Been there, done that, got the t-shirt

Firstly let me acknowledge how shit I’ve been updating this thing and for that i apologise but in busy times something has to give and quite frankly this is nothing more than an indulgence.

Today marks two weeks since i officially became an Ironman and it’s still settling in.

Before i get into the event let me wind the clock back about 5 weeks when i took part in Endure24 which is a 24 hour trail running event. People can take part as part of a relay team, a pair or even solo and essentially the event is based around how many of the 5 mile laps you can complete in the 24 hour period. This was the second time I’d done this event and it was to be the last main thing running wise i would do before the Ironman.

I was in a team of four and over the course of the event i managed 6 laps which is what I’d aimed for in order to get the miles through my legs without tiring them out too much and risking an injury so close to the big day. I was happy with my overall performance given that it fell on some of the hottest days of the year, so much so that I’m pretty sure i drank well over 6 litres of fluids during the event!

Due to my shifts i was forced to finish off my swim training in the pool and managed the distance but realised that being in the chlorine pit for so long was beginning to play havoc with my sinuses so again i was worried about catching a cold, etc so close to the event but fortunately this didn’t happen.

The bike went in for a full service and came out with a new chain, cassette and wrapped handlebars. A quick brick session found that it was running as smooth as the day I’d bought it so big thanks to the local bike shop for that.

Ten days prior to the Ironman i started my caffeine and sugar free stint which was absolute hell! Alcohol I can take or leave without any real problem but i have a real sweet tooth and i love my coffee so to say that i was rattling like a smack head withdrawing from heroin would not be far from accurate as i muddled my way through a set of shifts at work including nights! Why did i put myself through this i hear you ask? I’d seen it mentioned in some nutrition plan I’d seen and the science behind it is basically so that when you come to actually consume some sugar and caffeine during the event via an energy drink, gel or bar, etc then you’ll really feel the difference just like when you go without booze for a while and then have a night out only to find that you’re staggering around after just two drinks because your body’s tolerance has dropped so much. The best bit was a couple of days before the event when i got to carb load and thus stuff myself with all the pointless crap I’d avoided for months and months like white bread, etc!

Saturday, the day before the event, came and we were all packed up and set off to Bolton. The rules stated that you had to have registered by 1pm that day and this was clearly so that you were in their merchandise filled world. This theory was confirmed by virtue of the fact that you had to go through the merchandise store and by all the other retail stalls in order to get to the registration desk. I couldn’t help myself and ended up buying one of the cheapest tops that they had because all the clothing had the ‘m-dot’ log on it made up of all the names of the participants in that years event. It’s not every day you get your name printed on clothing without having to request it.

We eventually got to registration where i filled out the forms and signed the relevant parts, etc before receiving my wristband and race numbers along with a separate wristband especially for first timers like myself which was emblazoned with “I will become one”. This went well with the fact that prior to leaving our little boy in the hands of my mother at home he’d written “go daddy go” along my forearm in big letters to inspire me throughout the event. It’s funny but a few people came up to me having seen the wristband and wished me luck as well as offering various nuggets of advice such as ‘just keep going’, etc.

Next up was the race briefing which lasted an hour long and basically just repeated what had been emailed out several weeks before but i was surprised at how many people hadn’t read those rules and even more surprised at how few had actually recced the bike route despite all the hype around it apparently being so brutal. There were many rules but the mains that stuck out for me were the usual ones around no drafting on the bike section (i.e. no following another cyclist too closely) otherwise you’d be penalised with a time penalty or disqualification, no ‘nudity’ at all with the only exception being that upon exiting the swim you could remove your wetsuit down to your waist en route to transition. Littering would result in disqualification as would the use of headphones on the bike or run! Then the worst bit was announced, the cut offs. Essentially from the moment you entered the water you had 2.5 hours to complete the swim, 10.5 hours to complete the swim and bike and 17.5 hours to complete the whole event. If you didn’t make the cut off then you would simply be withdrawn! This had a lot of people worried due to the bike course being so brutal and containing just under 9000ft of climbing. The race director stated that as long you averaged at least 14mph you should be fine. When i recced the route I’d averaged around 15mph so this was gonna be a close one!

My wife and i left registration and went off to drop my red bag off at transition 2 before taking my bike to transition 1. It felt weird just leaving my stuff there knowing that the next time I’d get my hands on it would be in the midst of an Ironman. Dropping my bike off gave me another chance to view the lake that i would be swimming in the following morning and to say it looked huge would be an understatement and i had to do two laps!

