Stage 2 of the #MarathonEtapeMudderIronmanUltraChallenge complete!

This weekend was the Etape Caledonia, a 130km closed road cycling race starting and finishing in the town of Pitlochry in Perth and Ross about an hour or so’s drive North of Edinburgh.

I was racing with Tom Duncan (@blackeef_tom) whose eldest son is class-mates with mine. We flew up on the Saturday morning in order to register for the race and rebuild the bikes given we had an early 6:56am start time. We got to our B&B in Aberfeldy (where we had the very exciting Jacuzzi room – see photo below) by about 4pm having registered, so decided to put the bikes together and head out for a ride to make sure we hadn’t screwed anything up.

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The bikes were put back together, having spent the flight in pieces in a hard bike box rented from Swift Cycles.

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Then we set off heading out on part of the bike course but heading the wrong way round. A trip through Kenmore, Coshieville and then up the biggest descent of the race to Keltney Burn which is roughly the highest point of the course.

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Immediately after that picture was taken, the heavens opened and we descended back down the way we had come on slick roads at high speed shivering from the cold. Turned out to be very useful the next day.

A quick (separate) jacuzzi, a three and a half course meal with half a bottle of red wine each and we were ready for bed. It turned out our plan to rise at 5:30am was optimistic. The race is a rolling start with waves heading off every 2 minutes. We arrived in time to join wave U (rather than the planned wave N) about twenty minutes late which meant we were amongst riders who thought they were going to be slower than we thought we were going to be.

Course Map

The first 20 miles was very undulating with a number of short sharp hills which helped warm up the 6-7 degree Celsius grey Scottish morning. After that it was fairly flat around the loch until we reached the King of the Mountains climb at about 45 miles. Tom set off hard dropping me as we toiled up the hill, but despite this we were both feeling pretty good. A second feed station stop took too long and we restarted very cold.

We then had to scale the biggest climb of the day up to where we took our photo opportunity the day before. The climbing was really enjoyable and the positive of having arrived late at the start was that in general we were passing people. We formed brief alliances with other riders forming trains to share the workload of pushing into the wind and in general were enjoying ourselves. Then, as it had the day before, the heavens opened for the descent. Having done it before was definitely helpful.

But once at the bottom we had a long period of gradual incline. It was cold and wet and I was starting to feel knackered. I think I had left too big a gap between feeding and suddenly my morale dropped badly. I was falling off the back of Tom and pedalling squares. This was about 85-90km in and it also struck me that this was just the halfway point of the ride for the Ironman. I took a Cliff Shot (like a super concentrated jelly square), a gel and drained a bottle of water. Five minutes later I was starting to feel better. A good lesson in proper regular nutrition and the need to be mentally strong when it starts feeling bad – the phase will always pass.

The fact that the rain had stopped and we were now on a downhill, back on the road we had taken the day before to Abafeldy also helped. Suddenly I was at the front of the train pushing out 35-40 kmph speeds and feeling great again. The other thing that our ride the day before had told us was that at about 20km to go the road kicked up hard after a sharp left turn. So we were ready for it, downshifting into the right gear and sailing past those cyclists who were taken by surprise. The final 5 km was great. Tom pushed off ahead of me, showing up the fact I’d done precious few miles on the bike and we came in at about 4 hours 38 and 39 respectively or more like 4:15 of actual riding time ex the feed stops.

The concept of doing that and then another 50km and then running a marathon is totally beyond me at the moment. I have two and a half months to get there.

Our post race isotonic rehydration plan involved Glencoe Wild Oat Stout and Mild Mayhem. Not sure if that worked particularly well!

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Stage 1 of the #MarathonEtapeMudderIronmanUltraChallenge complete!

Stage 1 of the challenge complete! I successfully navigated all 42.2km of the London Marathon, my first ever full distance and lived to tell the tale. It has taken a couple of weeks to get this written up and now I’m only two days from Stage two with a flight up to Edinburgh tomorrow morning ahead of Etape Caledonia kicking off at the rather exact time of 6:56am Sunday morning.

As stated before my training for the marathon had not been quite what I had wanted it to be for one reason or another and I went into the event with niggling injuries on both feet. One a slightly strained Posterior Tibial tendon on the left foot as a result of a much less stable left foot and ankle combined with ramping the distance up too quickly post a slight snowball-fight-related back strain in January. The post tib provides support to the arch of the foot running up from the underside of the foot into the inside of the ankle and is one of the many parts of the foot that gets a rude awakening when you throw off very built up supported running shoes.

