Ch. 15 – Shaping my 2019 training and race season, off the back of a “Santa Swim”

For the fifteenth chapter in my blog “Fatman to Ironman” I will describe how I would shape my 2019 training and race season. I would do it off the back of a very successful “Santa Swim” Challenge.

I had had a lovely Christmas and new Year. Now I needed to sort my self out and create a plan for 2019

Building a race diary

This is something I hadn’t really done before. Working with my coaches had changed the way I thought about this. In 2017, as a runner, I just entered events without thinking about how I would be able to train for them. Sure, I used these events as goals, but without decent planning, I would end up racing a lot of events poorly prepared.

In 2018 we had a plan for my first triathlon, and it went well. As you have read my plan kept on changing.

So 2019 needed to be different. I needed to be really clear in my mind how I was going to train, and what events would be used to get me up to the best possible condition on race day. In Chasewater reservoir, Staffordshire.

I had fannied about through November and December 2018, occasionally searching through The British Triathlon Federation web page for events. I also had the Triathlon 220 Magazines list of races. I had short listed a few events that I thought would be right. The focus being on building my run, and experiencing at least one triathlon, preferably Olympic distance.

Billy (TriForce) was impressed with the list I had come up with.

I was in my winter training and progressing well at the Gym. June seemed so far away at this point.

However, before I knew it, it was January 2019. Two months had passed already and with the exception of my “A” race, I had made no other commitments.

I kept the list of possible events on my phone, and every now and then, I would whittle it down to preferred options. Deleting the rest.

I decided not to race my Tri clubs (STAR) races again this year. Part of me wanted to see how much I had improved, and how much I could Pb by. The real part of me knew I had already proved to myself I could do it. It was a tough decision, but the right one. I will give something back to STAR this year, and volunteer as a marshal. They are a wonderful little club and I would love to see someone else “stepping up” and giving Tri a go. I will be cheering them along with the added experience of knowing exactly what they are going through.

I also decided not to include any half marathon races in my training plan. So those too, were crossed off the list. I didn’t want to tempt fate and risk another run based injury, paranoia? Perhaps, but these decisions were made after several weeks of suffering from Achilles Tendonitis.

At this stage I had almost given up on running, at least thinking about it. My Running Club (Shrewton) would now see a full on effort by me, as Secretary, and committee member to promote the club in as many other ways possible. I knew I was not going to feature in their league pursuits as a runner.

As I got through the short list of events I began to wonder why I was trying to cram so many into my plan. I wasn’t a pro athlete, I was barely even an athlete yet. At best I was an injured athlete. I didn’t need that level of stress in my life.

Billy (TriForce) had encouraged me to enter a few events so that my training was focussed. He was worried that if I didn’t have a race or two planned before my “A” race I might lose interest, as I sat on the Turbo or plodded up and down the pool.

I understood that mindset from Billy, but he was beginning to learn just how determined and focussed I was. How deeply entrenched I was in my journey.

I eventually whittled the list down to just one event. An Olympic distance Triathlon at Stourhead, In Wiltshire. “The Immortal”

There are many reasons why I chose this event. Mostly, it is local to me, and that takes the admin problems away. I could just drive to the venue on race day. Amongst others, the scenery in that area is said to be beautiful. A stately home not far from me, that I had never been to. What better way to see it than through swim, bike, run.

The main reason was, I had been kindly offered a place at a discounted rate for marshalling two of their half marathons. I was desperately disappointed in being unable to run Salisbury Half, twice. However, volunteering for the organisers had now been rewarded. I now had two races booked for 2019. Race 1 of 3 already smashed!

Santa Swim

I was straight off the bat from a very successful “Santa Swim” challenge organised by TriForce. I had been awarded “The Most improved swimmer” award, and received wine and vouchers for my efforts. The accolade alone would have been enough. I already had one success as I started 2019. I counted the “Santa Swim” as event 1 of 3 now. I hadn’t been expecting any competitive events for some time. So hence it appears as race No. 1.


When I signed up for the “Santa Swim”, I knew I was never going to win the challenge over all. I had no chance of getting near the podium either. TriForce has some pretty serious athletes on their books. I was amongst the beginners. They had dangled a carrot for us, and anyone else suffering with their swim. We could become the “Most improved swimmer”! This I knew I could do. My swimming had been coming along nicely, this was just the sort of thing I needed to take me out of my comfort zone.

I was just as focussed on that swim challenge as I had been in any event I had entered previously. I had convinced myself I could claim a reward, and humbly set about smashing it!

