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Life After Ironman, for real this time!

29 Jul

Over the last two months and since my last visit to my cardiologist at the beginning of May, the realisation that I won’t do another Ironman is finally sinking in.

Mallorca 70.3 was hard to watch but loved watching my friends’ race. My best friend did her first half iron distance and it was so great to be there.  I hadn’t pulled out of the event as it was so last minute so didn’t take my bike as I knew I’d end doing the full race if I did. Up until the day before, I was convinced that I could get away with doing the swim! In the run up to the race, we had several sea swims and I felt good. But doing a 20 minute leisurely swim with no pressure is slightly different to 1.9km in a hectic 70.3 swim!

At the finish line, the atmosphere was buzzing and all the emotions of a longer distance tri were present!  A couple of tears fell as I watched people finish. On greeting my friends and getting the sneaked-out medal and finisher’s t-shirt, the tears definitely fell!

In May, I cancelled the reminder of my races but struggled with the thought giving up racing altogether. The Challenge Henley half iron distance was the only event that would give me no refund whatsoever. This meant that I kept my entry and the little voice in my head was saying ”maybe, I could possibly do it’. Those around me were of quite a different viewpoint…

As the triathlon race season progressed, I supported at many races and enjoyed being the other side of the line! The run of ironman races was tough and listening to friends talk about the process was a challenge in itself! Not doing Ironman this year made me feel like I have a heart condition, made me feel different to those around me and not in the positive way that I had felt last year! Although I will always know I have a congenital defect, before I gave up Ironman, I had a feeling on invincibility, I felt I could do anything. The reality is whilst I believe you can do anything you want, sometimes the sensible course of action is to move to something else on the list.

Secretly doing lots of training (including yoga) was not my wisest move ever but it got me to where I wanted to be before going on holiday! I obviously listened to my body, stopping if I got any twinges of chest pain or breathless and taking rest days when necessary. It seemed my body could comfortably manage 1200m swimming, 30ish miles on the bike and around 5 miles running. Any more than that and it was game over. Once I had my parameters, I did stick to them (or others forced them upon me!).

Going on feel, not heart rate was another tactic, and it also took my focus away from sticking to a certain pace or speed, or trying to maintain a level of fitness which was now unrealistic.

Return to short distance racing began with entry to the Bournemouth aquathlon. Just having this in the diary helped with getting-over-ironman. I loved racing again. The sea swim didn’t go to plan as I got caught behind some tri newbies doing breaststroke but I made up for that with a great 5k run.

This event reminded me why I race. To have a goal, no matter how small, is a reason to get out the door when you’re tired or it’s raining, it makes you get up at 5:30 for a yoga class before work and drags you out on a ride on a Sunday when you could just chill in front of the telly. Ultimately triathlon doesn’t define who you are but it does define the kind of person you choose to be. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that sitting still just doesn’t happen with me, relaxing doesn’t come naturally and I always have more than one ‘project’ on the go!

Last week I took part in my tri club’s aquathlon. As an evening event, I felt slightly nervous as I’m strictly a morning person when it comes to training. I let negative thoughts get to me and ended up coming last! Doing things for fun really has to be the name of the game from now on! The truth is sprint distance isn’t my thing (yet) but while it is all I can do, I’m going to keep doing it! My next tri is a sprint at the end of August.

My other news is that I’ve finally started writing my book! Now feels like the right time as only now is it the real end of my heart surgery to ironman story. I got to where I needed to and now it’s the beginning of my life; still with triathlon in it, but only as a supporting character, not the main role! I am finally happier with where I am, and although I’m still struggling with reducing training and badly missing the buzz of ironman, I am more accepting of where my life is headed without it.

Heartbroken!

3 May

To some people ironman is stupid. They can’t understand why you’d want to do something which takes over your life, causes so much pain and requires so many sacrifices.  To me, it’s what kept me going when I had to deal with a diagnosis of a congenital heart defect and subsequent surgery. I achieved my goal of completing an Ironman and I’m so grateful I got the chance to. It really was the best day of my life!

