*** many thanks to Dave Lewis for this race report ***

Although this story has been told numerous times here is my version:

‘Fat, Unhealthy Man in his 40's finds Triathlon'

I will start with a few words about my myself, not because i want an excuse for my time at the Aix 70.3 which you will see later but more to show what this amazing sport can do for you. 2012 was a great year for me, I got engaged and married, my wife fell pregnant with our first child, I bought a bike and decided that i was going to get involved with triathlon. It didn't start out that well however, I was north of 100kg and very unhealthy, high blood pressure, high blood sugar etc etc. Apart from a few trips to the gym to try and lose some timber for the wedding I hadn't done much in the way of exercise for a number of years and it showed. Fast forward to September 2013 and my triathlon experience amounted to one sprint at Mamzar but on the good side i was in France 25kg lighter at 77kg (25% of my body weight had gone) on half the blood pressure medication i had been on previously and my blood analysis looking a whole lot better. I felt great and fitter at 42 than i have been for a long time.

Pre-race

The Aix race also coincided with our first family holiday with 6 month old Albert so a stressful enough trip without the thought of the race. We arrived on the Thursday before the race and everything was great until we got off the aircraft in Nice, everything after that point made for a very stressful trip to Aix. I had decided to hire a bike in France, but being male and thinking i had done enough by printing out Google directions to everywhere we needed to go that week finding the bike shop in Nice was a mission, if only I had of said yes to the rude French woman's offer of a Sat Nav at the car hire counter, that decision would come back to haunt me on more than one occasion. Friday i went for a swim in the lake and drove the bike course, once i had found them, damn you Sat Nav, more stress and not because of the race. My wife's parents had arrived in France to see us which allowed me to concentrate a bit more on the race.

Saturday i packed and laid out my kit, double and treble checked it, dropped off the bike and transition bags, now time to relax as much as i could.

Race

I had put some process and time targets into place for this race, nothing that was going to get me to the World Championships but every management course i have attended advised to make objectives SMART and why should sport be any different. Time targets: Everything goes to plan 6:30 otherwise 7:00.

I slept surprisingly well considering and woke up like a kid on Christmas morning, the adrenalin was flowing and i didn't have any serious nerves to speak of, i thought they would come but they didn't and I just couldn't wait to get going.

Swim - Race Plan - Stay out of trouble, 2 minutes 100's, don't smash yourself.

I started off near the back of the wave in my attempt to stay out of trouble but even though i am not the strongest swimmer i found myself quickly going through the pack of flailing arms. Sighting was a nightmare and with the sun in our eyes for the first 750m+ the only thing i could pick out was the right side of a hill. The Garmin told me i had swam 1970 metres and i was out in 36:43. With better sighting and a little more confidence and aggression i would have been sub 35, the wetsuit should probably take some of the credit.

Transition 1 - Get the transition bag from the rack and look inside, i am sure my shoes are on the bike, where is my towel? Who put their shoes in my transition bag? Wrong bag idiot.

Bike - Race Plan - Control the heart rate, sit and spin on the climbs as much as you can, don't smash yourself.

Set off on the bike, pedal steady and settle down the heart rate. My heart rate wouldn't go down no matter how easy i was pedalling, is there something wrong with the heart rate strap? Why wont it go down? Couldn't work it out so decided to go by RPE and look at it again after 10km. True to form all the poor swimmers had flash bikes and so started the steady stream of people going past me on the bike - don't worry, stick to the race plan you will catch them on the run - if only. Apart from being a bit slow the bike was going fine until about 55km when i felt a familiar cramp twinge in both my VMO / quads. I had felt these before on my first few trips to Hatta so i decided to get off and have a little stretch only to find my hamstrings also had cramp. Great. I had to get off twice again, once to be helped to stretch by a  friendly steward as i was lay on the gravel on the side of the road. Only one position on the bike allowed me to pedal uphill without cramp and downhill i just kept the pedals horizontal. Into Aix and the bike was over. These were cramps due to not enough strength or bike time in training and not nutrition I am certain. I am such a poor runner i had sacrificed bike time for run time - my big mistake. Time 3:36:03

Transition 2 - Running shoes on, forget to pick up your nutrition and away.

Run - Race Plan - Try to negative split and no faster than 6 minute km's

Now anyone that knows me will know of the issues i have had with my legs and calf's so even in an ideal world the run split was never going to be pretty. In the last 6-12 months i have had a torn calf to add to the other one i did a while back and enough dry needling at the physio to pay the national debt. First 5 km went ok then the wheels started to come off running on the flat was ok but running uphill and especially downhill was getting very painful - a run walk strategy kicked in and i started to take on coke at the aid stations even though i had not tried it in training, thats what leaving your nutrition in your transition bag makes you do- i became very frustrated as i had lots of gas in the tank still but the legs just weren't willing. Finally finished the run in 2:44:44

Total time: 7:08:59 lots of room for improvement and I loved it - all positive!

Massive thanks to my wife who has been amazing throughout the whole process especially as she has had our first baby to deal with. A huge thanks has to go to Vaughan Thomas at the Physio room who not only gave me the physio i needed but lots of great advice and encouragement, without him i would not have finished and finally to my tri buddies at Tridubai for the banter and answering all my very stupid questions. I didn't have a coach, and maybe i would have gone half an hour or so quicker if i had but learning and experiencing myself was all part of the journey and apart from more bike time i wouldnt do much different if i had my time again.

So whats next for me:

1) Sign up for Abu Dhabi short, IM UK 70.3 and Challenge Half Almere all in 2014

2) Do LOTS more on the bike

3) Go back to Innerfight with Marcus Smith and get some more strength

4) Read Coggens and Friels power books for the second time and buy a power meter.

5) Go sub 2 hours for a half marathon

Two bits of advice stuck with me through this race, the first from my physio Vaughan "make sure you enjoy yourself and whatever happens remember where you were and how far you have come" the second was a tweet I read from Chrissie Wellington "@chrissiesmiles: A finish time in triathlon isn't the best indicator of success. Knowing you've given everything to the process & race is the measure"