Not Enough

If you are reading this, it is for one of two possible reasons: like me you have a healthy if not obsessive like for the sport of triathlon or you fancied having a giggle at my attempts to articulate a few words. I never proclaimed to be the next Arthur Conan Doyle so it’s probably triathlon and, well… something has been bothering me.

However before I start I should say this. I was taught never to seagull. That is to shit on an idea and fly off without offering a solution. So yes I do have a moan or two but I also offer some solutions. You might not like them but here’s my attempt…

Now I am a relative newcomer to the world of triathlon and three things have amazed me. Firstly just how popular the sport is! There are millions of people around the world taking part in this addictive sport! Two, it’s not as expensive to take part as people think. Rental companies and second hand gear have seen the cost drop considerably. And the third and most troubling issue is just how poorly run, paid and rewarded the elite side of the sport is. Now before you throw the laptop across the room or send me a load of hate mail via tweeter, hear me out.

Let’s start with Danny Lee. Who? Heard of him. Nope, I hadn’t either: until I read the 2015 PGA Golf money list and noted that he has earned $514,728 so far this year!! Yes you have read that right, he has earned that so far THIS YEAR!!

Now everyone has heard of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy but there are people on the golf money list earning a lot of money and most of them I have simply never heard of.

Recent reports have stated that Sky TV have brought the screening rights for the Golf Open from 2017 for 5 years. How much did they pay for an event which lasts 3 days a year? 75 Million Pounds!! This for a sport which still has some clubs that doesn’t allow female members! The home of golf, St Andrews only voted to allow female members in the summer of 2014.

Now golf, it could be argued, is an expensive sport. Certainly membership of my local club is over £1000 per year and that is before you look at clubs and lessons etc. In terms of comparison the sport of triathlon is relatively inexpensive. A quick search of the internet shows that the cost of joining a Triathlon clubs ranges from £10 to £125. So why is a sport which is more expensive and out of touch with society doing so much better? At a grass roots level I would argue that triathlon is superb and is growing faster than a lot of sports and Triathlon England should be congratulated however the elite side is simply shocking.

USA Triathlon lists elite events. Brilliant. That is until you note that to be listed as an elite event you have to offer prize money of $5000. Yes that wasn’t a misprint. It was dollars and was 5000! Golfers wouldn’t even pick up a club for that kind of money.

Before anyone gives me a hard time for picking on golf I should say that I do play the sport and actually enjoy it!! I could have chosen tennis, rugby or even football to make very similar points.

What about the elite events themselves? Yes there are the ITU events and Kona for the Iron Man but it all feels a little bit 10 pence short. Yes we have the London Triathlon which has a lot of attention and gets TV coverage but I’d like to see more. The solution? Well as you ask. Where are the grand slams? Why can’t we have 4-6 grand slam events across all distances? Yes the ITU is great but we need more. Who is going after the big sponsorship deals? The TV companies? This is never going to affect me but I am surprised the professionals haven’t made more of a fuss.

We have some world class brands like Huub who are leading the way with innervation and products that wow the market!! Truly a world brand (though it has been pointed out that they are a very small company….just exceptionally good at what they do…Deano, please note that I got that in). I would like to see others though! Companies encouraged by sports leaders to invest and produce products that help and wow like Huub does.

The professionals? Now this might be a little controversial but I think there are too many! I think there are too many very good age groupers who muddy the lines and get their race license but aren’t really a professional. Personally I’d like to see 4 groups. Club members, age groupers who get to wear the GB badge (or whatever country they represent), elite age groupers who are in a field of their own and then the professionals.

In short, the grass roots aspect of triathlon is brilliant but so much more could and should be done for the professionals. I could write for hours about this, though tried to keep it under a 1000 words so you don’t fall asleep. There are some real easy wins out there but we just don’t seem to go for it.

Anyway, enough of me moaning, time to watch some golf on TV.

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2015 so far

A very short update but wanted to have a rant so here goes.

