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3 Nov 2011

Soon to be a Dad....!

Really can't believe it, all this time and now it is nearly upon us. Tomorrow is the official day but despite copious pineapple, stomping and curry we haven't seen any signs yet. This is more nerve racking than a tri

Interesting Huddle @mindshare today talking about anonymity on the web. Does it still exist and if so what are the benefits? Can a brand have a meaningful conversation with a consumer if that consumer is anonymous?

Amidst the talk this video was surfaced from the early days of the web. I wonder what the web will look like in another 10 years time:

20 Aug 2009


Ok I admit it, this post has been a long time coming, and for that I apologise, but here it is, finally, the account from the big day itself.

I made it to Friday not having drunk a single drop for 3 weeks, and 2 days prior to the big day came the biggest challenge yet - a work trip to Cowes, mainly involving hideous amounts of boozing. I stuck to my guns and enjoyed a relaxing day messing around in a speedboat, eating as much as possible and generally relaxing in the sun.

On Saturday the nerves began to kick in a bit and I must have checked and sorted my kit fifteen times that day, packing and unpacking, going back time and again. Having visited the course last week I tried to think about a strategy, where to conserve energy and where to try and nail it, but all I could really come up with was don't go too hard too early, on all three stages!

For the fourth night in a row I stuffed myself with as much pasta as I could force in, feeling uncomfortably full and bloated and also hugely lethargic - perhaps I should have gone out for a gentle run on Thursday after all. With the alarm on for 4.45 I slept sporadically but woke feeling surprisingly fresh.

The early morning drive over to Excel was surreal, a beautiful morning, nervous excitement, energy drink and a steadily growing sick feeling in the pit of my stomach all merging together at 5.30am to make me feel pretty uneasy. The centre was a mass of fit looking, sporty types running around in cool looking kit, wetsuits worn half off, £4,000 road bikes and then little old me, in my tracksuit and hoody wondering what the hell was going on. We registered in an aircraft hangar sized hall, queuing up in a line of impending doom as we waited to receive numbers and race tag. The transition was on another level completely, thousands of bikes racked up and the other end of the hall barely visible. I found myself a spot next to a cheery northern chap and got myself ready, spying Jenson Button just two rows away and looking pretty serious.

Having negotiated toilets that smelt worse than Glastonbury I headed over to the Swim start area along with four hundred others and donned my hat to become just another nutcase in rubber. The mood was excited, friendly and energising and helping others with wetsuits, chatting and getting involved in a jovial bit of Ogi Ogi Ogi settled my nerves tremendously. Anna got some great shots as I stood in the pen with all my other green hatted mates and then followed me outside to get some more as I grinned like a child in anticipation of the water.

Nothing really can prepare you for being in a group of 400 grown men swimming out across Victoria Dock at 7.30 in the morning with Canary Wharf behind you and nothing but blazing early morning sun in front of you. A couple of 'good lucks' and a few deep breaths and we were off. I had no idea where I was headed and was surrounded in the washing machine esque turmoil of water but got my head down and stuck in. The first few hundred metres were infuriating, people swimming across me, banging my legs and stopping in front of me but after a while I settled down and got into a reasonable rhythm. The half way point was upon me before too long and feeling good I carried on, looking up less and less often as the Excel centre to my right guided me home.

With the Swim over in 32 minutes I managed to get out of my wetsuit without too many issues and scoot into the Transition, jogging carefully along the painted concrete floor, paranoid that I would stack it, all the way to the top end of the hall to where Jessica was waiting. Talc in my socks worked a treat and although it was painfully slow I felt like T1 passed all too quickly. Suddenly I was out of the hall and into the bright morning once more, fumbling with an energy gel and settling into a good pace. Without pushing too hard I overtook a few quicker swimmers and got an added boost on seeing Mum and Dad walking along the route, shortly followed by Anna, Mike and Andy after the first turn.

