Archive for June, 2012

Day 169 – Part Deux

Posted: June 28, 2012 in June
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After a big pile of scrambled eggs and wholemeal toast it was time to get showered, changed and ready for the Con Carr Fun Cycle. Con Carr was a local cyclist of some renown (and grandfather of current Leinster winger Fionn Carr, fact lovers) and every year there’s a charity cycle in his name to raise funds for the restoration of the CYMS Hall, which just happens to be next door to my house. I’d be doing the cycle regardless, but seeing as though my eternally civic minded wife is on the committee I definitely have to do it. Her civic mindedness however never appears to get in the way of her social life, so she’s gone off to wear some wigs and point at freaks in a hole in the side of a hill in Mayo and I got stuck with registration and collecting money for the cycle.

Luckily for me, but rather unfortunately for the organisers, that’s a two minute job as numbers are low. However, those who have turned up have a beautiful day for a nice cycle round the countryside. Once everyone had set off and my duties were done with I ran back inside, got my cycling gear on and set off in hot pursuit. It wasn’t long before I caught up with son no. 2, who was lollygagging around the back of the field. To be fair to him, his fat tyred, no geared, BMX/MTB hybrid which is getting to small for him isn’t going to win any time trials. Last year I tore past everyone on the cycle and pushed hard for the entire 26km, this year though it had been shortened to 12km due to a lack of marshals, and seeing as I’d already got my workout for the day in I decided to just cruise around with my son and listen to him natter on incessantly. A few kilometres in we were joined by an elderly couple, and so we just cruised through the countryside chatting away to them, enjoying the spin.

This being Ireland the sunshine couldn’t last an entire day, and sure enough a big, black cloud appeared on the horizon. Thankfully though, just like yesterday, we managed to make it back home just as the first drops of rain started spitting. So a really productive day then, a great run in the morning, a good breakfast, a nice relaxed recovery cycle in the afternoon and I got to spend some time with son no. 2 while doing it. I should probably mention here that son no. 1 “won” the cycle, in so far as he was first back. That being said, I attribute at least 87% of that to the fact that he was on my CX bike, which I’d very kindly allowed him to borrow.

 

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Due to my various leg ailments running’s been so sporadic since the Kildare Half Marathon that I think today will actually be my first ‘long run’ since then. With the London to Brighton ultra only a few months away though it’s time to get my arse in gear and start clocking up some miles. I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon drawing up a schedule for the remainder of the year, or from now until London to Brighton (30th September) anyway. It was a little tricky trying to combine a training plan for an ultra with training for a couple of adventure races, as well as a sprint distance triathlon, but I think I came up with a serviceable plan of action anyway (with many references to The Triathletes Training Bible and Relentless Forward Progress)

One thing I was careful to do was not just jump right back into where I previously was on my training plan. I did Belfast Marathon right around the point on the ultra training plan I’m using where there was a marathon scheduled, so ideally I should have been just carrying on from there. As it is I’m considerably behind that particular plan but I’m still going to just increase my mileage gradually so as to (hopefully) avoid any further injuries. I will be increasing it slightly less gradually than indicated in the plan though as I do need to catch up eventually. Between running and cycling I hope to be able to manage mileage, fatigue, rest, recovery etc. Lucho (the “Ultrarunner” on Endurance Planet’s Ask the Ultrarunner) is a big advocate of biking on days before or after long runs so as to get your long runs in on tired legs but without the impact and wear you’d experience if you were doubling up on your long runs, so this forms a large part of my plans.

This morning’s scheduled run was a very easy 16km, and so as to ensure a steady, easy pace throughout I stuck to the road rather than doing laps of the woods. It was a really bright and sunny morning, unexpectedly so considering how miserable the weather yesterday was, so it was an ideal opportunity to try my new scalp saver. I’ve never been a big hat wearer during the summer but considering the paucity of cover on my pate I thought it might be sensible to get something to go over it, particularly with the amount of hours I’m going to be spending running in the glorious Irish sunshine. With my run scheduled to take me just over an hour and a half I picked a podcast to suit (Urijah Faber on the Joe Rogan Experience), grabbed my Clip, Garmin, hat and water bottle and headed out the door.

