Ironman California 2022

On 23 October 2022 I finally completed Ironman California. This has been an incredible journey that started in 2019, we booked a special family holiday to California, with Ironman Santa Rosa 2020. As covid swept through the world, Ironman Santa Rosa was first pushed to October, and then subsequently cancelled. This event was replaced for 2021, by Ironman California. This new event had a different location in Sacremento, and a new October date. Not the event I signed up for, but excited nonetheless, we rebooked for Ironman California 2021. Unfortunately the US travel ban was still in place until only a couple of weeks after, which meant that we had to cancel our holiday in 2021, and book once again for 2022. At the time I was disappointed, that is until Ironman California 2021 was cancelled on the morning, whilst everyone was at the startline. There was a terrible storm which made the event unsafe, and impossible to complete. If you believe that things happen for a reason, I would take this as a sign of good fortune that we were spared the awful experience of travelling across the world, only to be faced with a storm and cancellations. Instead, in 2021 we went to Portugal and I completed Ironman Portugal Cascais.

Ironman Portugal 2021

Ironman California 2022 was much more than just an Ironman for me. One day I want to get to Kona, but I’m no where near ready, and the least prepared I’ve ever been. Training, motivation and desire are all important factors, and frankly, the training required has not been a priority for me. I was excited to take part in Ironman California, but I arrived under prepared. For the first time, I didn’t care, I was not chasing finish times, I wanted to get my 6th Ironman done, and finally make amazing memories with my family in California.


Before getting to the main event, I want to take a little time sharing some details of our trip. We split our trip into two. First half in Sacremento, and the second half in San Francisco. We flew to San Francisco and then hired a car to drive to Sacremento. Everything went well, except for when we arrived at Sacremento our hotel had apparently been closed for 3 years. This was clearly a shock considering we booked with Expedia just a few months before, and it was a recommended hotel by them. Not the stress we needed after travelling for over 14 hours, but I was able to sort out over the phone, and Expedia put us in a nicer hotel next door to where we were supposed to stay, compensating us for their error.

Old Town Sacremento

We stayed about a mile walk from Old Town Sacremento, which is where we spent most of our time. We found lots of quaint places in Old Town Sacremento and enjoyed the food a drink. As I’ve always said, I don’t prepare strictly in the coming days, instead, enjoy my holiday with my family. This means eating and drinking what I want.

Ironman California expo

On the first morning we went straight to the expo. The process was very quick. Its funny how different things were at the USA Ironman, but also the same. Its hard to explain, everything felt bigger and more grand, but there were a few organisational bits that I think were done better in the European events I have completed. The reality is each event is different and organised differently, with the same overall structure and support of Ironman.

The expo at Ironman California was very narrow, but we got there early and beat the queue; the expo actually opened about 20 minutes before it was supposed to. I picked up my timing chip first (which I’m used to collecting at bike racking), then we were assigned numbers, rather than personalised numbers, this meant things moved much quicker. We then picked up a bag (which I think is my favourite to date), swim cap and transition bags.

My family could not join me for check in, but I was only there for a couple of minutes, before we all went into the merchandise tent. I picked up an event t-shirt, which shows just how many competitors there were, with a background square of names as well as the usual M dot. It was clear this would be the biggest Ironman I’ve ever entered. I also picked up an event branded visor, and the kids both got a cap.

We then checked the kids in for Ironkids. There were 3 races: the toddler Trot, half mile (which Amelie completed) and the mile (which Benjamin completed). At check in the kids received a draw string bag, a t-shirt, bib and a fidget toy.


I had hired a bike with PlayTri who were an official bike provider for the event. Fitting took about 20 minutes, and all I had to bring for the bike was my pedals. I had a bike which was as good as my normal bike, and got to take it away with me. The good thing about hiring the bike is that you also don’t have to worry about bike check out, as they take the bike after you finish and leave a bag with your bits in its place. I thought the service was fantastic, and grateful to be using this service after making my original booking for Ironman Santa’s Rosa 2020.