Pushing along sweetly and getting out onto Embankment I began to get a nagging pain in my lower back which lingered on, getting slowly worse. At the 27km mark and turning point at Westminster I was relatively alone, passing the odd person and having the leaders of the next wave come flying past me on their carbon fibre clad speed machines. The pain was more annoying than anything else and meant I was constantly adjusting my position. The benefit of this however was I spent more than half of what I thought would be my favourite section really wanting to get off the bike and start running. As I came back in towards Excel I saw the guys again which gave me an added boost and helped me power through the last few roundabouts before spinning quickly in a low gear to ready myself for the run. This worked so well that I somehow spun the chain right off the cog and dropped dangerously close to the top tube before realising and standing up, saving my under-carriage from total destruction.

Slipping along the polished tarmac floor in my bike shoes was pretty hair raising and I'd almost made it back in to transition when I heard some useful advice from Bob, standing by the sidelines as he shouted 'don't fall over' - cheers Dad! T2 was much much better than the first and the elastic laces came into their own so much so that I was out and running before I could even think about it. The course ran under a covered walkway to the side of the dock before emerging into the open and taking on a cruel wooden bridge, steep and slippery. Once more the guys were in a perfect position and spurred me on right from the start.

My legs felt good and sticking to the strategy of going off gently I took on some water and tried not to push too hard. The route followed the edge of the dock and before long I passed the 3km mark and even though it felt like I was barely moving I'd averaged just over 4min/km. I tried to stick with this pace, excitedly realising that I was on for a 41 or so minute run. Going back into Excel to start the second loop gave me another burst but everything was starting to properly hurt by this point and on the loop back round the dock my body was suddenly feeling really quite painful. I pushed on through, trying to keep the pace steady and had become so transfixed on my km splits that I didn't even start to consider my overall time. Once the realisation began to set in that I could actually get near to 2hrs 30 I had another spurt and gritting my teeth picked up the pace. I hit the 9km mark and absolutely went for it, going as hard as I possibly could for the final 1000m. The crowds were fantastic and helped to block out the pain, as did I, running for too much of this last part with my eyes almost shut!

I came to the final turn and pushed up and over the wooden bridge for the last time, legs screaming and lungs burning,sprinting past 2 other guys with similar numbers to me and powering as fast as I could back into Excel and through the finish tunnel, to cross the line in 2hrs and 34minutes dead.

I was absolutely done for and was feeling pretty dizzy, but I'd finished and that was all that mattered. Later Anna showed me a great picture having just finished, hand clamped over mouth and eyes shut, looking like I was about to vom. It was an amazing feeling to finish and to have felt like I did so well, and although I felt I had given it everything I was already thinking about how to shave off those additional 4 minutes and post a sub 2:30 time next year. It was damn hard, but so much fun and yes I would definitely do it again next year.

27 Jul 2009

Week twelve

This is my last full week of training (next week I will be doing all those things that proper athletes do like tapering, carbo-loading and mentally focusing) before the race and as such it has been a good one. Highgate is perfectly positioned on it's bloody great hill (hence the name) for a really decent bike loop and lets you make the most of an evening's session with it's punishing ups and downs to really blow out the legs. The plan asked this week to go the longest yet in my strongest discipline but having only several hours to spare of an evening I decided against taking this literally and pushing out a 100 miler on the bike. After all I have cycled 85 miles on my own in one day before from Milton Keynes to Leonard Stanley in the Cotswolds, surely that distance wasn't called for? Instead I pushed as hard as possible on the hills and generally kept the tempo as high as possibly where traffic allowed, scaring both an old lady and a mallard in the process.

On Wednesday I faced my fears and returned to Hampstead Ponds to get one final open water swim in before the big day. My best man Terry was on hand to join me on the swim and between us we clocked up a fair few laps of the pond. We weren't alone and before too long there were at least six other wet-suited tri swimmers plodding around and around in circles, we comfortably outnumbered the regulars wearing nothing but a speedo and a smile. We spent the whole time discussing the distance around the outside markers and having been quite well educated in the complexities of counting, numerical guesstimating and maths in general, Terry was pretty close. It turns out you can swim 360m in total around the outside, and given our cutting of one corner I completed just over 2,400m in total, admittedly stopping now and again.

