Julian Hodge – First Year With WCT

Beforehand, I had run a few run races in the past, a few 10k’s, the Great North Run and the Las Vegas Marathon. But after a long spell of injury and illness after the marathon, time to get back into some form of shape. Yes round is a shape but only good when you’re a ball! So after a friend had mentioned doing a tri and going along to watch his first one made me sure I wanted to try it out for myself as found just running really annoying as slower than before.
So last year I entered Burnham Sprint Triathlon so see what it’s all about! Didn’t have my eyes set on any targets and finished in 1h24! I was still alive to be able tell how it went! Well a few minutes after finishing anyway. I had enjoyed it and thought that next year would look into doing a few more. I had just brought a bike, tri-suit, etc so needed to make the most of them.

So as 2010 starts, I started to go to Mike’s friday night swims and soon after joined WCT. I really didn’t know what to expect of people abilities and thought that I would probably the one who looks most like the missing link while running to the finish line! But found a bunch of people with a wide range of abilities who can take it seriously but more happy to have a laugh and the odd drink! First achievement of the year was on my second club ride when I tried out clip-in pedals and didn’t fall sideways (and only once so far in total!) I had decided not to put too much thought into times as each race I was gonna get a PB! Oh and they were never gonna be that fast!

First race of the year was in Tiverton for the Exe-Valley Sprint. It went without any real problems; swim was good as only 2 to a lane, nearly new cleats got a bashing though from T1 as was fairly long. As I was still getting used to what to use during a tri, while getting kit ready, I found some wrist bands in the car so thought I’d give them a go if it got too sweaty. Put them just inside my trainers to wear on the run. After finishing the bike, while thinking about being quick in transition I just chucked my trainers on and started running! Straight away my feet hurt and felt numb and cold. After nearly 3km I suddenly realised that my feet weren’t numb with cold, had those stupid sweatbands cramping my toes up! After stopping to removed them, my feet felt instantly better, what a tw*t!

Taunton was next and after trying to run on cleats the week before I decided I would start with my shoes on the bike! As we all know practice is the key to get things right and not go crashing into the crowds while trying to get your feet in! But I only decided on the saturday night while hydrating myself with a Carlsberg’s pre-race energy drink that I’ll give it a try! Amazingly, getting on the bike went smoothly, no-one died and finished in 1h24 so all was good (was aiming for less than 1h30)

Next was Burnham, the only race that I could compare times to see if my fitness was slowly getting back! The aim was to beat last year’s 1h24! I was hoping to get around 1h20 and was amazed to finish under 1h18. Happy days!

Sometimes I like to try to see what I can do as mentally seem to be able to push a lot harder in a race than any training session! Even though being plagued with an old back injury, I had paid for it so I’m going to do it even without much training! So the weekend after Burnham was spent at the Windsor Olympic race! This turned out as a nice relaxing weekend staying on the bank of the river Thames (BBQ, fishing and the odd cider) until the sunday morning! My main worry was the start waves were based on age group. Thinking a lot of my group would be lean and fit I was thinking it could be a lonely race as we were the last to start! I set myself 3 aims for the race. Not to be the last out of the water, to run the 10k in less than an hour and finish in under 3hrs. The swim was good apart from the sun just coming out at the turn point so the last 600m could hardly see a thing and swam past the island where the finish was but wasn’t last out and even overtook 2 people from the wave before. Bike was fun as soon overtook a few which then lead to catching up more and ended up overtaking 30 during the 40km route. The run was what I didn’t look forward to but ran a sub 59min 10k and finished overall in 2h54 so all targets were achieved.

Bideford was the next race, which was really hard as my back was not feeling the love of exercise even with good dose of painkillers. Swim wasn’t great as twice hit in face so goggles leaked and couldn’t seem to get them to fit properly afterwards. Bike route was fairly hilly but not as bad as first thought on drive round. Normally I enjoy the bike leg but today, back was too painful to be able to put any power into the legs. Finished the run somehow and basically went straight to the grass to lie down and stretch/rest back. Not a happy day.

Just after joining the club, emails were being sent about the Club Relays, not knowing anyone and thinking everyone will be super fast, I didn’t both entering. After getting to know a few people and that I wasn’t quite the person everyone thinks “Bless at least he’s giving it a go!” I wished I had entered but luckily for me someone pulled out and I was in! A weekend camping with some new friends starting with a drive to Nottingham, it’s amazing how quickly you discover how inconsistent ones driving speed can be when racing their always fast!! Base camp took shape and food got prepared. One little drink won’t hurt! Saturday morning was a little cloudy! Weather wise it had been raining but had stopped and the sun trying to break. It first seemed a little confusing what was going to happen once everything got started but basically I had to wait for Bev or Jo to shout at me! I can cope with that; it’s basically a game of tag! 2 of the mixed teams and the ladies team was fairly evenly matched so was good rivalry during the race. The afternoon was the men’s team racing which indirectly caused some funny moments! All in all, it was a really fun weekend and good to see everyone when not just racing! Anyone who hasn’t already taken part in it should do even if just for the humorous side of the weekend.

Sherborne Sprint was next which went without any real problems. During my swim, my swim cap was pretty tight and slowly worked itself off my head. Much to the amusement of the guy sat next to Gordon who said that it looked like I had a condom on my head!

Start of September was the Cotswold Sprint, which was my last race of the year. Early start as had to drive there in the morning but luckily Bev and Caroline registered me the day before as they camped over so didn’t have to worry about being too early. Again age group starts were in order and being last meant a bit of hanging around waiting for it to start raining! Bev, Caroline and Sarah were all well on their way in the race when I entered the water, the hooter went and the fun started. Once the wave started to spread out, I managed to find a fairly good swimmer that was sighting well so thought it would be rude not to swim just off his feet! Out of the water, had a really good T1 which was just inside the top 40 time-wise. Bike leg was somewhat hindered with it now peeing it down and my aero bottle strap deciding to come loose! But managed to take a few places while having to hold onto my drinks bottle the whole time! The rain continued into the run but this I actually preferred and finished in 1h15 which meant I finished 20th out of 57 in my age group which I was happy with for an end of season achievement! At the finish line with the rain still falling, the offer of Caroline’s caravan for post race changing room, toasted muffin and cup of tea was too good an offer to turn down to close the curtain on this year.

As for next year, I’m planning on starting with the Burnham Super-sprint, I’ve entered Exe-Valley again as thought it was a good race and doing Windsor again as it will be a good test to see if I’ve improved during the year. I’m thinking about entering the Big Cow Tri but this would be the morning after going too a concert so undecided yet! I’m thinking Sherborne and Cotswold will have to be missed as I’ve given myself a little challenge for the end of season race. I’ve stupidly entered the 1st Ironman Wales, just to see what all the fuss is about really! Pembrokeshire seems a much nicer place than Bolton! So if next year anyone fancies a long ride then let me know!