I’d also managed to bump into a guy i know, Derek, from my brother’s running club who was taking part in the event for his first time just the same as me as well as a friend who i knew from work, Chris, but hadn’t seen in about 5 years as he’d moved to Shanghai and was just back in the UK to take part in the Ironman.

We headed back to our hotel for a lazy sit in the jacuzzi in order to try and settle the nerves, My wife made use of the steam room and sauna but i was that worried about dehydrating myself that i stuck to the jacuzzi but only for 15 minutes before getting out and having a light tea of steak and sweet potato fries with an alcohol free beer before heading back to the room, applying my race number tattoos, necking some beetroot juice and hitting the bed for 8pm. I don’t know whether it was the stress of the day or something else but i managed to fall asleep quite quickly which was an absolute blessing.

The big day

3am and my alarm went off, i jumped out of bed riddled with nervous energy and set about my usual routine of nervous toilet trip, breakfast and kit check. I had a decaf coffee just to feel like i was having some caffeine and a porridge pot along with an energy bar. My wife woke herself up and we headed out to the car. The drive to the lake was quick due to the time of day and the closer we got the more people we saw in the position that we were. I got dropped off on the road outside the lake and walked in to the start with a bunch of other athletes. One woman rode in nervously and was, apparently, a late entry so was rushing around trying to get sorted. I saw a girl in her 20’s sobbing into the arms of her parents as the nerves got to her and hundreds of others meticulously checking their bikes over which I couldn’t understand as why would you leave it so late to sort something out on your bike!? Despite checking my tyre pressures the day before i still picked up a track pump and went to check them again in case they had reduced overnight due to being left outside in the cold. The first track pump didn’t work and simply let air out so i picked up another one, this did the same and so now i was getting worried as time was ticking on and I’d just stupidly let me tyre down! Fortunately the third track pump worked and i got the tyres back to where they needed to be pressure wise which meant my mini panic was over. I noted that the guy next to me was going over his bike looking at every fine detail and really looked in the zone, no wonder as it would later transpire that this guy won the whole event!

I kicked my heels and wandered round the site killing time until i happened to bump into Derek. We both admitted how nervous we were about what was to come and lined up together at the 90 minute point at the swim start. The start operated on a ‘self seeding’ system so much like the start of your local 10k runs, you stand near the time you think it’ll take for you to complete that event. It seems that most people were being conservative and standing near the 90 min mark so this soon got busy. The weather was literally perfect, there was hardly any breeze which meant the water was still, for now, the temperature was about 19º and it was cloudy so no beating sun on us. The announcements began and the excitement rose until the klaxon went and slowly but surely the queue moved forward like a conveyor belt feeding more and more souls into the mouth of the lake. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the water and I’d been told that the lake was deep right from the off hence why they used a pontoon to get in and out of it. As i reached the waters edge i looked out ahead of me and saw ‘the washing machine’ as hundreds of swimmers made their way out into the lake. About 2000 people took part in the event. I leapt in and started swimming, front crawl, out towards the first marker buoy. The route was basically an isosceles triangle with the start and finish at the tip of the furthest point and the two marker buoys at the other two corners.

Things seemed to be going well and i actually remember thinking to myself “holy shit I’m doing it, I’m swimming at a decent pace with the rest of the pack and things seem to be going to plan”. Then WHAM! (Not the band) a load of water hit me in the face and mouth whilst i was trying to take a breath, i tried to shrug it off and keep going but then WHAM! (Again not the 80’s duo) another load of water straight down my throat! I was coughing and spluttering trying to spit the water out and regain my breathing but i just couldn’t, my mind went into panic mode and i was shit scared that i was in trouble. I put my hand in the air and summoned one of the support crew on kayaks across to me. I held on to the side whilst i regained my composure but in those few seconds my mind actually considered giving up and calling it a day, just taking off my timing chip and walking away rather than face the rest of that lake, it’d be so easy and i could just relax for the rest of the day. But then the rest of my head kicked in (if you’ve ever read The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters then basically my human took over from chimp. If you’ve not read it then i strongly recommend it, the author is the team sports psychologist to Team Sky/Ineos amongst many others) and i realised that not only would my wife not know I’d given up as she’d gone back to bed and was due to the spend most of the day in the hotel spa/gym tracking me on her phone until she’d come across for the run section, but that my son was expecting me to come back with a medal like when i do other events and all the other people that I’d bored with tales of my training for the past few months would be expecting me to finish and if i didn’t then it would all be for nothing. I gave my head a shake, let go of the kayak and set back off in the water with about 2 miles left to swim. The rest of the first lap was a mix of breast stroke and front crawl as the washing machine effect of all those swimmers in close proximity churning the water up had really thrown me and knocked my confidence. I exited the water at the end of the first lap with the clock being around the hour mark and on one hand my heart sank knowing i had to get back in the water but then on the other hand i realised i was half way through it and this was my worst discipline so with that in mind i launched myself into lap two. Most of the lead pack had passed me towards the end of my first lap and the pace they were going at compared to me was basically like the difference between walking and running. As a result of this the water was a lot calmer and less crowded during my second lap and so i was able to relax into my swim a lot more, my breathing settled down and i plodded on slow but steady. I finished my second lap around 15-20 mins quicker than my first.

