Race report – Hellrunner Hell Down South

It’s 0700 hours on Saturday 14th January and my alarm has just gone off.  Must be time for the Hell Down South Hellrunner.

For the uninitiated, the Hellrunner series is either 10 or 12 miles of extreme cross country running.  Featuring the “Bog of Doom” and the “Hills of Hell”, the run markets itself as “Tougher than a Tough Mudder”.

Why oh why would anybody ever sign up to this sort of madness?  Well in my case, my friends Bushy and River and others have done this and it has always been on my list, so as soon as my friend Mark from work asked if I wanted to join in I jumped at the chance.   To coin my usual catchphrase, how hard can it be?


Running late

brooks-hell-runner-logoThe Hellrunner was on Longmoor Army Base, which is only about 20 minutes from my
house.  We had been warned by the race organisers that it would take a while to get into the car parking, so I left with what I thought was plenty of time.  Sadly it took a bit longer than I expected to get from the motorway into the venue.  I was in phoning Mark (who was better organised and already there) and he was reporting back that the start was delayed by 10-15 mins.  Luckily, I was not the only one who had underestimated how long it would take to get in. This meant that our wave was due to start at 10.15

Parking my car and checking the time it was 11 minutes past 10.  I had been directed to park quite some distance from the race start, so I grabbed my gear and started to run towards the start.  Over a motorway bridge then through a field I stopped for a quick wee in a portaloo and met Mark outside the bag drop just as the 11.15 wave started running.  Dumping the bag at the bag drop,  Mark shouted to me that we could still go if we were quick, so I tied my shoes a bit tighter and together we ran to the start and we were off.

Not exactly the race start I had hoped for, and I jovially commented to Mark that I was sure that Mo Farah did a bit more warming up for his races than just turn up and go for it.  I had really wanted to do a proper warm up as the trail was all off road and very hilly and I wanted to make sure that my body was ready for the challenge.  Still too late for that now.  I was off and running in my first ever Hellrunner.


Catching up the pack

Mark is a great runner and he set the initial pace as we set off over the uneven terrain, pocked with deep muddy puddles with jagged ice floating on the top.  Soon we caught up with the tail end of the runners from our start time and started to overtake a few.  The course was up and down steep sandy banks, and wound few beautiful heathland.  There were a few deep gullys we had to run through, jumping into the black ooze then climbing up the other side.  Despite having cold feet I was loving this sort of running.  I never get much of a chance to run true cross country like this and it was definitely up my street.

As usual the GPS on my watch let me down and started to tell me we had done a lot less distance than I knew we had run, but instinctively I knew we had covered the first mile in a good time and were both carving our way through the pack nicely.  It felt good to be overtaking other people (as usually I am the one being overtaken) and I was enjoying Mark’s company and chatting with the other runners.  Most encouragingly was I felt good. It was great to be out running my first race of the year and as this is such a huge year of running for me, even better to have it underway.


Twist and CRACK

Somewhere between mile 1 and 2 there was a short uphill followed by a brief winding technical section though a wooded area.  This section was fairly narrow and there were quite a few runners around still so we had to pick our way through carefully.  Turning right to follow the group my left foot went into a hole that I hadn’t seen, my ankle rolled forward and I heard and felt a double crack in my left ankle.  I immediately stopped, my ankle searing with pain.  Uttering some sort of expletive, I grabbed a tree and stood on one leg breathing heavily trying to recover from the sudden shock.  Mark had stopped next to me and was asking me how I was, encouraging me to try and put some weight on my ankle.  Gingerly I put my ankle down and it was not good.  The pain was intense as I put my weight through it and I was cursing my bad luck.  Never the less, standing around was achieving nothing.  Even if I  was going to be forced out of the race through injury there was no chance of being collected by the marshall in the middle of a wood.  We had only one choice, keep going.

Limping forward at a slow walk I was in considerable pain, but I have had twisted ankles many times playing football and knew that you could sometimes walk it off.  After a minute of walking I sped up into a very slow jog, but each step was genuine agony.  Mark turned to me and said “there is no way you are quitting.  I will carry you over the line if I have to, but we are finishing this” and I absolutely agreed with him.  There was not a single thought in my mind about stopping.  I am an Ironman for god sakes.  If I can complete one of the hardest races in the world, I can definitely run 8 or so miles on a twisted ankle.

