London Triathlon – Do as I say and not as I did!

The title refers to my approach to my injury and illness with reference to the London Triathlon 2012.

I did my best to let my body fight the illness by not training and getting plenty of rest when I was ill and by icing, stretching and massaging my injured calf/Achilles I hoped it would be in a better state, what I should’ve done is pull out of the race…the race that I’d been training all year for, the race that I’d bust a gut and aimed to go for a sub 3 hour marathon for, the race that I put myself through a 3km open water swim for and the race that I’d taken on the HOT London Duathlon for…

Leading up to my first ‘Olympic Triathlon’ I knew I had to make a decision and for you guys reading this I should and you should not race…simple!

Anyway, now that’s out-of-the-way I did race and I bloody enjoyed it!!! 😉

As mentioned, The London Triathlon 2012 was my big race, my main goal for the year, the reason for so much training and for so many other races.

I was (apart from my injury, caused my someone landing on my calf on jumping into the Thames for the 3km race) happy with my running, reasonably confident with my swim as it was half the distance of Marlow, happy with the transitions as I’d done well and also learned from the small mistakes I’d made on my first triathlon. It was just the cycling that concerned me.

On Monday 17th September, I looked at my London Duathlon split times and started to panic. For those new to triathlons or multi discipline events you become a bit geeky. You’ll say you won’t but when you have (in the case of 3 parts) the first discipline, transition 1, second discipline, transition 2 and the final discipline you have 5 bits to analyse and scrutinize. It can become unhealthy and in my case it did. Kirsty was already suffering from the ‘lurgy’ and I was probably fighting it off until I stayed up until gone 1am checking my times and then up at 4.45am for my first client on Tuesday. I obviously felt run down and just battled on throughout the day until it caught up on my on Wednesday afternoon where I had to cancel my evening client, Thursday’s and Friday’s clients. To keep your immune system strong you have to let your body sleep so it can repair and recover. As well as sleep, the more good healthy things you can consume over bad things like smoking, alcohol, junk food, pollution etc the easier your body will fight illness. In my case my body was trying to sort out my injury to my lower left leg (caused by someone landing on it on entry at the Marlow 3km swim) so to not give it enough sleep and with keeping ‘Kirsty’s lurgy’ (you share everything in a good relationship! 😉 ) at bay it eventually gave up.

Why did I stay up late and give myself 4.5 hours sleep was that my Duatlon bike leg was playing on my mind. Although new to triathlons and duathlons there is one thing that slightly bothers me…money can be a factor. When you swim it’s down to technique and engine, when you run it’s down to engine and technique but when you cycle it’s down to engine, technique but also the bike! What I mean is that my London Duathlon results had me (out of 555 men) as the 16th fastest 10km runner, 20th fastest in transition 1, 84th fastest in transition 2 and 54th fastest in the 5km run. All good so far (I positioned my bike so T1 would be faster than t2) until I tell you that my bike time was 152nd. I’m not a cyclist so that is obviously a factor but the cheap bike (£200 from Gumtree) I purchased that ‘did the job’ is heavy and the back tyre is certainly not a ‘racing slick’. London Tri Coach looked at my bike and said “You did a 2.31 on that!”. I finished in 54th spot in a time of 2hr30m34s which I am or was over the moon with but the geeky, competitive side of me which I love as it’s pushed me hard to achieve personal bests, started to have a bit of ‘bike envy’. 😉 I stayed up late looking on Wiggle and eBay to see how much ‘racing tyres’ would cost so I could be faster for the bike phase of the London Triathlon…again it was unhealthy! Eventually I manage to borrow my client Sean‘s bike and my mind was put at ease.

For those of you that are thinking of doing a triathlon, please, Please, PLEASE don’t be put off by the last paragraph as I’ve seen loads of people on mountain bikes and my client Caroline had a basket on hers prior to her first triathlon. However, I’ve heard it quite a few times from Sigma Sport staff and other triathletes “You’ll be upgrading soon” in reference to the bike. I smiled and just carried on regardless but I now see what they mean. If anyone fancies running a triathlon where everyone is on a Boris Bike then count me in! To proper cyclists who put a lot of time and effort into cycling I do understand that there’s more to it than the bike and I aim to rectify that with more brick training (bike to run mainly) as well as pure cycle training. I don’t want Karl or any others having a go again.

