Another week, another step on the long march towards internet celebrity-ism, my own YouTube channel and a nice townhouse in Kensington funded by a multi-million pound book deal. A less whimsical, more honest autobiographical guest blog post for Yellow Jersey Cycling Insurance was published – you can read it here if you haven’t already – and the inbox/notification feed exploded again.
It has been a very emotionally exhausting few days, with compliments, well wishes and thanks coming in from all corners. Hell, even my old therapist (founded Maytree, a very wise man that I hold in high esteem) has been in touch. Thanks very much to anyone who had a gander at the words, commented or contacted me about it. Being quite frank (both in the post, and right now) it was a pretty taxing thing to write at times; they’re not pleasant memories to go back to. It really does mean a lot to have it so well received by so many people. There are possibly more guest blogs in the works but nothing’s confirmed yet; until then, you’re stuck with this ramble. You’re welcome/commiserations.
Quick aside: auspiciously, I got the finishing touches to my Kintsukuroi vase tattoo done yesterday. Kintsukuroi or Kintsugi, as a philosophy, is the idea that breakages or imperfections in an object do not need to be the end of it, but can reveal hidden or new qualities. How apt. Here’s a pic taken by the artist just after finishing it – obviously a bit raw, but the Hō-ō bird looks immense. Julia still does the most amazing colour work.
Oh, also: in particular, thank you very much Adrian Tan, person who I may have spent five minutes at work internet-investigating to figure out if I know or not (I do not). It was investigating, not stalking, I have a criminology degree and know the difference. If you see a skinny vaguely-blonde guy looking like he’s about to shit himself pre-race next year in chasers kit, please do feel free to come and say hi. Post-race, I will probably be very incredibly drunk and should not be approached without appropriate safety gear. Until then train well, and may your Kanelbullar be full of warmth and joy.
My own training has been more or less non-existent this week. Took Monday off after St Ives, and figured that would be enough recovery, right? Nope. Tuesday’s Goodgym session felt less than stellar. My body pretty much gave up halfway through, probably muttering something about discretion and valour under my breath. It wasn’t just a purely physical thing; my mood kind of jumped off a cliff at the same time, which sucked. It’s a bit of a chicken or egg situation as to whether the body or mind started failing first, but I think they’re probably linked in this case.
The sudden mood drops will have to be tackled. They are, unfortunately, a semi-regular inevitability for me, though thankfully not as common as they once were. Still, I have serious training to do. I have pretty much written off a year’s worth of money, time, alcohol and – a terrible thought that slowly dawned on me over lunch with a friend yesterday – any possibility of sex for this thing. I’m not having the blues buggering it up for me in peak season. This will be worth it.
The rest of the week was subsequently written off to recover and engage in hideous, hideous life admin. This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing at this point. I was intending to have a week off after next weekend’s Jekyll & Hyde duathlon (last race of the season!), but the pre-training training schedule has now been pushed forward to start during next week, to give me more time over the winter to refine my swimming; I have engaged the services of a swimming/Tri coach for this, so hopefully there will be some improvement and I’ll feel a lot better coming into the training schedule proper in January.
There bloody needs to be some improvement! There was some TV coverage of the Hever castle triathlon that aired this weekend (minor quibble, C4 – don’t interview people in transition when they’re mid-race, for crying out loud), and the top swimmers for the half Ironman distance were completing the swim in 25 mins. I know, they’re the pros for a reason. But still, it puts my 48 minutes in perspective. They’re approximately going at twice the speed that I was. I want to be that fast. And yes, I realise that won’t happen for years, if at all, barring divine intervention/a seriously sexy and just a wee bit homoerotic Rocky III-style training montage with short shorts and slow motion sprints through the surf in sunny California/hardcore drugs of the variety that I can’t give you a comprehensive graded review of. But hey, sometimes it’s okay to want things you can’t have, if it makes you work that bit harder trying to get it (that sentence isn’t referring to the Rocky III montage, just to clarify). At the least, I would settle for being halfway between where I am now and that marker.