Ironman California

After the expo I left my family in Starbucks and Target, and cycled my bike back to the hotel and came back to meet them for lunch. It was perfect timing, and it was great making the expo work for us rather than take over the day.

Family time

On Saturday afternoon we spent more time in Sacremento, and returned in the evening for the Day of the Dead festival. We were so lucky to be around for this festival, and we had the opportunity to make a Sugar Skull to denote our recently departed Grandma/ Great Grandma.

Day of the Dead festival


We got up early to make our way to the start line for Iron kids. It was a fantastic set up with kids crossing the official Ironman finish line. Mike Reilly led the warm up for the kids before the toddler Trot, which was absolutely hilarious. It was a 100 metre toddle to the finish and so cute and inclusive. After all the toddlers had taken part it was time for the half mile, which Amelie ran with Kirsty. This was one lap and she had a great time.

Half mile

Next up was the mile with Benjamin running two laps. He did so well, running against much older kids, and he was easily top 20.


At the finish all the kids were given pancakes and we were a proud family. I’m so glad my children have fun taking part and making these lasting memories.

Ironkids breakfast

Bike Racking

After Ironkids I went ahead to get my bike and drop bags. I was able to complete this whilst my family went for a milkshake, and return not long after them.


The transition area was in the Baseball park which made a great venue. It was so large, to accommodate so many competitors. Racking and transition was probably the most different to what I’ve been used to. You dropped your blue bike bag on the outer section of the stadium in number order, ready to pick up after the swim.

Blue bag check in

You then put your red run bag next to your bike. There was a change tent, but there were no pegs for bags.

Bike check in

Racking was relatively quick. To be fair there is not a lot to consider, you just place your bike and bags in the right place and off you go.


Ironman California 2022

It was an early start on race morning. I aimed to get to transition for just after 5:00 to check my bike and add my fuel. After we made our way to the yellow school buses which transferred us to the swim start area, 2.4 miles away.

Transition before the start

The swim start was only a mile down the road from our hotel, and it was great to see my family at the start for the first time. They have never come to watch me start before, and I’ve never wanted them to drag themselves out at that time in the morning. But considering it was so close, they wanted to see me start, which was lovely.

Ready to start

Swim – 1:02:10

What can I say about the swim. This is a huge PB, and not something I considered I could come close to.

The swim is a point to point swim down river. Naturally I think everyone would have got a PB, it was a fast course, but I really concentrated on technique, and kept my space so I could keep my rhythm.

I lined up with the 1:20 to 1:30 start. I was hoping to go sub 1:30 on this course, which would usually have been a push. I had secretly hoped that the current may have allowed me closer to 1:25, but never thought for a second I would have got to 1:20, let alone almost an hour.

The start of Ironman California

The start was long and in honesty I was disappointed with the energy at the start. I had told my wife and kids about Thunderstruck at the start, and this is clearly not a tradition in the US. It is a narrow start and it took me 38 minutes to get to the beginning. I had let myself relax, normally I am so tense and anxious before jumping into the water, which never helps.

About to start Ironman California

I saw my family before I started which was a nice boost, and then I stayed wide. I got into a great rhythm and had space throughout. We didn’t swim completely straight, as we had to manoeuvre around some shallow water and hazards. This led to being swam in front of and into a few times, which broke my stride a little, but this was by far the most friendly and civilised swim I’ve ever completed. I think this really helped me, as I usually lose a lot of time because I slow when people swim into me. This was just about me and the river.

Swimming at Ironman California

When my watch beeped for the 4th time, marking 2000 metres and approximately half way, I looked at my watch. It said 35 minutes which I could not believe. This gave me a boost and I just put my head down and swam.

As we approached the exit we had to move to the far right side. I got out feeling so great, and when I saw my watch said 1:02:10 it was a pinch myself moment. Yeah, I know it was far easier than most swims, and I’m going to have to train hard to get anywhere near this again, BUT, that doesn’t take away from my time. I usually come out of the water near the end, with most bikes already out of transition, but I was better than around 50% of the field. We all had the same advantage in the swim, and I am so proud of my relative position.

