London Triathalon entrant trains in memory of lost mother

Olly Davy is the son of local artist Lesley Davy who died two months ago of lung cancer. Olly, who is 29 and lives in Crouch End, has decided to deal with his grief by throwing himself into training for the London Triathlon which happens on September 23. Here is an excerpt from his online training diary.

Dealing with grief has made me selfish with my time and careful about whose company I choose.

I like to hang out with my friends but I have absolutely zero tolerance for making small talk in the pub with work colleagues. This is not because I don’t like the people I work with, far from it, but the trivial banter that I normally find entertaining with the right crowd requires an immense effort, my heart is just not in it and, relative to the big recent event in my life, it just seems so, well, trivial.

Luckily, I always have my triathlon training as an out. Or the myriad elements of life administration that have sprung up like a geyser and are now raining down on me in an Excel monsoon.

My brain is trying to cope with the enormity of what has happened and activities that keep me focussed and present are the best at helping me do that.

Exercise is an excellent tool that I am using to chip away at the monumental sadness that looms over everything.

The release of endorphins that accompanies a big session in the pool, a long ride, or a hard run, doesn’t make me forget, nor do I want to forget, but it gives me the boost I need to focus and carry on. Because life doesn’t stop.

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No matter where you are emotionally or mentally, no matter what awful event has just befallen you, the number 83 keeps on rolling down the road, and the taxi driver will still be shouting at the cyclist.

The breath – an automatic action, a bodily necessity. A vital function for life but one we don’t think about unless we are struggling for it, or focussing on it and practising it.

In yoga, drawing attention to the breath helps to direct the consciousness to a point and still the mind of chatter. During sport, control of the breath is key to performance. Now I am training for a triathlon, my breathing is of constant interest to me.

It is sometimes regular and controlled when running at a steady pace; two steps on the in-breath, two steps on the out-breath. Or there is the unpleasant feeling of claustrophobia when swimming; a snatched breath with the head rotated to the side followed by the constant exhalation underwater. Or, the fast shallow pant when out of the saddle pounding up a hill. Each time I am aware of my breath I think of mum and her fight for air. Each inhalation was a fight, a battle to get enough oxygen into the body to keep it functioning. In the end, she lost that fight. But I am going to take more than my share, for her. Great, gulping gasps to fill my lungs as I charge at full tilt to the top of Muswell Hill. Ignoring the burning, muscles using the gas fuel faster than I can supply it. Sucking, swallowing, slurping, fumes and dust. Dirty London air, keep my body running.

Last Friday I planned to go for a two-hour and 20-minute cycle before work. Which would mean getting up at 5am. Why would I consider doing this? Because my training timetable told me to. And that piece of A4 paper, printed from the Internet, and taped to my bedroom wall, is the most revered deity in my life right now.

I don’t have to think about which exercise I need to do on a particular day, because someone else, far more practiced at this regimented lifestyle than I, has typed it all into a grid and made it available to download.

So I am now programmed to build my days around blocks of exercise – seven sessions a week, squeezed into five days, with Tuesday and Saturday off. Luckily, I have retained enough autonomy to make sensible adjustments. So, I cycled 40 miles to, and around, Richmond Park on Friday evening instead. And this is one of the marvellous things about London; in under an hour, one can be cycling in a huge beautiful park, full of deer, watching the last sun of the day glint off the steel and glass towers in the distance. Cheers. And then, I felt incredibly self-righteous as I powered past the Shoreditch drunks on my way home.

The next day, I did it all again, to go and buy a wetsuit at Sigma Sport in Kingston. It was not nearly as unpleasant, or peppered with comedic moments, as I hoped it would be. But I got one, and plenty more semi-erotic sportswear that leaves nothing to the imagination. Practical? Yes. But it doesn’t make you go any faster. Commuters travelling five kilometres to work please note – you don’t need a �120 cycling jersey or a �2,000 Bianchi. If you’re being overtaken by an old lady on a Boris Bike, you need to go back to the drawing board.

Olly Davy’s London Triathalon fundraising page is at