On Friday evening I watched my artist friend Pip Greed (aka Phil Marsden) perform on the 4th Plinth at Trafalgar Square as part of the One & Other 100 days of live art exhibition. He was brilliant, holding the crowd beautifully by quickly drawing personalised sketches and then delivering them via paper aeroplane; he finished to raucous applause. After an early night (1 week now without booze) Jessica and I were on the road by 8am, on our way down to Excel to check out the venue. Jesus. The dock is big! The water is dark, God it's all so BIG! I rode the bike route, doing the first dual carriageway stage only once due to multiple lane merging and hot Limehouse Tunnel smoginess but couldn't keep much momentum going what with the the ridiculous amount of traffic already on the road. I noticed several others doing a similar thing and made sure I took note of the ups, the downs and the turns along the course. Although I knew the rough route in my head actually riding it will hopefully give me an edge on the day as I know exactly what to expect and where the smooth 'nail it' sections will be. Although I missed the final portion repeats my total mileage clocked 35 and on getting home I immediately changed into trainers and hit the pavements. I stuck it out for 30 minutes and was pleased that although feeling tired my legs knew they could cope.

I am now on 1 week and counting.......

21 Jul 2009

Week Eleven

Coming into the week still feeling a bit groggy and bunged up was worrying but I gave myself Monday evening off to fully recuperate and by Tuesday was itching to get going again. I restrained myself enough to get around the park several times at a gentle pace and immediately felt better for it. In a way I suppose the rest gave my body time to recover and re-discover the urge to be exercised multiple times a week but it also re-confirmed how much it also enjoys morning lie-ins!

I managed a really strong swim on Wednesday, forcing myself to breathe on alternate sides for the entire 1800m and even managed to overtake 'hairy beast man' in this manner. Whether he was impressed as he sculled gently on his back down the fast lane I don't know but I was certainly chuffed.

Commitment levels reached a new high on Thursday when I finished a meeting near Farringdon at 5pm and made the effort to cycle back up to Kings Cross, blast out a hard session in the gym and then head back down to Farringdon to say hello to several friends back from travelling. Although the all knowing plan didn't suggest it I went for a run/bike combo and absolutely ruined myself repeating this process, jumping from bike to runner and back again several times. Even more impressively I resisted any booze in the pub, much to my and everyone else's amazement. Those days of Thursday night binges are over! It's a surreal feeling when stone cold sober you meet up with people who have been drinking for several hours, it's also very loud.

I finished the week with a sprint in the pool and then a mixed run in the park on Sunday, with several longer sprints throughout to keep my on my toes. The race is now just two weeks away (the observant amongst you will notice that this is week 11 of 12 but I started a week early and so will have had 13 in total) and there is no pretending now, I'm crapping myself!

Week Ten

Oh dear, oh dear. I have man flu. The combination of a heavy week's training last week and a long day of cycling to Brighton, swimming in the sea and not re-hydrating properly after a few beers combined with lots of talk of 'swines' has taken me down. Stupidly I went for a long run on Monday evening when I had been feeling below par all day and pushed myself far too hard. By Tuesday lunch time I was really starting to suffer and had to spend most of Wednesday and Thursday in bed. Training was out of the question so I made the most of the downtime and slept as much as I possibly could - difficult when you spend Saturday night in a tent in Dorset, but it has given my legs and body a much needed rest. Hopefully next week the training can resume.

6 Jul 2009

Week Nine

Week nine has has been enlightening and enourmously satisfying. On Tuesday evening I joined forty or so other serious looking 'tri-be's' in Hampstead Lido for a swimming session organised by the Serpentine club. I had been put onto the session by a colleague and it was with some trepidation that I headed up after work on Tuesday evening complete with wetsuit and a growing sense of terror. I rolled up on my trusty commuter bike in jeans and shirt to be greeted by possibly THE most arrogant and self procrastinating Antipodean I have ever met. It turned out that swimming was his strongest discipline and he regulalry left the water in 7th or 8th place only to drop several over the course of the run and bike to finish 10th overall, horrible for him I'm sure.

Admittedly as more and more carbon fibre began to arrive so too did a number of green looking newbies such as myself and I began to relax somewhat. There was no way I was backing out so I got stuck in and started chatting with a few of the regulars. It soon turned out that superman couldn't have been further from the norm and everyone else I spoke to was supremely friendly, approachable and happy to share their experiences. Having received a free swimming hat we struggled into our wetsuits in the blistering heat and slipped into the beautifully cool water a mere sixty metres from the deep end. We were told to align ourselves depending on 'speed' but a bit unsure as to the standard (and characteristically under pitching myself) I stuck to the slower end.