Well; its so far so good. Running is going well; managed a slow but steady 10 mile run this week which felt surprising good!! If you had asked me to run 10 miles this time last year I would have laughed and then had to have a line down just thinking about such exercise. My 5 to 10k times are around the 7.30 to 8 minute mile range which is solid if not setting the world alight. My swimming is getting stronger, I can go 1k now without thinking that I am going to die! And the cycling is getting better. No longer walking like John Wayne after a bike ride and the spinning has helped massively. A 15-24 mile bike ride is a common theme on my weekly routine. Though I am pretty sure my neighbours are wishing I went out less. The sight of me in cycling shorts is a sight to behold.

The personal trainer is worked his magic. Yes I am a constant source of amazement for him in how bad I can be as some things!! A 4 year old can do more press ups than me! But all being told he has been amazing and in terms of improvements; well even I have been impressed. I have lost enough weight now that new clothes are required, which is good but expensive!

A few other issues that I have noticed. Just how damn consuming this lifestyle is! 3 disciplines within 1 sport takes a lot of effort. Swimming, cycling, running, core strength and all round general workouts take A) A lot of time and B) I AM HUNGRY ALL THE DAMN TIME!!! 3 Course meal? Give me 6!! I eat something and my body is screaming MORE MORE MORE. And water? 2 litres is now amateur hour. I sink that without even thinking.

And what about the triathlon community? Well, it’s a little bit scary. Everyone is so damn nice!! You have an issue? They will help. You run a stupidly slow minute mile pace and they wont mock or abuse, they offer encouragement. Yes there are a few egos but they are very few and far between. The supporters, or half time oranges I as call them (long story, read blog) are amazing!! No abuse or swearing and most are simply amazed that you are crazy enough to do the sport.

So, over the next few months here is hoping that I do well and don’t turn into a fat bloater again!!

First up? A half marathon in March and then first triathlon of the season in April.

Personal Trainer

So I have a personal trainer.  In fact I see him once a week. Is it working? Is it a wise investment of my money? Well one of the key areas that we work on is core strength as to say mine is poor is like saying that the Brownlee brothers aren’t bad at Triathlons. It’s a huge understatement and a constant source of frustration.

Like most personal trainers Paul (that’s his name) looks the part. Tall, good looking and a body that makes you realise that he is most definitely the personal trainer and not the other way round.  He is also fairly intelligent.  So yes, the type of guy you want to thump and then run.  I say run as after thumping him I am pretty sure he would chase and catch you and then who knows what would happen to you.  If by any chance you ever read this Paul, I am of course joking; honest.

What has Paul done to improve my core strength?  Well clearly he spoke to friends and family and established what I am rubbish at and makes me do this on a regular basis. What do I mean? Well, let me give you the following 3 examples:

Press Up’s

For reasons only known to someone far more intelligent than me, I simply can’t do them.  My ability or lack of it I should say is truly shocking.  A few weeks ago he asked me to do as many as I could manage.  I TOPPED OUT AT 10. YES 10!!!. So what did he make me do at the end of the session? Yep, you guessed it, press up’s. I did 9!!! I am sure he thought I was taking the p*ss. The look on his face when I topped out at 10 a picture of utter joy!! Clearly he was thinking: “you are so bad I have an income for life here”.

Planks

Oh another source of deep joy.  First time we did this, I did a face plant after 29 seconds.  Yes reader, 29 SECONDS!!! What did he say? “That’s really good”.  Now at this point I really could of thumped him.  Good?? No, good is 3/4 minutes. After this humiliation what did we do? Of course, we did it another 3 times just to make sure that I really was that bad.

Kettle Bells

Now the less I say here the better.  All I will say is that whichever maniac designed these, simply didn’t understand how the human body works and NO Paul I can’t throw them in the air, catch them and then swing it under my legs. Yes I will try and brain you if we do that again.

Now anyone reading this would think that a personal trainer is a bad idea.  However I actually think it’s one of the best investments you will ever make.  Yes joining a club is great but you simply can’t get the one to one advice you get from a personal trainer. He must be doing something right as well as I have gone from an 11.30 minute mile to the other day running at 7.27 pace.  My swimming has got better and I’m a lot stronger on the bike. And my core strength, well it’s not so bad now and I’m on the path to …well what most people call normal.

