How I fell into endurance sports
As I mentioned in a previous post I have now been a member of EGTri for five years and have taking part in endurance events for a bit longer.
In that time my fitness levels have steadily increased and I’ve taken on progressively tougher challenges.
But it wasn’t always that way, I was never a star athlete at school.
Recently I met up with some friends from OYNB in London. It was pretty cold, the snow was coming down (but not settling) and it wasn’t the sort of weather you’d want to be out in whether you were walking, running or cycling.
One of my friends arrived with her Brompton in tow. I was impressed that she’d braved such conditions on her bike. “But this is nothing compared to what you do”, she exclaimed.
|This is a Brompton bike|
I told her she was wrong and that commuting in the City was exactly how my descent into madness began. That and my lack of employability.
You see, when I was in my early 20s I was made redundant from a telesales job that I hated. Although they gave me a rather generous payout and I still have some good social media banter with my former colleagues there.
While I’d played a bit of a football in my youth, winning player of the year for Fingringhoe Rovers on two occasions (true name, true story), once I started sixth form college my physical endeavours were replaced by more unsavoury (but still quite fun) activities.
|Not fake news|
This continued throughout university and other than the occasional trip to the gym or game of five-a-side I was a physical mess.
One Friday night, after a session of debauchery, I found myself back at a colleague’s house long after the buses had stopped. “You can borrow my mountain bike if you want,” he said.
I hadn’t ridden a bike in years but my god it was fun. At the time I had also become quite obsessed with the Extreme Sports channel.
Snowboarding was unachievable but maybe I could somehow string some money to together and buy an off-road bike.
All you had to do was point it down a mountain and try not to fall off – it looked quite easy really.
And not long after that night my prayers were answered – I was laid off and had money to burn so invested in a Specialized Rockhopper (which sadly took one too many batterings from London drivers and is now in the great bike shop in the sky).
|Mine was all black but I don't have any pics of my baby|
But no. I didn’t own a decent pump, didn’t know how to mend a puncture or change a tyre and there aren't many mountains around Kingston where I was living.
So the bike would often lie idle for long periods of time.
Not long after being made redundant I moved to Stockwell, in South London. I’d occasionally cycle up to and around Clapham Common (less than four miles in total) but that was it.
At the time I was working through a temp agency, as an administrator for Hammersmith and Fulham social services, in White City seven miles away.
I repeatedly threatened to my colleagues that I’d cycle in one day but the fact that there weren’t any showers, I was paying for a weekly travel card and I was petrified of getting a puncture provided me with enough excuses not to.
|Not sure what tube station this is|
Suddenly I discovered the true nature of temp work when Hammersmith and Fulham decided it was restructuring the department and would no longer use temporary workers.
As a result my income became rather sporadic as I waited for my agency to find me more of a long term placement. A position eventually arose at Queen Mary University London.
The problem was it was it was the other side of London and I didn’t have any money. That was it, I was going to have to cycle. All six miles of it - 12 miles there and back.
And this was way before smartphones, so I was also going to have to try and memorise the route. I also had no idea how long it was going to take.
I got up early, stuffed my clothes into a rucksack and set off. The route took me over Tower Bridge and past the Tower of London, two of the most iconic sights (or sites) in the world.
|For my US readers - this is Tower Bridge, not London Bridge|
Considering I can lose my bearings in department stores I amazingly managed to find the university without any trouble. I arrived energised and surprisingly early, with a good 45 minutes to spare – it hadn’t taken me any more time than it would have done on the tube.
And considering I can work up quite a sweat walking to and from stations and traversing the packed, sweltering underground I wasn’t in any worse condition than I would have been if I’d used public transport.
But this time had spare clothes to change into. A quick pat down with a towel, a spray of deoderant and I was good to go.
From that day on, I cycled practically every day, regardless of whether it was warm, cold, pouring with rain or snowing. I'd occasonally get the tube if I was planning on heading out for beers on a Friday night but I also cycled home in some sozzled states (which isn't big or clever).
Yes, I came off a few times. Yes, I had wheels crushed by taxis and yes I had to retire my beloved Rockhopper after one collision where I was very lucky to not come off worse than I did.
I had a couple of visits to hospital. I had my saddle stolen and once caught a thief trying to steal my bike red handed but it was all worth it.
The combination of temping and cycling meant I got to see parts of London I would’ve never known existed if I’d been travelling underground.
I then got a permanent job at Which?, where I began my writing career. My route would take me past the MI 6 building, over Lambeth Bridge, past the Houses of Parliament, past 10 Downing Street, through Trafalgar Square, through Piccadilly Circus and up Regent Street.
|A big thanks to my sponsors...|
I’d then cross over Oxford Street, up through Portland Place passing the BBC radio building and several consulates up to the southern end of Regents Park.
Sometimes if it was a nice day I’d cycle round Regents Park and Hyde Park before heading home.
My friend’s Dad once said that I probably took my commute for granted but I can honestly say that I often felt the luckiest man alive, that I was cycling past these iconic places that many people would only ever see in a saccharine Richard Curtis film.
I’ve cycled past Frank Skinner, Boris Johnson (you can’t have it all), Robin Cook, Pierce Brosnan and two of the Sugababes (not sure which ones or which era), all going about their business (but not together, that would just be weird).
|No jokey caption required|
I’ve been held up by the police on two separate occasions to allow the Queen and Prince Harry respectively to drive past (and I’ve also been held up by the police for dangerous cycling).
When Trihard Jr was born I was working at the Financial Times, which involved a lot of after work socialising (sometimes for the organisation's benefit, sometimes for mine), and I decided I needed more of a 9-5 existence.
I found a job in the communications department of Kingston Council, the old stamping ground. I still continued to cycle, and Kingston is a lovely town but the commute just wasn’t the same.
However, while I was working there the opportunity came up to take part in the Kingston Breakfast Run and raise money for the mayor’s homeless charity. While my employer didn’t know it yet I had decided that I was going to become a stay at home Dad when Mrs Trihard's maternity leave came to an end.
I could hopefully pick up some freelance work but my main concern was that I would no longer be cycling every day. However, I reasoned that I could take up running, which I could do pushing my daughter around in her buggy.
So I decided to sign up for the mayor’s run, which was seven miles. While I had done some running before this was certainly the furthest I’d ever run. And it was the first running “event” I had taken part in.
To cut a long story short I got the bug and ended up signing up for more events, including an off-road duathlon and a marathon (you can read more about that here).
In the last couple of years I’ve completed a half-iron distance triathlon (which I’m doing again this year) and the brutal Box Hill BallBuster duathlon (which you can read about here).
But I often think back and wonder where I’d be if I’d been able to scrape together a travel card back in the early 2000s and hadn't decided to cycle.