Arundel Castle Triathlon – Olympic Distance

It’s 3am…….yes that’s right, 3am on Sunday 26th June.  My alarm has just gone off.  This can only mean one thing.  Time for the Arundel Castle Triathlon.

As regular blog readers will know, triathlon involves a lot of getting up early in the morning.  I have complained vociferously about this in the past; however on this occasion I didn’t mind getting up early.  It has been over 9 months since I last competed in a triathlon and I was keen to dust off the cobwebs and get out on the course.

Breaking with tradition, I had actually packed up my gear and put it all in the car the night before, so a quick breakfast and it was out the door and on the way to Arundel.

In 2015 and 2014 I competed in the Arundel Lido Triathlon, which is a pool swim of 800m, then a 40k bike and a 10k run.  Having not enjoyed the pool element of the swim, I was pleased that the same organisers also run Arundel Castle Triathlon, which is a river swim of 1500m, a 40k bike and then a 10k run.

The bike course is different from Arundel Lido.  Flatter and faster.  The run is still super hilly, although rather than undulating hills it is one big drag uphill and then a fast downhill after, although you do this twice as it is two 5k laps.  As for the swim, this is in the river Arun, one of the fastest flowing rivers in the country.  The fast flowing nature of the river is the reason we had to start so early.  The triathlon kicked of at 5:15am, which was “slack water”.  In other words, there would be little to no flow at that point, as the river is tidal.

Arriving in Arundel I parked in transition and quickly got my stuff organised.  I spotted Curry on the way in, and also quickly met up with Dempo, who were both competing with me at this event.  Curry is a Grazing Saddles teammate, but this would be the first ever triathlon for Dempo.

Fielding a whole bunch of “rookie” questions from Dempo, such as “which part of the bike is the front” and “is it OK to swim backstroke”, we were all into our wetsuits and then off to the rivers edge.

This is Dempo

Dempo was swimming in the first wave, due to the fact that he is actually part fish.  Have you seen that film Waterworld?  Well if you have, then that is Dempo.  He has competed in numerous endurance open water swims and his place in the fastest wave of swimmers was well deserved.

Curry and I were swimming in the second wave, so as soon as the first had gone off we were into the water and strategically made our way to the back of the bunch.  I had completed a grand total of 1 swim training session in the preceding 9 months, so was not too confident of a good swim time. 

We had been warned that there was a lot of “debris” in the river, such as seaweed, bits of floating wood etc so as soon as the klaxon sounded and the thrashing upstream began, we quickly swam into a good old bunch of seaweed.

Unfortunately this slowed down those in front, and I found myself swimming into the back of a lot of people.  I probably should have started a bit closer to the front of the pack, but in all honesty I wasn’t bothered.  The group soon thinned out and I was into a rhythm, swimming as fast as I dared on the back of almost no training.  

The floating seaweed rafts continued as we went upriver.  It seemed like forever to get up to the buoy, turn around, and head back to the swim start where we would exit.  As soon as we turned downstream I realised why.  Whilst this was supposed to be “slack water”, there was still a bit of current and it was a joy to swim back to the start with this helping me.

Exiting the water post swim

Hauling myself out of the water it was a quick jog into transition to jump onto the bike.  I had managed the swim in around 34 minutes, which is way off pace for 1500m, but as I had done almost no swim training I couldn’t really complain.

Just out of T1.  Feet still not in shoes!

Entering transition my triathlon pedigree showed through, as in less than a minute I was out of my wetsuit, helmet on and jogging towards the bike mount area.  As soon as I reached this, I jumped on my bike and started pedaling away.  My shoes were already clipped into my pedals so it was just a simple task of slipping my feet into the shoes and off I went.  Well I say simple task.  Due to the shoes deciding to velcro themselves shut it took me about 2 minutes of messing about at a very slow speed to actually get my feet in.  So much for a speedy transition.