I exited the swim with the crowd cheering and the smile growing on my face as I acknowledged the fact that I’d survived the swim and was on my way to my favourite part, the bike. I entered transition, grabbed my bag and ran into the men’s changing area where i joked with other athletes as i stripped off, daubed my groin area with a bucketload of chamois cream and threw my gear on. I did that awkward run that’s somewhere between being too fast to be classed as a walk but too slow to be jog, out to my bike and noticed that about 80% of the bike racks were empty. This hit my confidence and made me determined to make up for lost time on the bike and ensure that i hit that cut off time of 10.5 hours. When I’d ridden the route previously I’d been really disappointed by it given the amount of traffic lights, junctions, tight bends and points where you had to cross traffic. I wasn’t sure if the event would be on closed roads or partially closed, etc but I’d expected the worst and so was pleasantly surprised to find that the whole route was on closed roads. Right from the point of mounting the bike i started passing people (WARNING, this is the part of the blog where i blow my own trumpet but don’t worry normal service will return later on), i kept pushing and pushing and due to the closed roads i was able to take corners at speed and really lean in to them. I remember taking a corner at 30+mph and a few others that were honestly a gamble but they paid off. Nutrition wise i felt great and the great support from the crowds dotted all over the place really spurred me on. I finished the first lap on the bike and nearly knocked over a cop at the start of the second lap as he’d stepped out onto the course without looking which meant i had to shout at him to move but he took it the right way and jumped back onto the path. There was a small section of the route that went over cobbles and this was my first experience of them. Hopefully it will also be my last as i nearly lost my fillings rattling over those sodding things! As i carried on round the bike course i saw a few casualties which could just as easily have been me had i read one of the corners wrong. At about 70 miles i hit a hill that I’d battled up the first time around but this time i felt my energy levels starting to drop and a little voice inside my head told me to try and leave something in the tank for the run and so i actually got off my bike and walked up the steepest part of that hill for about 20-30 metres whilst polishing off an energy bar prior to remounting the bike and cracking on. I’d noticed that my speed had dropped down to 14.9 mph and was acutely aware of the need to keep pressing on so that’s what i did. I also found myself really getting into the event and every time i happened across a crowd of supporters i would cup my hand to my ear and ramp them up as the cheering really carried me on along the route. On the Bolton course there’s a renowned section known as Sheephouse Lane and at the top of it stand a group of former Ironman athletes dressed as wrestlers cheering on the participants so much so that their image had been used on this year’s medal. At the bottom of the lane was a pub outside of which a large group of people stood cheering the cyclists on much like something out of the Tour de France as they ran alongside you, patted your back, etc it was amazing. The second time around was even better as i knew that this marked the start of the last climb so again i wound the crowd up and cracked on up to the wrestlers who i waved and cheered at like an excitable child who’d just seen one of his favourite characters at a theme park. I raced downhill and through the last few miles stopping only briefly to zip up my cycling top that had blown open on the ride. The last stretch of the bike route ran parallel with part of the run route and i could see people already out on the run and wished i was one of them but consoled myself knowing that in a few minutes i would be. I swung up to the dismount line and was told to stop quick by the marshals for safety reasons and so the brakes got tested one last time. I hopped off the bike and ran into transition two whilst being yelled at by a marshal to zip my cycling top all the way up to the top as opposed to mid chest like it was, good job I’d not left it flapping like earlier otherwise I’d have been penalised for trying to keep cool. I racked my bike and grabbed my red run bag before getting changed and setting off on the run. Thanks to the crowds I’d averaged about 15 mph and made it to transition 2 with about an hour or so to spare before the cut off time. A check of the results later on would show that a large number of people didn’t make the time and were withdrawn which must’ve been so frustrating.

