Having set myself a goal and said to myself I want to do certain things by the time I am 50 and one of those was do a 70. 3, so with a slightly quivering ‘press the enter’ button finger I entered my first 70.3 in Exmoor in 2015. So you may question my reasoning for mentioning this, call it a befuddled state of mind but two 70. 3’s later and one New Forest half distance I entered the Staffordshire 70.3.

I had heard good things about the race and diligently wrote my training plane and concentrated on what I should be doing and when. Those long lonely hours in the saddle or traipsing up another muddy hill in the wet cold and rain didn’t phase me and trying to fit this into my home life was sometimes a bit of a struggle, but I would think I managed to stick to about 80% of my training plan.

So the weekend eventually arrived and following an uneventful drive  ‘up North’ I then started the process of off loading kit and dealing with that ever popular aspect of a split transition and spent most of Saturday sat in the car driving from one place to the next. I am always nervous the night before a big race and I know I never stand a chance of winning/qualifying or anything that grand, but I was firmly set with a time frame of completion which had been the whole direction my training. So my estimated time was 6 hours 30 minutes

Race day was a  magnificent day warm, clear and sunny and there was an expectation of excitement in the air, this was the last time the 70.3 was being held at Shugborough Hall and I had boarded the bus at Shugborough in front of spectators and felt kind of important ‘jumping the queue’ with other athlete. I spoke to a few people on the bus and they were just as nervous as me. So wishing them good luck I got off the bus and walked the short distance to transition getting my bike ready and prepping my kit. After about my 5th visit of the morning to the toilet I put on my wetsuit and met up with Darren Nice who was also racing, it was nice to see a friendly face. With the heat increasing we moved into our age zones and prepared for the start, as competitors lead off it was own turn I wished Darren good luck and with all the hours or prep and training behind me I jumped off the jetty into the 18 degrees of water (lovely) and started to swim. The route was simply enough around some buoys in a lake and as it was a rolling start it wasn’t bunched and it a pleasant swim. But unfortunately this was the day that my googles decided to leak, my left one filled up rapidly and the right one misted up so I spent most of the time emptying one and guessing where everyone else was. There was a quite a bit of ‘ohh feet follow them’ Apart from that the swim was fun and I enjoyed it although it did take about a day for the vision in my left eye to stop being slightly blurred. I left the lake in a time of 44 minutes. It was then a short 0.5 kilometre stumble up to transition to the bike and out onto the road.

The bike was fantastic with closed roads, hardly any wind,  the undulating course was a dream and I really enjoyed it, I had been practicing my Aero position, something which I had only recently been paying attention to and I spent most of the ride in that position and found it quite simply, super! However, along with ‘Googlegate’ you can’t plan for everything within your training plan and unfortunately going up a slight hill in a forest I was hit with a flat tyre. I had practiced this side of my discipline and although it felt a like a long time I managed to change my puncture and get back on the road in about 7 minutes so not bad really. I Eventual completed the bike in about 3hours 30.

Once into transition for the run, it was the first time I had had to use of toilet in a 70.3, but when nature calls and all that. Having refuelled with gels and more gooey bars in the tent and changed tops and put on clean socks, I left the tent to the cheers of the crowd. The first 10kms were fine and I felt good and strong but the heat and temperature started to creep up and I started to notice the ever increasing rushing around of medic on bikes and medics on motorbikes. I saw throughout the race 5 people collapsed on the run route and all being treated. It was hot and after all the months of training in the cold and rain nothing had prepared my body for the heat, so, I took full advantage of the local residents dumping buckets of water over athletes heads and spraying their gardens hoses over us as we passed. The crowd and supporters were fantastic and they helped to drive me and my slowing footfalls closer to the finish. My watch by this time had packed up and I had no real idea as to pace or how long I had been running but the ‘walking’ bit seemed to be longer than the running bits. But eventually with the final lap completed I ran towards the finish while having a little cheer to myself.

So to sum up, you can’t train for ever eventuality, watch the conditions and change your hydration accordingly and apart from the leaky google, puncture and heat, it was a fantastic day. As I was escorted to the finishers tent by a very kind BTF lady who thought I looked a bit , as she put it ‘wobbly on my pins’ she remarked to another BTF person it was 29 to 30 degrees so a bit warm. As to me my time of 6hours 30 that paled into insignificance and a quietly mentioned in hushed tone 7hours 10 is spoken, with my worst ½ marathon time on record of 2.44 adding to the mix.

I spoke to my wife on the phone afterwards and she remarked later I sounded emotional. I don’t really count myself as an emotional person, dramatic maybe, but each personal battle that we as triathletes put ourselves through has an emotional element, be it physical or mental. I started out on this triathlon journey in 2012 after giving up rugby and I only wish I had discovered it earlier. I have said to myself “Would I do another one?” and I have said no, …..well not another 70.3….4 is enough, but Ironman Wales that is another story, there is that itch to scratch.