Back in the summer of 2014, I hadn’t even heard of the sport of triathlon, so if you had said that two years later I would be taking part in not one, but three middle distance triathlons – I would have laughed at you! My triathlon journey started with Mike VDM sending a report of our company’s team entry into the Monster Feltwell sprint race around via email. It was an immense document and caused the email servers to struggle – so I thought it must be worth the effort to look at it! I found the idea of performing three disciplines straight after each other interesting, and decided to find out what is was all about. I have played Squash since I was 11, and Hockey on and off since 15 and was ready to take on some different sports, so why not three at once!
I turned up at the pool in late October 2014, and was warmly welcomed by Kevin and Lou, and they suggested I joined lane 4, as I hadn’t swum properly since leaving school. I was exhausted after only 4 lengths – so I realised then that I had some way to go in getting my fitness levels up to scratch. Luckily Lou said that I had a good swim technique, so I was glad I wouldn’t have to unlearn anything.
I then realised I had to get road bike, so I popped to Halfords and got an entry level road bike, just in case I didn’t enjoy it… I came along to one of Pete Vasey’s club rides on a cold Saturday morning in early December, and Pete, Doug and I headed off on a 44km cycle around the fens. This led me to realise that only wearing trainers and socks in 4 ⁰C temperatures was not a good idea. I did however get my first experience of drafting on the road back into Sutton from Earith, which was an amazing feeling.
I signed up for the Newmarket sprint triathlon in May 2015, with the target of completing it in 1 hr 15 minutes, which I missed by three seconds. My first Tri was a real eye opener, and I was amazed at not only how much fun it was, but how the crowds of people were all cheering everyone on. The atmosphere of the event was like nothing I have come across in my previous sports, and I realised I was hooked! I signed up for the Ely sprint when I got home and I even managed to convince Sam into joining the club.
I finished my first year with the North Norfolk Triathlon in Wells Next-the-Sea, along with Alan Brown, Andy Wallis and Leigh Marshall. It was a nice hot day, and I realised during the run that I had not timed my efforts correctly and blew up whilst running ~3 km on the sand. In fact, William (my then 3.5 year old son) actually overtook me when he spotted me on the beach… However, I loved the longer distance, and competing with friendly faces, and decided to do more of these the following year.
The theme of my second season started when Mike VDM spotted me in the corridor at work, and mentioned that the entries for the Staffordshire Half Ironman was opening later that morning. I made an impulse decision to sign up, and then realised I had a mountain of training to do. I also realised my Halfords bike would need to be replaced with a faster steed. I attended a number of Sam Hatch’s Saturday morning rides over the winter, and was very grateful to Sam’s regulars – Jon Hunt, Doug Wylie, Ross Bailey and Carl Ward for putting up with my slower pace, and the numerous mechanicals I had on my second-hand TT bike. Thanks also to Kyle Armstrong for sorting it out for me!
Race 1. Monster Mojo.
This race was my first foray into the longer distance race. The swim was warm (a pleasant change from the 9ºC swim at Mepal the week before!), the bike was fast(ish), however the run was a disaster. It was so hot that day (one of the hottest days of the year) and I realised afterwards that I had also fuelled incorrectly on the bike. I had a target time of sub 6 hrs, and only just achieved this thanks to getting cheered on by Ely Tri Club members around both the bike and run course, which really lifted my spirit and was a great help.
Race 2. Ironman Staffordshire 70.3
Taking on board what I learnt from the Monster Mojo, I was far better prepared for this race. The swim was a pleasant surprise – a rolling start after swimmers were self-sorted, which removed that mass start mayhem. The bike and run went well – with the run only 5 mins slower than my half marathon PB. I managed a time of 5 hr 54 minutes, which I was stoked at. Staffordshire was meant to be my last middle distance, but Mike convinced me to enter the Outlaw Holkham half, as it was only 4 weeks after the Staffs event. Knowing that I wouldn’t need to do much more training I decided to sign up.
Race 3. Outlaw Holkham Half
Simply put, this race was awesome – well organised, a stunning setting, and lots of Ely members taking part. The swim in the lake went well, and I finished 11th in my age group, the bike wasn’t as fast as I had hoped – mainly due to a mechanical which set me back 4 minutes, and I was also holding back energy for the run. The run was brutal – having visited Holkham lots in the past, I knew the route was going to be hilly. However, it felt like the race was always uphill! I came in at 6 hours 4 minutes, which I was happy with. It was great to compete in the first Outlaw Holkham half, have my family cheering me on during the run and great to see ETC members topping a number of age group podiums.
Race 4. Monster Standard Olympic
The final race of the season was in Ely – and I had an extra challenge as I was racing against my family in a relay race (Sam, my Dad and his girlfriend Maire). Calculating possible split times, I reckoned I had to gain significant time (10 mins) prior to the run, as Maire is a far faster runner than me. I set myself a sub 3 hr time and was chuffed that I came in at 2 hours 59 minutes and 52 seconds, and was also 8 minutes in front of Maire.
My second season would never have been so successful if it wasn’t for the help of lots of club members, through tips, hints and encouragement. My fitness level has increased significantly over the years, and my health has improved significantly as well (I have lost nearly three stone). I am really grateful to Mike for pushing me to compete in the long distance triathlons, and even more so to Sam and the kids for putting up with the associated training. Next year will definitely be only the shorter distances – I promise Sam…..