Well, it’s all over. That was undoubtedly one of the finest experiences of my life. I was aiming to complete the London Triathlon in less than three hours. In the end I managed 2 hours, 24 minutes and 38 seconds. I was shocked and ecstatic with the time. It seems that all the training had paid off. Apparently I came 375th out of 4,046 Olympic distance finishers. That seems pretty good and I am more than happy but it’s worth noting that the slowest guy took over five hours to complete the course! Fair play to him for actually finishing. Though receiving his medal from the cleaners tidying up post-event must have taken the sheen off of his achievement somewhat.
I owe this result to a number of things but here is my top five list:
The week leading up to the big day was uneventful but peppered with bouts of nerves and the sudden emergence of a big deadline at work that did little to help my focus and sleep. I trained for the final time on Thursday with 39 minutes in the pool. Friday was a rest day culminating with a wrestling match; Olly Davy versus humungous steak. I won. And to celebrate my victory I laid waste to half a tin of homemade flapjacks. In hindsight perhaps this night before the night before gluttony was a good idea but at the time it felt like pure over indulgence. I struggled to rest well on Friday night as the possible scenarios for race day ran through my head. Getting a puncture was number one on the ‘genuinely could happen’ list. Being dragged to a watery grave by a hideous dock-dwelling mutant spider crab was firmly at the top of the ‘entirely ridiculous but still keeping me awake’ table. I managed to expend most of the 17,000 cow and oat calories consumed with a furious room tidying session and Mozart did his best to soothe my nerves as the sounds of drunken debauchery wafted up to my window from the streets of Dalston.
On Saturday morning I was up and at ‘em nice and early, surfing away on a caffeinated wave of black gold for an hour and a half of yoga. The benefits of this ancient art form are well understood in the athletic community but personally, it just makes me feel good and gives the body a damn good stretch. Although the diuretic properties of the magic bean do result in me having to pick my way through the tightly packed yoga mats to get to the toilet at least three times during the first rounds of chakra realignments.
By pure chance my triathlon weekend happened to coincide with my uncle visiting from Boston and, as he is a keen runner himself and also married to a sports scientist, a family lunch revealed more intriguing details of the world of endurance sports and the mentalists who populate it. The excitement these discussions generated was tempered by the discovery that I had a puncture in one of my tyres. £50 of brand new Continental Grand Prix 4000S rubber and I had a puncture. This was a cruel twist and did little to calm my jangling nerves. However, it did give me the chance to demonstrate my latest piece of exciting kit; CO2 tyre inflators. One cartridge of compressed gas will pump up a road bike tyre to 120 psi in about 5 seconds, leaving everything it touches freezing cold in the process. Cool, in both senses. I fixed the flat and prayed it was an unlucky fluke.
Popping into Evans Cycles on my way home to buy a new inner tube I noticed that they charge £13.95 to repair a puncture, labour only. Fixing a puncture is five minutes work, which means their grease monkeys are on an hourly rate of £167! Extortionate, but then perhaps those who visit a bike shop to have a puncture repaired deserve to be fiscally punished for their ineptitude. We live in an increasingly throw away culture; if it’s broken, chuck it and buy a new one. If it can be fixed, get someone else to do it; there is no need to learn. I thought approvingly of my old chemistry teacher, Dr Schidlow, and his ‘keep it going forever’ philosophy demonstrated in Tuesday afternoon car mechanic sessions, which were filled with tips on how to plug holes in the roof with chewing gum and replacing worn accelerator pedals with blocks of wood. A wonderful relic of a bygone era. You can’t do that with an iPad.
On Saturday evening I cooked myself a large mound of seafood pasta, which I ate suitably early to give myself time to digest before hitting the sack. “Seafood?” My sister had questioned my choice. “Bit dodgy isn’t it?” I had visions of losing my bodyweight in bottom water and pulling out of the triathlon due to infected marine life but I stuck to my guns and enjoyed a delicious supper. Another restless night followed although I knew that the next day it would hardly matter. What was important was the three months of training seven times a week that had come before.