Due to all this messing about Curry slid past me on the bike, with a hearty “come on Snooky”.  I thought he was probably in front of me after the swim but it was good to see him as we cycled out of Arundel and up our first little hill towards Crossbush.  I was determined to put in a good bike time so as Curry started to slow up the hill I overtook him and concentrated on a good strong start to the bike leg.

As the bike leg continued onwards I felt good.  My legs felt powerful, my heart rate was in check and I was overtaking quite a few people.  This was a new experience for me, as usually I am the one being overtaken.  My main aim was to try and keep a steady pace and leave enough in the tank for what I knew was a hilly run.  

On top of a hill, with people actually behind me!

During any bike leg of a triathlon, when things are going well my mind always wanders.  On the same day as my triathlon, my friend Mick was competing in his first Ironman event in Bucklers Hard.  I was thinking of him, and his extremely long, tough day ahead.  At the same time I was remembering my Ironman, how it felt and the elation of crossing the line.  Triathlon is a strange world.  Unless you have done one it is very hard to explain, but you feel a connection with every triathlete worldwide.  I was wishing Mick every luck as I sped through the Sussex countryside.

As the kilometres clicked by I made sure to keep hydrated and took on board a couple of energy gels to make sure I had a bit in the tank for the run.  In just over 1hr 20 minutes the 40k was up and I was back off the bike running into transition for the second and final time.  Again I managed a super fast transition, and in less than a minute I was running out of the transition area and off on a 2 lap 5k run around Swanbourne lake.  

Yes that’s right, I run in sandals

I knew this run would have one very sizeable hill in it, but only when I got to the hill for the first time did I appreciate its relentless nature.  Running is not my strong point, and my legs felt a bit crampy as I started to climb the very steep hill.  I was determined not to walk, but inevitably my pace slowed and I was overtaken.  I managed to keep up a slow jog and made it to the top of the hill on lap 1.  It was at this point, about 15 minutes into my run that I started to feel really good.  I knew I had a long downhill before making my way round the lake for lap 2.  Upping my cadence (steps per minute for the uninitiated) I flew down the hill for the first time and overtook somebody.  Yes readers, that’s right, I actually overtook somebody on the run leg of a triathlon.

This was the first ever time this has happened, and to say I was pleased was an understatement.  I knew I would be at least 55 minutes on my 10k, which is hardly Mo Farah pace, but to overtake somebody was sublime.  Most importantly I still felt good, so made the conscious decision to up my pace for the second lap.  This increase in pace felt OK, so as I got to the hill for the second time I powered my way up and felt much stronger than the first lap.  Throwing everything into it I flew down the hill into Arundel, then ran the final kilometre of the run in under 5 minutes (good pace for me) and was absolutely delighted to cross the finish line in 2:57:50, under 3 hours and almost 30 minutes faster than my previous Olympic Distance best.

Needless to say I was more than pleased.  Dempo was finished well before me (no huge surprise there) and Curry crossed the line shortly after I did.  I also bumped into an old friend from a previous job, who had finished in the top 20.  Superb result Andrew!

Almost over the line

So all in all a good day of competing.  Not bad for an old man who had only done 5 weeks training.  Having had a chance to reflect on this triathlon it is now clear to me that I must be fairly fit.  For those of you who have read my blog from the start, you will be aware what a great feeling this is for me.  I went through injury, self-doubt and sheer panic as I blundered my way towards Challenge Weymouth last year.  9 months on from that my fitness has stayed with me enough to be able to do a sub 3 hour Olympic Distance triathlon on very little training.  To say I am chuffed would be about right. 

Spurred on by this success, I have booked a half Ironman in September.  Only 11 weeks to go till that event, so as soon as this is published it is time to write a training plan.I’m really looking forward to the race and hopefully beating my previous half Ironman best time.



Portsmouth Duathlon – 1 year on, am I any fitter?

It’s 6am on Sunday 15th March (Mother’s Day in the UK) and I have just woken up in a very uncomfortable position on my sofa.   It must be time for the Portsmouth Duathlon.

