Tuesday, January 25, 2005

It’s been pointed out to me a number of times since I began this endeavour, that to get a truly substantial event under my belt early on would provide a boost for the rest of the campaign. To that end, I’ve all but decided to enter the London Triathlon this year. My wife and I went down to London last August to watch my sister-in-law (Vicky) and two good friends (Neil and Timo) compete.

No one knew Vicky had such a small head until her hair was tamed by a swimming cap.

It begins with a 1500 metre swim – that’s 60 lengths of your local pool – except you don’t get to do it in your local pool, you get to don a wetsuit and swim the guts of a mile in the Albert Dock. And you don’t get a lane to call your own – you get to swim in a mêlée that I will save a thousand words and show you a picture of.

I shall practice by swimming 60 lengths of the washing machine every night.

Assuming (and it’s a fairly heroic assumption) that you don’t die doing that, you get to climb out of the dock and then out of your wetsuit while you run to your bike.

Cycling in wet shorts is the sort of thing your mother probably would have warned you against, had she ever suspected that you would be stupid enough to do such a thing in the first place, but there is no time to stop and change or even towel down. Instead, you have to cycle 40km – which is nearly 25 miles – which is virtually a marathon.

Having done all that, you might think there would be some provision in the rules for a nice cup of tea and a bit of a sit down, but I’m reliably informed that it’s not until you park your bike in order to run 10km that things get really nasty. Your legs protest (quite legitimately I suspect) about the abandonment of a perfectly good bicycle in favour of a much less effective pair of running shoes.

I believe the guy on the right has just spotted Neil's chest-wig and is trying not to vomit.

In the London Triathlon, the run is made worse (yes, it can be worse) by being staged over two laps of a 5km course. That means being subjected to the cruel and unusual torture of being guided mere feet from the finish line a full 5000 metres before you are allowed to cross it.

Timo crosses the finish line and indicates that he would very much like a gin and tonic.

Watching the event last year, I wondered if any of the contestants were tempted to cut corners in the swim, or come running over the finish line with arms aloft after just one lap of the run. Then I discovered that each tri-athlete carries a chip somewhere about his or her person (the shoulder being the most popular spot presumably), which is registered as it passes through various checkpoints throughout the race, making it impossible to cheat by cutting corners.

I said that I have “all but decided” to enter. The only thing holding me back is the occasional foolish notion I have to actually think about what it entails doing. I don’t like deep water; in fact, I fear it, and this fear is worsened when it is murky deep water that has a hundred other people thrashing around in it beside me.

I quite like riding a bike – at least I did when last I owned one, when I was twelve – but I worry about the effects of cycling in wet shorts. I just can’t imagine a scenario in which that is going to work out well.

I have grown to not loathe running as much as I used to – but so far, I haven’t done more than my mile around the park at any one time, and I haven’t done that for weeks now. The prospect of doing that just over six times is enough on its own to make me pause for thought, but the prospect of doing it six times having just swum the equivalent of 60 lengths of shark-infested dock and virtually cycled a marathon is quite intimidating.

Neil is doing it again this year, and has recently taken possession of a new bike. His old one (which was, appropriately, originally Terry’s) is getting passed on to me, so at least I will have someone to train with and something to train on. I think I have almost managed to talk Swiss Toni into entering it too – at least, I take the fact that he did 60 lengths at the gym the other night as an encouraging sign that he's seriously thinking about it.

Entry costs £68 and closes in a few weeks. I’ll do a deal with you, my mighty readership - if someone can stump up the entry fee by way of sponsorship, I’ll enter without any more hesitation, repetition or trepidation. Having entered, I reserve the right to revert to being a neurotic wreck about it though.

By the time you've finished, only your mother would still be willing to do this.


Anonymous said...

Albert Dock will be a doddle after 2 weeks of basking with sharks in South Africa!! I'll sponsor you for a pair of goggles so as you'll see them coming!! Are you going to shave your body to help you go faster?wowo

Statue John said...

