ironman UK race report

At 9:12pm on 20th July in Bolton I became an ironman πŸ™‚ Floating down the red carpet lapping up the crowd applause Is something I will never forget Those fabulous words from Paul Kaye – “Zoe Forman – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” 140.6 mile of swimming, cycling and running was completed with a skip & a broad smile crossing over the finish line.


That finishing moment and realisation that 10 months of training had come together on one day was amazing. My race didn’t go exactly to my race plan, which my coach declared to be possibly the best he had seen.

I was an ironman at my first attempt, finishing in 15:12:32 and so chuffed with myself – see anything really is possible. Against the odds I finished with 2 cracked ribs after a kick in the swim.

Remarkably I was relaxed and calm throughout the weekend and really enjoyed the race day even if there were times of immense pain.

The Weekend
It took nearly 5 hours on Thursday for Mike to drive us up to Manchester due to motorway closures after an over turned lorry blocked the M6.
We settled in with our friends the Hopkins and I enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner feeling quite relaxed.

Friday – registration
Bags bags and more bags were collected today. Day licence purchased I headed to the registration desks, signed my life away and was greeted by Emily who I had seen at Exmoor – she was the one who tied my wristband too tight and my hand ballooned ! I saw Emily every day and at swim start and in finishers tent, my favourite smiley volunteer ! Huge rucksack handed over that would tip me backwards if full contained swim cap, yellow slip for timing chip, blue Bike bag, red Run bag, white Swim/street clothes bag and green Special needs bags plus sheets of numbered stickers and race number tattoos.

Registered and numbered no go back now
Registered and numbered no going back now

Race briefing was similar to Exmoor 70.3 with the same official, organisers, medics and referee. The room was packed mostly with first time ironman athletes over 1200 of us out of 2000. Only 12% were women and of the 2000+ names on the start list 20% would not be finishers on Sunday night.

Reebok ( Macron) home of reg, expo, T2 for weekend
Reebok ( Macron) home of reg, expo, T2 for weekend

I skipped the pasta party as didn’t have a ticket for Mike but we had a great Turkish meal with Harry & Chris followed by an easy evening stroll in Heaton park where I got the classic sitting on the lion photo. Rabbits ran wild, peacocks squawked but the lion didn’t roar in the evening sunshine.


Saturday – packing & racking
The downside of a two day heat wave was heavy storms, it poured down all day and during the night we got spectacular lightening shows. I spent the morning packing my bags making sure I had everything I needed, plus spares and that they were in the right coloured bags all with my number 1418 attached.

ironman UK is split transition with T1 swim exit being at Pennington Flash and T2 where we dropped off our bikes at the Reebok (Marcon) stadium on race day but had to get everything in the right place today.

I was now number 1418 for the weekend and beyond. In the driving rain we headed off to T1 to drop my bike off as there looked to be no break in the weather approaching. First sight of the swim course and it wasn’t too inviting ! The approach roads, paths and field we were parked in was already becoming more like Glastonbury. Wellies, waterproofs and wet dogs all around. I wheeled my bike into T2 and luckily was in row F so that should be easy to remember on Sunday. A quick wipe off with the towel and I placed the big yellow bag over the top and left my carbon beauty there, she had plenty of friends ! Then racking of blue bike bags with helmets, cycle shoes & clothing. On the way I saw Chris Wild as we were getting our timing chips he went on to have a horrible day coming off his bike and running in a tattered shirt.

Coffee under a leaky gazebo to warm up and a chat with Fran Clarkson who I’d first met at my local 113 event a couple of years back with running with Team True Spirit the most amazing athletes many wounded service personnel often missing limbs.

Pennington Flash in the rain, not so inviting
Pennington Flash in the rain, not so inviting

Bags dropped off at T2 then back for a Hopkins invasion of Pizza Express we went on mass to demolish pasta & pizza. I headed upstairs to bed at 9pm ready to race, nothing more I could do now. I had a good night sleep Thursday & Friday and was feeling quite relaxed and calm. So far the weekend was all a bit if a blur but in a nice way.

Sunday – race day
I was actually awake ten minutes before my 3am alarm, got dressed and started breakfast. Not hearing anything from Mike I went up to wake him, ‘I though we were leaving at 3:45 ?’ NO I need to be there at 3:45 ” was the exchange.

Morning ;-)
Morning πŸ˜‰

Dropped off at Reebok the air was misty and light drizzle greeted us in the dark, but the air was warm. The condensation filled busses took athletes to the start, Mike went back to bed.
As we walked across to T1 it was starting to get light. Uncovered my bike and checked her over, drank water and ate a banana & gel. Chatted to Andy Holgate briefly and other females racked around me and saw a couple of pirates too. Then time to gets to our wetsuits and head down to the water.

My plan was front and right of the start. I floated in the water as the national anthem played and a camera droid flew above us. “10 seconds” ….The kayaks separated and the horn went off. We were off.