Oh and my personal trainer? His initials are PM and he follows me on twitter so it shouldn’t take much working out.

Bricks

Bricks. I have learned to love and loath the word. Now if you mention brick training to most people they would assume you are planning on building a wall not a triathlon related training method. Yes, we are a weird bunch.

So where does the expression brick outwork/brick training come from? Well there are a number of explanations; its one workout stacked on top of another or to you feel like you have been hit by a brick after you’ve done them. I’ve been told that the truth is a little less funny; it’s named after Matt Brick (world champion) who employed this method into his training and, well he won, a lot!

Who it’s named after or why didn’t really have much appeal. What did appeal was the potential benefit. So off I went, thinking how hard can it be? I mean, this is what we do, isn’t it?? My first two brick workouts where horrible.

Brick Session No1. This wasn’t the best start. My first long swim, followed by what I hoped would be a 5k run. Swim felt good. Mainly focusing on the arms to save my legs and I felt good. 50 metres to go and I was thinking “im going to own this brick workout”. Yes I am prone to these kinds of stupid thoughts. 5 metre’s to go and I’m still feeling awesome. 1 metre to go and I’m up and out of the water; and this is where it stopped. Rather than going forward I was suddenly falling. My head suddenly felt very light and my legs, well where had they gone?? Before I knew it I was on my ass and back in the water. Aware that I might well have been seen, I tried to turn this fall into some kind of intentional roll. That didn’t work at all as I was now face down in the water going nowhere. This only got worse by the fact that another, most helpful, swimmer walked past me and offered the following caring words “you stood up to fast mate”. My shame was complete. Slowly I got to my feet determinered to make up for my foolish fall I began the run. Now when I say run, I am maybe being a little ambitious as despite my best efforts I was going slow. VERY SLOW. The 5k took me forever and I was wiped at the end.

Brick Session No2. Determined to learn from my first mistakes I did my next brick workout a week later. Aim, 20k on the bike and then a gentle 3k run. Id like to report that it went amazingly. However this would be a lie. The bike was a slog. It was one of those days when I just wasn’t feeling it. I should have given up after 10k and put it down to a bad day, however pride and sense of not wanting to be beaten twice got the beater of me. Finishing the 20k in a shockingly slow time I got off the bike and felt good; good that was until a moment later I tried putting one foot in front of the other and realised that my brain wasn’t communicating very well with my legs and I looked like a drunken man going nowhere fast. Yet again, I felt pretty stupid.

I decided that this wasn’t going very well so for a few weeks went back to my one discipline a day routine. I’m not amazing in any one area but improving across the board. Two months later I have managed to throw in a couple of brick workouts and they have gone well if not amazing. I can honestly say that they are well worth doing but hard. It takes time and if you are anything like me, don’t expect amazing results straight away.

Baby steps

Before we get into the 2015 and my updates on training/races, I thought I’d briefly cover the last 4/5 months training.

This all started in September 2014. Id managed to drag myself around a 10k course in just over an hour. It was the first time that id actually entered and completed an event. Okay my time wasn’t great but I felt so good and sat in the beer garden drinking my well deserved pint of Guinness I was the proudest guy there. Numerous members of my family had also entered and beaten me by some distance; my brother in law was in the top 50 finishers, however id done it! The talk in the pub was all about the race and as I sipped on Guinness number 4 I was starting to think of what could be. Could I finally compete in a triathlon??

Well the next morning I woke with a slight post celebration hangover. Okay, it was a little more than slight, it was a rather large hangover. I stopped counting the Guinness after number 5. However the urge to press on was still there. I wanted to SWIM, BIKE, RUN.

