So having done my first Ironman, an Ironman with a seemingly perfect build up, and Ironman overtrained, one backed up within a few weeks, one with extreme fatigue and one with a few broken bones, it was time to tick another scenario off the list – one extremely undertrained. As the complete lack of any blogging may have shown I have been struggling massively with motivation over the last year or so. After the end of last season I kept things ticking over fairly well with some running and swimming and cycling into work. Long rides at the weekends always seemed to get squeezed out for something else but I managed to keep up some sort of fitness. That was, until I moved house. The complete upheaval really didn’t do me any good, I still managed to cycle into work (with now the added ‘fun’ of several large bumps along the way which killed my legs on my single speed), but swimming, running and long rides went out of the window. Running almost wasn’t my fault, but sporadic training ended up in flaring an old shin injury that pretty much stopped me doing any serious running until a couple of weeks before I flew out to Texas. Swimming had less of an excuse, I’m not short of facilities living down the road from the National Sports Centre with a 50m pool in Crystal Palace but the thought of dragging myself up the hill to it after getting home from work never really enthralled me. Coupled with all of this, I finally managed to get myself into a position at work where I was finally enjoying my job, which meant longer hours, more focus etc etc. But enough whinging, tough shit.
So a week before race day me and Weeksy headed out to Texas on a flight that just seemed to go on forever! When we eventually arrived we upgraded our hire car (you can’t drive around in Texas in anything less than an SUV!) and found our motel just off the freeway in a town called Tomball. A trip to Walmart to stock up on food for the week and we felt like we fitted in rather well! We even managed a run that evening, and despite it being ‘only’ 80 degrees, I was suffering big time in the humidity! But a week to go and I should acclimatise fairly well.
The days consisted of hanging out at the mall, wandering around the race village and the odd bit of training. Though, this was cut pretty short as Weeksy’s knee was causing issues in the lead up so he didn’t want to push it and after our first ride around the Woodlands (where we got horrendously lost, never trusting his sense of direction again!) we found out he had a leaky tub so it was off to the bike shop to get it replaced – bike out of action for most of the week. We did however find a decent pool at one of the local high schools where it cost $2 dollars each, and was either a 25 yard or 50m pool… we could definitely learn a thing or two about facilities over here. It did give me a chance to test out my new Huub swimskin, which felt awesome in the water!
Thursday night was the pasta party and briefing where, after travelling a couple of thousand miles, we ended up sitting next to a British couple, Stuart a first-timer and his wife! The next day we finally got a chance to swim in the lake. I opted for the swimskin – we knew that it would most likely be a wetsuit-optional swim, but I wanted to see how it felt and I didn’t want to overheat. Whilst I felt good in the water (although still hot!), the lack of any OW training since my last race was desperately showing and my lower back started to tighten up after 15 mins, I was in for a fun day. The weather had also turned, despite being a bearable 80 degrees all week, which I had just about gotten used to, the day before it shot up to 100 degrees and we both got burnt in our 30 min/15 min brick! Bikes racked, we rested up in Starbucks before Pizza Hut and an early night.
Up early and I had some cereal and a croissant with nutella, though I wasn’t particularly hungry. We both put on our second layer of sun cream after the first layer the night before and drove down. We got our bikes sorted out and then wandered down to the swim start and it was HOT! I was sweating just walking down to the swim start and the sun hadn’t even come up yet. It did not bode well. Swim skins on and we said our good lucks and went our separate ways. I wanted to delay getting into the water as long as possible, with no wetsuit to float, I didn’t want to be wasting energy treading water. When I couldn’t put it off any longer I got in, but found a life raft to hang onto for the national anthem. I might have even felt some nerves for the first time in about 2 years! With 30 seconds to go, I pushed off and found myself some space, in the middleish and to the left.
