Getting the hang of it

1996 on the Camino de Santiago as a guide

5 years ago when my cousin Simon suggested I join the family in the Blenheim Triathlon I said yes without a blink. Once you’ve said yes to someone like Simon there is no turning back, his heckling would be merciless and at any family event or on random texts I would be prey to endless ribbing. Could I? Couldn’t I? What the hell? I was turning 52 back then but then age has never really meant that much to me.

I used to run as a young man to stay fit; in the Waverley Harriers training for the 3 marathons I completed as an 18 yr. old, I ran for my school in the finals of the Surrey Athletics championships in the 1500m. (2nd. last by a whisker), I got bloody kneed and muddy competing in cross country events, I ran through steep banks of snow on frosty mornings in the Alps when I worked as a ski instructor. And then I stopped. I don’t think I’d run for 30 years.

Swimming I was good at. Correction – I thought I was good at. I’d swum endless yards (ha! – imperial measurements back then, longer than a metre of course so I must have swum more – input head scratching emoji) while training for inter-school galas. I loved being in the water, perhaps it was the chlorine, perhaps it was getting out of a warm centrally heated house on a cold December evening to jump in to a wet cold pool. Either way I gave up when all my team mates grew John Wayne shoulders.

My race number from the 1988 Man vs. Horse in Llanwrytd Wells (Wales)

Now cycling – surely I must be brilliant at that. I’d cycled literally tens of thousands of kilometres for work as a mountain bike guide. Prior to that I’d raced in the incipient British Mountain Bike championships (back when a mountain bike was a rarity on the streets). I broke my rear derailleur and bent my front wheel but somehow managed to finish the Hard Ride. In Llanwyrtd Wells I raced beside a Horse and a Man in the Man vs. Horse. Needless to say the horse won. A biker came second. A man came last. It would be ten years before a man beat a horse. On a bike. The triumph possibly of veterinary controls all the way round making the sure the horse could breathe properly.

As I started to train for my triathlon I slowly began to realise that really I knew precious little about swimming, running or cycling.