I haven’t posted since I wrote the short novel describing my first attempt at an iron-distance triathlon this year. Everyone was nice enough to me for the first week or so, but since then, the puncture jokes have been relentless. However, I’ve done what any sensible person would do to try and fix the situation; bought exactly the same tyres that I used in Nottingham. Lightning can’t strike twice, surely?
I had a full week off immediately after the race, where I found that my body recovered pretty quickly. It was the mental side of things that I was finding more challenging – I didn’t take the Outlaw result well, with motivation levels being pretty low. I slowly built my way back into training, and I’ve put together 3 solid weeks of high volume, with the focus mainly being on getting out riding as much as possible.
This weekend marked just 2 weeks to go until the Ironman circus descends on Tenby, and I decided to test my fitness and have a real crack at running a fast 5km. Ironman training doesn’t really fall hand in hand with fast short(ish) distance running, but I figured it’d give me a good gauge of where I was currently at.
Saturday also marked a far more important event; Katie’s birthday. I’d sneakily arranged for a number of people from the Clapham Chasers to turn up at Dulwich parkrun to help celebrate the occasion, and smuggled some cakes over to the park with the assistance of a regular face from these pages, Paul Brown. The surprise went down well (I think), but this did mean I was having far too much fun chatting away and so neglected to do any kind of proper warm-up.
We were quickly hustled towards the start, and I placed myself on the front-line, ready to subject myself to intense levels of agony, all in the name of ‘fun’. I set off hard (although not as hard as Sam ‘Robbo’ Robinson, who clearly had Mo Farah’s British record firmly in his sights), knowing that if I was to get anywhere near that 17 minute mark I was going to have to throw caution to the wind.
The first 3 guys edged away pretty quickly, but thankfully I was left with someone to run with and we took turns pushing the pace. The first mile came and went in 5:19, well under 17 minute pace, but the legs felt absolutely horrendous and I was having serious reservations around my ability to hold that speed.
From this point on it was absolute torture, with my heart rate readings showing me this was the hardest I’d worked in a long, long time. The 2nd mile beeped at 5.25, so I knew if I could just hang on in there, I’d got every chance. The guy I’d been working with started pulling away, and I didn’t have more gears to move up into, as I was right on the limit.
We’d started to lap runners who were on their 2nd of 3 laps, all offering out great support for me to push on to the finish. My watch went again (mile 3 – 5.24), but I realised my Garmin wasn’t recording the distance completely accurately and I’d actually probably only ran 2.9 miles up until this point. Bollocks. Better get a move on then.
With the finish line in sight, I gritted my teeth and pretty much closed my eyes (not advisable while running), concentrating on just getting there as quickly as possible. The seconds were ticking away on my watch and I knew it was going to be oh so close. I think I even did a token ‘dip’ for the line before finding myself sprawled on the floor, satisfied that I couldn’t have given anything else on the day. 16:57 – job done, just.
Katie continued her rich vein of form with another comfortable win in the ladies field, despite looking like she was just out for a birthday jog. After cheering all the other Chasers home, we enjoyed some cake before heading for coffee, sausage rolls and more cake. Suitable refuelling was required, as Katie had been offered a smorgasbord of activities to partake in her birthday, and she’d opted for the cycle to Brighton. I was so proud.
We hopped on our bikes for probably what were the most enjoyable 50-odd miles of my cycling year, as the sun was shining and we chatted away along the quiet county roads. Katie smashed her way to the top of Ditchling Beacon, the third highest point on the South Downs, and a hill not to be underestimated. Unfortunately, it was underestimated by me, as I proceeded to tell her we were ‘nearly there’ after we’d covered around 10% of the climb. I’ll hold my hands up – I forgot how long it was.
We rolled down into Brighton, ate a huge portion of fish and chips, and enjoyed a couple of beers in the sun. The cycle back option was considered for all of about 2 seconds, but since this was the furthest Katie had ever cycled in one go, we thought I’d probably be a bit of a stretch (especially with her 22-mile long run scheduled in for the following morning), so we took the train/train cancelled/taxi to Gatwick airport/train/cycle route instead – much more fun.
Sunday was down to be my last big ride before Wales, and Paul Burton (triathlon z-list celebrity, first Brit at the legendary Norseman this year and 2-time Kona qualifier) had been generous enough to let me tag along for what was billed as a ‘hilly’ 150km. I’d met Paul a few times before, and ever since our first meeting last year in Zurich he’s been subjected to a barrage of annoying questions about the sport and offered some golden nuggets of wisdom that have (mostly) been taken on board.
We had a good natter on the way out to Surrey, before things got a bit more serious as we got into the meat of the ride and quite predictably Paul sailed away up the hills as I thrashed my way to the top. I also got my first exposure to Barhatch Lane; apparently one of the toughest climbs in the Surrey Hills. It was a bit of a slog, but having done a recce of the Wales bike course, I thought in comparison this was a bit of a picnic.
Over 5 hours of riding passed incredibly quickly, and before I knew it we were rolling back through the mean streets of Wimbledon. I was incredibly grateful to Paul for letting me ride with him, especially as I know he’s also training for Wales and definitely a lot stronger on the bike than I am. I’ll just have to stick some pins in his tyres or trip him up during the run.
I managed a steady 10km run immediately off the bike, before enjoying a hearty roast dinner as Katie’s birthday celebrations continued. Bank holiday Monday brought yet more activity, with a 1 hour swim at Tooting Lido followed by a leisurely 50 miles solo through the flat-lands of Chertsey and Weybridge. All in all, a pretty successful training weekend.
It’s just 12 days until race day now, and I’ll start to ease up on the training and concentrate getting to the start line in the best possible shape. I’ll also be saying multiple prayers to the puncture gods. Whether they’ll be answered or not, only time will tell.