Issue ID: Summer 2012
I’ve always seen myself as a resolutely middle-of-the-pack athlete, a sort of triathlon equivalent of the house wine at a suburban Indian restaurant.
However, I can now report that having raced my first tri of the year, I have entered the world of the top-10 (yep, ninth), which means I’ve rocketed into the upper echelons of the sport. Oh yes, I’m looking good – albeit for someone twice my age.
The race in question was the Kernowman, a middle-distance jaunt around Cornwall with a sea swim in the shadow of St Michael’s Mount, a bike leg down to Land’s End and along the north Cornish coast, and a run on the slopes of Mount Everest, aka Tregurtha Downs. I chose this particular race because my long-suffering other half, Nicky, is Cornish, and she fancied a trip back to her homeland to stock up on proper pasties, saffron buns, clotted cream and wicker men to burn her enemies in.
It also gave me the chance to try out my new toy, a Bongo campervan which has
already been christened ‘Ali’ and whose black and red colour scheme has led my mates to start calling me BA Baracas. I’ve long wanted a campervan, and being able to drive right up to the transition area in Marazion field, pull on the handbrake, unfurl my bed, stick the kettle on and scratch myself lavishly before going sleepy-by-byes was wonderful. And it’s a fantastic feeling knowing I shall never again have to get up at bloody 3am to drive to a race, or have a fight to the death with a tent in the dark.
The only downside is that my van has no loo and, thanks to my sneaky wee out of the door in the morning, there’s now a part of the field that looks like it’s been subjected to a scorched-earth attack and nothing will ever grow there again, not even on a cellular level.
The race itself started inauspiciously for me because the sea was at the chillier end of hypothermic. Before the race we’d been told the water temperature was 11°C, but I think there might have been a decimal point missing from that number. Not being able to feel my limbs made for a slower than usual swim, although this did at least delay the effects of not having adjusted my wetsuit properly before diving in and trapping a certain part of my private anatomy.
Within minutes I was scanning the horizon for a railway line on which to lie across in a desperate attempt to remove the lower half of my body and relieve myself of the phenomenal amount of pain being inflicted upon me. As a man, clearly I lack the required experience, though I’m going to estimate that this was at least 11-times more painful than childbirth.
On exiting the water some lucky spectators were treated to the sight of a man charging wildly into transition, bellowing like a mountain gorilla with its toe caught in a mousetrap and then cannonballing arse first on to the grass while tearing at the crotch of his wetsuit. The net effect of this experience turned my private parts into a maroon-coloured bag of agony and I can now pass urine in three positions: standing, sitting and curled in a ball weeping.
The 56-mile bike leg was much less eventful, apart from one motorist sitting two inches behind my rear wheel through the town of Hayle – I always say there’s no better way for a driver to signal that he wants to go faster than by increasing the chance of my death by 40%. Happily, 99% of the course was on scenic lanes along the Cornish coast with no traffic, which was excellent because race-day motorists are usually about as endearing as a gang of Nazi wasps.
I’d worked very hard on the bike to make up for my swim, so by the time I set off on
the half-marathon I was starting to look like the lone equine survivor of a fire at a donkey sanctuary. The run course was very hilly with long off-road sections, and to cope with the uneven surface my gait resembled that of a clown running through a minefield.
Fortunately, inspiration was on hand because Nicky’s parents had come down
to enthusiastically cheer me on, although I noted this enthusiasm didn’t extend to her
dad being bothered to put his teeth in. All this gummy encouragement to “Pickssshhh your knesssshh up” had the desired effect, though, and I was soon shuffling along.
And after just 90 minutes I was skipping through the finish for my highest-ever position, with a pint of Skinners in one hand and a pasty in the other.