As soon as I had completed Ironman Austria in 2016 I knew straight away I wanted to do another one, although I am pretty sure I said to Kathryn at about mile 20 of the run Austria I was never doing another effing Ironman 😀

Kirsten my very understanding wife made it clear if I was going to do another Ironman it had to be when she and Ellora my daughter could come and watch as it was to stressful tracking me via the Ironman tracker so that narrowed my options down to a few European races that were in the school holidays, it was a toss up between Maastricht and Kalmar, Maastricht was slightly earlier which meant it wouldn’t effect our holiday plans so decision made I entered

I also made the decision to do a standalone marathon and entered Brighton, a decision on reflection I wish I hadn’t made, although I loved the Brighton marathon experience, it was the hardest race I have ever done due to a few things but mainly the heat, I soon realised training properly for a marathon didn’t fit with training for an Ironman and although my running was In great shape I was not getting the base bike miles in through the early months of the training

The marathon training also took its toll on my body and I picked up my first real injury in my 3 years of triathlon with a very tight ITB band which manifested it’s self with a very painful knee which meant reducing the run volume down to manage it, and this along with some sports massage and stretching meant I could carry on running but was told to not run for more than an hour which meant no long runs – I did a few 90 min runs in the final few weeks of training for a bit of a confidence boost

Post Brighton I was happy with my swim and bike training, I crammed in the bike miles, I am lucky I can get a mid week 50k commute to work on the bike and with a Sunday long ride which finished with 3 100 mile sportives in June and July including 2 with over 2000m of climbing, and the results started to look good with a strong PB at the Slateman and my first sub 6 hour Middle distance at Marlow, I was in a good frame of mind for Maastricht.

So come August it was of we headed, Karrie was travelling with us – I will let her tell her race story, Maastricht is so easy to get to being only 200 miles from Calais, we had been out in May to check out the bike route and hotel so we knew our way round, we headed straight to registration and the race briefing which is when the nerves start to build and when you hear the great Paul Kaye taking you know you are at an Ironman race

Saturday was spent sorting out the transition bags which usually means packing and unpacking them about 10 times to check I hadn’t forgot anything ,Karrie and I managed to get out for a 45 min spin on the bike to to ease the nerves and the legs ,we then headed over to transition to rack our bikes and bags in the afternoon and headed out for some food fairly early and then back to the hotel for bed ,I actually slept pretty well until my alarm went off at 4am ,trying to get ready quietly in a hotel room in the dark is not easy so I ended up eating my breakfast in the bathroom ,it was my standard pre race breakfast of a tin of rice pudding

We had a 5am taxi booked so I went I knocked for Karrie and we headed down and meet another lady who was racing Genevieve who was sharing the taxi with us ,it was only a short drive to transition and we were at our bikes by 5:20 ,its was dark and a bit chilly and you could feel the nervous tension in the air ,we were racked next to the pro’s and it was good to see them going through there pre race routine and to be honest they all seemed to be faffing as much as everyone else

As the sun came up it started to warm up and it was clear it was going to be great weather and it was soon time to get in out wetsuits and get down to the swim start,Maastricht was a rolling start and you seed yourself in timed pens and joined the 1:20 pen and it was soon time for my first comedy wee moment of the day ,I always need a pre race wee in my wetsuit so I walked of and found a bit of space and started to wee only to find out I had 2 small holes in the groin area of my wetsuit which resulted in a shower of wee coming out of my wetsuit

It took about 20 mins for us to reach the start and after a quick hug and good luck to Karrie it was time to go,you entered via a small ramp and the first thing I noticed was how warm the water was ,the swim was a simple out and back along the river Maas with a Aussie exit across a small island half way up ,you swim against the current for the way up and to be honest I didn’t feel it to much and felt strong and got in a nice rhythm and I had Colin in my ear saying bubble bubble breath ,you swim under a number of bridges which were packed with supporters and you could hear them shouting and clapping ,I reached the Aussie exit at half way and looked at my Garmin and it was 45mins which I was happy with as I knew I had the current going back ,at around 2.5k I seemed to be going past people who were starting to flag and I felt strong and could feel the benefit of the endless 3k endurance swims at Box end on a Wednesday night ,at around 3.5k you turn again upstream for the final 300m to the finish and a lot of people seemed to be struggling with the current but again I felt good and soon reached the exit and grabbed a helping hand to be pulled up the ramp ,quick look at my Garmin and was delighted to see bang on 1 hr 20 mins which was my planned time ,the splits going up were 2:10 per 100m and coming back 1:30 per 100m so it showed the effect of the current

Into T1 I spotted Kirsten and Ellora and a brief hello an picture I headed into T1 and grabbed my bag and went in the tent to change ,I stuck with my Clothing plan from Austira which was putting on cycle shorts and jersey on over my Tri suit for extra comfort on the bike – out of T1 in 7 mins which I was happy with

