End of Season 2015
03 Oct 2015

End of Season 2015

The end of the beginning

I was positioned in corner of the bathroom, hunched over in the foetal position with my forehead resting on the floor. Eyes winced, teeth clenched, I drew my arms in tightly around my midriff. I was wearing a dressing gown, now more sweat than fabric; draped over my back like a cape, I regularly embraced myself within it or took it off completely, a slave to whim of my internal thermostat. My innards were being systematically annihilated by a vicious biological marauder known as campylobacter, which had taken from me, 8 kilos and several nights of sleep. I was in an extremely inconvenient position as it was less than 24 hours until my next race.

I didn’t go to the race. In the end, despite how I felt, it was simple mathematics that put the kibosh on my running in the Worcester 10K. On a good day I could run 10 km in about 45 minutes. On the morning of the race, the average time between essential lavatorial visits was 15 minutes. Nothing could be done.

I entered fifteen events in the 2015 season and in the end I missed two, the aforementioned Worcester 10K and the Dorney Lake 10K swim, which I had to forgo due to a shoulder injury that I sustained on the second race of the season. Nevertheless, I still competed in thirteen great events across the UK, so I’ve compiled this digest to sum up what was good, what was bad and what I’ve learned.

 

Here’s the events in date order:

Event Location Distance Date
Swimathon Worcester 5KM 18th Apr
Swimathon Birmingham 5KM 19th Apr
Stratford 220 Triathlon Stratford 400m 20km 5km 10th May
Eton Swim Berkshire 10KM 25th May
Big fish 3.8km Reading 3.8KM 31st May
Great East 5K 5KM 20th Jun
Full Moon Swim Reading 1.5KM 03 Jul
Iso Man 7 mile Bromsgrove 11.3KM 18th Jul
Big Dog Swim Reading 3.8KM 20th Aug
Great Scotland Loch Lomand 5KM 29th Aug
Shrewsbury Triathlon Shrewsbury 500m 23km 5km 06 Sep
Cheltenham Triathlon Cheltenham 500m 13km 2.5km 13 Sep
Worcester City Worcester 10k 20th Sep
Aspire night swim Brum 1.5KM 26th Sep
Cheltenham Half Marathon Cheltenham 21KM 27th Sep

 

Event Distance
Swimathon 5KM
Swimathon 5KM
Stratford 220 Triathlon 400m 20km 5km
Eton Swim 10KM
Big fish 3.8km 3.8KM
Great East 5KM
Full Moon Swim 1.5KM
Iso Man 7 mile 11.3KM
Big Dog Swim 3.8KM
Great Scotland 5KM
Shrewsbury Triathlon 500m 23km 5km
Cheltenham Triathlon 500m 13km 2.5km
Worcester City 10k
Aspire night swim 1.5KM
Cheltenham Half Marathon 21KM

My first Triathlon

The Stratford 220 was my first triathlon. It is a sprint distance event comprising of a 400 m pool swim, a 20 km cycle race followed by a 5 km run. My bike was still caked in mud from an off-road session the week before. This drew a few comments from some elitist competitors with their carbon fibre speed machines that probably cost more than my car. Note that I said elitist, not elite. These guys were wearing the skin tight gear with all of the “sponsor” logos on, Garmin, High-5 etc, but looking at the way the spandex clung to their doughy fat rolls, the logos should have been Ginsters, Lurpak etc.

I’m pleased to say that these people were the exception to the rule. On the whole, I’ve found triathletes to be a friendly and lively bunch and there was a really good atmosphere in Stratford. I shouldn’t have let the odd comment bother me, but I did and as a result ended up borrowing a road bike for my subsequent events.

 

What I learned

Firstly, always pin your race number to your clothes (or tri belt) before the race starts. After the swim I ran into the first transition area (T1). This is where you grab your bike and proceed through the exit onto the bike course. It was in T1 that I learned that in the envelope they gave me when I got there, were two numbers and eight safety pins that should have pinned to my back and front. A good T1 time is 45 seconds, my first T1 time was nine and a half minutes aka 100 places!

Secondly, triathlons are addictive. I first thought about doing a triathlon in 2013, but that was really just a way to do more competitive swimming. As soon as I’d done it, I was looking for more events and even though I’ve still only done sprint distances, I’ve already got the iron distance on my radar.