I was barely half a kilometre out the road before I had a big smile on my face. I’d really, really missed running over the last while, and the long run particularly so. Throw in the great weather and a really interesting and funny podcast and I was happy as Larry. My left leg was still a bit stiff but not sufficiently so to ruin my enjoyment of the run. As usual it was only at about the 5km mark that I properly loosened up, my stride relaxed, everything felt much easier and it just reminded me how much I like and prefer running longer distances, which is a good thing considering some of the training runs I had to pencil into my schedule yesterday. At the 11km mark I was back in town and just trying to decide how best to tack on the extra 5km I had to do. As I was feeling so good I was contemplating heading out on a different loop out of town which would have brought me over the 20km mark, or heading up to the woods to do a lap and then home, which would have been bang on 20km. Sensibly though I decided to stick to the schedule and decided on a route which brought me up and over a hill alongside the woods, then cut back up a path through the woods that makes about one quarter of the 4km lap, and then home.

It turned out to be a good call on my part not to go with the longer routes, as by the time I’d reached the top of the hill my calves, which had endured very little hardship over the last month, woke from their slumber and asked me why I was deciding to make them suffer all of a sudden. They only had a couple of kilometres to put up with though and soon enough I was coming back out of the woods and heading for home. It’s exactly two kilometres from the entrance to the woods to my door and for the entire distance my pace steadily crept up until I turned the corner on to my street and sprinted for home. First long run in ages, 17km* in 1:50

 

 

*I checked my schedule afterwards and it turned out I was only supposed to do 12km. Still, it was a bloody great run.

This running tagging people was harder work than I thought, and my legs were stiff as hell on Thursday. In keeping with my new sensible approach I just spent time stretching and foam rolling, while Friday I went swimming with my boys. At the weekend though it was time for some proper training.

There was no club cycle this morning as a lot of people were down in Dunmore East at the Hook or by Crook triathlon. I’d actually entered it myself but there was no way I could fumble through a sea swim like I did the Barrow section of TriAthy so I stayed home. I was undecided as to whether go long on a cycle or run Saturday but Rory contacted me to see whether I’d be interested in doing a brick session, which sounded perfect. The weather had been utterly miserable all week but when I pulled outside Rory’s house at 8am it was reasonably clear so we saddled up and hit the road.

We did an easy 5km or so before turning on to the proposed route for an upcoming duathlon in Portarlington. For the bulk of the 20km that comprised the course we alternated each leading for one km, pushing hard, then easing off for one km. We did that up until the last turn back into Port on the route when a couple of sneaky little hills appeared out of nowhere and that was the end of me leading for any length of time. On the downhill on the other side we both put our heads down and hammered along but there was to be no catching Rory (which I completely attribute to him having tri bars) until we got back to town. We took a nice, easy circuitous route back to his house and were joined along the way for a bit of a chat by a local cyclist.

On arriving back at the house it was straight on with the runners and then back out on to the road. We hadn’t decided on a route or distance before we left but Rory suggested a 5km loop around the outskirts of town which sounded perfect. I don’t think the jelly legs feeling you get when running off the bike will ever go away but you do get used to it, and the more you do it the easier it is to remind yourself that the feeling goes away by about the two km mark. We were moving at a reasonable pace, just about slow enough that we could hold a conversation on the move but quick enough to feel like we were getting something out of the run. The last couple of kilometres we upped the pace to something approaching 5k race pace, at which point conversation, for me anyway, becomes just about impossible.

We finished up having done just under 27.5km on the bike in 1:03:49 and just over 5km on the run in a time of 25:21, and just before it started to lash rain. Any day where you can be up, get a good session done, be home, showered and having breakfast before anyone else is even up is a pretty good one in my book.