Slowly speeding up we continued forward.  After a mile or so more Mark confessed in me that he was struggling with his left knee, so we were hardly fighting fit but we kept on going.  For me, downhills were absolute agony.  For Mark, it was the opposite.  He was OK going down but struggled up the hills.  As this course was almost 100% hills we were making slow progress, but we were still moving forwards.


Enjoying the run

Despite my ankle pain and Mark struggling with his knee, we were enjoying the run.  The scenery was breathtaking at times and the course so varied that you never knew what was round the corner.  Hills so steep you were on all fours to get up them, then down the other side grabbing trees and shrubs to slow your descent, the race was brilliant.  We knew we had both the Hills of Hell and the Bog of Doom to come, but to be honest soaking my ankle in a freezing cold bog seemed like a great option to me.

Soon we arrived at the first bog, which is not the Bog of Doom but might as well have been.  Entering into it, the silt was incredibly deep, the water absolutely freezing and there were sunken logs to get your feet stuck under.  Wading through it was not easy, but together Mark and I made our way through.  I thought I had lost Mark at one point as he almost submerged beneath the murky down brown water, but he recovered, I pulled him up and we went on.


Mark just recovering and avoiding a full dunking



Out of the first bog

Soon we emerged out of the first bog together and on we went.  It was very cold, and the bog had really taken it out of Mark who actually seemed out of breath for the first time in the race.  In fact, I think this is the first time I have ever seem Mark out of breath.  He really is super fit, but the bog had taken it’s toll.  Never the less, we had at least 4 miles to go, still had the Hills of Hell and the Bog of Doom and were both carrying injury, so we needed to get on with it.


Devil’s Disco and Hills of Hell

Jogging further on we soon saw a group of cheerleaders dressed all in white and a big tent pumping out dance music.  This was the Devil’s Disco, and as we ran through the tent and grabbed some water and some sort of energy shot I realised we were getting closer to the finish.  Following the tent came a serious downhill, which I really struggled with.  Getting to the bottom my ankle was screaming at me.  I had to take a moment to compose myself.  Surely we didn’t have that much further to go and these Hills of Hell couldn’t be that bad.

Continuing on we climbed more hills and down the other side, ran more single track and just kept on going.  Then we were finally there, the Hills of Hell.  These are essentially a group of extremely steep trails up and down the same couple of hills.  You would slip and slide down one, only to turn 180 degrees on a switchback and go straight back up the same hill on a slightly different trail.  I could tell that Mark was struggling a bit at this point, as every time we got to yet another hill he would say “not another one”.  Luckily I could sense there was an element of comedy in his voice and knew that deep down he was enjoying himself, despite how hard he was finding the race.

Due to my ankle injury slowing me down, I actually felt OK.  Actually I felt good.  I didn’t feel tired or fatigued in any way, just had a very hurty ankle.  I knew how bad my ankle was when we started down a hill and Mark said to me “bloody hell James, your ankle looks terrible”.  I hadn’t been looking at it.  All I could manage in reply was “it feels terrible too”.  We laughed and then carried on.


Bog of Doom and done

Cresting yet another of the Hills of Hell, we were told by the marshall that it was the last one, and all we had left was a quick downhill, the Bog of Doom and we were done.  On we ran and we could see the bog, hear the music pumping out and see the crowd.  Tentatively sliding myself into the bog, I was quickly chest deep in very cold water.  Wading through, I was overtaking people.  Joking with Mark that I had found my forte in cross country, I pushed forward.  Waving at the spectators and high fiving the marshall I felt the usual boost that you do at the end of any race.  Despite having to complete the vast majority of the course on a very dodgy ankle I had done it.

I was delighted for Mark as well, who was clearly suffering with his knee despite not complaining about it.  I knew how much he had been feeling it at the end of the race and was pleased we had made it through together.

Exiting the Bog of Doom we were done.  A quick downhill and then over the line.  It had taken us 2hrs and 30 minutes to cover the 10 miles of the course.  2hrs 30 minutes of hard graft.


Across the line and we were finished the Hellrunner Hell Down South

Collecting my bag and then limping over to Mark’s car we discussed the event and how we felt.  Remarkably I felt absolutely fine.  Other than the ankle, I felt as if I could just turn around and do the whole thing again.  Perhaps I am a bit fitter than I give myself credit for, or just so pig headed that I won’t quit.  Either way it gets results.

