In the early months of every year, triathletes with more money and sense than me travel to places like Lanzarote and Majorca to spend a week or two enjoying the rigours of 'training camp'. As far as I can tell, this involves a therapeutic period of swimming, cycling and running under glorious coastal sunshine. A bit like Baywatch, but with calf guards.
Well, last week I went on my own version of training camp. My wife came too, although she insisted on calling it 'going on holiday to Cornwall for a week'. For me, though, this presented too good an opportunity to miss, so – as well as taking plenty of time to enjoy good food, beach walks and the other things normal couples do on holiday – I ignored my usual training regime and took to the waters, roads and coastal paths of the south-west for a quick mid-training-plan boost.
Things started inauspiciously, what with our arrival coinciding with the heaviest storms since Noah went to work. Twitter teemed with tales of cancelled races and apocalyptic training sessions, and I did the sensible thing and took to my turbo trainer.
As well as forcing me to face up to one unavoidable and fairly shameful truth – I have become the sort of person who takes a turbo trainer on holiday – this gave me the chance to have a bizarre, saddle-bound chat with the owner of the farm where we were staying.
Water was seeping through the wall of our cottage, so he came to take a look. After greeting me with a simple "Fitness freak, is it?", he then peppered me with questions about my training. I pedalled self-consciously away and tried not to sweat on his carpet.
It struck me at this point that preparing for an iron-distance race can be a fairly eccentric business, and the thought returned to me the next day when, after 90 sun-filled minutes running along breathtaking coastal paths, the weather turned again.
I spent the next 90 minutes running home as 30mph crosswinds smashed hailstones into my ear. Two pensioners relaxing in their car stared at me open-mouthed as my rapidly-reddening legs temporarily ruined their sea view. By the time I got home, I could only breathe through one nostril, the other one having been completely squashed shut by the wind. My wife greeted me with the special smile she saves for such occasions.
From there on in, the weather eased, and the training gave me a good indication of how I'm progressing. A stunning 100-mile ride took me around the coast from St Ives to Land's End to Penzance. It felt fine, and even left me with entertainingly sunburnt thighs. The hour-long run that followed it then gave me a brief confidence boost, but also reminded me just how tough that marathon is going to be.
Similarly, a quick dip in the sea left me feeling invigorated and happy to be in a wetsuit again, but also got me concerned about the water temperature at my impending half-iron training race. (It also left me somewhat belchy, but I suppose that's what happens when you have a cream tea half-an-hour before taking to the seas).
But looking back, the week has given me a good sense of where I am, as well as helping me to get some serious miles in the bank – 170 on the bike, 50 on foot and, er, two in the water.
And while it might not have been glamorous, I’ll still take Cornwall over Lanzarote any day. It’s got views. It’s got hills. It’s got pasties. And who wants a nice, warm, dry, relaxing, sun-kissed, warm, relaxing, warm, tropical, warm training camp anyway? Er, right?
Matt is racing the Outlaw for the charity Mind. Head to www.justgiving.com/ironkurton to sponsor him.