I’m still being sensible as I try to ease my way back into full training so after a couple of long(ish) cycles at the weekend I took Monday off completely and then went for a swim yesterday morning. Today I went to play tag rugby with my wife, Benny and a few others over in Portlaoise. For those who don’t know, tag rugby is a non-contact version of the game, played with mixed male and female teams and is generally just played as a bit of fun. Crucial information about the game that someone forgot to pass along to the guys we were playing against.

These idiots, who were all easily old enough to know better I might add, thought that the best way to handle any sort of disagreement was to instantly threaten physical violence, and then follow up those threats with sneaky, underhand tactics like shoulders, stiff-arm tackles etc. That’s really not what we, or most right minded individuals, want from the game, and to tell you the truth it kind of ruined it for most of our team. There’s a league organised which runs for six weeks on Wednesday nights, nights which I could be taking part in IMRA mountain races. We spoke to the organisers afterwards about the nonsense which went on so hopefully this week will be better. If not I’ll just take myself off up the mountains.

The game itself though was a nice change of pace fitness wise. I’m reasonably fit but almost everything I do is long and steady. This was all short, sharp efforts, sprinting and changing direction quickly. I was actually blowing hard after a couple of minutes and wondering where all my fitness went to. Thankfully though I got a second wind pretty quickly and was fine from there on in, and even managed to keep pace with their designated “quick guy”.

Ah the perils of being easily led. As I’d said yesterday was my first time doing any sort of reasonable distance on the bike in ages, so surely the sensible thing then would be to either rest or swim today, particularly as I’m still dealing with my various left leg woes. However, yesterday evening I got a message from Rory asking me whether I’d be interested in doing the club cycle in the morning? Just a gentle 100km over one of the toughest climbs in the vicinity. Like I said, the sensible thing to do would be rest, so naturally (after a little coercion) I agreed to the cycle.

I was in bed at ten last night to make sure I could get up in time to get a decent breakfast this morning before meeting Rory at nine. I’ve been out for long runs or cycles without sufficient fuel in me and it sucks balls. There was no way I was attempting The Cut (the climb we were doing today) without a belly full of food in me, so at seven I dragged myself out of bed for a massive bowl of porridge, toast with peanut butter and jam, coffee and lots of water. Not long after nine I was parking up at Rory’s before heading off to meet the rest of the group. The plan had initially been to cycle part of the way there to meet a crew from Trilogy (our triathlon club), but now we were heading off to do essentially the same cycle but with a group from a different club in Port. We met another three guys in the square and set off towards Mountmellick on what was already, at half nine in the morning, a hot and sunny day.

This was the first time I’d cycled in a group of any size. In fact it was the first time I’d cycled in a group outside of a race as I (one or two occasions apart) invariably cycle alone. The group cycle was good though. I didn’t know any of the guys other than Rory but we moved around, swapping positions, chatting away and holding a steady 30km/h or so. After about 20km we turned down a lovely quiet country road headed back towards Port but as we came around a bend we saw one of the guys who had pushed on a little bit (Alan) lying on the ground in obvious pain and no longer connected to his bike. Alan had come out with multiple layers on him but from early on was shedding them due to the heat. I’d seen him take off his jacket and struggle to fit it into one of his back pockets and it transpired that, unable to get it into one of the pockets, he’d tied it around the handlebars of his bike. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened next. One of the sleeves came loose, dropped down into the front wheel, locked it up and suddenly Alan was airborne. Luckily, a few minor bumps and scrapes aside, both he and his bike were alright. He managed to gather himself after a while and was able to remount and carry on.

We went back into Port to meet up with the rest of the group, but it turned out that most of them were heading on a different route anyway. We lost one of the group, gained one and then set off for Mountmellick again. The route was the same as before, and the pace likewise was about the same. This time though with about two km to go into Mountmellick Rory gave a shout to up the pace and I just sat and watched the rest of the lads come past. My legs said “thank you very much for a lovely morning, we’ve really enjoyed it but there’s absolutely no way we’re going any faster”. It was like sitting on the motorway at 50mph in 5th gear in a 1 litre car and stamping your foot on the accelerator – no response, no discernible change in speed and utterly powerless as you watch everyone go steaming past you. It was at that point in time I began to have my doubts about the remainder of the cycle.

