Archive | June, 2012

2 Years Ago Today – Heart Surgery to Ironman

23 Jun

23rd June 2010.

My heart was stopped for 39 minutes. My sternum was broken and the hole in my heart patched up. I was in Intensive care and had 8 days in hospital. The pain was unbelievable. The recovery was slow and frustrating. To work my way through this experience, I needed to look to the future.

In my hospital bed, I made the decision firstly to run my deferred London marathon place the following April ( 2011) and secondly, complete an Ironman in 2012.

Why? I get asked this all the time. In usual circumstances, you could say the extreme element to the challenge makes it appealing. The feeling of satisfaction about pushing your body to the limit. It’s also actually enjoyable to train long and slow in all three disciplines. For me, the real reason for wanting to do Ironman is to prove to myself that anything is possible. I believed this before the diagnosis of my heart condition but afterwards, that confidence slipped away somewhat. I needed a clear positive goal that I knew would help me through the tough months of recovery.

Being both a physical and psychological challenge, I wanted to take my feelings about heart surgery and channel it into a positive experience. Another reason for wanting to do Ironman is to make the most of having an opportunity to get fit again. Many with a heart condition are severely limited and cannot exercise. I was lucky that my defect was picked up firstly as a result of exercise and secondly there should be no real long term complications. Once I was fixed, that was it – free to get back to the sport I love! That’s lucky. If I wouldn’t have been here in 10 years time, I need to make the most of what I have – an opportunity to do the things that really challenge you and push boundaries of what is possible.

There’s such a community of long distance triathletes, you really stick together. I wouldn’t have been able to make it through the training without my friends. Without support from those close to me, life would have been a whole lot tougher. No-one has questioned my decision to do this. My coach has been nothing but supportive, despite set-backs along the way. Having people believe in you makes all the difference when occasionally you question yourself!

Recent advice has included taking the time to take in the atmosphere on the day, to really get a sense of everything and to remember it. After working towards my goal for so long, it will all be over so quickly. When I swim my 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles, I will be thinking about all those who can not do this challenge even if they wanted to. I’ll be remembering the determination I felt after my operation when a short walk exhausted me. Above all, I will enjoy the day because I am lucky to be there.

Two years ago I was alone in a hospital bed after being woken for surgery. A last minute decision by the consultant meant that my operation had been brought forward and I was about to be rushed down to the operating theatre. I was petrified! Family had planned to visit early in the morning to wish me luck but I soon realised there was no times for goodbyes. I considered the risks previously explained to me and my heart raced. The very thing that keeps me alive was about to be stopped.

Lying in a bed connected to pacing wires, drains and drips is a funny time to start dreaming about Ironman. Maybe it was the morphine  but suddenly a seedling of an idea had clarity… it was my goal to achieve it. It was going to be a long journey with many ups and downs but now I’m here, with only a week to go, it’s been worth every minute.

Heart Surgery to Ironman, race report next!

Heart Surgery to Ironman – Beaver Middle Distance and 4 Weeks To Go!

2 Jun

Last weekend I had my first race of the year – the Beaver middle distance triathlon. This was going to be a test of all the last few months training and to see if I could actually remember who to put all three disciplines together! As it was all about practice for Ironman, I wasn’t under huge pressure but still wanted to do my best.

I felt ready for the swim after a couple of great open water sessions recently. My time on the bike has all been relatively successful and I couldn’t wait test my legs! After lots of rest from running to ensure my shin recovered from a recent injury, it was uncertain if I would be able to complete the full 13 mile run.

Meeting up with friends the night before helped ease the obligatory pre-race nerves. Whilst carb-loading on pasta, chips and ice-cream, we discussed the delightful topic of peeing on the bike. Such conversations you couldn’t have in ‘normal’ life!

A relatively small race and beautiful sunny weather made for a friendly atmosphere. I loved the buzz of the day and started to feel really excited. Once down at the lake, we were soon off and fighting our way through very shallow, murky water for 1.9k. Admittedly, I was quite glad to get out and up to the 450m run to transition.

On the bike, I was mainly surrounded by the 35-39 age groupers as their wave had caught me up on the swim! This meant I pushed a little too much for the first part of the bike but did have fun keeping up with them! A three lap course with a fairly long hill in the middle was a bit of a challenge but the support was good and I got to wave at my dad every lap!

The plan on the run was to cover 4 miles then see how my shin felt. I did this and continued to 5 and 6 miles. At this point, I had some pain so had to take the heart-wrenching decision to quit there. I was gutted! Being so close to finishing and having never quit anything before, I took a little while to get over this. Seeing my friends finish and do so well cheered me up and overall, I had a great time.

I recovered pretty quickly which was encouraging and I’ve just had probably the best week’s training ever. For the first time, I swam the ironman distance in a lake and felt great (despite having been up all night!). The next day, I had a brilliant day with 93 miles on the bike straight into a 5 mile run. No shin pain, no real issues, just big smiles!

So, it is now 4 weeks to go until Ironman Austria, 3 weeks til my 2 year ’surgiversary’  …. I’m feeling nearly ready. Just the matter of 100 mile ride next week!