Month: May 2011

Holidays. What I did other than fail.

Cornwall is lovely. I really would like to retire there. Happy association I expect, as it’s where Wendy used to live, and where I spent the first three and a half years when we got back together. About a gazillion years ago.

I would like to move there now, never mind retire. That was an early version of my career path in point of fact; get my truck licenses, get a job driving for the Royal Mail, then transfer to Cornwall. Which would solve the main problem, no jobs or money in Cornwall.

That worked out well.

Well, we trotted off to Cornwall in the mighty Micra. Us, bags, sports kit, and a push bike all wedged into its TARDIS like interior. We had a fair journey down, Wendy only screamed at me once for my driving. Good run.

Our chalet was tiny but more than adequate for our needs. Two seats, a (tiny!) telly, heater, cooker, etc, a bog with shower, and bedroom. What more do you need on a holiday? The idea is to be out doing stuff, the chalet’s just  somewhere to lay your head at night.

Here it is:

See? Perfectly adequate. And they welcome pets, apparently.

After the fail-fest of the Saturday we went to St Ives, being on the opposite coast it was sheltered from the wind. We didn’t realize it, but the sun was strong. By the time we went back to the chalet I was red as a lobster across my forehead. I spent the rest of the week rubbing peeling skin off!

But it is lovely;

Just look at that sea! Go on, look at it! How clear it is, and the different colours. Tempting, non?

Sat here in the warmth, with no danger of having to get in it, I’m tempted.

We ate out every night. Mostly just pub grub, but it tasted better when you are looking at this while you are eating:

The one exception was ‘The Boatshed’ restaurant in Penzance. That was a bit pricey (compared to pub grub, Wendy assures me it wasn’t dear, £70 for two of us, three courses, with –pop- drinks) but bloody hell! Best food I’ve ever put in my mouth. Absolutely divine. If you are ever any further south than the Brum you have to pop in! Say I sent you.

We went to the Eden Project (motto: We are ordinary people trying to change the world. A modest raison d’être, I thought.) which is worth a visit. A visit. Weird to see house plants in their native conditions, in the shade of the tree canopy in a steamy jungle. They must love the arid, central heated houses they are doomed to inhabit.

Some interesting stuff to see in the flesh, like bananas hanging in bunches and this beast;

Other than that, we went to Trebah Gardens, a skilfully arranged garden. Not in a formal style but as you walk through trees and bushes you come across sudden windows across the landscape that are captivating;

It starts off on a hillside, keeps you limited in your views so you are constantly discovering windows, then out of nowhere you are in a bay looking out to sea’s horizon. Quite an extraordinary garden!

In between doing all this eating and visiting I was taking some swims. I forgot to mention in my last blog; when I started to relax a bit (ie, I was still a bit panicky but not convinced I was going to drown any second) I hit a new barrier. As I swam out a bit I started to get panicky that I was going to get eaten by a shark. Damn you Spielberg! Thirty six years later and I’m still scared!

Probably just channelling my existing panic, but I tried to get back into shallow water as soon as I could!


We did other touristy stuff; pigged out on pasties, Roddas clotted cream, Cornish ice cream, bought a Kernow flag sticker for the car, etc.

It was grand. Wendy really didn’t want to come back. Can’t say I was keen. I was getting some serious internet turkey though.

And now we are back. Wendy has put on eight pounds and is gutted. I ate non-stop the whole time we were there and  haven’t gained an ounce. Ha!

Now back to some serious training. I cocked the half up, have to do a million times better to even stand a chance of the full Ironman.

Lovely holiday though. Cornwall rules!


Fail to prepare…

…Prepare to fail.

I should have known it wasn’t as easy as the sum of it’s parts, or that indoors adequacy was equivalent to outdoor competence.

I’m talking about my half Ironman distance triathlon, by the way. The reason we booked our week’s holiday in Cornwall.

We trotted off down there on the Friday, arrived in plenty of time, found the booking-in site for the race eventually and I was all set. I got up at 5.20 on the Saturday morning, had a quick breakfast, woke Wendy to zip me in to my wetsuit and set off to the race. My first ever triathlon. My first ever sea swim. My first ever swim in a wetsuit.

It writes itself, really. What the hell did I expect was going to happen?


We all made our way down to the beach. It was freezing cold. The wind was really blowing, straight off the sea. It was  a rough sea, and the wind was whipping up a nasty ‘chop’ (as we seasoned triathletes/ salty sea dogs say). Still, no worries. It’s only water.

7 am. We’re off!

I followed everyone else into the sea. First was the shock of the coldness of the water which fair takes your breath away. Soldier on, everyone else is in the same boat. Face down in the freezing cold water. Stroke, stroke, so cold you put your head up to gasp for breath SMACK, a wave hits you in the face, instead of air you’ve got a mouth full of salt water. Spit it out in panic. Head right out of the water, gasp for breath, panicking badly. Another wave. Half a breath. Try to put face down, can’t breath, shock of the cold water, no air, head right up for air, wave in face, up nose, in mouth. Try to swim on, head up, every wave hitting you in the face. Shocked, confused, scared and really panicking. Try to carry on. Can’t breath, can’t stop the panic, start to think I really am going to drown.


I quit.


I just couldn’t go on. I was devastated. Beaten at the first hurdle. One of the canoeists pulled me back to shore. In front of the spectators who’s turned up to watch the triathletes.

The shame.

I was plodding back, utterly disgusted with myself, just going to pick my bike and running kit up and go home when one of the race marshals said I could do the other two events if I wanted.

I thought I might as well but  then took off my wetsuit and was freezing cold and soaking wet in my tri-suit. My morale was at a low ebb so I thought ‘screw that, I’m going home’.