Throughout the bike I’d made a conscious effort to keep eating and drinking in order to keep my energy levels up and about 20 minutes into the run i realised that i must’ve eaten too near the end of the bike because my stomach still felt full which meant that the run felt uncomfortable and my legs were not thanking me for pushing hard on the bike. The start of every lap took you round the town hall before sending you either right to the finishing straight or left to continue your lap which broke your heart a little every time you had to turn left instead of right. The first lap was hard but i managed it and the crowd were fantastic as i picked up my first of four coloured wristbands to denote how many laps you’d completed but the second lap hit me like a kick in the nuts. My legs started failing me and my guts were in turmoil. I’d made a conscious decision to sip the supplied drinks rather than drink too much but then i had to start visiting the various portable toilets around the course. I struggled on and saw Derek a few times around the course, cheering him on each time as he looked a lot fresher than i felt. I also bumped into my friend Chris and ran a little with him before he carried on whilst i paid another visit to the toilet. During my third agonising lap i saw my wife near the finish line and gave her a hug and told her how pleased i was that i saw her. This lifted my spirits and i battled on to get wristband number 3. I started my fourth and final lap during which i reached the fork in the road knowing that the next i would see it I’d be turning right and pressed on. This was a hard lap and there came a point around 23 miles where i jumped into one of the portable loos, sat down and started to use the facilities just as the door opened and another runner stood in front of me, both of us shocked as neither of us expected this moment but here it was. He ran off and i just sat there laughing realising that the crowd could see me but i zero fucks left to give and this concern was way down on my list of worries right then as I finished off and struggled back to my feet. I could feel the end was practically in my grasp and continued to put one foot in front of the other (amazingly I’d got this far without any blisters or injuries although my knees were starting to ache like crazy) as i ticked the miles off. Finally i reached the fork and was able to turn right, I’d looked up into the stands and saw my wife and shouted to her that i wouldn’t be long but that i loved her very much before i summoned what strength i had left to power on down the red carpet. There was a guy in front of me due to finish and it suddenly struck me that i would be an absolute dick of the highest order to sprint passed him just at the finish line and thus ruin his finishers photo so I consciously backed off, let him cross the line and then enjoyed the moment as I finally got to hear those words “You are now an Ironman!”

I couldn’t face the food in the tent afterwards but a McDonalds on the way home helped sort me out.

This has been a long, painful, selfish for most of the time, monotonous journey with blood, sweat and tears along the way but I’d done it in just under 15 hours and was able to show my son the medal that he’d been expecting who, incidentally, thinks i won the whole event because it’s hard to explain how every person get’s one.

Just goes to show that even a short, asthmatic kid who’s crap at swimming and hates running can do it and so can anyone willing to push themselves hard enough.

Food glorious food

Less than a month to go now to the event and it finally dawned on me the other day how much my body is going to go through. I rode a loop of the bike route and was amazed at how poorly chosen it was (in my humble opinion). Maybe I’m just used to quiet country roads or decent road surfaces but the amount of traffic lights that I had to stop at, busy junctions I had to negotiate, potholes and cracks I had to avoid and steep declines into tight bends that scrubbed off all your speed left me feeling somewhat disappointed in the route. The part through the city centre was ‘interesting’ as cars came ever closer to wiping me out with their wing mirrors.

The main thing I took away from it though was a quick glance at my strava whilst loading the car up before the drive home showed id burnt through nearly 3000 calories on that ride. A quick look at my marathon a few weeks ago and I’d burnt a similar amount then so factoring in the extra lap on the bike and the swim I’m probably looking at just under 10000 calories burnt on event day! That’s roughly four times the recommended daily average for a man!

Now I’ve heard stories of people calling the bike section ‘the buffet car’ because of how much they eat but this has really made me think that I’m gonna have to plough myself full of flapjacks or something similar whilst pedalling round that travesty of a course otherwise I’m gonna be in negative calories before I even make it half way through the event. I can’t rely on just gels and drinks as otherwise I’ll end up doubled over in a ditch with stomach cramps and crop spraying from my back end. The next question is how do I carry it all? I might actually have to just stuff my cycle top pockets as full as possible and then rely on the feed stations for the rest.

Following on from my earlier thoughts I sent the new tri suit back and exchanged it for some new bib shorts for the bike and what a revelation they are. It seems that nature has blessed me with an arse that is more sensitive than a liberal millennial on social media so the new chamois was an actual delight to ride on and much better than my old ones.