The second injury is a little more mysterious. I have a raised bruised area in the middle of the top of my right foot. The area hurts if pressed or if the foot is extended right over, for example if you kneel and stretch your feet out behind you. Also when pressed it causes a strange fizzing and crackling sensation down the big toe. Odd and very painful when in the wrong position nevertheless it doesn’t appear to impede or be exacerbated by running.

The day itself dawned bright and clear in sharp contrast to the preceding weeks of monotonous cold and grey. I have to admit I felt very nervous. I had a couple of 20 and 23 milers under my belt and had tapered appropriately but there is always a sense of apprehension when doing something for the first time.

I breakfasted well including the now traditional large glass of Iskiate (Chia seeds with lime juice, sugar and water).

Living just a five minute walk from Greenwich Park meant I didn’t have an early start and could watch some of the pre-race coverage on TV plus the start of the women’s elite race at 9am. That didn’t really help settle the nervous feeling. But it did mean I could saunter down to the park at 9:30 and not get too cold before the start.

The 30 second silence for the Boston bombing was impeccably observed and very moving. Fears about the race completely dissipated. The cheers and particularly the sustained and decorous clapping following the end of the period of remembrance got the adrenaline flowing and then we were off.

My overwhelming memory of the first 10k was the buzz of seeing my family in the first mile and then of the need to control my pace. I had decided to try to sustain 5 minute 20 second kilometres (3 hour 45 minute pace) and the difficulty initially was not going too fast. Every time I moved to the edge of the road easing through Charlton out East, the outstretched hands of the watching children inviting series of high fives, my pace would pick up to sub 5 minute kilometres and I had to concentrate on slowing the pace down. My main focus was on trying to run as economically as possible to conserve energy.

We turned at Woolwich and headed back through Greenwich and towards town. The section through Rotherhithe were roads I didn’t know and seemed to take forever, but the one consistent thing were the incredible crowds. The whole thing was one huge constant corridor of noise and the buzz from having your name called out every few seconds was unreal.

Then we were back into more familiar territory and over Tower Bridge meaning the halfway point was approaching. I felt good and had been very consistent in pace, though a little quicker than planned. Each kilometre my watch buzzed and gave me my split and as with previous races I kept a running mental total of how many cumulative seconds I had built up under my target pace. So if I ran a 5:11 km then 9 seconds were added on to the total. By this point I was up to about 180 so a little over 10 seconds per kilometre faster than target.

Coming along The Highway heading East on the North side of the river there is a stretch where you run alongside the course coming back from Canary Wharf heading for Westminster. The main Elite men had already gone through (this was about one hour 45 gone) but there were a few clearly class athletes coming past and then came Richard Whitehead, the British World and Olympic Champion blade runner. All of us on other side clapped as he came past. He was simply awe-inspiring and I have to admit choking back a tear (not helpful to controlled running!).

Coming into the wharf I was pushed on by the knowledge that my wife had single-handedly corralled our children there and planned to be outside my old office on Bank St. And there they were. For the first and last time in the race I stopped (albeit for only 1 second) to give them a hug and then I was off again.

The toughest section mentally for me was coming back across East London to join back onto The Highway heading West. I was starting to feel tired now and this stretch seemed to go on for ever. My splits were inexorably slowing kilometre by kilometre and so despite reaching Tower Bridge and being back onto very familiar roads (I used to run Blackfriars to Westminster Bridges at school) it was starting to be really, really hard. I guess almost more mental than physical. There was no “hitting the wall”. It was more insidious and unavoidable than that. Again the crowds getting deeper and deeper were incredibly uplifting. It was as if they could spot that I was starting to struggle as the frequency with which my name was called out rose (apart from one section when evidently I was running along with “Charlie’s Dad” – boy did he get all the attention!). Approaching Westminster I started to be concerned that I was maybe going to blow the four hour mark given the extent by which my splits had increased (now in 6:30 territory). Some furious attempted mental arithmetic later I just decided the only thing for it was to throw everything I had left at it, rallying for what felt like a sprint up the back half of Birdcage Walk and onto The Mall (I’m not sure it really was).

And so I finished in three hours and fifty-seven minutes. Very happy with that.

Celebrity count: 2 (Branson at the finish, and passing Sian Lloyd at mile 3 or 4).

