Ive been writing this post, in my head at least, since being on the bike leg of Brigg Sprint; my final race of the year (more on that later). I had been keeping a video blog but I never really got the hang of it and I feel far less silly and self important writing than speaking to camera.
My season began this time last year as I commenced winter training. There’s not really much to write about that now, other than it was more slow long miles than I had done in the past. By the time of my first race, which was Lincoln 10k, I didn’t feel like my usual zip had returned but maybe that was because I had had a different winter to previously. I stood on the line on my own this year as Mum had compeated in the Clumber Park Duathlon the day previous. I got myself in my race place and then the gun went. Despite pushing hard and running my usual negative split I was way off my previous years time. This was disappointing for me as Lincoln was always my 10k PB course every year and I felt like I had gone backwards.
Given the disappointment and allied to my completing my Level 2 coaching course, I felt a change was needed and decided to coach myself. My aim had been to qualify to represent GB at Age Group level over sprint distance and I had entered St Neots, Nottingham and Southport in order to do so. Now though, I was writing off the first two in my head and training my focus on Southport as that would give me a greater amount of time to get ready.
I raced Southport as hard as I could as I was quite a distance from where I needed to be. Despite the early May cold, I enjoyed the River Swim even if it was a bit narrow.
Nottingham two weeks later went well too, although not well enough. The lake swim being the opposite way to confused me at first and I got myself tangled up in some of the washing machine. The lapped bike course was fun and the run, although you can see the curvature of the Earth, was enjoyable until the turn when the assisting wind on the bike became a brick wall of resistance. This race gave me a better snapshot as to where I was against my age group peers and the answer was well off but getting closer and with another 3 weeks of training and some good luck, I might sneak a chance.
Southport was on the longest day of the year. I’d been feeling good in training and like I was making progress. However it was not midsummer’s day weather. It was howling with the strongest wind I’d seen this year and it was flipping cold. Not my ideal conditions at all. I was surprised that the lake was slightly salty but my Zone3 vision excelled in the conditions and stripping down running up the banking I felt good. Then disaster struck. The wind had blown my helmet away. I searched and searched and started to get a bit frantic. Time continued to tick away and I could feel the slim chance I had of qualifiying slipping away. I’d reached the point where I was going to find the race referee and ask what I could do when, suddenly, I spotted my bright yellow helmet 125 yards from my bike in the gutter! By this time I had spent nearly 9 minutes in T1 and I was really up against it. The wind was howling and it was straight in to a head wind and while I enjoyed the tailwind, then final part was in to the soul destroying wind again. By the time I got off my bike I needed a massive standalone 5k pb to try and get a percentage and sadly I wasn’t in anywhere near good enough shape. The dream dies for another year.
After that I turned my training towards the London Triathlon which is a standard distance race. I hoped that my running would be somewhere approaching what it was 12 months ago as being able to run fast off the bike is my strength. Elsewhere I knew my bike was improving as my watts went up and my weight went down. Likewise, my css time was ever improving.
First up was the inaugural Hull Triathlon which I decided to enter as I liked the idea of an itu style event right on the doorstep. However, as was becoming the pattern, it didn’t turn out as I’d hoped. It started with a kiss or rather it didn’t as I went on an unsuitable blind date the night before. I should have know trouble was in the air from that point. On Sunday I arrived at the race with a flat rear tyre. No problem says I and pumps it up again. The rest of the morning I never gave it a second thought as I watched the koi carp behave like giant mutated ill tempered sea bass over the remnants of cast off sandwiches. By the time I was in the water and the gun had gone off I’d not had the time to worry about how narrow we would get funnelled on the two lap swim. In the end, despite a mini panic attack, I exited the water the fastest I ever had and jumped on the bike. First corner, big trouble. I didn’t so much as glide but skidded. Ok no worries I thought, probably bus oil on the road. Next corner, same again. On the next longish straight I got off to check it out and my tyre was flatting again. I had two choices now; either stop after 5 mins or see it out a bit more carefully. I chose the latter and only veered uncontrollably off course twice before getting off unscathed. The run was also a disaster. I completely blew up after about 2k and had a miserable time getting to the finish. This season was cursed.
A good block of solid training followed and I was looking forward to London. It’s always a good race with a great atmosphere and more importantly a good weekend away watching dad and mum race too (although no mum this year due to a torn ACL). I had also borrowed my mate Andy Purser’s wheels to try and set a faster time.
I got in the water for an unusual morning start wave and for the first time in 4 years, completely lost my nerve. I ended up swimming backwards and to the extreme left to start, away from the crowds. I didn’t even make my way in to the pack either, sticking to the far edge and swimming like I have never swam before despite my excellent swim in Hull. The bike was different this year, longer and with a technical element around Canary Wharf. Despite that my garmin reckoned I hit speeds of 70mph (take that Peter Sagan) and I did clock a faster time considering the course elongation. The run was also really good for me. I stuck to my plan and ran pretty evenly and clocking a pb. However, I subsequently discovered the run course is short. Why, I have no idea. It’s a straight line along the dock and there’s really no excuse for not extending it to get the right distance.
My last race of the season was Brigg Sprint. I just suffered from can’t be arsed itis in the build up to this for the first time in my career. I hardly trained at all and it was during this period that I decided that while I knew what I was doing with my training, I needed the accountability and arse kicking a coach would provide me. I went in to the race with no expectations whatsoever, other than to enjoy it and see what happened. I had a half decent swim all things considered and then out on the bike my power meter packed in. At this point I thought fuck it and just pushed until it hurt and then tried to hold that for as long as I could. It was foggy and really thick in the air so I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular. Off the bike I just thought to run as hard as I could for 20 minutes and then I was done with the miserable year and I could have a beer. As it happened, I PB’d the course by around 8 seconds. After the race I caught up with dad who had also done a PB. I made my way to the timing truck to see where I’d ended up as the computer wasn’t recognising me. When the guy said I’d won my age group (by over 6 minutes) I didn’t believe him and uttered some x rated filth. I decided that I wouldn’t believe him until I was presented with the trophy as there had clearly been a mistake. But no, there wasn’t and I picked up the first trophy of my triathlon career. A nice way to top off a shit year.
I have to say though, it didn’t half give me an urge to start training again though and in the last month I’ve done so under the guidance of Perry Agas. I look forward to seeing what I can do as I move up to middle distance next year.
Big thanks to Zone3 who’s wetsuit and trisuit are fast and hydrophobic making them comfortable even when everything is falling down around you. To AMSport for their nutrition products that kept me going and helped to pick me up and to my family and friends for their support and encouragement.