Going Long: Abby Sanderson’s journey to the Bolton Ironman


19.02.20 at 4:40 pm

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Have you ever thought about doing an ironman or really long sportive but decided that it was just impossible – physically, mentally and logistically? Well, it’s time to think again, because The Draft is going to be following three people who are ‘going long’ this year. They’re not professionals – they are people trying to fit this in around work (4am wake-ups for training), family (kids) and friends (who just don’t ‘get’ why they’re doing this). We will be with them through their training highs, work-life balance bumps and the event itself. First up is…

Name: Abby Sanderson

Event: Bolton Ironman

Date: 12 July 2020

Weeks to event: 20

Tell us a bit about yourself? I live in Formby, Merseyside, and have two children aged 7 and 10. I am self-employed and have two clubs: ‘All the gear no idea’ and Mersey Tri. I ride a Dolan DR1. I am very much a runner turned triathlete.

What turned you? My brother. He has a rather strange sense of humour when it comes to the idea of birthday gifts: he signs me up to events. The first was Southport half marathon in 2013. The thought of 13.1 miles made me feel sick. But I did it. So when Christmas rolled around he then entered us into the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon. It made me wonder whether he loved me or hated me. And then we moved from marathons to a 50km Canalathon and the 100km Race to the Stones (13hrs 44mins, completed to celebrate my brother’s 40th). Then (perhaps unsurprisingly) we lost our mojo for running, so my brother suggested a triathlon. I hated swimming and my bike had a basket on the front, so it wasn’t for me.

We are sensing there is a but… There is. We went swimming together and the sibling rivalry kicked in. I bought goggles and a hat, did some research and joined Merseytri. It’s amazing how quickly you can move from 25m without rest to 50m, to 100m and so on. Soon after I was swimming in Liverpool Docks as we prepared for Southport triathlon in 2018. It was great and annoying at the same time. I realised I had to do more training and invest in a better bike (I had used my dad’s antique Claude Butler!).

Leaving the water from the swim leg

That’s when you got your Dolan. Indeed. I got a DR1. You could say I’d got the triathlon bug by then. We signed up to Southport again (in 2019) and the new bike definitely helped (sorry dad!). It was then only a matter of time before the idea of a half ironman came up. I upped my cycling, doing various sportives but was very much the ‘green’ girl – my chain came off in one and I had to play the damsel in distress; I didn’t know what to do and there were 98 miles to go. And then completed the Cholomendely Castle half ironman.

Getting the bike race ready

Which brings us to 2020. It’s my 40th this year so what better way to celebrate than making the jump up to ironman?

Why Bolton? A few different reasons really. It’s UK-based, so my family and friends can come and support me. It’s also expensive to do an ironman so I was looking to keep the costs down as much as possible. Given that it’s Bolton I can also train on the cycling route, which will help.

Anything you are particularly worried or excited about? My main concern is making the cut offs. I also had to think hard about how to fit the training in around life – including two children. They actually think the whole thing is perfectly normal – my daughter told me she hadn’t run enough as she still had all her toenails! Some friends think I am bonkers whilst others totally ‘get’ why I am so hooked. My dad thinks I’m crazy and wonders how I didn’t get injured running the half marathon that kick-started all this.

Are you following a training programme? I’m following a DonFink training programme alongside my own one. I’m trying to get the balance between being focussed and progressive with my training but also realistic with all the other demands in my life. It’s going well so far, but I still feel like it’s not enough. Perhaps that’s the negative demons in my head that appear from time to time. The step up in time commitment is huge but I’m managing it. I was finding that although I’m happy to bike in the rain I have struggled with training on the bike through winter, so I’ve bought a turbo trainer. I run and swim whenever I can fit it in. Tuesdays and Wednesdays I train with Merseytri, which is great as I get some coaching, train with people who are better than me and that makes me work harder. It’s also nice to train and socialise. But it’s not just physical training I’ve been doing. After that chain incident I asked a bike mechanic friend to give me some tips. I still get the fear of having a puncture of problem but now I should be able to deal with it. That’s if my hands are working.

What do you mean? I have Reynauds, but really badly so I struggle all year round with the temperature. This really worries me. For example, after completing the swim at Southport tri my hands were so cold that I struggled to get changed. I also have an underactive thyroid, which I’m pleased to say is just about under control but has interrupted training due to heart palpitations (which is sometimes quite scary when swimming in open water).

Ironman Bolton

And how about nutrition? Does all the training mean you can eat whatever you want? I’ve changed my diet to plant-based but I’m keeping fish, eggs and millionaires (guilty pleasures I just can’t give up). However, I know my nutrition is not quite right as I am losing weight. Nutrition for the actual ironman is at the planning and research stage and is becoming a bit of a priority. I feel happy with my strategy for the run, but as for the bike and prior to the swim … well, I need to do some research.

We will be back to check in with Abby in a couple of months to see how she is going.

If you are preparing for an Ironman this year, be sure to protect yourself and your equipment with our bicycle insurance. 

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