Once the gun went off it was chaos. I was completely out of position and should have been about 10 rows forward and ended up stuck behind seemingly hundreds of slower swimmers with people swimming over me trying to get past. I was being far too polite. After about 5 minutes I finally spotted a gap and thought ‘Screw this’, put a kick in and got out of the pack into some clear water and could finally settle down and swim with only the odd person swimming diagonally across me, no idea where he was going! I was feeling strong in the water, but it took me about 26 minutes to hit the first buoy and I remember thinking ‘God I am bored!’ We had another 100m to the next buoy and once I turned past that my back started to tighten up. I managed another few hundreds metres before I had to stop. I had a quick glance behind me and thankfully had some space so I could curl myself up into a ball the stretch my back out and not worry about getting drowned. The next 1500m to the entrance to the canal were fairly uneventful with another stop to stretch the back. The boredom seemed to go, and I finally remembered how to swim long distance and the arms started to play ball. Once I entered the canal I knew I only had 800m left, but it just seemed to drag and I felt as it I was swimming in jelly! People seemed to be passing me left, right and centre and I had to stand up a couple of times to stretch the back out. Finally, after what seemed like an age I saw the final turn buoy and hit the swim exit. 1:20 – about where I expected in non-wetsuit with my swim fitness. I was just glad to have it over with.
Same as pretty much all my IMs, I’ve got this down to a T. No arm warmers as it was roasting, but race belt on, helmet and sunglasses on, couple of cliff blocks in the back pocket, big dollop of chamois cream to protect my future children and head out, stopping off at the sunscreen station. The only mistake I made was putting my bike shoes in my transition bag, so I had to clip-clop my way to my bike and onto the mount line. Numptie
We had been warned that we would most likely have a bit of a tailwind on the way out, but even still I was starting to get worried about cruising at 45kph! My legs felt completely fresh (finally!) and I was overtaking a lot of people. The first 45k were pretty uneventful until I start hearing a clicking sounds from my back wheel. I had hit a bump along the course and it had nudged my bike computer so the magnet would knock it every revolution. Brilliant. I stopped at the top of the next hill, nudged it back into position and set off again. When I next looked at my computer it hadn’t moved – evidently I had moved the computer too far so it couldn’t pick up the magnet. Oh well, 3/4 of the bike course with no computer – glad I always train on feel! I worked out I was hitting every aid station/10 mile marker every half an hour or so. This kept the mind ticking over and focussed and I just put my head down and got on with it. The first couple of hours I didn’t feel ‘right’ on the bike, guess that was the complete lack of any time on my TT bike but after that I felt really good to the point where I was able to get into the TT position for most of the race when my lungs allowed. After about 50 miles I saw Chris standing on the side of the road. I slowed down to find out his knee had gone on the bike which was a serious bummer as he swam strongly and was placed well on the bike. Around this time it also started to get hot – and I mean seriously hot. Drinks were refreshingly cold from the aid stations and pouring them over yourself provided some short relief. 10 minutes later you were roasting again and the drinks were warm – really not pleasant. After the disaster of Roth a couple of years ago, I made sure I just kept drinking but the humidity was just crazy. Usually when you are ticking along at a decent pace the breeze helps cool you down, but out there it just heated you up even more. They call it ‘air you can wear’. My chest was starting to get a little constricted from the heat, especially in the TT position so I alternated between sitting up and down on the bars. My dodgy wrist also wanted in on the action, so I spent more time in the TT position to take the weight off it. I had a good cycle of eating a drinking past each aid station, mainly eating gels and gu chews/clif blocks with a couple of bars. I was surprised how well I was going at 90 miles, but the last 12 dragged on. With no bike computer, and lots of winding turns I had no idea how far away T2 was, but I eventually saw it, rolling in in about 6:10. Pretty pleased with that considering!
Once I gave my bike to a volunteer I suddenly realised I was spent. My legs were strong, all the years of IMs don’t disappear that quickly but the heat had wiped me out. I couldn’t even manage a run to pick my bag up, but had a relaxed T2, taking my time to make sure my shoes were on properly, I knew this would be a long marathon.
Once I headed out, I slowly managed a bit of a shuffle, but I wasn’t exactly running the 4:30 ks of old. I basically ran (read shuffled) between aid stations and walked through taking my time to get fluids and some fuel on board. I had a few things of coke and energy drink, but by this point was running so slowly I just needed to get my temperature down and get some salt on board. Bananas and crisps were the food of choice and taking a cap instead of a visor was probably the best decision I had made all race. I could soak it in the ice water, shove some ice in it and put it on my head to cool me down. It lasted about 2 minutes before the heat had evaporated everything. Other methods included the sponges and ice down the shorts which worked well. Thankfully with an aid station every mile I didn’t have to wait too long to restock the ice. The first lap went fairly well considering, and I finally had my first pee stop at about mile 2 which was pure relief, purely for the fact that I at least some fluids going through me and I wasn’t about to end up in hospital. Having said that, having shoved so much ice down my shorts, I did have a slight issue in trying to get things to work as I had no feeling! Ha!