Getting home was hilarious. Walking up the hill to home from the station my two year old was literally dragging me up the hill. However I was amazed at how quickly I recovered. A hot bath and then the application of a bag of frozen vegetables to feet and legs seemed to work magic.

Since the marathon I’ve done little and am woefully underprepared for the Etape. Evoking the quote used in the title of this blog (“Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds”, Louis Helle) I will just have to wing it.

Final few days…

The marathon is now just 4 days away. It still feels a bit unreal although I’m heading up to the Excel Centre to register at the moment. Maybe that will make it feel properly imminent.

The last couple of months of training have been a bit up and down. I rushed back from a back injury to compete at a very wet Reading half marathon and in doing so partially strained a ligament in my left foot which has meant more measured rest between training sessions.

But I pushed up the distance regardless, maxing at a 23-miler from Blackheath up to Walthamstow Marshes a couple of weeks back in 3 and a 1/2 hours. My pace had been a nice 5 to 5:30 minute kilometre until the last 4 or 5 kilometres when the wheels started to come off a bit – I think this is what they refer to as “The Wall”. I suspect I will become fully acquainted on Sunday.

I also picked up a bit of a mystery injury on the top of my right foot. It doesn’t seem to impact running (I had it prior to the long run above). But it is very painful in certain positions, eg when kneeling down to change a nappy!

Properly tapering now and I’ve started to send out the fund-raising emails (email server issues aside) so there is no backing out now!

UPDATE: Have number, will race. Just registered and, yes, that’s done it. Properly petrified!

Please sponsor me here.

The 2013 Challenge – 467.5km of fun

pain

Flattering picture isn’t it?

That was taken in the last few kilometres of the 10k run in the London triathlon last year. It was the final event of four that I did over the course of one month as a Triathlon: Deconstructed and Reconstructed to raise money for LAM Action. And you lovely people helped me raise almost £10,000 including gift aid.

So this year to keep your interest (and generosity) clearly I have to up the ante.

The four events last year saw me cover 99.3km of swimming, riding and running in a little under 6 hours cumulatively.

This year, while I am spacing the events out over a longer time period, I will be taking on five events and attempting to cover 467.5km in something like 30 hours cumulatively. In the year of the 40th anniversary of my birth, I don’t do this due to a modern Lycra-clad midlife crisis (bonus points for those that recognise my fundraising page title!), but because the charity I am raising money for is very close to me.

LAM Action raises funds to support medical research into the rare lung disease Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (understandably shortened to LAM!). Given the rarity of the disease (around 100 patients in the whole of the UK) it doesn’t attract any central funding and so research is entirely dependent on charity. The disease itself is a degenerative lung condition that almost exclusively impacts women, usually in the mid-20s to mid-30s age range. It kills most within 10 years by slowly robbing the individual of the ability to transfer oxygen from the air into the bloodstream by destroying the internal surface of the lungs, and so increasingly putting stress on the cardio-vascular system. The only cure is a full lung transplant.

My mother is one of the rare lucky ones. We think she first contracted LAM in the mid 80s and recently we celebrated her 70th birthday. Quite how she has lived with LAM for the best part of 30 years they aren’t really sure, but it has a very real impact on her quality of life. The funds raised will go towards supporting a research position at Nottingham University to extend research into the condition.

The Events

  • Sunday 21st April – The London Marathon, 42.2km run

When I had a slight reoccurrence of my back problem earlier this year, my back specialist told me that my marathon-ing days should be over. I had to explain to him that they hadn’t yet begun. This will be my first ever marathon distance. I had sworn I would never do one of these and then I found myself securing a place as a training event for what was to come…

  • Sunday 12th May – Etape Caledonia, Pitlochry, Scotland, 130km ride

By May it is far too warm to cycle seriously in the South of the UK so I head North with Tom Duncan and Derk Ohler in search of cooler climes and climbs.

  • Saturday 8th June 2013 – London South Tough Mudder, Winchester, UK, 19.3km run/climb/electroshocktherapy

We enter as Team Entourage (no I haven’t watched it). Apparently I am E. is that a good thing? Mark Howden is team leader and essentially we will all be carried around by him as he claims he will be in fighting shape by June. This is a mad event. A 12 mile run, but there are water cannon, and walls, and monkey bars, and electrified wires. Oh and mud. Lots and lots of mud.