Today, my chances of doing another have been taken away. I’ve received the official ‘no’ to another half or full IM from my sports specialist consultant cardiologist. Over the last few weeks I’ve experienced symptoms including chest pain, breathlessness, palpitations, wheezing – all not exactly confidence building with a race next week! I made the decision to stop and get it checked.

My VO2 test revealed figures that meant enough is enough. I am fit, healthy and I want to say that way. My heart, with years under a lot of pressure per-operation, just doesn’t like ironman training.  Carrying on now would risk shorting my life and heart failure. That’s good enough for me. It’s not me giving up….

I made a deal with him that if I quit ironman, he will give me a place, support and monitor me to attempt the London marathon one more time next year! I will still love all things swim, bike and run and will never give up but I need to have a break from it for now. I think it will take time to process, giving up a total of 6 races, including my two iron distances is heart-breaking (!), I am totally devastated to miss Mallorca 70,3, Roth and IM Western Australia, amongst other races, but I know it’s the right decision.

I will be back!

2012 – Heart Surgery to Ironman Year!

8 Jan

2012 was always going to be a big year! It was the year I turned 30, had lots of life, work and situational changes and of course, continued to work towards my big goal. In the space of 2 years, I went from heart surgery to the finishline of Ironman Austria and achieved my dream. I started 2012 in a positive way, building on a good 2011 season and very keen to work hard, buidling mileage over the winter. I enjoyed the routine of ironman training, early swim sessions, meeting  for long rides with friends in all weathers, running longer and generally feeling fitter. I dedicated the first 6 months of the year to Ironman, religiously sticking to my training plan (well, nearly!), eating healthily and avoiding alcohol!!

My training took a sharp increase when I headed out to Lanzarote for a week’s hard cycling. This was a definite highlight of the year, as it really tested me to my limits. The challenge of warm temperatures, wind and the immense climbs pushed my physical ability much more than I had ever experienced. I loved each day of cycling, seeing the stunning island and learning a lot about Ironman training and nutrition (see pic!). Pizza, chips, chips and more chips. This holiday was a highlight of my year, but it was also both a low and learning point afterwards when I ended up in hospital! A humbling moment occured where I was faced with giving up my dream of ironman. More about my Lanza experience can be found here: Lanzarote 2012

Other highlights included: My first 100k ride in February – this was my longest ride at this point, involved lots of navigation as I couldn’t keep up with the group, and the conditions were less than ideal, ice everywhere! I remember the feeling of achievement when I finished though, each time I went further on the bike, I loved cycling a little bit more! By April, I was ready to take part in a New Forest Wiggle sportive. 83 miles later, I was bursting with happiness and proudly showing off my medal!

The first time I completed 100 miles, back in June, I took the below photo of my watch. I couldn’t quite believe that I had done it. I had borrowed a friend’s tri bike a couple of weeks before in preparation for Austria and this was my second time out on it.  A solo ride, around the stunning D0rset Purbecks, I actually loved every minute.

By spring, it was all about triathlon. My olympic distance race in the New Forest was cancelled due to bad weather and I was so disappointed that I went on my turbo for 90 minutes then straight into a 9.5 mile run along the beach in a sandstorm! A photographer even asked to take pictures of me because I obviously looked completely crazy on an otherwise deserted seafront! My next race was Beaver middle distance in May, and my first DNF (did not finish!). Injuries plagued me throughout the year and with only 6 weeks until Ironman Austria, I had to take the decision half way through the run of this race. A huge learning point! Being strong enough to walk away from a race took more than I thought! There was a bit of a grumpy Corinne at the finish, I saw my friends finish then sped off to work and entertained people with my pond-weed styled hair and delightful smelling wet-wipe washed body!