Little rant over…on the other side however what is great about multi discipline events is that if you are amazingly quick at one event you can gain a massive advantage over others but equally if you are good at all 3 then you can catch those people. I’m still a firm believer in ‘You vs You’ but I also came up with ‘Don’t compare, compete’ and I want to see how high up these result tables I can get…I simply want to better myself.

On Saturday prior to my Sunday race I tinkered about with Sean’s bike (£2500 originally but he got it for £500 from eBay…guess where I’m now looking!) to adjust it to fit me better. The frame, I believe is too big for me but I could adjust the seat and pull the tri-bars in to make it fit better and after a few trial and errors I had it in a position that I was happy to use. A couple of times I thought about just going with what I knew and sticking with ‘Bertha’ (just come up with that name now…honest!) but with hindsight I’m so glad I went Carbon!

After about 15 miles of adjusting my position, cycling to Sigma Sport to get a new spare tube as Sean’s tyre tube valve had snapped from me just adding air to it and changing a bloody back tyre I was tired. I still wanted to compete in the triathlon but my body was telling me that I shouldn’t.

I prepped my kit, packed it and tried to sleep…I couldn’t. I kept thinking “What’s a challenge if it ain’t challenging?!” I’m beginning to sound like such a whinger but I was nervous as this was my first Olympic Distance Triathlon and only my second actual triathlon too so combining that with illness and injury…yeah, I’m whingeing! 😉

The morning arrived and with it my alarm clock set for 5am. One thing I was in control of is not being late so I got up early had a shower, ate a banana and made my way to the London Excel. Sat NAG said it would take me 60 minutes which sounded brilliant as I was travelling right across London from West to East. Journey was great until I was within 2-3 miles of the venue and there was diversions because of the actual bike route. Maybe I was being thick but I just couldn’t find the way to the parking area and by the looks of things nor could others who I seemed to pass regularly in opposite directions. In the end I opted to go east and then dry around and approach from the south which worked but I then spotted cars coming from a direction that I’d tried twice earlier…anyway I was in and still had about 4.5 hours to go before my 12pm race. Kirsty had planned to come along separately with Sam (our 2yr old son) but we’d decided due to her not feeling 100% and having Sam with the weather due to be bad that she’d be best staying at home.

I paid my parking (£15 for 12 hours) and proceeded to registration. Quick flash of my ID and I was in possession of my timing chip and velcro ankle strap and on my way to transition. The huge area we were in was amazing, it was like an expo in the middle with a running race at one end, a huge bike park (think car park) at the other and loads of people milling around either as spectators, competitors os sales people. The atmosphere was electric, what a place to do your first triathlon as you felt special…all this was for you (and 12,000 others). It could be daunting but surely that adds to the excitement and relief as you finish your days mission. Being an ex parachute jumping instructor, I used to film people’s tandem jumps and would often say to them that you will be nervous but that adds to the thrill of the day because as you land you feel glad to be alive…can’t be a better feeling than knowing that you didn’t die!!! If you’re nervous, scared, worried, excited then imagine the amazing feeling you’ll experience when you cross that line. And as for the finish line, it has to be the best finish line I have ever seen!!! Imagine a newly cleaned rally car after it’s won the World Rally Championship and the drivers go to collect their trophy by driving up this ramp with huge spotlights on it as people cheer and take pictures…well that’s what it’s like (apart from the clean bit of course!).

Having been in 3 transitions so far this year (Concorde Triathlon, London Duathlon and HSBC Relay) I was enjoying the strategy that setting your bike up in transition brings. You have different entry and exits to factor in, in this case Swim in, Bike out, Bike in and Run out and it’s all done in a way that it all balances out in the end. I opted to have a longer run from the swim in favour of a smaller run in bike shoes to get on my bike as I didn’t want to slip and by the looks of things most others had the same idea as the bike were filling up from that side. My ‘Wave’ the Olympic Distance Mixed Triathlon (mixed so if I had any female friends they could do the same race) had 3 long racks and I opted for the one that was next to the female sub 2.30 wave as they would be gone by the time I got to T1 and I could see a huge ‘4’ and ‘5’ on the wall either side of my bike rack, all good when you may be slightly disoriented from the 1500m swim. I faced my bike the other way from most of the others so I could have more space to change if I came in at the same time as the triathletes either side…tactical isn’t it!?!

