Finishing off 2016 injured wasn't great and it took a more than a few few months of physiotherapy, sports rehab and chiropractic treatment to be able to start running again only to be hit with a calf tear again mid cross country season resulting in another 8 weeks away from my trainers and reduced cycling. On the upside I had a wedding to look forward to in late August and a couple of races already entered I was still hopeful of a return to some semblance of fitness.
First up was Xterra Greece at the end of April and the chance to meet up with friends Ian and Kathryn Blackie-Taylor and Christophe 'The Frenchman' Maury. Ali was also going to make the start line of her first Xterra on my favourite course from the previous season.
I knew my race was going to be tough with some of the 40-44 AG youngsters moving up to my 45-49 AG and I had just turned 49 and I ended up a really disappointing 5th. I had a great swim but lacked serious power on the bike and had nothing for the run. The bike course had slightly changed with an additional rocky downhill section that Ali found difficult in practice so on race day decided to walk down this section. I had overtaken Ali as I was finishing the 2-lap course and she seemed to be doing well but she struggled with the increasing heat and terrain on the second lap but in true Ali-style-perseverance she finished the course and to her surprise she was top of the podium and got her qualification slot for Xterra World Champs in Maui.
So now our honeymoon was going to incorporate our second trip to Maui....expensive year with the wedding!
I wanted to race Maui again as I'd been injured the previous year but qualifying was going to be tougher, not just in competition but financially too....did I mention the house move too??? A serious case of too much going on all at once, oh and I had a university final exam for my BSc in Natural Sciences to take in whilst Ali was finishing off her first year of a BA in Business Studies. How do we find the time?
In May and June the running races where coming up thick and fast and I was picking up the pace and holding off the injuries and even managed to win a 10km race overall in June just prior to Holkham Half Outlaw distance triathlon where I won my age group. All great prep I thought for the stag weekend in Dublin that was going to be 70.3 Ironman Dublin. Tony couldn't race due to knee surgery, Breezy was focusing on biking this year, Elliot wasn't interested in training with his final year at university, Ross wouldn't bring a bike across the world from Australia so it left Daz, Peter and me. The others were interested in the Guinness but we all had a few after the race with the worst being in the Guinness factory....go figure.
The build up to the race had gone well and we took in Cabinteely Parkrun the day before the race just for fun. It turned out to be a tad hillier than we expected but still it was only 5km. Lovely course, friendly runners/organisers and some amazing monuments in the park.
Race day came and the weather seemed to perk up a bit from the predicted stormy wet weather. Daz and I hit the water within 6 sec of each other and the plan was for Daz to get on my toes but I managed to exit the water around 30 minutes with freezing cold feet. Onto the bike I knew Daz would be chasing hard to make up the two minutes deficit but he caught me around 35 miles and I managed to keep him close enough to see him in the T2 tent. As I set off chasing him it was apparent something was wrong with me. I'd shivered my way around the bike course and now I was struggling to catch breath. A few minutes later I spat out some red saliva and after a few more metres I knew I would have to stop. Two years ago at IM Bolton I had the same and after months and months of tests and consultations with various specialists they were really none the wiser but suggested I had burst a blood vessel in my lungs. Well I tried to explain to the respiratory guy that I had read about Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema (SIPE) but he wasnt interested. Now after a second episode I am convinced its SIPE. Cold water swimming, peripheral vascular shut down (I also have Reynaud's syndrome) and increased BP (assumed) as exercising hard results in blood pooling at the core and increased pressure in the lungs resulting in blood leaking back into the lungs. Not great when all you need is oxygen. After IM Bolton my oxygen saturation level was only 82% but knowing what was happening this time I decided just to stop in the race about 1km into the run despite running 7min/mile just as my mum and Aunt Sylvia turned up to watch. I was getting married on the following Friday and if it didn't kill me then Ali certainly would have. I'd promised if it ever happened again I'd stop. The common denominators with this are the weather conditions and temperature, but also my mum and aunt (jinxes!). Daz went on to finish 9th in AG and qualified for the 2018 World Championships in South Africa. Had I stayed within 4 minutes of Daz I'd have won my AG and got my slot also (he ran two minutes quicker than me at Holkham when I beat him overall). Peter who was having so much fun he fell over on the run was also offered a roll down slot but had to decline. So much for it being my stag do and having it my way. Well there will be more qualifying races. Daz and I both wanted to go go back to Port Elizabeth since racing Ironman there in 2009. At least it'll be warm.
So our wedding the following week went better than expected with a few surprises for everyone and Ali and I followed up with Marple Parkrun the morning after. Not technically a race so we wait for our official first race as Mr and Mrs Stephenson which just might be in Maui....
2017 triathlon results
Xterra Greece 5th AG
Outlaw Holkham 1st AG
70.3 Dublin DNF