Written by Ian Dempsey
Staffordshire Ironman 70.3 was definitely not on the agenda this year. Well, not until I heard about #TeamLucy. After last year’s age-group win at the same race, being the first amateur across the line and having fantastic home support, I didn’t believe it could be topped. I had such incredible memories of my first Ironman age-group win that I decided not to come back this year. Instead, I focused all of my attention on Ironman UK in July. This was until I learnt that that Lucy Gossage had a put a team together to raise money for the ‘Teenage Cancer Trust’. I have raised money over the years for various charities but this caught my attention as a great reason to return to the Staffs 70.3. I contacted Lucy and she confirmed my team place. A week or so later myself and my partner Sophie travelled down to London for the team brief. The inspiring trip included learning about The Teenage Cancer Trust, listening to everyone’s stories, speaking to Lucy and listening to the staff from the charity. I was excited about the amazing charity I’d become involved with.
Last year the 30-34 age group wave started behind the pro’s allowing me clear water & road. Luck was on my side again; stepping up an age-group this year to 35-39’s, Ironman had planned for this age group to start behind the pro’s. The fastest swimmers start first which meant I was at the front of the pack. I’ve been in great swimming form this year, coming out the water at challenge Fuerterventura in 23:06 and two weeks ago I swam a 19:03 for 1500m at the Castle series Lough Cutra Olympic distance. My Friend Nigel Gaskin, a top swimmer, was next to me and I thought this could work in my favour. I planned to keep him in my sights which I knew would ensure that I wasn’t too far off the front. I felt strong & smooth, although when I got out of the water my time wasn’t what I expected. It turns out we had swum slightly long, but still made it out in the top three.
My nemesis in triathlon has become my strength. Put down to hard work throughout the winter, expert advice from my coach, Joel Jameson and ongoing support from my bike sponsors Bridgetown Cycles, I have a new confidence that allows me to enjoy riding my sponsored Trek speed concept race bike. I know the road out of Chasewater is harsh, in hindsight I should have used common sense and taken it easy but the competitive side of me took over; I raced hard, straight away and BOOM… there goes my water bottle and eight energy gels. I was reluctant to turn around to pick it up so I carried on, planning to pick up alternative nutrition on the course. Happy to be in first place I started to pick up my wattage, quickly working up to a 280-watt average. I had pulled clear, had no one in sight and I felt good. Although I didn’t do well at collecting the extra nutrition as before I knew it, I was at the bottom of the final climb with 10k to go. The weather had taken a turn and it began to heavily rain but remaining positive; I believed this would help me on the run. I took the final descent carefully, knowing that sharp bends on a wet road isn’t easy. Heading into Shugborough, my family & friends were waiting to greet me; these guys are unbelievable! They stood out in that awful weather to cheer me on and it was inspirational; I can’t thank them all enough. Heading into T2, I quickly checked my time; 2:31, it was not what I expected but I was still in the lead.
Happy with transition and still buzzing from seeing my partner, son, Mom and all my friends it was time to get down to business. My running so far this year has been a little up and down but it is still my strongest discipline. The first lap of the run was lonely, the pros were 15-30mins up the road and I was the first amateur on the course. When I turned back into the estate my spirits were lifted thanks to the support from Max and the guys at Teenage Cancer Trust. I managed a smile but didn’t feel my usual self. This was the worst I have ever felt on a run. At one point I was wobbling around and struggling to stay focused. Suffering from the lack of nutrition on the day was a big lesson learnt. I had a word with myself, ran back towards the support and then there was only one more lap. Seeing the 12-mile sign was a great feeling and before I knew it, I was on the red carpet and racing to the finish line. It was not the energetic finish I had enjoyed last year, but I had the honour of being the first amateur to cross the line, High Five-ing all of the support along the way. I felt empty crossing the line and it was all a bit of a blur. The one thing I do remember is seeing my partner, Sophie, my son, Will and the big smile of Lucy Gossage. I know Lucy had her own problems throughout the race but was still the first female Pro over the line. Lucy is a top athlete, a great person and I’m pleased to say the team have so far raised over £14,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust, a remarkable achievement by everyone involved!
I am delighted to have won my age group. My day didn’t really go to plan; all three of my splits were down, but this actually fills me with encouragement that if I can win when I’m not at my best, I can feel optimistic for the rest of the season. The bigger picture is that #TeamLucy raised an incredible amount of money and as I head towards Ironman UK, I will continue my fundraising. I have the upmost respect for all the team who have helped raise a superb amount for the worthiest of causes.