Lap 2 provided the first opportunity to run through the awesome crowds around the Woodlands, and it was absolutely packed! High fives everywhere, and a massive lift to the spirits, but by this point the damage was done and I was still trying to get my core temp down. At mile 9 I walked my first full mile, and then it went downhill from there. I had a stop at the aid station at mile 13 to get my feet taped up. I can run for hours quite happily with no problems, and always have, but as soon as you throw walking in there, especially with all the water I was throwing over myself to keep myself cool, my feet were not amused! I was still managing to shuffle a little bit, but my breathing was getting worse and worse. At the start of the third lap I saw Chris, and had a quick chat before he sent me on my way. I soon as I hit the little hill (about 10m) it was game over. I tried running once I was through the aid station after this, but I just could not get any oxygen in and my heart rate refused point blank to rise. So I was left with a 7 mile walk. If I put my head down and could walk the miles in just over 15 minutes with stops at the aid stations so just got on with it. Not once did it ever occur to me to stop, pull out or wonder why I was doing this! I can be a stubborn bastard when I need to be. The only highlight was the aid station at mile 20 where an angel appeared to me in the form of a lovely old lady who had baked a ton of cookies for us at one of the aid stations! Heaven!
At long last, at 7 hours (an hour longer than my bike split!!) I hit the junction for more laps/finish line. I was still in stubborn-power walk mode, but when I hit the (extremely long) finishing chute I finally broke into something resembling a job, which prompted a huge cheer from the crowd. I even allowed myself a smile as I was high-fiving the hands stuck out and finally felt joy/satisfaction/pride for the first time in a long time at the end of an Ironman. Once round the corner to the actual finish straight it was relief and seven fingers in the air as my final celebration, before I was promptly carted off to the med tent. Job done, number seven done and a Texan-sized medal around my neck.
We were told about the med tent in the briefing, and the weren’t half kidding when they mentioned the size! I was checked in, and it took me falling asleep in the waiting queue for a doctor to come over and finally grant me my wish of a bed to lie down in. There must have been 200 beds in the main tent, with bodies everywhere, wires coming out and drips going in. It looked like a war zone, and almost sounded like one with people retching and medical equipment beeping away. I was treated to blood salt tests, blood pressure, and three doctors coming over to check my lungs out which had apparently decided to start filling up with fluid. Might explain the lack of oxygen and problems breathing… I was allowed out after about an hour when they decided I wasn’t going to get any worse and I actually became a little more coherent.
I had long planned for some time off Ironman, and if it weren’t for Chris Weeks being such a bad influence(!!) I doubt I would have been on a start line this year. But I must admit I really did enjoy it in a weird way, and it certainly stoked the fire that I thought had long gone out. I still feel like I need 12-18 months off long distance stuff – but this still leaves the possibility of a return to the States next year at Arizona. I feel that the main battle will be actually getting a place in November, but I will make my decision around then to see if I want to race next year. The rest of this year may see nothing, it may see something. I definitely feel fit again cycling into work! I am entered into Liverpool as a World qualifier, and if I feel like training again, I may try for that, or I may just take the rest of the year off. For once it is nice to just be able to do what I want without the overhanging guilt of training in the back of my mind. But I will be back on a start line at some point in the future, be it in a year or many.
So the off-season is over and it is time to get ready for 2013. Despite deciding to have a year off Ironman, I seem to have entered Ironman Texas in May! It should be good fun though (I hope) and I am getting my plan together for the next few months so I can start in much better shape than the previous one!
It is cross-country season at the moment and I am racing the North West Cross Country League at the moment which I will cover in a later post, but I have missed getting caked in mud and racing hard!
For now, here’s a picture which I was sent from IMUK, complete with heavily strapped and splinted arm! What’s even more surprising is I actually look like I’m running well with both feet off the ground! Must have been the first lap….ha!
So over the last few weeks, I have been mainly recovering from my Ironman, and rediscovering what it’s like to have a social life again! I have also been getting my elbow and wrist back to normal. First involved me off to see a physio, who laughed at my movement and said “there really isn’t anything I can do for you until your Doctor has confirmed the fractures have fully healed and I can really get in there. It’s already basically fixed!” So off I went to the Doctors, and the conversation went along the lines of:
“Hi Tim, how is it?”
“Well…I did my Ironman a couple of weeks ago”
“Right….reckon I actually need to x-ray your arm then?”
