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Sat 15th Jun 2019
The last throw of the dice
Posted by: Bob Holloway
Posted on: Thursday 17th September 2009

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All was going well. By the end of June, I was up to training five hours a week, which may not sound like much to some of you, but in days of old, it was enough to get me on the podium at most races. My strategy was to increase the volume and intensity of training in July in a last ditch effort to get race fit for the Dextro sprint triathlon in Hyde park, the last Thames Turbo sprint at the end of August and the Cotswold Sprint in September.

Mid-way through July, I took a few days away from my training schedule to travel down to Bristol for my daughter’s graduation. We stayed in a hotel near Langford which boasted one of the very few dry run ski slopes in the country. On the first night, we took a walk down the steep staircase to watch the activities and on the way back, my training instincts took over and I decided to run the 200 steps back up to the hotel. But after just 20 or so steps, I collapsed in a state of almost total breathlessness. It took me several minutes to recover and I knew then that something wasn’t quite right. This was of course the time when swine flu and its symptoms was on everybody’s lips and over the next days and weeks, I managed to convince myself that I too had contacted the disease, no doubt from one of the many commuters I share my journey with to London every day. Apart from the breathlessness, the other symptoms were pretty minor and it could quite easily have been a simple chest infection. All I know was that one week I was happy swimming 2000m every Saturday morning, and the next, I couldn’t manage 100m without having to stop and grasp for breath.

Of course, being a man, I decided not to do the sensible thing and visit the doctor and instead took the view that it would take care of itself. Kill or cure – though hopefully not literally! And true enough, as the weeks unfolded, the swimming and running became easier and things started to return to normal. But I had to face the truth that I was not in good shape and as has been too often the case in recent years, negativity won the day and I ducked out of the Dextro sprint. But there was still the Thames Turbo and Cotswold sprints. Or there should have been!

Having worked my socks off at work since the credit crunch and collapse of the investment markets this time last year, I managed to sneak in some holiday over the last two weeks in August. Having financed much of my daughter’s five years university studies and facing the same for my son Tim, albeit only over three years starting later this month, holidays abroad are a rarity for the Holloway family so it was a case of catching up on all those domestic chores that have gone amiss in recent years and having a mini-break from all those early morning awakenings. In the end, I spent almost the entire two weeks giving the kitchen a much deserved make-over and spent no time at all training. To cut a long story short, I didn’t make either of the last two races with the pitiful result that in 2009 I have raced just once. On the one hand, I am able to convince myself that this was all unavoidable and that lady luck has once again failed to smile on me, but on the other, is it time that I faced the ugly truth and conceded that my triathlon days are over? How often can you make excuses – and justify them?

Although I feel that I have left both myself and my sponsors down this year, I continue to believe that there is more life left in the old dog yet. Triathlon is in my blood and yes, there have been problems I’ve had to contend with; some outside my control and others perfectly within my control because of my self imposed philosophy about the extent to which I am prepared to let triathlon dominate my life, work and family. When the going gets tough, I have to accept that its work, and not triathlon, that pays the bills and the mortgage.

So what to do? On the basis that in most cases, the past shapes the future, I have decided to go back to my roots and rediscover my running legs. Looking over my results, I was at my best when my running was strong and I could run sub 20 minute 5kms and sub 40min 10kms after a hard swim and bike. Getting my running back into some sort of shape will hopefully give me the confidence early next year to improve the level of my swimming and running to complement my new found running legs. In the good old days, I enjoyed racing because I got stronger as the race developed and could run down significant times lost on the swim and bike. But in recent years, the reverse has been the case where I have simply got slower from swim to bike and bike to run. Mentally, this was tough to accept and the thinking behind my 2009/10 winter plan of running training only, is that giving over all my training time to running 30 miles a week or more will get me physically and mentally in better shape for the 2010 season.

And to give myself a target, I have today applied to enter the Bath half marathon in March. I have completed this run twice before, in 2003 and 2004, both times very close to 1hr 24mins. Still some way short of the 1hr 14min personal best I recorded in 1987 but not even I would consider that a return to those halcyon days would be possible now. But that 1hr 24min time was only five years ago and I would like to think that something in the region of 1hr 25mins could still be achievable, provided that the old legs can still hack those long Sunday runs!

My lack of form in recent years is down to one thing and one thing only - a lack of any form of endurance base over the close season. Spending the winter months running will rectify that and will have the added vantage of shifting that last 14lbs of weight that has been so difficult to shift in recent years. If all goes according to plan, you should see my return next year as a lean mean, fighting machine. If not, it really might be time to hang up my wetsuit, trisuit and racing flats for good.

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