1. You’re on the bike leg of Ironman Austria and absolutely flying, floating past inferior cyclists with a pedal stroke as untroubled as Mike Ashley’s conscience. A PB is in your sights and nothing can stop you, NOTHING. And then you feel it – tha-dunk, tha-dunk, tha-dunk. You’ve punctured. You’ll be 10 minutes fixing it, inferior cyclists will cruise past you and you’ll never catch them again, some shouting ‘Are you okay?’ though they have no intention of helping, and all of them are thinking ‘Oooh, one place higher up the finishing order’. Your post-race excuses will sound lame. As you stand there forlornly on the roadside your insides ache with the unfairness of it all – and when you look at the inner tube you can’t see a trace of what’s caused the sodding puncture.
2. You’re on the run at Ironman Lanzarote and your race is going well. You’ve lapped your friend Tony, a man who looks like the hair from your bathroom plughole has come to life. You’re feeling full of yourself when, at the turn point with 13 miles still to do, you see that the race winners are being presented with their prizes on the podium. They’ve finished. And rested. And eaten. And done interviews. They’re laughing and look fresh. You’ll be another two hours and you already look like Golum. You feel very small.
3. You’re doing a half-Ironman in Flanders where it’s raining on the run. As you run through the town centre in front of desultory Belgians you can plot your physical decline in the many mirrored shop windows you shuffle past. As you look at one you notice a large blood patch on your top. You look down and see that your wet vest had chafed your nipples and you look like you’ve been shot in the tit. Up until then you haven’t felt a thing, but it instantly becomes the most painful thing in the world, and you spend the rest of the race running with your thumbs hooked under your armpits like a Cockney, trying to keep your vest off your chest. You look ridiculous and Belgians laugh at you.
4. You’re walking your bike into transition at Milton Keynes with your box of kit balanced on your handlebars. As you approach you start rummaging around for your race number to show the marshals, whereupon your bike slips from under your box, topples towards you and the pedal cracks you meatily on the shin before scraping all the way down it, causing you to dry-heave with pain. You try to look casual as you gather up your scattered kit. You fail.
5. You’re doing a 10-mile time trial and it’s going well. You’ve never gone under 22mins before but you know you’re close today. You sprint for the line cross-eyed with effort and your Garmin says 21:59. You spend the next half hour in a purgatory of hope waiting for the official results, unable to celebrate lest your Garmin be inaccurate. Then the sheet comes out – 22:01…. Is there any number in sport worse than .01? You burn with frustration for a week until you return to try again. It’s windy and you take 24 minutes.
6. You’ve just done 2:04hrs for an Olympic-distance triathlon. The triathlon world now consists of you and Alistair Brownlee, in that order. You proudly tell your non-triathlete wife/husband/partner and they say, ‘Well done. Is that any good?’ You think of a way to explain without it sounding arsey or immodest but you can’t. You’re left to sulk about your unacknowledged achievement for the rest of the day. But if, for example, you suggest your wife becomes a ballerina because she’s a total nutcracker, you may find you’re introduced to a whole different level of pain.