This wetsuit’s made for walking……….and that’s just what I’ll do.

Last Thursday Bushy and I decided to go for a swim after work.  Most normal people swim in a swimming pool, where the water is a reasonable temperature, they have changing rooms for your use, lockers, and hot showers.  There is a great pool near where we live in Portsmouth.  In fact more than one.  We decided to go for a swim in the sea.

I picked him up after work and we drove to the beach.  After parking the car, we got our stuff out and started to get changed into our wetsuits when I realised, “what am I going to do with the car key?”  In the not too distant past you could have just swum with the key in your pocket, but my car has a fancy zapper style key, which would surely not take well to being submerged in salt water for an extended period of time.

There was no choice, what we had to do was obvious.  We drove to my house, put on our wetsuits and then walked through the middle of Portsmouth to the beach.  It’s about a 15 minute walk, and takes in part of Albert Road (a popular Portsmouth nightlife area), so as we strolled along, two middle aged men in wetsuits that are probably a little bit too small for them, goggles in one hand, swimming cap in the other we had more than a few funny looks.  One cheeky young lady even took a picture of us.  I mean, as if it is that unusual to see two men walking around in wetsuits at 8pm on a Thursday evening.

Southsea Beach

Arriving at the beach we walked into the sea, and off we set.  It is about an 800m swim from where you get in to the submarine blocks, which is the route favoured by the Pompey Triathletes on the Saturday morning swim, so we stuck with that.  Once you get to the blocks you turn around and come back, for a total of 1600m (which by happy coincidence is also exactly 1 mile).

Bushy and I both swim fairly strongly.  Neither of us is super quick, but we can hold our own in the water and are both confident swimmers.  What seemed strange is that we were making very very slow progress.  There is often a current off of Southsea beach, and tonight was no exception.  The current was strong, so strong in fact that it took us almost 50 minutes to swim the 800m to the blocks, which is not quick at all.  The way back was a vast improvement, and we both took the chance to work on our sighting on the swim back.

Sighting is where you raise your head out of the water to try and make sure you are going the right way.  This has obvious uses.  Firstly, you make sure you are pointing the right way and secondly, it stops you from swimming some sort of exaggerated meandering route, rather than the more direct A-B route that would be favourable.  I am terrible at sighting, and need all the practice I can get.  On a normal 800m swim I reckon I swim closer to 1000m because I seem to be constantly either pointing at the beach, or the Isle of Wight (neither of which are ever in the right direction).

To prove the strength of the current, the swim that took us 50 minutes on the outward leg took 10 on the way back, and we were soon out of the water and walking back to my house.

A very successful swim, great company, great fun.  

So if you are a resident of Portsmouth, and you see two men in slightly too small wetsuits walking towards Southsea beach one evening, don’t just gawk at us and laugh, come over and say hello.  More than likely it will be me and Bushy, as I doubt anybody else is mad enough to wander around in their wetsuits.



Henley Sprint Triathlon – very much a mixed bag

It’s 6.30am on Sunday 22nd June.  My alarm has just gone off.  Must be time for the Henley Sprint Triathlon.

I took the executive decision not to follow my usual pre Triathlon preparation of going out drinking and getting less than 3 hours sleep, and awoke after a relatively decent nights sleep.  I had already loaded the bike into the car, and was in definite danger of being close to being prepared.  That being said I had prepared nothing other than the putting the bike in the car the night before; however even this small step is a huge improvement in my normal organisational levels.

Quickly whizzing round the house gathering up my stuff, my ever supportive and beautiful wife Cat and bidding the dog a fond adieu, I jumped in the car and headed off to Henley.  It’s a long drive to Henley despite it being only 60 miles away from Portsmouth, and as usual the sat nav on the car took us a weird and wonderful route down some very picturesque country lanes.  We arrived around 9am, which was in plenty of time for my 9:56 start time in the swim.

Having not factored in that it was a 15 minute walk from the car park (well car parking field) to the triathlon venue, Cat and I arrived and wandered to the registration tent.  “Still plenty of time” I was thinking to myself.  By the time we had registered and procrastinated a bit more I realised it was only 20 minutes till I was due to start. I still had to put my bike in transition 1 (us cool triathlon people call this T1), my shoes in transition 2, get changed into my tri-suit and then get to the swim in time for my pre-race brief, which happens 10 minutes before your start time.  Essentially I was running very short on time.