The highlight of July, and my whole year, was obviously Ironman. Even though this was 6 months ago, I am still buzzing with the memory of that day. The time, energy, support, commitment and dedication that it took to get to the start line, as well as the finishline, will always be my biggest achievement and what 2012 was all about for me. Here is My race report.

After Austria, I was really tired and the cumulation of a hectic and emotionally draining 6 months caught up with me. I had to learn to rest when I needed to, otherwise the dreaded multitude of injuries would be back to haunt me. Finding a balance was one of the key learning points for me in 2012. Remembering to have fun, to stop working so hard, to spend more time with those close to me and to listen to my body was what 2012 taught me.

Other milestones of the year included my first 3.8k open water swim and long training runs of up to 22 miles in preparation for the Amsterdam marathon in October. This race was definitely a learning point, as despite training hard in the months leading to the marathon, on the way, I crashed and burned in a big way! It made me appreciate what I had asked my body to do during the year and that sometimes you have to just approach an event as fun, especially when in Amsterdam! I didn’t achieve my sub 4 goal but learnt a valuable lesson about simply finishing what I set out to achieve, doing your best on the day and having a big fat rest afterwards (aka a big night out in the Dam!).

Talking of fun, 2o12 was a year of celebrations, 30th birthday style! A trip to Prague was the first stop, with 3 nights of European fun and games. Next it was on to Las Vegas for adventures partying, pole dancing, vodka, nachos, big blisters, ledge ledges, room service and a concierge named Ron (don’t ask!). Before getting back to some serious training, there was time for a few more nights out in Derby, Christchurch and Newcastle. You only turn 30 once! My friends have been a massive support to me this year and spending more time with them was one of my new year resolutions that I kept willingly! People I met on my journey through my eventful year all added to the excitement, variety and absolute craziness that is my life!

I might now stop talking about my heart surgery to Ironman journey, as I have completed my goal and my two iron distance races in 2013 are just the icing on the cake – I’m doing them because I can. My first Ironman will always be special because it took so much to get there. You don’t need to have a heart condition or to have surgery to aim high, I’d recommend it to anyone. Having a reason to get out of bed early in the morning gives you a focus, an enthusiasm and purpose that I cannot imagine not having now. Going on a journey such as this makes you truely grateful for those around you. Massive thanks to all my friends, family, my coach, 110 % Play Harder, Ironheart Racing Team and all those I have met in 2012 – you made my year!

Ironman 2013!

14 Dec

After Austria this year, I was so pleased I had two other big races lined up for the rest of the year. If I could have done another Ironman, I would have! These thoughts lead me to considering my plans for 2013. With Challenge Roth already in the diary, I began to search for options for another race. Having reached a point in my life where fun has priority, and having the go-ahead from a knowledgeable sports cardiologist, it was time to add another race into the mix!

Australia had always been on my life to-do list and what better reason to go than for an Ironman? IM Western Australia takes place on the second weekend in December, meaning two things: 1. A healthy gap of 5 months with Roth and 2. The race takes place in their summer!

Why 2 races? Some might say this is greedy, excessive even. The costs of racing this distance are certainly not cheap. However, given that the chance to compete in ironman will not be there forever for me, I can honestly cease this opportunity without feeling guilty. Sacrifices will be made and I will make it happen!

What will two races mean on my lifestyle? Whilst work will always have to happen, I would like to avoid an unhealthy work/life balance that I previously had. Training for an ironman has a huge impact on your life but I am extremely lucky to be surrounded by incredibly supportive people. I am touched by how the closest people to me encourage me with my choices and value my commitment to doing what I love. Without a strong support network, the experience can become more difficult and even a little lonely. After Roth, I will have a break before resuming training and building on my fitness ready for Australia. My body will have a lot to cope with and finding the right balance for training, nutrition and rest will be essential. Listening to my body will be priority or I could be headed for an almighty crash and burn!

