Eton Half Distance Triathlon

The sun waits, and waits, and waits, and then comes out in force for my first triathlon of the year. The Eton Half Distance Triathlon by Human Race. A brisk 750m swim, 20.4km bike, 5km run and then the new fourth discipline, trying to avoid sunburn throughout.

Well the less that’s said about the build-up to this race the better. I crashed my bike on the way there trying to read a map on my phone and failing to spot a speed bump coming up. Thanks to my clip-in pedals the bike ended up over my head and a number of elderly passer-bys were flocking round like motherly pigeons. It also meant rather than turning up to the race in peak physical condition, I turned up with blood splattered over my legs and handlebars.

Thankfully things got a little better after that. My age group was male under 30yrs and so with my transition kit all neatly laid out, it was time for my first swim in outdoor water this year and the first with my wetsuit. Alright, not textbook preparation but no need to worry, the swim felt quite good. I’m sure my sighting has improved dramatically from last season and I felt fairly strong throughout.

Out the water and straight into transition one (T1). Couldn’t get my wetsuit over my ankles. Couldn’t maintain my balance. Couldn’t have looked pretty.

An eternity passed and I finally managed to get out on the bike. Four laps, very flat, quite windy and warm. I enjoy going round Dorney Lake as it nearly always feels fast – the corners are never too sharp and as long as the wind is down there’s plenty of opportunity to maintain momentum.

T2 went ok but I couldn’t help thinking shortly into the run that I should have grabbed an energy gel. I think from now on I’ll always carry one or two in the reverse of my tri-suit, just in case. For the last few weeks, with an increase in core exercises, I’ve been trying to maintain a lot better form whilst running and I’m sure it’s resulting in time improvements (well, even if it’s not I probably don’t look like I’ve just escaped from a zoo quite as much!). The run hurt quite a bit in the heat but a cold hose down after the finish line meant I forgot about it almost immediately.

Thanks again to for my place in the race.

First triathlon of the year completed and I’m now feeling much more confident about Windsor Triathlon in three weeks time.

Total time: 01:10:41mins (Splits: 00:12:47, 00:01:39, 00:35:43, 00:01:01, 00:19:28).

Position: 32/538, 6th in AG.

Time to try a Triathlon Club

Triathlon clubs have always sounded like intimidating places to me. A group of high powered and fuel-efficient machines, all revving their cardiovascular engines loudly for action. At least this is what I was expecting.

Rewind to last Saturday morning and my first 8.30am meet with the Clapham Chasers Triathlon club. From the outset they were very friendly, very welcoming and thankfully very relaxed as we headed from Clapham Junction to Richmond Park. Upon arrival here though I was told the group would break in to two and a decision was required on my behalf – the intermediate or the fast group? Intermediate would be going to Windsor and back whilst the fast group would be heading out to Surrey. Four guys were going to make up the fast group and the one guy I got talking to explained that he’d only been out for one ride before with the group, which he survived. Fast it was going to be then.

So, they weren’t lying. This is where the niceties would end. Having only expected to hammer it round Richmond Park a few times I was now deeply regretting the long run the day before and I quickly realised that I definitely wasn’t carrying enough food or drink. 100km had been mentioned a few times, as had hills, and so I was counting on neither of these actually being true. A bit of male bravaderie I thought, we’ll never manage that.  Again unfortunately, they weren’t lying.

See the activity on RunSaturday

Type: Bike – General
Duration: 4:19:31
Distance: 106.57 km

The one rule to cycling in this group was simple, don’t lose the pace of the group and drift off the back as they won’t wait. Not being known for my directions the thought of being stranded two hours from home was enough to spur me on. 35 miles came and went, someone broke a cleat on their shoe (jackpot, got a breather!), I dropped my water bottle nearly causing a pile-up behind and then an enormous descent where we hit 45mph. At about 50 miles, and the highlight of the ride for me, we got some food from a café on the top of Boxhill – a date slice woke me from my slump – and then it was a quick blast back home.

Pleased to have been pushed as hard as I was it was actually really good fun, although it’s always easier to say that in retrospect. The rain held off and my legs held out, just. Will I be doing it again? Definitely. Although next time it’ll be with a picnic hamper of energy gels and bars, and a water bottle of very strong coffee.

Fancy a bit of this?

