Category Archives: General

Big hills, bigger winds and string beans – it must be Winter Racing

It’s spring! I know it’s spring, because we have had the Spring Half Marathon Weekend, a few days when thousands of runners come out of hibernation to run on the streets of Bath, Liverpool, Silverstone and many other towns and cities around the UK in a mass celebration of spring’s arrival.

I have run on spring half marathon weekend for the last few years, but gave it a miss this year. Having taken an enforced month and a half break last summer, I didn’t have the usual off-season. Instead I kept training and competing through the winter. So I wasn’t champing at the bit to get racing come March. Instead I have signed up for a local trail run in a few weeks time.

For my main race of 2016 I have signed up for “Race to The Stones”, a 60-mile ultra-marathon in July run on The Ridgeway starting in Oxfordshire and finishing at the Avebury Ring near Marlborough in Wiltshire. So over the winter I have focused on running and where possible off-road running.

My first race of the winter was The Dorset Coastal Challenge Half Marathon at the start of December which was traumatic. I would have helped myself if I had paid attention to what I was entering. All I saw was “half marathon”. I glossed over the words “Dorset Coastal Challenge”, a clear signal from the organisers that this probably wasn’t a PB course! I also paid little attention to the organisers own rating of the race as “Extreme”. How difficult could a 13.1 mile run on a coastal path be?

The answer was brutally difficult. Firstly, in an effort by the organisers to put their own little twist on it, this half marathon was 16.5 miles long – nice touch! My heart sank when I heard that news at the race briefing (I think I was the only person who didn’t already know) but in the scheme of things it was to be the least of my worries. It was the 4,500 feet of ascent that was to keep my mind from wandering.

The race was just a series of very big hills interspersed with aid stations. As the race went on the hills got

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The hills were steep and long!!

progressively steeper until the final hill which was so long and so steep that the local council had built a set of concrete steps into the side of it – hundreds of them.

You know that the hills were extreme when it has taken me three paragraphs to mention the other major feature of this race – the wind. This was the weekend when we got the tail end of Hurricane Edna from the other side of the Atlantic. With nothing to slow it down the wind carried all the way from the North American Coast gaining energy and strength until it made landfall in the UK on – you guessed it – the Dorset Coast!!

It may be the only time I have been grateful to be running at a few pounds over race weight. Seriously. Every extra pound made it more likely that you were going to remain upright as another gust of wind in excess of 50mph came through. I ran with a German girl for about 20 minutes – a slip of a thing. You don’t like to ask what a lady weighs, besides which she would have told me in kilos and I would have been no better off, but I would guess 8 stone. I lost count of the number of times she was blown clean off her feet. I spent several miles picking her up.

12295360_10206742127645360_5342873566782179982_nSo having taken no more than ten minutes to work out that I was way out of my comfort zone, my sole focus was on reaching the finish line which I eventually did in a little under four hours. I am still debating whether I never want to see this race again or whether I want to go back and see what I could do now I know what to expect.

My next race was in February – The Wilshire 10 – a 10-mile road-race in Melksham. This time I read the organisers description slowly taking particular care to find the word “flat”.

I arrived early to make sure I could park in the town centre near the start. It was a bitterly cold day and so I sat in the car while I waited. I watched the car park fill up with car load after car load of string beans. Long lean athletes with barely an ounce of body fat between them. I wondered if I was in the right place.

I bumped into my friend James on the start line. He is a much faster runner than me and so I got my excuses in early. Just a training run for me I told him – ten nine-minute miles.

It was great event. It had a really friendly local-race feel to it and the course wound out into the Wiltshire countryside and only came back into town to finish.

I was pretty true to my promise of nine-minute miles finishing in 1.28hrs which was nine-minute miles for eight miles and then a two-mile burn up with the guy I ran the second half of the race with. The kind of burn up where you pretend you aren’t racing but neither of you wants to get beaten and you finish within seconds of each other and collapse in a heap having buried yourselves for the previous 15 minutes!

