The Virgin London Triathlon: Saturday 22nd September 2012
My first taste (more on that soon) of an open-water triathlon.
Over 400 people started in my wave at 4:30 p.m., split into 2 groups. Given we were about to swim in The Royal Albert Dock in The Thames, this was certainly a wetsuit only swim! I must confess to being more than a little nervous, I'd swum in open-water sessions in Loch Lomond over the summer but 7-10 people in a triathlon club on a training swim is a different proposition to 400 people racing -eeeeek!!!
After a rousing warm up by the race officials, we walked down the steps of the EXCEL arena and jumped into the river. Thankfully the wetsuit not only protects from the cold but helps buoyancy which is really useful, when like me, your legs have a habit of sinking. Now, any one that knows me will tell you I'm not a quiet, retiring wallflower, so keeping my mouth shut for 750m was always going to be difficult! Needless to say I managed to get a couple of mouthfuls of the river water which were promptly spat back into the river. Caledonian natural spring water it certainly is not.
The swim itself was pretty tricky, trying to sight (i.e. swim in a straight line) is very difficult when you can't see more than 1 metre through the water and avoiding errant kicks from other swimmers is another hazard to avoid. Swimming around the buoys became a lesson in self preservation, the river white with a flurry of flailing arms as swimmers jostled for the shortest line around the course. I stayed out wide and probably added a good few metres onto my swim - better that than losing your goggles or ending up being winded by some arm / leg attacking out of the darkness!
Never have I been so pleased to see land again once I rounded the final buoy! I kicked hard for the last 100 metres or so (most of the swim is upper body only since you are trying to keep your legs fresh for the bike and run). This ensures that the blood supply flows right down your legs to your toes. I noticed a few people in my wave who had forgotten to do this and they were struggling to stay upright as they left the water!
After being unzipped from my wetsuit I was off to transition for the 20km bike followed by the 5km run. Both were pretty uneventful apart from getting major stomach cramps after drinking the wrong type of juice… goes to show that you also need to practice your nutrition on the course as well as your swim/bike/run technique.
I managed to do the 750m swim in 16 mins 50 seconds, 20 km bike in 39 mins and 4 seconds and the 5km run in 24 mins 23 seconds, giving me a total of 1 hour, 27 minutes and 52 seconds (including transitions). This placed me 49th out of 170 in the Male 40-44 category and 327th out of 1850+ that competed in the Sprint distance triathlon. Not too bad for a first attempt, but plenty of room for improvement.
I was middle of the pack for the swim (800th or so out of 1850) but in the top 200 or so for both the bike and run so it's pretty obvious where I need to spend more time between now and June 2013… and I'll be swimming 3800m then rather than just 750m!!!
Looking very happy to have survived the Thames and completed my first open water triathlon
Click on the movie below to squeeze my race into 150 seconds!!!
St. Andrew's Hospice Lanarkshire Schools 6km road race: Sunday 16th September 2012
A great turnout of 37 pupils and 7 staff from Carluke High School, many of whom had turned up in fancy dress to run the 6km loop round Strathclyde Park Loch. I managed to get round in 27 mins 12 seconds, second to Maths' very own Mr MacIntyre who flew round in just over 24 minutes!
Well done to each and every one of the pupils and staff who gave up a Sunday morning to help raise tons of cash for this excellent charity.
Get involved - come and join us for the race in 2013 - no excuses, you have plenty of time to train :-)
Glasgow Half Marathon: Sunday 2nd September 2012
A great, if busy race - when else can you run across a section of the Kingston Bridge in Glasgow? Managed to break my personal best for this race, previously 1 hour 56 mins in 2006, by getting round in 1 hour 47 mins. I was rather chuffed! To put this in perspective, I ran the Disney Half Marathon in January 2011 (a real Mickey Mouse race) in 2 hours and 21 mins just before I had both knees operated on, so an improvement of 34 minutes… I'm guessing the training had something to do with this!
Stirling Novice Triathlon: Sunday 3rd June 2012
My first foray into the world of triathlon.
Adrenaline levels were already high reaching the event registration given we were about 30 minutes late - eek. However, once we'd been registered and had very large numbers written in permanent marker on our calves and arms we were allowed to 'rack' our bikes… This means you get to hang your bike up on a section of scaffolding pipe generally set in a field and hang up your bike helmet, bike shoes, towel, running shoes etc. for the race.
Triathlons are always swim, bike then run and after the swim and bike you return to the transition area to get changed (in as fast a time as possible since the clock keeps on ticking) for the next sport. The pro athletes, like the victorious Brownlee brothers make this look easy, when in fact, it is anything but.
The swim for this race was in an indoor pool and only 400m (16 lengths of a standard 25m pool) so I was feeling a little nervous but fairly confident I wouldn't be dragged out spluttering by the life guards. There were 6 of us in the lane, started with 5 seconds between us and I was starting 5th. Within 15 metres my chest tightened and I slipped out of bilateral breathing (breathing alternate sides every 3 strokes) to breathing every 2nd stroke on the same side. I was quickly passed by the guy in 6th place and then discovered what the issue was… My heart rate strap was pretty tight and I had never swum in the pool wearing a tri-suit. I paused for breath at the end of the first lap, composed myself and then thrashed up and down the lanes, passing the rest of the guys in front of me and jumping (well, crawling actually) out of the pool first from my lane. Survival!
Next, a run round the building, dripping wet to pick up my bike for the 10km bike ride. Now, given this was May in Stirling you can guess that the temperature was not what we would call tropical. Thankfully pedalling as fast as you can tends to warm you up quickly and I dried off just in time to start running.
Getting off the bike and starting to run is an interesting experience… your mind is saying one thing but your legs turn to jelly. If you're ever watching a triathlon, watch this transition for some comedy gold.
The run at Stirling is notorious, no sooner have you stuck your trainers on and headed off in search of the finish line, the hill of death looms. Ok, it's not really called this but it is one of the most ridiculously steep sections of tarmac I have ever stumbled up. Not content with running up this after a swim and a bike leg you then need to run down it when even more tired. This was not helped by a young ninja in training (actually just a random 2 year old) jumping out in front of me when I was hurtling (slightly out of control) down the hill.
I got round the course in around 56 minutes and knew that I'd been well and truly bitten by the triathlon bug.
Caledonian Etape: Sunday 13th May 2012
The first long distance cycle after having a professional bike fit (more about this in a later post).
Starting and finishing in Pitlochry, the Caledonian Etape (for Marie Curie Cancer care) is a 131km / 82 mile road race on closed roads (i.e. no traffic) around the picturesque scenery of Loch Tummel, Loch Rannoch, Schiehallion and Aberfeldy.
A 7 a.m. start was a shock to the system, and then the weather played it's trump card… 25-30 m.p.h. headwinds and driving rain… a typical Scottish spring day ;-) At one point past Loch Tummel, the sidewinds were so bad I was blown off my bike and cracked my cycle helmet… rather that than my head (although some may say this is thick enough to provide sufficient protection)… I must only have been going 5 mph at that point but that helmet saved me a trip to Accident and Emergency - now you know why Bradley Wiggins thinks ALL cyclists should wear helmets.
After climbing more than 1500 metres and burning more 3368 kCalories, I finished in 6 hours 11 mins (although I was *only* cycling for 5 hours 30 mins!). I recorded an average speed of 24 km/hour (14.8 m.p.h.), although maxed out at 54 km/hour (33.7 m.p.h.) which seems a LOT faster when your tyres are only 23mm wide!