Ilkley Grammar School English teacher, Andrew Colman, updates us on his training progress for the Ilkley Triathlon, which takes place this Sunday.

My daughters have recently perfected those one-word Americanisms so that they sound like a damning judgment of our parenting skills. Conversations in our household can go something like this:

‘Your mum and I thought we’d all go on a nice family walk up the Dales today.’


‘Yes, get some fresh air and exercise. You’ll need to turn the TV off and be ready in five minutes.’


‘Yes. Are you watching this American rubbish again? You’re even beginning to sound like them.’


Of course ‘whatever’ is a word which is directly linked to their eye muscles, sending them rolling upwards whenever it’s used.

Although I dislike these words, they couldn’t help but spring to mind as I re-read the course details on the Ilkley Triathlon website. ‘Swim 500m indoor.’ (Really?) ‘Bike 14.5km.’ (Seriously?) Run 4.8km (Whatever! Plus upwards eye roll).

I’ve been doing some training over the last couple of weeks and actually quite enjoyed it. But preparing for a triathlon is a little unusual. You tend to work on each skill separately: a swim one evening, a run the next and a cycle at the weekend. It wasn’t until the Sunday before that I had a go at putting all three together.

I arrived at Ilkley swimming pool at around 8.30am and stepped out of the car into a chilly misty morning. The sun, which had been flaunting itself throughout the week, was now coyly wrapped up in its weekend blanket of cloud and wasn’t for coming out. For the first time in my life I arrived at a poolside wearing tight fitting cycling shorts and feeling incredibly self conscious. Although the town had been practically deserted at that time, Ilkley pool was a hive of activity. I cast my eye over the three lanes and noticed they were labelled in order of speed. The ‘slow’ lane contained two people who were closer to ‘stop’ than ‘slow’. The ‘fast’ lane was full of people thrashing out a vicious front crawl. So I played safe and went for the ‘medium’ lane in the middle. It’s the approach I use with motorways and it usually seems to work.

Around twenty minutes later I pulled my bike out from the car and experienced another first- cycling in wet shorts. I was worried the padding would be so full of water I might look as though I was wearing some sort of swim-nappy, but actually it wasn’t too bad. So I pedalled and dripped my way out of the car park and along Denton Road. Now, at some point in the nineties the word ‘racer’ quietly trundled off into the past, and the term ‘road bike’ arrived with force. Road bikes are those lean machines you see regularly pounding the back road from Ilkley, through Nesfield and then up into the Dales. My bike, on the other hand, fits very much into the ‘racer’ category. It was originally bought as a fiftieth birthday present for my dad some twenty odd years ago and was recently passed on to me. My trainers don’t click into the pedals, the gear leavers are still attached to the frame and the mud guards are as big and bold as those on cars from the 1930s. In fact it reminds me very much of the bike I used as a teenager to do my evening paper round. So with me it’s less ‘Tour de France’ and more ‘Tour de T&A’.

I’ve cycled and run the circuit a few times now and with the passing weeks I’ve noticed autumn slowly nudging summer out of the way. The trees, which were once a vivid green, are gently turning yellow, brown and red like a child’s paint set where the colours have been blurred together. The bushes are thick with blackberries and the sweet smell of Himalayan balsam (those pink flowers which pop with seeds when you touch them) greets you from the riverbank. At the top of Carter’s Lane there are still signs of this summer’s great sporting event in Yorkshire-the Tour De France: a yellow bike tied to a post and a house covered in bright red spots. But all that seems like a dim and distant memory now.

After three laps by bike I put it back in the car and started on the run. Running after cycling is a very strange sensation. The first five minutes feels like you’re stumbling around in a wind tunnel with your knees tied together. Eventually I managed to slip into a steady rhythm. On Sunday there were noticeably more cyclists on the route than I’d seen before. We all gave each other encouraging nods, probably wondering if we’d be bumping into each other next weekend. One cheerful bloke slowed down and cycled alongside me for a while whilst I ran, we talked about the forthcoming triathlon. ‘I’m dreading the swim!’ he said before waving, wishing me luck and pedalling off into the distance.

Finally, I arrived back at the car and was generally pleased with my time. I do feel I’ve made progress over the weeks, although I’m aware the ‘Slow down’ sign outside Westville House School probably isn’t intended for me. One reason for my slightly improved time could be that I’ve started a new routine at the gym. I didn’t have a lot in common with my instructor, Jon (without an ‘h’), as he put me through my paces. Jon was a stubbly, muscular twenty-something year old who could simultaneously talk to me whilst texting his mates. ‘Triathlon eh?’ he smirked looking me up and down, ‘Well let’s try fifteen of these…’ And with that he’d have me squatting, planking or bench-pressing. The problem was Jon kept getting distracted by the many attractive Lycra-clad ladies who kept coming up to talk to him. I became a sweaty, red-faced annoyance in the background who occasionally managed to blurt out ‘Have we got to fifteen yet?’ ‘Oh sorry mate I’ve lost count,’ he’d reply.

One other thing I had to do was check there were no hard feelings with my neighbour, Mr Iron Man, for jokingly mentioning him in my previous article. He wasn’t in, but his wife was. Mrs Iron Man explained that they had both enjoyed the piece. I sighed with relief and asked where he was.

‘Well he’s out just at the moment training. He’s booked next week off work because he’s cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats.’


‘Yes, and I’m going out for a run shortly because I’m training for the Yorkshire Marathon in October.’


‘Anyway, good luck with the Ilkley Triathlon, I’m sure you’ll be fine!’

And with that I returned home feeling duly humbled. Ah well, ‘whatever.’