I woke early to a sleeping flat. My housemates had enjoyed their Friday evening after a busy week at work and so I tiptoed around the place, feeding myself porridge and packing a bag with gear. I initially opted for my courier cycle bag and then upgraded to the huge North Face travel hold - all for the luxury of not having to force everything in the extra space that was afforded.
Here is list of the kit I took with me:
Cycle helmet, cycling gloves, sunglasses, five energy gels, three flapjacks, oatcakes, hummus, running trainers, cycling shoes, wetsuit, tri-suit, tape for attaching gels to bike, race number, swimming cap, tyre levers, inner tubes, puncture repair kit, C02 dispenser, bike, drink bottle, dissolvable isotonic drink tablets, talcum powder, triathlon watch, bright pink towel to aid the spotting of my stuff during transition, warm clothes for after the race and finally the event information booklet for some nervous reading material...as if something new would come to light on the 47th perusal.
My designated driver arrived on my doorstep in a cloud of weed smoke and UK hip-hop. “Great” I thought, “This is just what I need. The exact opposite of a performance enhancing drug”. But the benefits of driving down to the triathlon with supportive friends far outweighed the chances of failing a random drugs test and so I arrived at the cavernous temple of mass participation events that is the Excel Centre. The weather was abysmal, in stark contrast to the sunshine of the day before, and suddenly feeling very lonely, I waved goodbye to my mates who were to join later for the finish and I wheeled my bike out of the drizzle and into the spacious halls of the venue. Hundreds of participants filled the space. Whether they had completed their event or were still due to take part was obvious: the happy finishers wore a beetroot hue and were attacking plates of fried meat while the later waves were stocking up on water and looking pale.
I was early. Very early. So early, in fact, I could have registered for the London Triathlon 2011 but decided to stick with the plan and collected my timing chip for that day’s race. Earlier in the week I had panicked at the thought of the technology failing and me not getting an official time. I have deliberately not mentioned a target time to many people in case I should fall short but I knew what I was aiming for and how important it was to me to know how I’d done. So, as a back up, I bought myself a waterproof timing device:
After a quick paddle down everyone’s favourite internet river to find a watch I am the proud owner of an Ironman Triathlon watch. Those two words just exude testosterone. I can practically see it leaking from my computer’s screen. At any moment I expect a fist to fly out of the monitor and box me on the nose before a low, gravely voice demands that I “go grab a beer.” In reality it looks like a plastic toy from one of those grab-a-piece-of-cheap-crap machines that children like. But it tells the time and has a stopwatch. It is also the first entry on the list when you search for “triathlon watch” and it gets many favourable reviews. However, this is a device that came on the market in 2006. In fact, when I got mine out of the box the friendly illuminated screen told me it was 2005. 2005! Nobody remembers what they were doing in 2005. The last man who did died last year. There was a ceremony. Have there been no advances in the world of triathlon watches for six years? I may as well do the race with a sundial nailed to my face and have the plague-afflicted peasants farming turnips at the side of the track shout out the (approximate) time as I pass.
“It’s quarter of the hour of noon, me Lord”
“Silence! Back to your vegetables!”
The vast space inside the Excel centre looked much barer than when I last visited for Olympic boxing and wrestling events. The ‘World’s Largest Triathlon Expo’ was an unexciting collection of trainers and bike stands. Handy if you have come to the triathlon but forgotten your bike, I guess. “I knew there was something!”
The rest of the area was given over to the transition zone. The elite athletes enjoyed an uncluttered zone directly adjacent to the swim exit while the rest of us normals were spread out as far as the eye could see. I navigated to the correct aisle in the rows of bike racking and chose a suitable spot. I was clueless as to what criteria defines a good place in the transition zone and I’m not sure it makes much difference so I opted for somewhere the ground was dry and there weren’t too many banana skins. To my left the place seemed deserted, with many earlier waves of participants already finished and in the pub, to my right plenty of other keenos were sorting their gear and arranging it on garish towels.