Dang, and there i was going to buy you entry to the triathlon for your birthday this weekend - would have been one of the finer gifts you have ever received i'm sure!

I am very happy to chip in some money towards this most exhausting task, and i will triple all my future sponsorship for competing in the task if you shave your body to go faster.

Indeed, I'm sure this would assist greatly with the saddle soreness.

No said...

nah.. you don't want to be off n' shaving *anything* what you *really* need is goose fat.

smear yourself in goose fat.. or as we call it in the old country ... bard lard.. and you'll be right. Works for the swim - keeps you warm AND keeps the sharks away (little known fact that sharks don't eat geese); great on the bike ride - especially if you're at the front of the pack - bike in a V formation; great for the running part - protects the baby-fine skin of your tender thighs from chaffing and it also helps keep other runners at a good distance cos it kind of smells pretty bad.

*advice from a triathlete orphan*

um.. it's michelle. and my username has lost it's feng shui.

SwissToni said...

Yeah - I am seriously thinking about it, and if I do decide to take part, I will proudly donate all sponsorship money raised to the Ultimate Olympian cause.

I swam 60 lengths again last night, and I have to say that it was a slightly daunting thought to think, as I hauled myself wearily out of the pool and headed off to the sauna, that I would have to do that and then face the 40km bike ride and a 10km run.

I've been doing some research. The dock is apparently an average of 9m deep and is the colour of pea soup. On the plus side, I am told that it's actually a lot easier to swim in a wetsuit, because it adds buoyancy and means that your body is held up a lot flatter than it would otherwise be, reducing drag and thus the effort needed to swim the best part of a mile....


The cycle and the run are at least relatively flat, I hear.

Anyone got a decent lightweight racing bike suitable for use by slightly cack-handed and clumsy 6 ft 5" man?


John said...

Can I just point out that although being tall and cack-handed is so far a defining characteristic of both members of the Ultimate Olympian Triathlon Team, it is not a pre-requisite should any short and highly coordinated people wish to weigh in for the cause.

SwissToni said...

will there be a team t-shirt? (this could be a deciding factor....)

John said...

I've been working on a design all week - said T-shirt should soon be available to buy (all proceeds to Sobell House of course) on this very website at some time in the near future.

To answer your question, there will absolutely be a team T-shirt.

Timo Kindred said...

Good lucky buddy. Put me down for £30 and see you down the pub before the start, I mean after the finish.

OLS said...

Recommendation? Try a couple of training swims in the wetsuit - they do help with bouyancy, but they also tend to restrict your movements a bit and swimming in one takes some getting used to - your whole stroke tends to change.

And I always found it harder to go from the swim to the cycle than I did from the cycle to the run. By the time you get to the run, you're thinking "woo hoo! 2/3 done!" and it's a bit of a mental boost. Also, running needs no mental involvement, while cycling involves that little bit of balance (and not running into other cyclists)... ;o)


Jenni said...

Ooooh, t-shirts. Do you have to compete on your side of "the pond" to join the team? :)

Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS and hope you have a WONDERFUL YEAR and injury free!!
lots of love

Anonymous said...

Be warned John--this is your mother speaking--I actually MET "Swiss Toni" on Saturday night!!
He's NOT what he looks on his web site
All those tips about swimming in a suit to make your body flatter---YOUR body couldn't BE any flatter..
It's a cunning trick-- to slow you down-- so as he can beat you!!He has ALREADY shaved off ALL his hair
and looks pretty fit to me!!
In fact-when displaying some surprise (in my usual discrete way) at HOW good looking Swiss Toni is --in the flesh--his girlfriend suggested I "should see him first thing in the morning"!!
Might try that on the morning of the race--THAT should puy him off his stroke a bit!!

SwissToni said...




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Anonymous said...

Interesting to read that the cycling and the running is relatively flat - relative to what?? Does this mean that the swimming is uphill?

SwissToni said...

anon - I see what you've done there, but whilst we're being smart, as the Thames is a river, there must be some small degree of uphill/downhill on it, no?

frogstar said...

*giggles at washing machine laps*

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