I then went for some breakfast but couldn’t find any porridge and most places in the Excel’s idea of breakfast was bacon, sausage and eggs baps…one food to avoid before racing is Fat. It takes longer to digest and sits around in your stomach longer and also pulls more blood to the stomach to add digestion therefore taking it away from your muscles that will need it to swim, bike run usually causing you to cramp. I opted for a Turkey salad bagel with no cheese as my best option and chilled out drinking some water with a Nectar Fuels Hydro Tab and played on twitter. As I’ve mentioned before ‘Twitter has made me fitter’, I read all of your good luck messages and despite feeling a bit rank, my spirits were lifted so high that although I was alone in the Excel I felt I had the biggest support team. It felt gooooooooooooooooooood!!! I hope you guys use Twitter and especially #FitTeam12 more and see the benefits of having people you don’t know wishing you luck in whatever event you do! Advice – be positive, ask for advice, don’t judge anyone and be slightly smug when you achieve as people will want to feel just like you and ask you for advice. I’ve built a network that is there to help motivate you into getting fitter and living your life! I have big plans for the next 3 years…more details to follow but it’s for everyone no matter what level of fitness you’re at and long-term!

With having time on my side I wandered around the stands. Booked myself a massage and a place in the cold spa to aid in my recovery. The lower leg was still letting me know it wasn’t right so I wanted to help it as much as possible. I did make 2 errors and one was being hurried into a magazine subscription and getting the free gift that doesn’t really fit that well when the actual magazine I do read had a better free gift elsewhere in the Excel and I also bought the official t-shirt that has my name and thousands of others on it too. Why this is a mistake is I’ve got loads of event t-shirt with nearly all of them being given in the goody bag after the race. I wished I’d now paid a wee bit more for the hoody which will come in handy being an outdoor personal trainer in the next 6 months…brrrr! I’m still learning!

About 90 mins before my wave start time I went off to the toilet to put my trisuit on and ‘lubed up’. The last thing you want is to be fighting the elements and the race distances and disciplines AND a bloody sore chaffing…it ain’t funny when this happens. I applied Body Glide around the back of my neck as this is an area believed to get a lot of rubbing from the wetsuit and also between my legs (sorry) as at the London Duathlon I experienced a chaffing on my ‘Tisnae’ (Scottish slang…google it but beware it’s rude!). Once ‘sorted’ I made my way to a wee cinema which was showing the ‘race briefing’ video on repeat. This was something else that the London Triathlon do well…a cinema with all the rules you need to know before your race…brilliant!

The call up time was 11.40am so with 40 mins until then I made my way back into transition via the swim pontoon to check that out (grey skies, rain and wind…i’m gonna be wet anyway i thought!) to properly lay out my race kit. There’s no right way to do this all you’ve got to do is put things in a place that is easily accessable, in a methodical lay out and to have respect for the other triathletes around you. Plus if you can make your spot a bit more identifiable then it will obviously help. I saw some crazy coloured towels and people using coloured tape on the floor pointing to their bike. I opted for my old RAF Falcons helmet bag which is in red and now carries my bike one now and just stuck it out next to my front bike tyre. It doesn’t stop you going through it a million times and why should it as preparation is always key!

I made my way to the swim briefing (all really well-marked out with loads of helpers to guide you if you’re lost) and joined the 500 or so other competitors. We all got given a nice green swim cap and listened to an enthusiastic Geordie or Welshman (can’t remember as I was in my zone/own world). 15 minutes later as I popped my first GU gel down my throat, we made our way outside to the Docklands. On entering I got nervous as this is when the tw*t had landed on me at Marlow causing my injury, so I went away from everyone else and jumped in almost backwards looking for anyone that may follow me immediately in. All safe but what did hit me was that I was about to swim 1500m and in an area of water that had waves!!! For a few reasons I hadn’t swam much since Marlow (26th August) and I’d been so focussed on the bike that I’d almost forgotten about the swim. What did give me confidence is 3 of my last 4 swims had been 1500m or more and that in doing the tough Marlow 3km swim I was ready for this…I hope!