I work in a pressurised environment Monday to Friday, so of course I am used to tight deadlines and having to do things at the last minute.  Naturally, rather than reacting like I would at work, with steely determination, I opted for the opposite and went into full on panic mode.  Mostly I just complained to Cat that I didn’t know what to do, where to put my shoes, where to put my bike, how to attach my race numbers to my race belt, where the pool was, what my name was and that I had forgotten how to walk.  Fortunately for me she calmed me down, took control, pointed out where T2 was (for the shoes), walked me to T1, sent me off to get changed whilst she did my race belt etc and I made it into the swim about a minute before my start time.

The Henley Tri was a 400m swim in a pool.  4 laps are swum in 4 consecutive lanes, and you move from one lane to another after completing the 4 laps until you jump out after 16 laps of a 25m pool.  With pool swims it is essential that you get the right starting group, as if you are in a group of swimmers that are too fast for you then they will be slowed down and this is very bad form.  Likewise if you are in with a group of swimmers who are slower than you then you are slowed down, which naturally affects your swim time.

Artist Impression of the pool during my swim

We were asked for our predicted 400m swim time when booking up the Triathlon.  I didn’t have a clue what time I put, but knew that Mike, Bushy and Curry had all started before me (meaning that they had put down faster swim times than me).  The fact is that I am probably a better swimmer than both Bushy and Curry, so my starting position being later than those meant I was most likely in a far too slow swim group.  When I saw the other swimmers in front of me my worst fears were realised.  Most of them were swimming breaststroke – VERY slowly.

Despite all this I jumped in the pool, was given the count and was off.  I overtook the slower swimmers when I could, but was horrendously held up at the end of at least 5 of the laps.  Finally getting a bit of open water on my last 4 laps I swam like I had never swam before.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some people thought that I might have been Michael Phelps I was swimming so fast.  Just kept thinking how I had to make up for lost time.

Leaping out of the pool I instantly realised my sprinting the last 4 laps was a mistake.  I was dizzy and very out of breath.  I stumbled out of the pool exit, saw Cat, remember saying something bizarre to her like “see you later”, and then staggered into transition.  My hands were shaking like mad from the swimming exertion, and it took me an age to put my socks and bike shoes on.  I eventually got my race belt, helmet and sunnies on and was off out of transition.  

My view during the ride

The bike leg was two laps of 12.5km each for 25km in total.  I polished off the first 12.5km in 24 minutes and was happy that this was a good time.  I am strong on the bike, enjoy it and felt good.  The second lap was not so good.  I got stuck behind a Range Rover that simply could not overtake a slower rider up one of the climbs, which meant I had to grind my lowest gear super slowly just to get up the hill.  About 5 minutes later I got stuck behind another car which was doing a very bad job of overtaking some slower riders ahead, and then to cap it all off on the only decent downhill on the course a caravan overtook me at the top, then proceeded to ride the brakes the entire way down, sapping all my speed and causing me to say a swear word or two (sorry Mum).

Anyway I eventually rolled into T2 after 55 minutes on the bike, which I was very disappointed with after a quick first lap of only 24 minutes.  Continuing my poor transition form, I ran the wrong way towards where I thought I had left my running shoes, doubled back, found the shoes, on they went and I was off on my 5km run.

Running is my weakest discipline, and for the fist about 400 metres I felt OK.  Then things went downhill.  It was very, very hot.  I was not hydrated enough.  My mouth was a dry as Ghandi’s flip flops.  I knew there was water at the end of each 1.25km lap, so jogged round past Cat and the rest of the support crew, grabbed a cup and swigged it down.  This just gave me stomach ache, so on the second lap I decided not to drink and to keep on running.  The run felt very, very slow to me.  My stomach hurt, and once again, for the second triathlon in a row I knew I was facing a slow run.  After slogging out 2 more laps I crossed the line, to see my Grazing Saddles teammates waiting for me at the finish.  They all looked a lot better than I felt.

Waiting around for a while the results appeared on the main screen at the event, and I crossed the line in 1:35:16.  Amazingly this was exactly the same time as Curry, about 5 minutes behind Bushy and well over 20 behind Mike, who finished a very impressive 12th place.