After reading Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes I’ve decided to try an ultra endurance race. Inspired by his determination, intrigued by the apparent mental challenge of longer-distance running and a little taken aback by the similarities of his life experiences with mine, I’ve done a bit of research and have come up with a suitable event. It’s the Pembrokeshire Coastal Challenge and is essentially three marathons in three days.

Having not ever completed a marathon I think I’m perfectly set to give this a go; my naivety should hold me in good stead. If I had completed a marathon then I expect the pain during and following the race would mean that I wouldn’t even contemplate doing three in as many days.

It’s taking place in November along the picturesque coast of sunny Wales. At this stage I’m hoping to welcome/persuade/bully one or two others to join me on the little adventure and to hopefully share in the enormous sense of achievement at the end. I’ve done some planning and estimate that the basic costs including travel, accommodation and meals should come in at less than £200, assuming a minimum of £500 is raised for a charity of your choice.

So if you’re already keen and would like some more details then please let me know. If you’re not yet convinced that’s ok, just read the book (quickly please) and then drop me a line instead.

And you never know, it might be fun.

Dorney Lake Duathlon

So the time had come for my first race of the year and it was therefore time to see if my Winter training was going to yield any reward.

The race in question was the votwo Sprint Duathlon at Dorney Lake. A short and snappy 5km run, 20km bike followed by a second 5km run. Having done one event at the same venue last year I knew roughly what to expect. It’s a very flat course allowing for fast times and as there are a number of shorter race formats regularly available, it’s a great place to practice transitions. Just as well because my god, I could do with the help.

Mistake #1 – Slipping over at the 3.75km marker on the first run. Running on concrete and then turning on grass = whoopsy! Result: Blood now streaming down my leg.

Mistake #2 – Running back into the first transition through the exit rather than the entry. Every single ‘Dummy’s Guide to Triathlon’ will say make yourself familiar with the entries, exits and where you’ve racked your bike. Visualise the route you need to take and start thinking about it ahead of approaching transition. Result: Running a loop round the transition area, unnecessarily.

Mistake #3 – With the bike ride completed it was time to get back into transition and get ready for the run. Bike racked, bike shoes off, trainers on and out for the second run. I nailed this one in 28 seconds according to the official timings. Sweet. So run underway but something just didn’t feel quite right. What was it? I couldn’t put my finger on it. Yes I had heavy legs following the bike, but that was expected. Hmmm… oh, that’s right, I was still wearing my damn helmet! I’d probably covered a good 50 metres wearing my bright red cycling helmet! Quick u-turn and then back to transition. Don’t think that’s covered in the ‘Dummy’s Guide to Triathlon’, it’s too bleeding obvious! Result: An extra 100 metres but an incalculable amount of embarrassment.

If you learn something from every race then I’ve learnt what not to do in transitions, and all in a single race. Now where did I put that Dummy’s Guide…

Total time: 01:23:48 mins. Position: 11/75.

What’s the storey (morning glory)?

This morning saw me stood at the bottom of a very tall building thinking I had to run a very long way. Not a problem normally on flat ground but this was up a set of stairs, 42 floors of them in fact. Four-two was etched on my mind. Four-two, must  remember four-two.

My race strategy had been clear in my mind for at least a week: go hard from the start and when it started hurting then just squeal. Having reached a maximum of six consecutive floors in training it seemed like the only sensible thing to do. How hard could it be? The winner the year before did it in less than five minutes.

First things first, the race briefing. The only point I remembered was:

“I trust you’ve all filled in your personal details on the reverse of your race number, which should now be pinned to your t-shirt. This is important in case medical assistance is required.”

Oh, crap. My race strategy sounded even more stupid now.

And then it began. Ground floor to first floor, second quickly became third and things were going to plan. I was feeling strong. Seven, eight, nine… nine… ten. At this point I noticed my breathing had  become quite vocal. Twelve… something happened, something else happened… tweeeenty-onnne. Breathing very hard, legs beginning to shake and clinging to the handrail like a geriatric ballerina. However, I was half way.

I’d realised by now that over-taking someone much slower was relatively easy. A little spurt and I could clear them in one flight. However problems really came about when someone in front was just a little bit slower. It required a ridiculous amount of effort to leave the safety of the handrail, take the outside line and sprint two to three flights. Experience had told me this by now. I was gasping.

