No, this isn't an obituary, just something that appealed to me when we received it, as suitable content to brighten up a dull week in February, during which planning this year's trips has taken priority over actually going on them.
Sue has some interesting former colleagues. We came close to one of them, Alan Judd, when we watched the Ironman event in Taupo on 1 March last year. Sixty year old Alan had a relatively uneventful time when he completed 'Ironman Taupo' in New Zealand in 12 hours 41 minutes, about half way down the 1200 strong field.
In contrast, another of Sue's erstwhile colleagues, Paul Skipper, pictured above [Picture - Chris Banks Photography] winning last year's Wilmslow Triathlon - a 400 metre swim, 23.8 km bike ride and 6.7 km run - in a record time of 1 hour 2 min 13 secs, had a rather more eventful 'Ironman Experience' at last year's big event in Holland.
It was Paul who gave Sue the nutrition advice that got her through our 'Italian Border Route' escapade last year. She knew he had taken part in a big event whilst we were away. Here's Paul's response to Sue's 'how did it go?' message.
Just got back from Holland. Had an eventful race!
Was hoping for 10 hours 30 mins, maybe going sub 10 hours if all went well on the day. I set 12 hours as my bronze standard goal and just finishing within the 15 hour cut off time as the main aim as anything can happen in an Ironman.
The swim went well. It was around 200 metres longer than expected (around 2.5 miles) so took an hour rather than 57 mins. I really enjoyed it; despite the mass start from a beach there wasn't too much argy-bargy.
The bike ride was 3 x 60k laps. I was hoping to take 5hrs 15 mins on the bike, 5 hours 30 mins if things didn't go to plan. I can ride 4 hours 40 mins pace but not run a marathon afterwards! Should be able to do 5 hours dead but thought a conservative pace was the way forward.
120k into the bike ride (two laps) I was feeling really fresh, the easy pace was paying off, nutrition strategy was working really well, and I was 1 hour 30 mins inside the 5 hours 15 mins pace, and feeling as though I*d easily hold that pace for the last lap.
It was all going too well!
As I accelerated out of a corner the next thing I knew I was on the deck. I didn't realise it at the time but my forks had snapped!
Apparently I was out for a couple of minutes but think I was just a bit dazed and confused as there was no warning of the crash.
Luckily a mate saw the whole thing and rushed over to help. At the time I wanted to clear my head and get back on my bike, not realising the forks had snapped. We tried to get a another bike but with no luck, until a local lad came up and said he only lived 5 minutes away and I could borrow his training bike.
My knees were a bit swollen and I had a fair bit of road rash everywhere else. Cleaned myself up best I could and after about 30 minutes I was on my way. His bike wasn't quite the super light, super aero uber machine I was riding, but as long as it held up for 60k I was back in the game. All be it disqualified for outside assistance.
I made it round, pushed harder than I should have done and still lost another 25 minutes because of the bike, but a 6 hour 15 minute bike ride still gave me 7 hours to complete the marathon and beat the cut off.
When I arrived in transition there were two officials waiting for me, informing me of my DQ and trying to persuade me to get myself sorted in the medical tent.
I knew I'd just seize up even more if I stopped, so I just thanked them for letting me continue, all be it DQ'd.
A quick stretch, knees were not looking good ... lathered the sun cream on thick (stung a bit!) as it was 29 degrees C, and set
out on the 3 x 14k marathon course. I can run a flat marathon in sub 3 hours. (My original 10 hours 30 mins target broke down to 1hr
swim, 5:30 bike, 4hr marathon, but I needed 5:15, 3:45 for a sub 10 hour result, which is kind of the holy grail for Ironman racing.)
All targets were kind of out of the window. I wanted to at least run half without walking; really 2/3 was the aim. The later you can stave off the 'death march' the better. It's so hard to get going again once you've stopped once.
You've lost the mental battle.
The marathon was tough; I had a good strategy with sponges on shoulders and neck to try to avert overheating. Forced the nutrition down even though the thought of another sickly energy gel was really not appealing. The Extran energy drink on offer was horrendous so I had to go with plan B which was 3 gels with water rather than 2 an hour.
Got round the first 14k without too much difficulty. Achilles flared up at 18k. Given that I*d injured it 4 weeks ago and hardly run on it since, it had held up pretty well. It felt like it was a rubber band about to snap but generally eased over the next few k's. I'm not sure whether it got better or whether everything else just started to hurt more! Made it around the 2nd lap too with out having to stop. Still keeping cool with 4 sponges wedged under my top & now on flat coke as well for the caffeine hit.
My pace slowed a little on the last lap, running closer to 6 min k's than 5 min. Had one really bad patch but managed to keep shuffling. At 36k my quads were very close to cramp so I took the tactical decision to walk up the one incline on the course and have a quick stretch. The first leg eased of nicely, but as I stretched the second my quad eased but my hamstring started to spasm. So I thought 'enough of that', and started jogging again.
The final 5k along the dyke to the finish was pretty painful but I just about kept going all the way. Crossed the line in 10 hours 54 minutes to a massive ovation. It seemed like the whole town had heard what had happened and got behind me.
I was given a finisher's T-shirt and medal for my efforts despite officially being DQ'd. So lucky a mate was there to help and that someone lent me their bike. Surprisingly didn't feel too bad. Had some food in the recovery area, but decided not to sit down as I thought I might never stand again! Then tried to see how the others had got on. Brad aka the 'machine' finished in 9:50 so it would have been a pretty close race between us if not for my crash. He was now in a bad way with heat stroke. Rob B had to pull out on the run and Rob W was still to finish and when he did was in the medical tent for 3 hours receiving 2 drips.
Not quite sure how I felt so good. Managed a beer and a burger then set too getting all the gear packed up.
All in all a mixed day. Very happy to get round. Might have to do another one now as know if things go right a fast time is on the cards.
Been back a couple of days now, hard to tell what aches are from the race and what are from the crash! Everything still hurts but a little bit less each day.
Hopefully Paul will make an appropriate comment on this posting, and will keep 'Outdoor Activities' (after all, he is a local lad) updated regarding his own version of outdoorsy exploits.
Thank you Paul for this entertaining little interlude; regular readers will be grateful as they have been spared more 'Tales from the Bridgewater Canalside'...