour to be a bit-part player in this journey of yours, sir. A more ambitious, honest, hard-assed athlete I have yet to meet.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wHat a great report Ted. Deff one to reread time and time again. Congratulations on your very well deserved finish and look forward to meeting you again at a future race.
Cent Cols Challenge Pyrenees 2014
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An inspiration, mate. Just awesome.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

F*ck dust - these are tears I tell you! I hope one day my fiance talks about me the way you talk about RiRi, what a great love you guys share.

I'm keeping this report as my A2A inspiration, I'm truly moved by it and maybe found a few answers within it for myself.

You did amazingly.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Top bombing BT - awesome stuff...
See you at the Big Woody Smile
2011: San Dom 20 (2:30); Llanelli Marathon (3:15); Brecon Beacons Ultra 40 (8:30); New Forest Marathon
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Mrs Mash

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, what a simply fantastic report! You need to publish that as it was just fecking fab!

If Mr Mash and I helped in anyway then that is great but I think you will find YOU did it! Everyone else may have contributed but at the end of the day YOU did it! YOU are just bl00dy amazing Ted and I am proud to have witnessed it.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

great report
had tears, smiles n laughs reading it
shows that "more" training isnt right for everyone
also shows you do have mental strength to get through
--the woods mainly Wink
very well done
hope the injury starts to heal
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Reverend Graham

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not ashamed to say this made me cry, it's an honour to race with you and call you my friend.

JFT Graham
Some people are only alive because it illegal to kill them !

I'm a Double Ironman, me! no wait ! Triple Ironman !

I am the Reverend Graham, Commander of the Squirrel Army, third in line to the King of the Potato People !
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 7:04 pm    Post subject: Re: Triple Iron - My Journey by Big Ted Reply with quote


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Absolutely incredible - the journey, the performance and the report. Just fantastic.

NT Very Happy Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ted awesome race,awesome report,respect Cool
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome. An inspiration and oratarian.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome race and report, well done.
It was good to meet you and RiRi at the race.
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I Tri Too

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow what an inspiration you are! I posted somewhere on here earlier, about lack of motivation. About 5 mins into reading your report I switched the computer off, trainers on and ran, promising myself that I could read the rest when I'd done some work. Read the rest when I got back and had a good cry, but in a nice way not a sad way Smile Your words will stay with me for quite some time. Thank you and well done Cool Very Happy
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