I had a scare this morning, looking at the calendar it seems as if time has flown by. Just 23 days to go until Ironman 70.3 Weymouth. A 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile Bike and finally a half marathon. On the face of it none of those sound too bad – until you put them together and realise quite what a mammoth undertaking such an event is going to be. Six months ago it seemed very easy, signing up online as I’ve done hundreds of times before. Now the reality the challenge has truly dawned, I’m trying to forget that it’s only half the distance of my long term goal event, a full Ironman.

I’ve decided to change my approach to training, endless number crunching had sucked all the joy out of this new sport before I’d really had a chance to get into the swing of it. For these next three weeks I’ll train primarily on feel, at the end of the day it either hurts or it doesn’t – that age old measure of intensity still has plenty of merit. Already I’m finding the process far more enjoyable; running on undulating trails rather than boring roads, finding more time to enjoy the social side of cycling and not being overly fussed if my average swim pace was slower than that of the last session.

I was lucky to meet some fellow triathletes on the recent LEJOG ride. One of the most useful pieces of advice I was given was to get some experience of open water swimming before the big day. So it was that yesterday evening a group of us travelled down to Weymouth (a local seaside town for anyone who doesn’t know) to complete an Aquathlon. Again it sounds easy, a 1km swim followed by a 5km run.

Before even setting off I encountered the first hurdle – putting on my wetsuit. Even tougher than a TT skinsuit, without a liberal application of vaseline I would have lost the battle to get the damn thing over my shoulders. It was gently pointed out that I had managed to put it on back to front, shattering any misconceptions my peers might have had about my experience in Triathlon.

The water wasn’t exactly inviting, far from the clear, blue, warm seas you get on holiday. Instead it was classic UK, virtually opaque and rather choppy. Not wanting to spend any more time worrying about it I took a deep breath and went in to warm up, my wetsuit thankfully did it’s job, leaving hypothermia to tick off the list of potential hazards. After a few minutes it was time to go to the startline. I’m sure many of my fellow competitors were considerably more experienced, once again I was the newbie with a great deal to learn.

Anyway, the whistle went and the race got underway. I couldn’t help but have a small laugh to myself, all these people in neoprene wetsuits running into the cold water – it reminded me of one of those David Attenborough nature documentaries about Penguins, I could practically overhear the narration. It’s a totally different experience to a pool swim; people frantically jostling for position, battling through waves and grappling with a tricky wind direction. I was struck by how difficult it was to see the buoys we were using as course markers.

Once the initial shock had passed I began to get the hang of it, sighting every 12 strokes and following the swimmer ahead who happened to be wearing a conveniently bright coloured cap. Upon coming out of the water I experienced a sense of accomplishment and relief.  Another experience to remove from the bucket list.

Next came something I’ll never live down. I made my way to the transition area, quickly locating my towel and running shoes. You would think getting out of a wetsuit would be a relatively simple task, oh how wrong I was. Once I’d managed to unzip the thing I was puzzled as to why it wouldn’t budge, caught up in the racing atmosphere (this is my excuse for not thinking straight). After a couple of minutes had passed somebody kindly pointed out to me that the velcro toggle at the back was still done up. Had I not found it within myself to laugh at that point I may well have cried.

It was at that point that I decided to call it a day, any chance of placing well had long since faded. I would love to say that I felt guilty whilst tucking into a generous portion of fish and chips and watching the runners come in. Honestly I didn’t, a big part of me is of the opinion that there is no better way to spend a summer evening than eating by the sea, the darkness slowly creeping in. If all goes well I’ll go down again next week and actually finish the thing.

People say that Ironman training is a journey like no other. Having initially been sceptical of what seemed like an overly romanticised description I’m now beginning to understand what they mean. Even in training for a half distance event I’ve had to learn many new skills, pushing the boundaries of my sporting comfort zone. Juggling three sports has proved to be an immense challenge but one that I can’t quite seem to escape from, I can honestly say that going back to pure cycling would seem like an opt-out. Onwards and upwards.

Thanks for reading.

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