As I mentioned Marlow was tough (blog here) and scary but I had the confidence to go right to the front but slightly off of the race line (inside). I thought ‘grow some balls and get in there Stu’ and lined up ready to go. After about 5 minutes of treading water (wetsuit is buoyant remember) and being splashed by the waves the claxon sounded. BOOOOOOOOM I was off!

I remember thinking loads of thoughts…have I made a mistake by being out front? Am I fit enough today? Will I even finish? The last 2 questions would be answered in time but to answer the first ‘No’. I was in the right position. People have said that if you are relatively confident then get in the mix as you will find your rhythm and others will have to adjust theirs to get passed you. This was true I felt much better than I think I ever did in 3km at Marlow probably because I wasn’t as nervous. I had the fear of the unknown then but I was experienced (one race…haha!) and knew what to expect. I’d advise anyone doing an open water triathlon as their first to enter a swim race first as this definitely helped me. I felt people touching my legs but i put that down to nothing more than flirting this time. I took a breath on the same side nearly every stroke to combat the problem I had on my 3km race which was the huge bloated feeling (I found that I swallow air…weirdo!) check the photo below…OUCH!!!

On a couple of minutes in, I saw a big white buoy so I made my way across the field with limited vision (waves) to turn. Only to notice that I was premature and this was the 400m turning point…apologies to the swimmers I got in the way of (waving sicknote card!). Idiot, I though as I bust a gut to get to that turning point as it was into wind and I couldn’t wait to have the wind on my back. I looked up and saw about 10-20 green swim caps heading towards the bridge…that way I thought! Anyway I kept battling the current/wind until about 30 metres from the actual buoy I was supposed to turn at until I felt a regular tapping off my legs as I swam., this had happened before but only a couple of times and they probably just went around me but this was happening for more than 30 secs. It started to play on my mind…P*** off I though but kept going until I felt the tapping becoming more of a grab as we approached the buoy. I let it get to the third and more forceful grab before I gave out a huge kick in which definitely connected. I am not proud of this and would’ve liked this to not happen but this is a dirty tactic on their part and this was hard enough without some arsehole trying to use me to gain advantage…draft behind me by all means but pull me back…I don’t think so! Strangely enough I never got tapped or touched again through the rest of the swim. If you are nervous about the swimming phase hang to the back or side of the start, I put myself in the mix and this, as I found can happen.

I’m not sure if it was easier swimming with the wind as it all felt quite tough. At one point my goggles misted up (I forgot to dip them in the water prior to the race) so I checked around me, stopped, soaked them and carried on. Another lesson learnt. What I did enjoy about the swim is it’s a challenge on your senses some would say not a nice one but still a challenge. I could hardly see, I couldn’t hear, I didn’t fancy tasting or smelling and we know where too much touching can get you! You do almost zone out and apart from sighting (looking for the buoy) when required you just seemed to swim until something engages you like another swimmer or a marking/turning buoy. This gives you plenty of time to think about the next 2 disciplines and more importantly T1. It was as I was level with the exit point on the way back that I really started to think that I was in an Olympic Triathlon race. This was 2012’s goal and I was living it…I never thought about my illness because I was never reminded of it so I thought I must be fine…CRACK ON!!!!

