As a very busy season for Havering Tri approaches, this will be one of the last personal blogs for a while - this time it comes from our Monday night run leader, Dave Sherman... a very honest account of his athletic career to date...enjoy
As I stood on the concrete pontoon looking out across the Irish Sea, one thought was going through my head... “What the hell am I doing here?!” Next to me Mark Billyard, multiple Ironman triathlete and professional club swimmer, tried to offer advice about how to handle the 1.2 mile sea-swim (including to wee in my wetsuit, of course) but my doubts were drowning him out and it took every ounce of self-control I had not to meltdown in sheer panic... What if I drown? What if I don’t make the cut-off? Why does it look so bloody far to that first orange buoy? WHY AM I DOING THIS!?! How had I gone from a lazy overweight couch potato to someone about to attempt my first ever Half-Iron distance triathlon?!
Most of you reading this know me as ‘that crazy fella who loves running’, but my introduction to exercise began just a few years back in early 2011, when a fitness evaluation revealed that at 96kg (15 stone) with a Body Mass Index of 30 I was technically ‘obese’ and had to make some serious lifestyle changes... My fitness journey began by joining a gym, paying attention to what I was eating and walking whenever possible, and in Oct 2011 I completed my first 5km fun-run in 26 minutes 26 seconds and made a promise to myself it’d be the first of many!
This was where the addiction started to take hold... I joined a local running club – Havering ’90 Joggers – and discovered how much more enjoyable exercise is when you’re surrounded by supportive people. Helping each other through the tough parts of runs, meeting friends before and after races, posing for team photos and best of all celebrating achievements after completing each milestone. Gradually the weight fell off as my distances increased and race times fell, and in Oct 2012 I completed my first marathon in Chester in 4 hours 20 minutes – an achievement I never would’ve dreamed possible just a few years before. Over the following 2 years I completed over 100 events including another 12 marathons (including 1 Ultra) the RideLondon 100 mile cycle sportive twice, and the Killarney Adventure race which involved a total of 69km of mountain running, cycling and kayaking – an awesome experience! I was always looking for a new challenge, and in Autumn 2014 I entered my first triathlon at Castle Howard, York...
I went into my first tri full of naivety... I was a rubbish swimmer (one length of a 20m pool would leave me out of breath with my heart-rate racing) but I thought “It’s only 400m... I’ll struggle through that, smash the 20km cycle and breeze through the 4km run!” As the event drew closer I started to realise there was a serious chance I wouldn’t complete the swim and would need rescuing, so following recommendations from two of my H90j friends, Danny Gearing and Laura Homer, I joined a local triathlon club ‘Havering Tri’ and started swimming lessons. Without the help and advice I received from the swim coaches I honestly think I might’ve drowned in Castle Howard’s lake! I completed the race in 1 hour 32 minutes and hated the experience (the swim alone took 16m20s leaving me shattered with the cycle and run still to complete!) but I’d discovered how Tris offered a new challenge and a new way to improve myself. I’d caught the multi-sport bug...
In 2014 I completed my Leader in Running Fitness qualification with England Athletics and had been assisting H90j’s ‘Learn to Run’ sessions, so not long after my first tri I was asked if I’d lead Havering Tri’s Monday night run sessions. I’ll admit I found (and still do find) leading the groups difficult as I don’t have a huge amount of confidence and find it incredibly difficult and uncomfortable speaking to groups, however I’ve loved designing training sessions and received some brilliant feedback, not to mention the fact seeing my club-mates improve throughout the year has been truly awesome! Some of the sessions are a bit beastly and I’ve seen people physically shudder when I mention the words ‘hills’ or ‘intervals’, but seeing the improvements people are making is hugely inspiring. I’ve also taken a lot from my swim coaches and despite hating the moment I jump into the pool at 7am every week, my swim times have fallen and I can now complete 400m using front crawl in half the time it took using breaststroke at Castle Howard in Aug 2014! I still wouldn’t consider myself a good swimmer, but my confidence in the water has massively improved and I never thought I’d say this, but I can’t wait to jump in Stubbers’ lake when it re-opens in Spring!
