So who am I? well that’s easy… I AM AN IRONMAN!
A 5 time Ironman (and counting) at that. And also helped multiple others finish multiple other Ironman Triathlons as well.
But that’s not enough really, I think to understand why that matters it’s more important to understand who I was.
In 2009 I was an overweight borderline alcoholic office worker. I genuinely had no background whatsoever in sport or athletic endeavours what so ever. At school they made us do sport. But outside of the enforced P.E lessons I was not part of any team or club or any form of organised sports. Obviously I had ‘kick abouts’ with mates and played a little cricket in the park, but it was always just kids’ stuff. Living in the country I was always going to have an active, outdoorsy childhood. But its wasn’t sporty. The only real sport I participated in was mountain biking, but even then I cheated and only rode downhills. But I guess I was kind of accidentally fit, but only through the joys of youthful exuberance.
At the age of 18 all that changed. When I got the keys to my first car, and they started letting me buy alcohol. The bikes were retired to the garage, the football condemned to the pub and the park was just something to walk through on the way home after a Saturday night on the tiles.
So it remained a cycle of sedentary work, eating badly and drinking lots. Week after week, year after year. Until one Sunday morning, around a decade later. I looked through the fog of an alcohol induced stupor and realised I couldn’t keep this up forever. My grey aging skin and recessed red eyes made my appearance seem not old but worn. The sight of myself in this terrible state made me yearn change. But I was unsure how to go about it.
First start, revert to type. So about ten years since last riding a bike in anger I bought a mountain bike. The first ride didn’t go well. Less than a mile into my first ride and a small climb had my heart exploding and my lungs feeling like they had collapsed and I returned home tail between my legs.
But I continued at it slowly building my distance up, slowly beginning to chip off the pounds I had built up around my body. Sometime around this period my Brother in law challenged me to do a charity bike ride. This was the catalyst. After weeks of training I completed the Manchester to Blackpool bike ride. Approx. 62miles, and I hated every second of it! But no sooner as it was over, I started missing it. A deep depression came over me and I needed that something to aim for back in my life. I always remember watching Triathlon with my Dad both of us Aghast at what these guys were achieving, long before the Brownlee days. We didn’t really understand it and certainly couldn’t comprehend it, but that that was it! I was going to do a Triathlon.
Only 3 little problems:
I could Barely Swim, in fact I hadn’t been to a real pool since primary school where we were taught to swim, well more accurately, taught how to “not drown”. I had been to Swim up Bars on holiday but really not sure this was sufficient.
I had never ridden a road bike before. But how much different to Mountain biking could it be. And I had managed 60+ miles on a Mountain bike, ok it took 6 hours but still.
And running, well it had been so long since I ran I have no idea if I was capable of running more than 100 meters.
But I was going to do a Triathlon.
In the pub that weekend I decided to let all my friends know so at least I would be driven by the fear of ridicule should I fail to keep up with it. Eyes rolled and people scoffed, but that would all prove beneficial, Nothing like peer mockery to drive you to prove them wrong. But among all that a word was mentioned that at the time I was not familiar with. Ironman.
The following morning A received a text “So when are we doing this Triathlon?” It seemed a few of my drinking buddies, had decided their lives were headed to the bottom of a bottle as well. So we would take each other kicking and screaming to the finish line.
Training began in the January of our planned 2010 Olympic Triathlon, hosted in Llandudno, Wales. Things didn’t start well. Swimming began with me managing 12 lengths, over 30mins with me clinging to the end for dear life before not drowning my way to the other side. I got out so tired shaky and fatigued It took me 15mins to get my trousers on. Running Was no better a 1mile flat route had me collapsed in the front seat of my car unable to drive and I could barely walk for a week. At least cycling was ok I could complete a 15mile loop in a blistering 1hr:30mins with only a few stops rest.
Humble beginnings indeed.
One run we did as a group the talk got on to the unthinkable: Ironman. We endeavoured to research a bit more into it when we were done. A quick internet search came up with required ironman distances and to put it mildly we were dumbfounded.
2.4mile swim : I was currently only able to muster up about 30lengths and the most I could do continuous was 8lengths
112mile bike: Ok this seemed do able on its own but there probably were not enough hours In the day and I doubt I would be able to move for a week let alone…
Run a Marathon! I was struggling big time with shin splints. 3 miles was about my limit and I was doubting I would ever see the 10k required for the Triathlon we had booked. A marathon at this stage was unthinkable, and to do it after that sort of ride!? Just who are these people capable of such unthinkable feats. Certainly not me a pub junky, whose idea of exercise was carrying a crate of fosters to the car!
But the seed had been planted.
The training continued, and improvements came. We didn’t really know what we were doing but we kept plugging away. Apart from the bike I don’t think I had hit either required distance in running or swimming. But we had test events looming. A 10k charity run, was completed and I survived despite multiple stops to stretch out shin pain. A 1500m open water sea swim on the Triathlons course was a complete disaster. All my training had been pool training and the open sea was a bit of a shock. That’s a complete understatement! I was using every piece of my “Not Drowning” training to full use. Upon exiting the water, we all decided to Withdraw from the Triathlon. That’s life sometimes you just bite off more than you can chew.
The end…well not quite, like My charity bike ride the reality very quickly faded and the sense of achievement came to focus. And we decided to re-enter the triathlon.
Next was a sprint Triathlon, only 400m, 16 lengths of a pool, 16mile bike and a 6k run. Easy. The event proved to be reasonable. I finished well down the pack after walking a large majority of the run. But I finished and that’s all that mattered. It was time for the big one.
The whole family turned out. For a day by the seaside to watch the unthinkable, their unfit, overweight, lazy, good for nothing son/brother pretend to be something he isn’t. And that’s exactly what they got. As I hobbled over the finish line in 3:20mins, 10th from last with a slowest of the day run split of 1:17mins for the 10k. Did I care about the poor performance? Not one bit! I had just done the unthinkable. A Triathlon was real Athletics for real athletes. I had no business here, but I had done it.
And the even more remarkable thing. 12 months later I would line up on the start of an Ironman Triathlon.
And even more staggering than that 11:49 mins after I would be crossing the finish Line!
The important thing to note is every single part of that is down to one thing. Or more precisely one person…ME.
And all the people I have helped, I have had only the slightest assistance. Their success was almost entirely down to them.
That’s the thing. If you are looking someone to help you finish an Ironman, find a mirror. ONLY that person can do it. No one else. No website, No training plan, No Fancy Bike or high tech watch. The Thousands of pool lengths YOU will swim, the millions of pedal revolutions YOU will turn, the endless strides YOU will take, the hundreds of gallons of Sweat YOU will pour, and the few millilitres of blood YOU might bleed. It will all be YOU.
Nothing and No one can do it for you. And that’s what makes the Medal all the more sweet.
But after so many ironman finishes and Such an incredible journey I’m positive there are things I have learned I can pass on to help you along the way. Lessons learned. Failures to avoid. Successes to emulate. They can all help make your journey easier.
And if reading this does nothing more than help you realise YOU CAN DO IT. Then I have succeeded.
Because YOU can.
I can Promise you that…I just can’t promise it won’t hurt…