This event took place on May 14th 2017. I had entered the same event the previous year and had wanted to compete in it for a second time to see if I had improved.
The event took place in the leafy Cheshire suburb of Wilmslow and consisted of a 400m pool swim, 26km bike ride and 6.4km run. The course is pretty flat with no major hills for either the bike or run. The bike takes you out through the Cheshire countryside and round by Manchester Airport, a lovely ride on a nice day. The run is through a very pleasant housing estate and crosses 2 main roads, 1 by bridge and 1 on the road itself.
My training had gone well. I had learnt from my efforts for the previous years event and knew where my weaknesses were. My swimming was the major one and with help from my son, who swims like a fish, I worked on my technique and breathing over the winter. We spent some of our Saturdays in the pool near where he lives and I worked on my own during the week at my local baths swimming at least once a week. I also carried on cycling regularly, but not doing much long distance work, and running with the running group on Monday nights and also on my own during the week and Saturday mornings while my son was in his music lesson.
Once the duathlon was out of the way (check out my previous post) I started to concentrate on strengthening my legs. My partner lives near Barnsley which is far more hilly than where I live so I started running and cycling round her neck of the woods. This really started to pay dividends as I was doing longer rides around the hills and longer runs around the hilly locality. as the marathon runners say, putting miles in the legs. The pinnacle of the training came one crisp Sunday morning when I climbed up the Woodhead Pass from The Flouch to the summit and then headed off towards Dunford Bridge. I drive that road very frequently and to conquer it on a bike was a major achievement for me and something I will never forget. That ride was around about 55km (32 miles) and I was still feeling good when I returned to my partners house. Following that I did a couple of bike/run combinations, to make sure that I still had it in me and there were to be no jelly legs, the last of which was 20 miles on the bike followed by a 5 mile run which I finished feeling strong. I now knew I was ready for the event itself.
The week before the event is usually a time to rest up but that didn’t happen for me. I ran a PB for 5km on the Saturday and then “only went out for an easy one” on the Monday and ended up running 10km, that certainly wasn’t on the plan but hey ho…..
Come event day I was excited again and not really nervous. I had an early start time of 8.26 so had to be there by 7.30. My partner and my son were with me this time, unlike the duathlon, so it was an early start for us all. I registered and picked up my race pack, things were slightly different this year, technology taking over, with no tatoos for our bodies just the chip for our legs but still with those very sticky stickers for the bike and your helmet.
Registration done and bike and kit set up in the transition area it was time to warm up and head in for the swim. I did a couple of laps of the cricket pitch just to get the blood flowing and then headed off to the pool. We were held there for what seemed to be forever, it was a good job that it was warm inside otherwise I would have cooled down too much. There was a different starting procedure this year. We were taken in in groups of 4 and set off individually in a lane by a marshall with an Ipad and before I knew it I was off on the swim. My mind was racing as I set off, could I get it right in the pool and be faster than last year? Could I get my number of lengths right? Would my technique be right? It all fell into place. I remembered what my son and I had been working on and went into “the zone”. One stroke after the other and going from end to end with my head bobbing up and down. Before I knew it the marshall was putting the float down to tell me that I was doing my last two lengths. I thought that wasn’t for me, and even asked, her but she assured me that it was. I thought “wow!! That’s gone quick” and before I knew it I was out into transition and feeling strong.
Through transition with no problems and off onto the bike section which I knew was my strongest. It was quite breezy that day and the wind always seemed to be in my face. It was nice and dried me off suitably quickly and I was in my element. I passed a few competitors and was passed by a couple too but thoroughly enjoyed the bike ride without overexerting myself. There was only one dodgy bit when I was in the tunnels under the runway at Manchester airport when I caught the kerb and nearly came off but otherwise it was uneventful. Back into transition again and as I dismounted my legs felt good. Bike racked, shoes changed, a good slug of prolong and off I went for the run section.
The run was good too, a testament to all the training with the running group over the winter. The first bridge crossing was tough on the legs with all the steps but once the prolong kicked in I was off. I was doing a good steady pace, which felt slower than it actually was, and I was passing more competitors, encouraging them as I did, as I moved steadily through the leafy Cheshire suburb and I thought that it was going well. My mindset was the same as it had been in the swimming, just keep putting one foot in front of the other…. As I crossed the second bridge I knew I wasn’t far from home and started to push a little harder, even though my splits didn’t show it, and as I came into the leisure centre area I really pushed it and sprinted for the line. I crossed that quickly that the announcer didn’t realise I was there until he saw the back of my shirt with my name on.
I was greeted by my partner and my son who told me how quickly I had gone in the pool. I didn’t believe them as I thought it had all been down to adrenaline and just getting going. They assured me I had well and truly beaten last years time as they had been tracking me round the course. In disbelief I went to the timing tent to get my printout and sure enough I had taken nearly 5 minutes off my total time. I was amazed at that and euphoric in the same instant. I had finished 290th out of 648 competitors overall and came 25th in my age group. Not too shabby for a 50 year old eh?
I feel that my improvements are down to a number of reasons. The first is that my nutrition is always on point. I fuel and refuel my training to ensure that I stay in great shape. I use the Herbalife 24 range of sports nutrition as it is developed by scientists and athletes together so they get the benefits and it does the correct job. The second is my mindset. There were plenty of times in the winter when i could have just not bothered going out in the dark, cold and wet conditions but I did it and it paid dividends. The third is the power of the group. When I go running on a Monday I am with a group of mixed abilities who all support each other and push each other to be better than they were before. One of the group was training for a marathon at the same time as I was training for this event. He said several times that if he had not been with the rest of us he would not have done as much as he did, such is the support we gain from each other.
My parting thought is that taking part in events like this, for me, is not about winning them. It is about being better than you were last time and pushing yourself harder for the results you want. Tony Robbins talks about CANI (Constant And Neverending Improvement) and that is the philosophy I apply to my training. To be better than I was last time but not as good as the next time. Yes, I have my bad days when my performance is not as good but I bounce back the next time.
My next move now is a sprint triathlon including an open water swim, then a full Olympic distance traithlon or two before an Iron Man in 2019. Watch this space