I’ve also dropped the bike off for a service as although it was running ok, the gear cables needed tightening up and I’m pretty sure the chain could do with changing so whilst I could try and sort these things out myself or leave them a bit longer I wanted to make sure that it was as ready as could be to make it as efficient as possible so it’s one less thing to worry about.

Next weekend I’ve got Endure24 in Leeds which will be a good test of my general endurance but also being mindful not to push myself too hard and injure myself. It’ll also give me a chance to try out some different foods and see how they sit on my stomach. I’ll be honest though, I can’t wait to get back to eating just for the fun of it rather than because I need to fuel my body for a gruelling event.

Decisions Decisions

I was lucky enough to chat with someone at work the other day who had just completed the Lanzarote Ironman and who has previously completed the UK Ironman so I took my opportunity to pick his brains over a few things I wanted some advice on.

The main point I was after clearing up was whether it was better to wear three separate outfits (basically one specific for each different discipline) or try and complete the whole thing in just a tri suit? I’d recently purchased a new tri suit but it was too tight across the shoulders so I’d sent it back and was wavering over whether to get the next size up or not as I was still somewhat unimpressed by how thin the chamois pad was despite the product description stating that it was suitable for iron distance events. Now the suit might be but my arse sure as hell isn’t and requires all the padding it can get!

The answer from my colleague was that he wore different outfits as comfort is the main reoccurring theme throughout the event as without that it’ll just feel like torture. This helped to reaffirm a niggling thought that I’d had already as it made perfect sense because let’s be honest, I’m not exactly ‘competing’ at the event, I’m just aiming to complete it so I should pick my battles and try to ensure that I finish each discipline in as good a shape as I can to help prepare me for the next one.

Now this will mean that I spend longer in transition but as somebody else pointed out I’d only lose time on the course if I was grimacing in pain so hopefully one or two minutes changing in between will mean that I can focus more on cracking on rather than my arse being on fire or my legs giving way.

Thanks to a 10 minute chat with someone who’s literally been there and done it I feel much more informed and it looks like it’s changed my plan in relation to kit. Never be unwilling to learn from others. You don’t have to do as they say or did necessarily but the extra knowledge will help inform your decisions.

Logan’s Run

It’s the weekend, it’s hot, it’s dry, the hay fever is kicking in and the wife’s on call so I can’t go far. We’ve got a bbq to go to soon so what better way to work an appetite in a short space of time than a quick 5k trail run round my favourite route. It was hot and my chest felt tight as the asthma battled with the hay fever but I pressed on with the sweat pouring down my back.

The run felt good though and the wild garlic smelt awesome as I passed it. Less awesome was having to closely overtake some nervous horse riders with rather skittish horses because as Sherlock once said “horses are deadly at both ends and crafty in the middle”.

The favourite bit of the run is always the downhill charge through the woods near the end where I get to feel a little bit like Wolverine. Well today I took it one step further and prior to shaving off the beard I decided to have a little fun with it and go full Logan/Victorian train conductor sideburns and then mess around with the pic afterwards for no reason other than because I could.

Nowt wrong with a little brick

After an extremely dull day at work being tied to the desk I felt extremely lethargic. I got home and set tea (dinner for the more educated amongst you) going in the oven whilst I walked the dog as we waited for wife and son to return home from their day out.

The weather was warm, windy and overcast which made for a generally pleasant day but after eating our evening meal and then putting our son to bed I had a moment where I was about to get changed into my training gear where I said to my wife “what am I doing? It’s gone 8 and I don’t really know if I can be arsed to do this.”

Now I had planned to a do small brick session of about 15-20 miles on the bike and then a 5km run so I knew it’d involve some effort and I’d eaten not that long ago so I was seriously teetering on the edge of sacking it off.

But then my wife, wise and as on the money as always, hit me with a blinder. “Well you’ve got all your kit and you’ve got an event coming up soon so the question is how prepared do you want to be for it!?”

She left the question hanging there for me to ponder but that took all of about 2 seconds as I gave my head a shake and started getting changed into my tri suit and slapping on the chamois cream. She could not have wanted me more!

I’d always said that not only do I want to finish the Ironman but I want to be able to complete it without it feeling like some sort of torturous treatment hence all the early mornings, all the various drills, etc.

