Mike’s Triathlon Story

My triathlon story started in 2017. Close friend Matt Turnbull embarked on an incredible challenge. He planned to do 7 iron distance triathlons in 7 days! That is when my triathlon story intersected with Matt’s. For any chance of success, Matt needed to construct a support team that could help him pull it off. I volunteered to ride the first 6 of the 7 bike legs with him. I was nicknamed ‘wingman’! Matt smashed his goal creating a new UK record and planted a seed in me that would flourish over the following years.

Matt’s final day 7 iron distance triathlon was an official event called Outlaw and took place in the summer of 2017. Like all big, well organised multisport events, they are inspiring. As Matt crossed the line, I vowed I’d train to complete the iron distance the following year myself. If he can do 7 in 7 days, surely I could complete 1 in 1 day?! 12 months on and I did. What a 12 months it was. Aside from the daily and often twice daily swim, bike and run sessions, I also had to learn to swim!

Like many sports, watching an accomplished swimmer glide through the water is something I’d often dreamt of being capable of doing. The reality was that I couldn’t swim a length. Swimming is highly technical. However fit you are, you can not ‘muscle’ your way through a 2.4 mile open water swim. Aside from the elation of completing the iron distance, the main triumph by the end of my first year of training was that I could swim front crawl. This story was picked up by local press and has since inspired many older adults to consider learning to swim at an older age.

The question, having completed what some might consider the pinnacle of endurance events, was what next? Post event there was a lull of no more than a week before the question was answered. Triathlon is more than a sport; it’s a lifestyle. Triathlon instils a shape and a discipline to the week. Returning to thinking of fitness without structure felt odd. The obvious next step was to train for another event and try to improve.

Iron distance training is hard ….. but more than anything, it is time consuming. I had amazing support from family but it felt fare to consider reducing training commitments and focus on the half triathlon distance; what some refer to as 70.3. I did a number of these throughout 2019, 2020 and 2021. Each event I was improving to a point where I was almost good enough to represent GB in my age group. I applied to British Triathlon 2 years running without success. Although my swimming was way better, it wasn’t good enough to be competitive at a European or world level.

This is where my triathlon journey forks in a different direction into a duathlon journey! British Triathlon were willing to accept some of my triathlon times for consideration to compete for GB in duathlon (which is run, bike run instead of swim, bike, run). This is a particularly gruelling event but it did play to my run / bike strengths. April 2022 saw me compete in the middle distance European Championships for the first time in GB colours. A magical day that I will never forget. 10th in my age, I was absolutely delighted. With a taste for international competition, May saw a return to training with an eye on requalification for 2023 …… until disaster struck!

A blog for another day but suffice to say, a bike accident has put training on hold. I’m in one piece but a ‘sprung clavicle’ means I can not run or swim at the moment. Cycling is restricted to very cautious / upright turbo training.

“the come back is going to be greater than the setback” …. That’s what I’m telling myself!


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