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Mr Drury Is Finborough’s ‘Ironman’!

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For most of the Finborough community, the 3rd July 2014 was a date that signalled a well-earned holiday and a chance for some rest and relaxation. For me, it signalled 16 days until I undertook my Ironman UK challenge. It was a tricky balancing act to cram-in some last minute training, whilst not wanting to burn myself out prior to the event. I managed to complete some final preparations during that time, and thankfully, I was able to stay injury-free.

On Friday 18th July, I drove up the M6 towards Bolton. It wasn’t just the proximity to Bolton that got shorter, my nails shrunk significantly too. The evening was spent registering and attending a ‘pasta party’ to receive a pre-race briefing and as many carbohydrates as you could possibly eat. Two platefuls later I was tucked up in bed.

Saturday was a really busy day. This is the day where you trawl around Bolton dropping off all of your gear at the different venues. Firstly, a trip to Pennington Flash to store your bike. Secondly, a drive around the bike course for familiarisation purposes; and thirdly, a trip to the Macron Stadium to drop off your running attire for the marathon. Finally, head back to the hotel to try and get some sleep.

At 3.30am my alarm sounded. I had achieved the grand total of 2 hours sleep. As if it wasn’t going to be tiring enough, I had to do it on 2 hours sleep! Thankfully, my youngest son had been putting me through my paces and regularly reducing my sleeping hours, so I felt 2 hours was actually a lay-in!

I arrived at Pennington Flash at 4.30am and joined the melee of athletes doing final checks on their bikes, and attempting to squeeze their bodies into impossibly tight wetsuits. By 5.45am we were entering the water, looking like a clone army from Star Wars. What followed was a total blur.

At 5.58am the National Anthem sounded out over the loudspeakers, and then, 2 minutes later, the hooter sounded and we were off. The worst thing about swimming 2.4 miles is not the distance. That doesn’t even come second. I must have been pulled, punched, kicked and yanked 100 times in the first 100 metres. Thankfully, this reduced somewhat as the field spread out, and the 2000 entrants found their pace. 1 hour and 20 minutes later I clambered out of the lake and was hit by a wall of noise, as the crowd cheered as if they were teenagers at a ‘One Direction’ concert. There was no time to rest as the wetsuit was ditched and the lycra adorned.

It was 7.30am and I felt like I had already achieved a great deal as I headed out on my carbon-framed machine. I had been warned to expect some hills up in Lancashire, and they were not kidding! It must have been a brilliant day to go shopping in Bolton as it seemed as though the entire town was out in force to cheer us all, on the steepest parts of the course. It was reminiscent of the scenes earlier in the month as Le Tour came to the UK. Seven hours later I couldn’t believe how quickly the bike section had gone, and, I’d actually enjoyed it. That enjoyment lasted all of 10 seconds.

Within 20 yards of starting the run, I knew I was in a world of trouble. Seeing my family did give me a boost which carried me through the first 8 miles. It was at this point where I joined the circuit part of the course (which you have to run around 3 times), and I hit rock-bottom. The realisation that I still had 18 miles to go and nothing left in the tank, was simply heart-breaking. I took a rest at one of the feed stations, composed myself, gritted my teeth, stretched my legs and set off through ‘the wall’. It took me an eternity to complete my first circuit, but receiving my first wristband (you get one every time you complete a lap) was like receiving a shot in the arm. This pattern repeated 2 more times, before I finally received my last wristband and I only had 3 miles left to complete. It was at this stage that my emotions got the better of my and I had to fight back the tears as I pictured seeing my family at the finish line. The physical pain melted away and I started eating up the metres (I was spurred-on by the smell, and knowledge, that I had an unrestricted supply of Domino’s Pizza at the finish line). Having previously run past the finish line 3 times, it was with enormous relief and huge pride that upon seeing my 3 wristbands, the marshal signalled to me to head onto the red carpet. I’m surprised I fitted under the inflatable archway that indicated the finishing straight, as I felt 10 feet tall. The split times say that I covered the last 100m in 14 seconds. Whether that is true or not, hearing the words “Graham, you ARE an Ironman” was a moment that I will never forget.

It had taken me 13 hours, 54 minutes and 27 seconds to complete the 140.6 mile course. Only 5 hours behind the winner and only 968 places behind the winner. Of course it was never about the ‘race’ aspect for me.  Knowing I was raising money for such a great cause, Scope, and knowing I had so many people from Finborough supporting me, was all the motivation I needed. I sincerely thank every single person who sponsored me, wished me good luck, and took an interest in what I was doing. You have no idea how much of a part you played in my journey.

Mr Drury