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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Giles’ Trials

IN three months reporter GILES BROWN will take part in one of the most scenic, fun, and exciting triathlons in the country – Tri Windermere. The triathlon novice charts his training progress in the fourth of six monthly columns.

LAST weekend I was talking to a friend about my triathlon preparations and describing a recent training task I set myself, which involved cycling from my house in Lowick Bridge along the eastern bank of Coniston to the foot of Coniston Old Man, running up the Old Man and then cycling back.

“Surely that must have been unbearable?” my friend asked, seeming a bit bemused that anyone would even consider doing such a thing.

In the days since, I have often thought about this conversation, usually at particularly arduous points on my regular cycling route from Barrow to Lowick Bridge. If I had the breath to speak during the long climb from Dalton to the road bridge over the A590 (horrible) or from Marton onto the top of Kirkby Moor (sickening) I would say to myself: “Why are you bothering to put yourself through this?”

Like the vast majority of people in the modern world, there is not really any reason for me to be super fit. Of course, no-one wants to be so unhealthy that they actually feel bad but, at same time, there is no real value in my life or career in being able to swim, cycle and run a long way.

For me, none of these activities involve the same satisfaction as playing a good golf shot, hitting a nice drive in cricket or overcoming a difficult climbing problem. Yes, they all have a lot of technique involved but the main thing is sheer fitness and bloody-mindedness, rather than any great skill.

The greatest pleasure from these endurance-based activities comes from stopping them. For a long time, one of the things I enjoyed most in the world was returning home from a run and immediately smoking a cigarette because, I told myself, I had earned the right to pollute my lungs by doing a bit of exercise. I am already looking forward to getting the triathlon out of the way so that I can let myself cool it a little and perhaps even have a month or two of being a complete slob.

However, I know deep down I will find it very difficult to stop pushing myself now. There are lots of things you can get addicted to in life and physical exertion is one of them. If I have a day off swimming, cycling or running now, I begin to feel a bit restless and irritable. I worry, irrationally, that I am suddenly going to go to seed and develop a giant gut. I don’t miss the sensation of exercising, I just miss the feeling of self-righteousness. Whether this is truly healthy or not, I don’t know.

The thing I enjoy most while I am actually in the act of exercising is the mental relaxation. It is hard to explain, but I have often felt during a long run that I am almost nodding off, as my mind locks onto subject so deeply in a way akin to the moments before sleep.

Recently, I have been thinking about how I can give my triathlon meaning beyond my selfish need to put myself through the wringer. To do this I have decided to take part in aid of two charities which I have become aware of recently following the death of a friend, Fred, from a brain tumour last year. Anyone who wants to donate to either Brain Tumour Research or Iain Rennie Hospice at Home can go to http://www.justgiving.com/FredoTriposBrainTumourResearch

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