One week to go! Having entered the race a year ago, pretty much forgotten about it, then trained like a lunatic since the spring, we are now just seven days away from (hopefully) crossing the finish line in Keswick.
After last week's slugfest, I've tried to take my mind off triathlon as the taper has begun - which is a lot harder than it sounds.
On Monday I woke up to amazing news, as my name appeared in the British Journal of Sports Medicine! It hasn't really sunk it to be honest. All through studying for my BSc Sport & Exercise Science degree I would read research papers in the journal, so it's pretty surreal. Hopefully raising awareness for such an important issue will help more athletes/coaches/clubs give the topic more consideration.
But probably more importantly, this week saw the parkrun World Cup sweepstake take place. Obviously being a parkrun thing, there is no prize to the winner, other than eternal smugness! Sadly my hopes were dealt a devastating blow when I was drawn Peru, who find themselves in a group with Denmark, France and Australia, as well as having a truly terrible football team. It's a good thing parkrun is all about the taking part...
Things continued to take a turn for the worst when Sid, the island cat, continued trolling me. Glen and Jason enjoy placing Sid on my chair in the office (yes, hilarious), but as you can see in true selfish cat fashion, the pesky feline took things to the next level this week. Sigh!
Moving onto my terrible teeth, the cracking news is my recent gum surgery was a success, so at my next appointment I will FINALLY get my new teeth after three and half years of back and forth.
The bad news is, one of my temporary teeth fell out (again) so I had to go back to Guy's Hospital (next to the Shard) to have it re-cemented in, just to make sure it doesn't end up at the bottom of the lake next week.
To round off the non-triathlon week, Coralie and I went to watch Joe Lycett last night at the Hammersmith Apollo, who was so so funny and seems like a thoroughly decent chap.
That all makes it sounds like I haven't thought about triathlon at all, but I can assure you the rest of the time that I was awake (which is not that often to be fair) was spent getting RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED about the Lakesman!
Everyone I speak to and everything I read about triathlon says that in your taper you should run less and swim more, so that's what I've been doing this week. Wednesday was my last big training day before the 10-day taper, and it perfectly encapsulated what the last few weeks have been like.
I woke up at 4:55am (as one does on Wednesdays), cycled to the lake, swam five laps total in 3850m and then cycled to work, all before 9:00am. It was a slog as I felt shattered even just cycling there, but it did give me confidence to have completed the full race distance again.
I then headed back to the lake yesterday before parkrun, and then with Coralie today, and swum a mile both days. As you can see below, a few other triathletes had the same idea... My ironman steed is the black rust bucket in the foreground (more on that in a second).
This week I saw the photo below on Twitter of the lake in Keswick we'll be racing in next Sunday, and it's giving me goosebumps just looking at. It's breathtakingly beautiful, but also slightly terrifying to think at 6:00am next week we'll be standing on the shore ready to swim out into the middle, around the island you can see in the distance, and then back again.
Despite the lack of swimming over the winter, I do feel like I have improved over the past ten days, so I'm feeling significantly more confident that I won't drown, pass out, or be mistaken for a brick.
After two long sessions last week, I could barely look at my bike this week. It's like that feeling when you spend too much time with someone and they begin to get on your nerves! I did manage a few laps of Richmond Park on Tuesday morning before work, but other than that it's just been to the lake and back and commuting.
Today we stopped by the side of the road and practiced changing the inner tubes of both tyres which was a thoroughly worthwhile exercise, and I also treated the annoying little heap of junk to a service...
I was expecting an expensive bill as it's been making some clunky noises lately, but surprisingly there was nothing to be done. Good news!? Well sort of...
The mechanic informed me that the clunking when I go uphills is mainly because my bike is just not very good - you've got to love his honesty. Apparently it just doesn't like being thrashed repeatedly. He also broke the news that the reason some of my gears don't work is because some of the screws have seized and rusted so much they can't be adjusted (you can tell I've got the cycling terminology nailed can't you?).
