Tuesday, 8 September 2015


Straight after the highs (and lows) of The Outlaw we packed up, & through the kindness of a Tri club friend had the use of their cottage to spend a few weeks in Scotland with family. This included a recovery plan that involved plenty of down time with the children, a lot of eating, and sea/loch swimming where possible. A trip up to the far north coast line was the highlight that served up some truly amazing beaches, and some fantastic swims with my girls in water as blue, and sand as white as the Caribbean. Just without the temperature. I recommend them to anyone.

One of the best. Just west of Rispond Bay. Absolutely beautiful Swim.

A worthwhile scrabble down a steep bank to swim Loch Ness with Ella.
I made a promise to Sarah not to speak about Triathlon for 2 weeks, and I think I just about managed it. It was tough though. I would even go so far as to stick my neck out and recommend the Edinburgh Fringe to anyone who hasn’t been. You won’t come away with a new turbo sprint set, or an endurance swim winter plan, but strange as it sounds it turns out it’s still pretty good fun.
Half way through the holiday I embarked on some runs around the hills to test the legs, and instantly found that despite the rest the injury to my groin/stomach/hernia wasn’t subsiding and the pain was more acute than ever.  Being chased by a dirty great big bull over the heather was a motivating distraction from the issues over the short term, but isn't a practical tactic to take to race day. While I knew this would happen that little bit of hope in your mind always tricks you into believing that with a quick rest it will have miraculously healed itself and I would be back in fighting fit form. Nope.  It now flew its dirty little flag of victory in the battle to spoil Weymouth 140.6 and my first time racing for GB.

Despite this small issue, I had a more pressing worry on my mind. The National Sprint Relays were only 3 weeks away. I had to make a decision, and quickly, to avoid messing things up for the team. Fortunately I had promised Sarah I wouldn’t talk Tri, so I couldn’t seek her guidance and likely words of caution.
I tried to imagine what she would have told me had this been normal circumstances, and after careful deliberation decided it would definitely be “You must race at all costs, and not let your mates down. Your body will heal, but the shame will not”. So with Sarah’s (probable) sage advice ringing in my mind I decided to ignore my groin and stomach and crack on with my best effort.
Besides, I owed it to the other 3 who have all put a lot of effort in through-out the year, and are in great form. Assessing my own form and how I felt I knew that (without emotion or partiality) even pretty badly weakened and off form I could still give them a better account than the next best replacement they were likely to dig up if I dropped out.
With that decided I stopped worrying about it, and balanced my training as best I could, largely leaving the run out completely, as every step feels like being punched in the plums. As a team we were candid and I tabled realistic times. They continued to make me feel wanted and welcome, and it was appreciated. What really annoyed me though was the announcement that Lincoln had turned out a team at the 11th hour, and with some long standing friendly rivalry it would have been great to have been able to go out truly fighting fit on an even footing to give it our best. Looking over the times and the form it would have been close as custard on the day normally, and any minor slip would have given it to the other team, but I knew in reality that with my 60% fitness at best it wasn’t going to happen.
The day arrived and the usual early start ensued, well on the road by 5:30am heading to the venue, the miles flying by talking Tri Trash all the way. Signed in, racked and sorted in good time we found the chairman had erected the club gazebo the night before, so settled in and got ready. Other club members slowly arrived for their racing in the afternoon and the cloudy start began to give way to  decent warm weather.
A cracking set up and atmosphere.
And so the race began, Glenn hitting the water first, handing over the band to myself and then me to Jon and finally Ross.  Everyone put down a good swim, except myself, a good 30seconds+ of what could have been expected. Still, we had the bike to go. The bike, the least hindered because of the position and nature of the effort was my best chance to not under deliver, and we all put down a good bike leg, with only slight decline in my power over the expected. I was happy with the times. The other 3 lads all more than made up for me with pretty consistent 25mph+ paces, against my 24.
Onto the run. Glenn came round the corner to hand me the band and glancing at my watch I could see he had given the run of his life. Definitely a PB. I could see he was hurting and it deserved repayment with nothing but my best. I ignored the issues and pushed through. About half way round it got the better of me, culminating in a few retches of the stomach and ultimately throwing up all over my own feet in front of the cheering crowds about 20m before I handed over the band. As classy performance as ever, but at least I could look myself in the eye and knew I had given my best. Throwing up and keeping running is a truly strange experience.
As expected we didn’t beat Lincoln. It came down to the run, and in the end they had a few minutes on us, and I was pleased to see them take the Bronze as my friends, and fly the flag for our County in the sport we love. We had been reduced from last year’s silver medal position to 5th in the club category, and 13th nationally overall. Not a day’s racing to remember.
Despite everything we were still some 6 minutes quicker overall than 2014, a mark firstly of the much hotter competition in the field and the improvement in the sport across the Country, & 2ndly the teams own huge improvements. Despite me under delivering they absorbed my issues and improved massively on our previous time. A great team response. I owe them one.
A team I couldn't be prouder to be part of.
After that disappointment we went back to eat lunch. By now the gazebo was alive with around 40 or 50 club members to’ing and fro’ing and there was a great atmosphere. We had 4 teams in the afternoon’s race and staying back to cheer was always a must.
If the racing was a day to forget, then the afternoon was certainly one to remember. For me spectating that day really was the highlight. It was great to see the sheer love of the sport across all the competitors, and the improvements that everyone has made over the year. Just standing and watching and hurling encouragement (and abuse where appropriate) to club members and other deserving souls was great fun. To take the time to understand the perspective of family and friends who turn out to cheer me on so often and get a taste for what it’s like. The weather helped immensely and I’m not sure I’d have had the same pleasure if it had been lashing down, but it wasn’t. There were also the inevitable odd bods, with strange ideas about bike set up, or running styles, the kit they chose to carry or wear and the methods that people employ to tackle the 3 disciplines. It was an eye opener, I learnt a lot from all kinds of competitor as they whizzed passed that I can use to improve my own game, and saw some right rare sights. Mostly though it was just a good laugh with friends, and I was proud to be part of the Club.
Moving on from that, last weekend was Louth Sprint tri. I didn’t enter, but thought I might as a last minute thing earlier in the season, but that was never on the cards with current fitness. Ella, my daughter had entered however, the only junior (13 and 4 days old) in her first adult race. Nervous, but as excited as anything. My own training over the last 2 weeks had largely been focused around rides around the course with her, at her speed, a run of a couple of miles, and swim sets with the club.
We got the bike ready on Saturday after helping to spray the road of all the potholes and problems on the cycle route. Registered Saturday pm, the leisure centre had a nice low key buzz of excitement in anticipation of the next day. We went home and got everything packed and prepped.
Sunday morning, and it was novel not to have to wake up at 4am to get to the race on time. We had a lay in until 7, then got up, got ready, and walked down. Un heard of!! We walked to the event !!

