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OK…… Looking at my history, it’s been a while since I last posted here, very nearly a year and what a year it has been. I’ve been training for an Ironman 70.3 triathlon (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run) so it’s been a little busy to say the least.

They say that summer bodies are made in the winter and that is so true. Normally over winter I would be “conditioning” my body by being out training in the cold and wet weather that is the British winter. That did not happen this year for various reasons. My dear old dad fell in the first week of January and was in hospital for 6 weeks. I changed jobs and moved house to be with my partner and on top of that the good old British weather put a load of snow down which completely threw it all out of the window. On the plus side I had joined a gym so at least I was getting some core work in and was also able to swim and managed to squeeze a trail half marathon in in February which I completed in a respectable 2 hours despite the horizontal snow at the start. My next event was to be a duathlon scheduled for the first weekend in March, that was cancelled due to snow….. I’d been in my new home less than 2 weeks and was getting organised to restart training when it snowed again!!! (this was Easter weekend….) Do you see a pattern developing here?

It was at that point I began to wonder if the weather would ever get any better and how to get around it. After all running 13 miles on a treadmill in the gym is not much fun and doesn’t really help you as the ground is moving under you rather than you moving along the ground, never mind trying to ride 56 miles on an exercise bike. Throughout this period of bad weather I had been on the January wave of The Six Pack Revolution which meant that I was still working on my core and overall fitness even though I wasn’t doing as much cardio training as I would normally have.

The house move was relatively local (20 miles as the crow flies) but the new locality was decidedly different. More hills, steeper hills and stunning scenery. I joined the local running group at the end of April and that started to pay dividends from the outset as their “standard” distance was at least 6 miles and wherever we went there was a hill. Shortly afterwards I got my bike sorted and started to get out on that. Friday is my ride to work day (14 miles each way with plenty of hills) which helps me combine training with the day job, winner all ways round in my view. I also found a great spot for open water swimming, far better and cleaner than Salford Quays, with a group of people who could help me with my technique as well as motivating me so I joined the club there as well. They offer so much more than the swimming such as Kayaking, Paddle boarding and windsurfing though I’ve yet to try the other sports. The bonus prise was that they also run a Tri club out of the boathouse, although I didn’t realise it when I joined.

By now it was the end of April and I had a sprint triathlon in the middle of May. I knew I could complete it with no bother and I was more focused on the ITU event in Leeds in the middle of June. That would be my first Olympic distance event and would be a massive one as I would be competing on the same course as elite triathletes who are in the world series. It was a major stepping stone on the path to the 70.3 and I wanted to do the best I possibly could.

Like all good athletes I had a weekly training plan which fitted in around home, family and work commitments and included the essential rest days. It was made up bike, swim and run sessions along with core sessions in the gym. I was also on the May wave of The Six Pack Revolution to help keep my nutrition on point and push me harder with my core. The team knew what I was training for and were extremely supportive of me and the workouts they were posting were great motivators. By now the weather had perked up a bit, it was flaming hot to be honest, which brought the opposite problems to the start of the year with hydration and fuelling being key issues.

The day came for the Leeds ITU event. I was nervous to say the least and after all the good weather the temperature had dropped and led to fog over the lake in Roundhay Park where the swim was to take place. This meant that the swim was reduced to 750m rather than the planned 1500m. That was a blow to the cause for me as I had yet to swim a mile in an event and had only done it once as part of my training, even though I breathed a sigh of relief. The swim is my weak discipline. I can swim but can’t manage front crawl so I have to do breaststroke which makes me decidedly slower than most of the field but I pull some of it back in the bike and run sections. That is the beauty of triathlon, multi discipline and everyone has a weaker and stronger one. The event went well and things appeared to be coming together. The bike and run routes were through built up areas with the finish for the run being in Millennium Square in the centre of Leeds. It was great to be running through the suburbs with the kids giving you high 5’s and passing out jelly babies (VERY important fuel for triathletes….) and the atmosphere in central Leeds was incredible. Just as an aside I ran a personal best for 10k that day too.

