I decided last January to book a race after the outlaw as my second half distance. I know now why
it was perhaps easy to pick up a place.
Exmoor Wimbleball ironman by many experts is the toughest 70.3 out there and I at the tender age
of 54 had decided to do it, oblivious to the reports regarding the bike and run.
Immediately after the outlaw half I really began to get concerned. I was happy with 6h38 and knew
I could improve but at Wimbleball ?
I checked the ironman website in the weeks before the race noting that the cut off times are much
more strict and shorter than the outlaw franchise, no running down the chute with children and
relatives which kind of appealed to me when my finishing photos at outlaw featured a very pretty
little girl in a pink dress running next to me, not the look I had in mind in my moment of glory!
We drove down to Devon on the Friday ahead of Sunday’s race and stayed in a rented holiday
apartment in Watchet on the coast around 12 miles from Wimbleball.
All of the roads around the event are very tight and can often result in a long reverse drive when
you encounter oncoming traffic.
In hindsight a good call would have been to camp on site but camping and my wife don’t go in the
Arriving at the venue on Saturday morning I duly registered and collected a very smart Ironman
back pack containing the normal assortment of leaflets etc.
It’s worth mentioning again that the difference in feel of the ironman franchise is very serious I
guess a little more hardcore which again in my opinion makes outlaw quite a friendly event.
The race briefing at around 11 was amusing and informative with regular references to the
toughness of the course and in particular the bike course. Quote of the day was at least the swim
is flat! All of which reinforced my already panicked state around the fabled bike course.
The transition was explained to everyone and a new revised swim start which was all change for
me after the OSB events I’ve taken part in.
Transition was to all take place in a large marquee. Each athlete getting two pegs for a blue run
bag and red bike bag. Essentially T1 you run in the marquee at one end after the swim, take your
bike gear out of your bag put helmet and shoes on then put your wetsuit etc back into the bag and
hang it up. Similarly on T2 run in from the bike, take your trainers out and fill it with your bike gear.
All fairly straightforward.
The race director then rocked up stating this was the toughest 70.3 on the circuit , more jokes
about the swim being flat. This wasn’t helping.
After the briefing I wandered over to the transition marquess and I worked out where to enter and
exit with a little help from the many attendant ironman staff who were all lovely and helpful.
Following this I racked my bike, checked it over making sure tyres were ok and checked I was in a
granny gear. At this point, I noticed a lack of TT bikes around me, clearly this wasn’t the course for
After a wander down to the lake to view the course I had a nice relaxing afternoon taking a cream
tea at the seaside and after a light meal, in bed at 10.
Race day dawned and I started fuelling up with weetabix , bananas & flapjacks all rather forced
down at 4:15 am but I knew it had to go in.
A short drive to Wimbleball lake and I took my living feast to my bike. This was, no giggles please
2 X 1 L energy drink bottles
All of this was hopefully get me round.
I donned my wetsuit and after rather over energetically pulling into position pulled a hole in it, great.
With a good luck hug and kiss from my long suffering wife (I’ll get to just how long at the end) I
made my way to the swim start.
This consisted of what I would describe as 4-5 man width corridor stretching around 400m from the
top of the bank down to the lakeside, it had markers on it with self seeding time zones.
I opted for 37-40 having swam outlaw in 39 I was feeling confident!
As I stood waiting in my spot I looked back up the bank, hell of a lot of athletes behind me I thought
and not that many in front hmmmm.
Around 5 minutes to race start at 7 the national anthem rang out and the klaxon sounded, was time
As I approached the water everyone was rushing around me to wade and dive in the water was
basically brown liquid mud at least 10 m out ..Undeterred I slid in and tried to get into a rhythm but I
was being attacked from the side behind and at one point across the back of my legs! It was
bedlam. I shipped some water & actually was gasping for air at one point ! tried manfully to plough
on it was quite a battle for the first 200 meters. I quickly realised that whilst I was perhaps in the
correct pace, the compact nature of the entry meant a lot of bodies trying to share the same line ie
straight for the first buoy. It more out of luck than judgment was I was right on that line.
At outlaw the start is quite wide so much more space.
Another mistake was I thought I would look super cool in some new mirrored goggles. No wrong.
Dark cloudy morning, dark water, couldn’t see a bloody thing.
Undeterred I made the first buoy unmolested and got into some sort of a decent stroke rate.
Making it back to shore into the mud I clambered out and despite having my obligatory dizziness
when I get back on shore I ran 400 up hill to T1.
T1 was a strange sight. Athletes on benches talking, ironman staff helpfully unzipping wetsuits. All
very convivial, I grabbed my bag and got bike shoes on etc.
It was around 200 m run in bike shoes on grass to reach the bike then off to the bike mount point.
Straight away we were uphill which set the time for the whole ride.
The first 5 miles are a climb with little or no respite but then it was a steep down hill with sharp
twisting bends.I really wish I had recced the course (another mistake I won’t make again) it was
challenging and tough in terms of maintaining any sort of pace for me but combined with that it was
a technical course. I found myself hitting almost 40 on some sections and hoping for the best!
Lots of casualties along the way punctures etc and on one hill which was a 20% many were
walking on the first of the two laps.
I was happy with my first loop I’d competed half the course in 2hrs but I’d had to work hard and
hadn’t got off for the steep hills, in fact I was pulling little wheelies on these as I pulled hard on my
The second loop my efforts were starting to tell and my average dropped and I had to stop on the
20% hill where an hour before I had span up
As I trundled into T2 I was happy the bike and those hills were behind me but sat in the marquee
lacing my trainers wondering where I would find a half marathon my legs were back on the bike
The run was essentially a fairly borderline trail run over grass and tracks with lots of sharp
gradients around the 3 lap course.
The support was out in force lots of huge encouragement and music.
I quickly became aware that if I didn’t watch it I would miss the cut off. I had run walked the first 2
laps and got passed the point where they pulled you off the course.
I got chatting to a another athlete at the feed station and he said it all finished at 3.30 and it was
only 38 minutes to go. I had to find 3 10 min miles in quick order otherwise it was all for nought!
I’m not going to elaborate too much but it was possibly one of the hardest things I have ever done,
that last 30 minutes.
As I hit the edge of the main area the announcer said we have another finisher out there and he is
very close 🙂 this was was me.
The noise and a high five from the announcer meant I was off down the chute with a tear in my eye
to collect my Ironman medal.
An amazing day which I will never forget and lots of lessons learnt!