It wasn’t until the end that I learned that this race I was treating as a day’s training was doubling up as the South West of England Road Running Championships. That would explain the string bean convention in the car park.

Training for Race to The Stones has now started in earnest. It was all going well until this week when I had one of those “busy” weeks that seem to push any of idea of training to one side. I managed to get out for a 6-mile trot today. I will be back on it this coming week. Although I have a training plan of sorts, I am still trying to work out how to train for an event like this in a way that suits me. At the moment I am experimenting. I would be very grateful for any tips or ideas.

Next up for me is another local race, this time a 16-mile trail race from Coombe Gibbet to Overton in two weeks. In a complete reverse of fortune this is a race which starts at the top of a hill and for the first two-thirds is gently downhill. I think I can say with a clear conscience that I have earned a downhill race!

Hello, my name is Peter and I am a KFC addict

Today is New Year’s Eve – the last day of excess before the slate is wiped clean. It’s the day when everyone leaves the past behind and tries to change their lives for good, or at least until they try again next New Year’s Eve!!

I think I have a better claim than most people that New Year’s Eve changed my life. It was on this day 18 years ago that I met Cate in an Italian restaurant in London. Although I didn’t know it at the time, we would be engaged less than a year later and married within 18 months. Events don’t get much more life-changing than that!

Then four years ago, on New Year’s Eve 2010, I made a resolution to get off the sofa, shed the increasing amount of weight I was carrying and get myself fit. I had no idea as I made that New Year’s resolution, of the incredible journey I was about to embark on.

I had reached New Year’s Eve 2010 with my weight at an all-time high of 14st 10lbs. That doesn’t sound much if you are six feet tall, but I am not, I’m five feet seven. According to the NHS height weight chart I had strayed in obese territory. I had never thought of myself as obese, porky yes, but obese, really? But let’s not worry about the terminology – it was in danger of becoming a health issue.

Before

14st 10lbs – during the KFC years!

It was especially frustrating for me because for a large part of my life I had been very fit. I ran county level cross country and was in the county rugby squad at school. I spent five years in the Army where being fit was kind of what you did!After the Army I continued playing rugby and running into my early thirties.

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12 stone – KFC a distant memory

It is easy to fall back on convenient excuses for why I let myself get fat and unfit. I could blame a business career, I could blame being married to an excellent cook or even fatherhood. They would all be untrue. The fact is that I just got complacent and stopped bothering. Alongside that, I had a bad relationship with food and the two made for a toxic combination.

As a bachelor living in London, takeaways were my downfall. If I tell you that I lived near an Indian Restaurant that would bring a takeaway to your house and I was on first name terms with the delivery boy, then you get some idea of the scale of the problem.

I also like fast food. For some reason I particularly liked KFC. I liked it so much I would go out of my way to find it – I even had a KFC map in the car which untitled (8)showed every outlet in the UK, so I was never far from the Colonel’s Recipe. Where I worked, it was a Friday lunchtime ritual to send the junior person in the office off to the KFC Drive Thru to bring us back a bucket of the stuff.

In my mind, KFC is still a symbol of all that was wrong with the way I ate in the bad old days.

Then on 31 December 2010 that all changed. I threw the take away menus in the bin and took hold. My aim was to drop two stones by Easter. At the same time I tried to get myself fit. I still remember the first two-mile run. Slow and painful with several walk breaks – I found it hard to believe how far away I was from being the cross-country runner and rugby player of my younger days.

Gradually the weight came off and the runs got less painful and the walk breaks less frequent. Then the distances became longer and the rest, if not exactly history, is documented in the pages of this blog. In 2014 I even managed to race at a weight that started with the words “eleven stone”!

I haven’t been back into a KFC since that day – four years clean! I don’t think I am in quite the same position as a reformed alcoholic or smoker who doesn’t dare have one drink or cigarette for fear of opening the floodgates again. KFC feels like something I used to do then and that I don’t do now and so for the time being at least, it will stay that way. More symbolic than anything.