If I am being honest I was disappointed with my performance.  The slow swim group did not help, and I could have gone at least 1-2 minutes faster in the pool.  Both of my transitions were poor.  The second lap on the bike was a disaster (although not really my fault) and because I did not hydrate properly on the ride my run suffered.

That being said this is only my second ever Triathlon, and I have learnt a lot.  It was great to compete with the team, superb to be so well supported by Ellie, Tymms, and the relevant WAG’s (remembering of course that Bushy’s girlfriend is not actually his girlfriend).

Next Triathlon is the Swanage Olympic Distance, which I am determined to put in an excellent performance at.  Onwards with the training.



No to the pub……Yes to a 5k PB

Today I crossed a crucial threshold.  Having secured a couple of mates to go to the pub with tonight, I changed my mind, and decided to go for a run instead. Ru To many people this would seem like nothing, but to me this is a major turning point.

So I rode my motorbike home from work, got prepared, and then went for a run.  It was my intention to take it slow, as I am still carrying a little bit of calf cramp from my swim on Saturday.  But (as my good friend Curry would say) “the legs felt good”.  

I had borrowed Cat’s Garmin watch which gave me instant feedback on my pace, and I was amazed to see I had set out at 5mins/km.  This would give me a 5k time of 25 minutes if I kept it up, which is not fast by general standards, but is superb for me.  

As I got to the sea front the sub 25 minute 5k was definitely not on.  It was windy.  Very windy.  So I ran into the wind till I got to 2.5k, and then I turned around.  Running with the wind was great, and meant I could conserve a bit of energy for the final 1k inland to home.

Arriving at my front door, I had managed a 5k of 26:15, which isn’t too bad at all.  If I can run that at Henley on Sunday, after a quick swim and bike then I may well do OK.

So in short I am pleased with myself.  I have celebrated with a corned beef sandwich, and am now off to bed.



A few days off

So I have had a few days off of training.  Not been for a run, swim or ride since Sunday, and in all honesty I do feel better for not training for a bit.  Am still very unsure on the correct balance of training.

Some people train every day, but I seem to require a bit longer for recovery than most.  This is probably because I am the wrong side of 35, and I wasn’t exactly starting from a strong fitness base.

Have also been thinking quite a bit about the importance of diet in training.  Essentially I do not really follow any diet of any sort.  I try to make the right decisions on meals, but am very partial to an odd take-a-way and now we are into BBQ season more than my fair share of burgers has already passed my lips.

Am fairly sure it is time to think a little bit more about food and stuff.  I am neither gaining or losing weight, but my body simply must be stronger with all the training I have been doing.  I have blogged about the importance of weight before, and then essentially not really done much about it.

To be brutally honest, I will probably think about it for a bit and then carry on like I always have, but if I am going to complete this Ironman I need to be as light as I can possibly get, and that means eating properly.  It’s time for a new resolve around this I think.  Will put my thinking cap on.

Hope you all have a lovely, and sunny weekend.  All you Dad’s out there, enjoy Fathers Day.



A reminder of why I am doing all this

Let’s be honest.  Training for anything is hard.  You have to get up early to train most of the time (so it doesn’t take over your day).  Your muscles hurt.  You are tired.  You get injured.  Sometimes you just want to give up, especially when your spare time is so limited that you are making the difficult decision between spending time with your family, and going out for a run/ride/swim.

I am on a fairly low ebb at the moment.  Work is tough, I am travelling a lot which means spending far too much time away from Cat and Niamh (which I hate having to do), money is a bit tight and I just feel like going into hiding.  Shutting out the world and doing nothing. 

Of course this achieves very little, so I decided to remind myself of why I am even doing all  this training in the first place.  My thoughts drifted to Steve, Louise and Amber.  If you are not familiar with their story, please read the “Motivation” section of my blog – just click on the link above this post.  Amber is the reason I started this blog.  She is the reason that I started training in the first place.  Searching through my email so I could send Steve a message, I found the poem that Louise wrote and read out at Amber’s funeral.  It has really touched me, so I thought I would share it with you.

