Race Week: Jekyll and Hyde Duathlon, or A Year in Retrospect

Apologies for the late post: alcohol may or may not have played a part in this. I may or may not have still been very drunk on the train to work this morning. My line manager may or may not read this, but I like to live my life firmly in the dangerzone.

So, I’m done for the year. Not with work, just in case you were wondering, Schrödinger’s line manager. Not with sports, either. I do wish I could just hibernate like a bear for the next two months to catch up on all the sleep I don’t get (fuck you, happy clappy church down the road, what kind of church has raves that go on until half two in the morning?), but there’s training to be done. No, I’m finished in terms of triathlons and triathlon-related multisport races for the year.

It was the Jekyll & Hyde Halloween Duathlon this morning (actually yesterday now, because alcohol), and I’m a bit hot and cold about how it went. Hot, because running in a full-head mask is like sticking your head in an oven. Cold, because otherwise it was frickin’ freezing (or near enough to deserve to be called as such). Also it was great fun and my times were shit. In terms of actual results; well, I did it looking like this…

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…So I guess I’m really not too fussed about the results. I came 82nd out of 175, as usual saved by my running because I had a terrible bike, which is pretty crucial in a duathlon. Capes are really shit to bike in, they catch the air a lot. Batman would be a shit cyclist. Do they even have a cycle-superhighway in Gotham? Sort it out, Bruce, pollution is the real supervillain of the 21st century.

Anyway, as I was haring around Hyde Park this (yesterday) morning, I took some time to reflect on my first season as a triathlete. Actually, I first spent some time trying to remember what the Spanish for ‘The Landshark’ was (El Tiburón De La Tierra, in case you’re wondering). I did this because, were I actually a Luchador, I would definitely go for ‘The Landshark’ as my moniker. But after that, I thought about the triathlon season.

It has been wonderful, bizarre, tough, and a whole host of other adjectives. I have finally got involved in a sport that even I didn’t quite believe my own threats to get involved in. I have spent more time, money and effort on triathlon in one season than I have on any other activity in my life, ever. If you discount driving, I mean. And alcohol. And drugs. But triathlon is definitely the most effort I’ve put into anything in the last few years anyway. Also, if you take the view that all sport is an extension or war, just a series of activities in which people strive to assert their physical dominance over each other – well then, I’ve become a warrior-poet. Keep your opinions firmly to yourselves at how effective I am at those things. Cheers.

Now that I am safely home and recovered (from the race, not the hangover), I feel it’s worth going over what I have managed to learn since those first training days of late February. A lot of this was thought of in terms of my progression over the year, so I’m going to use my year’s races as nice natural time-landmarks (there really has to be a better word for that) to recap.

My first dabble with triathlon was part of the Chaser’s beginner Tri program. I threw myself into the three months plan with gusto, trying to hit every training session I possibly could, and making the most of that new-hobby motivation, like a puppy chewing through new slippers. This led up to my first race, one of the Thames Turbo sprints; I already knew at this point that I was hooked, having signed up to a handful of other races a couple of weeks before I had finished my first race. I’d learnt what I needed to: that I really liked the structure and discipline of the race game. Also, I found out that I wasn’t completely terrible. That was nice. Off to a good start.

My second race, the Jetstream sprint, taught me a valuable thing: anger works very well for me as a motivator. Depression as a mood, and pretty much all negative moods when you spend enough time thinking about them, can be boiled down to anger; fortunately (?) this means I have a strong reserve of motivation to work with. To explain: Jetstream was my first open water mass start, and I hated it. I went off too fast, had to stop and tread water about 50m in to get my breath back, and spent the rest of the 750m swim trying really unsuccessfully to catch everyone else in my wave. I exited the water about a minute behind the second last swimmer. Not good. This is where the anger came in. Like Bruce Banner de-shirting (what’s with all the comic book references this week?), I practically tore my wetsuit off, leaving a trail of ragged neoprene strips through transition. I overtook three people while sprinting from the bike out to the mount line. Hills on the bike course? What hills, they can get to fuck. I was still fuming for the run, and it showed in my pace. This race was my best finish of the year – all because I had a terrible swim, and got really, really angry with myself.

The next thing I took from this year was not to be overconfident. Shortly after the Jetstream incident, I came into the Windrush Aquathlon quite positively. My swimming can’t be as bad, surely; and I was regularly haunting the top ten in the Parkrun where the run segment of the race took place at this point. As it turned out, my swimming wasn’t much better, because I hadn’t figured at this point how much a wetsuit helps when swimming. Furthermore, being one of the first starters the run course was still empty when I was out, and without anyone to chase my run was about a minute slower than it should have been, because hey, I’m a strong runner on this course, I don’t need to push it. Arrogance doesn’t suit me.

