Blenheim Triathlon and the build up

Where have I been for the last 3 weeks……….

Well a few weeks ago I was ill over the weekend, which is when I normally report on the week before. Due to illness the training took a bit of a back step and due to illness I really couldn’t bring myself to report about…… well the illness.

You’ll all be happy to know that the following week I was starting to feel good again. Big sigh of relieve from you all I am hearing!!

By Tuesday I was ready to train again and threw on the runners to hit the pavements in the morning dew. It felt hard but good. A decent 4 miler run at a steady pace.
In the evening the Captain, Chopper and I had arranged to meet at Silverstone Circuit for the cycling open evening. A 2 hour event where they open the track for cyclists.
What a great evening. We properly hit it hard, and the 3 of us enjoyed some good laps in true TTT mode. The wind was blowing hard which made 2/3rds of the lap hard, but when we had the tail wind we were flying. One lap we clocked 24.7mph! Damn good riding chaps. Same again next month?

Managed to mix up the rest of the week with some more swimming, cycling and running – and even throwing in a KOM thanks to the awesome tailwind 🙂

Then come Saturday. My first adventure into the open water swimming in the UK. The weather had turned from warm to cool. A bit less appetite from me to jump into the cold UK lake, but it had to be done.
Woody had convinced me to meet him early Saturday morning – early being 6.00am! – in Wollaston. Perfect for me. We cycled the 18miles to Boxend Water Park near Bedford with wetsuits bagged up on our backs.
Once there it was time to suit up and jump into the warm lake. I lie, it was bloody freezing. But a lot milder than 4 weeks previous Woody, Rich and Steve told me.
The others swam round the lake twice while I only braved it once. I am sure I did a similar distance to them though as I struggle to keep in a straight line. The amount of times I didn’t sight for 3 or 4 breaths to then find myself almost in the bank! Weak left arm hits again.
We did a quick change and jumped on the bikes once again to make our way home.
Once home I decided to do my own mini triathlon and threw the trainers on for a short run to Irchester to meet Tania and the Mugs for a dog walk.
A Great day of training indeed. Thanks Woody for talking me into it.

Sunday was a right off due to the biblical rain we had. So Monday I made up for it by doing a long run – 13.2 miles – and it was the hardest run in a long time. Felt like I was running in treacle. Still miles in the legs. That’s the main thing.

Then Monday evening. BOOM. Tania is back on the bike. Hit the road for a great 35 mile ride in the sunshine with the wife. Good to see her back on the bike again.

Rest of the week was a mix of training building up to my first ever triathlon on Saturday 2nd June – Live To Tri Blenheim Triathlon. 750m swim – 19.8km bike – 5.4km run.

I was doing this with my good friend Rich Stocker. He had an earlier wave time of 9.20am compared to my 11.10am start. So for me it meant I got there nice and early which paid dividends as I had my bike at the end of the rails and in prime position. It pays to wake early.

I hung around with Rich and headed down to the lake to give him moral support. Our support crew were making their way just behind us and were on the bike/run course ready to cheer us both on.
Once he was in the lake I made my way back to Transition area to cheer him out of the swim, onto the bike, off the bike and onto the run. He was flying.

Once he was off and running I got about getting my wetsuit on and preparing myself for my own challenge. Why is it that every time I put a wetsuit on my body automatically says – WEE PLEASE! Fine once in the water but not when you have 30 mins to go before that happens!

I had the challenge of also setting out my Transition area. I was new to all this, but have had lots of advice from the seasoned athlete, Nath, and read lots too. Socks, or no socks. That was a question I asked myself over and over. In the end I decided to opt for the socks. So it was all laid out ready for the rapid transition. Bike racked, by saddle as requested, cycling shoes at the front with ankle socks half turned down and placed in the shoes, gels on top of the shoes, caffeine shot next to the shoes, running shoes set back behind my cycling shoes, helmet on the tri bars, sunglasses next to the shoes. All had there place in what was ready to be the game changer!!

Body glide was used before putting the wetsuit on so it aided in the removal of the bloody thing! Suited and tooted I was ready to rock and roll. Apprehensive rather than nervous, I made my way to the lake and got handed my red swim cap. 20 mins to go! With 10 minutes to go the briefing started and the motivation given. WE LIVE TO TRI!!! YEAH!!!

