It’s been a really busy few months recently, too busy to get any of the information down into blogs for you all, sorry! This means this blog is a bit of a bumper one too! The summer months are when the majority of challenges are taking place so I am spending a lot of time preparing, recovering, and completing challenges which doesn’t leave much time for sitting down in front of the computer! Because of this you’re now getting three blogs in a row giving you a update on everything that’s been happening. This first blog covers the end of June through to mid-July and the three challenges that were completed in that time.
Following my failure at the Dartford Triathlon, was the Southeast Aquathlon at the same venue the following weekend. Once again it was a ridiculously early alarm, and this time I arrived in plenty of time. So much time in fact that the registration tent hadn’t opened when we got there! I met up with Nic who you no doubt remember from previous blogs (she ran the half marathon with us, and the Paris Marathon with my Mum’s name on her memory poster) as she was joining me in this challenge, and her family were along to support too.
Needless to say I was fairly apprehensive about this challenge, it was a 2000m swim followed by a 10km run. I knew I could do the distances, but after my problems the week before I wanted to make sure I did everything right. I was changed nice and early and got into the water with plenty of time to acclimatize (lessons learnt!). Nic seemed pretty nervous before the race too but as soon as the race started she shot off! I didn’t see her again until the finish! I made sure I gave myself plenty of space at the start so I didn’t get swam over or kicked in the face, and fortunately this was a fairly small race too. The swim was two laps of a pretty lake and it went without a hitch for me. After a few hundred metres I had settled into a good rhythm which was a huge relief, I knew then that assuming I didn’t do anything stupid I was very likely to complete the challenge – I finished the swim in 43 minutes. After the swim came the run, I was pretty dizzy coming out of the water and had to sit down in transition to get my shoes on! I also managed to go out the wrong end of transition too! The run was fairly uneventful, it was 5 laps of a 2km route around a housing estate. I hardly saw anyone at all during the run which made it tough mentally but in the end my run time was a reasonable 50 minutes, giving me an overall time of 1:31, slightly behind Nic who finished in 1:29. Nic also picked up a trophy for the 2nd placed female – well done Nic! Thanks again to the Bridge Triathlon organiser John Setford who gave me a free place in this race and the triathlon the previous week.
After the Aquathlon I had three weeks to prepare for the Half Ironman, which probably isn’t really enough! In between these events was an equally tough challenge…the Oxted Pram Race. Now this challenge tested a number of qualities and I am pleased to say Team 30/30 came through in excellent style. The team was made up of university friends Chris ‘Big Guns’ Eley, Kier O’Doherty, Allan ‘AWOL’ Dawson, Timbo Wright, Stu ‘Simba’ Coussins, and myself. The Pram Race is held annually in a village on the southern outskirts of London. It involves teams of up to six people racing home built/decorated prams along the streets of the village in fancy dress. The course is 0.7 miles long, and you have to stop at each of the 7 pubs and take a drink (beer, spritzer, or soft drink for the children & AWOL). I had ‘borrowed’ our panther mascot costume from work so we came up with a zoo escapee theme, the idea being I’d be the panther in the cage (pram/cage) and everyone else would be zoo keepers.
However, we didn’t quite get ourselves organised in time to get a cage designed and built. In an effort to make sure we had something I bought an old pram off e-bay and arranged for Simba to collect it on his way to the race, however when he arrived there was nobody at the address to collect the pram from. Following a mild panic by the whole team, emergency trips to hardware stores across South London, and some blue sky thinking we ended up borrowing a shopping trolley from Morrisons (which we returned unharmed). Everyone except Kier prepared themselves with highly nutritional burgers at Wetherspoons (Kier was too hungover to eat) and then we headed to the start. At the start we found an amazing array of costumes and ‘prams’, there were Star Wars X-Fighters, Alpine Skiers, Toy Story characters, and excellent toy soldiers. We got some pretty odd looks turning up with a few hats, a shopping trolley and some khaki shirts. We got ourselves in position, fitted the Go-Pro, I suited up and got in the trolley whilst we made friends with the mexicans (Si Senor) behind us who had a healthy supply of tequila which cheered Kier right up!!!
Now, we’re a competitive bunch and some of the group are genuinely good athletes so we decided to see how fast we could finish this race – the record being 7 minutes. We were third on the course (you set off in 1 minute intervals), but I don’t think any of us expected what the locals had in store for us. For some reason I am still yet to work out, the route is lined by locals armed with water balloons and pistols. They soak you constantly for the duration of the race. Some other teams had brought ammunition with them to throw back, needless to say we didn’t. The second pub stop saw me remove my panther head, get passed my beer (still in the trolley), and start drinking only to be smashed in the face from almost point blank range with a water balloon from a granny (this is best seen on the youtube video at 2:39)! We made pretty good progress through the course, the trolley was remarkably quick and very robust – it did however bruise my knee’s and made me yelp like a child on the off road section! Once we got through to the old town we were on the home straight, an uphill section of about 400 metres with 4 pubs on it. We’d overtaken the team in front of us within a few seconds of getting on the course and we now caught sight of the Toy Story team just ahead of us – if we overtook them we’d be the first finishers of the day. In our excitement we overshot a pub and had to reverse back to get a drink, and with everyone leaving the trolley briefly I thought I was going to roll back down the hill! For me, sat in the trolley four half pints wasn’t too much of a problem but for those who had to run the 0.7 miles quickly, the final few pints were hard work, especially for poor Kier who managed to keep most of it down until we had finished!
