Things have started to look up in the last week or two, training has been going well and I’ve had a couple of exciting pieces of news that I’ll share with you at the end of this blog.
Last week I had my first open water swim since last September, and although the water was cold it wasn’t freezing. I must admit that since fracturing my wrist in January I’ve really been neglectful of my swimming. I think it may be psychological, not so much out of fear, more so out of “Well, no matter how hard I train I’m not going to make significant time gains like I would on the bike or the run.” I’m sure that I’m not the only triathlete that thinks that? I kind of see swimming as a necessary evil, something that just gets me to the bike in one piece. Maybe I should take up duathlon? I spent the first lap of the lake helping a club mate, Chris, who in the session before had panicked and had to be rescued by the safety boat. I promised Chris I’d stay with him, he could set the pace and together we’d get round. I knew what he was going through. Your first ever open water swim never leaves you. Mine was cold, dark and scary. I mean if human beings were meant to swim in deep dark bodies of water evolution would have given us webbed feet or flippers by now. Chris stopped a few times to gather his breath and his thoughts but he completed the lap and it felt great to have helped him when I saw the grin on his face later on. I went on to do some more swimming on my own and felt strong, I could have swam longer but the fading light and the growing cold meant I headed for the shore after 1600m.
I’ve continued to build up my bike and run mileage and this saw me put in a 75 mile brick session last Saturday morning. I took the Roo, my TT bike, out for its first real long ride of the year. All of my longer rides had been done on my road bike up till that point. Keen to get out early I was out of the door at 7am without any breakfast, I had three fig rolls whilst out on the bike. I’d not eaten those things since I was kid, but had rediscovered them recently when my wife, Em, started eating them. They could become the new bike food of choice, although the existing champ, maltloaf, is still a firm favourite.
It was a really good ride around the lanes of Lancashire, taking in a few hills, but nothing too taxing. My legs felt fine, but I tend to suffer with my hands on my TT bike. I stay down on the aero bars for as long as I can but when I need to climb I have to hold the bull bars and the vibration through the carbon just numbs my hands completely. In fact by the time I’d finished I couldn’t feel my hands, there must be a way to solve this? The bike is setup properly and fitted to me, it’s a dream to ride apart from the annoying hand problem. I wonder does anyone else suffer with this, and if so can you offer any solutions?
Arriving back at home I quickly changed my shoes and headed out for 3 laps around the local park. A hilly run of 5 miles. The jelly legs appeared for a couple of minutes but I was soon into my running and again felt like I could have gone longer. The whole session took me 5:02, not a bad effort before breakfast.
Pleased with how I had been feeling in training I decided to enter the Cockermouth Sprint Triathlon, getting my entry in on the closing date. I don’t know quite how it happened but this low key, beginner friendly, Cumbrian event was my first triathlon since the behemoth of Ironman Germany last year. On Saturday I laid out my gear that I would need for the event, and was confused. Surely I’d forgotten something? All I had was a tri top and shorts, running shoes, bike shoes, helmet, number belt, goggles and a bike. The last time I’d packed for a tri it was like a military operation, this really was getting back to basics.
On Sunday morning I met up with Sarah Patterson, my COLT ( City of Lancaster Triathlon ) clubmate who I’d be travelling north with to the race. We arrived in Cockermouth and racked the bikes in a torrential downpour, it would only get worse. In fact the driest part of the day would be the swim!
It was a pool based swim, with athletes in each lane, all setting off together. On pool side my two fellow swimmers and I chatted and watched as those before us set off open water style with arms and legs churning in all directions in a bid to gain a territorial advantage. We quickly decided to be more civilised and worked out amongst the three of us an order to swim in, with the understanding that if we got it wrong we’d tap the swimmer in front’s foot and change position at the end of the pool. The race started and I was the slowest in my lane, which I had predicted. This was my first competitive pool swim for 13 months and I was surprised at how well it went. Granted it was only 500m but I felt relaxed and strong.
Exiting the pool into what could only be described as a monsoon, I ran barefoot along the grass picking up a layer of loose turf on my exposed feet as I reached my bike in T1. It was raining that hard that my aerobar arm rests had soaked up lots of water and there was now a pool of water lying on top of them! I brushed it away with my hand and ran for the mount line.
The bike course was tough, very hilly and the elements certainly didn’t help. I felt good but I rode very conservatively as there was so much water on the roads, combined with mud being washed out of the fields it felt like a lethal combination. Every time I feathered my brakes I was holding my breath that I would stay upright, fully aware that the Outlaw was only 8 weeks away. Two people passed me on the bike and I think I passed three, so I pretty much held my position. By the time I got back to T2 I was wetter than when I’d gotten out of the pool, my calves were caked in mud and other farm associated goo. In essence I looked like I’d ran a cross country not just completed the bike leg of a triathlon.
The run was tough, an out and back course with 2.5km straight up a long hill and then back down again. My legs didn’t feel jelly like at all, and as I climbed the hill I started to pick people off. My clubmate Sarah came steaming down the hill on her way to the finish, I’d tried to catch her but her wave had too big a lead on me, and she was running strongly. I ignored the water station at the turn round point and focussed on a guy about 100m ahead of me, he would be my target for the last part of the run. My knees don’t like it when I make them run downhill, but I think they were just so cold and numb that they didn’t notice. I powered past my target with about half a mile to go and offered encouragement “Well done mate, dig in.”
“Alright lad, good running” came the broad Cumbrian response.
Turning back into the leisure centre I crossed the finish line in 1:16:52, I was over the moon with that time. I’d hoped to finish in about 1:20. I met up with Sarah and waiting for our young club mate Alasdair Grubb to finish. We didn’t have long to wait as he was flying, recording a performance of 58:24 which was good enough to win the event.
So it was good to be racing again, and it didn’t really take too much out of me. Last night I swam 1700m in the local lake in 34 minutes, which for me was pretty quick, and I’ve followed that up this morning with a 7 mile run along the canal. Everything still seems to be working. It’s really given me a confidence boost with 8 weeks to go until the Outlaw, things are starting to come together at the right time.
Oh yeah, the other two pieces of news that I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. Firstly I’m pleased to tell you that my book “Can’t Swim, Can’t Ride, Can’t Run” has been taken on by the new publisher and will be published. Unfortunately they have a very busy release schedule so it will be hitting the shelves in December rather than June, but I’m very pleased that I’ll still have the opportunity to get my story out there to those that want to read it.
And finally the other news is that my wife, Em, and I are expecting our first baby in December. We are so excited, and understandably nervous. I’ve already picked out its first bike and wetsuit….the poor kid doesn’t stand a chance.
Keep racing hard and training well people.