A long summer break from races involved lots of open water swimming, and then it was back in for the Hever sprint plus. Having had a few weeks now to reflect, this race really displayed to me how a good solid plan, something slightly more complex than ‘go fast, then go fast, then go faster’, can make or break your race. My swim plan worked well; my new ethos of discretion over valour meant that by sticking to the edges of the wave, I was far more calm and composed coming out of the water (although judging from above, that may not have been a good thing). I also had no plan for dealing with the cold, which meant the bike sucked. The highs and lows of race day tactics.

The relay swim of the following day was, I feel, a personal milestone. I was very dubious when I was being cajoled into signing up about whether I’d be able to finish that distance, as I was massively struggling with my swimming at the time. But with some hard work and dedication, and bribing competent people with lots of money to point out everything I was doing wrong, I managed to put together enough of an effort to finish the swim, and finish it a little better than expected. Like all of Shakespeare’s best tragedies, I was struck by hubris at the pinnacle of my achievements, as I forgot to drink any coke post-swim and promptly died (nearly/figuratively) of Hever fever, but still: milestone.

If Hever had been an education in tactics, St. Ives sprint was all about strategy. I went in blind in a manner of speaking – no idea of the route or conditions. It was not a great race for me, largely because of this. That said, there were hills. Honestly I probably couldn’t have done much about hills being there even if I had known, but it would have been nice to be forewarned, I guess.

Finally, we come to Jekyll and Hyde. What did I learn from this? Rather crucially: that, eight months later, I’m still enjoying it. That’s great in itself. My life seems to have been a succession of flirting with one thing or another, but never really committing to anything, or at least anything positive. I was very committed to rum. One day I’m going to have to introduce London to Walter Hick’s finest 125; I expect I will promptly be marched from the city boundaries, kicked in the bum and told never to return. You don’t know challenge (or the inside of your stomach on any given day) until you know a double shot of Hicks. Literally every single hair I have on my chest was born of that stuff.

So, that’s a year: Enjoy it, use the rage, don’t be cocky, have a plan, hard work works, know where you’re going, enjoy it some more. All wise pointers. I should also point out that I initially planned to add bits about running races, but all I had in my notes was ‘Wimbledon 5k don’t run on an injury you fucking plank” so I’m going to leave those out.

So usually now would be a good time to wrap things up for the week with some dry cutting wit, but no! There’s more to talk about this week. The reason for the rare (ish) excessive alcohol consumption is that last night was the Chaser’s end of season triathlon drinks. To cut a long story short: I got an award! For being an enthusiastic newbie, and for inspirational services to the club or something.

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Pictured: award, which I may/may not be christening with pink bubbly.

Being recognised for writing about such a personal subject is a bit weird. A lot weird. On the one hand, it’s fantastic to know you’re doing something that other people can draw motivation and inspiration from. It’s kind of all I really wanted from this whole thing when I started it – I often say that if any of this writing helps anyone in any way, then it’s doing what it’s meant to. That is a very true statement from my point of view.

On the other hand, sometimes the paranoid brain kicks in and it all feels a little bit… schadenfreude-y. Or skadeglädje – see, look, I am learning Swedish. My favourite phrase at the moment is Jag älskar kvinnor, öl och kanelbuller (I love women, beer and cinnamon buns). Anyway: basically, it feels slightly odd having people be so enthusiastic about me writing about self harm and suicide, because I’m no longer enthusiastic about either of those things. It’s tough to explain, and also really pointless, because it’s totally outweighed by the awesomeness of people liking what I write, but there’s that slight weird feeling that I’m going to ascribe to self-consciousness going into overdrive from time to time.

Naturally, this was a cause for celebration that ended some time this morning in a cocktail bar, drinking things that were on fire. Standard casual Sunday. My day can be adequately described by this – the bit about hangovers near the start. However, it’s all good, because it’s half term, and I’m working from home/off for the rest of the week! And I got an award! And to top it all off, I just found a bag of chicken dippers in the freezer I totally forgot I had! Perfect hangover fuel and I don’t even need to head to the shops. Everything’s coming up Milhouse!

Oh, and by the by: hello, first bit of kit that will make me look like a nob and I’d have never bought if it wasn’t for an ironman:

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Yes, the first thing I did was put it on backwards and make robot noises. I am a child.

Enjoyed this post? Spread the wealth! Please share this post via WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit. Or, y’know, anywhere else you like.

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!

2 responses to “Race Week: Jekyll and Hyde Duathlon, or A Year in Retrospect

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