Sharing the experience of training for an ironman is something quite special! I became close to friends during this year, doing long rides, swapping stories and sharing landmark moments such as the first 3.8k swim!

Next year, I will sharing the Roth experience with several good friends and I just can’t wait. The icing on the cake to that is that my best friend since I was 18 has slowly but surely been converted to triathlon after a great year of running marathons and first few tri’s. After a little encouragement / persuasion, we both entered Ironman Western Australia yesterday – a happy moment, even though it was 1am!! As previous party girls, it is a bit surreal to be doing this together but also massively exciting. 2013 is without doubt going to be an adventure!

When looking to make New Year’s resolutions, most of mine will be based on sports goals, swim efficiency, getting stronger on the bike, faster running, commitment to a healthy diet, getting enough sleep. But most importantly is the determination to stay happy, keep doing what I love and not losing sight of the reasons for doing what I do. Behind every successful completion of a goal is a strong reason to want to do it, the determination to see it through, the motivation to keep going when it gets tough.

Vitruvian Middle Distance – Heart Surgery to Half Ironman!

27 Sep

Vitruvian Middle Distance

Why I wanted to do it? The Vit was my A race in 2011. I trained all year for this race and it really meant everything. Finishing was then my biggest achievement to date and I was over the moon with a time of 6:37. This year, the race was a post Ironman goal, just to make sure my training was kept ticking over and I had a focus after July. Tied in with the Amsterdam marathon in October, Vitruvian helped me through those lost post Austria feelings!

Training

My training had a break after Ironman but I was soon keen to get back to some kind of distance work. Ironman spoils you in a way, going out for short distances just doesn’t seem to cut it! I loved getting back into some longer runs, the odd brick session and keeping my swimming going. Whilst my training for the race was less than ideal, I was still enjoying all the disciplines and felt ready to race.

The day

I viewed the Vit as a fun race, with no pressure other than to do my best on the day and hopefully beat last year’s time. With a year’s good training under my belt, I thought this was possible and had really looked forward to the race.

On the day, I attacked the swim as best I could. I was a little disappointed with a 42 minute swim, as I regularly achieved much quicker in training for 1.9k but exited the swim with plenty of energy for the bike. 3 minutes quicker than last year, so no real reason to complain.

Onto the bike, I hoped to stick around 16mph, but with the rolling hills of the course, my average soon dropped to 15.6 for the first lap then down to 15mph for the second. Gutted! Started to get really cross with myself on the bike, had to keep changing position on my new TT bike and generally had no power in my legs. I finished in 3:22, 5 minutes faster then 2011.

Onto the run, and all I can say is OUCH! Pain from the minute I started running. My back from the bike position, my right knee from a niggling injury, my foot, seriously – everything hurt! My pace plans soon went out of the window and it was case of survival. Had to pull a few psychological tricks out of the bag to keep going! Try imagining you’re in a hospital bed and being told not to exercise for months! Motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other! A finish time for the half marathon was 2:20, a personal worst but a finish all the same.

Finishing was a huge relief. I had committed to completing Vitruvian and I was even more determined to get a PB. 4 minutes was what I managed on the day, in hot conditions, so I was pleased! A few days of pain followed but it was so worth it! Medals and t-shirts mean a lot!

What did I learn?

I learnt that Ironman takes a lot out of you, more than you think. Your body dictates how you perform and sometimes you have to listen carefully. I am lucky that I have been able to complete a full distance, two half iron distances and hopefully a marathon by the end of 2012. I am pleased with my progress to date and can’t wait to see what the future hold with more training. I also learnt that after all of that, I really need some new trainers asap! :)

Life After Ironman

13 Aug

6 weeks on and here are my thoughts on life after Ironman.