T1 – 14:50

How long… T1 came up a long ramp out of the water. Down and across a road, around 50% of the stadium to get to the main entrance, then once you grab your bag around the outer section, you run around 75% of the stadium, past the change tent, to the field. Once you find your bike you drop your swim gear (now in your bike bag), and get out the bike out section.

I ran easily over a mile in transition, and then made a really quick change. I had carried my wetsuit from the exit where they had volunteers helping competitors out of your wetsuit which helped shave time off.

Bike – 7:43:32

The bike started so well. It is 2 laps of a simple out and back route which is very straight and fairly flat. There are no hard climbs, and on paper, a very fast course. When I got out of the swim I was immediately ranging between 18 mph and 22 mph. I was holding my pace, and approaching the turn of the first quarter I felt great.

I had been thinking about my strategy, and I was being modest on the first quarter. I knew I could push harder, but I didn’t want to risk what was looking like my dream time. I didn’t notice the wind too much, which I later learned was because it was at my back. I had told my wife that my A goal was 6 hours, but I thought I would realistically be closer to 7 as I’ve never cycled a sub 7 leg and my training has been poor to non existent this year. I’m not proud of my lack of training, actually I’m disappointed, but I entered the race being realistic about what I was capable of. But I surprised myself on the first quarter, and I genuinely thought I could keep up the pace. I finished in 1:30 and thought that a 6 – 6:30 bike leg was on the cards.

Then I turned. As I turned I was almost blown off my bike, and I hit a wall of wind. I remember something similar in Ironman Kalmar, but this was on a different scale. I had been riding over 20 mph and trying to save myself for the later stages, thinking about how I would try to pick up the pace in the second half. Then all of a sudden I was riding 9 mph and having to work very hard just to keep moving forward. The next 28 miles were agony, pretty much against a strong head wind the entire way.

I had a lot of time to think whilst on my bike. The lack of training took its toll, and I really struggled, but in fairness I wasn’t overtaken by too many people. I later learned that everyone found it hard and during the run I ran with so many people who spoke about how tough it was. My wife told me that she heard that lots of people had to retire on the bike, with a few being blown off the bike and one breaking their collar bone. It was a bloody hard ride.

The 2nd quarter I finished in 2 hours, so 3:30 for the first half. I had hope that the 3rd quarter would be fast again, but by this turn the wind seemed to be against me in all directions. The 2nd quarter had clearly zapped my legs, so although I was able to increase my speed slightly, it was nothing compared to the 1st.

I started thinking about the event that was cancelled in 2021, and the storm. With the difficulty of the wind during this event I am not surprised it was cancelled. There were a couple of sections that clouds of dust were blown over us, and some places that I struggled to stay on my bike moving forward.

I worked hard on the bike and the amazing start of swim and first quarter just disappeared. But I was going to get it done, and that was the main goal. On the long ride back I got a puncture at around 109 miles, this put me back a few minutes, but was not the end of the world. I kept moving forward and by this time I knew I was going to be a 6 time ironman finisher.

Seeing my family on the bike course

I had not expected to see my family until the run, but they surprised me by being at the end of the ride, which was such a great boost for me. It always brightens my day to see them, but moreso when I get to stop and hear what fun they have had.

I was pleased to get off the bike. Not the time I wanted, and not the time I thought I was going to get. I dropped a number of places on the bike, but still in the top 60% of the field. Of course there are a lot of much faster athletes, but many were slower on this course and it gave me some comfort on the way back that I wasn’t alone. I was now moving onto the run, and I knew I would get it done.

Finishing Ironman California bike

T2 – 10:38

I had hoped that T2 would be quicker, but they make you work for it again. When you bike in you have to do at least a lap of the stadium on the run out. So although I was very quick to change, it was a long transition again.