Anyway, with the acceleration of the training schedule I’m not too concerned about this being a bit of a dead week. Having a bit of R&R is an important thing that I probably don’t do enough. It does mean there’s a complete lack of new photos involving me and tight fitting sports clothing though – sorry about that.
One thing I did manage was to start booking next year’s practice races. I’ve kicked this off with the Brighton Marathon. Having never run a marathon before, it’s probably best that I get used to the distance, so it’s worth my time doing at least one of these in training. However, it does feel bloody odd, having not done one before but knowing in the back of my head that it is a complete C race, non-consequential. My first ever marathon is just part of my training plan. Just doesn’t sound right.
Cycling wise, I’m eyeing up maybe doing a stage or two of the Tour of Wessex, because I know it’s approaching the distances that I need to be training for bike-wise. The time I had to look into making this a reality was actually spent looking at the new 2016 TT bikes that have been released… I was so glued to the phone screen (possibly by my own dried drool) on Wednesday night that I actually managed to get on the wrong train to go shopping, and went three stops before realising. That’s, er, not my most glorious moment. I am possibly overthinking this whole endeavor (he says, now, before the rest of the blog continues).
As for a practice swim, I’m a little bit lost. Cycling and running seem to have obvious ways to practise Ironman distances in their own segments, but I have no idea where to find a 2.4 mile sea swim to get ready for that. If you are an accomplished swimmer and have any ideas for something in the April/May/Early June time, please help a brother out.
I’m also contemplating a practice, half-Ironman warm up race. This is something I was originally set against, as I kind of wanted to just jump in head first and go straight for the jugular. Those phrases have such perfect synergy, but whatever, it makes sense to me. However, this week, I had a quick gander at the finish times from last year’s Ironman Kalmar, and, well… I think maybe taking this a little seriously and doing some proper preparation might be a good idea. Get ready for some quick stats. You will be able to tell quickly that I have had far, far too much time to think this week.
There were 132 finishers in my category (male, 25-29 for those that don’t already know). Sticking with my top 20% obsession, that means I would need to finish in the top 26 or so to hit that potential goal. The top 26 finishers from last year had swim times ranging from 53 minutes to 1:21, bikes from 4:41 to 5:42, and runs from 3:08 to 3:58.
My current swim goal is at 1:30. Now, extrapolating my half swim time of 48 mins, that puts me at 1:36. I’m pretty confident I can make some significant improvements over the next year, so maybe I can shave more than 6 minutes? Let’s say, theoretically, I can manage the swim in 1:20.
On the bike, I tend to be a little above average. My current goal, 6:00, would put me slightly over the average time from last year of 5:52. Again, I have a good few months to work, and I think I can make some significant gains in this area. Speculating again, what if I could hit a 5:30? This is probably the most ludicrous target of this proposition, even with my terrible swimming.
I know I should be able to hit a run of, top end, 3:30. Okay, yes, as above: not actually done a marathon yet. But for the sake of argument, let’s go 3:30 and add that all up. 10:20, plus 10 mins for transition and stuff, and we’re at 10:30, which would put me exactly 26th based on last year’s results.
Now, this is very ambitious. From looking at the results, it’s pretty clear that the local racers have an advantage in numbers, but also probably in a level of knowledge of their surroundings, and training in similar conditions, that I won’t. Also, it’s a Ironman – there’s going to be much, much less hobbyists and far more committed triathletes at this thing than the usual local sprint, so top 20% is a much bigger ask than I am used to, I presume.
That said, it does make my current goal time of 11:45 look a bit feeble. Maybe I’m just high on blogging success, maybe the week off has rejuvenated my spirit, maybe I’m just on a sugar rush from too many cookies – I don’t know. But I am pretty sure I can do better than that. I should aim for better than that. Sometimes it’s okay to aim for things you can’t have.
Oh bloody hell, I better email the coach. Apologies for the amble, again – this will become focused again from next week onwards, promise! Speaking of next week, tune in for fancy dress, duathlons, and a summary of my year’s experience in triathlon.
Also, part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise funds and awareness for The Maytree Respite Centre, a small charity in North London that provides support for people going through a suicidal crisis – so if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please click here. Thanks so much!