“Nah it’s fine”
“Ok, well good luck”
Over the last few weeks, I have started to get back into some training, partly to build the muscle back up in my arm, partly because I started going a bit mad doing nothing, and partly because I was going skint using the tube the whole time! I am now into a good swing, and after a week of cycling everywhere, am knackered! Certainly got some work to do, to get back on it. But, not content with finishing my season on a write-off, I have a few more races lined up.
First up, I am racing the National Club Relays this weekend, which should be a lot of fun! Racing the mixed category, with a team of Chairman Howard, Nina, Me and Kat, a friend from work who I did the London-Brighton Night Ride with. It should be a lot of fun, and will definitely be nice to be back in the scene with so many people to catch up with. I am probably going to race the Maidenhead Half Marathon again, after a nice little blast last year, if I feel I can PB there, and then finally I am racing London Triathlon after managing to bag a spot courrtesy of Timex Sports and Toby Radcliffe (cheers guys!). It will be interesting to see how I get on, and hopefully I can hammer around and get close to my Liverpool 5150 performance. Finally, after all of that I am off to Cyprus for 9 days with friends from work for my first ever ‘normal’ friends holiday! No bikes allowed (though I will probably sneak my running shoes in my bag!). I am really looking forward to a proper break to recover, mainly mentally. It will also be fun rocking up to the airport with just a rucksack as carry-on and no bike or big suitcase in tow!
In the last month, I have also had a fair amount of time of work, not through injury, but to enjoy the spectacle that was the London 2012 Olympics! I spent more time at the Olympic Park than I did at home! They have really done a fantastic job of the place and I managed to get to see:
- two handball sessions (seriously high paced game!)
- track cycling – just simply phenonminal
- swimming – the noise was incredible, I saw the mens IM relay heats, and by the sounds of the cheers when Liam Tancock touch first on his first length of his leg (which was the first), anyone would have thought we had won gold medal!
- athletics – awesome stadium, 80,000 people cheering for Team GB was pretty special
- women’s road race – soggy! But it was absolutely packed for most of the course
- men’s and women’s triathlons – again, 10 deep all around the course, we got there 4 hours before the start and still didn’t get to the front, but I think my ear’s are still ringing from watching the Brownlees both win a medal!
- water polo – this looked brutal! We were right at the front, which made it feel a bit empty until the roars erupted behind us!
- women’s mountain biking – what a brilliant venue! I certainly can’t wait to try it out!
The support for Team GB throughout was just incredible, for any and every sport. My highlight has got to be the Velodrome though. The highest recorded noise level of any venue, and with one of the smaller crowds, it makes it even more special. I got to see both Vicky Pendelton’s Kieren gold and the Men’s Team Pursuit gold medal. Here’s the video I shot of the Team Pursuit Final, I hope the sound comes across, I counldn’t hear for a good few hours afterwards!
If you want to have a look at the pictures I shot (on my phone, think some look pretty good!), they can be found on my facebook page:
Finally, my blogging on here will be a little quiet for the next couple of weeks, as I’ve been selected to take part in the Inov-8 8 Weeks To Natural competition. Basically there are a group of runners, who will get running coaching to help us run more ‘naturally’. For me this means becoming more efficient = quicker. So if you fancy winning yourself some free Inov-8 swag, (and helping me!), go to the facebook app and vote for me! Every like and comment also counts as a vote, and they are having weekly draws, so keep at it! You will also be able to follow the progress of me, and the other runners, if this is something that interests you as we pass along any tips and what we are being taught. So check it out here!
After some initial nerves at the expo, it took until I went to bed for me to get remotely nervous. I was staying with Howard and Nina for the night, and we had a nice evening meal, and Nina kept commenting how blasé I was about the whole thing. I got to bed pretty early and only then did I have trouble falling to sleep, though I think this was more to do with excitement of being back in the game again. Once asleep, however, I didn’t have any issues and slept solidly through to half 3, waking up feeling fresh just before my alarm (I wish I could do that during the working week!). I wolfed down a couple of bowls of cereal, though I wasn’t particularly hungry, mixed my drinks and left for Bolton.
