There goes 2015

So 2015 is slowly slipping into autumn and what I would loosely describe as a season, has drawn to a conclusion. Now is the time to rest up, take some time out, and set some goals for next year. It is also inexplicably a time when all my clothing appears to shrink. Not sure why that happens, but it is a time of year that I look forward to, and then immediately get depressed about. It is easy to forget your achievements, so I find it cathartic to look back and quantify what I have managed.

Over recent years I have had a clearly defined season, usually building into an Ironman, but this year my focus was on the bike. My ‘A’ race this year was the Tour du Mont Blanc in July. The build up to this event saw me return to the Tour of Wessex in May, and a cheeky little trip down to Ventoux at the end of June for another single day triple ascent. My triathlon fix for the year was a return to Bala Middle in early June, one of my all-time favourite races. Only after entering it did I find out that it was also acting as the British Middle Distance champs.

Tour of Wessex is a 3 day sportive all starting and finishing from the race HQ in Somerton, Somerset, with different routes each day covering at total of 335 miles. Starting near the front each morning means getting in some competitive groups and it is full gas early on. Then it is either back off and lose the group, or commit all the way and stay with the fast moving pack. Well, it had to be the latter. I’m not used to riding in groups, being a bit of a soloist and all that, but despite the intensity, it is great fun (I think).

I headed off to Bala having had an unusually injury free build up. Running has been a problem over the last few years, but I was in good shape and looking forward to racing. Weather conditions were ideal, although the lake was a chilly 11.5 degrees. Because of that, the swim was cut to 1000m. Normally I would have been pleased about a shorter swim, but I was a bit disappointed. After a usually pedestrian swim, I headed out on the bike with a number in my head to maintain. Goal was 270 watts for the ride. I felt good and was racing well when the race was stopped when I was about 9 miles away from T2. Tragically, one of our fellow competitors had collapsed and died on the road. An initial sense of outrage at being stopped immediately changed to one of great sadness as we were allowed to pass the scene and return to base. Danny Cavanagh was a 40 year old experienced athlete with an Ironman and multiple marathons to his name. His wife and young children were waiting back at transition to cheer him on, and his brother had started the race with him. The race organisers dealt with the situation brilliantly, and subsequent events at Bala this year raised money for the charities that he supported.

Late June saw me nip down to Provence with a mate for a couple of nights, for another triple ascent on Ventoux. Glorious weather added to what was an awesome trip. I also really enjoyed the stress free aspect of achieving a pretty tough goal without being part of an organised event. And I am now an official member of the Club des Cingles du Ventoux.

And so on to the main goal of the year. 330km and 8000m+ of climbing through 3 different countries, in one day. The Tour du Mont Blanc starts and finishes in les Saisies, at the top of an hors catagorie climb, circumnavigating Mont Blanc in between, taking in Switzerland and Italy on the way, and another 3 hc cols and numerous cat 1 and 2 climbs. Starting at 5am and immediately descending in the dark, the whole day was incredible, and took me 14:34hrs in total. A day to remember. Add to that the week leading up to it spent with my daughter who was taking on the mountains for the first time, it was a brilliant trip. Perhaps I should have planned her first day a bit better though. The Cormet de Roselend and Col de les Saisies in one hit, but you can’t keep a good girl down, and with great determination and a never say die attitude, she climbed both of these hors cat climbs on day 1. The Madeleine came later in the week, then her solo non-stop ascents on the Cormet and Saisies again, made me a very proud dad.

So, my main goal was done by mid July, so to keep motivated, I booked in to race Bala Standard in September. As a qualifier for the Europeans next year, I thought I would have a crack at it. Moreover, I persuaded my daughter (Stassi) to have a go too. The dream, Dad and daughter race at the Europeans. Despite having an unnervingly injury free year, I then pulled up with a calf issue 2days before the race. Resigned to not completing the race, I started it any way, seeing as I was there with Stassi. As expected, my first ever dnf occurred even though I made it 3k into the run before coming to an abrupt halt. Thrillingly though, Stassi qualified for the GB Agegroup, and a trip to Lisbon next May is on the cards.

So the end of my season was disappointing, but I return to the reason for writing this post in the first place. It’s easy to lose sight of what you’ve achieved in a year. My body is tired because of what I put it through in the first half of the year and when you get to nearly 50 years old, well, recovery becomes a much bigger part of training. But so is planning, and 2016 is already shaping up. Tour of Flanders in early April, then 5 days back down to Ventoux in June. This time I’m going to have a crack at 6 times in one day, which will make me eligible to become a member of the Club des Bicingles du Ventoux! Then, if that wasn’t enough, it’s down to the Pyrenees to the ride the last 7 days of Tour de Force, following the route of the Tour de France. And in moments of weakness, I still find myself on the Ironman website, so you never know. Watch this space.

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