Looking back over 2015 I’ve had a great year and I’ve achieved things I never thought
possible including completing my first triathlons at Sprint, Sprint-Plus, Olympic and – something which still shocks me – Half Iron distance in Dublin! Despite some moments of near-hysteria at the swim start and serious stomach pains throughout the cycle and run which had me doubled over in pain, making it very awkward to cycle, the feeling of crossing the 70.3 finish line with my friends and partner supporting was an amazing experience and something which will stay with me for the rest of my life. However being realistic, over the course of the year I struggled through every multi-sport event I tackled and felt like my times weren’t quite as good as they could’ve been, which has taught me the importance of focusing my training when I have goals I want to achieve – something which will help shape my 2016 training sessions.
One of the best things about Havering Tri is that as well as a club full of athletes, we’re also a huge group of friends and every training session, meeting or event feels like a get-together with mates making it much more enjoyable. Our Facebook group is a great place to share tips and organise training, and with a great range of abilities from newbies to elites with backgrounds in all 3 disciplines, there’s always someone to speak to if you need advice or tips. The saying ‘there’s no such thing as a stupid question’ is pushed to its limits when it comes to some thoughts that exit my brain, however loads of my club-mates have been happy to offer support and advice around training, nutrition, bike maintenance and a million other things I’ve asked about, and I truly am grateful for the fantastic people I’m surrounded by.
My aims for 2016 are to focus on improving the amount of quality training I complete, learn a lot more about nutrition, endurance and recovery, and most importantly increase my confidence during coaching sessions and races. I’ve set myself two ‘A races’ for the first half of the year with targets of sub-3h30m at the Milton Keynes Marathon and sub-6 hours at the Outlaw Half Iron, but at the same time I won’t beat myself up if I don’t achieve these as long as I feel I’ve pushed myself hard enough. My initial fitness journey was about losing weight and improving my fitness and that goal still remains, but now I’m looking to pushing myself further than ever before (maybe even looking at Full Iron distance in 2017) and with the awesome support I’m surrounded by from my family and friends, I know I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
Most memorable moments:
Lewisham Fun-Run, Oct 2011 – I ran-walked around the 5k course and although I felt like hell afterwards, it kick-started an awesome addiction.
Chester Marathon, Oct 2012 – My first Marathon and the moment I realised I can do anything I set my mind to if I train hard and believe in myself.
Beachy Head Marathon, Oct 2012 – Described as the UK’s Toughest Marathon, this was an early event I covered for ‘Trek and Run’, and although it took me 5h30m to complete as I walked a lot and was chatting to people throughout, it was an amazing experience which I plan to revisit again in 2016.
Edinburgh Marathon, Oct 2013 – Where I achieved my PB of 3h38m and an experience where everything just came together!
Medway Park 5k, Sept 2014 – The only time I’ve ever dipped under 20 mins (19m45s) for a 5km!
Danny Gearing’s Halloween Party, Oct 2014 – My first proper chance to meet my new club-mates and at after a few beers Mark Billyard talked me into entering a Half Iron event in 2015. At the time I was kicking myself for agreeing to it, but looking back I’m glad he encouraged me to believe in myself.
ITU World Triathlon, May 2015 – My daughter Kaci and I went to Hyde Park to support my club-mates and it was an awesome experience watching my friends absolutely smash the event!
Dublin, Aug 2015 - Although the Dublin Half Ironman was the trip’s focus (and an amazing and emotional experience), the whole week was a brilliant experience and great fun being surrounded by great people. Potato!!
Getting engaged (and the party a few weeks later!) – In Oct 2015 I popped the question to Laura, my partner of 8 years and, shockingly, she said yes! I was over the moon with how many of my club-mates came to the party a few weeks later to celebrate with us.
2016 and onwards – 2015 has set a base in my tri journey and I can’t wait to look back in 2017 about all the great things I’ve achieved this year and the great people who’ve helped me to achieve them. Thank-you all for being so awesome!