It’s been a couple of days since I completed the ‘Triple’, I can just about stay awake for longer than 30 minutes, my shuffling around the house is speeding up a little and I’m starting to think about when I should realistically do a little bit of recovery based training. Before I get into full flow, the reason I was able to complete this event was down to my support crew, Mark, Paul and Tim; they suffered with me, made rational decision for me when I was unable to and most of all they had the same level of desire as I did to get the job done. My friends from sunny Cornwall were always part of the team and they were awesome, but a special mention for Tim, who just rocked up from Carlisle to watch for a couple of hours and stayed for the duration? is fully justified (I definitely owe you several beers in Las Vegas!).??
Training for this event had gone pretty much to plan, apart from an 8 week blip during May and June, where overtraining had a massive effect. I’d averaged over 20 hours a week since the turn of the year with the majority being done in very unsociable hours, this was done to both simulate effort whilst tired and to keep my training and family time as separate as possible.
The trip to the race was uneventful and we arrived in enough time to drive the bike course and take a walk around the run course, before we checked in to the hotel and relaxed for a couple of hours. The registration and brief held no surprises and so it was off to bed as well prepared and rested as I could possibly have hoped for
Travelled over to what was become ‘hell’ for the next couple of days, and with my bike racked and ready it was time to get ready for the longest swim of my life. The furthest I’d done in training was 5k but I had felt really comfortable at that distance and knew that I would have no problem with the swim. We seeded ourselves in the lane according to who thought they would finish first, and so I pushed off at the head of the queue with 456 lengths to go. I had planned to do sets of 2.5k (x4) and then be left with a measly 56 lengths, simple enough plan I thought. The only problem was that I had to contend with the different pace of the other 3 guys in my lane, I am always aware that the race isn’t always about me and that I will have affected the rhythm of the others as I seemed to be tapping feet every few lengths to get past. The swim was my worst fear in triathlon but I actually am starting to enjoy it, although I am no Michael Phelps, I feel that I am gradually getting better. I had a target of between 3:30-3:45 for the swim and was pretty much bang on as I exited in 3:42, and 6th place.
A quick jog round to T1 and a leisurely change of kit saw me head out on to the bike. I really didn’t know how this part was going to go, but had made a decision to ride an aggressive set up and trying to hammer it (relatively) in daylight hours. This was working well and I was up around a 33kph average for the first 112 miles, after that it started to go a lot slower. This I think was due to being dehydrated from the swim and also the terrible road surface starting to take effect. It had to be total concentration all the way through as there were so many pot holes that it could be race over? at any moment, plus the constant vibration had a cumulative fatigue effect as well.
Around 19:00 we were told to get high vis and lights on and that was the first time I had stopped, in 9 hours I had done 182 miles and so was in good spirits. Then as light faded the true test begun and was to last until the finish. The darkness just seemed to sap all energy from my body and the effort no to fall asleep was phenomenal, in fact like the Double from the previous year I did nod off a few times (although it was only for a second) and woke with a start. I’m not sure of the time because everything became a blur but I had to pull over and crawl into the back of the van for my first of 3 ten minute power-naps. When I woke up I felt amazing and this was enough to carry me through for another 2 laps before repeating the process. After the second ‘sleep’ the sun was coming up and I was hoping this would be the lift I needed, wrong! It was just as bad so I did another 2 laps had another 10 minutes and then I was left with only 2 laps. By this point my undercarriage was in tatters, so sitting was agony, standing was just as bad as my legs were in bits, but at least I had 78 miles of running to look forward to. As I rolled in on my final lap of the bike it was with total relief that I hadn’t crashed, that my bike hadn’t had a mechanical and that I had done 2/3 of the race. During this 336 mile spin, I’d moved up from 6th to 3rd, I think at one point I was 2nd but that didn’t last long and trailed 2nd by 1:30 ish as I went out on the run. The bike took me 21:45.
Now it was the ultimate test of all the 3 disciplines, I had done one training run of 35 miles but that was in March. Since then I had only done 15-20 mile efforts, poor prep I know but I didn’t want to risk injury prior to the race. I haven’t been doing triathlon long (0206 was my first race) and I’ve never been in a position where I am challenging for the podium, so I worked out a strategy early on. I was going to go hard on the first marathon and put pressure on Hanno (2nd) and hopefully make him blow up, and maybe (but not realistically) worry Paul (1st) in to making a mistake. This was a massive risk I was taking but as intend never to do anything like this again (well not for a while) I didn’t want to finish thinking ‘what if I’d attacked. So off I went, with a lot of advice from a respected athlete doing the Double, telling me that I was being stupid and that I would blow myself to bits for the final third of the run.?
Well, he was completely right, but fortunately for me my gamble paid off and everybody else was just trying to survive at that point. I have never felt so completely empty as the last 12-15 miles of this event, the best I could do was to shuffle through the darkness and not fall asleep whilst walking. My body had completely shut down, I could take on no food, water was a struggle and all I wanted to do was curl up and sleep. Once again my crew where amazing, they just kept me going with encouragement or threats, not sure which at that point. It’s difficult to put into words how I felt but I never want to be in that place again, I was not a happy bunny. And so it was to the final lap (of 63) I had pictured this moment many times, but none of the scenarios had been like this one, I had nothing left, no feelings of joy or relief, it was just the constant effort of putting one foot in front of the other. As I crossed the line I didn’t care about anything other than going to sleep, but then as my timing chip was taken off it started to dawn on me that I didn’t have to do this anymore. I WAS FREE! My time for the run was 19:14. I had come into this event with a time goal rather than a placing, and I had hoped to go under 40 hours, I think if I had been further down the field that this would have been achievable but due to pushing harder on the bike and definitely sacrificing myself on the run it was never going to happen. But I would swap that any day of the week to finish in second place in this experienced and talented group of athletes and I feel very humbled by the whole thing.?