Last year was good. I'd performed well in the London Triathlon, had been featured in several triathlon magazines and newspapers, had been offered my own newspaper column and had won an inspiration award from a national magazine. But there comes a time when the talking has to stop, and my feet, arms, legs and heart have to do the talking. It's London Triathlon weekend and for me that means one thing..... Hammertime!
What a difference a year makes. At the 2009 event I'd been intimidated by the size and the current of the River Thames. But 12 months on, and I'm in a different frame of mind. I can't wait to get on with things and I'm here to compete with some of the best triathletes in the world. I wake at 0630 on triathlon morning, checking my bike over, then checking my swimming kit, (I'd taken 4 pairs of goggles), then checking my cycling kit, before finally checking my running kit, (including 3 pairs of running shoes). Not forgetting to take into account the clothes I need to wear before the event (including The Times health club clothing), and also my Adidas clothing to put on after the event. By now you'll have realised that triathletes don't travel lightly.
A few hours later and I'm one of the first of 15,000 triathletes in the water. It’s lovely and warm, and I tell myself how lucky I am to be here at all. I remind myself often that less than 3 years ago I weighed almost 16 stone, suffered with an arthritic spinal problem and couldn't swim. I take up my position and tread water for a few minutes, exchange a joke with a couple of fellow triathletes and we're off. I put my face down into the water, it's dark and I can't see too much, I pull back with my right arm, roll with my hips, a slight flutter kick with my legs and I'm moving.
I pass a number of swimmers early on, but the leading group are pulling away and as I try to make up ground I get boxed it. Unbelievable, I am swimming in the biggest river in the UK, it is 215 miles long and over 5 miles wide at it's widest point, but I am boxed in to the front and to the side. I try to swim through a small gap but receive an accidental kick to the face for my troubles. I have to slow down for a few seconds to allow the people in front and to the side to pull away from me, I move out to the left, find some clear water and swim past the people in front. I pull away from them and swim around the first buoy. I pass another competitor who appears to be struggling. I slow down and ask if he is ok, he tells me he is taking a breather. My head goes back into the water and I'm off again. I swim around the second buoy and I'm on my own. The gap between myself and the front group is definitely too far to make up, but I have got maybe 50 metres on the group behind me. I remind myself why I am here and I push on as hard as I can. My sighting is rubbish and I am pleased to see the end of the swim section. I am puffing and blowing by the time I pull myself out of the water and I am momentarily dizzy for a few seconds. I struggle to get the wetsuit off, but I then notice someone getting out of the water behind me and my instincts kick in. I shrug the wetsuit off in an instant and sprint for the transition area to collect my bike.
Helmet on, number belt on, sunglasses on and I run out of the transition area with my bike. Once outside the Excel centre I am allowed to mount my bike and we're off again. I head towards central London and I am out of my saddle and my cadence is steady at 112 pedal strokes per minute. I am hammering it, pushing myself to my limits, but I feel good and I relax on the bike and rest on the tri bars and maintain the momentum. I overtake a number of cyclists and am overtaken myself by someone in an Essex tri club top. A couple of miles further on and I overtake "Essex tri man", but two miles further and he overtakes me again. He can't maintain his momentum though and I overtake him for the final time about half a mile before the end of the bike section.
We come back into the Excel centre and I rack the bike, take off the cycle helmet and put on my running shoes and cap, and off I go again for the final time. I know immediately that I am worn out and I have hardly anything left in my legs. Amazingly though I am passing a few people and maintain an 8mph running pace.We head out past London City airport and onto the university of East London in Beckton. There doesn't seem to be too many people in front of me now and certainly not within chasing distance. The course is a circular out and back one, and I notice a competitor on his way back who has slowed almost to a walk. I quickly calculate that he must be about 1km in front of me and I make up my mind to catch him. Despite the pain in my calf muscles I push as hard as I can and I feel a little sick. I am offered water but I don't take it, I am offered a powergel sachet which I take, but I don't have the energy to open it! I finally see the 400m to go sign and as I enter the Excel centre it is packed with spectators, shouting & cheering and the noise if almost deafening. Above the noise I hear the announcer on the tannoy shout out my name which I acknowledge by putting my arm in the air. I get a cheer from the crowd and I run across the line, under the timing clock and shout my customary "I'm Alive" chant.
At the finish line I am presented with my medal and I feel as if I am going to be sick .There are photographers around trying to do their job, and so I put on a smile and pose with my medal. It has been a hard day, but a good day. I've hammered it and I'm worn out, but I knocked 10 minutes off my personal best time, and I finished in 69th position. It taken a lot of effort and sweat and toil and tears, and pain. Sometimes physical, sometimes metaphorical and sometimes imagined, but always pain! What a great feeling,and as MC Hammer once sang, "u can't touch this"