After gathering my stuff up I was out the door and on my bike. The winds, much like the other day, were a pain in the arse but you can’t stop nature and it’s always better to train hard and fight easy than the other way around. I got round the flat bike route, having spent about 75% of the ride on the drops, 20% on the tri bars and 5% on the uprights, with an average speed of around 19mph which I was happy with. I put the bike to bed and quickly threw on my trainers and headphones before setting off on the run.

The sun was disappearing fast by now but it was still really humid and as always it was a fast start because my heart rate and breathing were already up from the bike. I settled into the run quicker than I normally do on brick sessions and I put this down to my improved stamina since I last did one. I managed to stabilise my pace to a decent one and as I neared the end of the run I was even able to increase it for a quick blast down a Strava segment where I earned myself a new PB.

All in all I finished the brick session feeling much better than I started and looking forward to increasing the distances on the next one.

How easy it would have been to have missed this session off and just settled down in front of the tv. Thanks again to my wonderful wife for being the driving force when I needed it. It goes to show that your mind will often throw in the towel long before your body does. Conquer your mind and the world is yours for the taking. Wow that seemed way too deep for a shitty blog like this so I’ll end it there before I start sounding like some sort of Ted Talk.


Blown away

The other night I seized the opportunity to get out on the bike and cover some miles as it was my wife’s turn to do the bedtime routine. The wind was blowing a hell of gale and according to the forecast it was due to remain for the rest of the evening and stay around the 20mph mark with higher gusts. I’d been wanting to do a particular circular route for a while now which worked out at just under 70 miles and was mostly flat apart from a few small climbs so I decided to do that despite the winds and no one joining me.

In an effort to conserve my energy I opted to ride into the wind for the first half of the journey as I figured that’s when I was the freshest but nonetheless it still made it a tricky ride with no real let up apart from when some surrounding trees would shelter me briefly from the gusts before hitting me again when I reappeared beyond them on the quiet little country roads that I was navigating. A few surprise crosswinds nearly had me on my arse but fortunately I was holding on enough to stay upright.

I got to the halfway(ish) point where after a few miles the headwind became a tailwind and I was on my way, loving it, cruising along at 30mph picturing myself as part of the peloton in a major event wondering how the hell they average speeds like this across an entire day.

The miles ticked by and the lack of music in my ears meant my mind was thinking about all sorts of shit just to pass the time whilst I also admired the views around me. Sometimes I went for miles before I saw another human being which felt quite nice in contrast to some of the other busier parts where knobheads would deliberately overtake you really closely just because you’d briefly slowed them down for a few seconds.

I called into the only shop for miles around just to get a quick snack to complement the gels I’d brought with me and unbelievably they didn’t take contactless so back on the shelf they went as I’d only brought my phone out with me. Who the hell doesn’t take contactless in this day and age! I don’t think I’ve used cash since about 2016!

What I have noticed over the course of my training is that I’m able to spend more and more time on the drops when I ride. I know I mentioned this in a previous post so I won’t kick the arse out of it here but I must’ve spent 75% of the ride on the drops on this occasion so I’m definitely getting more used to it.

The last little bit of the ride was back into the wind but this was only for around 4 miles before I arrived back home to a sleeping child, a Sunday roast, a warm shower and a dog ready to be walked which helped to loosen my legs off. Big thanks as always to the wife for making it all possible.

Going to great lengths

The other night I finally cracked 2.4 miles in the pool and despite it being a major psychological milestone for me because it’s the distance in the event that I need to cover (I’m aware this occasion wasn’t in open water before it gets pointed out) but also because as I’ve said all along, the swim is easily my weakest discipline. Through the course of training for this event I’ve gone from someone who swam because they had to and always felt out of place if I ever dare pluck up the courage to enter a dedicated swimming lane, etc to someone who still doesn’t particularly enjoy doing hundreds of lengths in the pool but can and without fear of looking like it’s my first time. I am by no means perfect and swimming coaches would no doubt have a list as long as their arm when it comes to identifying how I could improve but I will still some pride in realising how far I have come.

That being said one of the biggest kick in the nuts in relation to swimming is when you literally swim hundreds of lengths only to discover that you’ve burnt off the same amount of calories that you would do if you ran a 5k or tried getting off a beanbag quickly. It’s almost not worth it if that’s your main goal!

Still, marathon ✅ , swim distance ✅ and more time on the bike scheduled.


Knowing when to call it a day

Sometimes you just have to admit when today is not your day and yesterday was definitely not my day.