My first job was to improve my running. I started by running 5K’s. My minute miles were slow but getting better, I started at 10.38, then 9.50, 9.30, 9.02, 8.50 and then 8.40. I felt great. The weight was falling off and getting faster felt so good. My mantra was to aim for small but regular improvements. At the back of my mind was the huge consideration that if I wanted to compete in an iron man I’d need to run a lot further than 5k; but I’d get there. In October I entered myself for another 10k race in Brighton. My goal was to complete the race in under an hour. My finish time? 54.45. I felt 10 feet fall. Id managed to knock over 6 minutes off best 10k time. I still wasn’t what you would call fast but I was improving.

So onwards and upwards? Well, err no. The very next week I was out running when suddenly it felt like someone had taken a sledge hammer to my knee. A visit to the doctors relieved I had an IT Band issue. My first response (luckily I didn’t actually say this out loud) was; what on earth has my computer got to do with my knee and running?? I’m pleased to say that the doctor was also a runner and gave me some very good advice, some stretching and advised that I purchase a roller. A small outlay of £6 later brought me a roller and I now roller my IT BAND every single day. For those wondering, a roller is a foam roller which provides great amazement to those watching you roll your legs up and down it. It can be painful but its been the best £6 I spent. I did once think id solved the problem so stopped with the rolling and went running and it hit me hard. So now its part of my daily routine. Role my IT band and its manageable. I can now run a sub 50 minute 10k (just) and I’m slowly improving.

Swim training has proven to be an eye opener. Numerous triathlon websites clearly stated that front crawl is the stroke required for triathlon. So, off I went to the pool. Trunks on ( the running meant that the belly was now gone and I didn’t look like a complete idiot when topless), and in I went. I mean how hard can 1000 metres of swimming front crawl be? Oh you silly boy!! After 100 metres I thought I was going to die! Moving my arms was okay but breathing! Wow!! 100 metres swimming felt like how I imagine id feel after running 24 miles!! I was done, I felt like an idiot after all. I walked out of the pool in despair. If I couldn’t swim more than 100 metres without collapsing then I was done. Well, after sulking for 24 hours, wiser heads prevailed and I went back. This time I managed 200 metres. My mantra of baby steps kicked in. Small but regular baby steps. I’m now up to 1000-1500 metres and don’t leave the pool wanting to die. I try to swim twice a week and its an area of huge improvement.

The one thing that they don’t warn you about on a bike is how much its going to hurt your damn bum!! My first time out on a training bike ride, I went for a 12 mile bike ride and thought id done myself a mischief back there!! All I can say is that it’s a eye opener in more ways than one. Once a week spinning classes have helped greatly and of all of the areas, this is one that I’m not a complete numpty. Its an area of strength, well I’m not rubbish at it.

So the last 4 months have seen small but regular baby steps and I’m loving it. My first road race is on the 25th January and first triathlon of the year is in April, followed by another 5 more triathlons this year so I have a few months to train and improve. Here is to a life of tri. Baby steps and small but regular improvement.

Half Time Oranges

This blog will normally be reserved for my own little odes about my triathlon races and epic failures during training, however as a one off I wanted to give a few minutes to our half time oranges.

When was the last time you were at an event and the people taking part outnumbered the people watching? I’m guessing there isn’t an occasion, or if there was, it’s rare. Let’s consider a few “popular” sports. Football? Number taking part is a max of 22 on the field against hundreds or even thousand watching. Cricket? Same story. What about our beloved triathlon? Well, on a good day you will get anything from a few hundred to a couple of thousand taking part. But even then, for every competitor there is couple of supporters. Certainly at any event I have taken part in I normally drag alone a few people to watch.

So the truly dedicated ones are those taking part? The athletes? Triathletes? After all, they have spent hours training, maybe even years trying to perfect their skill. Hours of laps in the pool is hard. Waking up early so you can swim 1000 metres before work takes some dedication and then getting home and going for a cheeky run, whilst holding down a job, keeping the other half happy and making sure the children know what their dad looks like is hard. Right, so it’s settled, the dedicated ones are the ones taking part!

Well, sorry to burst our bubble but NO. We have it easy. The truly dedicated ones are the half time oranges.