In the water I went. Relax, relax, relax. I can hear the Bradfords in my ear saying it over and over. The swim over to the start line felt good. I felt relaxed. The water was a lovely 19 degrees. We were in the water for about 3 minutes and then the hooter went, we were off.
I breathe to my right so made sure I started that side so I didn’t have all the splashing in my face. I kept to the back and I had feet to follow. However those feet soon pulled away from me. Relax. I kept saying it to myself, but I couldn’t get that relaxed pool feeling I am use to. My breathing was not smooth or constant and I struggled. I ended up having to stop about 4 times to compose myself and to go again. Only 5 secs or so, but enough to help. My straight line swimming was awesome…… oh hang on it wasn’t!! When I look back at Strava and see my swim line compared to Rich’s I am zig zagging all over the place! Extra distance training for me!
The swim exit didn’t come soon enough, but when it did I was so happy to see it. I got out and immediately start the long 400m run to the transition area. Oh and it was up hill. A hill they have famously called Church Hill.

I was already starting the run up the hill when I realised I hadn’t stopped my swim time for transition on my Garmin, and when I did I was shocked to see 17mins. It was a happy shocked. The way I felt in the swim and throughout I was certain I was going to see 20mins on the watch. That gave me a boost and I picked the pace up to the bike.

The karate kicks came into play to get the wetsuit off (thanks for the tip once again Bradfords) and the socks and shoes swiftly put on my feet. Helmet on and fastened shut. I took on the caffeine shot hoping for it to kick in when the run came. Loaded the pockets up with the gels and exited the transition area to start the bike split.

My strongest element, so I had to make it count. We had 3 laps to do around the grounds, and the course turned out to be a fairly hilly affair. Lots of ups and downs and winding narrow roads. It was all closed roads so the only traffic were the other competitors. This made for a quick course and I managed to finish the course in 33mins 15seconds. I was giving myself a pat on the back as I had managed to come round without being overtaken once. That was a little victory for me.
It also transpires that I had actually been the 17th fastest on the bike out of the 2483 competitors on the day. Now I was really glowing and happy with that.

I obviously didn’t know these facts when I came back into transition and I was only focused on one thing. Get the transition done smoothly and get out onto the run course as quickly as possible.
Bike racked. Helmet off. Cycling shoes off. Running shoes on. Quick drink. And I was off.

As you exit transition they hit you with a up and over bridge to take you over the bike course. A nice steep affair, but it is over with as quickly as it starts.
Just before I hit the bridge I look at my Garmin and see my pace is just under 9min miles. This was not good. I needed to hit 7.30min miles to get near my goal. I picked the pace up and by the time I got near the support crew – who had been cheering me on through the bike split as well – I had got to 7.25mins. It felt a hard pace, but comfortable enough.


The run course was 2 laps, with a steep descent followed by a gradual nasty climb back up to the transition area. That climb twice was a killer!!
After my first descent I was running at 7.15min miles. I was ahead of schedule. Can I keep this pace going? I kept asking myself this and the answer was always the same. TRY. So I tried. The first climb slowed me down a bit but by the time I once again passed my fans I was back to 7.15mins miles. The 2nd and final descent helped me increase this to 7.13min miles which I was determined to maintain until the end. I hit the climb hard and kept the rhythm going. The sun was starting to break through the cloud now. I asked it to wait for another 5 mins. I didn’t want the hot sun slowing me down!! The pace was not deviating and by the time I was on the flat to the finish arch I was still on 7.13min miles. Time to bring this Triathlon home baby.
I sprinted to the finish. That’s what it felt like, but in reality when I look back at the video Tania recorded I was still just running 🙂 And with that the finish line was crossed. I had done it. I had just completed my first ever Triathlon.

The emotions were running high and I could have cried. But I was greeted by Tania, James and Emily, and can’t have the kids seeing me cry!

The time………. 1hr 21mins 16secs. WOW. That’s all I can say. The time is what I would have loved to have done, but didn’t think I would. But I had proven to myself that I can do this. This time put me in 108th position for the day out of 2483 competitors – top 5%. Now that made me even happier.

Well done to Rich as well for absolutely smashing it and getting me to sign up for this great event.

I have taken 2 big things from this today.
First was completing the swim. I have to remember that about 6-8 months ago I could not swim. Now I had just completed a 750metre swim in 16mins 36 secs. Lots of improvement needed as a long term goal, but just completing the swim is one of my biggest achievements today.

Secondly; the run. This was my biggest achievement today. To do the time I did having blasting myself on the bike was something I didn’t think possible. During the bike I was saying to myself I needed to save energy for the run, but then part of me was saying this is your strongest element, make your time up now. So to do what I did was something I am very proud off.

Now for the biggie in 4 weeks time. Challenge Roth. It will be a different beast to today. This I know. But today has given me confidence. However, during the swim I did say to myself “what have I done as the Ironman distance is just stupid!!”. And again when I was running!! In 4 weeks I will know what I have let myself in for, and I know it will be the hardest thing I have ever done.

Getting to this point alone has been hard enough. The hardest is yet to come.

Big G

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