  • Sunday 28th July 2013 – Ironman Zurich – Zurich, Switzerland, 3.8km swim, 180km ride, 42.2km run

I didn’t think that doing my first ever marathon immediately after completing an hour plus swim in Lake Zurich and a 6-7 hour cycle over Switzerland’s notoriously flat countryside would be a good idea, hence signing up to London. On second thoughts perhaps naivety and blind optimism would have been a better plan.

  • Sunday 6th October 2013 – Royal Parks Ultra – London, UK, 50km run

After having hopefully notched up my first two marathon distances I thought I would round off the challenge with my first Ultra. A short Ultra by proper ultra running standards the Royal Parks covers 30 miles starting in Green Park and meandering its way down the Thames via many of London’s other parks finishing in Bushey Park near to where I first lived as a child in Teddington.

Please be generous. You can sponsor here.

Many thanks, Rufus

The last six months of running

I am guilty of not having updated this blog in the last six months, but I am not guilty of not running. Having signed up for the London Marathon through LAM Action as well as Ironman Zurich I decided to spend the winter focused on getting used to running greater distance. The bike distance and the swim don’t phase me as much. They are a long way but I’ve done similar in the past, however running that far is a whole new ball game.

Strava tells me I have covered 740km in 58 runs since the London Triathlon at the end of last September.  I have raced three times over half-marathon distance and had four weeks out with a back injury. My half-marathon PB has come down to 1:36:37.

So these are the stats. But more important has been the continued development of my approach to running. I bought a book (Barefoot Running – Step By Step, by Ken Bob Saxton, a bearded barefoot IT techie from California). The book could alternately have been called “If your name is Rufus and you read Born To Run, then bought some Vibram’s and now your feet hurt you should read this”. This is a book about how to run, i.e. technique. Reading it felt like a bit of a revelation.  As someone who has had bad back issues (a prolapsed L5S1 disk in 2010) I have been naturally focused on how to reduce the amount of impact running up through my lower limbs and into my spine. This book is all about how to run with low impact. Bent knees, fore/mid foot striking, high cadence, short strides. It made a huge amount of sense.

My first race after reading it was Run To The Beat in Greenwich. I almost didn’t race having had a grim cold in the two weeks leading up to it. In the end I did but resolved to take it easy and just focus on technique. So I ran thinking through Ken Bob’s 10 steps as I went.

1. Upright head

2. Upright relaxed torso

3. Relaxed shoulders

4. Relaxed high cadence arms

5. Relaxed hips rotating to keep feet landing under the centre of gravity

6. Bent knees through the stride

7. Relaxed springy calves

8. High cadence light feet, lifting early and often

9. Landing on the ball of the feet with toes and heel touching down shortly after

10. Lead with the hips and torso ‘falling’ forward into each step

Maybe it was the lay off from training due to the cold I’d had but I felt great. 15km in I realised a) I still felt really fresh and b) I was well under my PB pace. I was able to lift the pace over the last 6km (the fastest of the race) and ended taking six minutes off my PB. A great lesson in the importance of technique.

After that race I began to up the number of longer training runs, starting to regularly run a 20km distance into work once a week. I maxed at just over 30km up around the canals from Limehouse basin up to Hackney Marshes and back to Greenwich – running distance in the centre of London while barely running alongside a road. For the first time in my life I was really enjoying the zone out of distance.

During this period I shaved another half minute off my PB on a relatively tough course at Bedford on a cold and windy day.

Then came the bump in the road. A combination of increasingly long hours and stress at work, with Christmas and then a bout of flu meant the volume of training came off and as so often seems to happen when you let off a bit, the injury arrived. At the end of a snowy day when we had built snowmen, snow tanks (don’t ask!) and thrown a lot of snowballs, my back went. Fearing the worst I immediately went to see the back doctor who had treated me in 2010. Mr Bassi advised me that I most likely had a minor tear to a disk – probably the same one. Had I been running he asked. Erm, yes, three half marathons in the last few months. My marathons days he advised should be over.  They haven’t started I protested. By this point I had secured a place at London which is to be my first ever marathon as part of my training for the Zurich Ironman and had also taken a place at the Royal Parks Ultra 30 miler in October. But barefoot running I protested. He was sceptical…

I have resolved to try to get through my race schedule for the year and then see how I feel. With an ultra and an Ironman under my belt maybe then I will cede that my back won’t allow me to be a distance runner any longer and I will focus on shorter sprint triathlons and perhaps take up something new (Cyclocross looks very appealing).