The first 10k or so of the bike you are making your way out of the city ,and you then hit the hills ,there are 3 main climbs on each lap of 90k ,they are not huge climbs but do sting on the 2nd lap ,as soon as I got on the bike I started fuelling ,the plan was to eat every 15mins from my top bag where I had a mixture of powershots and chunks of hike bar and then to take half a bannana every hour plus 1 bottle every hour I also took a salt tablet every hour and I stuck with this for the whole bike legs apart from taking some Coke at 150k for a change in taste ,the 3rd climb comes at about 45k and is the hardest ,it’s the Hellembaye and again not overly hard averaging 8% and tops out at around 12% and on this climb there was some great support with music etc and people running alongside you ,after that it’s a few rolling hills and some nice flats as you hit the river and you ride along the river for about 20k which is pan flat and it’s here’s had my second comedy wee moment ,I have never been able to wee on the bike and at about 75k I needed to go and I was in a good rhythm and didn’t want to stop so I thought I would try and go on the bike ,so after a little straining I managed to go only to see wee going everywhere including over my 2 drinks bottles which meant no drinks for about 20 mins until I could swap the bottles at the next feed station ,as I approached the end the first lap I knew I was going a little to quick and completed the first lap in 3:15 which was about 8-10 mins quicker than my plan so I eased back a bit as it warming up and I didn’t want to fry my legs ,at the end of each lap you do a small section of cobbles which shake every bit of your bike and body ,luckily it was only about 500m ,the 2nd lap went by in a blur and I felt strong and concentrated on fuelling and staying hydrated as it was getting really warm and before I knew it I was approaching the city centre again and in to T2 and hit my Garmin 6:48 pretty much bang on my schedule ,as I got of the bike my legs felt OK

Into to T2 and off with the bike gear or so I thought! On with the run visor and trainers a quick wee and head out on the run , as I left I heard the PA guy say it was 30 degrees on the run so I decided to up my salt tablets to every 30 mins ,as I exited T2 I saw Kirsten and Ellora again which was a great boost ,the plan for the run was to run between the aid staions and walk through each one to take in fluids ,this worked well and my legs felt OK and I was maintaining a nice steady 6:30 per Km and ,at around 2k in the run you hit some bars and this countinued the whole way round and it’s the seat of the amazing atmosphere on the run as every one seemed to be in full party mode and with each lap as they drunk more they got louder and louder and by the 3rd and 4th lap it was mental

I got lap 1 don’t in about 1:10 and felt OK ,I saw Kirsten and Ellora who had set up camp by the river and seeing them on each lap was a fantastic boost ,as I hit about 15k I saw Karrie heading out on here first lap and she was in a lot of pain with her leg but was still moving along ,lap 2 done ,slowed slightly but still moving ok at around 6:45 per km

At around 27k I decided to have a couple of orange segments to freshen my mouth which felt horrible ,this was a great idea for about 1 minute as I then projectile vomited twice and emptied my stomach ,I walked for a while to let my stomach settle but as soon as tried to run I started feeling sick again so I knew it was time for the Ironman shuffle which is basically a power walk with some attempt at running mixed in ,I was still able to hold around 8min per km so I just put my head down and knew the finish wasn’t far away ,I saw Karrie again and this time she was sitting on a chair outside a bar with a big strapping guy looking at her leg and I was soon at the end of my 3rd lap and heading out on my final lap which is a lovely feeling and I was making an effort on the final lap to thank all the helpers as they were amazing and it was soon only a few hundred meters to the finish ,you go through a section to pick up a lap band a getting that 4th band is amazing and all the helpers are high fiving you and congratulating you

As you approach the finish area you can here the noise and as I entered the finish shoot area my legs started running again and I couldn’t stop smilling ,I spotted Kirsten and Ellora who were shouting and screaming ,as I reached the bottom of the red carpet I slowed so I could take it all in and I then heard Paul Kaye say the magic words Andrew Keen you are an Ironman

I looked at my Garmin and it showed 13:48 which wish amazing – I was planning on 13:45 to 14 hours so bang on ,after a drink and some food in the athlete area I headed out to meet Kirsten and Ellora and it was here I noticed I had ran the whole marathon on my cycle shorts which would explain why my lower half was boiling hot!

We went out to wait for Karrie to finish and the atmosphere was electric ,and it wasn’t long before we saw here approaching the finish on the big screen and it was amazing to see her complete an Ironman and there is nobody more deserving of the title Ironman with everything she has endured in the last 18 months

After we collected our bikes etc it was back to the hotel and a shower and bed ,I didn’t sleep to well as I was still buzzing ,we got up fairly early and and a fantastic breakfast and the hotel was full of people walking around like John Wayne !

After I checked the results we saw Karrie had finished 3rd in her age group and we had also finished 2nd in the Ironman Tri club championships so we decided to go to the awards ceremony and it was fantastic to go up and collect our awards and see everyone else getting there awards and it was a great way to finish off the event

I loved Maastricht and overall I actually thought it was a better race tan Austira mainly down to the amazing support on the run and would defintley recommend to anyone

I have learnt a few very valuable lessons this year,the first and again it’s personal don’t do a marathon before an Ironman but the main thing I learnt and will be concentrating on more next season and that is the need to look after your body ,Ironman is far more than swim/bike/run ,you need to learn how to look after your body and the 2 most important sessions I do each week are a strength and conditioning class with the brilliant Team Hanson and a yoga class with the amazing Natasha ,these 2 sessions ensure my body can take the stresses and strains of trainging and I certainly think people neglect this in there triathlon training

Will I do another one – hell yeah I will see you in Bolton next July