So on New Year’s Eve I will raise a glass to many things; a happy New Year to everyone, eighteen years with my lovely wife and four years since I took control and unknowingly started the most extraordinary journey. A journey that has taken me to places I never imagined I would go and one on which I have met, actually and virtually, lots of fantastic people many of whom I now think of as friends. That’s worth more than any medal or personal best I have gained along the way. But the best part is that it is a journey that continues with lots of new challenges and it will continue without KFC!

I wish all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. I hope 2015 brings you everything you wish for.

 

The 2014 Season – My five favourite photographs

I don’t need to look at the calendar to work out that my 2014 triathlon season is over – a quick look in the fridge is enough. Just four weeks ago I was in that two week “purdah” that I subject myself to before a big race; eating clean, no alcohol and lots of water. Now the fridge has a very “post-season” feel to it. Beer, ice cream, chocolate cake and more.

As I drink my beer and reflect on the season, I do so with a real sense of satisfaction. More important than anything I achieved, I have a lot of really great memories from 2014. I think most of those memories are captured somewhere in photographs. So rather than add another season’s review to the dozens you will see on the Blogoshpere, I have chosen my five favourite photographs from the season. With them comes all of my best memories of the year.

I can’t apologise for them having a very Ironman theme – it was the dominant theme of the year. However I have tried not to make them all pictures of me 🙂

Here they are in reverse order:

5. Ironman UK swim start

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 The date was 20th July. After a year of thinking about it, six months of training for it and a few weeks of proper nerves worrying about it, Ironman UK was here. As I got into the water at 5.45 in the morning all the nerves turned to excitement. Fifteen minutes later the hooter went and we were racing. It was incredible – noisy, frenetic, physical but most of all exhilarating. I love this picture of the start taken from a drone. It brings all those memories flooding back.

4. The Ironman finish line

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No not my Ironman finish line! Completing an Ironman is an incredible feeling. Of all the pictures I have seen, none of them captures the joy of crossing that line more than these. My friend Nick Wall is crossing the line in Nice at Ironman France and the look on his face is one of relief and unbridled joy at getting there. Carrie Power’s picture is a great piece of photography that captures a moment of jubilant celebration – Carrie describes it as: “…getting some air at the finish of IM Mallorca”!

3. Volunteers

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I am glad this photo is one of my favourites because it enables me to give a shout out to all the volunteers who have helped make racing such fun this year. At every event I have been to they have been brilliant. This one was taken at The European Middle Distance Championships in Majorca where the temperature soared into the mid-30s on the run. This picture captures it all. Instructed to hand out sponges to runners, the volunteers took it upon themselves to offer a makeshift shower to cool us down using anything they could lay their hands on. The girl on the right is so intent on keeping athletes cool that she is soaked to the skin herself. She probably didn’t mind as it was so hot, but like all the volunteers I saw this year, she was prepared to go the extra mile to give competitors a great race.

2. WAGS and HABS

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I don’t subject Cate and Matilda to spectating at triathlon events too often, but they were there in a big way in Bolton. They gave up three days to come with me and on race morning they got up at 3.30am to take me to the shuttle bus to the start. They then found their own way to the swim start for 5.30am and spent the next 14 or so hours standing on the side of various roads around Lancashire supporting me. Passing them was a 15-minute boost every time. Here they are at Pennington Flash at 6.00am smiling, like they smiled all day.

1. The Hardest Race

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My favourite photograph of the season was taken at my last race which, because of the extreme heat on the bike and the run, was also the hardest race I have done – not just this season, any season!  It was taken with my friend Judit Leszkovich in the athletes area behind the finish straight after the race. Photographically there are better shots of this moment, but none of them captures the emotions like this one. It shows a combination of the shellshock we were feeling after a brutal race, the relief and joy of reaching the finish (many didn’t) as well as the pride of doing it in GB tri suit. A great end to a great season.

