Issue ID: February 2013
There’s an old proverb that goes: “You should never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn’t try it on.” The saying sprung to my mind fairly recently when I was lurking in my loft to avoid my wife, Nicky, to whom I had just given some scrambled eggs as a ‘joke’ Christmas present.
While lurking, I spotted a pair of old trousers, so like any self-respecting bloke alone in a loft, I immediately tried them on. The fact that they’d been lagging a pipe gave me the same warm-legged sensation you get from weeing in your wetsuit. But what was more noticeable was that I could pull them down without undoing them, suggesting I’ve lost weight since I chucked them up there.
A rough calculation based on the trousers’ style and the receipt in the pocket for two pork pies and a Twix suggests I last wore them in about 2003. My body has undergone many changes in the last 10 years. Back then my waist size was 38in; it’s now 31. I weighed 15.5 stones but now I weigh 11.5. My face, like my waist, is also thinner – it looks like my old face reflected in the back of a spoon – and I now have so much back hair that when I lean against flock wallpaper I have to be cut free.
The hair thing aside, this transformation from Mr Piggy into a sort of scary Morrissey has been caused entirely by taking up triathlon. And I only did it for a bet!
A glance at the 220 letters pages reveals people take up triathlon for all sorts of inspiring reasons. But I’ve never yet seen anyone else who started purely for a one-off financial gain, and it occurs to me that I’ve never told the story of how I got into this mess.
2003 was the year that brought us Little Britain, Dizzee Rascal and the triple tragedies of the Iraq invasion, the death of Johnny Cash and the release of Dido’s Life for Rent album. In those days I was a fat banker who decided to do the London Marathon without any training.
It took me five hours and left me with a fortnight of constipation that turned me into a walking time bomb. Of course, I still showed off my finisher’s medal at work, whereupon a colleague called Sally Plumridge uttered the fateful words: “I bet you couldn’t do the London Triathlon.” Instead of telling her to sod off, the presence of the word ‘bet’ made my mouth utter the words, “How much?” and, after much haggling, we settled on a tenner.
At this stage I didn’t even know what a triathlon was, I didn’t own a bike and thought transition was a shop for cross-dressers. Undeterred, I borrowed a bike, hired a wetsuit and entered the Olympic-distance race. It took place on my 35th birthday and I remember it being a scorching day, although I can’t entirely blame the heat for the fact that it took me 3:20hrs to finish. I’d never swum in open water before but chucking myself into the Royal Victoria Dock didn’t bother me – being overtaken by a bloke doing breaststroke certainly did! The bike was hot, the run was a walk and when I crossed the line, the only words I could utter were, “Fetch me a bucket, quick.” Worryingly, though, I sort of enjoyed it.
Ten years on and it’s ridiculous to think that eight words can change your life so much. Triathlon has taken over every part of my life…
No man is an island (apart from the Isle of Man) and these days all my friends are also triathletes – a couple of them aren’t too crap at it, either.
Where once it was suits with size 38 waists, it’s now Coolmax T-shirts and compression tights. Although I do occasionally get over-optimistic about my waist size, such as when I recently bought a pair of ‘small’ Speedos, which were so brief that I’d need to visit a scrotal stylist before I’d be able to wear them in public.
All my holidays now involve races, and I’ve now spent so much time in Europe that Rotherham Council would never let me be fostered by anyone from UKIP.
Where once I could hide Mars bars between rolls of fat, now I look like a bag of bones covered in flesh-coloured tights – despite still putting more food on my plate than an elderly relative at a wedding buffet.
Everything I have to say about my leisure time can be summed up by the phrase: “Sorry, can’t go out tonight, I’ve got swimming/a six-hour cycle/park-run/weight training (delete as applicable) in the morning.”
What I didn’t know when I made that bet was that you don’t do triathlons – you become a triathlete. The sport takes over everything! And Sally, if you’re out there somewhere, this is what you have done to me! Should you ever read this, feel free to get in touch so you can give me my tenner.
All that remains is for me to wish all of you a Happy New Year and may all your times in 2013 be slightly slower than mine. Although, having spent the entire month gorging on chocolate-coated peanuts, it’s unlikely. Still, the trousers should fit me again soon.