I got my swimming stuff together and set off to the germ pool ready to tackle a mammoth swim. As i arrived at the pool i revelled in the fact that it was so refreshing to need so little kit to train. Well that is until i realised that I’d forgotten my pull buoy, what a complete and utter tool i felt!

Nevertheless i began the swim and tried my best to crack on despite my heavy legs. Things seemed to be going as ok as they could be until i paused a few hundred metres in to sort my goggles out. I paused the swim and whilst messing around with my eyewear my watch vibrated, “hmmm i wonder if it’s restarted the swim?” I thought. No, in fact what had actually happened was that a drip of water sliding across the face of my watch had made it delete that activity.


So i started a new swim and carried on.

After a while a person A started swimming in the same lane as me (the only lane available as the other one was being used for a private lesson). They were slower than me but we came to an unspoken agreement that we would keep to our own half of the pool and this seemed to work for a while.

Well, that is until person B joined the lane and it all went to rat shit. The increased population meant a change in the politics and one which me and person B seemed to grasp pretty quickly. We simply invoked the usual practice of all trying to swim in the same clockwise or anticlockwise direction which would’ve worked a treat had person A paid a blind bit of notice as to what was going on and been willing to alter their course but no, they just carried on doing as they pleased causing me and B to constantly zig zag our way about the lane clashing hands and feet.

I got to a mile in and came to a resounding conclusion of ‘Fuck it!’

You can’t win them all and some times you just have to pick your battles.

Back once again

It’s been a good few weeks since i last posted anything on here due to a number of reasons such as being busy at home, busy at work and, truth be told, it’s hard writing stuff that isn’t just the same old shite each time.

Whilst I’ve been away from the screen the training has continued, the swimming is still monotonous and i cannot wait until the lake is warm enough to swim in just for some variety compared to the pool which hopefully won’t be too long now given the weather. I’ve been out on the bike which is as enjoyable as ever, especially with friends and it’s definitely my favourite discipline. The running has also continued and progressed which I’ll discuss in a minute.

It’s not all been positive though, two weeks ago i was struck down by some mysterious 24 hour fever which had me bed ridden for the best part of a day and sapped my strength for the whole weekend until my guts got back to normal which meant that my marathon was delayed.

I’m also having to work through a niggling ‘injury’ which i’ve self diagnosed as proximal hamstring tendinopothy, which is literally a pain in the arse. I know i should look at getting checked professionally but i just can’t seem to find the time to do that and it’s not holding back too much, i just have be mindful how to keep it under control and exacerbate it.

So the cycling is going ok and I’m trying to spend more time on the drops (the lowest part of the handlebars) or the Tri bars out front in order to be as streamline as possible and maximise my efficiency on the bike. Traditionally I’d only spend about 20% of the ride on the drops as I’d just find it too uncomfortable to be there any longer but little by little I’m managing to increase my time on them and they definitely make a difference, there’s some research out there which has shown how much of a benefit it is but i can’t recall the exact figures right now. I’m also becoming more efficient in terms of how much fuel I’m needing to take with me on a ride and how quickly I’m recovering after the climbs, etc so the stamina must be improving.

The running has reached a new high as well. Yesterday i completed my first marathon and not just that but i did it all on my own round my own local route without any other runners, etc and it was agony! Stairs are not my friends today and i have the knees of an arthritic pensioner. I decided to a local route which consisted of 3 x laps of just under 9 miles so that it not only replicated the main events run which is laps rather than a single loop or point to point but also to experience the tedium which might arise from seeing the same sights again and again and again. It also gave me the chance to sack it off and head home if things went really wrong. I was also a little tight on time as although my wife had kindly given me the morning off to do the run and take our little boy out, i was aware that we had planned to go to the cinema in the afternoon and didn’t want to ruin our valuable family time by being late on my run so after walking the dog i set off on the run with my visor on to keep the sun out my eyes, my running vest on so that i didn’t overheat and my calf compression socks to help me through the run. I also made sure that i lubed up with run guard on the old nipples and other chafe points as there’s nothing more off putting than chafing (apart from a blister obviously). I decided to take 5 gels with me as I’ve figured out that one every four miles is around the best ratio for me as otherwise my guts are in bits. I also had my 2 x 250ml water bottles on my belt, each with a zero tab in it as i wanted to make sure that i kept my salts and electrolytes up given the inevitable sweating that was to come. I set off and made a conscious move not to look at my watch for as long as possible and this ended up being 12 miles before i checked my pace and time, etc to see that I’d been running reasonably comfortably at an average pace of 8-8.30 min/mile and was on for doing a sub 4 marathon on my first attempt, what a result! Or so i thought. Hello 18 miles and my new hell as my calves and knees just seemed to stop working. I’d drank all my fluids so called in to the first shop that i came to and stocked up despite nearly falling out with the time wasting prick that was monopolising the cashier. The run now became interspersed with the occasional bit of walking and stretching as i tried to drag my arse round the third and final lap. Fortunately there was no stitch and no blisters or pulled muscles, just very tired ones and despite all my best efforts and a second pit stop for fluids i missed out on the sub 4 time as i crossed the virtual finish line in 4.07.03 but i was still pleased that I’d managed to do.

