Over the last few years I have dragged myself round self 'Iron' distance triathlons and concluded I wasn't getting any faster. They no longer scared me and without the 'fear' I just wasn't putting the hours of training in to do the events justice. I needed a new challenge, something that would push me that bit further and motivate me to train that bit further, so I entered Double Enduroman 2014. The event is made up of 4.8 miles of swimming, 230 miles of cycling and 2 marathons to round the whole thing off. It is run as a continuous event, the clock starts when you start and doesn't stop until you cross the finish line. You can stop to rest, eat, change clothes, have your head examined any time providing your rejoin the course at the same point you left it but the clock is ticking all the time.
The swim was set in a tranquil little lake and was beautifully calm. The start was incredibly civilised the 25 or so entrants stood nervously chatting on the lakeside as the organiser said 30 seconds to go, no one had got it the water yet, there was no hurry. Ten seconds to go, by now most of us had waded in to waist deep water and were putting on our goggles. Go, there wasn't the usual splash and frantic waving of arms legs the first few competitors gently pushed off whilst those behind waited a second for some clear water before pushing off too - this most definitely wasn't a sprint. Being a small lake to get the required distance we had to clock up 28 laps of the lake which may sound monotonous but I found it quite a nice lap size as it was never that far to the next marker and broke the swim down to manageable chunks. Keeping track of how many laps you had done does require some concentration fortunately there were lap counters sat on deck chairs on a jetty, as you passed them you had to shout your number out. I settled into a comfortable steady (slow) rhythm and really enjoyed the swim, there was small beach where you could stop and get some food and drink or take a breather but I didn't bother - I didn't want to break my rhythm or get cold. After 2hr 50min I clambered out of the lake, it was the furthest I had ever swum before by nearly 2 miles and was comfortably within my target time of 3 hours.
The route from the lake to the bike racking went through the camping field where many of the competitors and support crews had pitched tents and parked camper vans, some competitors stopped off at their camp to change and get some food I headed straight to the changing marquee where with the assistance of my support crew, Rachel I completely changed, thoroughly dried myself off and even put on socks I wanted to be as comfortable as possible for the ride ahead. I headed out to the bike racking where my 2 bikes where waiting, the organisers allowed you to use as many bike as you wanted for the event provided they were checked in before the event. I had set my training bike up with lights ready for the onset of night but planned to do as many miles as possible on my tri bike before it got dark. The bike course was 20 laps of an 11 mile course, with the lap finishing on the notorious Braggers Lane Hill, I didn't think it was much of a hill on the first lap but by lap 5 I was wishing I had a few more gears.
I really enjoyed the bike section, I quickly settled into a steady pace banging out laps every 35 minutes. I had no idea I was doing compared to everyone else I knew I'd passed a few people after getting on the bike but with laps it was difficult to keep track. After 4 laps my support crew told me I was upto 4th place, this gave me a real mental boost and I continued ticking off the miles. On the 8th lap I high a bump on the road and broke a spoke on the rear wheel, I twisted the broken spoke around an adjacent one to stop it flailing round and rode carefully round the rest of the lap. Once back at race a HQ I quickly whipped the wheel off and swapped it with the one on my second bike and I was back off again, briefly stopping every other lap to take fluids and food. By lap 10 I had worked my way upto first place and started to pull out a lead. After 18 laps, 207miles of cycling it was getting dark and all competitor were told to put their lights on, my planned quick change onto my second bike was complicated by needing to swap wheels back. Just before 10pm I finished the 230mile cycle in under 13 hours and had pulled out a 45 minute lead, all I had to do now was survive the 2 marathons!
The run route was 48 laps of a 1.1 mile of road course the first half of which was down hill this of course meant the second half was uphill. The first few laps I ate and drank loads, I was feeling pretty good but knew it was only a matter of time before I started to flag. I plodded along, jogging down the hills walking up them still feeling good albeit slow. Then 10 miles into the run I twisted my ankle on a pothole, I hobbled my way back to the start of the lap where all the support crews were assembled. I got my ankle strapped up by the event medic, took a dose of pain killers and limped by out onto the course after 3 more laps of absolute agony I could go no further.
It was 2am I was sat with my support crew with a throbbing pain in my ankle, I was convinced I could not go another step further and almost ripped the timing chip off my ankle and handed it back to the organiser. The only other option I had was to go to bed and get a couple of hours sleep and hopefully feel better at first light, so I went to bed fully expecting throw the towel when I woke up. Despite being exhausted I couldn't sleep, the pain in my ankle was so intense, I maybe got 45 minutes of rest before I got back up and headed back out onto course aided with walking poles. Every step was painful but with regular top ups of pain killers I was able to hobble on so slowly started to grind away at the laps. For 10 hours I hobbled away and I was onto my last lap. The last lap is run in reverse, this means you get to high five all the other competitors before crossing the finish line. The emotion and adrenaline of the last lap and the sight of the finish line drowned out the pain and I was able to run the 100 yards to the finish line.
I finished in 35 hour 9 minutes, the joy of finishing more than outweighed the hours of pain. This event has greatest atmosphere of any event I have ever done, the support and camaraderie from the other competitors, support crews and event organisers was phenomenal. If you were thinking of doing and Ultra-Triathlon I would definitely recommend looking at this one - I'll be going back.
So where do you go after the double? Well next year I'm going for the Quintuple Enduroman - 5 times further than an Ironman..