It's 12 weeks until my first triathlon, which also happens to be an Ironman.
The idea of doing a triathlon had always appealed to me, but it just seemed like a lot of faffing around and expensive stuff. But after my girlfriend Coralie got into it and caught the bug, I decided to take the plunge.
Why a full Ironman? I mean I've never liked doing races with the word "Half" in the name, so that's probably the main reason really. And I figured if my triathlon career is to be a "one and done" I might as well go out with the whole shebang.
So, at 6:00am on Sunday 17th June 2018, me and my girlfriend Coralie will be standing on the shore of Lake Derwentwater (like the photo above) in Keswick, staring down the barrel of 140.6 miles of swimming, cycling and running around the Lake District, as we take on The Lakesman.
First up as the journey begins, let's get started with the state of the nation...
Probably not the best place to start to be fair as my last swim was on 5th November 2017.
Whilst I fell in love with lake swimming last summer and saw quite rapid progress - by that I mean I actually bought a wetsuit, taught myself front crawl and could be found not drowning at idyllic Shepperton Lake (above) three times a week. I even swam the full Ironman distance of 2.4 miles (twice!) in around 90 minutes.
Clearly that was never going to be sustainable! My bold ambitions to continue my progress by pool swimming over the winter didn't materialise. I have a collection of poor excuses for this, which I'll divulge now...
In fairness I did have surgery on my foot in December, which meant I couldn't swim for a bit, but the reality is I just really struggle to motivate myself for pool swimming. I find it a pressurised, claustrophobic environment. This culminated with one morning at Pools on the Park in Richmond where I swam the wrong way down the fast lane, and headfirst into another swimmer - breaking my goggles and cutting my eye! And that was that.
Oh, and I'm also terrible without the buoyancy of a wetsuit. Literally awful. Like a Jack Russell trying to swim the Channel, so I've decided to wait until the lakes reopen instead, so swimming is definitely my area for improvement.
Much more progress here! I finally took the plunge and learnt how to ride in cleats! Again, never one for the sensible approach, my first ride in them was 55 miles around Surrey and up Box Hill...
This baptism of fire approach worked as to date I've only had one traffic light "TIMBER!" topple over, where the cover of darkness obscured my bright red complexion and embarrassment.
After toying with the idea of trying to borrow a bike from someone, and scouring the internet for bike hire services (basically I just want a free tri bike - is that so much to ask?) I'll be taking on the 112 miles of Lake District hills on my £500 five-year-old Raleigh Revenio.
I did at least finally treat it to a "Gold" service, where it came out looking gloriously shiny, and I've had it properly fitted to my gangly arms and legs. I cannot recommend bike-fitting enough as the differences since in terms of riding position and comfort have been amazing.
The bike course for the Lakesman looks okay, considering how evil cycling in The Lakes could be. Coralie and I paid our first visits to the Lake District last year and instantly fell in love, which was the main attraction in making our Ironman bows in Keswick.
That information is mainly to give me an excuse to post this hilarious photo of Coralie kayaking in the lake in which we'll be swimming.
Despite the prospect of several hours of isolation on the bike, living just 15 minutes from cycling mecca, Richmond Park, and having just joined the super friendly St Margarets Cycling Club in Twickenham, overall, I feel confident for the cycle leg of the Lakesman, particularly as this very day I changed an inner tube for the first time!
Definitely heading in the right direction, unless I get crushed by a lorry, but then I guess at least I won't have to worry about pool swimming.
Ah, running. My favourite of all past-times. Yet such a cruel mistress. On paper, this has the potential to be both my weakest and strongest discipline. After a 2.4 mile swim and 112 miles on the bike, the Ironman distance kindly offers you the challenge of a marathon before you can eat your body weight in salty chips.
The Lakesman run course is 5 x 5.2 miles loops made up of a few smelly looking U-turns. Obviously my history as an athlete is as a marathon runner, but the last 18 months have been riddled with various injuries, operations, specialists and DNSs, and my last marathon was Tokyo 2017.
However, I've made some progress since January following the surgery, including finishing my first race in a year in Barcelona in February, and I've managed a few longer runs relatively trouble-free, albeit at a very easy pace.
Some recent niggly foot/calf issues have caused a few problems, but a trip to the amazing guys at Profeet in Fulham this week identified some mechanical flaws with the NHS-prescribed orthotic insoles I've been wearing since October, so they've been traded in for some snazzy new custom ones and hopefully I'm finally on the road to some form of comeback to former relative glory.
All being well, my running eyes are now focused on the small matter of the London Marathon in four weeks (!) time. I'll be lining-up firmly out of my depth on the Championship start line, but my target is still just to finish safely in one piece.
As much as the London Marathon gets some stick from running purists about over-commercialisation and "too many charity runners" there is still no greater feeling for a runner than seeing Big Ben, soaking in The Mall and embracing friends and family at Horse Guards Parade.
So that's where we are really! Not the most exciting blog, granted, so kudos to all those still reading. However, hopefully my journey to the Lakesman will be filled with light entertainment, amusing calamity-filled anecdotes and no more injuries.
It's been a while since I last blogged properly. That is a seriously long story which you can read here. Yes, I like to run on. As someone who is never the most open and forthcoming, writing has always been a cathartic experience for me.
I'm hoping this weekly blog will continue to help my progress, and that I'll be looking back on this experience in three months time happier, and healthier, and that me and Coralie will have shiny new pieces of metal to hang on our coat rack.
Until next week. Tom.