I had spare minutes to wander around the space and familiarise myself with the surroundings before it was time to squeeze into the neoprene, so I made a mental note of where I would exit the water and which route to take to get to my bike. The last thing I wanted was a mid-race ‘lost in the airport car park’ moment so I walked the course I would take after the swim and after the cycle to calm my nerves. Satisfied that I wasn’t going to find myself pulling off my wetsuit in the supermarket down the road shouting at the shopkeeper “Where’s my bloody bike?” I decided to brave the inclement weather to set my eyes on the first enemy of the day, Victoria Dock.
How deeply unpleasant it looked there, choppy water under a leaden sky, a brisk breeze driving the rain into my face. In a former life I would have been enjoying a late breakfast at this time on a Sunday and contemplating whether the pub is really the only safe cure for a hangover. A mass of bodies floated together in-between two large inflatable buoys, identified as triathletes and not the victims of some hideous ferry disaster only by their violently coloured Virgin Active swimming caps. Race marshals in kayaks held the poor fools in position like waterborne sheepdogs before gliding swiftly aside once the claxon sounded and a demented churning of the murky water began. Hampstead Ponds was the closest I had come to open water swimming during my training and although that did involve bravely running the gauntlet of over-friendly gentlemen, I had little concern that Davy Jones was eager to welcome me to his briny sepulchre. This dock was another matter entirely. On the other side of the water a rusting German cargo ship hulked high out of the water, unladen, full of mystery and romance as big ships always are. Presumably crewed by legions of the undead, this would be my transport to the afterlife. On the shore a huge crumbling warehouse stared forlornly at me from the gaping holes in its disintegrating brickwork. Gone are the glory days of the 19th Century when 850,000 tons of shipping would have passed through these waters and the warehouses’ rooms would have been stacked with goods from across the globe. Now the storage spaces are empty and the few relics of the golden age that survive have only weirdoes in Lycra to keep them entertained.
Before leaving my house earlier in the day I foolishly read an account of last year’s London Triathlon written by a regular participant. He described receiving a powerful kick in the face that jammed his goggles into his eyes and gave him a nosebleed. Marvellous. The anticipation of a size eleven in the boat race combined with the sight of the industrial waste pool in front of me sufficed to raise my heart rate and so I scurried back inside to eat some hummus and oatcakes. My pre-race food consumption was based on a carefully planned ‘no clue whatsoever’ strategy, other than the knowledge that eating a huge lunch 10 minutes before the race would be a bad idea. So, I’d fuelled up with my usual porridge mountain before leaving the house and devoured some flapjacks and oatcakes with hummus dip about an hour before the race. One of my biggest fears was needing to make toilet at some point in the race, and not subtle toilet you understand, but the kind that would bring the eyes of the world to bare on my plight and cover me in shame, and toilet, for the rest of my days. I was confident that my trusty cafetiere of Colombian taken early and the subsequent trips to the water closet would prevent this, but we all remember what happened to Paula Radcliffe, and that thought stayed with me.
Zero-hour was approaching fast as I re-arranged my running trainers and cycling shoes on the bright pink towel for the umpteenth time and tried to visualise the challenge ahead. Striking up conversation with other participants preparing around me the chat followed a similar pattern each time:
“Done one of these before?”
“Done much training?”
“Aiming for a particular time?”
There were no great revelations or horrible surprises as there could have been, like when chatting before an exam and someone mentions memorising an entire book that you’ve never even heard of. I felt ready, fit and motivated.
With half an hour to go I suddenly felt a wave of sadness wash over me. I remembered exactly why I was standing in the Excel Centre with 84 training sessions behind me waiting to take part in the London Triathlon; because Mum was dead. I thought how excited she would be to see me take part in this event and how much I would love for her to have been there. I could picture all five foot two inches of her bouncing up and down and wooping with delight as I crossed the line, and I knew that I would have to keep that image in my mind because that is the only place it would be. There have been many benefits in sticking to a rigorous training regime and the blog that has accompanied my journey has been an invaluable tool for sharing the experience and helping people to understand powerful emotions that it is not always desirable to discuss in company.
