Andrew L
Posted by

'Triathlon guru'

Andrew L
Posted by
29 Nov 2013

The good people at LLR asked me to put a few words together to describe my ‘Triathlon Journey’ here goes...

In 1999 at the youthful age of 47 I decided that being nearly 2 stone overweight was totally unacceptable and that drastic action was required. That ’action’ manifested itself as a secret triathlon – after accidentally picking up a copy of 220 magazine (a tri mag). I entered the Stratford sprint hard could it be? I could swim (to a fashion), ride a bike (so I thought) and run (badly). So, 6 months of secret training began...

I started swimming at our local pool in Sutton Coldfield where my doctor – who was the one who had told me it would be a good idea to loss a bit of weight – swam and lapped me every 6 to 8 lengths. I bought a second hand Raleigh steel framed road bike and was terrified the first time I rode it. My first training ride was 5 miles to work and I had 2 punctures. Since then I’ve never punctured on a road bike! Of an evening when the kids had gone to bed I’d sneak out for a run.

Come race day I was ready to go and fully intent on winning the whole race! Well, that’s what the ‘virtual’ me was going to do....the ‘actual’ me struggled during the swim and forgot to count my lengths, suffered badly during the run, but the bike – well the cycle leg was exhilarating beyond belief and my overall triathlon experience was great! – I was hooked! Later in the year I competed in the London Triathlon, my first Olympic distance race. London was to become my favourite event in years to come.

So, over the next few years I trained more and started to understand what triathlon was about. Swimming was technique, cycling required slowly building up over a period of years, running was a mystery, and races could be lost in transition – especially T1 (swim to bike) where, to this day, I struggle to get my hand to my wetsuit zip! But, most of all it’s a lifestyle change. Great friends and training partners in my club and a love of training, (and the same size jeans as in my 20’s).

Landmarks over the next few years would be:

• After 18 months lapping my doctor in the pool!
• 2005 - qualifying for the GB age group team and competing in the world champs in Honolulu – a dirty job but someone had to do it!
• 2005 - first of my 3 London age group wins
• 2006 - giving Chrissie Wellington one of my bananas the night before the world  age group champs in Lausanne (she was in my club but I didn’t know her) . She went on to win her age group and overall female winner. The following day she watched the elites and thought ‘I could do that!’ and so the legend began!
• 2009 - lost in Holten in the Netherlands, with another triathlete looking for T2 (split transition...don’t ask!). Anyway, this other guy also did a bit of dingy racing – James Cracknall – was quite good at it apparently! Seriously, what a nice guy! And he had a pointy aero helmet – few and far between in those days!
• Continued to run badly!

In 2008 I decided to ‘go long’ – the term for a half or full Ironman (IM) race – as someone had said that a half IM could be done off Olympic training (I don’t like long distance training!). Then someone else said that if you were training for a half IM you might as well do a full IM – tick the box, so to speak. This is proof that you should never listen to ANYONE!! (me excluded of course). Anyway, somehow – and I still don’t know how – I won my age group at the Marrazion middle distance race, half IM UK and IM UK, and qualified for the half IM world champs in Florida (another dirty job!). I also qualified for Kona – the Mecca of triathlon racing – but declined dirty job too many! Some of the long distance guys at my club are still not talking to me over that!

Forward now to a fateful day early in 2011. Firstly in the morning at the Bham QE hospital I was told I had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and in the afternoon my doctor (I’d moved to Edgbaston now and my doctor was a friend and club mate – he was also one of the best age group triathletes in the world – was never gonna lap him!) told me that some x-rays taken the week before for pains in my hip, had come back to reveal I’d severe arthritis in my left hip. I remember spending that night worrying about how I would be able to carry on competing in triathlons. The NHL didn’t register!

Over the last couple of years I carried on competing, with the help of a sympathetic hip consultant who’s kept me going. I did the London Triathlon in 2011 with friends and family competing as well and raised money for LLR, did a couple more ironman races, cycled from London to Paris, again for LLR (what a fantastic event that was!) and swam in all of the lakes in the Lake district...3 days, 4 lakes a day and averaging just under 2km per lake – I do love swimming! 14 weeks ago I finally had the hip replaced and things are getting back to normal nicely thank you.

So, who else wants to follow the triathlon lifestyle trail? I’m here to help you! No triathlon qualifications, but I do have a little experience to call on!


Asia S

Inspired! Very very tempted to sign up for the coming Blenheim Triathlon ... reading this may have pushed me over the edge (mainly because i too wish to be in the same size jeans as in my 20's!)
Thank you for this great blog!


Hi Asia. Glad you liked it.
I'll be taking on the roll of 'super-duper' triathlon adviser to anyone who's competing in Blenheim or London (and who's prepared to listen to my wittering's!), so take the plunge and go for it. I'll help however I can and will support you on the day.
Regards, Andy