 

Ironman Blues, News & Barbecues

The term “Cold Turkey” was invented to describe the feeling I got about seven days after Ironman UK. Seven days was how long the sense of euphoria lasted – the period in which I would well up each time I remembered another moment from that extraordinary day in Bolton. It is also the length of time I could get away with wearing my finishers T-shirt without washing it before people started giving me a wide berth in the street. And by coincidence it is also how long it took me to realise that the looks I was getting when I wore my medal to go shopping in Sainsbury’s were not always looks of admiration. If I had paid closer attention I would probably have noticed that seven days was also the full extent of how long people were polite enough to appear interested whenever I dragged the conversation back to Ironman!

Seven days then……nothing. The twelve hours a week of training, the diet, the conditioning, the planning, the online banter, the laundry and the sleepless nights leading up to the event all gone in a moment to be replaced with a vacuum, or more accurately The Ironman Blues. An empty feeling that the party is over but also a complete lack of motivation to get off my arse and do anything about it.

Having suffered a minor attack of the blues after running the London Marathon in 2012 I came prepared this time taking the precaution of lining up some fun activities to fill the large M Dot shaped hole in my life.

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Andover Tri does Ironman L-R Carrie Power (IMUK), Me, Jase Briley (Double Enduroman), Louisa Vere (IM Switzerland), Nick Wall (IM France). Standing Peter Holt (IM France)

First up was the Ironman Barbecue. Seven of us from the mighty Andover Tri Club had completed Ironman races in June and July and that alone was worth a celebration. If you were an Ironman it was about as close to Iron heaven as you will get. We all sat down to dinner in our finishers T-shirt (washed!), wearing our medal, drank beer and talked non-stop about our Ironman exploits, pausing only occasionally to let other people talk about there’s. I am not sure the partners saw it quite like that, but we had a great evening. As the drink flowed the tales of Ironman bravado got taller and the plans for next year got bolder. By midnight we were all going sub-12 next year (which would be a feat in itself as none of us got close this year!) and as we would all be there anyway, we agreed to have the 2015 barbecue in Kona!!

The week after the barbecue our household was consumed by a major logistical trauma also known as Pony Club Camp. It is likely that the Task Force that was mobilised to sail to the Falklands on a flotilla of battleships took less kit with them than two 12 year olds took to spend a week camping and riding ponies ten miles from home in a period of mild weather, winds light to moderate. Anyway mission accomplished – they had a ball.

After the emotional upheaval of Ironman and the organisational stress of camp we were off on holiday without a moment to stop and think about Ironman and the blues.

Regular readers will remember last year that we went to the Mark Warner resort in Lemnos which had the feel of a correctional facility for people obsessed with staying fit – so we didn’t go back there. Instead we went to Mark Warner in Corsica which as far as I could tell was no different. We hadn’t even got off the plane before I had met my first triathlete!

A bit like Lemnos the resort was full of middle-aged men and women who may have been hell raisers in their youth but who now were more concerned with morning runs than Tequila Slammers. No Jack Wills, Super Dry or Hollister here, it was strictly lycra. On a positive note, the daily group bike rides provided a whole new audience of people who wanted to listen and ask questions about my Ironman, at least for the first week. In the second week I was trumped by a new arrival who had just done the Marathon des Sables (seven marathons in six days across the Sahara) and even Ironman couldn’t compete. And even if it could, she had done two of those as well.

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King of the Mountains!!!

I managed to get out and do something that would vaguely pass as training on most days. If I had any focus it was on swimming in the sea as the swim in my race in Majorca in October is not only a sea swim but it is likely to be a non-wet suit swim. After swimming 1,500m in the sea every day I now feel at home with that prospect. But even in the sea I was upstaged by my new friend Mark who was training for the Buttermere 10k swim and who was regularly knocking out 5k training sessions. But on the plus side I was awarded the weekly King of The Mountains prize for my cycling antics – mainly because I was the only person the cycling guide recognised at the awards ceremony 

By the time we got home Summer was almost over and Ironman seemed to be a small spec in the rear view mirror and any opportunity to develop a case of the blues had passed. All the focus now seems to be on next year – not because long distance triathletes are an organised bunch, but because the big races are all going on sale now and are selling out quickly. When I say quickly, I mean “Led Zeppelin Reunion Concert” quickly. The new Ironman 70.3 in Staffordshire which doesn’t take place until next June sold all 2,000 places in 15 minutes which was only eclipsed by Challenge Roth selling all 5,000 places in under a minute. It seems the appetite to suffer is alive and well in Britain!

