It was the middle of summer, I'd just given up my job at the college and officially retired from competition for the umpteenth time, we were on holiday in Ireland and the Guinness was flowing and sweet. I'd hung my trainers up, at least until the end of the summer, and then the phone rang. It was Kate Nixey from Men's Health, I'd put my name down for the Men's Health Seat Challenge and was I free in October for a week in Spain ? I should say so ! I launched myself  out of retirement into 7 weeks hard training, could I do it ? The competition was right up my street, I could be competitive in all 4 disciplines and with a 13,000 car first prize, what more of an incentive do you need  !!!!!!.  


La Manga Resort - where footballers misbehave, Superstars super star ! and old men are sent for one last fling.  



My fellow competitors


Kevin Gadd Greg MacDonald Steve Wellman



I knew if I was to win this one, the competition was in the bag. I'd been orienteering all summer and felt pretty confident going into the event. We drew straws and started 15 minutes apart, I was last off, looking good. To cut a long story short, I lost, finished third, cocked up my map reading, the maps we were using were black and white photocopies, the road I was on blended into the contour lines and I thought I was on a distinctive path marked on the map. Not so. The maps were the same for everyone, everyone went wrong somewhere and it was really down to who made less errors, there were only a couple of minutes in it, but those couple of minutes made all the difference. This was only the first event, I could still win, c'mon Dai you can do it. Kevin 1st, Greg 2nd, Me 3rd, Steve 4th. 

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Studying the map to see where I'd gone wrong Cor ! look how brave (or stupid) I am, after taking a short cut through some cactus bushes !


I knew I was out of my league in this one, both Kevin & Greg were coming to the end of a competitive season and could run. I could run but didn't have the fitness to challenge these guys. I did well to hold on to them for the swim, came out about 5 seconds down but these guys totally blew me away on the run. Kevin especially was running around 31 minutes for 10k and he dropped Greg on the first of the two laps. The run was hilly and rough underfoot. My 41 minutes was worth about 37 on the flat. So with two events gone Kevin had won two and was looking good, Greg was still in with a shout, I was third on a fine thread and Steve was out the back thinking about how he should pack his bags  Kevin 1st, Greg 2nd, Me 3rd, Steve 4th.


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lining up at the start we're off swim leg over Kevin - flew the run Greg shares a joke with the local policeman Kate & Elisa


Event 3 - KAYAK

I did well to take my own paddle to the event, there's no such thing as a left handed paddle in Spain. Not that I'm left handed, it's just that I paddle left handed, and there's a difference. This was to be my strong event, I'm not a good paddler, but I had a lot more experience than the others. Kevin and Greg though had been training with clubs leading up to the event. This was it, I had to win this one with Greg in 2nd or my bags would be packed for me. If Kev finished top two I was off looking for early flights home !!!!  From the start I tried to apply pressure to see if I could force an error or catch the guys unawares, both Greg and Kevin handled my sprint start and I settled into the old cat, mouse & dog routine of racing.  The three of us followed the lead boat, I was trying to sit on the  bow wave of the lead boat, but our wiley referee Geoff spotted this and pulled out of our range. Then a stroke of luck, a motor boat passed us and created a bit of chop, this was all I needed, I put in an effort and broke clear just before the half way point. Teeth gritted I came in first and glory be, Greg followed, I was still in the game with one event left. Me 1st, Greg 2nd, Kevin 3rd, Steve 4th.    

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On the start line Checking out where Greg is ! making the break Gone - head down Greg and I are relieved we are still in contention



We checked out the course on the day before the event, as we were riding around Greg and myself handled it fine, the other two not so. There was one slightly technical section, the rest was undulating, fast riding. On the day, Greg and I were both in the same position, we both had to win with Kevin in third. I had to win to force a ride off (a mountain climb on the bike), Greg had to win for the overall title. I knew if I could force a ride off I would win the event. From the off we all agreed to stick together for the first road section, but looking back on the first corner, Kev had already dropped off the pace, Greg and I looked at each other, we didn't need to exchange words, we just went. Greg and I worked together for two of the three laps. The writing was on the wall when Greg was testing me on the one long hill climb and I was blowing through my backside to stay close, then at the end of lap two he put his head down and it was bye bye car.  Greg 1st, Me 2nd, Kevin 3rd, Steve 4th.    


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Contemplation before the off on the start line still there Greg and I working together trying to close the gap on the last lap

As I was finishing the bike Greg was skipping down the road to see who was coming next, if Kevin had caught me or not, I made his day !!!!! So it was to the presentation, Greg had a big cup.....and a car, and we had medals !!!!!  


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Receiving my car - sorry medal ! together with Geoff together with l to r - Matt, Kate, Elisa & David together with Matt, Kate, Elisa, Geoff & Danny.

This story needs a big THANK YOU to the Men's Health team, they were great organisers and good fun to be with. Kate Nixey (events co-ordinator), Elisa Haynes (Production chief), David Godfrey (photography & design), Danny Mancini (travel co-ordinator), Geoff Cox (events organiser), Matt Barber (journalist)  and David (La Manga). Also thanks to my fellow competitors who were good sportsmen and good fun. 


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