Run – 5:11:08

Out on the run I saw my family right at the start. I stopped for a cuddle and a quick chat about their day. I don’t want my family just waiting around for me, so it’s really important to me to know they are having fun, and it sounds like they were having more fun than me for sure.

Cuddles on the run course

I started off at around a 10:30 min mile, and frankly I had no desire to pick up the pace. I was aching from the bike, and had nothing to prove. If I had done a quicker time on the bike then this would have been motivation to run a faster marathon. I didn’t want to push harder and risk being a mess at the end, instead I wanted to get through it and enjoy the rest of my holiday with my family, so that’s what I did.

Ironman California run

I kept a consistent pace on the run for the entire marathon. Running around a 10 – 10:30 min mile pace throughout, I walked through every aid station. I love the Ironman aid stations, they have everything you need. I found myself following the same routine going through the aid stations which were roughly every mile: drinking a coke or red bull, eating a cup of crisps, then drinking a cup of water.

This was my slowest Ironman run of all time, but I didn’t care. I spent the whole run overtaking people, I felt strong and I enjoyed the single lap marathon. At mile 8.5 I passed old town Sacremento and saw my family again. Then the next 10 miles got dark, and we ran through a park with tall trees. Hearing Coyotes in the pitch black was a new experience. I shared stories with other Ironman, and at around mile 13 we were given head torches, which was a great safety measure.

6 time Ironman finisher

At mile 20 we turned into town. It felt like forever until we got to the finish laps, where we had 3 2 mile laps before the finish. This section got busy, and there were a good mix of paces.

Ironman California

I finished the run in the top 30 % of starters, and although I could have gone faster, I know if I did I would have really struggled at the end. Instead, I finished feeling good, and walked with my family to Old Town to celebrate.

At the finish we were given a medal bigger than any ironman medal I’ve seen before. The t-shirt was the quality I’ve come to expect, but we were also given a finishers cap and a flag. There was finishers food, but I didn’t go anywhere near it, instead I went with my family back to the Railyard for beer and a pizza.

Celebrate with a beer

Ironman California overview – 14:22:16

Success is relative. In truth I would have liked to have completed faster, especially after my performance in the swim. I still cannot believe how quickly I completed the swim. The first quarter of the bike I felt great, and at this point I genuinely thought I would be on for a huge PB, but I did not expect that wind to pick up. It doesn’t matter what the profile of a course looks like, conditions on the day can make a huge difference. Just think, let year the event was cancelled because of the conditions. This year I heard 100’s of people on the run talk about it being the hardest bike they have ever done. One person had completed 8 Ironman in USA including Ironman chattanooga, and they said that was the most brutal bike they have ever completed.

No matter how fast you can go, completing an Ironman is a great achievement, and a finish is all I have been aiming for. Usually I am pretty low down in my age group, and as an example, I finished almost an hour quicker at Ironman Cascais, and was around 1100 out of 1300 (top 85%). At Ironman California 2022 I took the run very steady, I was happy with what I had done, and I finished 1468 out of 2608 finishers (top 56%). That is a great improvement. But there was a big drop out of participants. I am not entirely sure how many, in registration some were saying there were up to 4000 participants, someone else said 3,200. In the official results there are results for 3,002, so taking the minimum, that gets me in top 50%. So one of my slowest finish times, but by far my best finish position. This Ironman was tough, but I conquered it.

Ironman California 2022

Whilst I was completing Ironman California, my family were playing golf, eating lots of food, and exploring all the shops in Old Town. Great memories.

San Francisco

After a great big breakfast the day after Ironman California we drove back to San Francisco to finish off an incredible holiday. We have been waiting for 3 years for this holiday, but it was definitely worth the wait. So many happy memories, too much to mention, but here are some of the highlights.

Pier 39 and exploring the amusements

Pier 39



Biking across Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito

Family biking
Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

Until next time. Find those you love and go on adventures and make happy memories.

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