We are normally at a race because we want to be. Waking up at 0500 for a Sunday morning race? Superb! We are pumped and ready to go. The freezing cold? Not a problem, I’m about to swim bike run! Bored for 3-8 hours? Nope!! I’m working hard during the race!! Oh it’s so me me me. But let’s consider the other side of the fence. Do they want to wake at 0500? Probably not, but they do. Do they want to stand in the freezing cold? Counting paperclips would probably be more appealing. Loads to do for 3-8 hours? Of course, drinking 39 cups of coffee is a challenge everyone wants to attempt at some point in their lives.

So the real heroes are those who support. Those who stand in the cold and cheer. Those who wake at 0500 and don’t grumble! Okay that’s a step too far. They do grumble but heck, its 0500 on a Sunday so who can blame them!! And the icing on the cake? They have the pleasure of listening to us talk about the race on the way home!! Yep they didn’t see enough during the 3 hours stood watching so we break it down minute by minute for them!! Oh they are lucky people!!

This topic came up a few weeks ago during a family gathering. The real heroes are the ones who come and support. So how could we honour these heroes of the triathlon world? Well I’d love to take the credit for the next bit but it was my uncle who came up with the name. His words were “well I’m a half time orange” the room went silent for a few seconds and then everyone laughed and nodded in agreement. We all know that when you are 11 years old, the role of the supporters was to give out cut up pieces of orange at half time.

This led to a few orange coloured tee-shirt and hoodies with the words “I’m a half time orange” across them. Suddenly the supporters have their own little gang. Seeing a bunch of people in orange coloured tee-shirts with “I’m a half time orange” brought a bigger smile to my face and a bigger motivation to keep going than any “go Chris” sign ever has.

Yes you pirates might wear yellow and know you are part of a big gang, but the next time you see a person in an “im a half time orange” tee-shirt know that they are part of an even bigger gang and they are the real hero’s.

So…next job….bore my own half time orange about my training schedule this week.

A life of Tri

So where do I start?

I’m a 35 year old guy who ever since I can remember has talked a very good game. What I didn’t know about triathlon simply wasn’t worth knowing!! The latest kit? I knew where to buy it!! The next big name? I knew before they even knew themselves!! In short, I was amazing….at talking!!! However the sad (please don’t all cry at once) truth was that I was fast becoming a fat guy in his thirties who couldn’t run 500 metres without fearing that a 999 call might be needed!!

To give you an idea of what a good game I talked, I have 3 triathlon tee-shirts and 1 half marathon tee-shirt!! These were events I entered and simply didn’t turn up. It became a running joke in my family that you could beat me in any form of race because I’d simply fail to turn up. Yes, I was the black sheep of the family.

In July 2014 a few super fit members of the family (my brother in law is a 1 hour 40 minute half marathon man) were entering the local 10K event which was due to be run in September 2014. Over a few cheeky pints down the pub I quite predictably raised to the bait and stated that this year I was entering (I had said this the previous 2 years) and would be running. I even entered online whilst in the pub (note to self, never take phone to the pub). Waking up the next morning the wife was shaking her head in dismay. My head wasn’t hurting from the alcohol, it was hurting from trying to think of a new excuse I could use to not run. The sad truth was that I was going to have to run and this was going to be a challenge considering that on the 20th July 2014 I was 6″3 and all 18 stone 7 pounds. Yes, ouch, I was that heavy.

The next few weeks were a mix of short runs (my shortest was 500 metres before I had to stop for fear that I might collapse) and simply not eating in an effort to lose weight. The absolute highlight was a 4 year old on a push bike flying past me in the park and laughing at my pathetic efforts. I could nether abuse him (he was 4/5) nor could I manage to run faster. It was a low point.

Race day was a game changer. I managed to pull myself around the 10k course in 1 hour, 1 minute and 28 seconds. I LOVED IT. The last 4 months has seen me lose over 3 stone, bring my 10k time down to under 50 minutes and I’ve well and truly been bitten by the triathlon bug!!

I’m now entered for numerous triathlons in 2015 and a few road races. This blog will attempt to capture my training and racing adventures. Hopefully with a mix of humour and humility.

Here is to 2015!! A life of tri!!