There were two other chaps who got pulled out of the drink. One of them said he was thinking of just going home and doing some training, but seeing he was here he might as well do it in the other two disciplines. It was a good argument, so I saddled up.

In passing, he also said “tell them they fucked the timing chip up.”  (ie, that was why your race result would show up as DNF – Did Not Finish- .) So fail at in the race, then lie to everyone. Personally I think that would be even worse. To fail so badly, then live a lie about it. Perhaps he was joking. Still, he was better than the other chap who said it was too rough to swim in, lots of people were going to get pulled out and he was going home!


Anyway, I rode 56 windy, bloody hilly miles around Cornwall, then ran 13 equally bloody hilly (though the wind doesn’t matter so much on a run) miles. It was bloody hard work and a massive mental effort to start it, then to continue it when it was so hard, then to continue with the run which was killer. Especially as it was a two lap race, so after the first, when I really didn’t want to play any more, I had to force myself to carry on even though the people on the shorter race only had to do one lap, so I could have ‘forgot’ and no-one would have known at the finish line.


The sad thing was;  every person I was racing with, even those that I overtook, had all beaten me already. I wasn’t even in the same race as them. They had finished the swim, with the concomitant lactic acid build up and muscle/ energy degradation. I’d only done the ride and race. I told the few I had a brief chat with that that was the case. I felt like an utter fraud every time I overtook someone. Good job it was so rarely, really!


At the end of the race, although I failed drastically, spectacularly and humiliatingly, I regained an iota of pride in that I did the two other disciplines when I’d already failed. I could have sacked it off, or quit on the ride, or cheated on the run. I didn’t. Although it was pointless, painful and bloody hard.


As soon as I was back at the chalet, regaling Wendy with my tales of heroic failure, I thought I could have pushed through the panic, found my stroke and done the swim.

I went back in the next day, in calmer seas. It took me bloody ages before I could settle down to a stroke. I kept doing brief swims, half breaths, full chokes, then running out of air and having to stand up to get my breath back and try again. After about half an hour I finally did a sustained swim. And that poorly.

I had another two or three swim sessions whilst I was there. By the last one I think I could have had a go at the race. It would not have been pleasant and I would still have been really scared, but I think (knowing there were canoeists ready to pull me out- again!) I could have kept breathing and stroking, which is the definition of ‘swimming’ in my books. 

If only I’d have been able to make it to the Liverpool dock swims before the race!

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Serious training from here on in.


Sports and this and that.

It is but five days until my first real race of the year; my half Ironman distance triathlon. I’m starting to get really nervous now!

I’ve been trying to get some practise in my wetsuit doing open water swims. I failed on three consecutive weeks to make it to the Mersey-Tri Salthouse docks swim. Today, being my day off, was supposed to be a sure thing. I found a clean beach, gently sloping, and recommended for swimming by the Clean Beach Guide. I checked the high tides and the route yesterday.I dropped Wendy off at work this morning whilst wearing my wetsuit (akin to childbirth in degree of comfort) then drove straight there. I should point out it’s not some fashion/fetish thing, the suit is so tight you can’t zip it up on your own, hence Wendy had to strap me in before going to work.

Anyway, I took a longer route (down the M53) as this avoided a toll and took me straight to where I wanted to be. Somehow I managed to get funnelled into the toll. That was a moment of panic as I hadn’t taken any money out with me and I couldn’t turn around. Luckily I found a few quid in the door of the mighty Micra. Trusty steed.

When I got there the tide was fully in. The chart said I had at least another hour. But no, the waves were up to the land and pounding over the barriers. Bollocks. No shallow water swim there, just a brief dashing against the rocks then drowning. I gave it a miss.


So it’s five days until the race and I’ve still not done an open water swim/ swam in a wetsuit.


No pressure.


When I get back from Cornwall I am going to have to bite the bullet and join (actually go to) a triathlon club. Warrington Tri is on my doorstep. I need coaching and people to push me. The trouble is, I don’t want to go because I’m too crap. If everyone else is swimming at twice my speed I am going to feel an arse. But I’m never going to get up to speed without coaching. Pride swallowing/ embarrassment accepting mode.


Looking ahead, I have found my first new challenge for next year. Marathons are passé, and a proper, branded Ironman is inevitable, but how’s this for challenging and fresh? A Fred Whitton.

It’s a one hundred and twelve mile cycling sportive (group ride/race) around the lake district, designed to kill you it seems.

Here is the graph of elevations. Read it and weep. I am!


When I went for that abortive ride in the Lakes a few weeks ago I did it from right to left, over Wrynose, to the bottom of the valley then rode back in shame. Look at the ascent of Hardknott in their direction (left to right, obviously) it’s vertical! And that’s after you’ve completed one hundred miles of killer hills/ mountains!

That will sort the men from the boys. Better dig out my short trousers and school tie then.

As ever with these things, you see what looks like a lifetime achievement, only to have someone taking the piss. Hard to begrudge him though; @Mr_eL_Bee (from Twitter) is riding it right now. As he has done for the last three days and will do for the next six! Ten Fred Whittons in ten days! He’s doing it to raise money for macmillan cancer jobby. You can sponsor him here if you want:

Have to say, that is bloody impressive! The more so given the weather.


Well, for myself, as stands, I know I can run twenty miles reasonably comfortably, have run twenty five, I can swim roughly one and a half miles in an hour (in a pool!) and I can ride a hundred miles on my push bike. The cut off point is not for the swim on Saturday (or at least it doesn’t say so. YAY!) but you have to complete the swim and ride in under five hours or you can’t continue to the run therefore can’t finish the race. Shouldn’t be a problem.

Fighting talk!

We’ll see,