2014 Review

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I came to Triathlon out of Open water distance swimming, and its something I continue to enjoy. I want to briefly explain 2014s achievements against goals to give you a better understanding of my logic behind the 2015 plans once I post them up.

I've been competing in Triathlon for 4 years now. Over that time it has built from a couple of sprints - and a lot of open water swimming, to an even balance, and then finally I had plans in 2014 to make  the majority of the events I entered Triathlons. Or so I thought.... training partners told me I would regret sitting with my feet in 2 camps, spreading myself too thin, but I had to get this swimming lark out of my system. This year was a year of transition, getting some swims out of my system before 2015, and complete triathlon focus.


January - We travelled to Parliament Hill Ice Swimming Hootenany, for a mixture of individual and relay events. I was invited to represent the Canadian Ice Swimming Ladies team - a great honour, and something that came about due to a quirk in the rules that state all international ice team swims must include 1 member of the opposite sex. So the ladies need 1 gent. Unfortunately for Canada their man was struck with illness and I was offered up to replace him. We bagged 3rd in the relay. Result.

February - Off the back of being the first amateur (wetsuited), and 7th / 250 placed overall swimmer home at the inaugural Lake Coniston end to end 5.25 mile swim in the Lake District in Sept'13 we went back in Jan'14 with a squad from 100% swimming to compete in the Open water Ice Swimming Championships in Lake Windermere. No wetsuits here, just speedos and a tough skin. Again we got bronze in the mixed relay against an outstanding field of Siberians, Latvians, and all manner of much hardier cold weather nations.

 Bronze Place in the Relay.
Midland Sprint Series Triathlons - My main aim at sprint distance was to take 1st place for my age group overall in the series. I looked at the competition from the year before after finishing 3rd overall and set out my training plan to succeed. I made 1 fatal error this year, and learnt a lesson I wont ever forget. I took the previous seasons winning times for the 35 - 39 age group and trained until I was well under those times, but not as hard and as focused as I possibly could have. I never factored in the GB Age Grouper that would move up a band into my category and deprive me of 1st place overall. The unknown quantity. So in 2014 I had to settle for 2nd in my group. A well contended and packed out age group, but still only 2nd. If I am honest with myself I know 1st could have been achievable if I hadn't been complacent. Full respect to Pete Shuttleworth though, his times were consistently better than mine and he deserved the win. In the 3 individual races I never left the top 20 out of the between 600 and 700 entrants per race, finishing the final race at Woodhall Spa 9th overall.
June saw the Dambuster Olympic Distance Triathlon at Rutland Water.
I had in the back of my mind I would like to try and qualify for GB status at this event. A friend was attempting it - his first time at the distance, and he achieved it with Q1 no less! In the end, given a few other swimming commitments which you will read about below I didn't have the confidence that my training had been strong enough, and I decided to use the event as a gauge for future Olly's.  Another lesson learnt!

I finished a very average joint 82nd overall out of some 2000 athletes, but on closer inspection on the Tri England Website I realised in spite of that, if I had registered my intent it would have been enough, and I would have been selected to represent my Country in my age group. Gutted. Lesson learnt. Self belief is everything, and now someone less capable than me was sat on a plane to Canada in what could have been my spot. Even stranger, I finished in a dead-heat down to the split second with fellow Louth Tri Club member, training partner and GB 24-29 AG Sprinter Ross McGregor. A great time for me was a bad day for him. That at least made me smile.