Before anybody jumps to any conclusions, I was on the sofa simply because I fell asleep watching TV and never moved.  Having a newborn means that wherever I fall asleep I tend to sleep much more soundly than usual.  I am assuming this is because I am generally knackered pretty much constantly.  It’s not bad sleeping on the sofa, except for the fact that it is cold not especially comfortable.  Still I had racked up at least 6 hours sleep and that’s pretty good in my book!

Breaking from tradition, I had done a little bit of preparation the night before this race, so my bike was ready to go.  I quickly checked the tire pressures and then set about eating breakfast and double checking my bag.

Half way through breakfast my oldest daughter Niamh woke up so I fished her out of bed, stuck her in with my wife and gave her the rest of my porridge to keep her entertained.  Having decided on wearing my tri suit with shorts and my Grazing Saddles cycling top I put my clothes on, gave the family a goodbye kiss and was on my way.

From my house it is a very short bike ride to the start, where I grabbed my race numbers and went about the now familiar process of attaching them to my bike, my helmet and myself.  I saw Anthony (who comes to my triathlon training sessions) and had a quick chat with him and Darby from the Pompey Triathletes before racking my bike, assembling my gear and then heading out for a quick warm up.

I bumped into a few more people from triathlon club (Simon, Andrew, Emma) and had a brief chat with each of them.  The overall consensus was that it seemed to be too early for the first race of the year and that people felt a little under prepared.  As far as I can tell, this is entirely standard for any sort of race.  Nobody gets to the morning of the race and thinks they have done enough training.  Everybody seems to doubt themselves.  Perhaps it is human nature.  Or just that everybody actually hasn’t done enough training. 🙂

Quick warm up completed, I joined the queue for a pre race wee with about 10 minutes left until the start, scheduled for 8.30am.  

One of the cardinal sins of competing is to do things differently on race day to what you would do in training.  Only stupid people will do this.  Things like wearing different clothes or shoes, eating or drinking differently etc.  Usually doing this will have negative effects on your performance as your body undergoes new experiences whilst at race pace.

Naturally, I had decided to ignore the above and made the decision to try a different energy gel product before this race.  I had brought  a ZipVit Nitrite Gel with me for pre race consumption.  The theory is that ingesting nitrites allows your blood vessels to open up more, getting the blood pumping round your body more easily.  The science behind this is fairly sound so I was keen to try a product that supposedly helps.  Ripping the gel open I slurped down the bright purple liquid inside.  It was the consistency of wallpaper paste and tasted like how I imaging licking a compost heap must taste.  

Having eaten my delicious nitrite gel I headed towards the start line, where I saw my friend Greg (another person I met through tri club).  Greg is almost always enthusiastic and smiling, so I wandered over to start next to him and absorb his positive vibes.  We had  a brief chat and just as Greg was starting a very promising little story with the words “I got completely hammered on Friday night” we were off.  Somehow we had missed the start.  The lady in front of me was tying her shoe and had also missed the start, so I deftly avoided clattering into her and set about the business of running the first leg of the race, totalling 5 kilometres.

Normally you will run more quickly than you should at the start of a race as the euphoria of running in a group sees everybody set out quickly.  Glancing at my watch I noticed we were at about 5min/km pace as the big pack proceeded down towards Southsea Castle.  5min/km would give me a 25 minute 5k time.  My personal best 5k is 24min 56sec, so I was thinking that this pace was probably a bit ambitious for me.  Never the less I carried on and surprisingly I felt good.  Sticking at around 5min/km pace I even started to overtake a few other runners.  I have never, ever overtaken somebody running before and I must admit it did feel quite good.

Soon the kilometres clicked by and I was almost back to the start with 4km run and 1km to go.  I still felt OK.  I was amazed.  A minor hamstring niggle was in the back of my mind, but I always have some sort of leg pain when running and have gotten used to ignoring it.  At this point in the race I couldn’t help but smile.  I was competing in my first event of the year.  In less than 6 months I would be in an entirely different race at Challenge Weymouth and it felt fantastic to get my event season off to a start.

