Yesterday I was stood in a field in the pouring rain in my trisuit and my tracksuit bottoms grinning from ear to ear. I honestly can't remember the last time I was this happy.
Why you ask?
Me the person who at school was awful at running, who detested cross country, who as an adult did no exercise. Me the overweight ex smoker. Me the person who was told he needed to lose weight to run. Me, who in my first London Triathlon in 2012 came 3781st out of 4051 finishers.
Yes it may not be a national event like some people I know but this is well it's just me and I was gobsmacked to have won my age group.
I was the 1st placed 35-39 athlete at the Lincolnshire Edge Triathlon held at Cadney in North Lincs and 6th placed male overall to match my previous highest finishing position.
I'm not going to lie and say I hadn't been thinking this was possible but when an event is out of your immediate locality, you never know who is going to turn up and race.
But enough of me waxing lyrical and spoiling the story by giving you the ending first.
You really want to know the gory details of the race, don't you?
When I looked at the start list. 2 names stood out. Steve Grocock and Caitlin Bower. I was hoping for a cheeky #firstoutthewater but these two would test my metal. Caitlin has always set off after me in local races because shes a shwimmer as opposed to me who's just a swimmer. And a quick look at the recent Ironman Austria results confirmed Steves swim speed as he did a 58:04. Wow I was going to have an awesome swim to trouble these two.
I put myself near Caitlin and close to the buoy so my swim would be the least distance possible. The hooter went and we were off. Within 30m she was in front of me so I did what anyone else would do, I drafted her. I stuck on her feet until the first buoy but the I lost them and she was gone into the distance. Up until this point Steve was on my hip. We turned at the first buoy and Steve swam past me.
Right plan B, swim as hard as I can. I made good progress up the back straight and got to the second buoy just behind Steve.
We turned at the second buoy and the wind was smashing the waves against the back of my head with each breath. Wow it was choppy, thank god I breath to the left. The final straight home was tough going but I soldiered on. With 150m to go some one overtook me. I tried to latch onto their feet but couldn't manage it.
Race position - 4th (2nd male)
Ripped off my wetsuit, threw on my helmet, grabbed my bike and ran to the mount line gaining on Steve.
Race position 3rd (2nd male)
After qualifying for Cozumel I made the decision that all my racing from now on will be on my road bike so I can become accustomed to it. That includes all draft illegal races, all time trials everything. I was fairly certain most people would be on TT bikes because they are allowed but I stuck to my plan and raced on the same setup I plan to use in 10 short weeks.
When setting up my GPS before racing, I became acutely aware of my powermeter not working. Oh well time to race blind and rip my legs off. I use my powermeter to monitor output and cadence. Racing a sprint is all about red lining anyway so if I was hurting then job done.
I mounted my bike and set about trying to go as quick as I could. After about 3 miles, I threw up and felt really gaseous. Oh balls. Maybe I wasn't quite over that viral infection (possible leptospirosis) from last week.
I had to back it off a bit but kept applying the pressure.
The course was a lot lumpier than I expected and that wind was unrelenting in the first half. It was a constant battle against the elements. I expected a flat course with the race being in Lincolnshire but was shocked by the lumps in the terrain. Never mind it's the same for everyone.
I'd also forgotten the course was long (16 miles as opposed to the 12 I normally race over) and I felt those last four miles in my legs.
After about 6 miles Aiden Grocock flew past me. This was to be expected and wasn't a shock to me. By 10 miles I had been caught by someone else who zipped past me on his TT bike with disc wheel.
It all comes down to simple maths, they are displacing less air in their tucked position as opposed to me on my road bike so it's no doubt they were passing me. But it's about the bigger picture, I need to get used to being on my road bike. It needs to become an extension of me.
Race position - 6th (4th male)
Rack bike, remove helmet, spin number belt, don trainers and visor. No dramas.
Race position - 6th (4th male)
I set off on the run knowing that recently I have been capable of 23 - 24 minutes for the run so thought I would be able to replicate that today.
My body had other ideas. As soon as I took those first few steps, I was in pain, my stomach felt ridiculously bloated and I wanted to be sick.
I had done nothing out of the ordinary nutrition wise so can only presume this was a result of last weeks illness. After about 1.5km I was running off road (and we all know how much I enjoy that) when I had to stop to walk a few steps to try and burp or throw up. Three belches later and my stomach still felt bloated but the nausea I was feeling had started to abate.
When we ran past the transition area after 2.5km, I so very nearly gave up, such was the level of discomfort I was in. I couldn't settle into my run. My stomach was bloated and I really wanted to be sick. I was really uncomfortable.
By this point a woman and a man had ran past me so I was still in the top 5 male competitors. I then did some maths and those ahead of me weren't in my AG (either too young or too old).
Time to put up or shut up.
Do I throw in the towel and give up the possibility of an AG victory or MTFU and put up with 12 more minutes of pain and discomfort.
I decided to grit it out and that decision taught me a lot about the sort of athlete I have become. If this had happened in 2012 to 2014 I'd have given up. I really was in that much pain and discomfort. Each step hurt my belly.
I was back running on road at this point so that eased things mentally (as I detest off road running), time to knuckle down and run. I tried to relax, to take my mind to my happy place but my stomach felt awful. I was literally counting down the steps. At one point I was gaining on an athlete ahead of me and that gave me a little lift.
Someone else ran past me just before the turn point, they offered encouragement having seen me walking in pain before. How old were they, I had no idea.
We turned for home and I had just under 1km to run. I could see the finishing arch and used that as a focus to take my mind of the pain in my stomach. I was doing maths while running trying to work out how much longer I would be in pain for. with 200m to go, I had had noone else pass me. 1 minute to go and then you can burp, be sick, curl up in a ball.
I was elated to cross the line and that 5km although painful and slow (28:01) taught me a lot about myself and racing.
Race position - 9th (6th male)
Cue the nervous wait to see if the person who passed me was in my AG.
Fast forward 1 hour and its the time of the presentation.
The main podium is announced and I am like a giddy child waiting for Christmas.
Then the AG's are starting to be announced. The heavens opened and rain started to fall from the sky. People were taking cover.
The announcer was working up through the age groups 20-24, 25-29, 30-34 and finally 35-39
The next words out of the announcers microphone were music to my ears.
And in 1st place in the 35-39 category from Doncaster Triathlon Club in a time of 1:31:49, Michael Barnett.
I was grinning like a kid in a toy shop as I went to collect my trophy from the event sponsors.
I hate photos of me but actually adore this one because you can see the glee on my face.
No tears, just pure unadulterated joy.
The transformation was complete.
Overweight, cigarette smoking couch potato to competitive(ish) triathlete - total time taken (since London Triathlon 2012) 1387 days
Is the journey over? Is it hell. Just watch this space.
Thanks for reading,