It all started just over 18 months ago, with bike porn. You see back in 2009, I’d been an avid mountain biker for about 7 years, having raced a few XC seasons and a few 12 hour & 24 hour enduros. I somewhat despised my lycra-clad “roadie” counterparts, however I had always marveled at the sheer engineering beauty and aerodynamics of time trial / triathlon bikes, and I thought that one day I would like to get into time trialling. So when Evans Cycles had an end of season sale, I happened to be browsing the web and came across a beautiful Felt B2 Pro marked down by around 40%. It would have been wrong not to give it a home, so I went into the store and bought it.
Now, in order to justify this purchase, I thought I had better enter some races. I registered for the London triathlon (olympic distance), feeling good about this new investment and that this new bike was going to be more than eye candy. Since the London triathlon was still 10 months away, I figured that I’d better enter some smaller races in order to get ready. A friend of mine, Tim Wallis, convinced me to enter the Blenheim triathlon (sprint distance) which would be good prep for London, so I did that. I then entered the Eton super sprint series, Eton half distance, and Steel Man triathlons just to be sure. Note, that I was just entering these triathlons, I hadn’t actually done one yet… so there was a fair amount of work that I needed to do in the coming months over the winter of 2009. In order to kick start my training, I entered the “ballbuster” which is a notorious duathlon, doing circuits of box hill in Surrey – 1 lap x 8 mile run, 3 laps x 8 (24 mile) bike, 1 lap x 8 mile run. On the day, the conditions were awful, and I didn’t want to mess up my new bike so I put slicks on my mountain bike and used that! So much for justifying the purchase!
After a hard winter’s training I was ready for the sprint distance, and was looking forward to the Eton half distance race (750m swim, 20K bike, 5K run). I assumed I would be ok swimming in my kitesurfing wetsuit – well I was wrong. The arms were too constrictive so I couldn’t breathe properly, and the mayhem of the triathlon swim start meant I got clobbered a few times in the head, leaving me a bit short of breath and slightly panicked… I finally pulled myself together but I limped around in almost 17 mins for the 750m swim… so this experience resulted in the purchase of a proper swimming wetsuit. The bike leg was fine except that it took too long to get into my cycling shoes… someone told me that I need some triathlon specific shoes since they were a lot easier to get in and out of. The run was fine and fortunately did not result in further equipment purchases.
I did a few more races (including London triathlon) and my results improved each time, slowly but surely. I read an article talking about how much time an aero helmet saves, so I bought one. I also spent a lot of time training on my nice new bike, which of course means wear and tear. Everyone knows that you shouldn’t wear down your race bike too much, so I went and bought a training bike. Luckily Evans was having another end of season sale so I managed to save even more money than last time. By this time, I had 4 bikes (since I also had 2 mountain bikes) so my main challenge was rotating the bikes between the house and the shed, because my wife thought I only had 2 bikes. I also had to really up the bike mileage since I now needed to justify the purchase of two bikes and not just the one. Since I was doing a lot of mileage, I started thinking about entering longer races, but didn’t actually enter any.
One day, in August 2010, I was on a site visit in Paris for an upcoming event, and I happened to be wearing my tri running shoes with bright red laces. David Ball, the CEO of our events agency BrandFuel, noticed them and said “interesting shoes”. I started explaining that these shoes had elastic laces, allowing fast transitions in triathlons, and (in hindsight) rather patronisingly asked if he had heard of triathlons. He explained that he has done a few, so I asked which ones. “Mainly Ironman” he said, which put me right back in my place and brought me down to earth with a thud. In case you’re wondering, the Ironman distance is a 3.8km swim, 180km bike, followed by a full marathon (42.2km). Anyway we got chatting and he convinced me to enter one, which I did right then and there (Ironman Switzerland, July 11th 2011).
I’ve since relocated to California where the training conditions are ideal… there have been many more races done in prep for Ironman, including the Florence marathon, the Horseshoe Lake trail marathon which I somehow managed to win (small field), Silicon Valley Long Course tri (terrible result) and a few others. I joined a swim masters program and the Silicon Valley Triathlon Club, and signed up with the Core Performance Center that we have on site at the Google campus. I also started training with a power meter which has made a huge difference.
That one moment of bike lust, where I thought I was saving £2000 with Evans’ annual sale, has resulted in further costs of:
- a training bike
- a new wetsuit
- aero helmet
- tri shoes
- PowerTap power meter
- garmin edge 500 bike computer
- countless race entries (Ironman CH is over 500 Euros to enter!)
- swim masters membership
- tri club membership
- core performance membership
- two-piece tri suit for Ironman (makes peeing easier if you must ask)
- country relocation
- 16 hours of my time each week
… and I can tell you, it’s worth all of these things!
I’m now significantly fitter than I was 10 years ago, I’m about 12kg lighter, my work/life balance has improved drastically and I’m ready to race the first of many Ironman races this coming weekend!
Beware the slippery slope but enjoy the ride!