The exit point was in my vision for a while but took a while to arrive. It was a ramp that went into the water and I approached cautiously as I didn’t want to bang any part of my body on it. The water was still very choppy and my vision limited but what I did see was the nicest sight ever followed by the nicest sound too! A huge hand with a high visibility sleeve and voice saying “Grab my hand”. Grab it?! I felt like kissing it!!! I was hoisted out and planted firmly onto the ramp. Quickly gathering my thoughts (they were THIS IS A RACE so MOVE!!!) I made my way up the ramp through an arch that had water showering you…I thought what the hell is that for?!? 1500 metres of Docklands water, now driving rain…oh yeah, I fancy a shower! 😉

I turned left and ran towards the bags to put my wetsuit in. I spotted the time saying 12.29 pm and thought that was slow (started at 12pm) as I’d done a 26 min 1500metres at Shepperton lake at a steady pace. Next part was a bit of a blur but I fumbled to get my wetsuit off and remembered saying which I now think is my triathlon motto “don’t panic, don’t panic”. It came off but I was feeling cold, my hand (left I think) struggled to grip as I pulled at my wetsuit tab, anyway time to get through transition 1. Once my wetsuit was bagged, you turn right into the Excel, up some stairs and into transition. I remember chatting to a woman as we jogged/ran along the outside with our big bags. After a 20 seconds jog chat she decided to run a bit quicker (hint taken love!) and I again thought this is a race. Unfortunately my leg was also putting thoughts in my head like ‘Remember me?!?’. I couldn’t help think about the 10km run and how much fun that would be!

I found my bike with no problem at all…’run towards the gap between ‘4’ and ‘5’ next to the empty women’s bike rack and look for the red RAF Falcon’s helmet bag about 3 metres from the end’ I thought. BOOM, I was there. Wetsuit bag down under the back tyre of the bike next to mine (agreed with the owner earlier), socks on (wanted to protect my feet in the rain), bike shoes on, helmet on, bike off the rack and go! I’d already put my race belt with number on under my wetsuit and had gels in my trisuit leg pockets for later so I steadily made the planned short journey to ‘Bike Out’. No slipping ( I saw a few later slide at this point) and I was on the bike. As I made my way around the Excel on the outside at the bottom of a ramp were 2 or 3 marshalls shouting things that I presumed was slow down to me and the other cyclists. It looked wet and I heard them also say some riders have fallen off already. SCARY!!! On making my way out on to the route I was quite cautious as I didn’t know the route and didn’t know how Sean’s bike would handle in the rain. As I  got away from the cones and marshalls the road opened up and it was time to thrash Sean’s bike (only kidding mate!). You become so alert as you’re looking to avoid any bumps or wet manhole covers or puddles and with the wind too, all this when you are racing against the clock. Not fair, I thought until I smiled and said “COME ON!!!”. I felt alive, here was I and thousands of others doing something that will give you a memory for the rest of your life. Not only was I doing the London Triathlon Olympic Distance Race but it was on the Sunday of the 2012 event…the one with the wind and the rain…COME ON indeed! 🙂

Sean’s bike felt light which was great when going uphill and down hill and going fast along the flat (check Bradley Wiggins here! 😉 ) but every so often a gap would appear and the wind would knock you a couple of feet to the side, enough to make you grip that bit tighter and for your heart to skip a few beats. This was exciting, here was I cycling on the empty streets of East London going at a pace that made me smile, I could even hear the Rocky theme tune in my ears! I got to the ‘Tower Bridge’ turning point which was back from the iconic landmark pity as it was just a point in the road rather than a turning next to the bridge and the Tower of London. The turn was slow for obvious reasons and back on the pedals to pick up speed again, this time the wind and rain was in my face. Not as much fun as it had been on the way here. Another thing that was against you was the spray kicked up by the other bikes around as this got you in the face from the ground up. Drafting (sit behind another bike) is something that only certain races allow and this wasn’t one of them but even if it had been I’m not sure I would have due to the spray.

As I was battling the elements and the occasional hill, I divided the bike route into five parts. 1st part was done by cycling to Tower Bridge. The 2nd and 4th part was gonna be the killers. As we did 2 laps of the course they were the long stretches from Tower Bridge to the Stansfield Road turn point heading from West to East. It made it easier to apply myself and recover rather than seeing the whole thing as a slog!