After an enforced four week layoff of cycling only I then had only three weeks to get back up to speed for the Reading half-marathon which I was doing with other members of the Barry Porter Run Club (the group I do Wednesday lunchtime interval sessions with). In trying to up the distance too quickly I strained the posterior tibial tendon on my left foot, but in the end despite soaking conditions got round in a better than expected 1:39. Most pleasing was one of our group saying to me at the finish that I had passed him and he’d been struck by how economical my running was. I couldn’t have had a better compliment.

The London Triathlon

So it is done. I am still feeling tired and a bit drained today as I write, 36 hours after the London Triathlon, but also immensely satisfied. Not least with the more than £9,000 now raised for LAM Action from all you generous people. Thank you so much, from me and from the 100+ LAM Ladies of the UK.

I had baked in a free weekend between the 3rd and the 4th events of The Challenge precisely because this is one that I had done before and so it was less about completing something unknown and more about racing against a younger version of me. This was to be my 5th Olympic distance triathlon, all done at the London event, the first 7 years ago with 2007 missed through illness and 2010 and 2011 out with a back problem. Those first four had each got progressively quicker and so my rather vain concern was whether I could keep that trend going after a three year hiatus.

In the run up I had been concerned with a few niggling injuries – a tight calf last weekend which then moved up to be a tight hamstring midweek, and (separately) a stiff neck towards the end of the week. The weather forecast for Sunday had also progressively worsened from a forecast fine and sunny day to (correctly as it turned out) forecast downpours as we got closer to the weekend.

The one thing that had been pointing in the right direction was my bike. A final tune up at the excellent Pretorius Bikes in Shoreditch had left the bike humming when taken for a final 100km ride out on the Wednesday before – I was, at least, the best equipped I’d ever been for a triathlon.

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I must say a thank you to Lam Action, David Mercer and a nice man whose name I don’t know who runs a sports shop in Cheam and whose wife sits on the Lam board. They combined to have a nicely day glow vest printed up and sent over to race in. It perfectly matched my equally day glow new trainers!

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An early start on Sunday morning started with the now traditional banana and a glass of Mexican Iskiate (a Mexican Indian energy drink made with chia seeds – see my Thoughts on Running post for more) and I was out of the house by 7am to go and register and rack the bike at the Excel centre in East London. You find yourself standing there staring at the various things you have laid out around your bike in transition (helmet, racebelt with number, socks, running shoes, energy bars etc) mentally going through the steps you are going to take when coming into the two separate transitions between the disciplines to make it as smooth as possible and being paranoid that you have forgotten something critical. I had unfortunately not been able to go out to practice the transition process, so my bike shoes were clipped onto my pedals and hoisted up to various bits of my bike with rubber bands to enable a quick getaway, but I hadn’t practiced the process of actually getting on and off it to minimise the time taken.

There was then a nervous wait for the best part of an hour before 2-300 people in the Men’s Sub 2:30 group began to gather at the swim assembly for the race briefing and de rigeur mass shouting of “Oggy-oggy-oggy” (Oi-Oi-Oi). Just as we were starting to file down the steps to go outside, my family arrived with a much needed hug and set of best wishes. We then went out and into the water before the klaxon set us off eastwards up the dock.

The swim went pretty smoothly, with a lot of focus on proper breathing out which I think had been the cause of my post-race issues at the 4k open water swim 2 weeks earlier. It is a bit hectic given the number of people in the water and you can’t really tell you are in someone’s way until you are swimming over each other, but gradually it thinned out a bit, bunching up again at the two turns. As we approached the final turn I was feeling good and it seemed doing a consistent pace as I started to go past a number of people who were flagging. Everyone funnelled back together for the finish which was a bit of a free for all, but then we were up onto the pontoon, running along while trying to unzip the back of the wetsuit and get it off the top half of our bodies. Then stopping to step out of the bottom half and being thankful that this year I had remembered the spray olive oil to pre-spray myself which made getting out a whole lot easier. A quick cheer from my children was very helpful at this point too.

There is then a long run along the dock, up the stairs and around the transition hall to get to the bike, including trying to orient yourself in the huge hall to find the right bike amongst the many thousands racked there. A quick drink, helmet on, racebelt on and then off running with the bike to the bike start. The unpractised bike mount worked a dream, heading off for the first 500m or so with feet on the shoes rather than in and then getting them in and velcroed up on the move, saving a few more seconds.