The coach from the Reebok to T1 was a sea of nervous first timers looking like they were about to go to the Gallows. This only got worse once we arrived; of the 1500 starts, 900 were first-timers! Lots of worried faces and questions, but good to see. I slowly went through the routine of setting up the bike, which quickly came back to me, with the exception that I had put my cycling shoes in my bag to put on in T1 instead of having them on the bike – with my dodgy elbow and weak wrist, I wanted to put these on sat down, rather than struggling whilst on the bike. The wetsuit went on over the layers of tubigrip I had put on my arm and I lined up for the start, after having to get 2 people to zip my suit up…should probably get back down to ‘full-time’ weight, or get a bigger wetsuit! We were rushed into the water, and I got in gingerly and swam to the start line. No, grumbles for the arm – so far, so good. I put myself quite near the back, with the aim of clear water to protect my arm and waited for the start.
With seemingly no warning, I heard the start horn and set off. Within about 30s I hit a problem. I felt good and was swimming strongly, and despite trying to hold back as much as possible in the hopes of keeping the arm for the whole swim, almost immediately hit the swimmers I had been behind. I moved over to the left and slowly overtook the pack I was stuck behind. After about 10 minutes, we hit the first buoy. As I was trying to protect my left arm from the fights, and the course was anti-clockwise, it meant I was swimming on the inside, so when we hit the buoy, it was time to suck it up and accept my punishment. Thankfully the beating wasn’t too bad, and I emerged unscathed and then had a fairly good swim for the rest of the lap. I came out of the first lap in 38 minutes, rather pleased with myself, and had to stop myself getting carried away one the 2nd. This was the longest I had swum since my crash, and certainly the longest I had swum continuously since my last IM nearly a year ago. However, it felt good and held up well. By now the pack had thinned, and I only got one or two bashes on the turns and all on the right side. Coming towards the halfway point of the 2nd lap and my elbow let out its first few grumbles as it got tired. I found that if I dropped my elbow (going against every technique lesson I’ve ever had) I could take the strain with my tricep and remove the pressure off my elbow, so that’s how I swam for the rest of the swim! At the last buoy I decided to pick up the pace to my normal IM pace and see how I held up and I felt really good, which made me think that I probably could have pushed a bit harder, but nevermind, out of the swim in one piece with my arm still intact in 1:18. Job done.
T1 was a fairly leisurely affair for me, as I had no time goals. Wetsuit off, bike socks on, bike shoes on, chamois cream, helmet, sunglasses, race belt. Stuff arm warmers down the side of my trishorts in case I got cold and replace wet tubigrip with dry one. With a quick detour to use the toilet, I jogged over to my bike and set off. Felt very odd running in bike shoes!
Once I was through the swim, the bike was the next thing I was apprehensive about. For the first 10k me and another guy swapped turns leading out of Pennington before I let him go. I was feeling very weird on the bike: first off, outside and riding, a bit different to the turbo! Also, as my turbo is slightly at an angle, my I was a lot further down that used to, and had to crane my neck to be able to see! It’s a lot easier to just put your head down for a minute on the turbo! However, despite the unfamiliarity I felt pretty good. By the first time up sheep house, I had made up a good few placings and finally dropped the chain into the smaller chainring for the ascent. Having spent the last few months on the turbo and riding around London, the climb came as a bit of a shock! It wasn’t quite the ‘oh, is that it’ that last year’s daily rides around the Peak District produced. The wrist felt weak, but I could climb out of the saddle pretty well, though did think I probably pushed it a little too hard. 6 IMs and I still get carried away…
By the time the end of the first lap had come around, my fortunes took a turn for the worse. I was on good pace, and hit 60k in a little over 2 hours, but my lack of strength was beginning to show. My wrist was now extremely weak by this point, and holding myself up on my bike was becoming a challenge, so I spent most of the time in the aero position. However, having only had one ride outside on the bike in the new position, I was not used to it, and my core strength was rubbish, so my back soon followed the wrist, followed by my neck from craning up to see the road in front of me. For now the pain was bearable but over the next 40k, it only got worse. The 2nd ascent of sheephouse really put my lower back out for a while, and the bumpy descents did nothing to help my wrist.
By 100k, I was in trouble. Trying to lighten the load on my fractured wrist as much as possible, meant taking most of my weight on the right wrist, which is bad enough at the best of times, having fractured that a few years ago. I could take the weight off both and sit on the aerobars, but my back was not happy, and neck was burning from looking up constantly. Add to this the vibrations of the road sending pains up my fractured elbow and it was not looking good! I couldn’t sit comfortably in any position on the bike, and I also couldn’t eat or drink anything as I couldn’t hold myself up on the bike with one hand.