Twenty-one to thirty-one passed, somehow. I swear I passed Mick Hucknall from Simply Red. By thirty-two I began to consider how much further there was to go. Fourty-two minus thirty-two equals… ermm… equals… is it ten? Eleven? Can’t be sure at this stage.

The next thing I knew and thirty-seven flashed by. I did know that meant five floors to go and five floors was ten flights. The end was in sight. Nine, eight, seven… three, two, two and a bit (huh?)… one, one and a half… finish line!

And wooah there tiger! I couldn’t breathe. What the hell had I been doing for the last ten floors, holding my breath!? Why had the thumping in my chest just reached it’s crescendo, I’d finished the damn thing! It was a very strange feeling –  as if someone was scratching the bottom of my lungs with a wire brush. I think my lungs were actually in my throat at one point.

A few minutes passed, I caught my breath and then began to enjoy the view. London was just waking up.

Total time: 06:37 mins. Position: 69/853.

Ignorance is bliss

London to Cambridge bike ride

See the activity on RunSaturday

Type: Bike
Duration: 4:18:34
Distance: 78.62 km

In a bid to get some more mileage into my legs this Saturday saw me trek off to my homeland, Cambridge. Well I say Cambridge, the eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that I made it to Shelford but what’s five miles between friends? Plus, if I said London to Shelford it wouldn’t have sounded as impressive.

Using a combination of the GPS on my Garmin Forerunner 305, five pages of Google Maps screengrabs and a rucksack full of enthusiasm off I set with a friend. The starting point was Hackney Downs, so we could skip most of London (yes, I know, that’s in addition to not making it to Cambridge) and of course, within two miles we were horribly lost and marching across a boggy marsh with out bikes over our shoulders. The Garmin was adamant that we should go straight through the field but oh my, the roadbikes weren’t in agreement. The first five kilometres took 30 minutes. I could have run it quicker.

With a few extra lbs of mud on board things then started to go a little smoother. The Garmin began to come into its own (or the user became aware how to use it) and before we knew it we were navigating like we’d done the route a thousand times before.  Waltham Abbey turned into Bumble’s Green which turned into Broadley Common, Roydon, Stansted Abbots, Hunsdon, Widford, Hadham, Furneux Pelham, Langley and then, with about 20 miles to go, a sign for Cambridge in Hinxton. This is where it got really fun, cue the snow and the visibly shaking, I’m-running-on-empty friend. Later that night he said that he thought he was going to blackout. Nothing that a few Chomps and Refresher bars couldn’t sort out at the time.

This was my first big ride out of London and despite a few cold, low points, it was great fun. I’d highly recommend the route as it’s very scenic, the traffic was minimal and if you weren’t in a rush, there were some incredible looking pubs along the way.

Stepping it up

So training for the Vertical Rush race is now well underway, the order of those two words being quite important there. If it was underway well then I wouldn’t be quite as concerned.

In a bid to help the Gym that’s situated within Tower 42 has produced a self-promoting training video for the event. It’s four minutes (too) long so I can save you the time and tell you that, unsurprisingly, a stepping machine is recommended. The video then goes on to explain that if you don’t have access to a stepping machine similar conditions can be created outdoors using… err… steps. Right then I thought, that’s just what I’ll do.

For the last few weeks I’ve been making more of an effort to take the stairs when the opportunity arises in day-to-day life. I’m on the sixth floor at work so that’s 120 steps in the morning. Every time I fancy a tea (read: chocolate bar) then that’s another two flights, or 40 steps. It’s quite a simple, wonderfully unstructured approach to training that will undoubtedly serve me terribly. In fact the flaws in this training programme, to name but a few, are numerous:

  1. I can’t go too quickly in case a colleague tries to start a conversation with me shortly after and I’m wheezing like a donkey with asthma
  2. I can’t go too quickly in case I break into a sweat. No one likes the smelly person in the office
  3. There’s never any people to barge by
  4. There’s never any people barging by me (would be more useful to experience this rather than point 3)
  5. The duration never increases, unless I’m thirsty (read: hungry) and fancy more drinks (read: chocolate bar) from upstairs

So with such a useless strategy in place then here’s hoping my triathlon training gets me through. If I’m staggering up the final few flights of stairs like a drunken old fool, and it feels like someone is scouring my lungs out with wire wool, then it’s safe to say that the answer will have been no. If nothing else though, I’ll be capable of getting changed quickest at the end.