If life piddles in your pool of dreams..

By Matthew Rose

Going back to 2007, if you’d asked could I run 10K the answer would have been a resounding no… Seven years later it’s almost a daily occurrence and to date I’ve completed nine marathons, three being overseas.

Finished the marathon

Assisted off the field
after Chester Marathon

Unfortunately after Chester Marathon in October 2014 I was side-lined with Sacroiliitis - inflammation in the Sacroiliac Joint.  I couldn’t walk never mind run and sat frustrated considering my options.

Swimming was something that sprang to mind; a good workout with no impact.  The issue for me was I could only do breast stroke and with the form I had, my scissor kick caused my knee to hurt and my overly raised head – neck strain.. it wasn’t for me!

I could do little else at first so decided to join KAL and book some swimming lessons. I couldn't do front crawl at all; I had difficulty breathing and struggled to exhale with my face in the water.  I watched videos, read articles and using my KAL membership used every opportunity I could to get in the pool and practice.  It was hard work and I could have quite easily have given in; it was an opportunity to achieve new things.

After two sets of lessons and an increase in prices, I chose not to continue with the lessons; I felt I’d been given sufficient instruction on technique and the rest would be up to me.

I’d watched the triathletes train at Holmfirth Pool they were too advanced for me.  I’d slowly improved and built myself up to be able to do 1, then 2, 3, 4 lengths but then I’d be well out of breath, and no matter how much I tried I couldn't keep going.  My wife, Hayley invited me to the Triathlon session at Scissett Baths.  I watched a session first and thought I could cope with that, so went along and joined in the following week. Andy Blanshard the coach gave me loads of tips and advice; I was even filmed whilst swimming and Andy provided a detailed report of my ‘issues’… some useful feedback from Harriers followed too including to get rid of those baggy shorts!

After a few weeks of gentle exercises and rehab, I started to do more on the bike.  Running was a far cry from pre-marathon training but that was OK.  I’d deferred from the London Marathon and had decided this year was going to be less intense - a "rest year"; the bike and swimming provided a useful alternative to running.

I was asked by many if I was training for a triathlon; I wasn’t.  My motive was to learn to front crawl and try and get back to a reasonable shape for running.  The bike provided an alternative to using the car and I enjoy it [see our first duathlon and my introduction to road bikes].

Hayley is a very capable swimmer and started training with the Tri squad and was doing exceptionally well.  Hayley joined in on a recent cycle ride; 34 miles and she loved it.  Mm… I can’t swim; Hayley won’t run… a challenge! I entered us both into the Epworth Triathlon.  I shared the news with Hayley and the children; Hayley was shocked, anxious and nervous – we both had a training focus :)

I didn’t worry about the cycling and running and in any case, wasn’t concerned about time or placement; we would both do our best and you can’t do better than that!

It was a sprint triathlon, 400 metre swim, 20K bike and 5K run.  My focus was now on learning to swim 400m without stopping… Hayley’s focus was on a 5K run without stopping.

The weeks that followed included commitment, discomfort and lots of practice.  Hayley was making great progress with the bike and running; swimming was really coming along despite picking up an illness.  Unfortunately Hayley's illness continued for weeks which seriously affected her ability to train and eventually it meant withdrawal with just a few days to go.

For me, nervous as hell and still not confident… came the day of reckoning… could I do it?

Race day


All ready for a smooth
transition (T1)

Epworth is near Doncaster; my swim start time was 7:43am and I wanted sufficient time to register and familiarise myself with the setup.  The alarm went off at 4:30am for a 5:15am departure.. the children came with us, out from bed, into the car – quilts and snoozing.  The journey was smooth, quiet, clear roads – we arrived to plan at 6:30am.

It was a cool, fresh, dry and already many folk had already arrived and were setting up.  I collected my numbers and headed to transition to set up my stall.  Bike in place, cycling shoes and trainers lined up (with socks)… number attached to belt and on bike, towel laid out and drink on bike. That’s it! I chatted to my ‘neighbours’ in transition who were both in the same swim wave as me.  Both were experienced which was very helpful. After the race briefing I headed to the pool as the race started.


mrSwim 220

400M swim

This was the section I feared most… I’d had to predict my swim time and had been allocated a slot with those of a similar ability.  It can be different but here, the slowest swimmers went first.

It was handy being able to watch the swimmers which reassured me somewhat.  I closely observed the swimmers, able to see those who set off too fast to end up suffering as the swim progressed and also observe the entry and exit of the pool.  I was still a little anxious – if I got tired I’d struggle.  I discussed with Hayley and we agreed I’d alternate, two front crawl, two breaststroke; to cover 20 lengths.

My time came, I attached the chip timing unit to my leg and I was given last minute instructions and a swim cap allowing the counter to monitor the distance covered.  In a flash, 3, 2, 1 Go!

I stuck to the plan. Unfortunately my goggles leaked – I learnt afterwards, it was because of how I’d put them on with the swim cap.  The water was choppy and I swallowed a few mouthfuls.  00:08:40 and I was out of the water and making my way to transition.



A windy 20K cycle

My daughters had asked I run to my bike and I followed instruction. My planning paid off and I was heading out of transition in just a few minutes.  The cycle route consisted of left, left, left, left.. not hard to get lost; it was windy and lonely.  I worked hard and tried to pick off as many cyclists as I could.  I had a road bike, some had mountain bikes.  I was hoping to get the wind behind me but that didn't happen. For much of the loop it was a battle with the elements but I was pleased I’d overtaken 9 other competitors.

I used the bike section to fuel up; I had Lucozade sport in my drinks bottle – that’s all I had.  I neared the end of the bike section to see my family eagerly waiting for my arrival.  I dismounted and headed into transition for the final change into my running shoes; my time was 00:39:35



Finishing off the 5K run

Another quick transition and onto the run.  I was behind another competitor and decided to hold back for a moment to allow my legs time to stabilise.  Once on the road I upped the pace.. not sure what I wanted or could do I applied a good effort and managed to catch and overtake four athletes.  As I moved from the road and onto the trail I could see my next target.  I worked hard to catch her and as I neared she stepped aside, “you go in front so I can chase you”.  I overtook and kept pushing.  Finally off the trail and back onto the tarmac.  I continued to push and crossed the finish line with a run time of 00:21:40.

I was delighted I’d finished; no punctures, no drowning, no injury or issues.  It was quite a tough effort and I’d done OK - 46th out of 127 competitors in  1:13:11.


Final words

I set myself a personal goal and worked it through.  By entering a race it provided a focus and motivation to train.  That works well for me and without a goal it’s easy to get lazy and skip sessions.

From here my target is to stay reasonably fit and be in a good position to start training for London Marathon in 2016 (around December time).  The only clear target I have is to represent the club in the YVAA Grand Prix race series.

If it wasn’t for the injury I’d never have learnt to swim and the consequence of that is I’ve now done a Triathlon.  I believed and achieved!

Triathlon complete

Finished 46th in 1:13:10 :)

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