The final 80k of the bike went as follows: Get off bike at aid station, (possible loo break), grab food and drink from aid station and wolf down, stretch back, drink more, stretch neck, drink more, flex wrists, eat and drink more, get back on bike, feel really good for 5 mins, wait for back and neck to go again, sit up, wait for wrist to go, swear at road and body until the next aid station and repeat. It’s difficult to describe how much pain I was in for the last 80k of the bike, everything hurt, and it wasn’t your average dull ache, this was severe eye-watering pain that I could do nothing about with shard shooting pains every bump and vibration. I have never been in so much pain in my life. It hurt less to roll my shoulder back into place when I had fractured my collar bone and I would wake up with it sticking out and I would have to manoeuver it back into position. I have never had tears in my eyes during a race til now, but both wrists were screaming in pain. I usually zone out after the 100k mark of an IM and just get on with it, but I had a constant reminder of what I was doing to my body as my computer clicked down agonizingly slowly. Annoyingly, when my back and neck wanted to play ball, my legs felt pretty good! But my average speed soon dropped off and I rolled to the 7 hour mark. After a crash course in dealing with pain, I somehow I made it to T2 and after a bit of shuffling managed to get off my bike.
I think getting off my bike for T2 ranks up there as one of my happiest moments of my life! My mood lifted instantly and I made the most of it. I fell into the chair and emptied my bag. Thankfully a kind volunteer asked if I wanted some sun cream, having gotten off the bike I suddenly became aware of the burning on my shoulders – probably a bit late for cream but would certainly help! Blister plaster on, shoes on, fuel belt on (annoyingly missing one bottle I soon realised) and visor on. I stopped for some coke, even queued for the toilet, before putting my splint and sling on and set off.
As my muscles began to relax I felt pretty good. My elbow had stopped hurting almost immediately so I took the sling off and just tucked it into my race belt. The crowd were incredible on the run, lining all the streets to the start of the laps and it provided a much needed pick-me-up. After half an hour my legs started to return and I actually managed to pick the pace off and run pretty well! I knew it was a matter of time before my lack of eating or drinking anything, and my lack of any long runs hit me, so I wanted to make the most of it.
I played little games with myself, promising myself a walk once I hit the laps, then pushing this to an hour, then an hour and a half, and then two hours. This soon turned into walking through aid stations to allow myself to get some food on board but running the rest, and I lasted a pretty long time! Coming through town on the 2nd lap I saw Howard and the rents, and the crowds were incredible. On the way out of town, up the hill that I (and I’m sure many others) had nicknamed the ****, I saw another friend from uni who doused me in water which helped with the cooling.
At the aid stations, I generally grabbed a couple of cups of water to dunk over myself, some coke and a banana. It was starting to get seriously hot out there, and with no ice or sponges at the aid stations, the families that lived on the course that had set up a hose were gratefully received and helped cool us all down. At the end of the 2nd lap I had my first stop for a loo break and to change my socks as my blisters were starting to flare up with my shuffling style and lack of time in the shoes. After over 2 hours of running pretty well, the exhaustion began to set in and the pace dropped off. Finally on the penultimate leg into town, I allowed myself a walk up the long draggy hill from the far end. Coming back out was mentally pretty tough, as I kept telling myself ‘just one more hour’. It went slowly and for the first time I was reduced to walk that didn’t involve an incline or aid station. After what seemed like an age, I was trying to jog down the **** and back into town and I finally hit the finish chute:
I didn’t feel anything as I ran down, though I managed to summon up the strength the high five the crowd. The overwhelming sense of relief as I crossed the finish line did nothing to set off the fatigue. I was spent and out of it, but I had finished against the odds, and ticked off Ironman number 6.
Ironman is what defines me and my life centres around the challenge and has done for the last 4 years. I am yet to fully understand why I do it to myself, but I am always searching for my limits and seeing how far I can push myself, wether it be trying to perform the best than I can, or attempting stupid challenges like 3 in 10 weeks or racing with 3 fractured bones. I have to agree with one comment, that it was lunacy for me to even be on the start line, but I had something to prove and was determined to show it was possible. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea, but I wouldn’t go back and change it. I do, however, think I have found my limit for what I am prepared to put my body through in an Ironman. At no point in the race did it ever cross my mind that maybe I should stop or give up. Not once. It may come back to haunt me at some point in the future, when I do myself some serious damage, but it never even occurred to me. I never doubted my ability to finish the race, even from the moment I crashed to be honest. I was just missing the will to finish, which was given to me when my doctor told me I wouldn’t be able to. I have a complete belief in my body; I know what I can do, and what I am capable of. Sure, I don’t know if I will ever qualify for Kona, or if I can ever knock on the doors of sub-9, but finishing – my body will probably give up on me before my mind does, quitting is never even a thought. I suspect this is why I didn’t get nervous once I had no time goals as it was never in doubt. It may also be why I didn’t get any satisfaction from the race or any sense of achievement. Even now, when speaking to people (my physio’s jaw dropping on the floor when I casually mentioned I did an Ironman at the weekend when having my fractures assessed for example), I still think “Meh, no big deal”.
