A few weeks ago I made a very bold move and signed up for the Southend Triathlon, which will take place in eleven months’ time. In a way this is a bigger challenge for me than running the marathon, because I only learned to cycle five years ago and thus cycle like a five year old. My experiences of cycling have involved a small puppy trying to commit suicide under my front wheel, a mishap with the chain whilst going up a hill that resulted in me falling off backwards and spraining a wrist, and being inches away from going over the bonnet of a fuckwit driver’s car and having to fling myself ungracefully at the curb. Hearing that someone I know very sadly died of a heart attack halfway through the Dunwich Dynamo (200km cycle race) this weekend has done nothing to allay my fears but at the same time I think that I would rather die in the process of achieving my goals than live my whole life playing it safe.
If nothing else, compared to my cycling, my running doesn’t look so bad.
So the bicycle has come out several times recently – mainly for short rides to the shop to build up my confidence. The bike leg is 20km, which isn’t really that far – I can do it on the turbo trainer easily – I just need to get used to cycling in the open at more than 15kph without causing any kind of calamitous pile up.
The other element to the triathlon, of course, is the swim. While I have never had any trouble with swimming in terms of getting from A to B without drowning, my swimming is much like my running in that my form is appalling and I could get overtaken by your average sea snail. I can theoretically do front crawl but in practice I usually end up doing breast stroke like an old lady. I really hate swimming pools (or rather, the other people who frequent swimming pools) so I’ve decided to investigate open water swimming. Last week I went to Hampstead Heath. I revisited the parkrun and was very pleased to be over a minute faster than last time I visited (six weeks ago – same temperature). Then I met my friends at the Ladies’ Pond. Some of these people are hardcore open water swimmers who come in the middle of winter when the pond is partly iced over. I do not intend to do this. I found the water quite chilly but everyone else remarked about how warm it was. It was also quite murky and I ended up swimming even more like an old lady than usual to avoid getting my face in it. This left me with a pleasant mud-beard when I left the pool. Still, I expect I smelt better than when I went in.
When I got home I ordered a wetsuit and booked myself on to a “stop swimming like an old lady and do front crawl properly” workshop in November. The wetsuit was a disaster! Getting into it was more effort than any triathlon. I think the trouble is that my body is a funny shape and I ordered the wetsuit according to the size chart which only gives waist and hip measurements which makes me a medium. But my arms and legs are not medium, they are probably extra large, so I couldn’t even get the bastard thing above my knees so I sent it back and ordered an extra large which will probably fit fine on my legs and have room for two people round my waist.
All this is making running look like a very simple and uncomplicated hobby.