Mum valued her privacy and she was careful with who she shared the fact that she was ill. She didn’t want people to label her or treat her differently because she had cancer. She didn’t want people to gossip. That attitude of coping quietly and relying only on those closest to you certainly rubbed off on me and for months only a very few people knew that Mum had cancer. It felt like a very personal situation, one that others were unable to help with, and that spreading the news too widely would sap my energy as a larger group of people enquired about how Mum was responding to treatment and how we were managing as a family. Now that stage is passed and I want people to understand what has been happening. I hope that through my words there is a glimpse of Mum and our love for her and the qualities that she engendered in my sister and I. It is all for Mum. The response has been fantastic as supporters of my triathlon challenge reciprocate with an openness of their own. I have learnt fascinating things about people. People have been moved to share their life experiences, perhaps stirred by the mention of a particular place that jogged a memory, and I have found this method of communicating incredibly rewarding.
It was time to don the second skin and prepare to head over to the swim muster area. I put my headphones in, filling my skull with the sweet 90's boom bap sound of ‘Life After Death’ by Notorious BIG. As the irresistible bass line and crisp snare of Nasty Boy kicked in under Christopher Wallace’s powerfully smooth braggadocio stylings, I blocked out the dull roar of hundreds of chattering Lycra louts and entered ‘the zone.’
Penned into a holding area near the huge shutter doors that led out to the dock, I felt less human and more bovine. ‘Perhaps all cows about to be slaughtered think they are going to take part in a triathlon’ I imagined, feasibly. I stood among men of all shapes and sizes and stared at a black wall of wetsuit-clad backs. The 2XU T:2 Team did indeed seem to be a very popular model as there were many on display. The shop assistant in Sigma Sport must have made a huge commission this summer. As I made appropriately professional looking arm rotations to warm up and tried to shed some of my nervous energy by bouncing up and down, I heard a shout from my left “Olly!” It was my sister, Anoushka. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there until the end of the race but there she was with my uncle Martin and a big hug followed. After a rousing chorus of “Oogie, oogie, oogie. Oi! Oi! Oi!” and an instruction to hug a stranger next to you (I eschewed the hand offered to shake and went in for the full man hug, always satisfying if executed correctly) I found myself slipping off the floating plastic pier and into the inky waters.
The waters of the dock had looked formidable when viewed from above but at duck level they were downright unpleasant. My wetsuit quickly filled with the chilly liquid and I bobbed around, unsure of my place in the universe. The wave before mine set off and the kayak-mounted officials herded us forward. As we moved towards the start line one man turned to me, and over the churning of grey water asked, “Have we started yet?” To which the answer was no.
Soon enough I found myself treading water and waiting for the sound of the start at the London Triathlon 2012. Holding my Ironman Triathlon watch clear of the water I pressed START as soon as I heard the signal and began to swim for my life. It was impossible to see the massive inflatable buoy that marked the turning point of the course so I kept myself on track by checking for the smaller fluorescent buoys that lined the inside of the circuit. There was little chance of going badly wrong, when hundreds of other flailing bodies were all progressing in the same direction. As I dodged flying legs and wheeling arms it became clear that I had underestimated my swimming ability. Taking the training seriously had paid off and I was constantly overtaking people. This pleased and also infuriated me as I realised I should have positioned myself further ahead in the group. It was a battle for open water to swim a race free of interference and unwanted intimacy with other competitors.
