Strange days

Nobody told me there’d be days like these
Nobody told me there’d be days like these
Nobody told me there’d be days like these
Strange days indeed – most peculiar, mama

‘Nobody Told Me’
John Lennon

I haven’t really been following a programme for this long distance triathlon. It’s an odd thing how, as the distances have doubled over the last couple of years (from Sprint to Olympic, Olympic to half-iron, and now on to the big one) the attention to detail as regards following a strict programme has fallen away.

It could be that I am less stressed about the whole thing. To rehash a phrase a local bike shop owner and cycling legend wheeled out the other day during a conversation about saddle bags: “you’re not there to compete, you are there to complete…”

Or something like that. It’s one of those anecdotes that can sound good at the time of delivery, but perhaps loses a little in repetition.

The simple plan has been to steadily increase the distances and/or times of all disciplines over the last six months or so since serious training has kicked in. I have been glancing, on occasion, at a plan printed out from It looks great. I’ve used them before. Lots of details, and no doubt compiled by excellent coaches. But I’ve stoically avoided doing any of the proposed swim sessions. Here’s an example:

Swim 3,000m
Open-water or endurance pool session
WU 300m FC, 100m KICK, 300m PULL, 100m KICK MAIN 10x50m FC in Z2 +5 secs RI, 5x100m FC in Z3 +10secs RI, 2x200m FC in Z2 +20 secs RI, 400m FC in Z3 WD 200m KICK, 200m PULL all in Z1

To a seasoned pro, this all makes perfect sense. And I can decode it. It’s not rocket science. It’s just that I have problems enough remembering to count my lengths. Not sure I’d have a chance with that level of complexity unless the programme was laminated and sitting on the edge of the pool. And for some strange reason, I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that. At the end of each little workout, I would be convinced that the door would fly open and I’d be hauled out of the pool and taken away to be charged with impersonating a triathlete.

…with thanks to the great Terry Gilliam, creator of Brazil.

I have the same response when I read through the bike stuff though on this score it seems to be less intimidating. But overall, all I’ve been trying to do is up the quantity. Quality, in the sense that we can define quality in athletic terms as a sub-set of pace, is not really relevant. It’s a handy metric alright. It tells you if you are going in the right direction. Time and distance equals pace, and if there’s one constant I’ve harped on about in this collection of online ramblings, it’s that training programmes never deal in pace, only time OR distance. Only you, dear athlete, can define what your pace is for any given event or training session. But we digress. Which is the other constant of the unironedman.

So, this week has been an odd one. That’s what I was getting around to saying. On my return from a week’s holidays, I was informed we had lost yet another fireman due to sick leave. So with two away on annual leave, and two off sick, we are running on empty. Time off is as rare as tri-bars on a scooter. And so the diary looks a little sparse.

Monday 18th: easy 7k in the park, in the muggy weather.

Tuesday 19th: short gym session on the bike with weights; my patent-pending method of training the arms and legs at the same time. Not a very long session, and not very satisfying, though if sweat loss was an indicator, it was a great success.

Wednesday 20th: 2.5k in the pool in the morning, followed by a nippy 9.5k in the park with Mark, at a 5:43 pace.

Thursday 21st: as we had moved drill in the station to the Monday, I found myself with a lot of spare time on Thursday evening. And what does the triathlete do on a spare training day? A half marathon, as it turns out. Just went up into the park and kept running. And I was able to finish well and keep the pace nice and steady and slow, which was the main aim. Came in under 2.10 with an average pace of 6:10 (which is to say, 2 hours and 10 minutes or so, at 6 minutes and 10 seconds per kilometre. Or 9:55 minutes per mile for all you imperial folk. This might help.). But then nothing for Friday or Saturday. Partly due to tired legs on the Friday, and work commitments on Saturday.

Sunday, today, and Mark and I did hit the park for a handy run of just over 6k at a decent pace. Not quite sure which one of us is upping the pace to that level… never mind. I still cling to the notion that a little bit of pace every now and again is a good thing, regardless of the fact that the long distance triathlon is an endurance event. As I read somewhere the other day, from a seasoned pro, ‘respect the distance’. Except of course it was written like this:

Respect. The. Distance.

Just to emphasize the enormity of the task. And make you take stock of the serious nature of the whole business. Okay. Got it. Thanks.

Even with my rather haphazard, à la carte approach to training, two consecutive days of rest gives me the heebie-jeebies. And today’s run, whilst always a pleasure to run with Mark, is still a little on the short side to constitute a hard-core ironman-style effort.

So the plan for the morning, to capitalise on the day off on the roster, is to rise early and get in a long bike session, and then in the evening, hit the pool. I have to make the most of these days off, as I can run locally, but bikes and swims are off the agenda with the manning levels as they stand. And as the countdown continues, the official race programme details have been published, so on top of training, I need to get my head around what seems to be an inordinate amount of complexity as regards checking in, transition, special needs bags, and a whole host of other items that are rather alien to me (but which no doubt will become a little clearer over the next few weeks). Nervous yet? Yep. I predict a few restless nights, with dreams of triathlons where you look down on the bike leg to find you have brought a kid’s trike by mistake, and the wheels are made of cheese, and the road goes up a mountain of brown sugar… I blame Dr. Seuss…


Such is the life of the journeyman chancer triathlete. I mustn’t grumble. These are strange days indeed, not just locally, but globally. To have the opportunity to do this event is already a privilege.

Now I must away and finish trimming the jungle that was once my garden. The warm and wet weather over the summer has turned ordinary shrubs into mammoth triffids. Wish me luck. If I’m not back in two hours, don’t send a search party. Just bury my remains in my wetsuit, alongside my Orbea…



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