I walked the last few hundred metres home to be met by my family and an excited little boy who couldn’t wait to go to the cinema. I threw some recovery shake down my neck, another pint of fluid and then literally crawled upstairs, laid on the bathroom floor and struggled to get undressed. I sat on the shower floor as the water brought some life back into me enough to put my recovery skins on and some other clothes before heading off to the cinema with my son ready to wake me up if i fell asleep in the movie (i didn’t).

There’s about 8 weeks to go to the big day now so it’s time to start bringing things together with brick sessions where possible and outside swimming asap. That is once my knees don’t cry when they see a step that is.


Every day’s a school day

Yet another long run and a need to try new routes near me very nearly left me injured.

It all began with the need to do a 15 mile recovery run. Fair enough, i thought, I’ll just do my usual route over the bridge and back which should be about there and if i have to tag something on the end to make the distance up then so be it.

But then my mind started to wander based upon the facts that a) the weather was lovely and b) that route had a large portion in the middle that could bore you to tears. Then one of my ideas popped into my head as I remembered that the cycle track along the foreshore had reopened after maintenance work and so not only would this provide me with the potential chance to run nearly half the route back home with some relatively new scenery but also on a fairly level path that was traffic free.

With a renewed vigour and mild excitement about the prospect of a little adventure down a new route (because that’s what my life has become through this training) i set off in the baking heat with not a cloud in the sky. I reached the halfway point and not long after turning around my watch showed ‘8 miles’, i figured the slightly flatter, straighter route home would mean that i should still be around the 15 mile mark so carried on unperturbed. I crossed the bridge for the second time, marvelling in its engineering magnificence as always, and had a plan for how i was going to get down to the foreshore but realised that this would add an extra bit of mileage and climbing onto my run that i could’ve done without as i was starting to feel the heat now that i was 9 miles in. Another idea entered my head and i remembered seeing an entrance to the park area under the bridge earlier in the run and figured that i could use this as a shortcut to keep me on track without making things worse.

How wrong was i!?

I passed through the entrance and suddenly realised that the long, winding route down would actually take me in the opposite direction that i wished to go so i quickly looked around and saw that there was a beaten path through the woods in the right direction. “Bingo” i thought as i started along that route until it quickly turned into a downhill scramble on a much steeper gradient than i had anticipated, so much so that i had to direct my speedy descent towards a tree and throw my arm around it to stop me so that i could reassess my next move. This harsh braking left me with a pulled pec for the remaineder of the run which was a right laugh but not as much as the next bit of the descent which involved me climbing down a 10′ rock face, sliding down an embarkment on my arse before having to quickly stand up and use the momentum to jump a ditch and scramble up the other side with my knees jarred, aching and scratched to buggery! I managed to compose myself and found my way to the start of the foreshore path which was very scenic and pleasant but exposed to the sun and heat which just added to my growing fatigue and general homeless person appearance. Ah well, at least this path was going to take me all the way home nearly with just a little incline as i neared my house.

No, wrong again.

About 3 miles from home it quickly became apparent that the path had reached a point where it was only passable at low water (which it was now) if you were willing to walk across the muddy bank and negotiate all the rocks. Clearly this was not ideal for running on so i had to turn around and take the high water route which immediately filled me with dread as i knew exactly where it went and meant that all the incline I’d tried to avoid over the last few miles was now compounded into the hill that stood before me.


I pressed on, having to walk and swear at myself a few times as nearly all my drink had gone along with my gels, my knees were still killing me along with my pec and forearm that was scratched to hell from grabbing the tree. I’d underestimated the mileage (it ended up being a little over 16 miles) and my timing was shot to shit as a result of the park fiasco.

I eventually made it home exhausted with a mental note to research my routes better in future so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again as the risk of injury so close to the big day is not worth taking.