A whole new world opened for me when I retired in 2005. I had always been a runner but could I do something more- triathlons or even an Ironman? My swimming background was 2 lengths maximum before being exhausted and my only bike was a MTB.
Fortunately with Brough Park pool being so close I started to up my training regime, going 5 days a week during the winter months and with some guidance I managed to up the distance and eventually I could do 1500metres before feeling I was sinking.
In May 2006 I did my first triathlon at Southwell . This was my first real learning experience and it was a steep one. In running races all you need is a pair of trainers and you can jump out of the car and go off running. In triathlons you need swimming goggles, wetsuit ( for an open water swim), bike has to be to be racked somewhere near the pool, helmet and running shoes which tested my organisation. Also at this first one I assumed you need a towel to dry down after the swim and socks to put on before you put on your cycle shoes. It was not a startling success. Now I was an expert I moved up to Olympic Triathlons ( 1500 metre swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run)the first one was in July 2006 in Bath. You then realise the next issue to overcome is that i although the race starts at 7 am in the morning you have to be there at least an hour beforehand to get all your gear in the right place, ie early starts are the norm.
I continued to refine my technique over the next year. Initially because I came from a running background I would make up time on the final section of the race with the run. However I was beginning to have trouble with my knees, so decided to go to the doctors and he told me to give up all sport and just “ play crown green bowls and a little golf”. This did not go down to well in my head. So I set off to the gym and did a lot of swimming, spinning and biking. I then found that if I was reasonably sensible, which sometimes was quite difficult, my knees allowed me to still run without too much pain. I was now back on track for the Ironman?? In 2009 I did the Beaver Half Ironman in 6hours 20 minutes, which I was quite pleased with, although was pilloried by a SMAC triathlete for having a cup of coffee after getting out of swim, but I was cold!! As I finished they were giving out the prizes for the various age groups which I did concern me at the time until I got home when I looked at the results and found I was the first in my age group. However this was another learning experience in that I decided I was not committed/dedicated/ mentally strong enough or something to do an Ironman.
I continued to do local triathlons over the next couple of years and if they had my age group category I would come 1st or 2nd from a small number of people ie 3 or 4. In 2012 I decided to go to the National Sprint Triathlon Championships at Milton Keynes, really just to see how good I was at this level. I did well enough to be selected for GBR at the World Championships in New Zealand. This was a whole new ball game and expense, fortunately I got the support from SMAC and Staffordshire Moorlands Council and a son living in New Zealand. I flew out on a plane, full of quality athletes, all refusing any alcohol provided by the air stewards, but eating all the food provided. I came 4th in the aquathon (swim and run) and 7th in the sprint triathlon and the first Brit ( there were 6 other Brits in the event before you think there were no others) which I was ecstatic with. There was certainly some Brits who did not come out because of the cost, but” you have to be in it to win it”.
That was the highlight of the year, but on the return flight from NZ , with drunken triathletes this time, I picked up a bug which developed into pneumonia. The comment from the hospital was that “ you could have died from that if you left it much longer”. After they had drained my right lung and I was back to some level of health in February, I went swimming and managed 25 metres before the lifeguard asked whether I wanted rescuing because I looked so bad, it seemed a long way back to full fitness. Because of performance in New Zealand the previous year I was preselected for the World Championships in London the following September. It was a lot to do in a relatively short period of time but was not quite as successful finishing well down the field, I had not really recovered from the pneumonia.
During the next three years the World Championships were held in the Americas and it seemed a long way to go for four days. In September2017 it was in Rotterdam, which seemed much closer to home, there would be a good turnout of Americans, Europeans and British who generally are the best triathletes in the world. I qualified at Eton Dorney and then went on a triathlon training camp to the Dordogne with Newcastle Tri Club, where I spent a lot of time working on my swimming technique. This proved very important in Rotterdam where I did my quickest swim time of the year and I was fresher for the bike and run, finishing 4th Brit and 12th in the world. In some ways I feel this was better than my result in New Zealand because all the top guys were there or just because I was 5 years older and am still fortunate to be able to do it, along with the rest of the 70-74 year olds.
There is still room for improvement over the next few years.