The bike leg passed with only 3 minor incidents, the first being that on the fastest part of the course (heading down into the tunnel ) I was ‘speedo watching’ and on approaching 34ish mph I hit 3 or 4 cats eyes! OMG I ain’t EVER doing that again. If I had fallen off I’d have probably been in intensive care as I was wearing just a trisuit with no protection apart from my helmet. Another lesson learnt. The second incident was on approaching the end of the 4th part, I struggled to change gear as I was heading uphill. I remember using my knuckles in the end as my fingers on my left hand had went numb. The weather had taken effect and was starting to cause me some problems. Another lesson here…if you know that the weather isn’t going to be nice, wouldn’t another layer be a good option?!?!?! Oh yeah, bloody hindsight! It was cold and I remember looking at my arms like they were droplets on a newly washed and waxed car, they just seemed to stay there. The final incident was that I think my trisuit is too tight as the last two events, this one more so have caused chaffing down below, maybe a 2 piece would be a better option in future. Anyway, head down and crack on was my cry, even letting out a few growls to show that I was still fighting! Quite a strange feeling letting out a growl as initially you think what the hell was that but then you start feeling like an animal and behave a bit like one…if you know what I mean (delirious maybe!).

As I was on part 5 (the leg from East back to the Excel) I concentrated on T2 and the run. Topping up on the Hydro tab drink and having my 3rd Gu gel (one prior to swim, one about 15 mins into bike and one prior to the run) I started to take my feet out of my shoes and rest them on top so I could get off the bike quickly and not have to worry about slipping whilst wearing cleats. I probably did this a bit earlier than needed but at least I was prepped! On coming back to the Excel the same marshalls where again shouting and I really couldn’t hear what they were saying but it sounded like slow down again. I went passed quite slow and battled up the final hill towards T2. I’ve since read a blog that said they were told to get off the bikes at that slippery point and get back on again, not sure if they were saying that or not but anyway.

Transition 2 wasn’t too bad as I came in from the rain turned left to the end, turned sharp right and made by way to the ‘4 and 5’ on the wall, found my point, bike racked, helmet off, trainers on, numbered turned round and go! At no point did I really smile on the outside but there were times that somewhere inside me was smiling. Although I could feel my calf/Achilles as I ran it wasn’t too sore so what made me smile is that I felt I had done it, not underestimating the 10km run but I was the closest to a comfort zone as I could be in terms of finishing the race. I had been worried about the illness and how much of a factor it would have on me and the answer was I felt about 90% all the way up to here. Prior to the race I thought that I might not complete the swim and to me that would’ve been a massive blow that would have had me sulking for months! But here I was running out of the Excel centre towards my 1st of 4 laps thinking all I’ve got to do is pace myself.

It was about pacing myself for a few reasons. The first because of my leg. I couldn’t run to the point at which my lungs are bursting like I do when I’m going for a PB at Bushy Park Run as I wasn’t that person today. My leg would’ve MADE me stop and I don’t want to think of what the outcome of that could’ve been. The second reason was this was still an unknown area for me. My 1st triathlon was a sprint distance (400m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) and due to the heat on that day the 5km run was one of the toughest 5km’s I’ve ever ran, this was only my second triathlon and it was double the distance and I had an injury.

Running 4 laps of 2.5km each was what I had to do as part of the HSBC Relay Triathlon exactly a week ago but that route was a straight up and down run alongside the Eton Rowing lake…it was boring. The only thing to stimulate the mind was checking out the other runners. I’d look at their bodies, faces, running styles, trisuits, trainers even arses (the girls ones of course) just to give me something to think about. This route was different and to be honest my first thought on seeing the ups and downs, twists and turns was my leg’s not gonna like this especially with the huge puddles that were appearing (horse trials water jump spring to mind) causing me to alter my stride. If I kept at the same pace I was going to finish, I knew this and that gave me comfort so I actually saw the course as something to concentrate on and think about. I read the banners, I looked at the changing scenery, I had to concentrate on the many 90 degree turns as one slip and I know my legs would’ve cramped up. I looked at the spectators, there wasn’t many on the run route and who could blame those who were not there as it as tipping it down. 1 group, 1 single spectator and 1 marshal really stood out and it was nice to run to them on every lap. The group in green (must have been a charity) were positioned on the right side as you excited the Excel heading to the downhill. They were mental!!! Screaming and shouting and banging whatever they could together and they were relentless. I jokingly cupped my ear on one occasion pretending not to hear them which made them go even louder! I never smiled at them as I couldn’t but I’d love to thank each of them with a hug as they helped me and I’m sure thousands of others in a worse place than I was. The single spectator was positioned on the right as the Excel came into view and she looked like she was outside a coffee shop in a brown coat with umbrella. I don’t know who she was but she had a massive smile on her face and genuinely loving cheering us on in the wind and rain. The final one represents all the marshalls and poor photographers that were out on the course that day, especially the afternoon I felt sorry but also thankful for them. I saw a few on motorbikes helping cyclists who’d had a puncture to get back on their bikes (if I’d have had a puncture I think I would’ve cried so any help would’ve been like a godsend!). Anyway this one particular marshal was out on the furthest part of the run course (apart from where the two cars on ramps were positioned) and her job was to guide runners on 180 degree turn through a puddle and a couple of bollards. She encouraged and guided me through here 4 times with the same enthusiasm every time but because she was at quite a cramp inducing part of the course she must’ve had some things to deal with. Thinking about all of this as well as the changing running surfaces (plastic, rubber, metal, dirt track, road and inside the excel) we had to deal with made it quite an exciting 4 laps.