That event saw a turning point in my training. The demons in my head had been telling me that I couldn’t do it and should give it up as a bad job but I knew I was registered for the event and wasn’t going to pull out so I had to pull on my big boy tri suit and get the F*** on with it. The buzz from the event led to me extending my training sessions and looking for another event to do before the big one so I booked on the Castle Howard one 5 weeks later. In the meantime my 14 year old son had been doing a bit of training with me and was asking about junior triathlons. I looked at Castle Howard and there was an event for him on the Saturday as I did mine on the Sunday. I asked him and he said he wanted to do it. Oh boy, thought I, this is all starting to get a bit real. Me inspiring my son…. can’t back out now then can I??

Training continued to the weekly plans. I would only plan a week in advance as I could never guarantee what would happen domestically or with work that I may have to fit around. Before I knew it it was the middle of July and time for Castle Howard. I had been through transitions with my son in the hope that it would all fall together and it did. He swam well, rode as well as he could and ran his little heart out. I was so proud of him I nearly burst. It was my turn the following day and that was a different ball game.
Saturday had been cool and quite cloudy, the forecast for Sunday was the same but how wrong were the weather people. It was red hot and the sun was strong, not good conditions. The weather had been hot for several weeks. This led to a drop in the water level in the lake which meant the weed was closer to the surface. Weed is a swimmers worst enemy in my view. It tangles your legs and arms up and in the worst case you even end up chewing it… not nice. Wetsuits were also optional for the swim as the water temperature was over 20 degrees. I opted for a short wetsuit rather than none, you never know whats in lakes at times…. The swim went well. I swam strongly and completed the full distance without being last out. This gave me a real lift as I went into transition and sped away to do 26 miles on the bike. It was warm by then but with the air movement from the bike it kept me cool. It wasn’t till I came back into transition that I realised how hot it actually was and that I needed to be very aware of my hydration during the run. The 6 mile run was hard. It was a trail run round the roads of the estate. The ground was uneven and baked solid so there was no give in it. It was tough on the knees and ankles and I was careful where I put my feet so that I did not stumble or risk going over and twisting my ankle. There were plenty of water stations though and at every one I had one cup to drink and two to pour over my head to help keep me cool. All round the run route there were people either walking or stopped due to cramp and dehydration. I felt very lucky to still be running even though I was struggling. I saw the final climb and my watch told me that I had already run the distance. I was still about half a mile from the finish at that point and was completely cheesed off that I still had the last stretch to do. I dug in and went for it. What I didn’t know was that my son and daughter were both planning to run over the finish line with me. I saw my son about 200 yards from the finish and when I got alongside him he started to run. He said “Come on dad, sprint finish….”. I looked at him and said “No chance mate, there’s nothing left. I’ve just got to finish this”. So we ran as fast as I could towards the finish. My daughter then joined us, much to my surprise, with about 100 yards to go and all 3 of us crossed the finish line together. I was amazed that they had done that for me. It gave me such a lift it was unreal. At the finish my partner knew that I was spent. The conditions had taken their toll during the run and I needed water and something solid inside me. There were people coming in around me though who were in a lot worse state than me, how some of them managed to finish I’ll never know but that all comes down to grit and determination.

The success of the Castle Howard event recharged the batteries and gave me some more enthusiasm for the training. I now knew I could swim a mile in a lake with loads of weed in it and still get round the rest of the course in very hot conditions. It was 8 weeks to the 70.3 so no problem, the weather would have cooled down by then and all would be good. I turned the training up another notch. Longer sessions in all disciplines and it started to fall into place. I had also been running the May wave of The Six Pack Revolution in this as well and that was paying dividends with my core. The “lean team” were keeping me well and truly motivated and my nutrition and hydration were bang on.

So that brings us to today. I’m 2 weeks out from the event itself. This week I have completed race distances for all 3 disciplines and they have all felt good. All I have to do now is put them together. I have done brick sessions, 1 discipline straight after the other, on numerous occasions and there is one on the plan for Sunday. The core work has been done and my core is the best it ever has been. My body feels ready for the event but my head is telling me otherwise. I was talking to an acquaintance about it through Strava (the running app) and the thoughts going through my head. Her wise words were to treat it all as 3 training sessions, enjoy the scenery and have fun. That is what I shall do. The time is immaterial. What is important is getting round, although sub 7 hours will be awesome…..

Watch this space, there will be another post about the 70.3 itself….