After a fair amount of training this year - and reducing my weight from 15 stone to 12, and my waist from 38 inches to 32 - I found myself at my first Triathlon race in Roade.
But I jump ahead of myself, let me start where this all began, a February just like all the others, but I was heading towards my 40th Birthday and I was finding myself fairly ill a lot of the time. My blood pressure was pushing 190 over 90 some days and frankly I was a heart attack waiting to happen.
Just like many of you I am sure - I was a fully paid up member of an expensive gym and lots of good intentions - but I very rarely went, having no goal or purpose. When I did go - I wasn't sure what I was training for or how to even train.
And so it was that my darling wife decided that she also needed to be a member of a gym - so we joined one at home rather than the one near my work and after introduction sessions decided that we needed a personal trainer. And so it was I met Jesse Martyne at the Virgin Active in Northampton, a better personal trainer you could not want for.
And so it started - the fat lad started to learn to run again, and we set some goals - one of which was a Triathlon towards the end of the year. And so the swimming started as well. A new bike followed and a trainer at home to sit it on and unlike the other times when I went to the gym and had an idea to get fit - this time it stuck - mainly down to a bit of stubbornness and a lot to do with Jesse.
I ran my first 5km race - the Chase Challenge and had a 5km time of 29min and 20 seconds - which was a surprise - I was expecting about 40 mins for the first one. My swimming wasn't going quite so well - 12mins for 400m was my best time - but I could only manage one training session per week - so that was hardly a surprise. The cycling was coming on - but Northamptonshire is a flat place at the best of times and I just wasn't getting enough hill training outside, so I switched to the bike on the trainer and set up the hills on that. Not nearly as much fun as being outside - but good for the legs.
Soon the day of the race came upon me....
The event started early on the Sunday morning, a misty cold and damp morning - with the dark edging in to the mornings these days it was worryingly oppressive. However - the mood lightened as I bumped into a few fellow competitors - those of us turning up this early had put down for a slow swim - my best had previously been a grand 12 minutes - so thats what had been entered on the online form and I joined quite a few others with slow times, many of whom were planning on swimming breaststroke.
The start was delayed - poor visibility due to the heavy mist meant that the course was considered dangerous for the cycling stage. I switched on my iPod and desperately tried to find a quiet place. I'd told myself that the aim was just to finish this - my first race - but the nerves I was feeling showed that I wanted to get under my target time of 1 hour 30 mins. A little Coldplay soon calmed the nerves and it wasn't before long that the start was called and I was taking off my cold weather clothes to strip down to my tri suit,
The pool swim started well - I felt strong - pulling along quite nicely with minimum use of my legs. This part had been the piece of the race I had truly feared. It was however - bloody good fun! So much in fact that I lost count of the lengths and ended up doing an extra two lengths. Getting out of the pool I pressed the lap counter of my watch and glanced down - amazed to find the time under 9 mins - where had that come from?
So - the bike. This should be better - its the bit I enjoy. So I thought. A two lap race circuit on the roads - mixing it up carefully with the other road users. Well - off I went - far too fast of course and soon my legs were on fire. Luckily I had put a bottle of water and a bottle of carb drink on the bike - so I started sipping the carb drink. I'd drank this many a time - made sure that I was used to it - so that there shouldn't be any surprises in the race. Oops. Looks like I made this too strong - as my stomach started cramping up. Quick - drink some water as well, so I started drinking the carb drink followed by the water to make sure the cramps didn't come again. Will have to remember that for next time and be more careful in my morning preparation in future.
I came up to the hill at the end of the first circuit - and saw a long line of riders out of their saddles riding up it. I'm not sure what happened - but my 'just get round and enjoy yourself' attitude just vanished and the red mist descended. I sat in the saddle and pushed as hard as I could up the hill - overtaking all those I could see in front of me. Getting to the top I was almost sick, coughing and retching I carried on along the flat to the start of the second lap. Spotted the photographer - stuck my tongue out as I went past and started feeling better. More carb drink and more water - began to recover from the stupid massive effort up that hill. I heard someone behind me and was soon overtaken by the first person to go past me of the day - there were only to be two more during the rest of the race which was fairly gratifying.
Reaching the last hill of the circuit - I have no idea what happened again - but there I was retching at the top again after powering up and overtaking anyone I could see. Bloomin idiot - but hell, it was great fun. If only I was a bit fitter!
Into transition and onto the run. I could hear people cheering me on - the support at this race was brilliant, the best advert for these races. The best I had previously managed on a 5km run was 29:20 - and certainly not after a swim and a bike ride - so I wasn't hoping for too much and as I turned onto the off road bit I wasn't too hopeful as this course went along the side of a farmers field. It was rough, rutted, muddy and completely uneven. To be honest it was fantastic! Its odd - but the lack of a constant gait favored me I think - it stopped me from thinking about how fast I was running and let me just think about retaining my footing. I spotted one of the guys from near me running in the opposite direction and waved - "Good luck" - he shouted - marvelous atmosphere.
Sprinting into the end of the race - and yes - I really did manage a sprint finish - I found myself bettering my target time by over 10 minutes. Brilliant. Now - when is the next one - I'm hooked....