Rounding the final corner back into transition I glanced at my watch which said 25 minutes.  I had a run a close to PB 5k on the first leg of the Duathlon and was feeling good.  Well in all honesty I was more shocked than anything.  Perhaps my watch was wrong?  Quickly putting on my cycling shoes, helmet and grabbing my bike I was out of transition and onto the road, where I set about the business of cycling 15 kilometres.

I really like cycling and I had a game plan.  Whoever was in front of me, the plan was to catch them, overtake and then chase down the next person.  Setting about this and quickly getting up to race speed I was battling into a strong headwind but consistently catching those in front of me.  After about 5 minutes I ended up riding with two other guys and we kept overtaking each other.  The great thing about this is that it inspires you all to go faster and in the back of my mind I knew that when we would soon turn around and head back the way we came.  This would mean the wind would be on our backs and it would be time to put the hammer down.

Sure enough turning around and no longer riding into a strong headwind was amazing.  I dropped a few gears, got myself as low as possible and pushed hard.  Quickly passing 40kph (25mph) I was flying past my fellow competitors and loving it.  As we rounded the end of Southsea common it was back into the headwind for a bit, then a lap of the common again and once more into the headwind towards transition to complete the 15k.  

Just as I had got close to transition I had heard my wife call out my name and was ecstatic to see that she had gotten Niamh and Mia into the double buggy to come down and support me.  Not a bad effort for a woman who had a C-Section less than 4 weeks before.  I was in and out of transition quickly, saw my girls standing by the exit and ran over to give them a kiss.  Niamh (my 2 year old) gave me a big smile then shouted at me “RUN”.  This was all the motivation I required and I headed off into the last leg of the race with a huge smile on my face.  Only a 5k run to go.

By this time the pack had thinned out a lot and I was running pretty much on my own.  Using the same method I had on the bike, I lined up the person in front of me and ran.  Usually as a race progresses you slow down a bit (or sometimes a lot), which is a real indicator of a lack of fitness.  Glancing at my watch I saw I was cruising at 5:15/km pace, only 15 seconds slower than my first 5k and pretty quick for me.  Soon I was overtaken by a much quicker runner; however I stayed about my task and slowly reeled in a few people in front of me.  I was amazed that I managed to maintain a reasonable pace and was still feeling good.  

Soon enough the 4km marker appeared and I knew I had only 1km to go.  There was a young lady who had been in front of me for a while but remained stubbornly difficult to catch.  I resolved to catch her and kicked hard.  She had also sped up for the final push and try as I might I just couldn’t catch her.  Following her over the line I checked my watch and it said 26 minutes.  I had just run around 26 minutes for a 5k, having already run one 5k and cycled 15km.  6 months ago I couldn’t even run 100metres.  I was feeling quite pleased with myself.

L-R Greg, Emma, Me, Stella, Simon

Reunited with the family I had a quick chat with some of the triathlete guys, my friend Rachel took an excellent photo of us and then it was time to go home, very happy with my performance and glad to be injury free.  

Once the results came out it was time to have a look at how I had done and compare this to last year.

In the 2014 Duathlon I ran my first 5k in 28:16, took 32:39 on the bike and then the second 5k was 31:38.  Total time (including transition) – 1:32:35

In 2015 I ran the first 5k in 25:19, took 31:32 on the bike and then ran the second 5k in 26:01, for a total time of 01:24:54.

Although my bike was only slightly quicker than the previous year, 2014 was much better conditions and the wind was not close to as strong.  The thing I am so pleased about is the improvement in my running.  Also I was competing at around 85% of capacity as I have the marathon in April and picking up an injury would not have been a good plan.

So all in all 1 year on from my first ever multi-sport race there is no doubt I am fitter.  I also ran a sensible race, got my preparation right and am slowly inching towards some sort of competence in this sport.

Next event, Brighton Marathon on 12th April.  GULP!



Everything is in place………I might just pull this off

For the first time since I undertook the challenge to complete an Ironman I am starting to feel that it might just be possible.