2017-01-14-13-00-27Arriving at Mark’s car I had a look at my ankle for the first time and was shocked to see a huge swelling on the ankle bone.  You can hopefully see this in the picture.  Having completed the race the adrenaline was dying down and my ankle was really starting to hurt.

Mark was good enough to drive me back to my car and I drove home.  Consulting with my wife, I decided to visit the hospital in the morning and see what they thought.

Diagnosis has been given that it is a sprained ankle and I should keep off it for 6 weeks. This will seriously dent my training for 2017, but I don’t really care.

I loved the Hellrunner, loved running it with Mark and will definitely be back next year.

Will keep you all updated as to how the recovery goes.




PS – If you enjoy my blog I would really appreciate a comment below.  Alternatively you can follow my blog (using the link towards the top of the left column) or to “like” this entry (using the button below).  This all helps with the Google algorithms which rank blogs, and will have a huge positive effect on my fundraising.



4 reasons why my diet is the missing link to my training.

As any regular blog readers will know, mostly I blog about training, fundraising or write ups from the races I take part in.

Ever since I stated this endurance racing adventure there has always been an elephant in the room.  Lurking in the background has been an inescapable fact that I have chosen to ignore.  Yes you can train hard.  Yes you can train smart.  Yes you can make sure to rest well and sleep 8 hours a night, but if your diet isn’t on point then you are almost certainly letting yourself down.

1)  I am an unhealthy vegan.

vegan-policeLike most people in the Western world, I probably don’t eat the best diet.  Despite going 99% vegan last year (nobody is 100% vegan…………right???), I quickly found a way to eat a fairly unhealthy vegan diet.

Vegan cakes are easy to make.  Chips are always vegan, and so are baked beans, lots of vegetarian sausages, many pies, take away pizza (with no cheese), etc etc.  Also, almost all booze is vegan, and who doesn’t enjoy a bit of booze?

Plus, it is easy to over eat no matter what your diet is like.  Simply, if you consume more calories than you burn up each day you will gain weight.   And gain weight I did.  Over the Christmas period I managed to gain an impressive 16lbs of weight.  8kg in new money.  That’s a lot to gain in 3 weeks off work.

2) Sometimes I run like the wind………other times I just have wind!

I often suffer with stomach cramps when I run.  If I get my diet wrong before I run, or I go for a run too soon after eating I will almost always suffer from a bad stomach.  This is fairly common with runners or endurance athletes; however when I generally eat badly I feel a lot more sluggish when out exercising.  This clearly does nothing to aide my training.

3) You are what you eat

This is an old saying, but is entirely true.  How can you expect to fuel a machine to its maximum performance if you feed it crap.  If you put dodgy petrol in a car then it runs worse.  Perfectly logical.  If you feed yourself on crap food you will perform worse.  Also logical.

4) 5% of the time this works, every time.

Mo Farah celebrates winning the men's 5,000m final at the European Championships in Helsinki in JuneI cannot remember where I read the following statistic, but it has stuck in my ever since I
read it.  For every 5% of weight you lose you gain 5% in athletic performance with no additional training.  In other words, somebody who is as fit as me but weighs 5% less will be 5% faster.  This makes perfect sense.  You don’t see very many overweight people on the podium at triathlons.  Mo Farah doesn’t look like he is carrying a lot of extra baggage around.

Another way to think about it is this.  My “racing weight”, e.g. my ideal weight for maximum athletic performance is around 168lbs (calculate your own racing weight by clicking here).  This is 76kg for you Europeans. Or exactly 12 stone for us good old Brits.

I currently weigh a whopping 206lbs, 93.4kg or 14stone and 10 lbs.  In other words, I am 38lbs (17kg) overweight.

If I was lined up at the start of a marathon and somebody said to me “would you like to carry round this backpack that weighs 38lbs or not”, I think you can all guess what the answer would be.  But that is essentially what I am doing.  Imagine how much quicker I would be, how much easier it would be on my body if I can shed that unnecessary weight.


The moral of the story…..

So the moral of this story is, it is time to sort out my diet, and by proxy my weight.  I am determined to nail this missing link to my training.  I have never paid that close attention before, but this is going to change.  Somehow I feel this might be the most difficult part of any training I have ever done.

