Let me start by thanking everyone who gave so generously of their time and effort to come out on the rides, gave me encouragement and, of course, contributed to the £1,600 (and counting) that we have raised so far for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. While I am hesitant to name individual people, I really do have to mention a few:
Paul Wills, who managed to use his 'magic hands' to keep my body functioning and, believe me, that was no mean feat;
Steve Mac' who, as ever, was his usual ebullient self;
Nick Harding, for organising the use of the Hurstpierpoint College swimming pool and for acting as the lifeguard during the swims;
my children, who can shout louder and longer than any other supporters, and, of course,
my wife, Lizzie, who not only had to put up with a somewhat distracted husband for months but was a real inspiration throughout.
You may recall that the challenge involved a 4km swim on Friday 8th April, a 100 mile bike ride on Saturday 9th and the Brighton Marathon on 10th. That was followed by another 4km swim on Friday 15th April, 100 mile bike ride on Saturday 16th and the London Marathon on the 17th. I am well aware that this was by no means a unique series and especially given that a significant number of people have done multiple back-to-back full Ironmans. It was though, something of a challenge to me, even in the conception of it and as my body will testify, in the completion of it.
I started the first swim at just before 0700 with what Dave Jones describes as 'my waddle' up the first of 160 lengths of the 25-metre pool. I was aiming to complete in a time of 80 minutes or so and thus tried to maintain a steady 30 seconds a length. I tried to concentrate on tempo and style - something that I insist others do when we train. Requiring it is one thing, doing it is another. I found it quite difficult at first to achieve any kind of rhythm, let alone tempo, with the constant turning. It did start to come after about 300 metres and, thereafter, I managed to keep a good, steady, even pace. I quickly lost count of the numbers of lengths and relied on Lizzie showing me a countdown board. I finished in little over 76 minutes. It was a little quicker than I wanted but I must say, I really enjoyed the whole thing. It was a great training session.
The first ride the following day was an experience I will not forget. It was not that it was my first ever 100-mile ride but that so many people had organised themselves into groups to cycle around the various laps of the course with me. I was really moved by the enthusiasm and commitment. I had devised a route that took in 3 laps that took us from my house through Ditchling, along the bottom of the Downs to Cooksbridge, up the A275 to Chelwood Gate, then to Horsted Keynes and back through Cockhaise to my house. I intended to try to cycle at somewhere between 14 and 15 mph and so finish in a little under 7 hours. The weather was superb and just got better. We ticked along, chatting about everything under the sun. We maintained the hope for pace on the first lap, slowed a little on the second and picked it up on the third. The last bit of the third lap was bit of a mess. My bike computer was only intermittently picking up the mileage. I got it into my mind, and I know it was stupid, that the computer had to show 100 miles plus before I could finish. Trevor Moore was with me (Steve Mac' had had to branch off earlier because he was running out of time). He and I ended up pedalling up and down Gravelye Lane until my computer tripped over the 100-mile mark. Goodness knows how far we actually did but Trevor is a patient man.
The Brighton Marathon was an experience and a half. I am by no means a runner and, despite the ministrations of Paul Wills, I was not looking forward to it. I set out at a steady pace aiming to get somewhere around the 4 hour mark. The weather was splendid, if a bit too hot. The event itself was absolutely fantastic. The support was incredible. The spectators were 3 or 4 deep from the very start through to the end. We really do have a marathon to be proud of. Unfortunately, my performance did not match the quality of the event. Someone switched my energy supply off at 20 miles, just as we got into the dreaded Shoreham Harbour, the one place where there was little spectator support. I went from just under 9 minute miles to walking in a matter of metres. Thankfully, Steve Birchall came passed at about 21 miles. He stopped and then helped me to the end. I was in tatters for the last 3 miles. Steve managed to coax me over the line in 4 hours 5 minutes and 51 seconds. I then proceeded to nose dive into the concrete just after the finish, making a complete and utter idiot of myself. After a dowsing in the sea (in lieu of an ice bath) I then gave back all of the Poweraid that the organisers had kindly given out on the run. Unfortunately, I gave it back without the bottles. My mood was not helped by a number of horrid blisters, one of which was somewhat deep and across the bottom of my right foot. I was none too keen to think about what was coming up the following week. I was disappointed with the time and with my inability to stand up to the physical challenge. It was quite a low time.
The next week seems to be a bit of a blur. I kept to the regime that Paul Wills had set me and was able to sit in the cold baths for 10 minutes without expending my entire repertoire of expletives. I enjoyed the London Marathon registration because of the buzz and the opportunity to go to the exhibition. I left there on the Wednesday afternoon actually looking forward to what was to come.
The swim on the 15th went well. I stuck to a steadier pace and felt comfortable completing the 4kms in 78 minutes and 2 seconds. The ride the next day was okay too. Once again a host of people came out even though a good number were racing the next day in Cambridge at the qualifying race for the European Duathlon Champs or in the 25 miles time trial. We ticked along at a slightly quicker pace, chatting the whole way and setting the world to rights. We altered the course slightly to get off the A275. It seems that the sun brings out the worst in motorists. Some cannot evidently comprehend that cyclists have as much right to be on the roads as they have.
Oddly enough, I was looking forward to the London Marathon. I haven't done it since 1989. I was like a little boy waiting for Christmas. Gone were the dreadful thoughts at the end of Brighton. David Rickets and his wife kindly took me up to the start. David was really great in looking after me and certainly through the first 13 miles. My plan was to run on heart rate at 9 minute-mile pace for the first half and to see what happened thereafter. Everything went to plan, although David and I got separated at about 14 miles. I felt pretty good physically and so just kept going on heart rate. I got tired when I saw the 26-mile marker. For some reason, my brain decided that that indicated the end and I spent a little while trying to persuade myself that there was .2 of a mile left to go. I finished in 3 hours 53 minutes and 13 seconds. It might have been a relatively slow time but I must confess to having been chuffed to bits.
I have thought quite a lot about the experience. I set out to do it for a number of reasons: to raise money for the club charity, to give myself a challenge, to get into the routine of a reasoned training plan and to lose some weight. I have achieved those goals. I enjoyed the whole experience. I also learned a great deal. At the risk of sounding sanctimonious, there are two things that stand out for me: (1) the mind is something with considerable potential but all too often I have allowed mine to be a limiter in terms of what I might be able to achieve and (2) my body can withstand far more than I have given it credit for.
My heartfelt thanks to everyone.