A dead heat and mutual respect on the finish line.
July - This was the big one for me. An attempt at a 24hr swim in open water. 1 mile on the top of the hour every hour for 24hrs. No sleep. No let up. Just swimming. It had never been done before, and 6 of us had been in long preparation for the attempt. We started at 7pm, swimming through the night and into the next day. By 6:30pm the following day 4 of us had completed it. Achieved something that had never been achieved out of the pool before. We found out afterwards that the course was actually over distance, and we had swum 25.25 miles over 24hrs, not the intended 24. That didn't matter, we raised over £5000 for a local charity in the attempt and were now in the World Record books for the effort. Among that though I have to take my hat off to 2 of my team mates, Caroline and Alex. Both of these managed the full 24hrs in only their respective costume and trunks. I had to use a wetsuit for some of the miles, and their hardiness and resilience I remain in awe of. Their achievement is on a different level to my own.
After the final mile.
3 days after the big swim we went to Castle Howard for the Weekend. Ella was competing in the childrens tri on the Saturday complete with lake swim, and myself in the Olly Distance on the Sunday. Saturday was boiling hot and muggy, and I was proud to watch Ella give her all in very tough conditions. The Sunday was cooler, and with the final event of the 3 sprint series the Sunday before, the 24hr swim in the mid week and then this all inside I a week I was feeling the strain, but I enjoy a challenge and after crossing the line I was more than happy with 19th out of 380 overall, 4th in my age category, and a decent effort over a hilly bike and cross country run. That and the camping as a family made for a successful weekend away. This event was broadcast on Channel4 some 2 months later, and all 4 of the family managed to get their 5 minutes of fame - with Sarah  & Moly getting the most air time for the loudest cheers as the winner crossed the line!
August -  At the start of the month we went to the west coast of Scotland on Holiday. There we swam in a myriad of swims, both fresh and salt water. Here my eldest daughter Ella made her first ever full there and back crossing of a loch - Loch Striven, a fresh water peaty affair, just shy of 1 mile each way. I was a very proud dad that day.

Near the end of the holiday was a bit of a personal treat. We had organised a charter to take us to the Corryvwreckan whirlpool between the Isles of Scarba & Jura. Its the 3rd largest permanent whirlpool in the World and an iconic swim with a very low success rate. I had looked at this previously via SwimTrek, but their £500+ price tag had put me off. A bit of careful research and planning and I had managed to organise it myself. By offering it out at shared cost to friends and those in the know that little bit of enjoyable pre planning gave 12 of us the opportunity of a lifetime to make this attempt at a meagre £30 each. Regardless of if we succeeded, I was chuffed to have stuck to my core values and organised this so affordably. And so a hand picked selection of the finest open water swimmers met on a beautiful sunny day off the west coast of Scotland, and set about attempting to cross the treacherous forces of the whirlpool at the slack of the tide. 2 days off the back of a 'Supermoon' and the tightest possible window of opportunity in-between the highest tidal forces of the summer. The crossing was amazing, the forces of nature overwhelming, the whole experience impossible to convey with any justice here. We all succeeded. On a personal level it was un paralleled. Simply beautiful. No medals. No souvenir T Shirts to be handed out. Just personal pride, and lots of it.
Looking back at Scarba from Jura after struggling across.
At the end of August we had the National Sprint Relays at Holme Pierrepoint, Nottingham. As the 'Louth Elite' 4 of us raced as a full Tri England affiliated team. We knew the competition would be tough, and with an injured man in need of an operation on his leg we set about to do our best. That effort was rewarded and we gained a Silver medal, missing out on the Gold spot by a meagre 14 seconds. We were now officially the 2nd best Triathlon Club Team in the country after only 18 months together. 2 of the team by now were already GB Age Groupers, and I was proud to be able to race along side all of them, especially Glenn who grinned and bared his injury rather than let us down. True team spirit. 
          Enjoying the moment.
September - After really enjoying the Doncaster Olly the year before I wanted to revisit this event and finish the year on a high. I set out with my team mate, and quietly the man I thought was the race favourite Jon Bromfield. We got there early, set up, and got on with the job in hand. Sure enough Jon won, and I managed 5th overall and 1st in my age group. Again Louth dominated, I got a half decent trophy and a £10 prize for the win. A good end to the Triathlon season.
October - Unexpectedly I found myself entered in a thing called 'The Hell on the Humber'. The result of a 'challenge' that stated I wouldn't manage at least 36 miles of this endurance marathon that involved repeatedly running 4 mile loops over and back the Humber Bridge from 6pm to Midnight. I was determined to rise to the challenge and managed to come 3rd overall. A shock to myself more than anyone else. I have never run more than a marathon distance before, so with a complete lack of experience I set out and bagged a final unexpected podium of the year, clearing the original distance I was challenged to in the process.
And that has been 2014. 2015 will genuinely only involve Triathlon, the races have been entered, the goals set. The training in earnest has begun.

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