Wish me luck




Dodging training never feels good

So I had a ten miler planned for this weekend.  Nothing fast paced, just a gentle 10 miles.  I ran 10 miles on the South Downs last weekend and absolutely loved it, so this weekend it should have been easy to motivate myself to lace up my trainers (or strap on my sandals in my case) and head on out the door.


Yoda never skips training

I just haven’t done it though.  No real reason why.  I couldn’t be bothered.  Even as I write this at 6pm on Sunday night I could still go out, but instead I have decided to drink a glass of port and write this blog post.

Some might think this is the fine art of procrastination at it’s finest.  And some would probably be right. Delaying what you need to do until the last minute and always finding other stuff to fill your time.  One of my favourite websites, waitbutwhy.com, wrote an excellent article about procrastination and it sums me up perfectly.  Check it out here.  Why Procrastinators Procrastinate.

Never the less I have done a bit of useful stuff with my time this weekend.  I have switched my blog over from being hosted on Blogger to being hosted by WordPress, and I absolutely love the new platform.  I am still finding my way around many of the features, but am pleased with the new layout.  Let me know with a comment if you like the change.

So all in all I don’t feel very good about dodging my training this weekend, but c’est la vie.  I can always catch it up tomorrow and generally speaking I feel fairly fit at the moment so am not that worried.  Spoken like a true procrastinator. 🙂

Have almost finished my glass of port now and am feeling increasingly confident that I will definitely get up early in the morning and go running.  This is fairly common after a drink, and will most likely pass soon.

Anyway that is really all I have to say for myself.  Thought I would do a quick update as I managed to get the blog moved over to see how it works, and with no training done and nothing of interest to report I will leave you all to your own devices.






Next years events are starting to take shape

I am currently in limbo.  Like most of the country who have time off work between Christmas and New Year, I am totally clueless as to what day it is, what I am supposed to be doing on any particular day or how many calories I am consuming on a day to day basis.

There has been an enforced break from training lately, partially because I fell over whilst running and badly bruised some ribs and partially because I had a minor operation a couple of weeks ago and was advised not to run or really do anything for a while.

So all in all it is the end of 2016, I haven’t exercised for ages and I am now sitting on my wife new computer (Xmas present) thinking about 2017, my blog, my challenges and what I am going to do about it all.

My UltraMarathon in June

As some of you will already be aware, in 2017/2018 it is my intention to run 13 marathons in 12 months.  Starting with the Brighton Marathon in April, I will run a marathon every month until the following April when I will finish this challenge at Brighton Marathon again.  Also, just for good measure, I have decided to take on a 53 mile UltraMarathon in June.

Motivation for this challenge is 3 fold. Firstly, I am intending on raising money again for the very deserving Chestnut Tree House and thought I would need a fairly sizeable challenge to match up to my Ironman in 2015.  Secondly, running has always been my weakest link in triathlon, so why not get rid of those demons by running my way through an entire year?  And lastly (or thirdly if you prefer) I have realised I am the sort of man who needs a challenge.  Without something big to aim for, I just don’t really bother to train.  I still do a bit, but not as much as I should and I need major events looming over me to get my arse off the sofa and into some lycra!

It is a bit of a shame for me that I am this sort of person.  Why can I just not be internally motivated to exercise regularly?  Why do I need the threat of a major event?  Why can I not just be happy running a Parkrun on a Saturday morning and going to the gym like everybody else?

I do not know the answer to these questions, but what I do know is that trying to run a marathon every month for 13 months is a very different challenge to the Ironman, and one that should not be taken lightly.

Me at the end of Christmas

Speaking of lightly, there is one more thing that I need to conquer in 2017, and that is weight management.  Even during the peak of my Ironman training I never got my weight down.  I have hovered around the 90kg mark (14 ish stone for those of us who still use old money) and no matter how much I run, cycle or swim it never goes down.  This is cause I mostly eat what I want almost all of the time.  Losing weight is 90% diet and the rest down to exercise.  Usually I wouldn’t give a monkeys about weight, but it is so important in running and being as light as possible will help me hugely to stay injury free and recover fast.  Ignoring weight and just carrying on regardless is accomplishing nothing.

So that is the plan for 2017/2018.  My events list has been updated on the tab above if you want to take a look at what events I will be doing when, but essentially it is run run run.