The first 2 laps were fine but I could feel the lower part of both quads ache more than usual towards the start of the third. I put this simply down to the fact that I’d used my quads to cycle and here I was having to lift my legs higher than normal on the slight hills and through the ‘water jump’. As I completed the 3rd lap a rush of emotion came over me as then next time I could turn sharp right inside the Excel to go down the finishing straight and boy was I looking forward to that. I took in the last lap as a bit of a victory lap, a victory over my body, a victory that I was 2.5km from completing something I’d put off for so long.

I saw a couple of people walking on my last lap and I allowed myself to speak and encourage them to keep going. I was conserving as much energy as possible so if I wasn’t gonna allow myself to smile then I definitely restricting the amount of chatting I did. I was in two minds about thanking the magic 3 that helped me on the run but I had my head down and was still competing against the clock.

I never knew this until recently but there’s something about doing a sub 2hr20min Olympic distance triathlon. I can’t remember who told me but I did wonder when purchasing my 1st triathlon magazine that it was called ‘Triathlon 220’. I may be wrong but it seems as a barrier to be broken and if you do it’s a ‘well done’ type of moment. Alistair Brownlee won gold in London 2012 with a time of 1hr46mins so sub 2.20 is a standard that is achievable but my bar was set at going for a (fully fit) sub 2.30 and each time I went passed the finishing straight I knew that even the way I have been feeling and with not doing much training prior to this event that I’d be close. I entered the Excel for the 4th and final time and it was a happy experience. I got to enter the finish lane, a lane that I’d eyeballed 3 previous times with an envy of ______________________ (enter your own phrase here) and now it was my turn. I high-fived those who’d put their hands out (1 child I think) and those who had something resembling a hand out and made my way round to the best finish line in the world! It said 14.31 (I started at 12pm) and I wasn’t bothered at all…I had achieved something I should’ve pulled out of and was only a minute + over.

A twitter follower tweeted me that morning and said he’d done his triathlon on Saturday and that I should do the ‘Mo Bot’ as I crossed the line. I replied back saying “haha” and thought nothing more of it until I ran towards the ramp and out came my Mo Bot (in case anyone’s thinking anything rude, it’s not. Google it!). What a great celebrations it is. You can do it without breaking stride and it got a few people saying “Yeeeeeeaaaaahhhhhh Mo Bot”. Thanks Mo Farah for your celebration, I’m not sure I’ll do it ever again but I felt like an Olympic Champion crossing that line and not like a polished rally car as previously mentioned!

I crossed the line in a bit of a daze of music, commentator shouting, lights flashing, people cheering and came out the other side a bit hazy. I saw a women handing out Gatorade so I hugged her, not that I love Gatorade that much just simply I think I needed a hug. I was tough on my body for over 2.5 hours and I needed some warmth ;-). Next was the medal, god it feels good when it goes over your head and then the final photograph! SNAP!