The next 15km or so were a struggle as any time we came to even a slight incline the other lads would pull away from me, then I’d have to pedal like hell to catch up with them, before repeating the process all over again. After the third time this happened I knew there was no way I’d be able for another 50 or so km, especially with the climb in the middle of it. I could possibly have done it, but it would have taken me the rest of the day, so I made one more effort to catch up with the group, told Rory I was done and then turned around to head for home. I stopped for a couple of minutes to eat a breakfast bar and get some more fluids into me, then set off on the 23km back to Port. I stuck the bike in a baby gear, then just kept those pedals turning over at a nice and easy 25km/h or so all the way back. When I eventually got home my legs didn’t actually feel as bad as I’d thought they would, most likely because I had a 23km cool down on my way back to Port.

 

With all the kerfuffle about Belfast Marathon and TriAthy, and my focus being on running, then swimming respectively, I’d really neglected the bike of late. I’d done plenty of turbo sessions in the darker months but I can’t remember the last time I went out for a proper, long spin on the road. All that changed this week though with a mail from Race2Glory reminding me that it was only five weeks away. Five weeks until Spanker Hill. Five weeks until pain! Time to get my arse in gear and back out on the road.

I got up early to watch Ireland get eviscerated by New Zealand, get a good breakfast into me and then head out but of course my natural predilection for procrastination meant that hours later I was still at home, sitting in front of the computer. For once this worked out for me as the weather, which had been stereotypically Irish all morning, took a turn for the better. Fearing that I’d only have a short window of opportunity I got changed, limbered up and set off.

The route I’d selected took me to Athy first, which was 22km of very flat, if a little dull, cycling. With the sun beaming down however I was more than happy to just spin along at a nice steady 32 km/h or so, basking in the sunshine. Athy itself took a few minutes to negotiate with traffic crawling along but soon enough I was back out on the open road and headed for Stradbally. This was a road I used to love taking on my motorbike, but sans engine the lovely sweeping curves were being taken considerably slower. Another thing I didn’t notice when I was being powered by Japan’s finest was the gradual climb, which combined with the temperature creeping ever upwards, had me sweating profusely. Getting towards the brow of the hill I even had to switch to the granny ring, which instantly got me thinking about Spankers Hill. Pushing thoughts of that nightmarish ascent to the back of my mind, and just thinking pleasant thoughts, I soon reached the top and from there I could almost freewheel into Portlaoise.

The 25km from Portlaoise to home are pretty flat and uneventful, and though my average speed had dropped a few km/h, I still enjoyed the cycle for the most part. Apart from one thing – my bloody arse was killing me. The last 15km or so there was sensations coming from my nether regions that caused me to stand up out of the saddle, seeking temporary relief, while cursing endlessly about my inability to locate my good shorts before I set off. There was parts of me seemingly grinding and burning that are really not designed for such things, so when I arrived home, some 59km later, I was more than happy to drag my weary carcass off my bike. Tired and sore as I was though, I was delighted to get my first proper cycle in months under my belt, and I got myself some cracking tan lines to boot.


I’m currently under physio instruction to rest completely from running and cycling, and I’m actually following it for a change. I don’t however recall the physio telling me to eat like a rabid pig, but I seem to be doing it anyway. As the week has gone on I’ve just felt fatter and fatter and more and more sluggish. Obviously this is my own fault for not just falling off the ‘fit and healthy’ wagon but leaping off it like it was a towering inferno*, but I still feel like crap. I did go to the pool on a couple of occasions but I think it’s about time to knock this “not training” thing on the head.

 

 

 

*God it’s been so long since I saw that I forgot Steve McQueen was in it.