Struggling to avoid thrashing bodies I went wide to carve my own line towards the first turning point, swallowing water as the strong breeze chopped up the water into a salty diesel soup. “That can’t be good for you” I retched to myself, not having a nice time. At the halfway point I had no choice but to cut into the maelstrom. Bouts of breaststroke were unavoidable as the turn caused mass bunching in the group and everyone jockeyed for position. A quick check of my watch revealed that ten minutes had passed as I turned. I knew there was no way that I could be halfway, as a 20 minute 1,500m is beyond my reach but I ploughed on, morale boosted by the surprisingly low time. And now the pack was considerably more spread and I even began to pass some desperate characters from earlier waves. Every man for themselves, and if you haven’t prepared for this, then get out of the way! The feeling of urgency that takes hold of body and mind in a race environment is fascinating. It is far from a matter of life and death but every fibre of my being was compelled to surge forward as if there was no tomorrow without success. I felt a force built of expectation from all the people who had sponsored me pushing me on relentlessly.
The second half of the swim was easier as I found some open water in which to perform a comfortable stroke. As I passed along the opposite side to the buoys that marked the swim entry point I wondered when the end of the water leg would come. There was one more filth gulping turn before I raised my head and glimpsed the exit ramp where heroic Virgin angels were waiting with a helping hand to pluck me like a baby seal, dripping from the mire.
Staggering free from the grip of Old Father cesspool, I hurtled confused into an alleyway of cheering. I battled my wetsuit off my body and attempted to pluck the swimming cap directly from my head. Have you ever tried this? It’s like you are being sucked up into a vacuum cleaner by the brain. I noticed this fundamental flaw in my disrobing technique and rolled the offending article over my ears instead. Shoving my swimming gear into a bag and gulping a cup of the proffered Gatorade I was up the steps and into the transition area.
Socks on, cycling shoes on, both nicely coated in talcum powder pre-race to aid the process. Helmet on, cycling gloves on, and I was off, jogging with my bike towards the exit and two, 20km laps of the London roads especially closed for the event. Outside in the drizzle, race marshals issued shouted warnings about the slippery surface and I made my way gingerly down the exit ramp in the middle of a thin line of cyclists. Once out and onto the flat I was flying. My handlebar-mounted speedometer told me I was doing 27mph. 27mph! This was much faster than my cruising speed during training and I thanked the gods for race day adrenaline and recalibrated my estimated finishing time for a Brownlee brothers busting world record. And then I made the first turn at Tower Bridge. Heading back towards the Excel Centre, the tail wind that had driven me forward like an invisible gaseous ally was now my foe. My speed dropped considerably as I tucked into the soggy tarmac, the clips on my cycling shoes allowing me to pull on the upstroke as well as push on the down.
The cycling speed combined with the wind and rain made for unpleasant conditions. I was working hard but still felt cold in my flimsy tri-suit and there were no cheering crowds on the miserable looking streets of Wapping. Who wants to stand in the wet and watch a motley crew of lunatics careen about when you could be in bed resisting consciousness? An empty beer rolled across the road in front of me and I swerved to avoid it. Again and again I remembered what all the training had been for as I steadily overtook other riders. Several times I passed gentlemen aboard multi-thousand pound triathlon specific bikes, struggling in the unsavoury environment. It was difficult to resist feeling a little smug as I cruised forward onboard my 5 year-old steed. Chucking money at the situation does not make you fitter. The old adage “all the gear, no idea” sprang easily to mind. It’s like putting a granny in an F1 car, or a child on the flight deck of the Space Shuttle. The equipment is only as good as the person in charge and it is impossible for a mere mortal to realise the full potential of a machine designed for elite athletes. But humans have an inbuilt magpie gene and we like shiny things, which is why it is not uncommon to see a 20 stone man on a £3,000 bike.
Ploughing on I thought of all the mornings spent spinning around Regent’s Park and the evenings passed puffing my way up Swain’s Lane. All the social engagements for which I had made my excuses and all the beer I had not drunk. All of the discipline, focus and abstinence of the past three months was condensed and concentrated inside me for this one day. And the guiding hand behind the whole endeavour was the thought of mum and her happy face shouting, “Go on Olly!”
At regular intervals I saw poor buggers at the side of the road fixing punctures and I prayed I wouldn’t get unlucky. With teeth chattering, adrenaline surging and numb hands fumbling, it would undoubtedly take longer than usual to change a flat, resulting in an outburst of rage and a grotesque mess of weeping man and mangled machine.