The coaches had set us targets to swim on the days when the pools would be open over the Christmas period. These “options” were on top of our normal training schedule. They weren’t an option for me! I wanted that title! I had worked so hard to be in a position to challenge for it. I was not going to let this opportunity slip.

As I found last year, In my first Christmas as a swimmer, Christmas is a very difficult time to gain access to the pools. Nonetheless, I set about putting my name on that bottle of wine and getting that Wiggle voucher.

I could choose from the list produced from the coaches what swim set I would try. Ruling out the 5k and 10k swims as way beyond me (I didn’t want to be in the pool all day anyway, neither did the council) I certainly wasn’t going to do a 500m kick set either. However, the remainder of the sessions seemed doable if I could get in the pool with enough time.

I would go on to crush my 100m, 400m & 750m Pb in my first Santa Swim. It was a 1k non stop swim. I had never done that before either. I would then go on to swim a non stop 1.9k swim (the distance I will be swimming in Chasewater resevior) and follow this up directly with another 100m Pb, 11 seconds quicker than the Pb two days previous. The next swim was truly epic. I swam 3k non stop. Yet another first. There was no 100m Pb there though. This swim would introduce me to the discomforts of chaffing. My armpits were red roar. But I didn’t care. I felt awesome and knackered at the same. I eventually swam 5 epic swims over the Christmas period of 2018.

I finished the challenge off with a pyramid swim totalling 3k. Santa set me off buzzing into the new year and I knew I needed to put my hand in my pocket and sort my race diary out.

Despite being so focussed on the “prize” of that “Santa Swim” I was amazed when I was given the title “Most improved swimmer”. I was honoured to be mentioned in the ranks of so many great people…… I swam my arse off.


I had recently been given a birthday gift from Sue, a Gucci multi sport Garmin watch. My birthday falls at the end of November, and without me knowing it at the time, gave me a few weeks to get used to the advantages.

My swimming had improved without any tech, but this Garmin watch was a game changer. For the first time ever, I could swim eight lengths without forgetting how many I had swam. The watch would take care of that. I could simply focus on technique, my breathing, and above all relaxing into my swim.

Bizarre, even writing those words. That’s what Billy (TriForce) had been telling me all along. “Focus on technique, relax. The pace will come later”

Having that watch made it easier to complete a successful Santa Swim. I was probably the most relaxed I have ever been in the pool.

After getting this accolade I would have to refocus and look at my race diary. I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so reluctant. For the last two years I was jumping in two footed at everything that came my way.

Perhaps that was it. I was now a little more experienced. I would bide my time. The right opportunity would come along.


Some time ago, as far back as August 2018, TriForce had invited it’s athletes to their summer training camp for 2019. It was to be held in Mallorca. The images they posted were enticing. I had read the reviews of their previous year, and expressed a keen interest at the time.

We could not afford it, there was simply going to be no amount of flowers or breakfasts in bed, that would convince Sue it was a good idea either. I would just have to shelve the idea. Before I did, I left it with Billy (TriForce)that I felt this was ideal for me. He agreed it would be a “Game changer” as he put it. Nonetheless Sue was not going to be convinced as easily.

The Open Water swims at Ellingham went a long way to change this, I had also been much better at dividing my time. I think Sue also saw a passion and desire in my cold, wind, and rain beaten face at Ironman 70.3 Weymouth. However, back then Sue was in a bad place with my Tri life, I needed to tread carefully.

It came out of the blue. In the week leading up to Christmas Sue announced she wanted to go with me. And that it was on! She had thought long and hard about it. I was knocked off my feet, I had almost given up on the idea. So we chatted all day, on and off, about it.

Sue was ok that I would be training long and hard in the day. She accepted I would be up for early morning swims. I didn’t know what to say.

That was it! That was the reason I wasn’t committing to any races. In my heart I knew that I wanted to go to Mallorca. I just didn’t know how to make it happen.

I quickly got in contact with Billy to get some details of this event and chatted about my race calendar.

I knew financially I wasn’t going to be able to enter many races now that we had committed to Mallorca. I also knew I never really wanted to. I could now focus towards a training camp in Mallorca. That has to beat any early season races. Boom! I was excited and driven again. I now had that drive and focus. It was on!

2019 is going to be awesome!

Thank you for reading the latest chapter in my blog.

Please take the time to read the previous chapters in my journey. Chapters 1-15 have been a lot of fun to write, and I welcome your comments and opinions.

“An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head.”
– Emil Zatopek

For the next chapter in my blog I will describe how I began to gently up my training in preparation for Mallorca 2019


Previous chapters in my Journey “Fatman – Ironman”

Ch. 14 – The gym, with a purpose


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