In a desparate attempt to steal some of my thunder, former F1 world champion turned up to race the Olympic distance triathlon at TriAthy. Personally I wasn’t really interested but someone, em, stole my phone and took some pictures.

This morning I was back in registration at six am for more t-shirt related shenanigans, and with the roads being closed from about eight onwards for the races, I’d brought everything I needed for the race with me. The giant mug of insane Brazillian espresso I had on my way over, combined with the mug of ‘Trucker’ strength coffee from the garage across the road, meant my plan of getting a bit of sleep in my car went out the window. Instead I spent most of the afternoon mooching around, chatting to Benny (who’d graciously agreed to help out with the marshalling this weekend, out of the goodness of his heart, with absolutely no thoughts about hordes of lycra clad ladies) and trying to stretch out my still tight hamstring and calf.

My race started at 5pm, with a briefing beforehand at 4:30, but I planned on heading down there as soon as transition opened around 2pm so I wouldn’t be rushing around. One small, son related, mechanical bike mishap and I had my bike checked in and was ready to go.

 

I never get nervous before races at all, and apart from some brief flutters yesterday when I saw the Olympic guys doing their swim, I was pretty relaxed and sanguine about the whole affair. Particularly for someone who’s previous longest non-stop swim was 50m. In my head though all was calm and composed, safe in the knowledge that it was all going to come together on the day. Once I had all the transition logistics sorted it was time to get rubbered up.

Once race briefing was out of the way it was time to make our way towards the entry point in the river. To get us there we were walked up through the town, with a pipe band leading the way, and traffic stopped for us. It was a pretty surreal walk, but it was over sooner than I would have liked as before you know it we were on the river bank with wave one being ushered into the water. I was in wave two so I edged closer to get a good look at exactly how things were going to go. There was roughly sixty in each wave, counted into the water in groups of five, ushered down a ramp where they made their way into the murk and then tried their best to hold station until everyone was in. After a few false starts the whistle went and wave one was off.

Five minutes after that it was time for wave two so I made my way towards the ramp. I wanted to get in the water nice and early to give myself a few minutes to get comfortable and acclimatised, remembering how long it took me the other evening in the canal before I could even draw a breath. Before I knew it though I heard “Ready, Steady, Go” from the bank and in a whirl of arms, legs and pink swim caps we were off. All day long I’d been going over startegy in my head, reminding myself to stay calm, one, two, breathe, one, two, breathe, nice and relaxed and take my time and oh shit, is that someone’s foot, someone’s swimming under me? I’m just getting in the way here so hang back a little, remember now, nice and easy, oh shit, oh shit, can’t breathe, can’t move my arms, doggy paddle, doggy paddle, breaststroke, breaststroke, head for the far side of the river where the exit is (and the sighting line and all those nice people in canoes who’ll save me).

I forgot literally every single thing I’d been taught about swimming over the last six months and reverted back to what I learned first, the horrible, inefficient, doggy paddle come breaststroke that I ‘learned’ in the canal across from my house when I was young. Pretty soon not only had almost all of my wave disappeared up the river from me, but my arms were really starting to ache too. Eventually I had to take a rest and reached tentatively for the bottom with my toes, thankfully managing to find it with my head (just about) over water. This went on for the next few minutes, with ocassional calls from the canoe people and marshalls on the side to see if I was going to survive. There was just over a hundred metres to go at this point, with the bridge up ahead and just after that the exit point, which was where most of the spectators had gathered. I paused briefly to gather myself for one last effort (there was no way I was going to stop once I was on the far side of the bridge and everyone could see me) and then pushed off.

Approaching the bridge my shoulders and arms were really starting to ache and the circular motion of my stroke was getting smaller and smaller. I could hear my wife, son and Benny all cheering from the river bank which helped to block out the burning feeling in my arms. I think it was at about that point that I remembered I had legs too so I stuck my face down in the water and just kicked as hard as I could. A few seconds later I was grabbing the side of the railing, was out of the water and had completed the swim part of my first triathlon. An enormous wave of relief washed over me, followed by delight, then the realisation that I was going to be just about the slowest swimmer in the whole triathlon, and finally determination that I was going to make up every single second I could now that I was out of the water.