For now I have entered the Outlaw Half again (another one day sell out) which was a feat in itself. Nothing they throw at me on the day of the race will match the stress levels of trying to enter a race online using a Kindle and a dodgy hotel Wi-Fi connection in Corsica while the organisers were regularly posting updates on Facebook of how quickly places were going. Anyway that one is booked and I can forget about it for a while. The priority now is to get my training on with only six and a half weeks left until the European Championships at Challenge Paguera and my first outing in a GB tri suit. More on that another time.

For now enjoy the last few weeks of the season.

 

 

10 things we know about Ironman now that we wish we’d known a year ago

If you have just signed up for your first Ironman or iron distance race and you are wondering what you have let yourself in for, don’t worry, help is at hand in the shape of the Ironman Journey group on Facebook.

IMUK2012_newMany of the 850-odd members of the group have now done at least one Iron distance race. While it is still fresh in everyone’s minds, we have drawn on the Group’s collective wisdom and assembled some tips for todays would be Ironmen. Things we wish we had known a year ago.

This is not about training or coaching; in fact it is the very opposite. It is the kind of real life advice that you won’t find in any coaching manual. So here goes:

1. Have the conversation
Ironman is a selfish game. As you approach the action end of your training you will be out of the house for long periods of time – mostly at weekends and in the evening. This is time that your partner and kids refer to as “family time”. Temporarily it has to become “Ironman time”. There is nothing worse than coming back from a long ride to an atmosphere because you haven’t got the family on your side.

More than one person has said that they could never repay the debt to their wife / husband for all their support (although only Iain Edgar’s wife has said she will see that he manages to repay it!). Ironman is an infinitely better experience if you do it as a team and take the family on the journey with you. That needs a proper conversation right at the start.

2. Join the Ironman Journey Facebook Group
Everyone thought it, Cath Hartwell suggested it. At home and at work you will quickly run out of people willing to listen to Ironman talk. The Facebook Group is full of likeminded people. It is the only place where people will think it is normal that you want to cycle 112 miles before running a marathon.

The group is full of reassurance, advice, banter, and top tips. But most important is has a handful of Ironman veterans who are able to reassure you that the menopausal mood swings, high anxiety, sleepless nights and motivational troughs are all perfectly normal. That’s OK then!

I met several people on race day that I had met virtually through the group and there are many more who I am sure I will meet at future events – people who I hope will become friends. Isn’t that one of the reason we all do this?

3. Perspective: Part 1
During the long winter months of training it will get tough. The sheer scale of the challenge can also get under your skin and will sometime appear near impossible. Try to keep things in perspective. You are not being asked to stop the polar ice caps from melting or to solve the national debt problem. You are training for a race that you want to do and have volunteered for. Most important, remember that you are doing this for fun. This is a hobby. If it all gets on top of you see paragraph 2!

4. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition
All the coaching manuals will tell you how important it is to get your nutrition right on the day. It can make the difference between finishing or not. But here are some tips born out of bitter experience:

Man cannot live on gels alone! Make sure you build some solid food into your race. The bike is the most obvious place to do it. If you are doing Ironman UK you will pass the special needs feed station twice. Pack a picnic and make the bike leg more social like Ines Carr did. But Jason Anderton offers a word of caution – if you fill your tri suit pockets with food, don’t forget to empty them before you disrobe to go to the loo or the last you will hear of your bananas and Powerbars is a splash.

