I am a Warrior!

June 4, 2017

Blenheim Triathlon

3rd-4th June 2017

This year I headed back to Blenheim, where all my sporting shenanigans started back in 2012.

The premise this time was not just to compete in a Triathlon but to see how many I could complete over the two days of the event.

I had signed up for the Weekend Warrior entry. Introduced a few years ago and now expanded to allow mere mortals to have a place, the concept is simple. Starting in the first wave on Saturday complete as may triathlons as you can one after the other. Yep, as soon as you cross the finish line you head back to the start — via transition if you need to pick up your wetsuit — some people had friends/family swap their run kit for a wetsuit so they could start the next one as quick as possible.


My folks were going to come and support me so had offered to take my bag. I figured I would get them to bring my old wetsuit so I wouldn’t need to put on a wet-wetsuit. Something which is surprisingly hard to do.

I had the usual panic before leaving the house wondering if I had all my gear, and set off later than I wanted. So I cycled to Blenheim a lot quicker than I probably should have.

Having met up with my dad who, as my Weekend Warrior support team, was allowed into transition with my second kit bag it was time to layout all the gear ready for the race.

Things got off to a pretty bad start as as I was getting ready I stood on my glasses bending the frame with one of screws dropping out, closely followed by a lens.

After lining up for the obligatory photo call in my nice new ‘Weekend Warrior’ Tri–suit I headed to the lake in my wetsuit.


I was unsure how to approach the day as I had originally signed up for last year’s event when I was much fitter and, to be honest, I hadn’t done any proper training having only been out on the road bike a couple of times this year.

As we walked down the pontoon to the water I got that brilliant mix of excitement and fear.

race1_startline.pngSwimming up to the start line I couldn’t help but edge near the front and then when the horn went I blitzed it. It was one of my best swims and as I exited the water I was feeling so good, even if the photo doesn’t show it…


You can’t look cool and take out earplugs at the same time!

I ran up the twisty path up from the lake back to transition and managed a wave to my mum & dad on the way.


Then off on the bike which was a bit hairy without my glasses but the course is fantastic and by the third lap of the bike I was flying round the corners, then despite the hills I had a good run too — coming in at 1h26 for the race, only 3mins slower than my PB for a sprint set on a flat course.

Feeling invincible I went back to the lake almost immediately to start my second.

wetsuit-rushThen after a decent break for lunch with my parents I did a third triathlon, this time made a bit easier by having my glasses. It turned out one of my fellow Warriors was an optician as was his wife who was supporting him, so while I was racing she had managed to repair them for me!

There were some friends also competing and it was great to see them afterwards though it was a shame not to have seen them out on the course.

After a very well deserved pint I cycled the 6 miles home at a leisurely 15mph. I then ordered a giant Papa John’s pizza, had a shower and chilled out on the sofa with a bit of telly.


I arrived a lot later than my initial plan as when my alarm went off I could hardly move! But despite a bit of sunburn and some very tired legs I cycled back to Blenheim with the aim to do at least one more. Luckily Sunday has the elite waves first so that bought me a bit of extra time, and I arrived for the start of the second general wave at around 10:30am

DSC01508.JPGThe first swim went really well and the cool lake eased my tired muscles, I probably went off too fast but got round the rest of the course without too much trouble.

I figured I might as well have a crack at another one so headed back to the swim start and got most of the way through the bike section before starting to feel like it was a bad idea.

Thanks to some great support out on the course I finished the last lap of the run and collected my 2nd finisher’s medal of the day.

As I made my way back to transition some one asked if I was doing another. I joked and said yeah if I’ve got time. I realised I could probably make it to the swim start before the final wave of the day set off. Grabbed my wetsuit and trudged down to the lake side, still unsure if I should actually start another one…let alone if would finish it. Enthusiasm (or more likely delirium) got the best of me and I headed out onto the pontoon and set off yet again.

20x30-SUND9356.jpegI don’t know if it was better pacing or the knowledge that this was the last one of the weekend but it went much smoother than the previous one and after nearly two hours I was crossing the finish line yet again!

Two days, six triathlons — 4.5km swum, 119km cycled (not including the 24 miles getting to and from Blenheim) and 32.4 km run! An absolutely fantastic weekend of racing, and yes I probably will do it again next year! Seven anyone?

