Having read the previous “Have bike, wife and baby will travel” article with holiday snaps of France, I thought 'great idea', I’ll take the bike on the holiday to Northumberland where wife Sarah and I intended to gently introduce our new, energetic young spaniel Billy to one of our favourite pastimes, hill walking. The plan was that during the week I would sneak in some early morning rides around the scenic Northumberland National Park before getting the walking boots on.
Seven weeks out from the race I bought myself a large sheet of card from the stationery shop and made a six week grid training plan, numbering all the days and dates right to the day of the race. For anybody planning any event I would say this is a good tip - you get a real sense of build-up and can see at a glance your progress and any ajustments that you think need making.
I trained six days on, one day off, and this consisted of nearly all interval and speed work. A typical weekend would be Saturday morning 2 x laps of Abbotsley through and off with Chris Ritchie at 26 minute pace, back home for pasta and a cold bath, then in the afternoon 5 x half mile bike efforts, then 5 x 400mtr run efforts off the bike.
With 6 months of sleepless nights, extreme levels of washing, constant required attention, stressful work and hundreds of nappy changes it was high time that my little family needed a well deserved holiday.
Last Sunday, 2nd September 2012, three St Neots Cycling Club members, Wayne Tunnah, Richard Hancock and Steve Pleasance, opted for the NiceTri Triathlon rather than the club’s Sunday ride. The Triathlon was the last of the 2012 NiceTri Sprint series which consist of a 750m open water swim in the Great Ouse, a 25km cycle and finish off with a 5km run. The temperature of the water on the day was 17⁰C which under BTF rules means wet suits were optional, although all three of us opted for the wet suit! The cycle route would be very familiar to club members and consisted of a single loop riding the B645 out to Little Staughton and returning to St Neots via the well-known Bushmead sprint. Finally, the run consisted of two flat and fast 2.5km loops around the Riverside Park.
As with most triathlon events the day starts early, with registration open at 6am. Next stop is the Transition area to rack the bike and religiously lay out the kit to ensure a quick transition between swim, cycle and run (see later). It is also the perfect opportunity to suss out the competition. Then there is the obligatory nervous queue outside the portaloos, prior to donning the wet suit. The three of us were competing in different age categories with Wayne setting off in the first wave swim start as a Male Senior (MS), and Richard (MV40) and Steve (MV50) setting off 10 minutes later in the second wave with the (other) ladies.
Wayne enters the Great Ouse for the Wave 1 Swim start
Seeing Richard’s great report on the Birmingham Triathlon earlier in July spurred me on to write an update on my own progress this season, as I was also at the inaugural event at Sutton Park on Saturday 15th July. I’m in my fourth season of Tri and stepped up to the Olympic distance in 2011. So where Richard was doing a 750m swim, 20km cycle and a 5km run, I had to set the alarm a little earlier for the drive North to join a slightly bigger field doing a 1500m swim (4 laps), 40km cycle (7 laps) and ending with a 10km run (4 laps). I clocked 02:46:24 overall, coming 57th in a field of 192 and 3rd in my age category (J; 50-54).
Leafing through the triathlon calender at the beginning of the year, my eyes were drawn to the "City of Birmingham" sprint distance triathlon held at Sutton park on the 15th July. This seemed to be an ideal race as my mother and quite a lot of my family live only one mile from the park, and soon an entry was in and plans were made for a family get together with me as the main spectacle and entertainment.
Me and the support crew (Ben) travelled up on the Saturday to recce the swim and bike courses and I've got to say that first impressions were not the best. The bike course was run on internal park roads and the laps were short, rough in places and had 6 speed humps on each lap - not really TT bike freindly but still the same for everyone.
‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’, the mantra that I had successfully ignored over the past couple of months had become subtly embedded in my subconscious over the week preceding the Wiggle Dragonride in South Wales. This mental background muzak became ever more insistent as Adrian Lancaster negotiated the traffic on the M4 and on towards our hilly judgment day. We were joined on our adventure by a friend known to one and all as Big Dave. Big Dave had recently completed a West Coast to East Coast charity ride over the Pennines and as such exuded the air of a man completely relaxed with the notion of cycling 128 miles on one day over ten demanding climbs. Likewise Bomber also appeared to be wholly at ease with the challenge that lay before us.
In complete contrast I began to berate myself for all the weeks that I had planned to do a club run, and then go on a little further to build up vital endurance levels, only to find myself reclining in the comfortable surroundings of Caffe Nero supping a coffee along with everyone else, all the while promising myself that next week would be different. As we crossed over the Severn Bridge and on towards Port Talbot it was worryingly noticeable that the landscape either side of the motorway had become somewhat undulating and by the time we reached our destination it was positively mountainous. Payback time had nearly arrived.
After a week's holiday in the Isle of Man watching the TT races I returned back home on the Friday rested but a bit heavier (!), and looking forward to Sunday's Spalding sprint triathlon.
On arriving with my son Ben, we went through the usual process of registration and setting the bike up in transistion. This event was a pool based swim where we had to do 400 mtrs (16 lengths) before running out to the bike. Whilst waiting for my slot I had the opportunity to watch the other swimmers going off and was struck by how many went off way too hard only to suffer badly within 3 to 4 lengths, so I made a mental note to go out steady and build speed to the finish.
Having loaded the car the previous evening it was an early start to catch the Euro Tunnel train from Folkstone to Calais. We hit the road at about 6.30 and chewed up the miles and arrived in plenty of time, even though we got lost in Folkstone; this was to become a theme throughout our trip – we spent far too much time listening to loud music, eating M&Ms, wine gums etc, and not enough time looking at the sign posts or map reading.
Once in France we made our way through Belgium (getting lost in Brussels) and then onto Germany and the autobahns; it's true what they say about the speed at which a lot of the cars travel.
As the night drew in we decided that the sensible thing to do would be to find a place to sleep. Eventually we found a hotel in Ulm on the southern border of Germany.
Yes - they're at the Giro
May 20th was a date that had been firmly fixed in my mind for the last seven months. I had thought about it on all my long rides, runs and swims in the depth of winter and on the tough early chain gang strength building rides with the St Neots club. The Nicetri sprint triathlon on this date last year was the catalyst for my return to cycling and competition, as it gave me a fresh challenge and became my target race. I find that by setting a goal, no matter what that goal is, your training takes on a whole new meaning and is therefore easier to complete. Life seems to whizz by at the best of times the older you get and before I knew it Sunday the 20th was here. Good job I didn't slack off too much over winter.