In the end we finished alongside the Toy Story team, and overall we came fourth (but the second placed male team), nowhere near the course record of 7 minutes but there is always next year. We had excellent support for this event, plenty of friends and family were there on the day and we all gathered in the pub following the race and shared a couple more (slightly slower) pints. It was an awesome event, excellent fun and one that we’ll look at doing again next year.
It was great to have Cat’s brother Chris and his family Dani, William & Pippa over supporting the Pram Race too. They live in Abu Dhabi so hadn’t had an opportunity to be involved in a challenge before this, so a big thank you to them. They came out in their team 30/30 t-shirts to support and we’d organised for two children sized ‘Uncle Nick’s 30/30 Challenge’ t-shirts especially for William and Pippa which I’m sure you’ll agree look fantastic.
The weekend after the Pram Race was arguably my toughest challenge of the year – a half ironman which consists of a 1900m swim, an 87km bike, and a 20km run. These distances are pretty long, and each one alone requires an effort to complete, so putting it all together was going to be hard work. I felt in pretty good shape going into the race, I deliberately lost some weight to try and be as light as possible on the day, I’d cut down my alcohol and eaten properly for a few weeks beforehand – this was definitely the best prepared I could be. I had even booked my bike in for a service the week beforehand which ended up slightly hampering my preparation as it took a bit longer than expected and came back with the gears not quite properly tuned resulting in the chain coming off regularly! The only thing that was potentially going to trip me up was an event at work the day before. It was our annual community sport and physical activity day in one of the parks, the culmination of about six months work with over 7,000 people attending. I had to be on site at 6.30am and theevent wasn’t due to end until 5pm, with set down needed after that. Thankfully, after some tough negotiating it was agreed I could leave early, so I didn’t feel too tired at the end of the day – thanks to everyone else at work who stayed and did my share of the packing away afterwards!
There were two other members of Team 30/30 joining me for this challenge, Nick Trim from University and Lucy Black a friend we met whilst working at summer schools. Nick had done the same event a few years ago but for me and Lucy this was our first attempt at a race this long. Conveniently Nick’s parents live a couple of miles from the start and they let us stay there the night before which was excellent. We met up and had a decent dinner, prepared all our bits and pieces and got an early night, there was a lot of nerves that evening!
After getting our bikes racked in transition the next morning we got our wetsuits on and headed for the start. The swim was in the Thames and I’d been advised by Nick to stick close to the bank on the way up river, and then get in the middle for the way back to make best use of the current. I don’t think I mastered it either way! There were lots of us starting at the same time and it was hard to find clear water to swim in, particularly at the start and so there was a bit of rough and tumble for a while. I swam pretty well overall, although turning the final buoy I did get some cramp in my feet – this isn’t unusual for me, I think the cold water causes it. It’s not usually a big problem and generally just passes. However, to get out of the swim here you had to climb/jump/be pulled out, and as soon as I jumped up I promptly got more cramp in both feet again. I made it into transition and Nick caught me up as I was getting my wetsuit off, we headed out onto the bike course together. Well sort of together, my chain came off as soon as I got on so by the time I had got the chain back on he was gone!
The bike leg was pretty uneventful, it was very pretty route around Henley-on-Thames and the local countryside. There was three laps to be completed and each lap seemed to consist of about 15km of uphill, and 3km of downhill – it was a real leg killer. It also went past my Grandma’s old house in Nettlebed which is where my Mum grew up and where we had many family parties when I was a child. Depressingly as I came into transition off the bike leg they were announcing the race winners – I still had a half marathon to run. By now the sun had come out and it was a lot warmer, the run route was four laps of a 5km route. I wanted to run it in around two hours, and my first 5km went well, however from there it went downhill (and unfortunately, not literally!). For the first time ever I was getting stomach cramps, I then over compensated with extra water and just felt sick for most of the second lap. I kept thinking that if I could finish the third lap then I only had one left and that it was just a ‘bonus’ lap – like a lap of honour! Somehow I caught up with Nick at the end of the third lap and we ‘ran’ the final lap together, it was a great feeling crossing the finish line together and an achievement I’ll treasure for a long time. I finished in 6hr:29min which I was pretty pleased with overall. Thanks to F3 Events who gave me a free place in this event and a discount to Nick and Lucy, this does make a massive difference to me – the events aren’t cheap to enter so these small things really help out.
Thanks also to Nick and Lucy, they took on the toughest challenge they could find to do with me and both came through with smiles at the finish. Lucy has done an amazing job with fundraising too so thanks to all her friends, family and colleagues that donated so generously. Also, thanks to the support crew for the day – Eliza, Cat, Mike, and assorted parents/families you guys were fantastic, especially on the run legs when we needed a boost.
After the weeks of preparation it was time to relax afterwards, especially as we’d missed lunchtime during the race (energy gels just aren’t the same). We got ourselves showered and headed down to the local carvery for a big roast dinner. This wasn’t quite enough for me and we had to get an extra drive-thru McDonalds on the way home too. After seeing 4:30am two days in a row over my weekend I was safely tucked up in bed by about 9.30pm!