Thanks for reading and remember to have fun next time you race ;-)


New York City, not as flat as you think!

August 6, 2015

Last year I entered the lottery to get a place in the New York City Triathlon — and won! So this July I joined over 3,000 athletes having a swim in the Hudson river as part of an Olympic distance triathlon. Read the rest of this entry »

Blenheim 2015 Triathlon

June 26, 2015

Race report or Nine ways to screw up a triathlon

  1. leave water bottles in fridge at home
  2. arrive late
  3. lose one bike glove
  4. no towel*
  5. have mild panic attack
  6. skip wetsuit lube
  7. forget where you parked your bike
  8. badly adjust rear derailleur
  9. forget the actual race distance

*technically I did have a towel but it was at the bottom of my rucksack and I didn’t have time to fish it out before the start and I could’t get to it when I finished the swim, the same goes for the other bike glove.

I love the Blenheim Triathlon. I was doing the short “Super Sprint” distance as that is the same race I started with at Blenheim back in 2013.

My new relaxed, “lets just enjoy the race” attitude had been proven out by London’s result ( see ITU London 2015 Race report ) and so I wasn’t that upset when the weather forecast for Saturday morning got worse through the week. I figured it was about time that my streak of good weather races finally ended. I sort of layed out my kit the night before but basically just made sure I had wetsuit, shoes & charged up my sports watch. Read the rest of this entry »

ITU London 2015 Race report

June 12, 2015

If you haven’t read it yet take a look at ITU London pre-race post.

I woke up before my alarm even went off. Had a coffee and a shower and then started packing my kit bag. As is hinted at by the name triathlon is basically three different sports joined together. So packing is pretty much three sets of kit — one for each of Swim, Bike and Run. With my loaded rucksack i cycled into town to the bus station and the first miss-step of the day. I checked there was space on the next bus to London for by bike and then discovered that the bus company’s credit card machine was out of order and the only nearby cash machine 1) had a long queue 2) charges a few quid for withdrawals. So i cycled up the road to a real bank’s cash machine got some caash out and went back to the bus station just in time to see the bus pull out from the stand!

Read the rest of this entry »

ITU London pre-race

May 30, 2015

As I got up this morning and started getting ready for today’s race I realized something felt different. The pre-race nerves aren’t there instead a nice buzz of adrenaline!

The first Tri I did I was panicking so badly, trying to remember everything I might need. I laid out my kit the night before and virtually counted it into my kit bag and then didn’t get much sleep as I went over the fact that I wasn’t a good swimmer and hated running ( not really very good traits in a Triathlete ).

Last night I had a couple of pints with friends after our final Lead Climbing lesson, cooked some pasta and went to bed.

It obviously helps that the race isn’t until this afternoon but the fact I am just looking forward rather than frightened is very refreshing.

Last year I trained pretty hard with the aim of beating previous times and doing my first Olympic distance race.

This year I still want to do better but more than that I want to have fun doing it! The swimming lessons at the local pool mean that not only am I technically a better swimmer but I also feel so much more confident in the water. The run too has become enjoyable, primarily thanks to the wonders of Parkrun.

So I’ll still be aiming to beat 1h30 but I sure as hell want a smile on my face at the finish line!

Find out how it went on the day in my Race Report

Garmin Barcelona Triathlon

December 4, 2014

Maybe I’m overconfident, or maybe it’s because I just enjoy taking part and don’t (yet?) take it too seriously, but my ‘pre-race day’ is fairly simple:

  • go for a run
  • unpack and repack everything
  • travel
  • have pasta for dinner
  • lay out everything for tomorrow’s race, several times, until I panic that it’s getting late and then sleep fitfully for a few hours.

It was a pleasant change to not be traveling the day before the race.

Morning Run

To go for a run the day before is something that pretty much everyone says you should NOT do. But I am not a confident runner and so want to make sure that I don’t freak out on the day. I set off for a short 5km run just to get a feel for running in Barcelona. I headed off to Avinguda de la Diagonal, a lovely wide boulevard with a pedestrian/cycle centre section. There were quite a few people out running and it was obviously a popular place to go to exercise.