Ella giving it all on the run.
Not having any involvement in racing gave me the opportunity to focus on Cheering on Ella as a spectator from the off. Again, a novel experience, and one I really enjoyed. Another highlight was team mates at the relays now going head to head at their local event. Great sportsmanship to watch with close racing throughout.
The morning flew by, cheering on family and friends, dashing from pool to T1, to a place on the bike and the run to grab some action as it happened. Again it was sunny, and it went quick. I was happy to not do it, and be able to watch and ring the cow bell for all it was worth without the stress of my own turn at the starting line.
The highlight for me was undoubtedly Ella, finishing 113th out of some 200 adults. She PB’d her swim by a good 10 seconds and put to bed demons from a nasty crash on the bike at Mallory Park earlier in the year. Couldn’t be prouder, and as I head off this weekend, Ella also heads off to a junior tri with some 400 other competitors. An exciting race weekend in the Ball house coming up!

So Sunday, and the European championships at Challenge Weymouth 140.6 GB debut is looming.
At this point I am a gamut of emotions. Excitement, nerves, disappointment, determination and focus. Joking aside, I am being pragmatic. I have achieved everything I set my stall out to achieve at the start of the year. It has come at a price that will ultimately effect the biggest and final race of the year, but at least I am doing it. It probably isn’t the most sensible thing to do, but I am sure any other athlete will agree that investing a years training in getting to this point, the cold winter 5am mornings, turning up at the pool before work at unearthly hours, the long nights in the garage on the turbo or slogging it out down the road, running in the wet and the cold to achieve the aims can't be wasted. It requires focus and sacrifice, and there is nothing that will make me throw that away.

After the race I can recover and heal properly but I will have gathered invaluable data and experience in the learning curve that will (hopefully) be future racing at the top level. I might not place where I know I am capable of or expect of myself  this time, but I can try,  and it will do nothing but help me at future attempts. For the experience alone it as to be worth it.
All of this of course wouldn’t have happened without the support of family and friends. As part of my drive to get to Weymouth I held a raffle to help fund the cost of entry, kit and travel. The link for the video of the draw is below - sorry I couldn't upload directly, the file was too big for Blogger. I genuinely wouldn't be racing on Sunday without the support that everyone has shown me, it really means a lot. Good luck everyone, and I promise the training program will be to suit you…. Not me!! Thank you again to everyone for your friendship and support. (Apologies for the video quality, I'm not good on camera and probably could have smiled more and spoken a bit louder).