First I had to find my bike though. In my rush to get out of the water and on to my bike I misremembered my number and ran the whole way along one rack looking for a bike that was actually one row over. Once I spotted it I clambered out of my wetsuit, got my helmet and runners on and headed for the road.

The bike route for the race was two lengths out of town and back, so four legs, each somewhere between 3.5 and 4km (I’m not entirely sure as I didn’t wear my Garmin for some stupid reason). As soon as I hopped on the bike my only thought was to pass the person in front of me, and then the next person, and then the person after that. Which was exactly what I did. For the first leg I just put the hammer down and pushed as hard as I possibly could, passing somewhere between ten to fifteen people along the way. The return leg into town was harder work as the wind was now blowing straight in our faces. If it was slowing me down though it had to be slowing everyone else down too. Any time there was a bit of an incline or I saw someone slow for just a second I picked up the pace and pushed even harder.

Coming back into Emily Square for the turnaround I’d passed another ten to fifteen people and still no one had passed me. Just as I slowed to turn around though a guy shot up my inside and made the turn harder than I did. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that pissed me off. I dragged my bike around and stamped down on the pedals as hard as I could, pulling the front wheel up for a second before I got my weight over the front and set off after my (now) mortal enemy. I could hear my wife and son cheering but I couldn’t take my eyes off the road, even for a split second. I honestly can’t recall the last time I was ever doing something where I was so focused, so intent on what I was doing. I’m not sure if it hurt, or if I was enjoying it, or if I really felt anything at all at the time. I didn’t have time to think at all, which for me was fantastic.

I never managed to retake the lead over my nemesis (which I naturally attribute purely to him having an all carbon bike worth approximately three times what mine cost and weighing in at least a couple of kgs less), but maintain my pace and over the next set of out and back legs pass another ten to fifteen on each, with no one else coming past me. It’s on the final leg back into town that I remembered I still had to do the run leg after this, and it was probably time to think about getting my heart rate down and my breathing in check.

Off the bike, runners on, out of transition and straight away my left leg was hurting. I knew my leg was going to hurt for the run but it was only 4km so I tried to stop being such a bitch about it and just got on with it. There was a guy about fifty metres up the road from me so I just focused on getting past him to start with and then trying to settle into a decent pace. Up and on to the main road and my running felt like crap. My legs were like jelly from the bike but I knew that would pass after a kilometre or two.  More importantly though I knew everyone else was feeling the same so if I just kept pushing I could make some more time back.

At the halfway point the route turned off the road, down a side road and towards the canal. I passed a guy at that point who I knew must have been really struggling. He was about my height (182cm) but easily had 30-35kg on me. I clapped him on the shoulder as I went past and just said to keep it up, only a couple of km to go. He gave me the thumbs up and then, as my legs were finally starting to loosen up a bit, I set about catching a few people in front of me. We were on the canal bank on the way back into town and I knew there couldn’t be far to go so adopted the same startegy as on the bike – just keep passing the person in front of me. I managed to pick a few off and then I saw the bridge just ahead which meant there was less than a kilometre to go. It was time to zip up the mansuit and go for it then and I managed to pass a couple more before seeing a sign for 200m to go. There was one last guy ahead of me but he was passing the 150m sign as I was going past 200m and I thought for a second that there was no way I could catch him. Thankfully I only allowed myself to think for a second, before just saying “fuck it” and giving it everything I could. I sailed past the last guy with about 50m to go, a few seconds later crossing the line to finish my first ever triathlon.