On a serious note, start experimenting with nutrition now. Not everyone gets on with all nutrition as many in the group will testify. Combine a “gel tummy” with race day nerves and the results can be explosive – literally!! A few things to watch out for. Adrian O’Brien advises never to trust a fart on the run. For Chris Glover that was too late, his trust was betrayed in T2, so his advice is simple; carry some loo paper! It’s not all bad news for Chris. His mishap has already entered Ironman UK folklore and will be known forever as “Doing a Glover”.

Niamh Lewis has the last word on this topic and brings a ladies fashion eye to the problem. If you are doing Ironman, don’t ever wear a white tri suit!

5. Be organised
If you are like me (and it seems a few are), once you get to the race venue your mind turns to mush and even the simplest decisions become difficult. So try and get as many decisions as possible made before you arrive.

Jason Walkley offered a top tip for those doing 140.6 races that use transition bags. Work out what needs to go in your bike and run bags in the week before the race – then simply take it to the race venue in separate bags and decant it into your transition bags when you get them at registration. One less piece of thinking to do on the day. But make sure you do a final check and avoid Adrian O’Brien’s experience of cycling 112 miles with no socks and brand new bike shoes.

Kaine Pritchett advises against arriving at the venue on the Saturday before a Sunday race. Registering, checking in transition bags, bike racking and attending a briefing is a lot to pack into one day and adds a lot of stress at a time when you want to be de-stressing. Get there on Friday.

On a more practical note Hannah Elliot advises that you make a note of your race number so that you don’t forget it and end up in tears looking in the wrong row in the T1 changing tent!

6. Take your time and don’t panic
Onto the race itself now. Several people offered advice about the swim. 10514594_705906046111239_6860745791808719757_nParticularly be careful at what point you enter the water – with thousands of others around you it is difficult to re-position yourself once you are in. I just joined the queue and once we were in I found myself mid-pack – not somewhere I would have chosen.

Maria Greaves took this to a whole different level and ended up right at the front of the swim and endured what she describes as an aquatic pub brawl!

Wherever you end up in the swim, Emma Hampson offers the comforting assurance that you won’t die so advises against her approach which was to burst into tears as she got into the water.

Lots of first time Ironmen offer advice on not rushing things – 17 hours is a long time. Rob Jude says don’t be afraid to spend the necessary time in T1 and T2 to get comfortable – you are a long time biking and running. Clive Onions is one of many who recommends you invest some of that time in applying Udderley Smooth Chamois Cream around the undercarriage in T1 – Jason Clarke prefers Vaseline!

Vicki Gale recommends you change socks in T2 – having done it myself, I can safely say that Vicki’s tip is one the most important changes I made all day. Starting the run in dry fresh socks was bliss.

A word of caution here from Andrew Rudda. He agrees you shouldn’t rush things, but also suggest you keep a bit of time in the bank to absorb a mishap. Andrew had an episode with a puncture that he couldn’t fix and by the time the mechanic got to him he had missed the bike cut off

7. It’s not a Marathon, it’s an Ironman run
Tim Lebon takes the credit for this one. Anyone who has done an Ironman will know exactly what this means. Normal Marathon rules don’t apply. I read a great article recently which said that an Ironman Marathon is not like a normal Marathon that turns ugly at 20 miles – it starts ugly. Forget your normal thinking about pace and splits – think survival. You have one aim and that is to get to the finish.

Walking is not an admission of defeat – virtually everyone walks at some point during the Ironman run. I had breakfast the morning after Ironman UK with Becky Hoare who clocked a 3.50hrs marathon to finish in 11.10hrs, won her age group and is going to Kona. Becky walked through every feed station.

So take the walking moments to meet your fellow competitors and help each other through it. Most of my best memories of the day are from the run for exactly that reason.

8. Leave your watch at home and enjoy yourself
This was multiple Ironman Jason Briley’s advice to the Group before Ironman UK. You only cross the finish line of your first Ironman once – so make the most of it.

