This week marks an important date in racing history: my Triathlon Anniversary! Sunday will be the fifth year running I will be competing in the Human Race triathlon at Eton Dorney, so seems an appropriate enough opportunity to explain the title of this blog, and how I ended up here.
I am not your average triathlete. Most people would have it fairly low down their list of guesses if asked what I spent most of my time doing. I recently did one of those online ‘what Olympic sport should you do’ tests on the BBC website, where you put in your height, build, etc and it suggested either wrestling or weightlifting. Well close…
Back in school I loved team sports, and until 18 was in most teams: rugby, hockey, and so on. I was not usually in the firsts, or top team, but usually did ok in the second team, where you could get away with enjoying the game without having to take it quite as seriously. Running however was different, and I had no idea why people did it for fun. I remember one particular day when I was about 16 when I managed to come last in our school cross country, something that stayed with me ever since, and I wondered if I would ever be able to make up for it…
Caterham 2nd XV 1999 (Centre Seat with the ball)
I also liked individual challenges, and growing up by the sea I particularly loved water based sports, spending my summers surfing, sailing, kayaking and latterly scuba diving. I learned to swim when I was very young, and although I never really raced I was always comfortable in open water, and even spent four years working as a lifeguard in my late teens.
When I got to uni I continued playing rugby, before realizing that stepping up to men’s level combined with an unhealthy consumption of alcohol in my first term was not a good combination, and after one particular neck injury I decided it was time to retire. Looking for an alternative to keep me busy, it came as so many great ideas do – on a drunken night out on Broad Street in Birmingham. Whilst reenacting a few scenes from Enter the Dragon outside a club, my mate casually announced that his flatmates were training to be ninjas in a uni society. That sounded like the coolest thing ever, so we decided to go along to their next training session.
Ninja Training c 2002 (On the left in the first photo, being sacrifice thrown in the other!)
It was fantastic: wearing black, leaping around, weapons training, night missions, plus being able to tell people you were a ninja! I even managed to meet my wife there – her beating me up not the other way around! So for the next 3 years or so I was training three times a week, to the point where I realised I was spending about as much time in the dojo as I did in lectures, but towards the end I had to wind down, particularly once my co-ninjas started getting jobs and moving away.
By the time I started working I was back to square one, needing a hobby to keep me busy, as well as reasonably fit. Fortunately my job came with a gym membership included – well if you could call a few token machines in the back of a hotel a gym – so I started to go fairly regularly. I had no real purpose though, tending to just and use as many different machines as possible and (as most kids at my gym do) usually focused on the guns! After that I managed to join a decent gym closer to home, which also had a pool, so after a fairly long gap I started getting back into swimming.
It was just over five years ago that everything changed for me. I still remember the exact moment. Standing outside a work conference around Easter time, two of my mates John & Ian told me they were getting teams together to enter a company triathlon. They had runners and cyclists, but needed people to do the 1.5 km swim legs, and was I interested. Not really thinking about it I said I would give it a go, and so it began…
Stay tuned for another exciting update of An Accidental Triathlete: coming soon!