In the last year and a half I’ve done all sorts of races, from 5k to marathon, duathlons, adventure races of all sorts, some of them up to 70km long with mountains stuck in the middle of them, but nothing, absolutely nothing compared to the feeling I had when I finished this race. Whether it was relief at having survived the swim, or the thrill of pushing so hard on the bike and passing so many people, the elation of a sprint finish, maybe it was the satisfaction of having stuck at something when on more than one occassion I just wanted to give up, or most likely it was a wonderful combination of all those things, but I felt so high after I finished that I could barely contain myself. I felt like running around and just screaming. Obviously I didn’t, but I was on the verge of it, and for me that’s something. I’m going to save that for two years time when I do my first Ironman.

Results: 67th out of 246

Out of top 100: 35th bike, 46th run, 100th swim

I’ve messed up my day count somewhere along the way, which is an occupational hazard of doing things retrospectively and sporadically. Regardless, this is now the three days leading up to TriAthy.

Wednesday – swimming session with Mark. Half the session is spent going over the basics again, half is spent trying to figure out my lack of progress. The lack of progress, both in terms of actual, in water propulsion, and overall has been baffling Mark. He’s really struggling to figure out how I’m swimming so slowly/poorly considering the amount of effort I’ve been putting in but eventually we make some breakthroughs. I’ve been keeping my legs stiff and toes pointed, so although it at first looks like my ankles are nice and floppy and my legs flicking, on the way back up they’re not relaxing, so I’m causing almost as much drag as propulsion. Secondly, I finally, finally get the whole ‘high elbow’ thing. Previously I’d been doing a massive, circular, twisty, reachy thing, which again caused massive amounts of drag, messed up my entire stroke and also took a huge amount of effort. Once I stopped doing those two things all I had to do was work on my breathing, stop over analysing things and practice incessantly for six months or so. A little bit late for TriAthy but at least I was at square 2 now.

My swimming wasn’t even over for the day then, as when I got home my friend and neighbour Benny persuaded me that it was time to break in my wetsuit. We went down to the river, but unlike Bruce Springsteen we didn’t just dive in. I clambered into a rubber and neoprene suit and waded out into the water while Benny stood on the bank drinking a beer. We had to rethink our plan as the water didn’t even come up to my waist, but Monasterevin isn’t called The Venice of Ireland for nothing, so off to the canal we went. After some gentle prompting, and a reminder that we only had about ten minutes until it was properly dark, I found myself jumping into a canal for the first time in nearly twenty years. I’m really glad now that Benny persuaded me to do this because that was a bit of a shock. Cold and dark, I stuck my face down, tried to swim and then couldn’t catch my breath for about five minutes. Eventually I gathered myself, relaxed and made a couple of little sorties up and down the canal. I’m really glad that the start of the race on Saturday now won’t be the first time I’ve experienced this.

Thursday – I picked up my bike from McLoughlins Cycles in Newbridge after their pre-race service (thanks again to Alison and the guys there, I massively appreciate this) and then headed in for physio. The previous session had focussed on my hamstring, knee and calf but this time the physio went looking for the cause of my problems, rather than just trying to treat the symptoms. She was happy enough that I’d get through the race, but once that was out of the way I needed to get my problems sorted. She traced all the problems to the left side of my mid-back, which was apparently a ball of horribly knotted and twisted muscle, which pulls at my glutes, shortening my hamstring and eventually leads to pulls and tears in my lower leg. I need to make some changes to my work setup, have a set stretching and strengthening regime for my core, back and legs, rest more, look after my body more, but before all that I need to have twenty minutes of traction, which essentially involves putting on a vibrating corset and then being stretched. Kind of like Cary Elwes undergoing torture in  Count Rugen’s torture device in The Princess Bride, though not quite as elegantly coiffured.

Friday – TriAthy offically opens for business today and I’m helping out at registration, looking after the t-shirt stand, which mostly consisted of trying to persuade ladies that they really could fit into the Barbie-sized t-shirt they’d been allotted (in a purely professional capacity of course). I finished up there not long after ten pm and then it was home, eat, sleep and be back at registration in a few hours to help out again before getting ready for my first ever triathlon.