The winter training had gone well, biking was going good and the local timetrials were proving that I was getting faster and in better shape than last year and this was in spite of a shoulder injury that required a steroid injection when some volvo driving ass decided he didn't like being behind cyclists in the ASL (advanced stop line) at traffic lights and raced ahead of us then stopped and reversed in towards us resulting in my going over the bars. Weeks were lost from swimming and almost the season but thankfully an injection a few weeks before the first race seemed to have cured the problem without the need for any surgery.
The first race of the season was Wilmslow triathlon and I must admit that I was expecting to race for the Vets prize so I was surprised that when I checked in I was given Number 2 meaning I was one of the fastest swimmers. I had ridden and run the course the night before as a familiarisation recce and I knew I could bike well and my running was starting to get better and stronger so I thought I might stand a chance of top 3. I wore my Xterra Velocity swimsuit (and nearly forgot to take it off in T1) for added slipstreaming in the 400m pool swim and headed out on the bike thinking I was in 2nd place. I quickly overtook the supposed lead swimmer, a paralympian swimmer Daniel Pepper. I never get complacent and kept pushing hard and with 3 miles to go I caught another cyclist, Simon Parker. I led out of T2 but was overtaken within 500m and Simon pushed on to win by 23s over the 6.3km run. To come 2nd overall was a surprise but also a big confidence boost given that I hadn't done any brick work and I could look forward to more training and the national Middle Distance championships to be held at Bala.
I have never really liked the middle distance race at Bala. Its always cold and its a hard race but this is the national champs and its also prep for my A race, Ironman UK (Bolton). The swim was shortened to 1km due to the water temperature and by god it was cold. My face was freezing but the racehead takes over and I came out 1st in my age group in the Xterra Vector Pro first race outing. At least the sun was out for the ride over the mountain but it was still cold. I was having a bit of a localised race with Mark White and tried to get away with an effort on the last big climb but as I crested the top the road had been closed and the race had been cancelled due to a competitor fatality. Not the race everyone was hoping for and I certainly felt like a medal was on the cards, if not the win, but someone had died and it puts everything in perspective and makes you grateful to be alive.
RIP Daniel Cavanagh, aged 40.
Getting older is getting harder to accept and injuries are always in the back of my mind. A simple muscle pull or a trip and fall can set you back for seemingly ages and negative thoughts can set in but
keeping an eye on the future is a reminder of why you train. Ironman Bolton was looming up fast, it seemed only like yesterday that Ali and I entered it whilst sitting in the sun in the garden last year. I had gone through a run/walk program to assist with my achilles injury and had managed a 1:26 half marathon in training with very little effort and had managed to swim the ironman distance twice in under 56 and 57 minutes in the weeks prior, and my timetrialling was still getting faster so I felt in good shape and confident of a win at Bolton. Arrogance maybe? No, Confident and trust in the training. I'm chasing an age group win after coming 2nd in South Africa and 6th in Melbourne.
Race day in Bolton arrived and the weather was typically British.........shit! It poured and poured and at one point on the swim you could barely see the buoys the rain was bouncing so hard off the Pennington Flash.
The first lap of the swim was smooth and the second not so with one or two fellow competitors zigzagging across my front repeatedly. A glance at the timer on the first lap was a disappointing 29 something minutes but I thought, hey it must be long, same for everyone. I took the furthest buoy wide to take my own line and was enjoying the swim but again at the end I could hear the commentator say 'here comes the 1:01 swimmers'. Again disappointment as I was hoping to be heading to my bike in 57 minutes. But I was good enough for 7th in my age group.
|One lap done and still enjoying it|
A quick T1 and I was out into the rain flooded roads of Lancashire with more than a fair share of taking it easy on the multiple turns and roundabouts that makes the Bolton course so slow in comparison to other courses only compounded with the weather. To say I shivered and my teeth were chattering is an understatement. I was dropping bottles in the feed stations, A because it was cold and B because they weren't long enough to get all the nutrition needed without slowing to a stop.Nevertheless I did manage to get my nutrition bang on. Half a Powerbar and a gel during every hour along with a Powerbar drink. The bike course is awful. I detest it. Its not hard but for a timetrialist its crap with barely more than a few miles at a time to stay aero....but, its the same for everyone. Sheephouse Lane hill is nothing special but Hunters Hill second time round is more than a little cheeky and I was dreading it as I started getting cramps about 70 miles. I just took it easy up the hill and saw Ali just getting back on her bike after a puncture, which took too long to change and subsequently cost her time and forced her to miss the cut off time by one minute. Gutted.
As I headed towards the macron Stadium T2 I was emptying my bladder when I got overtaken by Mark Richardson. Little did we know that we were leading our age group and I followed him into T2. I changed into run kit and hoped to get warm running and after a few hundred metres I caught and went past Mark. This is when it starts to go wrong...........
I was struggling to catch my breath and was forced to walk up the first small hill. I recovered over the top and caught mark again and sat in trying to get a big breath that might help relax my breathing. I was struggling for oxygen it seemed. When I managed to get the big breath it made me cough and the cough brought up blood. At first I thought it might be Powerbar dyed spittle but it was bright red.. I was able to walk so I kept going hoping to recover and even managed to run the downhill part to the brook and along to the next hill. more of a jog really. This basically set the scene for the 4hrs 33min of marathon interspersed with numerous toilet breaks. never have I pee'd so much. A good thing maybe being hydrated? The run course is actually quite nice and I would liked to have been able to do it justice.
All I trained for and wanted for a year was to win an Ironman race and I end up completing my 8th Ironman in my slowest time yet and put my health at risk to finish in 15th place in my age group At the finish I picked up my medal and was escorted to the medical tent and after some questions and basic observations they suspected I may have a spontaneous pneumothorax then after an ambulance trip to Royal Bolton Hospital for a chest xray, ECG and blood tests it was a suspected pulmonary embolism. The A and E doc gave me , Ali and my dad, a little scare when he tried to explain there was bad news and I thought he was trying to tell me had lung cancer. Just great communication skills. So I got released after an echogram of my heart and the cardiologist diagnosed viral pericarditis. This is supposed to have started from a sore throat i was getting whilst riding and must have been exacerbated by extreme sport. My blood results were also pretty extreme with CK levels at over 2000 (normal is 125).
I must also say a big thanks to Andrew Rudder for getting me my finisher tee-shirt as I had bypassed this on the way to the med tent and hospital. Cheers mate.
Over the past few weeks I've had to take it easy and had a few more blood test with two further A and E trips, a visit to the chest clinic specialist and today I had a CT of my chest and abdomen. I have a follow up in a few weeks but at least I am able to exercise now. Mainly just commuting so far and two trial runs of 20 and 30 minutes that went OK.
A few weeks ago I was all for giving up ironman and potentially the decision was being made for me but never say never and Ali and I have pre-registered for a a half and a full distance next year. I also have Xterra UK to do in a couple of weeks with my brother also racing. Should be good fun and I have had enough of hospitals for this year. The good thing is I am raring to go again if a little steady at first.
Have fun folks and enjoy life.