Despite all that, I'm not going to use my bike as an excuse. Yes I appreciate that's ironic having literally just given you loads of excuses, but stay with me. I always knew I would be riding Rusty (the name Coralie has affectionately given my bike) in the Lakesman as I just could not afford to upgrade, and to be fair training has been ominously pain-free, with just one wheel replacement needed.
Me and Rusty will be giving it our all next week and try to take down as many MAMILs (middle-aged men in lycra) and their fancy wheels as we can.
An ironman taper means running less, which is handy as my achilles has been grumbling again this week. Begrudgingly it did prompt me to go to the physio, who revealed my chocolate right ankle is actually more like a block of concrete, with the same flexibility as a plank of wood.
He's given me tons of exercises to get the joint moving again, which will be a long-term thing, so for the next week I will probably not run again until Saturday and give it the maximum time to settle down.
One of the two runs I did manage though was of course parkrun! That red 50 t-shirt will not earn itself. After swimming, I cycled to the nearby Hazlewood parkrun to meet Coralie. The event is a newbie to the parkrun family and takes place at London Irish's training ground, where we were surprised by legendary parkrun photographer and all-round hero Bruce Li.
It was nice to be back running with Coralie and we enjoyed an easy run round to take me to parkrun number 48! The highlight was when I tried to do a very sneaky fart, which turned out to be so loud it sounded like an angry duck. Coralie, who is huge fan of the TV show Bottom, spent the next mile crying with laughter...
All that is left to do is look ahead to next Sunday! Eeeek... We've hired a van and we will be driving up from South Ealing to Keswick on Thursday, giving us plenty of time to get settled in and try to relax before the big day.
My big worry when I entered this race almost a year ago was that I would get super-competitive and obsess over completing the ironman in a certain time. To be honest that actually hasn't really happened and I have really enjoyed the training journey. That doesn't mean I don't want to perform to my best and make some predictions...
First up: Coralie - on Tuesday she is off to see a psychic with some work friends. Yes that's right, a psychic. As in someone who claims to predict the future. Can you believe it? Therefore she should know by Tuesday evening what her time will be!
On to me: This is my first ever triathlon, so completing the course within the 17-hour cut-off time would be an immense achievement. However, ever since completing the full distance swims and rides in training I have started to put-together a target time in my mind as I'm definitely someone who needs a goal to be pushing towards, particularly when the going gets tough and you need to dig deep.
My absolute A-goal is not for the overall race as I don't think I can predict how long I will take in transitions (I may well get trapped in my wetsuit) or how the run will go, but I would absolutely love to be starting the run at around the 8-hour mark. Realistically any faster than that would require a new bike or way more commitment to swim training. That would give me four hours to complete the marathon to achieve a sub-12 finish time.
The swim starts with a mass start, so all 400-500 people will start in the water when the gun goes (as opposed to running in or starting in waves). I'm sure the first 200 metres will still be tough/total carnage, particularly as I've never experienced swimming with so many people at once, so my plan is to start somewhere near the back and let the super speedy people race off, then try to settle into my own rhythm, without swimming any longer than I need to.
For the ride, I feel as though I've got my nutrition nailed now and hopefully the weather will be kind and give us a nice tailwind for the long, flat 40-50 mile coastal section of the ride, and as with everyone if I can avoid punctures, that would also be handy. And the run will be whatever it is.
I'm sure you'll be able to track me on the Lakesman website here if you really have nothing better to do for 12+ hours. If it looks like the tracker has stopped during that week, don't be alarmed - that's just how fast (or not so) I swim!
Overall though, whether I complete it in 11 hours, 12 hours, 15 hours or 17 hours, to be honest it's all completely irrelevant. Whatever happens, I've loved the journey and the experiences - which is ultimately what it is all about and why we spend so much time and money working towards a goal. If you don't enjoy something, you're doing it wrong.
Here's to becoming a Lakesman! Thanks for reading. Tom.