I had a little laugh with the ‘chip taker offerers’ as I nearly split water over them as I lifted my leg up for them to do their job and walked to wards the Cold Spa. I’d booked my appointment for 3pm (told you I wasn’t confident with my body) but arrived 25 mins earlier and said to the guy if now was a good time. I got in and it didn’t feel too cold to start with…it was 7 degrees. The ‘attendant’ dude told me I should aim for 5 minutes as we chatted about all sorts of things. I started to feel my feet go really cold within 40-60secs and about a minute later I took my socks off (why were they on anyway?!). I started chatting to anyone that gave me a strange look and invited them to feel the water. The best was a little girl of about 7 whose Dad lifted her up to dip her finger in and she gave me an amazing expression of COLD and WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO YOURSELF?!?!. It kept me going for a few more minutes until the pain didn’t get any worse. “That’s 5 minutes mate” he said and I took my time getting out. Here’s where I realised that this was a bad move, a really bad move. I’d been ill in case you didn’t already know and I’d put my body through hell so in terms of recovery for legs, the Cold Spa was great but my body didn’t agree. I could not warm up, I was shaking as time went by told the point I was shaking pretty bad. I went to my transition point and tried to change into warm clothes. It seemed to take ages for me to do anything. Another Twitter follower introduced himself as we’d challenged each other to ‘loser buys the Guinness’. I could hardly speak to him without my teeth chattering (at one point my lips too!). I put on every item I had which was shorts, trackies, compression socks, 4 layers on top including a compression top and gillet, snood and a hat. I still kept shaking.

I took my bike out of transition, loaded up my van and went for my pre booked massage. I couldn’t feel my feet that well but thankfully everywhere else was better. I had a cheeky cheat meal, Chicken Tikka Masala and a Cobra and made my way home. The journey was awful but I didn’t let that spoil my achievement. I stuck on Paul Weller ‘Hit Parade’ to chill me out whilst I sat in the (normally stressful) traffic jam out of the Excel and on the A13. I did think that maybe getting a hotel room for the night would’ve been a better idea (maybe next year).

I have learnt a lot from this experience as I do most. What I have taken away from my recent participation in multi-discipline events is to respect them. Don’t approach with a “I can do that” attitude as an Ironman Triathlon must be called an Ironman Triathlon for a reason and instead of saying “next year”, I’m currently in training to become an Ironman in 2015…I say currently, I’m actually back in bed after 2 days off work with Man Flu!

Do as I say, not as I do!

Stuart

Olympian…(Olympic Distance Triathlete!) 😉

#FitTeam12 will be changing in 2013 and I want as much of you guys involved as possible. More details to follow but I’m working on a web link where I can let you all know what it will be face to face (via a screen!).

Keep up the awesome work #FitTeam12…you motivate me!

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Darren Pennell says:

    Awesome blog, very motivating as I want to complete next years Olympic distance. I finished this years super sprint, not being able to swim three months ago and can honestly say Stu’s motivation and attitude to ‘you vs you’ got me through it, after being overtaken by everyone in the dock! , it stuck in my mind and never let me give up. The motivation is changing lives for the better! Keep it up teamfit!!!

    1. So proud of ya buddy!!!

  2. Dom says:

    Bloody well done Stuart, fantastic effort and inspirational blog. Hard enough without the illness, you should be very proud of yourself. Imagine how easy it will be next time!

    1. Cheers, bring on next time!!!

  3. Thomas says:

    Great effort stuart, your such an inspiration! Also completed the triathlon this weekend in almost the same time as my first tri. Had the exact same experience with the cold spa too, after getting out realised that somebody had taken my wetsuite from transition, so I went over to the information desk, only to be asked if I was ok, and if I needed a coat as I was shivering, and my teeth were chattering uncontrollably!

    I’m sure you’ll absolutely smash the next one in nicer conditions feeling 100%, 2.20 shouldn’t be a problem!

    1. Cheers buddy! Well done you too!

  4. JenJ says:

    Great recap and well done!! What an amazing achievement. And you’re soooo right! I went into the London Duathlon thinking it can’t be that bad and boy was I surprised (well, the heat didn’t help!). Bring on next year, right?! 😉

    1. Damn right, let’s smash 2013!!! Grrrrrrrr! x

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