tom and helen cheshire tri 2016The Cheshire Triathlon: back to where it all began. It was back in 2010, riding a borrowed road bike and wearing a mountain bike helmet that I made my first foray into triathlon. In many ways I should hold UK Triathlon responsible for the last few years. Had I not enjoyed that event as much as I did and caught the triathlon bug, I would probably be an awful lot better at golf. Or tiddlywinks. Or something.

Arriving on Barony Park this year the expectation is somewhat different to 6 years previous. This year I’m trying to defend the title. After registering I’m still half asleep as I stick my number tattoo on upside down. Fortunately I have 5 year old with me who still occasionally writes his 3’s backwards, so I’ll just blame him. See; children can be useful.

I pull on my helmet to ride down to the start. It is probably subconscious that I have already mentioned helmets twice, as it has become a bit of an issue. The fundamental problem is that I have a big head. Physically not metaphorically I hasten to point out. With such focus on aerodynamics on the bike, having a forehead which approximates in size and shape to the main-sail of a large galleon can’t be a good thing. This has lead to a ‘little bit’ of research into helmets in an effort to render my cranium a little less aerodynamically crippling.

The latest incarnation of this research is a large black shiny number from Giro. As I put this on our 5 year old takes one look at me and says:

“Daddy, you look like Darth Vader.”

To which, I make the obvious gag and in my graveliest voice reply:

“Yes, and Ewan, I’m your Father.”

He takes a long withering look at me, then walks off shaking his head. You know your jokes have reached and all time low when they are met with complete derision by a five year old. Either that or it had just sunk in that the man standing in front of him wearing a lycra onesie and a massive black pointy helmet while doing a Darth Vader impression, was in fact his father. Gutted.

As I make my way down to the start I see Ian Roberts of the Champion Systems team warming up. I have already spoken to Paul Hancock of Chester Tri. There are some good athletes here; its going to be a good race.

The start is the usual mix of nerves and windmilling of arms as everyone tries to warm up. Conditions couldn’t be better. The sun is out, little wind, perfect.

I get through the swim and after hurdling a couple of bikes in the busy transition I head out on the bike. As the bike course opens up into the Cheshire lanes I’m the lead rider. The safety vehicle passes me then tracks me around the course. I’m feeling quite pro having my own vehicle in attendance. Although I am having a slight helmet issue (helmets again – does anyone know a good therapist?!). When I dip my head the helmet tips forward obscuring my vision. Now I’m no health and safety expert but riding full gas without being able to see much isn’t ideal. Fortunately I’m Darth Vader. I’ll just use the force.

It then occurs to me that the close proximity of the safety vehicle may be no accident (pun intended). Having seen me shoot past with my helmet over my eyes ‘using the force’ they probably thought I was an accident waiting to happen. I shouldn’t actually joke about crashing, as it is exactly what I did at this race last year. A fairly spectacular effort as I was coming to the dismount line. It even prompted the commentator, who was a couple of hundred yards away to comment that there was some “expensive looking carbon cartwheeling down the road.” Fortunately the bike wasn’t harmed. Oh, and incidentally I was ok too.

Cheshire Triathlon

Onto the run and its hard work. It’s been wet and not only is it damp under foot but the going is ‘good to soft.’ On lap two I see Ian coming the other way. His start time was exactly 5 minutes after mine and we are both doing the mental gymnastics trying to work out who was ahead. The conclusion: it was going to be close.  Crossing the line I’m pleased to break the hour, but with Ian, Paul and others out on course it’s a long wait to see if it’s enough.

Now as post-race regimes go it doesn’t get much better than hopping on the massage table while your kids make you a fresh smoothie. No, I’m not dreaming. One of the stalls have an exercise bike rigged up to a blender. Genius. I relax and the kids tire themselves out making me a fruit smoothie. I wonder if they sell these bike-blenders?

helen cheshire tri 16

Next up is Helen who has been slotted into an available time slot. As such she has to carve her way through the swim but does so in her usual polite manner. She does a big PB on the bike then sets out on the run. Now if I was complaining about it being wet, I had no right to. As Helen set off on the run the heavens opened. Amazingly she was still smiling. She finishes with a great time and will be right up there herself.

As the results are announced am am very pleased to have hung on for the win ahead of Ian in second with Paul completing the podium. Helen has done incredibly well and achieved her first podium finish as third lady. A good day for team Williams! The event is kindly sponsored by Mornflake and High 5. Between the two of us we leave with enough tasty porridge and energy drink to last us until next year!

After the race I am chatting to Ian and hear that his wife has completed her first triathlon today, in many ways a far greater achievement than any of ours. It is a reminder that our sport offers a challenge to everyone. Whether you are racing for the win, to complete the course, to race your mate, or simply go faster than previously. The Cheshire Triathlon is a great example of this. There really is something for everyone. Even Darth Vader!

Massive thanks to UK Triathlon for a great event and to Chris and Beth at Total Tri Training for the amazing coaching that has helped us on our journey from completing to competing.

All the best,


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