Setting goals and achieving them.
Back in January 2012, I set myself a goal of completing my first Triathlon. At the time this sounded like a great idea, until I received the confirmation of my entry. Then reality kicked in!
I hadn’t swum lengths in a pool for more than 15 years, my running was virtually non-existent and I didn’t even have a road bike.
I’d better get training.
My first visit to my local pool was frankly embarrassing; I kept having to stop every length or so to catch my breath. I didn’t remember swimming being this hard.
My first few runs weren’t much better, my lungs were burning and my pace was pedestrian at best.
If I was going to complete this triathlon, I was going to need some help.
I have worked in elite sport for many years, working with some fabulous athletes, but this was me, this was different, or was it? Obviously I could never achieve the times that these guys and girls manage, but could I use my knowledge of their processes to my advantage?
I switched my focus from how I was feeling during training (which was generally pretty awful) to setting small inspirational goals, concentrating on the process of achieving them and moving on to the next one.
I bought a GPS watch to monitor each training session, and logged every swim, run and (once I had bought a bike!) ride, and I can honestly say I gave every session 100%.
I also enlisted the help of a Physiologist and had a lactate threshold test. Andy at Exercise Science Consulting ( http://exercisescienceconsulting.co.uk ) changed my training completely; it was very specific, it eliminated unnecessary training, it was measurable and it worked.
Slowly, but surely things improved and then 5 weeks before the event, just when I started to feel like I was getting somewhere, I cut my toe tripping over in my flip flops!
Suddenly, I was no longer trying to average 17 mph on the bike or run sub 7 min miles, I was in danger of not competing. My toe got infected and I was struggling to walk, never mind swim, bike and run.
After a course of antibiotics and some rest, my toe healed and I returned to training like a man possessed.
I had trained so hard, that seven days before the event I felt exhausted. Had I overdone it? I wouldn’t want to race feeling like this. I spoke to Andy, who reassured me that this was normal and I would recover during my tapering week before the race, which sure enough I did.
Race day came round alarmingly quickly, and I asked myself again why I was doing this, but it was far too late to back out now.
I suddenly remembered the last time I swam a competitive swimming race, it wasn’t good. My goggles fell off as I dived into the pool and I’m sure I heard a slow clap as I ‘sprinted’ to the finish!
One thing I have learnt from working with elite sportspeople, is that pre competition nerves and self doubt are completely normal, even in the best athletes feel them.
I focussed on the task in hand and thanked my lucky stars that you can’t dive in during Triathlon swims. This time my goggles were staying put!
Before the race I had set myself a secret goal of trying to beat 1hr 30mins for the 750m swim, 20km ride and 5 km run. I knew this was ambitious at best, as this more or less combined all my best times and allowed no time for transitions!
Before I knew it we were off, the swim felt better than expected, I seemed to find some kind of rhythm early on, and didn’t feel too sick at the end, which was a bonus. I checked my watch, 15 minutes. I was pleased with that and hurried to my bike without looking back.
The transition also seemed to go well. My fear of being disqualified for cycling off in my swimming hat instead of my helmet didn’t happen.
The first lap of the bike ride was rainy and windy, and I quickly realised that cycling in a wet trisuit offers little protection from the cold! I pedalled as hard and fast as I could, not to increase my average mph but to try and warm up, I was freezing!
The rain stopped for the second lap and on the climb up one hill, I was passed by someone with a flash looking bike, going a lot quicker than me. I thought he would disappear, but I managed to keep him in my sights for the rest of the ride.
My transition from bike to run felt ok and as I started on the run, I even managed to high five my wife and our 3 and 5 year old children. Who did I think I was, a Brownlee brother!!!
I concentrated on chasing down the guy who has passed me on the bike, and to my surprise I caught him fairly quickly. As I came close, I put on a sprint, which I immediately regretted, as I realised I would have to keep it up, to avoid him passing me again.
I pushed on as hard as I could, and for the first time in the whole 6 months of training I actually felt quite good during the run rather than quite ill! The run was pretty flat, although a bit boggy and muddy, but I kicked up every little hill and went flat out down any hint of a descent.
Just when I could feel myself starting to tire, I could see the finish line, which was thankfully downhill. I thought it might be little embarrassing to start walking at this point, so I put on a final sprint and crossed the line and checked my watch.
My 5 year old and 3 year old seemed a little more interested in the free jelly beans at the finish, than my time of 1hr 23mins 29secs, but I had broken the 1hr 30 barrier and I was delighted. Exhausted but delighted.
I averaged 18.75 mph on the bike and ran a PB for my 5km, I definitely couldn’t have done that six months ago.
The Triathlon was all in aid of a fabulous charity in Kenya that supports kids with disabilities with a school, orphanage and therapy centre. I checked my total shortly after finishing and I had gone over the £1000 barrier, which was even more pleasing than the 1hr 30 barrier.
The team at Nuru of Mombasa sent me the message below
I can’t thank you enough for all your hard work and for raising an amazing amount of money. I will assure you that every penny raised will go directly to our projects in Mombasa. We have recently
completed the building of the dining room and kitchen and the orphanage. The dining room requires basic furniture, this is something that your money will help to buy.
With all our projects we get the local community involved as much as possible. Local business make the wooden furniture and due to our local contacts we ensure that we pay the local prices which ensure that our money raised benefits the children as much as possible.
I will get our local Kenyan co-ordinator to get quotes for the furniture so we can crack on with furnishing the dining room. I will keep you updated and will forward you photographs when it is complete.
I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that has sponsored me, you really have done something very worthwhile, that will make a difference.
The website is still open if anyone would like to contribute
If you’re reading this and thinking about setting yourself a goal, why not go for it, but take my advice, go careful in your flip flops!