A few kilometres in I realised that actually I felt really good so instead of turning round and working my way back to the apartment I carried on to the end of the road — where I found a small park “Parc de Diagonal-Mar” which had an amazing metal sculpture almost like a roller-coaster track running round and over a small lake. The apartment we were staying in was right around the corner from Segrada Familia which meant going back up hill from the sea front. The only problem with running along Diagonal was the number of traffic light controlled crossroads so you had to stop (or sprint) every few hundred yards. On the way back I went a slightly different way so that by the time I got to the apartment I had covered a full 10km.


Sight Seeing

After showering I set off to visit the Fundació Joan Miró. The Miró museum is in the Montjuïc region and can be accessed by Funicular — or at least it is supposed to be! I got to the Paral·lel metro station only to find that the Funicular was closed and instead there was a bus replacement service outside the station. I left the station and you could see where the bus was going to leave from by the huge crowd milling around by the side of the road. I dutifully stood in line and then as the bus pulled in 100 tourists from round the world decided that they were too important to queue and pushed towards the doors of the bus. The driver then pulled forward and only opened the front doors so all their pushing was in vain and I ended up getting a seat. The journey up Montjuïc was pretty twisty and I was glad to have decided against just walking (which was my initial reaction to the closed funicular).

The Fundació Miró is an amazing building, huge gallery spaces with high ceilings. They have works from pretty much every phase of his life which means they range from absolutely mind blowing to ones which, personally, were a bit too weird.

Fundació Joan Miró

View of Barcelona from the roof of Fundació Joan Miró

They have a few pieces outside and the view out across Barcelona was stunning — couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.

Before leaving England I had, with the help of my friends, put together a list of sights and had unfortunately found that the Olympic Pool had just closed for the end of season but I was very close and still wanted to see the Olympic park so afterwards I headed just a short distance further up the road. First I came to the athletics stadium, built for the 1992 Summer Olympics. You could look out over the grounds but not go down to the track. Outside, the Olympic park itself is huge with various water features and a massive paved area with gigantic columns. And then on the edge is the needle.

Montjuïc Communications Tower

Montjuïc Communications Tower

After a brief wander I headed back down the hill to the replacement bus and onward to lunch…

While true athletes will probably react to the next bit in horror (or possibly with jealousy), as stated earlier, I don’t take it very seriously.

I had arranged to have lunch with friends at Cal Pinxo — a restaurant in La Barceloneta which was just down by the sea.


Cal Pinxo Starter

Padrón Peppers, squid rings and more…

We shared a mixed starter with Padrón Peppers, the food equivalent of Russian roulette where most of the peppers are quite mild but every so often you get a hot one, and a selection of deep fried items, including squid rings, sardines etc. Absolutely delicious, and truth be told I would have been happy to have just had more starters they were so good. But the reason we were here was the house speciality — Paella.

Cooked in a large steel pan like a flat bottomed wok they plate up first then bring the pan to the table for you to help yourself to seconds — hence the photo only has half left. A couple of beers and a pudding latter I was seriously full!


The main course — Paella

After an amazing lunch I made my way along the beach and then went in search of ProBike — a bike shop a friend had recomend at lunch — as I wanted to get a cycling shirt from Barcelona to add to my ever growing collection.

I found a sports shop on the way which was huge so spent a while having a look round there and then just up the road was ProBike. It’s a good job I have a little bit of self restraint as they had some great stuff — both bikes, acessories and a decent amount of cycle clothing. Was tempted by the Movistar dark blue top but they only had it in small sizes and no matter how many miles I swim, bike and run it would never fit! But they did have a ‘ProBike Barcelona’ shirt in a retro colour scheme which was perfect.

The night before the storm — Literally!
I headed back to the apartment and stopped at a supermarket to get some pasta for dinner. Then it was time to check through everything and try and get a decent night’s sleep.