Louise’s Poem for Amber

The day I realised I was pregnant,
my depression lifted
As you grew inside you kicked your Daddy in the head
with the strong legs you had been gifted

Your Daddy and I brought you into this world,
you were perfect in every way
We learnt what sheer adoration felt like
On Thursday 19th May

We brought you home and the adventure started,
you were a textbook baby
I paraded you around in your bright green pram
and folk marveled at my beautiful lady

We had some activities like swimming and play dates
but mostly we took it easy
You loved your food especially if
it was biscuits, yoghurt, marmite or cheesy

I would walk into your room every morning,
you would greet me with a huge smile
Your favourite toy was your jumperoo
You would bounce for quite a while

We were all so proud to celebrate your first birthday,
cake smeared across your face
We took you out in your new trike
Wonderful memories that can never be replaced

You looked really unwell so we took you to the hospital,
a few days later you went blind
We started fighting Neuroblastoma
Our old lives left behind

Once you’re on the cancer bus you cannot get off,
a new sort of normal beckoned
Good fortune gave us our first year with you
The Royal Marsden gave us our second

We were looked after by such wonderful people
Whom we otherwise wouldn’t have met
Without them we couldn’t have got so far
We can never repay the debt

You felt so much pain and sickness
But even through the woe and sorrow
you showed us how to be strong and kind
And face another tomorrow

The treatment had taken its toll,
your poor little body could not keep up the fight
Neuroblastoma was taking your life,
extinguishing your light

You fought on longer than you needed to,
we were ready to see your pain end
You passed away on Monday 24th June,
our broken hearts will never mend

Time will march on whether I like it or not,
whether my mood is foul or sunny
You are not here with me but you will always be my Amber
… and I will always be your Mummy

An amazing and beautiful poem written by an equally amazing woman who is 100 times stronger than I can ever be. 

For Louise and Steve I will train harder, I will dig deeper, and in just over 1 years time I will become an Ironman, raising as much money as I can to support their charities, and honouring the  memory of their beautiful and brave daughter Amber.

It’s official, I am a Triathlete

It’s 4am on Sunday 25th May.  My alarm has just gone off.  It must be time for the Arundel Lido Triathlon.

Any regular reader of my blog will be more than aware that I do not enjoy getting up early in the morning, and today was no exception.  My normal annoyance of rising from my slumber early was compounded by the fact that I had slept poorly, and also gone to bed rather later than I probably should have.

The night before my lovely wife and I had gone out for a few drinks and dinner with our friend Bushy, and his girlfriend who is not really his girlfriend as they don’t want to admit they are boyfriend and girlfriend though they obviously are but are in denial about it for some reason.  Anyhow, we met them for a late lunch, stayed out in the pub till 10pm, then went for tapas at a local Spanish restaurant!  Eventually I managed to get into bed about midnight with a belly full of food and too much beer, to settle in for a good 4 hour sleep.  It took me almost 2 hours to fall asleep, and when I did I slept awfully as I was aware I had to get up at 4am.

All of this was OK (I told myself) as Bushy was competing the next day too so at least I wouldn’t be suffering alone.  Or at least so I thought, as I received a text from Bushy when I woke up to tell me that he wouldn’t be competing as he “wanted to spend time with Marie”.  Now bearing in mind that she isn’t even his girlfriend, even though she actually is, you would have thought that his loyalty would be with me rather than her.  How wrong can one man be?

So back to the plot.  It’s 4am and I am up, and waking my wife up.  Being the super supportive and lovely wife that she is Cat had agreed to come with me and be support crew.  I gathered up my gear (which I had obviously not prepared the night before as I was out eating dinner), loaded the bike into the car, woke up the dog (who was also coming to support), loaded him and the rest of the gear into the car and off we set.

Not pictured – Dog or Wife

I arrived at Arundel Lido and immediately went to register.  This was super quick, and soon I had the bike out of the car and was heading to the transition area.  Carefully racking my bike and arranging my gear underneath, I was ready to go.

I did expect that I would be nervous for my first ever Tri; however thankfully the only emotion I felt was excitement.  Of course, I also had the feeling that I imagine every single triathlete feels before an event, which is simply that I had not done enough training.  I imagine that everybody feels this way, or at least those that don’t have actually done way too much training (as opposed to the correct amount) but anyway I gave my lovely wife a quick kiss, and then went poolside to start my swim.