For the first time ever in a race, however, the thought of ‘Never Again’ crossed my mind. I believe I have found the limits of what I am prepared to suffer, and don’t think I am prepared to put my body through another Ironman untrained like this one, fractures aside. As the pain has subsided, I still want to compete at Ironman but need to achieve something, which I can’t do without the training. So I am going to take (most of) next year off and race middle-distance and below, something I can race without having to worry about life getting in the way. I am currently planning on racing Ironman Arizona in November, but if this doesn’t happen then I am happy not to race Ironman at all in 2013. I believe I know now what I need to do to achieve the level I will be satisfied with, and the one thing this race has done for me is to get my hunger back to train properly and get motivated again, something that has been missing since before Henley last year.
In other news, my fractures are slowly on the mend and if anything, actually did a lot of good for my wrist as it was effectively a 7 hour strengthening session! Not recommended though! My elbow fracture is taking a long time to heal (admittedly not helped by this…) but is slowly straightening out, but the winter will see a lot of time in the gym getting my strength back and working on my flexibility and the core.
I go into my 6th Ironman in probably my worst ever shape and with 3 fractured bones…so not good! At Henley, I was extremely fatigued but had a massive base and was extremely fit. This time, I had a fairly good base, mainly due to 2 big training camps and as much training as I could as I adjusted to full-time work. But my plan of having a nice 6 week build were trashed with my crash and replaced by a week of nothing, 5 weeks of mind-numbing shorter turbo sessions, 2 weeks of running and 5 swim sessions… I haven’t ridden more than 120k since Malaga in April, and don’t think I’ve run more than an hour and a half since Challenge Henley!
My entire motivation for racing is to prove a point. When I first saw my specialist, and told him I had an Ironman in 5 weeks, he said “No you don’t” and that was the lightbulb off in my head to complete it. But for the first time I don’t know if I can physically complete it. Whilst I know I can drag my body through any amount of pain due to lack of fitness, if I cannot physically hold myself up on my bike, I can’t finish. I’m hoping that somewhere under my stubbornness is a sensible voice before I do myself any serious damage!
I had a swim this morning and it was quite promising, I actually felt pretty good in the water! My arm is slowing getting stronger, and there is a hope it might last the whole swim! Along those lines, I played a visit to the Rocktape stand, and they have taped my wrist and elbow up to give it a bit of support tomorrow, so a big thanks to them! I also got out on my race bike for the first time in 7 weeks today, and I’ve forgotten how different it is! I’ve only ridden on the ISM saddle and in my new position once out of the turbo, so hardly ideal preparation! But hopefully all of those hours on the turbo will have helped somewhat. My wrist was a little painful when sat up, but I think I’ve found a position to hold the bars where it doesn’t hurt, though I doubt I’ll be thinking that 160k in!
So the plan for tomorrow – well, there isn’t one really! With no time pressures, I am determined to try and enjoy my race, so if you’re out supporting and see me looking miserable, remind me that I am actually doing what I love! In an ideal world, I would like to be close to the hour for the swim, but I doubt my elbow will allow me, so if I make the cutoff, I’ll be happy! I guess the bike will probably be similar to last years 6:15, though I suspect at 120k in, things are going to go downhill! The run is anyones guess! I’m hoping that somewhere in my legs is the memory of 35 hour training weeks and years of endurance, and they come through, but I am mentally prepared to hit a rough patch and visit some dark places. If the crowds are anything like last year, that will provide a much needed lift! Speaking of spectators, if you see me, I’m number 123, but will be easy to spot with my colourful tape, double tubigrips and blue cast on in the run! You can also track me at http://www.ironmanuk.com or http://www.ironmanlive.com
Finally a quote, which has become something of a motto for me:
Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.