Nobody doing Ironman for the first time really knows what their finish time will be, so why heap all the pressure on yourself of chasing a time that you have pretty much guessed. There will be plenty of future Ironman races for chasing times – just enjoy the first one and aim to finish.

From my own experience I didn’t completely follow Jase’s advice. I had a watch on during the run but the battery died at the start of the last lap. I felt liberated and enjoyed that last lap as much as any part of the race. I could hear Briley in my ear saying: “I told you so”!!

Iain Edgar agrees with this – his single piece of advice is to enjoy yourself. Carrie Power adds a commercial twist recommending that if you enjoy it for no other reason remember you have paid a lot to be there!!

9. Keep some perspective part 2
One thing you can be certain of is that things won’t go to plan. That may be a minor inconvenience, it may be worse. One in five of those who entered Ironman UK this year didn’t finish (some didn’t start). Hopefully that won’t be you, but if it is try and keep some perspective like Cath Hartwell who had to pull out after a bike crash. Cath’s philosophy is simple: “Knock me down 7 times. I’ll get up 8”. She’s already entered Ironman UK 2015 and already has 850 supporters!

I’ll leave the last word on this to Andy Holgate – after all it is his fault that many of us were there at all. Sadly Andy’s race at Ironman UK this year ended in an ambulance. He says:

“Sometimes things happen that are out of your control that can end your race. Don’t dwell on it, stay positive, refocus and make a promise to yourself to come back stronger. Perspective, an Ironman DNF is not the end of the world :-)”

10. So if you have your partner on side, got your nutrition sorted, joined the group, ditched your watch and you’re organised and ready to roll, there is only one tip left to give – an Ironman Journey Group favourite: Don’t be shit!!

Two steps forward and one step back

I can remember the exact moment I first became interested in triathlon. It was 10 June 2011 when I met a friend of mine for lunch at the Fox in Tangley in Hampshire. He had delayed our lunch meeting by a few weeks because he was away in Lanzarote doing something called Ironman. I spent lunch grilling him about the race. The more he told me, the more I wanted to know. The seed was sown. He has a lot to answer for, or I have a lot to thank him for, depending on which way you look at it.

Several years on after trying a few short triathlons I decided I wanted to “go long” so I asked him for some tips about long-distance triathlon and he gave me one piece of advice. Surprisingly it wasn’t about training or bikes or nutrition it was about something completely different. He said that the most important thing about doing a long distance triathlon is the conversation you have with your wife.

He knows the enormous time commitment training for an Ironman requires and he understands that there is enough mental and physical stress without constantly having to live with a disgruntled partner who isn’t completely signed up to the adventure. I am sure many triathletes can relate to this – as can many triathletes’ partners!

I have been waging a gentle campaign for a while now trying to bring Cate round to the joys of triathlon. The chances of her ever doing a triathlon are about zero, but I would like her to like that I like it! In the same way that I like that she likes horses.

I took a big step forward at Christmas when I persuaded her to come to the Tri Club Christmas dinner. We had a great evening and most important Cate realised that triathletes are not a bunch of weirdos but, in the case of our club, a really nice bunch of people. A few days later my 11-year old daughter let slip that Mummy had said that they should both take more interest in my triathlon escapades. Progress!

Fast forward to this weekend as Cate and I are lying in bed. The gentle triathlon campaign has continued over the Christmas period and I feel I am continuing to make progress. Cate is reading her book and I am flicking through TV channels. With nothing on I switch on a recording of last summer’s Outlaw iron distance triathlon. It was a brutally hot day and I watch in awe as pros battle the conditions to finish in unimaginably quick times. Then come the age groupers. It’s dark by the time many of them finish, but there isn’t an empty seat in the grandstand at the finish line. The atmosphere is incredible and I get that spine tingling feeling you get when someone achieves something they never thought possible and the tears flow freely (theirs not mine!).

It felt like this was a good moment to continue Cate’s introduction to triathlon and I drew her attention to the emotional scenes on the TV. She put down her book with a sigh and looked up at the television. I waited for the smile as she tried to be interested for my sake.

