Reflections on Ironman UK 2015

It's bloody agony, racing Ironman, and no mistake. Don't let anyone tell you any different. That marathon is just pure suffering. This is the main thought that I come away with at the end of the day of spectating.

But I want to do another. I know it's insane, having watched for hours as grimacing faces limped and bobbed past, their tortured bodies an insulting imitation of their usual grace. But I want to do another.

I watched the battle play out at the front of the men's race - and it was a battle this year. David McNamee running down Frazer Cartmel, Joe Skipper's desperate chase, Victor Del Coral silently stalking the lot of them.

Lucy Gossage way out in front, but there was no sign of her taking it easy and cruising home. She pushed the whole way. Behind her Caroline Livesey in no-womans-land, a ten minute cushion to third, but then we all know how fast ten minutes can disappear in an Ironman. She kept pushing like she knew that all too well. Ele Haresign and Alice Hector locked in a back and forth for the last 10km, pushing each other all the way to the line.

At the finish, it's carnage. There's nothing left in any of them, vacant eyes, a body that has held together for so long has done it's job and is shutting down. Athletes put their hand on their knees, look at the floor, they sway slightly.

Some of them, there's quad cramps and hamstring cramps. Some lie down. Grown men in tears.

Lucy Gossage crosses the line like a disco dancer, the Duracell bunny, screaming "Yes! Yes!!" and immediately sprints back off up the red carpet to high five every child and parent on both sides of the finish area. I think - how much training must have gone in over the last year, the last five years, for her to be able to push so hard and still be in good shape after the finish? Impressive isn't the word.

Alice gets there in front of Ele, but by less than a minute, and as she crosses the line Ele is in the finish chute, up on the big screen. They both collapse to their knees, embrace, friends now the titanic battle is over, neither of them able to get up off the floor without help.

The music and cheering of the crowd, the huge television screens juxtaposed against the agony of the finish area.

The top age groupers come through, podium bound and possibly Kona bound too. Some are in great shape, finishing strong, exchanging fist pumps with their pals. Others cross the line with the thousand yard stare, into the carpet, hands on knees, reaching for the med crew, having pushed past their limits and headed to the IV and the med tent for a good while yet. When the body reacts like this, the race isn't finished at the line. I've been there a couple of times, I chuckle to myself.

In the background, you can make out the age groupers, directed back away from the finish chute and back out for another loop, or two, or three. Some are running well. Some are not running well, but they're not giving up the run yet. Some  are happy just to be moving.

The crowds at the barriers in Bolton town centre are two, sometimes three deep, cheering them on, cheering them towards home. In this crew, this is where the real IIronman drama is starting to play out. In some of their heads, they just want the finish line, no matter how, regardless of long walk and foil blanket and shivering into the night. Some are laps ahead, maybe a couple of Ironman races into their career, and they're getting better and faster each year, and you can sense it on them. They're starting to figure this Ironman thing out. They're swimming smoother each month, riding faster, holding that aero position for longer, running better of the bike each time. You can almost see the obsession in their eyes and read in their faces - I'm getting better and I love it.

Darkness falls and more cross the line, elated. Yet more turn away from the finish, shepherded on to another lap and into the night, towards their own battles with mental maths and cut off times and the thoughts of whether that knee or this ankle will hold out.

I leave, eventually, head home to the long suffering family with thoughts of doing another bouncing round my brain. And it might not be even be possible, I think, as I feel the familiar and very unwelcome ache in my Achilles that has plagued me for five years. But just imagine if ....