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Sufferman; The ambition, the myth and the reality of Ironman

August 15, 2015


A Mother was concerned her Son was eating too much sugar

She feared his teeth would rot away

One day she heard Gandhi was staying in the nearby village

She took her son, to see Gandhi, She thought Gandhi would tell her Son that sugar was bad for his teeth.

Off they went to visit Gandhi

On arrival the mother spoke to Gandhi

“Gandhi, will you tell my son, not to eat so much sugar, please tell him it is bad for his teeth”.

Gandhi looked at the mother and then at the son

“Come back in a week’s time and I will speak to your son” Gandhi replied

The mother was confused, but returned home and made the trip again a week later.

On returning the following week, the mother said “I have returned, will you now tell my son, that sugar is bad for his teeth”

Gandhi looked at the son “Son, listen to your mother, she is right, sugar is bad for your teeth, you should not eat so much of it”

The mother, looked confused “Why could you not have said that when we visited last week?”

“I had to stop eating so much sugar myself” Gandhi replied.














I first heard the Gandhi Story while spending time with Teach For India in Mumbai. A trip that has influenced me in many ways.


I retold this story, to the girls at The Gateways School, a few weeks ago, whom I had been invited to speak to at their end of year sports awards. A story I first heard, in Mumbai, told by Miliand, a young  teacher, teaching in a Mumbai Slum school, whom I had the pleasure of getting to know while I was on the Teach for All global conference. Miland was on Teach For India's 2 year leadership program, myself, on the UK equivalent, Teach First. A powerful story. A story that made me realise that I was not following the values I was trying to convey to the pupils I was teaching at the time. The values of following ones passions and dreams. I loved teaching, but it didn't give me the work life balance that allowed me to follow my passions as much as I wanted. I changed jobs, relocated to Yorkshire and have since tried to live the value of following my passions, dreams and challenging myself.


Sport is my passion, pushing myself, chasing challenges, adventures and becoming the best athlete I can be is my dream. That is the journey I began and am living. As I looked ahead to my 4th season in Triathlon, I looked at what events inspired me, what would push me to my limits and really challenge me. The Ironman had captured my imagination thanks to Jo, who had given me the book  Ironwar: Dave Scott, Mark Allen and the greatest race ever run by Matt Fitzgerald for my Birthday last year. It tells the story of Ironman from its roots to the famous 1989 Allen vs Scott Iron war battle, charting the journeys of Triathletes Dave Scott and Mark Allen. This book cannot fail to inspire and that was it, I was inspired. Ironman UK, Bolton, 19th July 2015 was my target.

3.86km Swim

180.25km bike

42.2 km run

11 hours 48minutes. I did it, I finished my first Ironman. And a lot happened in those 708minutes.























From happy to broken.


I won’t repeat old ground, take a read of the previous blog posts if you are interested in the preparation. The winter wonders and woes of Ironman training, the races that acted as a warm up,  Slaying the Slateman and Ousting the Outlaw. But the Ironman, it’s called Ironman for a reason, not comfyman! (Thanks for that quote Claire). It’s a different beast.


Two weeks before, it was confirmed, I had a place in the Pro start line, I upgraded from the age group category of my original entry, following my win at Outlaw Half. Why? Well why not. I wanted to have a crack at racing the best athletes, starting when they started and having the chance to win some prize money and to see how I would get on in the pro field. I would  rather be a little fish in a big pond, rather than a big fish in a little pond. Ambitious, yes, in hind sight the right decision? Yes,I learnt a lot in the race and from the other pro women, so it was a great opportunity.


As a pro, it’s all plain sailing, someone carries your gear, they tell you what to do, you get driven around, 3 course meals laid on tap. Ok that’s not true, at all. Nothing changes. I was sat in the Harvester pub on Friday afternoon, opposite the Macron Stadium, the pro briefing was at 3.30pm, I had work phone calls from 11-3pm. So I travelled over the Pennines early, made my Orange juice last a very long time, while I sat in the corner of the pub completing my work. Being on the pro start line still means paying the bills at the end of each month, many of the pro’s I would line up next to on Sunday morning also juggle ‘normal’ jobs alongside being a triathlete. If you ever want to know how to fit 25hours into 24, these are the people to ask!


However a big perk of being on the Pro start was staying at a homestay with Philip, Lisa and their three daughters. My Leeds Bradford Triathlon club mate, fellow Pro and all round superstar Eleanor Haresign had arranged this and I was just gate crashing. We had lucked out! Philip and Lisa were superb hosts and they made us feel right at home. Thank you Lisa and Philip for being absolute star hosts, curry post race along with champagne to celebrate and Philip laid on an immense post IM breakfast buffet of pancakes and bacon butties. What a star, alongside side kick Steve, really Steve deserves a blog post all for himself, probably titled ‘Steve, the right hand man, saviour of many on the Ironman run due his tic tacs and jelly babies”. And well done Philip for your 2nd Ironman, top result. I have learnt on many occasions, and staying with Philip and Lisa confirmed this, that racing is more than the race. The people and experiences along the way make many memories that will last far longer than the life of a finishers T-Shirt.















Lisa and Philip had a living room full of minion outfits left over from the previous weekends village event, we couldn’t resist!


Onto the event. In the last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about what happened in those 708minutes. I have had a whole mix of emotions and thoughts.

In the Initial days after crossing the finish line, this is how I felt:

Relief: The initial emotion on crossing the line

Pain: So much pain in my legs during the marathon, I have never felt anything like it. Indescribable pain.

Pride: I was proud of how I managed to dig deeper than I have ever dug to finish that marathon, my first marathon, after 3.8km of swimming and 180km of riding. There was a lot of digging myself out of a very dark deep pit of despair and pain.

Gutted: My goal had been 10.30-11hours. I finished in 11.48, my marathon was 4hours 5minutes, I had been aiming for 3 hours 30.For 8 months I had been working for this race. Blood, sweat and tears had been shed and this wasn’t the outcome I was dreaming of.

Bewilderment: Why had my legs given up at 12miles on the run, like a sniper had jumped out and shot them, bang. And there was nothing I could do but shuffle the rest of the way.


It will hurt they said.

You will suffer if you don’t get enough food and fuel they said.

You will hit the wall in the Marathon at some point they said.

You will stop and walk, but the crowds will carry you through they said.


The myths are true. It all happened.


The reality:

11hours 48 minutes. 10th pro female.  Longest ever bike ride, longest ever run, 1st Ironman.


3.8km swim. At 5.55am in Pennington Flash lake My debut Ironman adventure began. I exited in

1hour 3minutes, I was 7th /13 pro female out of the water. The two lap swim was spiced up with the Aussie exit; no stopping for shrimp on the Barbie. A scramble out, run 100m on shore and dive back in again between