I am determined to keep this blog up to date for 2017 and am also going to have a bash at a vlog or two.  I know, exciting stuff isn’t it.  I am sure you are all right on the edge of your seat.

Anyway faithful readers, that is it for now.  I am up in the morning for a naked 5 miler with the Portsmouth Triathletes (not quite what you think) and assuming I survive will be back soon with a bit more information about next years challenge.



13 in 12 – the journey continues

Hello all,

It’s been rather a long time since my last blog update.  In all honesty, I’ve been busy and haven’t been competing at all so there has been little to blog about.  That is until now.

Over the last few months I have been contemplating what to do for my next fundraising challenge.  The Ironman, which was now over a year ago, was a big deal.  No doubt about it, taking myself from couch potato to Ironman was one hell of a journey.  Thanks to the incredible generosity of my friends, family, and some complete strangers we managed to raise enough money to pay for a day at Chestnut Tree House, over £7,300.

This was a while ago now, so it’s time for the next challenge.  “What challenge have you chosen”, I can almost hear you shouting at your screens.  Well as the blog title implies, I have decided to run 13 marathons in 12 months.

Starting at Brighton Marathon 2017, I will complete a marathon every month, ending at Brighton Marathon 2018.  Brighton Marathon is a big event for Chestnut, so it seemed the right place to start and end the challenge.

Beautiful Winchester Cathedral

On top of that, just to make things a little more difficult, I have decided to throw a 55 mile Ultramarathon into the mix.  This will be in June 2017.  I have chosen the Race to the King.  I will be competing in the 1 day option at this race, quite literally running 55 miles non stop.  The race takes place across the South Downs, from near Arundel to Winchester Cathedral.  It is going to be hilly.  VERY hilly.

So that’s the challenge.  Simple really.  12 marathons at 26.2 miles each plus a 55 mile Ultra equals 369.4 miles of running if I just account for the racing.  Obviously there will be miles and miles of training too, so it is likely that I will probably run around 1500 miles throughout this challenge.  To put this into perspective, that is from London to Moscow.

As any of you who have regularly followed my blog will know, running is by far my weakest discipline when it comes to triathlon.  This is why I have chosen this challenge.  If I am ever going to become a better triathlete I have to get my running times down.  13 marathons in 12 months should help me to do that!

I also wanted to do something big.  Something that would inspire people to donate to the charity that I care so much about.  I feel this challenge is a fairly big one.

Over the next few months I will be altering the blog site and relevant Facebook accounts to reflect this move away from triathlon towards running.  I will still be going out on the bike, though not half as much as before.  I might even go for an occasional swim. But what I will mostly be doing is running.  A LOT of running.

It is also my plan to keep you all up to date as I book up events for this challenge.  So far I have booked the following.

April 2017 – Brighton Marathon
May 2017 – Three Forts Challenge – a 27 mile race across the South Downs taking in 3 Iron Age forts (this one is going to hurt).

Nothing else booked yet, as the Race to the King doesn’t open until the end of September.  Just to get me warmed up, I am also racing at Beachy Head Marathon at the end of October (but this was pre-booked and is nothing to do with the challenge).

That is really all I have to say for myself right now.  I will sign off with a few pictures of me running in a snowman costume at the recent Chestnut Tree House Littlehampton 10k.  The two guys you can see next to me (also in fancy dress) are Mark Ward and Dave Chapman.  Both very dedicated Chestnut fundraisers in their own right, and jolly nice chaps to boot.  Both will be with me at the Brighton Marathons, and I am hoping to talk them into one or two of the others.



What alcoholics refer to as "a moment of clarity"

On Saturday evening I arrived home from a long drive back from Sussex, having  been eating food at a BBQ all day.  Well I say food.  Mostly cake.

I was tired out.  I didn’t want to do anything other than sit on the sofa and perhaps enjoy a nice cold beer.  My wife and I had put our girls to bed, and we were all set for a night of doing as little as possible.

As I wandered into our bedroom to change into some trackies a strange thought came over me.  “Why not go for a run…….?”  As soon as it popped into my head it seemed like the obvious thing to do.  I had been eating cake all day, hadn’t done any exercise for almost 2 weeks and a run would do me good.  It appeared that I actually wanted to run.  My brain seemed to be telling me that I would rather go for a run than sit on the sofa and drink beer.