Race Day

The weather report suggested that there was going to be a pretty bad storm on the Sunday but so far there had been no sign. Even as I got up and looked out the window it was dark but with clear skies. I gathered all my kit and set off in the darkness for the athletics track which was to be transition. There were a handful of others cycling along until, based on my memory of the road map I headed streight on at a junction and was on my own for a moment but then it was so cool as more and more people joined our convoy like bicycle flash mob! As we got close to the sea front there were a few spots of rain and by the time I had started racking my bike the heavens opened. It was a full on tropical storm with lightning and thunderclaps separated by less than a second. The organisers stopped anyone from going near the bikes as they were worried that the bike racking — which is esentially a framework of scaffold poles — could act as a lightning condunctor. We all pressed ouselves against the wall aound the trackside and tried to take shelter but by this point I was sodden. There were mumblings about would the race be cancelled or delayed or mabye the swim section replaced with a run — somthing that filled me with abject terror — I would rather swim in a storm than have to do an more running than absolutley necessary! In the end they just delayed the race though instead of saying what time the waves would start they just kept saying that the start was being delayed by 30 (then 40…) minutes and each wave would set off 5 minutes after that. The problem was no one knew what time the first wave was supposed to have started, as it was the elite only wave, in order to work out the new start times for our own wave!

Eventially we were allowed back into the main transition area which was once the grass area inside the athletics track but was now a rather muddy swamp.

At least everyone was in the same boat so to speak and the rain had slackened off a lot. As the sun started to rise the skies cleared and it looked like it might actually be quite a nice day for a race.

I put my wetsuit on and made my way to the start area. All the previous races I had done the start was in the water — that is you float about a bit, gather behind an imaginary line and then the gun/whistle/claxon goes off and you start swimming. The Garmin however is a beach start which means, on the signal, you have to run into the water and ‘dive’ in.

The start was horrific with people swimming into and even over each other.

I had made the common mistake of being very close to the front of my wave. Before my first triathlon I did a training day with Virgin Active down at Richmond. One of the first things they said was hang back at the start ‘cos it will get hectic — so much so that even in the simulated start someone ended up with a black eye!

Anyways, in the first few races I did and found that I should be about ⅓ of the way through the wave. By London 2014 my swimming had improved so much that I was in the first half dozen and stayed there for the whole of the swim. Difference was that London is very often the first Tri people have a go at, especially charity fundraisers so I was given a false sense of security. So I only allowed one row of people between me and the start rope. A couple of the other competitors just ambled towards the water so I ran like I was David Hasselhoff this meant by the time I hit the water there were only 2–3 people in front of me at which point I was like ooh look at me I’m gona win this wave! Uh, nope. Oh my god it was mayhem as the ‘walkers’ flailed like a cross between the energizer bunny and a combine harvester. They obviously knew what they were doing though as they made progress through the field and by the first buoy a dozen had barged past ( or more correctly ‘over’) me.

I kept up a steady pace, not particularly fast as this was my first 1500M in the sea. By the first buoy we were quite a way out from the beach and the waves were starting to become hard work. The next section was parallel to the beach and really had to fight the waves. Coming up to the next turn point I was just plowing onwards and, not being able to see much through my goggles past about half way, I banged into one of the course safety canoes which was a bit embarrassing! Dipped my goggles so I could de-mist them and made it round the turn to head back to the beach. I splashed onwards comforted by the fact that I had just overtaken a few stragglers from the previous wave (each wave has a different colored swim hat) so I knew I wasn’t going to have the slowest swim time. Not a hundred meters further and I felt a bang as I, yes you guessed, hit my head on a canoe again! The tide was dragging me sideways more than I realized and so I started sighting more often until I finally reached the swim exit. It was then a short jog back to transition — where I would grab my bike — while unzipping my wetsuit and getting it to my waist so save time.

Swim Over

Swim Over

Even though the rain had stopped and the sun was out the ground of the transition area was very muddy. I fumbled trying to get out of the suit while at the same time avoid the puddle by my bike. Put my glasses on and could now see the mess so I chucked a half bottle of water over my feet and tried to wipe off the mud and got my socks & cycle shoes on. Next helmet on then it was time to grab my bike and run / splash my way to the bike start.

Cycling in the sun

Cycling in the sun

The bike route was absolutely fantastic but as a ‘draft legal’ race the bikes were scarily close together. The road was drying out but the hairpin bends where still dangerous especially where they crossed over the tram tracks and many people struggled whereas the miles of cycling in the English weather definitely helped as I moved through the field. There where 4 laps of the bike and it took me about an hour so there was a lot of overlap between waves with people struggling on their 4th lap at the same time as those with fresh legs on their first. There where a few groups with a full on team time trial train and they where seriously quick. I managed to hang on to the back a few times but struggled to maintain the pace in the traffic but as I started to get a feel for the course I had an absolute blast especially sprinting out of the hairpin bends!