The Arundel Lido Triathlon standard distance was an 800m swim, then 40k on the bike and a 10k run.  The swim was in the Lido (though the more astute of you will probably have already worked that out) and consisted of 32 lengths of the pool.  They were running late on the pool start times, and the air was chilly waiting to start but all I could focus on was how much stronger and thinner everybody seemed to look compared to me.  Memo to self, lose weight before you have to put the tri suit on again!

Soon it was my time to start, so I pulled on the orange swimming cap that allowed me to be recognised from the other 3 swimmers in my lane, and off I set.  The swim went well, and before I knew it I was tapped on the head to indicate I had 2 lengths left.  I was very pleased that this service was offered, as I had totally forgotten how many laps I had swam after only counting to about 3.  Perhaps the tiredness was catching up with me.

I lept out of the pool like the athlete that I am, and jogged (yes jogged) to transition.  Every second counts after all!.  Bike helmet and shoes were on in no time and I was off on my ride.  It was my plan to take it easy on the bike as running is by far my weakest event, so I set off at a pace that would mean I should be able to complete the 40k ride in about 90 minutes.  The route immediately took on a 15 minute climb, where I was overtaken by all manner of skinny men on all manner of super aerodynamic TT bikes.  Who cares about all that though, I was competing in a triathlon.  I may be overweight, I may not have done enough training and my gear may well be mainly borrowed / extremely cheap but I was actually taking part in a triathlon, which is something that not a lot of people can say they have done.

  I rode almost entirely on my own for the two laps of the bike course, which suited me perfectly.  I wanted to average around 15mph, which would give me a time of approximately 1hr 30 mins on the bike.  This is far from quick for 40k, but I was desperate to pace myself for the 10k run (which I knew would be very hard for me).  Making sure to take on plenty of fluids during my ride, I eventually pulled into the Lido car park and jumped off my bike, jogging it to the transition area and popping my running shoes on.  

At this point I saw my wife, who gave me a huge smile and a cheer which really lifted my spirits ahead of the run.  It really makes all the difference having a support team at these events.  If you are reading this Doc – thank you so much for coming to support me.

So I had my shoes on, swigged down a final mouthful of water and headed out of transition and into the run stage.  Again I saw my wife, who had made her way to near the transition exit and gave me a high five and a quick shout of encouragement.  I felt good.  Perhaps this run was going to be OK after all.  Or perhaps not!

My back went into spasm only 500m into the run.  And it was hurting me…….a lot.  I had back surgery a few years ago, and occasionally it will play up.  Looks like the swap from 40k ride to 10k run is one of those occasions.  

I ran when I could, and walked when I had to.  My back was agony, and the course was extremely hilly.  Well it was mainly just up-hilly for the first 4k which practically killed me.  There was no chance of me quitting, I had to get to the finish line.  We ran up and up and up, then down a bit, then up a bit, then down a bit, then up a bit.  The run was taking forever.  Every step was painful, and 100’s of faster runners were streaming past me.  I was absolutely convinced that the 10k run stage would be taking me at least 90minutes, perhaps more.  I had never moved so slowly.

Eventually we stopped with the up and down hilly part of the run and it was downhill to the finish.  This was probably about 2k, but felt like 200.  I staggered along, disappointed with myself for my horrific performance in the run, but happy that I was going to finish.  Soon I rounded the corner into the Lido, and across the line.

I looked around for my wife.  We had discussed before the race that as soon as I started the run I would be back in around 60 minutes (my approximate 10k time) and she was nowhere to be seen.  This was not a surprise, as I was convinced I had taken forever in the run.  Then I caught a glimpse of Cat walking over from the carpark direction, and the first thing she said to me was “that was quick”.  Surely not.  Surely I hadn’t run 10k faster than 60 minutes.  I walked for quite a bit of the uphill sections after all.  After quickly working my timings out it appeared that I had actually run10k in just over 60 minutes, and that Cat had gotten her timings a little bit wrong for meeting me at the finish.  I couldn’t believe it!!!!!

My overall time was 2hrs 54 minutes, which was below my 3 hour target.  My other target was not to finish last, and later when I received the finishing results there were 8 people slower than me, meaning I managed that too.  

So all in all a total and complete success.  I am officially a Triathlete.  Only 14 more months of training and then I will be competing in an Ironman.  A slightly bigger challenge, but one I cannot wait for.