I found myself changing into my running gear in a trance-like state.  Before I knew it I had said goodbye to my wife, had strapped my trusty Luna Sandals to my feet

and was out of the front door, running my regular 7km route.  Despite having a relatively full belly and being hugely dehydrated I was running well.  I wasn’t watching my pace on my running watch, I was just running.  

Reaching the halfway point on the run I decided to take a different route home as I fancied running a bit further than I had planned.  Quietly, in the back of my mind I could hear a voice faintly saying “What the hell is wrong with you Snooky?”.  But there was nothing wrong with me.  I was just running.  Running for fun.  And I was enjoying myself.

Now obviously I have enjoyed running in the past, but Saturday seemed to be different.  I just felt good running.  Comfortable.  Like it wasn’t an effort anymore.

Continuing on (and getting a bit lost) I eventually found a road I recognised and headed home.  I had run almost 11km at an average speed of 6min/km.  That used to be close to my maximum speed.  Now it appears it is just my normal running speed.

This change in me, this love of running, I really hope it is here to stay.



Arundel Castle Triathlon – Olympic Distance

It’s 3am…….yes that’s right, 3am on Sunday 26th June.  My alarm has just gone off.  This can only mean one thing.  Time for the Arundel Castle Triathlon.

As regular blog readers will know, triathlon involves a lot of getting up early in the morning.  I have complained vociferously about this in the past; however on this occasion I didn’t mind getting up early.  It has been over 9 months since I last competed in a triathlon and I was keen to dust off the cobwebs and get out on the course.

Breaking with tradition, I had actually packed up my gear and put it all in the car the night before, so a quick breakfast and it was out the door and on the way to Arundel.

In 2015 and 2014 I competed in the Arundel Lido Triathlon, which is a pool swim of 800m, then a 40k bike and a 10k run.  Having not enjoyed the pool element of the swim, I was pleased that the same organisers also run Arundel Castle Triathlon, which is a river swim of 1500m, a 40k bike and then a 10k run.

The bike course is different from Arundel Lido.  Flatter and faster.  The run is still super hilly, although rather than undulating hills it is one big drag uphill and then a fast downhill after, although you do this twice as it is two 5k laps.  As for the swim, this is in the river Arun, one of the fastest flowing rivers in the country.  The fast flowing nature of the river is the reason we had to start so early.  The triathlon kicked of at 5:15am, which was “slack water”.  In other words, there would be little to no flow at that point, as the river is tidal.

Arriving in Arundel I parked in transition and quickly got my stuff organised.  I spotted Curry on the way in, and also quickly met up with Dempo, who were both competing with me at this event.  Curry is a Grazing Saddles teammate, but this would be the first ever triathlon for Dempo.

Fielding a whole bunch of “rookie” questions from Dempo, such as “which part of the bike is the front” and “is it OK to swim backstroke”, we were all into our wetsuits and then off to the rivers edge.

This is Dempo

Dempo was swimming in the first wave, due to the fact that he is actually part fish.  Have you seen that film Waterworld?  Well if you have, then that is Dempo.  He has competed in numerous endurance open water swims and his place in the fastest wave of swimmers was well deserved.

Curry and I were swimming in the second wave, so as soon as the first had gone off we were into the water and strategically made our way to the back of the bunch.  I had completed a grand total of 1 swim training session in the preceding 9 months, so was not too confident of a good swim time. 

We had been warned that there was a lot of “debris” in the river, such as seaweed, bits of floating wood etc so as soon as the klaxon sounded and the thrashing upstream began, we quickly swam into a good old bunch of seaweed.

Unfortunately this slowed down those in front, and I found myself swimming into the back of a lot of people.  I probably should have started a bit closer to the front of the pack, but in all honesty I wasn’t bothered.  The group soon thinned out and I was into a rhythm, swimming as fast as I dared on the back of almost no training.  

The floating seaweed rafts continued as we went upriver.  It seemed like forever to get up to the buoy, turn around, and head back to the swim start where we would exit.  As soon as we turned downstream I realised why.  Whilst this was supposed to be “slack water”, there was still a bit of current and it was a joy to swim back to the start with this helping me.

Exiting the water post swim

Hauling myself out of the water it was a quick jog into transition to jump onto the bike.  I had managed the swim in around 34 minutes, which is way off pace for 1500m, but as I had done almost no swim training I couldn’t really complain.

