Ironman UK 2014 – Race Report – by Tony Cullen


Tony after fighting with the bears!

Coming off a solid performance at IM Lanzarote in May, I had 9 weeks before IMUK so the plan was to take a week off, a week easy and then a solid 5 weeks or so of training before IMUK. After 10 days I did my first run and tore my calf muscle. After a visit to the physic I was told it was a 4-6 week injury which ruled me out of any run training before the Ironman. I decided that I would still race but pull out after the bike rather than risk a longer injury lay off. Apart from running, training went to plan in the build up to the race.

A few days before the race I decided to attempt the run as the calf was feeling good and strong, although I still had not tested it I knew that if it got me past the first 3 miles or so I would probably get round which would be incredibly satisfying after all the training I had done throughout the year.

Swim plan was to take up a good position at the swim start and not to get caught up in a swim fight which happened at Lanzarote in May. Swim hard to the first buoy clinging onto anyone who swam past me, find some feet and get dragged round hopefully by somebody who swims faster than me! In Bolton my aim was to be out in the top 4-5%.

The start of the swim went to plan but I soon realised the feet I was on wasn’t swimming straight, so I decide to swim the shortest route and went on my own dragging a few with me. The second lap was pretty uneventful and I exited in a little over 59 minutes and in the top 60 overall 4th in my age group…first job done!

A quick T1 and I was on the road. Bike plan was to hold 265w/270w, control the climbs and keep power up on descents where possible and enjoy myself. All seemed to be going to plan until descending Sheephouse where my chain bounced off and got tangled up in the crank. I stopped near the bottom of Sheephouse and yanked my chain free, put it back on and was away again in no time. While I was trying to push the pace down Belmont into a head wind I noticed blood everywhere, the wind blowing it all over me! It seems I’d opened up an old scar on my hand whilst yanking the chain out of my crank. There was nothing I could do about the bleeding, it was everywhere.

Although I would have enjoyed telling you that I had to fight off a couple of bears at the top of Sheephouse, which would befit the above photo I decided not to and stick to what actually happened!!

Just before descending Belmont I tried to move up into the big ring and again my chain came off. It seems I had damaged the chain whilst yanking it out and was now struggling with changing from one chain ring to another. Back on it went and off again. Apart from tasting blood off my gel packets and bottle tops I was fine and back into trying to pull back a few of the fish that swim faster than me.

Now I knew Brian Fogarty was in the race and that I would probably see him at some stage on the bike as I swim slightly faster than he does but he’s been on a different planet recently on the bike, but I was hoping it would be at least in the second half. So when he ghosted alongside me within 2 hours I thought I need  to pick this up a bit. After a brief chat about all the bloody mess we rode together for a while pacing each other until I decided he was riding at another level than I was willing to ride at, particularly on climbs, so i wished him good luck and dropped back. Apart from one more chain problem at the bottom of hunters hill the rest of the ride was pretty uneventful and I arrived in T2 more than happy and off the bike in 5hrs 21min. 15th overall and 1st in my age group…second job done.

Arriving into T2 was amazing, there was a huge crowd gathered and the support was fantastic with my 3 girls, family and friends there to cheer me on. I spent an extra minute or so in T2 to stretch the calves and set off onto the run course with no expectations at all, just my fingers crossed that my calf had healed enough to get me round and collect my medal. As I ran out I told my girls to hang around T2 for 30mins as I may have to walk back quite soon. I knew that if I got past 3-4miles I may well get round. I ran with another athlete called James Gill from that crazy house in Cambridge and that seemed to take my mind of things, before I knew it I was at 5 miles and feeling ok running at 8min/mile pace. I then started to believe I would get round but still not interested in time or position. The wheels came off at 15 miles and it became more of a shuffle than a run, but still the miles came and went with the support on the course I was never able to walk for very long before someone shouted my name and got me going again. Finally I had amazingly reached the finish line and I was just as happy as any other IM race if not more with this finish. With a marathon time of 3h43 and 10hrs09 overall amazingly I’d held on for 2nd in my age group, I could not have been happier.

All in all, I had a great day and my two IM results this year have perfectly reflected the training for both races, but the IMUK box is not ticked yet so I will be going back next year!

Train hard + smart and be safe.


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