At the end of the fourth lap I made my way back into transition dumped the bike and swapped shoes from bike to run. The ground was a little drier by now and I avoided most of the big puddles.

Despite the previous day’s run my legs felt good, no doubt helped by drafting a little on the bike. The route was lovely and unlike the bike was thankfully an out-and-back rather than multiple laps. The turnaround point was up hill at the Arc de Triomf and it really felt special running up to it. The sky had cleared completely and could feel the sun on my shoulders as a carried on — glancing at my sports watch to see not just how far was left but my overall time. It looked like if I could go a little faster I would hit the magical 2hours30 which I had missed by just 5 minutes in London. I was amazed as I was sure the sea swim wasn’t good enough but it gave me an extra burst of confidence and so I pushed on. As I passed the 8km sign I was starting to struggle and had all but abandoned hope of 2:30 but the watch was saying my pace was good. With 1 km to go I was overheating and wanted to slow down so much but I knew there was only another few minutes to go and then it would be over.

That last 5 minutes felt like an eternity and then I could hear the crowds at the finish line and the finish chute came into view I pushed and started to sprint for the line only to realize the finish line was actually still quite a ways off there was still another 200M to go and I had the painful realization that I might burnout before the line. No must keep going I Can Do This.

Finish with a smile!

Finish with a smile!

I crossed the line and was so happy to have finished. I starred at my watch in disbelief — it looked like I had done it in under 2:30! No I must have started it late or maybe paused it accidentally in transition.

I knew it was close and that was good enough for me. As I picked my way throught the crowds to get back to my bike with the medal hanging round my neck I was so proud.

As I got my phone out of my bike to call my friends who were spectators so we could meet up I saw there was a text on the lock screen:

"Nat:0:29:33, TR1:01:22,Bici: 1:06:54, TR2:03:27, Cursa:0:47:44 Garmin Barcelona Triathlon"

A sub 30 sea swim despite nearly knocking myself out (twice)? Wow, and a run which was nearly 6 minutes faster than London. This all looks promising…

The total? Well let’s just say I was happy with this line of the txt —

"Felicitats, Mark Temps: 2:28:59"

I had done it by a whole minute!

It took a while to navigate the crowds but I eventually met up with my friends who had kindly brought some fizz.



A brilliant end to what at the start had looked like it was going to be a disastrous day.

Thank you for reading, I hope you found it interesting — or maybe even inspiring! I would love to hear from you so please do leave a comment


Wiggle Portsmouth Triathlon

September 4, 2014

For such a new race the Wiggle Portsmouth Triathlon is excellently organised with a lovely route. I took part in the inaugural race last year and thoroughly enjoyed it and had been looking forward to it since I entered back in February!

One feature that I especially like is that you rack your bike in transition on the day before the race. This however did add to my troubles as what should have been a simple train journey became a huge hassle.

I packed up my kit and cycled to Oxford station a little after lunch only to find that all southbound trains where delayed. I was forced to traverse Reading station a couple of times and then a change at Guilford. Anyway long story short  I arrived at Portsmouth & Southsea station with 15 minutes to get to registration. Had a quick look at a map and headed off to the sea front.

There where still loads of people at the event site and it was a simple process to pick up my race packet with a rather fetching bright pink race hat. I stuck the race number (765) onto my bike and helmet and went to put my bike into transition. The racking is numbered which is great as you are guaranteed a space.

With my bike dropped off I had a look at the wiggle shop trailer and luckily they had loads of race belts as I somehow have misplaced mine. I sat outside and had a coffee then walked the short distance to my hotel.

The room was rather small but the bed was comfy which is really all that matters. I had a shower and headed out for something to eat.

I had had a late lunch and didn’t feel like a restaurant meal before a big race so just went to a super market and got a few pasta salad pots and some instant porridge for breakfast. Oh yeah, and a bag of vanilla custard doughnuts!

Slept pretty well but still woke up before my alarm went off. Boiled the kettle and had a coffee and the porridge.

I decided to just pack all my stuff instead of leaving a bag at the hotel so i could just go to the station after the race.

The weather was cool but sunny which was perfect. At some point my luck will run out but so far every Triathlon i have done has had perfect weather for my race. Though on some of the cycling events I have not be so lucky.

