Sunday, 7 September 2008

Fun fun fun...

What a difference a week makes... seven days ago I was writing my blog entry on Helen's laptop whilst sitting in a traffic jam on the M25 at midnight, 200 miles from home, going nowhere and needing to be up for work at 7am... today, we've just had a nice long lie-in with breakfast in bed and are chilling out in front of Sunday morning telly with an entire day of absolutely nothing ahead of us!

Yesterday was our final triathlon of a roller-coaster season, our final 'A' race of the season (the other two being the London Marathon and Ironman Germany) and most of all MY final chance to actually enjoy a swim, bike and run all on the same day... something which I hadn't managed to achieve in 2008! It's been a mentally tough season this year, I really enjoy racing and am always gutted when the relatively short triathlon season comes to an end but up to yesterday hadn't really enjoyed a 2008 triathlon... having either gone the wrong way or got beaten up in the swim, frozen to death or run out of energy on the bike and blown up during (or sometimes before) the run, some pretty good results on paper had masked a season of enduring rather than enjoying. Even when I won my age-group at UK 70.3 I'd hated every revolution of the coldest, wettest and most miserable bike of my life... and that's saying something coming from Yorkshire! The key point being that we do this for fun, if something's not fun it really isn't worth doing... life's far too short to waste time being miserable.

I would rather enjoy a race and come last that hate it and come first!

So, back to yesterday...

The events of this season and particularly the last couple of months had seen a seriously uncharacteristic drop in my confidence... not in my own ability but rather in the chances of everything going right at the same time. I knew I was in good shape as my results had been ok and as I kept saying to myself, 'the sign of a good football team is that even when they play badly they still win'... but playing badly isn't fun and in my life fun definitely 'trumps' winning!

I said last week that my race goals were 30/2.15/1.23 for, plus transitions, something close to 4.10 and top 15 overall... but more importantly I just wanted to enjoy racing and feel strong from gun to tape....

With about 100 30-34 male athletes in my wave I expected to be out in the top ten but in an attempt to avoid getting caught up in the 'washing machine' start I took up a position to the far right. Next to me was Jim Cresswell who was likely to be in the top couple out of the water and also a contender to win our age-group. I thought I might be able to hang on to his feet and get towed to a good time but as he disappeared into the distance I realised that wasn't to be. Still, the first lap seemed to go pretty well and with 14:15 on the clock I was on for my 30 minute target... 14 minutes and 30 seconds later I was on dry land and 1.15 up on target and 2.35 better than 2007.

The weather had been pretty shocking in the lead up to the race and even during the swim I hadn't made my mind up as to bike clothing. Coming in to T1 though it seemed pretty mild so I opted out of socks, gloves and arm warmers and was on my bike in a respectable 1.36.

Last year I rode 2.17.38 which at 17th overall was my best split of the day, combined with my roller-coaster bike form of recent weeks I felt (prior to the race) most challenged by yesterday's ride. Initially, as a few riders passed me, I felt like I was slightly off the pace... my faster swim however had seen me out of the water ahead of athletes who previously wouldn't have overtaken me simply as they would never have been behind me... relax and banish negative thoughts (a lesson learnt in Wimbleball). Although my legs didn't feel amazing, I had no trouble getting my heart rate up and sitting in the mid to high 150's for the first lap I was back at the feed station in 1.06.22 (over two minutes up on last year) and feeling more confident by the minute. Knowing that I was up on my target and still had a half marathon to run I consciously tried to ride steady for the second lap and although my heart rate dropped a little I felt this was due to good pacing strategy as opposed to weakening legs. Taking intermediate splits from various land marks I knew I wasn't losing much time and a second lap of 1.07.27 gave me a reasonably paced bike of 2.13.49, which at 11th overall (2.15.08 including T1) would for the second year running be my best split in comparison to the field... and a massive relief :)

Coming in to T2 my 'sans socks' feet were like blocks of ice and having been in the same situation in Wimbleball ealier in the year, when I had to stop on the run take my shoe off, I was determined to take my time. Note to self - get it right the first time, less haste more speed... one minute and five seconds later I was out on the run ahead of target and 6.24 ahead of last year.