Just out of T1.  Feet still not in shoes!

Entering transition my triathlon pedigree showed through, as in less than a minute I was out of my wetsuit, helmet on and jogging towards the bike mount area.  As soon as I reached this, I jumped on my bike and started pedaling away.  My shoes were already clipped into my pedals so it was just a simple task of slipping my feet into the shoes and off I went.  Well I say simple task.  Due to the shoes deciding to velcro themselves shut it took me about 2 minutes of messing about at a very slow speed to actually get my feet in.  So much for a speedy transition.

Due to all this messing about Curry slid past me on the bike, with a hearty “come on Snooky”.  I thought he was probably in front of me after the swim but it was good to see him as we cycled out of Arundel and up our first little hill towards Crossbush.  I was determined to put in a good bike time so as Curry started to slow up the hill I overtook him and concentrated on a good strong start to the bike leg.

As the bike leg continued onwards I felt good.  My legs felt powerful, my heart rate was in check and I was overtaking quite a few people.  This was a new experience for me, as usually I am the one being overtaken.  My main aim was to try and keep a steady pace and leave enough in the tank for what I knew was a hilly run.  

On top of a hill, with people actually behind me!

During any bike leg of a triathlon, when things are going well my mind always wanders.  On the same day as my triathlon, my friend Mick was competing in his first Ironman event in Bucklers Hard.  I was thinking of him, and his extremely long, tough day ahead.  At the same time I was remembering my Ironman, how it felt and the elation of crossing the line.  Triathlon is a strange world.  Unless you have done one it is very hard to explain, but you feel a connection with every triathlete worldwide.  I was wishing Mick every luck as I sped through the Sussex countryside.

As the kilometres clicked by I made sure to keep hydrated and took on board a couple of energy gels to make sure I had a bit in the tank for the run.  In just over 1hr 20 minutes the 40k was up and I was back off the bike running into transition for the second and final time.  Again I managed a super fast transition, and in less than a minute I was running out of the transition area and off on a 2 lap 5k run around Swanbourne lake.  

Yes that’s right, I run in sandals

I knew this run would have one very sizeable hill in it, but only when I got to the hill for the first time did I appreciate its relentless nature.  Running is not my strong point, and my legs felt a bit crampy as I started to climb the very steep hill.  I was determined not to walk, but inevitably my pace slowed and I was overtaken.  I managed to keep up a slow jog and made it to the top of the hill on lap 1.  It was at this point, about 15 minutes into my run that I started to feel really good.  I knew I had a long downhill before making my way round the lake for lap 2.  Upping my cadence (steps per minute for the uninitiated) I flew down the hill for the first time and overtook somebody.  Yes readers, that’s right, I actually overtook somebody on the run leg of a triathlon.

This was the first ever time this has happened, and to say I was pleased was an understatement.  I knew I would be at least 55 minutes on my 10k, which is hardly Mo Farah pace, but to overtake somebody was sublime.  Most importantly I still felt good, so made the conscious decision to up my pace for the second lap.  This increase in pace felt OK, so as I got to the hill for the second time I powered my way up and felt much stronger than the first lap.  Throwing everything into it I flew down the hill into Arundel, then ran the final kilometre of the run in under 5 minutes (good pace for me) and was absolutely delighted to cross the finish line in 2:57:50, under 3 hours and almost 30 minutes faster than my previous Olympic Distance best.

Needless to say I was more than pleased.  Dempo was finished well before me (no huge surprise there) and Curry crossed the line shortly after I did.  I also bumped into an old friend from a previous job, who had finished in the top 20.  Superb result Andrew!

Almost over the line

So all in all a good day of competing.  Not bad for an old man who had only done 5 weeks training.  Having had a chance to reflect on this triathlon it is now clear to me that I must be fairly fit.  For those of you who have read my blog from the start, you will be aware what a great feeling this is for me.  I went through injury, self-doubt and sheer panic as I blundered my way towards Challenge Weymouth last year.  9 months on from that my fitness has stayed with me enough to be able to do a sub 3 hour Olympic Distance triathlon on very little training.  To say I am chuffed would be about right. 

Spurred on by this success, I have booked a half Ironman in September.  Only 11 weeks to go till that event, so as soon as this is published it is time to write a training plan.I’m really looking forward to the race and hopefully beating my previous half Ironman best time.