Having a go

Blenheim 2015. Dominic, Duncan, Nick and me. Simon miles ahead. First triathlon (me in borrowed gear) and I came 799th. out of 3,000+ Not bad for the over 50’s but I realised I had a long way to go…

I wasn’t too worried about the cycling, jumping on a bike seemed the most natural thing in the world to me, something as easy as buttering toast or skiing down a steep slope. My first training run however was such a disaster I felt the consequences of it for at least a couple of years after.

My swimming was mainly paddling out to catch a wave surfing or paddling (very very slowly) in when I dropped my kite into the sea usually in a lull off the Punta Paloma dunes in Tarifa. However in the spirit of training I enrolled at the Vejer municipal pool and endeavoured to train a couple of times a week. Second swimming session saw me towel off and lace up my new running shoes.

Me at Punta Paloma on a good day. Photo 2015 by my mate Tim Booth.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been for a run. Certainly not since living in Spain so that takes it back to pre-1988. Running is just walking fast isn’t it? And with all the steps I climb at the Califa it’ll be a cinch. So off I ran, not at a mild leisurely pace. No, at the pace I’m used to in life. Quite fast. Too fast in fact. 1,5km. later on the trail that goes past the Campo Municipal de Futbol I pulled a calf muscle. And it stayed pulled, not just for the lame embarrassing walk back but for the whole week, the week after that, the week of my triathlon and every week I tried to run for a couple of years.

Of course I couldn’t complain, nobody in the family would have the slightest sympathy and would just give me hell for such a poor excuse. I trained on the bike and in the pool but I didn’t run another k until I was forced to 70 minutes in to the competition.

I’d taken the view that if I tried to run on the leg it might just seize up completely and put me out of the competition permanently. The day of the race would be in the hands of fate and most probably my physiotherapist.

Duncan and me wheezing in to the first transition.

I survived the swim but only just, I’d trained in warm weather without a suit and I borrowed a wetsuit for the day. The tightness across my chest and the whirlpool of kicking arms and legs completely disoriented me. I stopped for a minute to catch my breath and pick another line, this time on the inside (on other tri’s I found the outside line more beneficial and calmer as I could take a better line on the turn of the buoy). I made up some time and came out of the water right next to Duncan.

The cycling part of the race went fine, or so I thought until I realised I was being constantly overtaken and I didn’t seem to overtake anybody except a lady with a wicker basket on her handlebars. Doing some analysis later I worked out that the cadence of a mountain bike is totally different from my borrowed (thanks Simon) road bike. I’d not ridden a road bike since Edinburgh in 1982 where my wonderful vintage Evans with race Campagnolo gears was stolen from the railings of Whighams Wine Bar.

Finally the moment I’d been dreading, of course it couldn’t possibly go well. Other than a failed 1,5km. in Vejer 6 weeks previously I hadn’t run a mile in 30 years. And I didn’t run a mile at Blenheim either. Crossing the bridge just 100m. from the transition I felt my left calf pull so hard it brought tears to my eyes. I hobbled in extreme pain and was about to give up when a kind spectator shouted out “Come on, you can do it, there are some oldies here who’re going to thrash you!”. To this day I’m not sure whether her words were aimed at me or someone over my shoulder but I certainly wasn’t going to give up.

Duncan pulled up beside me and brothers in arms he cajoled me along the next 6km. until with searing pain I managed to hobble over the finishing line. We crossed the line together, but I was certain I wouldn’t be doing another triathlon ever again. Definitely.

The family together – 5 cousins, a sister, a mother and 2 daughters. ‘Britains fastest granny’, my Aunt Kate who is a London Marathon winner in her age group stands centre of the group.