When I first told my loved ones of my intention to compete in an Ironman Triathlon I received the following comments:

My Mum         – “Are you sure James.  It sounds like a lot to take on”
My Friends     – A mixture of utter astonishment and general sniggering
My Nan          – “Well my dentist does Triathlons dear and he is much fitter than you”
Cat (my wife) – “You’re going to die”

Now of course all of these comments were completely fair.  I was out of shape.  Very out of shape.  I weighed over 16 stone, couldn’t run to the end of the road without stopping, hadn’t ridden a bike since I was about 10 and the last time I swam anywhere was when I swam from the side of the pool to the pool bar on honeymoon.

Over a year later and things are rather different.  For the first time in forever (to quote from Frozen) I am starting to feel fit.  Weight is slowly dropping off, despite my tendencies to eat entire bags of Doritos and quite a bit of chocolate.  Also I have recently had a great success………..

I CAN RUN !!!!!!!!

All be it not very far (haven’t done more than 6k for a while) but I have no shin pain, the post run calf pain is starting to disappear and I am really starting to feel very positive about this whole endeavour.

Good thing too, as I have a charity place for the Brighton Marathon.  Bushy and I are running for Chestnut Tree House, which is the hospice that cared for Amber and her family, towards the end of her fight with Neuroblastoma.  The marathon is in April and is a great target to aim for.  I can’t wait to strap on my Luna Sandals on the start line, raising some money for this incredible charity and ticking off an important milestone on my way to the Ironman in September.

Some of my regular readers may wonder how I have suddenly managed to start running injury free and why I am starting to feel a lot more fit all of a sudden.  I can put this down to a few factors.  The first one is my discovery of barefoot/minimalist running.  To do this topic justice would require an entirely separate blog post and it is my intention to post this soon.  The second reason is down to one man, Mr Trevor “Tufty” Payne.

Trevor runs two Triathlon training sessions at a gym here in Portsmouth.  The first one is a mobility class, perfect for improving my flexibility and mobility (which is something I sorely need).  The second session is a Bike/Mobility/Swim or a Bike/Run/Swim session.  Lasting 2.5 hours, this is an intense workout and is absolutely superb.

Bushy and I have been attending these sessions for over a month, with Curry joining us recently.  Trevor is an ex professional Triathlete, specialising in Iron distance races during his career.  He is a superb coach (even if he does take the piss out of Bushy and I rather a lot) and I find his sessions hugely inspirational.  He has given me exercises to do at home which I do every day, agreed to write me a training plan specific to Challenge Weymouth and is generally a huge asset to my training.  

So to wrap up this post I would like to say a thank you to Trevor for his help so far and for his excellent training sessions that I love attending.  I was never really a believer in having a “coach”; however I am very glad I met Trevor and can’t wait to see just how fit he can get me ahead of Challenge Weymouth.  I must also mention a special thanks to Josh Smith, who is one of the readers of my blog and was the person who put me onto Trevor in the first place.  Look forward to doing some training with you when you are back in the UK Josh.

Finally to all of the readers of this blog and to those of you who have sent me nice comments about it, a huge thank you to you all.  I’m really starting to love all this training and am pleased that as the winter progresses I will be able to share with you my increasing fitness and join as many of you as I can for a run/swim/bike, or perhaps just a pint!



PS – If any of you are looking for a Triathlon or Fitness coach please check out Trevor’s website.  You won’t regret getting in touch with him.

Bonking in the Wind – The Wiggle Isle of Wight Sportive

It’s 4.30am on Sunday 6th July, my alarm has just gone off, it must be time for the Wiggle Isle of Wight Sportive.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I am not a morning person.  That being said I do seem to be getting the hang of rising at the crack of dawn for these events.  I was well prepared too.  I had already packed my stuff, my bike was already loaded into Neil’s van, and all I had to do was have a quick shower and then head up the road to meet him.

Mikes new bike – NICE!