Just at that moment the scene on the TV changed from the blood, sweat and tears of the Outlaw finish line, to a couple of Outlaw finishers renewing their marriage vows, in triathlon suits, beside the finish line later in the day. I panicked slightly knowing the damage this would do and quickly tried to change channel but it was too late.  Cate stared at the TV, mouth open in disbelief and looked across at me. A look that said: “You cannot be serious. Is this the sport you do? They are weirdos”.

Two steps forwards and one step back.

The Ghost of Christmas past

Once upon a time I was a soldier. I was a proud member of the Royal Hampshire Regiment – “The Tigers” – my local county regiment. Ninety per cent of our RHamps cap badgesoldiers were recruited from Hampshire – mainly from the county towns of Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham, Southampton, Andover and Basingstoke. It is a regiment where generations of sons have followed in their fathers footsteps, as I did. It was a proper proud family regiment.

Although it has long since been merged with other regiments, the soul of the Regiment lives on today through friendships and reunions. The name may have gone but the spirit remains. Once a Tiger always a Tiger!

I joined the 1st Battalion in Germany in 1980 and spent a happy year there before the regiment moved lock, stock and barrel back to the UK in early 1981.

As a celebration of returning to the UK, our rugby team came back a few weeks early on a tour of Hampshire. In three weeks we played seven of the top teams in the county. We beat a lot of them and those we didn’t beat on the pitch we beat in the bar afterwards. It was a fantastic three weeks during which we were effectively professional sportsmen

Rugby aside, my abiding memory of the tour was having half my moustache shaved off (yes this was my “moustache period”!!) and being very upset when no-one noticed that I had half a moustache for three days.

Tiger rugby tourThis week on Facebook someone published pictures of the programme for the Tour and unexpectedly there I was face to face with a photo and bio of my 21-year old self. My first thought was my God I look young. There is a reason for that; I was young.

The other shock I got was reading my statistics – especially my weight. I was pretty fit at the time and at the start of the tour I weighed in at 10st 6lb 6 (146lb) – I am 5’ 7” so that is light. I don’t have any records of my weight from those days and always assumed I was about 15 lbs more than this.

This got me thinking. Firstly, on a very practical note, it got me thinking about my weight. I know that I drag too much weight around my runs and triathlons with me. There has to be some logic in “lighter being faster” and I keep promising myself that I will get down to a racing weight. The problem is that I have no reference point for what should be – until now.

There’s no way I am going to get to 10st 6lb (146lbs) from my current weight of about 12st 3lb  (170lbs). But it has given me a target to shoot at. I think I could comfortably get down to about 11st 7lb (161lb) which would mean lugging 10lbs less round the race course. So that is top of my new year’s resolutions – get to a proper racing weight. I am hoping that as I have been a good boy all year, James Duigan’s book, “Clean and Lean Diet” will be in my Christmas stocking. I can’t wait to get started!

It also got me thinking about my ambition. You could understand that as 21 year old I had a head full of sporting plans and dreams. If you had asked me then what would be in my head when I was 54 I would have said words like “pipe and slippers” and “slow jogs”. But here I am at 54 and my ambition is undimmed. If anything I think I have more to prove to myself now than I did then.

I ran my fastest half marathon time ever just two months ago and I am getting faster all the time on the bike. I also think my fastest marathon is ahead of me and next year I am going to try something longer and harder than I have ever tried (more in another post). So put that in your pipe and smoke it 21-year old Peter Whent. I may not be able to knock out 6.5 min miles like I once did, but there is life in this old dog yet and I am going to show you that 54 is the new 21!!

On that bold note, I want to wish everyone a happy Christmas. The best part of blogging is the fantastic group of likeminded friends I have made. I have really enjoyed your company in 2013 and look forward to more next year.

For us Christmas is a family affair. Presents, church and then a big lunch followed by a lot of relaxing. Whatever it is you are doing I wish you all a happy and peaceful festive season before we all get “back on it”!