I kept on rolling, racking up the kilometres, through the deserted streets of Wapping and Shadwell before swooping down into Limehouse Link tunnel at 35mph. Instinctively I let out a massive cheer as I sped down into the dry gloom of the underpass. What a privilege to have the roads to ourselves. Forgetting all the stern talk of discipline for a moment I remembered to enjoy myself. This was fun! I just wished that cycling in London was always this easy. No cars to impede the flow and top speed possible on every stretch. The short minutes spent inside the tunnel were a delightful respite from the wind and the rain, and then I emerged into the elements and onwards towards the second turn at the world’s famous Docklands Light Railway station, Gallions Reach. They must have built this station specifically for the triathlon because I have certainly never heard of it and I doubt any galleons have ever reached there.
In my blinkered zone on the closing stretch of the first lap spinning alongside the Excel Centre, I somehow missed the 50 massive signs indicating that riders should stay left if they were finishing the cycle leg and keep right if they had another lap to do, and so I found myself leaving the main road and cycling towards the centre’s entrance.
“INCORRECT!” my brain screamed at me as I realised the error. “This is entirely incorrect. What are you doing, man?!” The pilot at the helm of my brain box frantically pulled levers and mashed buttons, feverishly attempting to get me back on course. He managed to issue a command to the voice department and a panicked gurgle struggled from my throat; “I’ve got another lap to do”, I squealed, my face contorted like Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream,’ “Which way is it?”
The obvious answer was; the only other way it was possible to go but my mind was not working logically during this instance of high drama. I swiftly corrected my course, did an about face, and almost rode directly into the path of Bradley Wiggin’s less famous brother, hurtling towards me at a very good clip.
Somewhat rattled I continued on the final lap which thankfully passed without incident although I did notice a man being loaded into an ambulance which then overtook me with much horn-beeping and wailing of sirens. Fat men in high visibility jackets riding motorbikes were dotted about the place. Often I saw them standing at the side of the road assisting hapless contenders with a bike issue. A large bloke swathed in leathers using a tiny hand pump to inflate a bicycle tyre is an amusing sight. I imagined that he was the cyclist and had experienced a serious attack of overkill when choosing his gear for the triathlon. “No messing about now, motorbike leathers and a visored helmet. It’s got to be.”
On finishing the bike leg, the speedometer on my handlebars had given up and was no longer feeding me information, but my trusty Ironman Triathlon watch was still going strong and it told me that I had completed the swim and the cycle in just shy of 1 hour and 40 minutes. This was way ahead of my expectations. The mental cogs whirred and I realised that if I managed the run in under 50 minutes I could achieve a total time of two and a half hours, or less! Encouraged by my rapid progress I whizzed through the transition area; bike back on the rack, helmet off, cycling shoes off, my hands were too cold to bother taking my gloves off, running shoes on, race number belt spun from the back to the front and I was gone towards the exit for four 2.5km laps. Crowds lined the course and I hoped for a glimpse, or a sound, of the friends and family who had come to cheer me on. And there they were, lining the route as it first exits the Excel Centre and passes alongside the dock. Seeing people you know does wonders for the speed and form. As if pulled by invisible wires, my head lifted up, I stuck my chest out, and my stride became longer and more purposeful. My whole demeanour screamed, “What a lovely warm up this is. Once this little stroll is over I’ll strap an anvil to my back and jog to Norway.” Safely out of side around the corner, I resumed my tongue-lolling, sideways stagger, emitting a low, pitiful groan as I went.
I picked my way through the mass of runners strung out along every meter of the course. Some, especially those with very large bottoms or bellies, looked like they had just started running, and I use the term loosely, the week before and would be there until the London Triathlon 2013. Others, wearing triathlon suits sporting names like Mitcham Missiles Tri Club, were more impressive as they elbowed the feeble aside, crushing both dreams and bones on their way to the two hour glory mark. And then I saw myself in the crowd. I thought Gatorade was simply a sugary sports drink and was unaware of its hallucinogenic properties, so this development was surprising. I rubbed my eyes but the vision did not fade. Three of me staring back, with a fixed smile, in black and white! Friends from work who had the wonderful idea of creating masks from my face to terrify me and make me go faster but sensibly decided that printing in colour would have been a gross extravagance. More high-fives, and on I ran.