Soon we had Neil, Andy, Curry, Bushy and I on board the van and we were heading to Lee-on-Solent to pick up Michael, and then we were off.  Mike has just built himself a new bike, and I was very keen to see it, and also to get a sense of just how fast he might be on it.  Mike is a monster on the bike, and a true testament to how important putting in the hours in the saddle is.  I am only too aware that if I am to complete the Ironman the bike leg is all important, so I am always very jealous of the effortless way that Mike seems to ride up hills, down hills and everything else in between. 

Anyhow, Mike was picked up, and we made our way to somewhere in the New Forest to start this bike ride.  The route was simple.  10 miles on the mainland, then ferry over to the Isle of Wight, then about 70 miles there, then ferry back and a final 15 on the mainland, for 95 miles in total.  This would be the furthest I have ever ridden, and I was a little bit nervous about it.  Luckily I have recently had my bike properly fitted to me by Garth at Vankru, so was confident in the machine.  It was just the engine that I had my doubts about.

Think Pink!

So we arrived at the start in a bit of a rush, and quickly got changed and headed to registration. Once this was completed we headed to the start line, and just made the last group that were allowed out on the course to ride the Epic route (the full 95 miles).  It was an easy initial 10 miles through the New Forest, and although a few of us got lost due to my inability to follow the signs properly, we arrived at the ferry in plenty of time and regrouped.

The last time I went on a long bike ride I very much ran out of energy after a few hours.  This is known as “bonking” (no sniggering in the back) and as best I understand it bonking seems to occur once you have used up all the available energy stores that your body can easily access (usually in the form of glycogen) and you have to start burning fat for energy.  This is not as efficient as using glycogen, and whilst you can train your body to get better at using fat as an energy source, for us amateur athletes when this feeling hits it is a remarkable experience.  You feel like you have absolutely nothing in the tank.  Just turning the pedals is a huge effort, let alone doing so with any speed, and climbing a hill seems impossible.  

To avoid bonking the solution is to eat, and to eat quite a bit.  At least something major (like an cereal bar or a flapjack) every hour, and sometimes more.  I had made some flapjacks, and Wiggle kindly provide food stops on the rides so you can stock up.  There was one of these at the ferry, so I loaded all manner of foodstuffs into my pockets (fig rolls, flapjacks, Oreos, jellybeans) and then boarded the ferry with my fellow Grazing Saddles members.  Soon we were on the Isle of Wight, and headed into the first stage of this ride, approximately 30 miles to the next feed station.

The first part of the ride was very congested, with a lot of riders hammering down fairly narrow lanes.  This was fun, and riding in a pack makes you ride a lot faster.  The downside of riding with a lot of others in close proximity is it makes me a bit nervous. Years of riding a motorbike have made me expect every other road user to do something monumentally stupid at any second, and having all of these other cyclists around me was unnerving.  After a while it all thinned out, and we settled into a good pace.  Well I say we.  What I mean is that Andy, Mike, Neil and Bushy usually hammered off in front, leaving me and Curry to plod along behind.  I put this down to the fact that the 4 of them probably weight about 10 stone between them (giving them an excellent power to weight ratio), whereas Curry and I are real men and therefore prefer a more gentle pace.  Let’s leave it there I think.

Anyway the ride wound on through beautiful countryside, and I felt good.  The bike felt excellent, and every once in a while the speedier guys would wait for us to catch up and we would head off again.  The second food stop came up fairly fast (even though we had been riding well over 2 hours by then) and we assembled.  All of us except Curry, who was somewhere behind me.  He arrived at the food stop looking a bit tired, and loudly announced “I have bonked”.  Usually this would be the cause for a high 5, but knowing well that his wife was safely at his house I knew what he meant.  Still a stop is just what he needed, and he proceeded to eat everything he could see, much like I was.

My back had started to ache just before the stop, so I decided to munch down 3 Ibuprofen.  This would prove to be a mistake.  More on this later.  After a quick stop we carried on, and upon jumping back on the bike I had no energy at all.  Perhaps it was my turn for a bonk? God only knows why this should be.  I had eaten plenty, and tried hard not to over exert myself in the early stages. Never the less I watched as the others set off ahead of me and disappear, knowing that I had a long long way to go.  I powered on, eventually started to feel better and then we got to a hill.  A proper hill.  A properly steep hill.