Stratford Tri meda;

 

The dancing marshal

I’m currently a member of the Worcester Tri Club, which has a number of benefits. In return, each member is asked to be a marshal at two events per year. A marshal can have one of many roles, such as providing information, helping with registration and making sure people are safe and adhere to the rules. My first role as a marshal was as a human sign post at the Droitwich Triathlon, directing cyclists on a cold and wet morning. This took the better part of the day and at times became quite dull. To stem the boredom and keep warm, I began to do a little jig. When a cyclist would come past, I would incorporate my directional duties into the choreography of my jig, earning me the title of The Dancing Marshal.

 

What I learned

Firstly, being a marshal is a great opportunity to observe peoples riding style as well as checking out what sort of bike and equipment they use.

Secondly, people who thank you emphatically as they whiz past, have probably been in the same position themselves. I know I now make much more of an effort to thank marshals.

the dancing marshal

 

The worst

The worst event in my calendar was probably the Great Scotland 5 km, which took place in Loch Lomand. Scotland is a long way to go for a bad event, but fortunately I built a holiday around it, which was amazing. The event wasn’t great for me as I had just gotten over a nasty cold and hadn’t been able to train as much as I should have done. The water in Loch Lomand tasted of diesel and to make matters worse, I was wearing a new pair goggles that steamed up so I could barely see a thing so missed out on being able to stop and soak up some of the stunning scenery.

 

What I learned

Quite simple really, firstly, STOP SWIMMING ALONG WITH YOUR MOUTH OPEN!!! If the taste of diesel didn’t do it, then the severe flesh eating campylobacter should have done.

Secondly, always test out your goggles before a big event and carry a spare pair, just in case.

Great Scotland medal

 

The most interesting

The Aspire Night Swim was surreal. About 60 swimmers descending into the darkness of Swan Pool, illuminated only by a glow stick, was quite the experience to say the least. It was somewhat apt that my last swim of the season took place at the same lake I did my first open water training session in, back in 2013, when I lived in Birmingham. I swam without a wetsuit and subsequently placed second in the non-wetsuit category, although this was made less impressive by the fact that only two other people were stupid enough to swim without wetsuits.

 

What I learned

Open water is cold. If swimming without a wetsuit, have a dressing gown ready for when you finish to avoid impersonating Michael J Fox.

Aspire night swim

 

The hardest

Clocking in a 7 miles (11.27 km) the ISOMan swim was by far the longest and hardest event of my season. Due to the shoulder injury I sustained at the beginning, I had not been able to put in the level of training that I would have liked to prior to this event. For this reason, I emailed the organisers to change to the half distance before changing my mind again and reverting back to the full distance. My logic was that I would have rather failed trying, than taken on a distance that wasn’t challenging any more. Every time we did a lap of the lake we could visit the nutrition station that stocked energy drinks and gels. It was a bit like a swim up bar. The race was tough and the organisation of this inaugural event was a bit slapdash, but none of that mattered when I crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 45 minutes. As knackered as I felt, a number of people did what I did and then went on to do a 61-mile bike ride and a marathon!

isoman medal

What I learned

Firstly, you can go much further with the right nutrition. Secondly, urinating whilst swimming is harder than it sounds!

isoman-breakfast

 

The best

The Cheltenham Half Marathon was probably the best race of the season for several reasons. About 10 years ago I was a semi-serious runner but my dreams of running a marathon were halted by a knee injury and subsequent surgery. After that I didn’t run until this year (2015), when I began building my distance up again. It was great to come back and complete this, my longest ever competitive running race. I had missed my previous race due to severe food poisoning, so I was very happy that I didn’t miss the last race of the season. The weather was beautiful and with 5000+ runners, the atmosphere was amazing!

cheltenham half marathon

What I learned

Firstly, I need to pace myself better and be less competitive. I trained to run this sort of distance at 5 mins 10 seconds per kilometre. Starva reminded me of my pace ever km, but I couldn’t help running after people who overtook me and subsequently burned out too quickly.

Secondly, run in a straight line! Overtaking people means darting around the road to find gaps. This somehow added 1.8 km to my race (if we trust the data).

Watch the Strava fly-by

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:56:15 01:55:01 22.80 11.89 29.52 72.20
hours hours km km/h km/h meters
Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance
01:56:15 01:55:01 22.80
hours hours km
Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
11.89 29.52 72.20
km/h km/h meters

Next season

Next season I want to go bigger, better, faster and further. I’ve lost count of medals so maybe it’s time for some trophies? I’m engineering a few solo adventures and I’m also going to try and run several marathons and take on several endurance rides in preparation for Ironman in 2017!