It’s been a week or three since my last blog and I’d like to apologise to regular readers of my musings for:
1. Taking so long to get my a*** in gear and write something
2. The state of your mind if you regularly read the rubbish I post
Anyway, for once I have much to tell you. The first tiny thing to mention is that I DID IRONMAN AUSTRIA!!!!!! And in a similarly understated way, so insignificant that it’s hardly worth mentioning, I DID IT IN A NEW PERSONAL BEST!!!!
Yes dear reader, IM Austria’s “in the bag” in a time of 11.27, a full half-an-hour (ish) off my previous best time. Like all Ironman races it had its ups and downs – the “downs” being a puncture 27 miles into the bike course, the baking heat on the run, and being chased up a hill by a hairy Austrian in a Borat mankini, while the “ups” included my best swim ever, my best bike ever and a free copy of German magazine “Tri Time” with a naked picture of Meike Krebs on the cover.
This was my first time In Austria and I can honestly say Klagenfurt is a beautiful setting for a race, and the people are all utterly bonkers (in a good way). The Worther See was easily the loveliest lake I have ever swum in, while the support on the Rupertiberg and the other climbs on the bike course was sensational – though after a while having “hop hop hop” bellowed in your ear by people clanging giant cowbells can wear a bit thin. It was on the Rupertiberg that Borat made his appearance and I’m thinking of hiring him for all my races because he didn’t half get me pedalling quickly to get away.
In January I decided to take a different approach to my training and after years of bumbling along doing my own thing I signed up with a coach, Dave Watson. It’s fair to say that Dave knows his stuff having just done a 100 mile TT in less than 3 hours 50 and ridden in the National road race championships alongside Wiggins, Cavendish, Millar etc. He certainly got me in shape but even I was surprised when I popped up onto the bank after the swim, resplendent in my lovely new Aquasphere wetsuit, in 1 hour 1 minute. Such was the confidence that my family have in my abilities that my other-half Nicky who was waiting by the swim exit thought “nah, can’t be him.”
I was similarly speedy (for me) on my shiny Focus bike and all those hours of Dave shouting “click up/ go through/ get on the front you lazy ****” etc paid off with a 5.40, which included about 10 minutes lost to a puncture with that depressing “thud thud thud” noise of a flat tyre followed by an impressive bout of swearing. I stopped cursing as a group of curious but silent Austrians gathered round to watch me, but once I realised they didn’t speak English I was able to swear even more lavishly. I hope none of them visit the UK soon to practise their new found language skills….
One thing I did notice while I was lobbing useless inner tubes around the pristine Austrian countryside was that it was warm. Very warm. I noticed it again a few hours later when I was striding (okay, plodding) around the marathon. Its never a good sign when the spectators are under umbrellas to get away from the sunshine and with the temperature getting hotter and hotter I had what is best described as a “funny turn” after 12k – light headed, popping ears, tingly fingers and an ugly look on my face, only one of which I had when I started the race. It took several cups of water over my head and a 4k walk to bring things back to normal and by this stage I was more afraid of explaining to Dave why I’d failed than I was of dying from heat stroke so I ran all the way to the finish. That’s one way to get a negative split I suppose.
Anyway as ever it was a memorable moment to run down the finishers chute to the cheers of the crowd. If you’ve ever done it you’ll know what I mean, and if you haven’t – do it. No matter how much you toil in racing and training, it all becomes worth it when the announcer reads out your name as says those four little words – “you are an Ironman”.
So that’s that. The medal is on the wall, the T-shirt is in the drawer and my socks are in the bin, and it’s on to new challenges. When I arrived home a large box was waiting for me packed full of lovely Pearl Izumi running kit. Apart from prompting more dark mutterings from Nicky about where it was all going it has had a dramatic effect on my running – I’m no faster but at least I now look good. I did manage to win a race last week called “race the train” and was very pleased with my 10k time of 36.36, although given the reliability of British trains I could probably still have won if I’d done it in a bath chair.
The focus now though is on swimming with just three weeks to go before my channel relay swim. I had my first taste of proper channel weather at the weekend when myself and the rest of the League of Mentalmen went to Brighton to practice. Conditions were best described as “borderline” (i.e. borderline psychopathic) with 7ft waves, driving rain and a howling wind all combining to make it about as pleasant as type 2 diabetes. Having been thrown about like a piece of flailing human jetsam for an hour the real fun came when I tried to get out, with two waves smacking me so hard they ripped my goggles off and threw me headfirst into a kind of pebbly washing machine before I was spat out on to the beach. To complete our pleasure a lifeguard was waiting for us with three key questions:
1. Did we see the red flags?
2. Why didn’t we tell them we were going to be swimming?
3. Did we know that we were “causing distress to the public” who had seen us
To which the answer obviously were:
1. Yes, but we pretended we hadn’t
2. Because you were still in bed when we plunged in at 8am
3. If you think that’s bad wait ‘til I take my trunks off
Our swim is scheduled for sometime between 7-12 August. I’ll write before then with tips on how to avoid jellyfish, customs officers and “waste” from Russian freighters.