From there it was just head down, into the tuck aerodynamic position through the first set of slightly hairy roundabouts and onto the Lower Lea Crossing which has a stronger uphill gradient than you might imagine. Then onto the Aspen Way over the top of Canary Wharf and into the Limehouse Link tunnel where you can get up some proper 45-50 kmph speeds. The promised rain had so far held off and although there was a bit of wind it wasn’t too bad. The aero bike was coming into its own, I was remembering to feed properly on 20 minute intervals and just pushing on. I could feel the benefit of having done all those vertical metres going up Mont Ventoux as I was able to push out a consistent pace.

Along The Highway to Tower Bridge and then down onto Lower Thames Street streaking past the office and all the way along the Embankment to just short of Parliament Square. After turning the wind seemed a bit more of a headwind but not too bad and so it was just more of the same all the way back. Coming back to the Excel it all started to get a little bit hairy again. The roads narrow significantly, rain started to spot down and our group were now passing a number of the female age group triathletes who had set off in the previous wave, making it occasionally crowded and dangerous. I clipped one person as we got squeezed together, but thankfully we both managed to stay on and keep going. Once past the Excel there was then a second shorter loop between Stansfield road and Billingsgate market before returning to transition. I almost messed the whole thing up on the ramp up to the Excel going into a turn with slightly too much speed and locking the rear wheel, but luckily managed to control the bike. The second transition was very quick, dismounting on the move and straight into a barefoot run back to the bike rack, on with the elastic laced running shoes and out on the run course.

The run course was I have to say pretty grim. Last time I did this the run was on the other side of the dock and was 2 laps of 5km each, except they were actually 4.9km each making it a “fast” 10km! This time it was 4 laps of a real 2.5km each.

As you can tell from this photo I was really enjoying this particular bit!

Oh and this bit too…

It was incredibly twisty (no more than a 100-200m straight before the next bend, and there were a variety of ramps and temporary plastic floorings to traverse. By this point the rain had really started to drizzle down so everything was also very slippery. Oh and it was pretty narrow and crowded particularly on the turns. My wife, kids and a couple of friends had gathered at one point on the lap which gave me encouragement and again I could feel the benefit of the longer training runs I had done to be able to do the half-marathon a month earlier.

Rounding the turn at the end of the lap

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I had an eye on the time at this point and was pushing quite hard, so much so that as I got into the final lap I was starting to flag. At that point I was the beneficiary of the kindness of strangers. A guy who I didn’t know but who I guess had been running along behind me for a while caught me as my pace started to drop. He turned and asked if it was my last lap. I nodded and he said, “Right, mine too, let’s push to the end” and with that we pushed each other on back to the excel centre and right through to the finishing line ending with exactly the same time. Thank you, Darren Barnes, who google tells me may be a vet from Bishop’s Stortford.

Approaching the line

Finished!

Now I had a problem with the timing. I didn’t know whether we had started on schedule and my Garmin had misfired so that it thought I had been running since the start of the bike. I wasn’t sure therefore whether the total time it had registered was accurate or not – I hoped it was. Thankfully the organisers were very, well, organised and a text message appeared within minutes with my time breakdown. I had knocked 4 minutes and 53 seconds off my previous personal best set in 2009, coming in at two hours, 21 minutes and 29 seconds. I was hugely, hugely pleased, with the only (frankly slight) disappointment being that in Olympic distance triathlon 2 hours 20 minutes is seen as something of a benchmark time, equivalent if you like to doing a three hour marathon, so I briefly wondered if I could have found 90 seconds somewhere to get under it. But that thought didn’t live for long and that can be a challenge for another day.

The swim at 27:00 was my second best ever, beaten only in 2006, but 1:19 quicker than 2009. The bike at 62:54 was my fastest yet, 2:43 quicker than 2009 and the run at 45:15 was only 56 seconds slower than my 2009 9.8km run which I was really pleased about in the conditions.

Shortly after I finished the heavens opened up and conditions worsened significantly – I really didn’t envy others still out there on the course as I sat at home inhaling pieces of pork pie. My relatively good conditions meant that overall I finished well inside the top decile in 249th overall (apologies now to Darren who I managed to pip in a photo finish!) out of 3,626 who finished.

Overall this has been about raising the ante in order to raise money – shock people with what I intended to do to provoke sponsorship. Thank you again to those who responded. But also selfishly for me it has been a galvanising experience to really focus in on something to see how hard I can push myself and what I can do and I have been very pleased with the outcome. I have a couple more half-marathons in the diary this year and of course the Zurich Ironman now committed for next July (thank you Derk). I had better start learning some real endurance…