Monday 8 August 2005

who gave the leopard spots and taught the birds to sing?

I really enjoyed myself at the London Triathlon yesterday, which was nice because, all things considered, I wasn't really expecting to. I think John did fantastically well, and I'm really pleased that I was there to support him and to take a few photos. I won't go on about it too much here because there will be a full run down on the Ultimate Olympian pretty soon.... suffice it to say that I have nothing but admiration for the fact that our man hauled himself around one of the most punishing events in the Olympic calendar with a smile on his face.

Triathlon is a fantastic sport, and you see so many people of all ages and all different shapes and sizes taking part. It is quite an equipment intensive sport (you need a bike and a wetsuit, for starters) so it's easy to be intimidated by people who have really expensive looking kit and think that they must be brilliant and that you don't belong. The great thing about an event like the London Tri is that it is so big, and has so many participants, that you see plenty of people hauling themselves around on really ancient and heavy looking mountain bikes, wearing scabby old trainers and antique, moth-eaten wetsuits. The swim takes place in the Albert Docks, and as you look down across the water, the 1500m looks like a very long way indeed. Competitors set out in waves, 30 minutes apart from each other, and quite often the fastest swimmers in each heat will comfortably overtake the slowest swimmers in the heat in front - you can tell as they get out because the swimmers in each heat wear different coloured swimming caps. It is the slower swimmers, the ones who have taken 50 minutes to drag themselves through the water, who have been overtaken by these sleek-shouldered athletes, who have to be helped up the ramp and out of the water to stagger towards their bikes - these are the ones who get the biggest cheers from the crowd and who best represent what triathlon is all about. As they sweep past you on the bike or on the run, the faster athletes will often find a word of encouragement for you. It's nice. It's inclusive. It's bloody hard work.

Whilst I was waiting for John to finish his swim, I watched as Men's Olympic 30-34 heat 3 set off at 13:40. That was the heat that I was supposed to be in, and for a moment I felt a bit sad. The feeling didn't last long though, as John came bursting through the time check at the end of the swim, interrupted an interview that the BBC's Craig Doyle was trying to have with the World number 2, Tim Don (Doyle had interviewed John for Grandstand the day before) and then started to chat up the girl who was telling him where to take off his wetsuit. Who wouldn't be distracted by a force of nature like that?

I'll be there for 2006. There's no way I'm missing out on this. I couldn't have done it this year if I had tried. A month ago I could have done an Olympic distance triathlon. At the moment, I could not. I went to the pool for a swim last week and managed 26 lengths before I had to stop. That's 576m - some way short of 1500m. This evening I struggled to complete a 4km run inside 30 minutes. Now I need to take things easy and let my body recover. But I will bloody well be on that starting line in 2006.

I have 363 days to get myself ready. There's no rush.... but knowing that doesn't make it any less frustrating!

Well done John. Huge achievement. See you at the marathon.

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