We warmed up with 10 lengths which in itself scared the beejesus out of me but once I settled down they slipped by quickly enough and after a few sprint lengths we set off for the main session of six sets of five lengths or 1800m. We ploughed up and down until before long began to pass each other mid length as everyone settled into their own rhythm. At first this was horribly unnerving as green heads and flailing arms appeared out of nowhere but I soon got used to it and despite a few near misses and head on collisions I finished my set unscathed only to be told that along with a couple of others I had finished too early for my end of the pool and must continue. Obligingly I ploughed on for another 6 lengths until we were stopped (with several down my end not even having completed the desiganted number) and although pretty tired I was chuffed I had done so well. We continued with a few sighting exercises before finishing on start practice which was ridiculouusly good fun as we were told to just go for it and kick like crazy. I started relatively near the front and gave it the beans and managed to avoid being swum over. Result.

The final distance tallied something like 3,300m over an hour and a hlaf and barely able to lift my arms to wriggle out of my wetsuit I struggled slowly home with water pouring from my rucsac and down the back of my jeans. It was a bizzarely satisfying feeling. I was utterly destroyed and felt great for it and will be back next week for sure.

The rest of the week saw me running at lunchtime on the hottest day of the year so far, a really silly idea, another pool swim and then a cycle to Brighton with friends. Although we took it relatively easy I made sure I was the first up Ditchlin Beacon (on my old mountain bike and not Jessica I might add) and that I pushed myself on every hill. On arriving in Brighton we stripped off and cooled down with a quick dip in a sea that lay as still as a mill pond. As the others headed out to dry off I went for a 'quick swim' deciding that the open water practice was too good an opportunity to miss out on. I struck out to the edge of the swimming area with relative ease and although most was done with eyes clamped shut (no goggles) I was able to practice sighting my target bouy and arrived there unscathed. The return swim however was slightly more eventful as I began to feel the effects of the tide pulling me sideways towards the pier and panickingly slightly swallowed a load of salty water mmmmmm. I changed course to run parallel to the shore and was soon able to stand up in the shallows wishing that I hadn't gone out quite so quickly and glad to be back with pebbles under my feet.

1 Jul 2009

Week Eight

After last weekend's race I was hit by a wave of tiredness which lasted pretty much until Wednesday and put me in a uncharacteristically grumpy mood. I chugged my way through a swim and hour long run and then came unstuck about 40 mins into a pretty gentle cycle. Admittedly the route was very hilly but I was crawling along at a snails pace and enjoying not feeling quite so grumpy. However mid-hill my legs just gave up and turned instantly to jelly. It felt like I was running on a bouncy castle covered in custard with lead weights strapped to my thighs. Not a pleasant experience. I made it home in a cold sweat and slumped on the sofa, consumed a recovery shake as quickly as possible and followed that with just about everything I could get my hands on. I guess the lesson here is that rest is just as important as sustained effort.

I took Thursday off and then swam for 45mins on Friday morning and kept it smooth and steady. Friday saw me turn the ripe old age of 28 and so to celebrate I lunched on pie, chips and gravy, followed shortly by a huge slab of victoria sponge. Brilliant. I definitely over indulged at Belgo's later that night but stuck to beer and felt I had earnt it considering my strong result at Cirencester last weekend. Feeling hungover and with many wedding chores/family obligations the weekend was a no go for training.

All in all a pretty poor week training wise but it has shown that listening to your body is more important than anything and that there is a noticeable difference between just not being arsed and genuinely needing a rest. It's also shown that my protein recovery drink is bloody amazing, within minutes I feel better. Is that physcological or a genuine outcome? I also feel that the plan I'm following rather unfairly assumes that a sprint distance tri mid way through will be no more strenuous than a extended training session! Ok so I sound like I'm whinging but it is designed to allow OD competitors complete the distance within 12 weeks, not a plan for super fit atheletes looking to romp home on their first attempt!