Finally arriving at the
top of the hill

My bike is geared up for the flat, and as such is not ideal for climbing.  Newer bikes tend to have compact gears, meaning that they have smaller front cogs and larger rear.  This gives you a wide choice of gear ratios.  Small on the front and big on the back makes hills easier.  This is affectionately known in cycling circles as the “Granny Gear”.  Very useful for very steep hills, and even more useful if you are either not that strong on the bike, or new to cycling.  I am both of those things; however my “Granny Gear” is not as Granny as I would like.  Slipping into my easiest to pedal gear I started up this monster of a hill.  I could not keep the pedals turning whilst seated, so had to stand up and grind out the rotations one at a time.  The hill was never ending, and standing on the pedals places strain on your back, biceps and core much more than a seated riding position.  It took me 20 minutes to make it to the top, but I never got off the bike once, and there were more than a few others who had to push their bikes to the top.

Arriving at the summit I caught up with the lads (Curry was still behind me, recovering from all his bonking I expect) and they could not believe I had managed to ride up the hill.  It is a running joke that my bike is not geared up well for anything other than a billiard table flat surface, so there was much respect to be had that I had stayed on the bike for the climb.  Curry soon caught up and we were off again, into the 3rd feed station.  

Stocked up on munchies we were off towards the coast.  The wind started to pick up, then it picked up some more, then it really did pick up.  On the south coast of the Isle of Wight there was a very strong breeze blowing, and I knew it would be straight into our faces for at least 20km.  Riding in the wind is awful.  It saps the life out of you, and you put in twice as much effort to go half as fast.  Combined with the fact that once again I had lost the others and was at the back of the bunch, my heart sank.  I cannot quite put into words how much I hate riding in the wind.  I would rather have rain, freezing cold, fog, hail or even a monsoon ahead of windy conditions.

I could see Bushy some way ahead, and bust my arse to catch him up.  If you can slip stream behind somebody it makes a huge difference, and it was my intention to catch him and do just that.  After a monumental effort I caught him, slipped in behind and had a little bit of a respite.  The wind was howling, and way ahead I could see Curry nicely tucked in behind Mike.  I couldn’t help but smile to myself.  He had done well to catch a tow from Mike.  

Eventually we turned inland and had one final hill to conquer, and it was a whopper.  Curry had dropped back to join Bushy and I, and we started the ascent together.  I tend to climb quite well on the bike (despite my lack of gears) and felt OK going up this final ascent.  We climbed and climbed, dropped down a bit then had one final monster hill to go.  I pushed hard and was relieved when I saw Mike sitting on a rock a the top of the hill giving us all a round of applause.  I dunno how long he had been sitting there, but he didn’t look very tired.

As we rode down towards the ferry back to the mainland I was experiencing very bad stomach cramps.  Remember I told you about the Ibuprofen earlier?  Well Ibuprofen always give me stomach issues, and it appeared today was no exception.  Let’s just say that I needed to visit the toilet with some urgency.  Mercifully I located a public convenience and was soon on my way again.  Curry had kindly waited with me, so we rode together to the ferry.

Me and Bushy

Back across to the mainland both Neil and I fell asleep on the ferry, and needless to say we were all feeling fairly tired (well other than Mike, who had only just warmed up).  I rode the 15 miles back to the finish nice and gently, and other than stopping to watch Mike change his inner tube for the second time due to a split in his rear tyre, and a brief rain storm at the end we were all done.  

Performance of the day has to go to Andy M though.  I haven’t mentioned him much in this blog update, and that is because I hardly saw him on the ride.  He may be the oldest member of our Tri Team, but my god he is good on the bike.  Him, Neil and Mike are a different class to the rest of us. Still it is something to aim for, and perhaps one day I will be able to keep up with them.

Mike, Bushy and Neil crossing the finish line