I was feeling good about the race despite having scared myself the evening before after looking out at the swim course.

One slight hiccup was that i had thought i would do the bike & run sock-less to save a few seconds (see my previous post about the quest for 4 minutes 30 seconds). I had in my infinite wisdom done the Oxford Parkrun on Saturday morning and did the run without socks to check that my trainers where comfy enough, and while i did set a new PB (stupid before a race i know but something just clicked and it felt really good) i also got a blister on my little toe. Oops.

The swim takes place in the Solent1 and allegedly the organisers picked the date specifically to have the best tide conditions for the race. I went out fast and just kept the turnover rate of my arms as high as i could. A sea swim is much harder than a lake or other open water swim. The tide was quite weak so looks like they had picked the right day!

The flat bike section is almost a figure of eight shape (without an actual cross over so i guess more like a pinched oval) and for the Sprint distance you do three laps. The Esplanade road back along the sea front was quite windy but with a great view out to sea.

Catching my breath

Catching my breath

Portsmouth 2014 Run

Not far to go now

Lovely flat bike route

Lovely flat bike route


Portsmouth 2014 Finish

So so close

The run goes along the sea front past the amusement arcades, and unfortunately, past a fish and chip shop. Oh how i wanted to stop and just get some fish & chips! It then carries on into Old Portsmouth with a few twists and turns with a water station before turning back and passing through the Battery — the original fortified sea wall.

I was very slow with my initial pace off the bike and tried so hard to make up for it in the final stretch as i could see my stopwatch getting closer and closer to 1 hour 30 minutes.
I nearly cried as i rounded the final corner to realise that the finish funnel snaked round the field adding at least 200M still go! There was no way i could get to the finish in time.

I crossed the line and stopped my timer – it looked like I had over shot by about 30 seconds!
After picking up my goodie bag and t-shirt i went to the timing booth to get the final time. I had just missed out on my goal.

I am so so proud of my swim time. The bike was similar to last year and the run was rubbish. To be fair it was entirely my fault the run wasn’t good — should have taken the Parkrun easy on the Saturday. Anyway my overall time was a great improvement over last year so I am very happy. And next year i only need to improve by 26 seconds!!

Portsmouth 2014 Medal

Final Time 1 hour 30 minutes 26 seconds

Next up I have a nice ride round northern France — I’m doing the Wiggle French Resistance with a mate. Then it’s the big one — Garmin Barcelona!

1 The Solent is a strait separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England. Wikipedia — Solent.

All photos except the last are by http://solentsportsphotography.co.uk

Blenheim Triathlon 2013 — prep

June 9, 2013

I woke up a little after 4am. “Oh that’s great, this is going to be a bad day” I thought to myself as I tried to go back to sleep.
After ½hour I gave up and went and had a shower.
I put my Lucozade sport and a water bottle in the freezer and then put one of my spare water bottles by the front door — the aim being this would remind me that there was one in the freezer. Drinks prepped I had some cereal and a coffee for breakfast. I went through the numerous checklists* I had made over the last few days and was reasonably happy I hadn’t left anything out. I re-read the welcome pack notes for the umpteenth time (Super Sprint is TWO bike laps and ONE run lap).

I then pumped up the tyres on the bike and went for a quick spin into Summertown to get some cash so I could go for a drink afterwards. Everything felt good and the excitement was starting to build.

Got home and took my drinks bottle out of the freezer, put on my transition bag rucksack and set off for Blenheim palace — a quiet 6-7 mile ride mostly on cycle track.

On arriving at Blenheim I followed the cars to the parking lot thinking that was the easiest way to get to registration. I had to get off my bike as I was worried about the effect of the gravel track on my road bike.

The registration tent was supposed to be open at 7:25 and I was one of the first there (I had cycled a little faster than I probably should have done!). I chatted with a chap who I met at the training day in Richmond who was also doing the Super Sprint as his first Triathlon and it was great to have a joke and dissipate some of the nervous energy.

At around 8 they opened up registration and a I duly queued up to collect my timing chip. Then it was time to head to Transition and rack my bike.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Part two, the race, coming soon, but in the meantime check out the photo story I put together over on Flickr.

* There are so many articles on the internet about how to approach your first triathlon that every time I read one I start another ‘top tips’ or ‘must have items’ list.