Starting the final 21.1km I knew that if I could match last year's run I'd finish in 4.10, and feeling pretty good, thoughts of sub-4.10 were creeping in... The Vitruvian run is a double out-and-back with the first 'out' and second 'back' slightly longer than the other two sections... also, the great thing about out-and-backs is that you can find out not only who's ahead and by how far but also who's behind. Hitting the first turn in 20.55 I was 5th 30-34 and close to 4th, unfortunately the podium places were occupied (several minutes up the road) by Jim Cresswell, Mark Couldwell and Chris Stuart who are all solid athletes, so the chances of a medal were looking slim. Fourth place would be great though and it would only take one of the top three to blow up and I'd be in... it also seemed like I was about three minutes ahead of the 6th place athlete so was free to concentrate on those ahead of me... or so I thought... As I passed through half-way (41.46) I flew past the guy in 4th and feeling great was only looking forwards. As I reached the final turn at the end of the second 'out' I knew I was slowing a little but was less than three minutes behind third and tried to pick it up for the final five or so kilometres... coming in to the final mile with 4th 'in the bag', running on fumes having given everything and losing time on the leaders I was over the moon that I'd finally enjoyed a triathlon and had also achieved my pre-race time goal with regards finish time and had a good chance of top 15 overall... entering the finish straight the best supporters in the world were waiting as usual with 'The Religion' and grabbing our globe trotting flag of St. George I triumphantly headed to the line... seconds later, pantomime style shouts of 'he's behind you' let me know that I'd somehow missed a chasing athlete at all three of the previous turn-around points and with a few metres to go was sprinting for the line... unfortunately there's a reason why I like to 'go long'... I'm rubbish at 'going short'... and although according to the results we've finished in identical times (4.12.31) I definitely came off second best... if I manage to still be racing in the final 10k of the Lanzarote Ironman, yesterday's finish line lesson will no doubt be at the front of my mind ;)

Swim 28.45
T1 1.36
Bike 2.13.49
T2 1.05
Run 1.27.16
Total 4.12.31
5th 30-34
13th Overall

Bottom line...
I'm over the moon to finish the triathlon season with not only a great result but an enjoyable experience. For the third successive middle distance triathlon I've managed to compete with athletes who are consistently amongst the Kona qualification places over 140.6 miles... from November I'll be aiming to convert my half-Ironman form into long distance performance.


Now to the subjects of today's photo, my Mum and step-dad (Ray) have been a wonderful support over the last year. I know they found it hard to see me suffering so badly in Germany earlier in the year so it was even more special to have them there on Saturday. Along with the Kendal-Jones clan and my Auntie Les they form the 'hard-core' of our amazing support crew without whom neither H nor I would have got this far... let alone had the belief to keep pushing for another year. Simple words cannot possibly describe how brilliant it is to hear your shouts of encouragement during a race but, thanks!


I feel, once again, like I'm starting to waffle so I'll sign off with a massive well done to Helen for 'seeing' my 1st in age group and 'raising' it by also becoming a national champion... again words cannot describe my admiration. Well done to Pauly P for becoming a Vitruvian despite a slight imbalance in his cross-training (golf) to race specific training ratios. A really really big well done to Jo for taking a giant leap toward Ironman Austria with a really strong performance in her first half-Ironman... although having cycled Land's End to John O'Groats with Flaps earlier this year her pre-race nerves where somewhat misplaced ;) Also well done to all our fellow LBTers, TriTalkers and assorted friends who took on yesterday's challenge...

The biggest pat on the proverbial back however goes to our brilliant friend Sam... having built all season to the Vit and set himself some challenging yet achievable goals... he spent the entire swim, bike and run puking and pooing like his life depended on it and probably suffered more in yesterday's race than I have in my entire lifetime, yet his Olympic attitude saw him cross the line a true champion, and reminded me of this great quote (courtesy of my mate Bill)...

"My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race, they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race"
- John Stephen Akhwari (Video & Wikipedia)


see you in seven,



Khara Mills said...

Hey Tom
You and your legs are clearly back! Excellent result and so glad you enjoyed this one. What a season..bring on the next...
See you soon
Khara :-)

runtilyoudrop said...

Well done Tom. sorry I could not be there to chase you round ;-).

See you running round a mountain soon?

Russ said...

Congrats to you and Helen, great to finish your seasons on such a high note. Always good to build on previous years results too.

Looks like a really solid bike there. My memories of the Vit from last year is not feeling recovered from IM Austria and struggling round especially having a shin splint! How things change, throwing out more races this year than ever.

I may be at the Vit next year to challenge you if you do it again.

Tom said...

cheers for the great comments everyone :) It was a great way to round off a really tough but pretty successful season of triathlon :)

Gabriel and Russ.... I look forward to seeing you on the Rutland startline in '09 ;) When hopefully all three of us will be building towards Kona :)


Jevon said...

Great season mate. Many highlights. Why don't we do it all again next year... oh, yeah... we are doing...

BobTries said...

Wow, great blogs! Amazing performances in the National Championships. Good luck on your joint quest, very inspirational.