On the final lap I knew that, barring a dramatic ankle snap, I was on course for a decent time. The benefit of a training programme that had peaked with sessions much longer in duration than those on race day was that I felt comfortable and so picked up the pace for the final 2.5km. My family and friends were no longer visible on course and I knew they must have moved inside to position themselves near the finish line. I left the elements behind for the final time and entered the light and noise of the Excel Centre. The final 200m meters followed a switch back path designed to allow as many people as possible to watch the closing stages but also presented a hazardous hairpin turn on the damp, shiny floor. 50m to go and Chariots of Fire was playing in my head. 40m, 30m, 20m, 10m, and over the line! Bright lights blazed in my face, a medal was hung around my neck and I remembered to press stop on my watch.
Sir Richard Branson, in his infinite benevolence, had even deigned to provide each participant with a dishcloth-sized towel presumably to blow one’s nose. Beaming with happiness, and steaming with exertion, I gathered with those who had so gamely braved the elements to support me. I felt like the sportsman fresh off the field of play who has a microphone thrust under his nose and is expected to offer up pithy reflections on the contest that has finished only moments before. Photos were taken and I shared my sweat with everyone. Somebody handed me a banana and I bounced from foot to foot with an excited energy. What a day! Before the adrenaline wore off and hypothermia kicked in, I made my way back to the transition area to get changed. My sister caught up with me and we shared a moment looking at a picture she had brought of the two of us with Mum, the entire reason we were standing in the Excel Centre on a rainy Sunday in September.
Celebrating in a cosy East London pub that evening, I embraced lager with the enthusiasm of a victorious rugby team. It seemed pints were only two thirds drunk before another arrived, with tequila alongside for good measure. I laid waste to a roast dinner and revelled in the moment. And then I woke up. Fully clothed on my bed at half past five on Monday morning, with the lights blazing and the inside of my mouth feeling like a sandpit. Alcohol, welcome back.
Thank you everyone. It has been quite a journey. If you came on the day, or have sponsored me or read my blog, thank you. It has been a truly remarkable experience and I don’t know how I would have coped if I had not decided to take on the triathlon.
In the week and a half that has passed since the big day I have been slowly emerging from my monastic training cave. Last weekend’s highlight was a party at Mum’s house which we held as a send off as it will be sold soon. In an effort to keep our kitchen hours to a minimum, Nush and I asked everyone to bring a dish. There were about 25 people and everyone came with a salad or a cake or some other sweet or savoury delight. There was a lot of food. In fact, I have just eaten the last portion of chilli con carne this evening and I feel I have topped up my reserves of minced cow for a good while.
I have also been experiencing the inevitable post event comedown, and there is a hole in my life where the triathlon was. The excitement has worn off and people are no longer asking me about it in the hallway at work. The thought of becoming a normal person again, without one driving goal and focus, scares me somewhat. Maybe I won’t go back. Maybe I will remain a Lycra-clad, stay at home, training obsessive. I can build a collection of triathlon medals and talk to them instead of the friends I used to have. Two things I have learned from this experience; physical exercise can help you through the toughest times. And if you put the effort in you will reap the rewards. It is impossible to go cold turkey after training so hard and I enjoy exercise too much to just give up so I continue to run often.
When I bought my wetsuit back in August, the man in Sigma Sport told me that triathlons are addictive. As I write this my internet browser is open on Runners World, search term – triathlon 2013. So the question is, what’s next?
Dedicated to the memory of my amazing mum,
Lesley Davy 19 May 1953 – 26 June 2012
£2,273 raised so far for Cancer Research UK. My donation page is still open if anybody wants to make a contribution to this fantastic cause. http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ollydavy