2000+ athlete waiting for the starting signal
2000+ athlete waiting for the starting signal

This is it my longest day of activity, still very calm I got into my stoke and sighted for the first buoy. I found plenty of clear water pockets to swim into and little contact with other swimmers maybe a few elbows brushed, got tight around the first buoy again in clear water – what’s going on this was like Exmoor. The rest of first lap continued in the same way, clear calm water to swim into and keep my stroke and pace.
Swam up the ramp and ran around the carpet loop for an Aussie exit, the crowds going wild, I could still hear them 200 meters out in the lake. Clock check 34 minutes – pretty good.
Lap 2 – I soon came upon a number of back markers that I now had to swim through, many doing breast role, most zig zagging along with atrocious sighting skills. It was like swimming threw weeds as they thrashed about. The first buoy was manic and swimmers were spread out across about 30meters wide of buoy so I decided to head for buoy and turn in tight. I too was reduced to breaststroke now in the carnage of arms & legs. This was the full on washing machine effect I had been expecting at the start.

I fought my way on to the second buoy where we turned back to shore, this was a little easier to get round as many swimmers had gone so far off course. But I was doing more breaststroke than I wanted so that I didn’t swim over others. Many more punches, kicks, thrashing arms and flaying legs all around.

The chaos begins on lap 2
The chaos begins on lap 2

Last stretch for shore, sighting I got myself on course and was heading for home. Then with the impact from a big bloke doing breaststroke I was kicked in the ribs……..howled with pain and was promptly sick. Well that’s my breakfast gone, but I also managed to swallowed some lake water which I also then threw up.

Oh shit my ribs are killing me, game over ?

I swam into the centre of the loop away from others and behind one canoeists who asked if I was OK, said just winded from a kick, didn’t want to say I was sick in case they pulled me out.

I swam considerably slower back to shore and my exit picture shows the waves of nausea I was feeling on my face.

T1 – took my time and did a full change of clothes except sports bra. Grabbed a coffee ZipVit gel & water which was much needed better taste in my mouth. Struggled to get arm warmers but so glad I did as drizzle & rain for first half hour on the bike.

Bike – brutal bike course
I quite enjoyed the bike as soon as the drizzle stopped and mist had cleared. Even though I was just under 8 hours it didn’t feel that long in the saddle. First time up Sheephouse and the mist covered the top, the mankini men made me smile and plenty of supporters up there so early. I stopped at my special needs bag at 83 miles and enjoyed a cheese & onion pasty & packet of salty crisps, I also topped up my electrolyte bottle. I was so hungry probably due to losing my breakfast ! Also as I felt nauseous from my ribs I only had managed a few gels as chewing flapjack & energy bars wasn’t fun.

Manikin men in the mist at top of Sheephouse Lane
Manikin men in the mist at top of Sheephouse Lane

I did walk part of Hunters Hill on second lap, I was hot, felt sick and to be honest couldn’t be bothered to grind it out. I only walked about 75 meters but that was enough to get me going again, I drank as I walked up hill. At 100 miles myself and 2 others flung our chains off at the bottom of a hill, reattached and an official stopped gave us wipes & water and said only 12 miles to go.

Charing up the deafening COLT alley
Charing up the deafening COLT alley

T2 – another full kit change into running clothes and shoes, only 2nd wee of day after 9.5 hours racing, better up my liquid intake.

Run – hot hilly & very hard
Out of the stadium into a new housing estate and we are face with a bloody steep hill ! Onto the main road with plenty of support before dropping onto the canal path. The canal was scorching as the air was still. One spectator had iced cold water which he was offering us, it tasted fantastic and helped cool me.

Getting up from the canal was a grass, gravel, cobbled hill which had to be walked as too steep & loose under foot. At the top we joined the town loop which we would run four times. The whole loop was lined with spectators some in own driveways others in pubs getting drunker each lap we passed ! This loop was hilly and by the first lap everyone knew where to walk where to shuffle. I grabbed water, pretzels & RedBull at each aid station.

I had entered a whole new world of pain but my only focus was getting those 3 coloured bands and heading for the finish. At one point my head went and I was convinced I was going to be 15 minutes over the cut off time, I was actually 2 hours within this calculation. I had a police escort for a mile with two officers on bikes. Sucked salt off pretzels when I couldn’t be bothered to chew them. Got lots of encouragement, high fives and support from other athlete & spectators, many introducing themselves asking are you Zoe Forman from Facebook ? As I only had Zoe on my number. It was a great atmosphere from athlete and spectators, better than any marathon I’ve done so much mutual respects and encouragement.

Scortchio was this a smile or a grimace ?
Scortchio was this a smile or a grimace ?

In fact I really enjoyed my last lap as most people on course had slowed and we had plenty of hill walking breaks to chat between run shuffles. I continued to drink energy drink, RedBull and had a caffeine hydrogel

It was great to see Mike, Harry, Chris, Deb, Pat, Tess on the bike & especially the run which a was a great boost. I even managed to have a quick chat with my sister who called to see how I was doing just as I passed Mike.

