Committed and dependable, rather than inspirational or a maverick, pretty much sums me up in a sporting context. I’ve always been into sports without being that “sporty”. I played Saturday and Sunday league football on and off until the first year a university, where I began Saturday and Sunday league drinking, and played school team rugby up until the age of 14 or so, when I changed schools and school rugby was no more. In both football and (to a lesser extent) rugby I got games based on being a willing runner and fairly adaptable, by which I mean doing as I’m told without question.
Cycling hadn’t started as a competitive sport, or even really a sport for that matter. It was a means of getting to football training, or in to town to see mates. It was also a holiday, going off with my dad cycle touring, during those golden years of never ending summer holidays, think the last year we did that was the summer I took my GCSEs. It later became a mode of transport when, living in rural Suffolk, public transport would not support shift work. It was also fun too.
Cycling also took a hiatus during university, as did all sports after a short lived gym bunny fad died off two thirds of the way through the first year. I would still chase the odd ball around a green patch with some mates occasionally, but booze, fags and inactivity took its toll as my waist line ballooned and my weigh exploded.
This activity hibernation lasted for years, wasting my sporting peak down the boozer, until the birth of my first child. With only one car, and a new born, I decided that I couldn’t really hijack the car five days a week, so I dusted off the old road bike. It started off as a few times a week when my wife had plans, and then most days, then every day, then I began to look for extra hills to add on to the ride home. Slowly I became a cyclist, again.
It still wasn’t a sport, well not a competitive one anyway. That changed when I started running with a view to doing a triathlon. This is when it, I, became more competitive. This was in 2011, I had entered two triathlons, an early year sprint and an Olympic distance in September, and then a half marathon, under duress, in October. They all went well, in varied ways. I didn’t drown in the Sprint triathlon, in the Olympic distance triathlon (which was turned into a duathlon, run-bike-run, due to safety concerns) I lost out to a much fitter colleague by 2 poxy seconds, and bested my training partners in the half. The following year I returned to the sprint triathlon, finishing 52nd out of 281 starters.
In 2013, Laura and I entered the London Olympic triathlon, and I set myself a target of finishing in sub 2 hours 30 mins. This was my only triathlon of the year, and everything was building up to this. I ran a local 10km (target time of 45 minutes, finished in 45:07), I also ran two of the three relay legs of Man V Horse, a trail (near) marathon in the Brecon Beacons. I didn’t set any targets for this other than a) don’t get trampled by the cavalry, and b) actually there was no ‘b’. By the time the triathlon came round, I was in pretty good nick and ready to give the target time a good go. When I got out of the 1.5km swim and into T1 before Laura (who is a far better swimmer than me) I knew I had gone well in the water. Out on the bike I just got my head down and pushed hard, knowing it’s my strongest discipline. The run was a three lap affair with spectators most the way round, so nowhere to hide away and slacked off. I finished in 2hrs 26 minutes. Having told a fair few people my target, I was rather relieved my fitness could cash the cheques my ego was writing.
This year has been a little less competitive, doing races just to do them rather than hit a target. Well except Plymouth half marathon where I set myself a sub 1 hour 45 minute. I also entered an off-road duathlon which was dirty fun, as were the couple of mixed terrain run races I entered. Hilly, muddy and bloody hard work. But a good laugh. My most recent event was L’eroica Britannia, a 100 mile vintage bike ride up in the Peak District. I did this with my dad, bit of father-son bonding and reminiscing. And an excellent excuse for another bike.