Race time again!

The last few weeks have flown by in a whirlwind. After a big block of races and holidays at the start of the season I realised I needed to get my head down and do some training again in order to move forwards. It felt good to get back into some kind of work and training routine again, and I particularly enjoyed doing some club swim sessions as without them my weak swimming had definitely got even worse.

I’d spiced up my weekend training with a few relay triathlons with friends for a bit of fun. The Eastern club relays (with Cambridge triathlete friends “Tween, the teenage prodigy” (aka George Schwiening and “super swimmer” Esther Rodriguez) was a fun sprint relay at Gosfield lake which we won, albeit in rather bad fancy dress.

Next up was the Outlaw triathlon followed a fortnight later by Bradwell waterside long distance triathlon.

Bradwell was a 2/3 iron distance event and we had entered 2 teams from work (CRI pro and CRI slow – I didn’t pick the team names….). We camped over the night before and for me the highlight was seeing Radhika complete the very tough, tidal swim in her first race of any kind. I did the 76 mile bike leg and turned it into a very solid brick session and I think we all really enjoyed the weekend.

This weekend I raced the inaugural Ely middle distance triathlon which I was planning to use as a hard training session on the back of a big week of training. Monster Racing did a superb job of putting on what I suspect will become one of THE middle distance races to do. With an iconic point to point river swim in the Cam, a flat fast 58 mile bike ride, an out and back half marathon along the river and a generous prize purse provided by race sponsors ECF finance, I suspect this race could easily double in size next year if it wanted to.

I have to admit I was hoping for a relatively easy race but on looking at the start list I soon realised I would have to work for the win with 2010’s Ironman UK winner Yvette Grice on the start list. I had a decent swim for me, probably because it was so pleasant swimming down the river with the sun on our backs with spectators cheering from barges and the tow path. I then pushed relatively hard on the bike to catch Yvette and try to get as big a gap as possible before the run to avoid killing my legs. Flat bikes are harder than you might expect; there is no free wheeling as you would get with downhills and it’s easy to lose concentration and slow down. Fortunately there were enough people around to keep me motivated and I rode a lot of it alternating pacing with my training partner Jared which I think helped both of us maintain a good pace.

I really enjoyed the run, probably because I was able to run it comfortably hard without ever really hurting. I certainly felt like I was running well within my limits and not killing myself too much….. Guess I won’t know how much it has taken out of me for a couple of days though!

Other news – I’ve been lucky enough to obtain every athlete’s dream sponsorship….. As much nut butter as I can possibly eat!! Anyone who works with me knows I eat nut butter at all times of the day with any combination of fruit, crackers and recipes. Meridian foods (www.meridianfoods.co.uk) make a variety of organic unprocessed nut butters (almond and cashew are my particular favourites) and fruit spreads and I’m very grateful for their generous supply of goodies to fuel my training and recovery!

Next up is the National Club relays in Nottingham where with TFN tri club team mates I hope to defend our national title.

Then Ireland 70.3 (to be sure to be sure!) and finally an end of season blow out at Challenge Barcelona. Yes, I know this year was meant to be Ironman free but at the end of the day I couldn’t resist. I guess the two long bike legs I did as relay races were ultimately the persuading factor; I figured I may as well put them to good use! It’s probably a bad idea and may all go horribly wrong; I have to admit to a little bit of cram training over the last couple of weeks with a dramatic increase in run volume which may end in tears. But the end of the season is a good time to experiment, I’ve never been to Barcelona and it will definitely be a true Challenge!

Last, but not least, I am going part time in September…. This has been a huge decision for me and one I’ve really agonised over. I miss being an oncology doctor and in some ways can’t wait to finish my PhD and get back to the clinics. However I’m also passionate about my training and racing and am aware that the lifestyle I’ve been living over the last year is not sustainable in the long run. Cramming in hard training and racing against full time athletes with a full time job ultimately means living a life of permanent sleep deprivation and realistically not being able to do either side of my life properly. I’m lucky enough to have an extremely supportive boss who is happy to support a decision to work part time (3 days a week) for a year. I hope this will provide a bit more balance in my life; I’ll be able to train a little bit more, recover and sleep a lot more, and hopefully this will transfer into more productive and effective work, training and racing.

Triathlon will remain a hobby so I hope I won’t lose the “fun factor”. For me it remains really important to have a significant academic focus in my life, otherwise I’m sure I would be at risk of losing any perspective. In the long run I’m delaying becoming a consultant by a year or two, but at the end of the day I’ll still have 30 odd years to be one. My long term career goals and aspirations haven’t changed; the time taken to achieve them has just been extended! Having deliberated over this decision for ages, now I’ve made it I’m absolutely certain it’s the right one.

Happy days!

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