Three No Problem πŸ™‚ bands on my arm and I came into the cobbled town centre for the last time, now I could turn off left down the red carpet. I was along side another lady who was in tears and said you go first so we both get good finishers pictures ! The barriers were 2 or 3 deep and the noise was increasing as we rounded the last bends. We were unsighted from the finish and came round from behind the big screen where the final stretch of the magic red carpet opened up before me.

Seeing Paul Kaye I started my swooping run down the carpet. The noise was incredible, I scanned the crowd but couldn’t see anyone I knew. Paul shouted “Aaggghh another Pirate” then those fantastic words I’ll never forget “Zoe Forman YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” Thanks Paul, made my day. I even got a few Tweets from Paul Kaye after the race.


Realising and hearing you are an ironman is just such an amazing feeling, I managed to skip over the finish line with a smile on my face even with the 2 cracked ribs.

I sat on a plastic chair with my medal around my neck next to John and Andy who’d I met on course but knew from Facebook. The air was still warm and we just absorbed the energy and cheers and congratulated each other. Then Mike appeared over the fence waving & smiling nearly as much as me.

Oh yes I'm happy, hop, skip & a jump after 140.6 miles
Oh yes I’m happy, hop, skip & a jump after 140.6 miles

Recovery – four slices of pizza were demolished as I chatted to Les who I met at Henley where both did our first half distance, saw Ewen a fellow Pirate who has been a great help to me in my training and been at many Sportives with me plus many others. Medics were going around checking on everyone, as I was scoffing pizza, crisps & orange segments they were happy with us.

Showing Mike my medal in finish area
Showing Mike my medal in finish area

Then they asked anyone been sick or feeling sick ? Now I’ve finished can admit my swim sickness. I was instantly wrapped in a foil blanket, a nurse took me to the medical centre. I was questioned and assessed by two nurses, offered a bed to lay on which wasn’t a good idea, I laid down then got up and stood. I then had two doctors prod, poke and pushed my ribs with hands & stethoscope. I’m sure they wanted to see who could get me to wince & scream the loudest.

The doctors conferred and agreed I had cracked ribs but were concerned that I may have bruised kidneys. This mean to had to drink loads of water and make sure I didn’t pee pink for next 24 hours No painkillers as they could affect or damage kidneys. I was fine, had plenty of water & cups of tea but no celebratory drink.

Me and my medal

Headed over to a local cafe next to the finish for an ice cream and cup of tea before we went back to the finish at 10:45 to see the last athletes coming in. All now wearing glow sticks around their necks. I saw Fran Clarkson and some of team True Spirit come in. Bolton square still buzzing it was good to soak up the atmosphere with a medal round my neck the evening air was still and warm.

Post Race –
Firstly I had to collect my kit that had been rounded up and all at T2 Reebok. Bags were easy as in number order but bikes were racked by time of day they came in, well none of us had any idea of actual time, we were in race time ! So a wander up and down the racking in the sunshine until I found my Felt. Hunger was ever present so a visit to Costa & Greggs, already been to Subway ! Mike saw a couple of guys with computer store shirts that he was going to buy from. Oh look the store is just over there ! Great I was probably the only ironman in a computer store the day after a race.

Back home I called for a Dr appointment and had an X-ray confirming two cracked ribs, nothing in didn’t know. My painkiller dose was doubled and got a fort nights worth of drugs. The good news is the cracks are in line with the ribs, on low ribs and no kidney bruising. Told they should heal quite quickly as I’m obviously fit & healthy πŸ™‚ For next fortnight I can’t do any police shifts, but hopefully can then swim and ride again.

X-ray revealed what I already suspected
X-ray revealed what I already suspected

I maybe able to get on the turbo and swim without a wetsuit soon. While I’m on pain killers maybe the time to have my ironman tattoo done !

Well did I tell you I am an ironman πŸ™‚

What an amazing feeling, event and achievement – see anything is possible and I’m stronger than I think.

No I haven’t signed up to enter ironman 2015 but have registered to be a volunteer.

Trying tattoo out for size & position
PSOF moto – I wasn’t too bad on the day considering
Bolton Town hall as finish backdrop
Bolton Town hall as finish backdrop
Goodbye Bolton – until I Volunteer next year



  1. Been so good to follow and help you on this journey and I was so happy to see you finish after the hard training you’ve done. Very proud of you Ironman Zoe very impressive.

  2. Brilliant write up Zoe. It brings it all back. I am so impressed that you had the guts to tough it out with two cracked ribs. I love your finish line photo – really atmospheric. Well done Ironman πŸ™‚

  3. Reading this almost makes me think I would want to do one, then I remember, I am useless at swimming so will content myself with living one through you. Well done.

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