Completion of Ironman Austria was the biggest achievement I think I had made in my life up to this point. Just making the finishing line gave me the greatest feeling of success, even though the day didn’t go completely to plan. As soon as I finished, I began reflecting on my experience, thinking over and over about what happened and what I got out of it. To anyone who asked ‘how was it?’ my answer always started with ‘I loved it’! I genuinely did, loved each aspect of the race, the support on the day, the atmosphere and most definitely the finish. How could anything compare to that?

After nearly two years of build-up, life after such a big event takes a bit of adjusting to! After Austria, I had been warned about the ‘post-ironman blues’ – a time when all the craziness of your A race and focus for the whole year is over. When your post-race buzz is fading, there is a rather big hole in your life, when once you didn’t have a minute spare. Training is limited as your body needs time to recover. Mine felt ok immediately afterwards, I didn’t ache and I didn’t have any of the dramatic side –effects I had heard about. But then I did have a nice long cool down (6 hr 21 walk/jog!). Two full weeks off any structured training was just what my body needed but by the end, I was twitchy as anything.

I found my mind was still in ironman-mode, switched on and continually reflecting on my experience. It’s hard to quieten that voice in your head that says ‘keep going, you’ll be fine’! I had this voice finely honed from all the hard months of training. You absolutely cannot have a voice that tells you to stop.

3 weeks after Austria, fatigue hit and my motivation to train plummitted! Without the burning desire and crazy obsession with something, I found getting up in the morning difficult for the first time ever. I’d be in a beautiful lake with the sun coming up and still felt no love! On my bike, I felt alright but nothing special, not like I had the fitness to ride 112 miles! Running made my heartrate go sky high so had to be careful to keep it all under control. I lost my appetite, but this always happens to me after a race.

I had several interviews and blogs to write and this helped keep my focus positive, although inside I wasn’t necessarily over the moon about all aspects of my race. My main disappointment was with my time and how my body reacted during the marathon and in the heat. Lots of lessons learnt and to be improved on. I still maintained the overwhelming feeling of achievement for simply finishing, but I think it’s only human to always strive for better. I tried not to compare myself with others. I was reminded by the stats about those who have completed an Ironman after heart surgery and I’m still in the minority (made me feel better!).

The only sensible thing to overcome the temporary sadness was to line something up to look forward to! That for me was round 2. I entered Roth (iron distance event in Germany) a couple of weeks after finishing Austria. As the deadlines for next summer’s races were fast approaching, I had to make a decision. There was never at any point a question of whether or not, I’d do another Ironman. I knew a long time ago, in the middle of training for Austria, that this was for me.

I also entered a half ironman distance race for September which meant my training had a closer goal to work towards. Suddenly everything started to fit into place again! Speaking to friends, I heard that this is a common thing to do after Ironman and probably the reason why people go on to become lifetime endurance junkie.  Oh no, I think I might be part of that club already…!

After making it round the course in one piece, I am now determined to become faster, fitter and stronger. Another year’s training and I’m excited to see what is possible next. Was it all worth it? YES!

 

 

 

Heart Surgery to Ironman – The End of the Journey!

8 Jul

My 2 year anniversary of my heart surgery was 23rd June 2012 and Ironman Austria took place a year and a week after my operation. What better way to celebrate! I picked Austria as I was told it was a great course, amazing area, good weather (!) and support the whole way round.

We headed out to Austria on the Thursday before the race and the temperature hit us straight away. Mid 30’s was lovely for sunbathing in and relaxing by the lake but rumours were it was only going to get hotter by the weekend. Nerves had settled in and all of our thoughts were on getting things done, course recce’d, registration done, plenty of food! There were several occasions where I had to take some time to calm down, and think logically through what needed to be done. I had lists of lists but in the end, I decided to trust my packing and chill.

The day was everything I expected it to be. An announcement of a non-wetsuit swim added to the nerves but there was certainly a buzz in the air. My friend and I got to the start line with a mixture of anxiety, fear, excitement and sheer happiness. There is no feeling like being surrounded by nearly 3000 athletes and hitting the water all together. I made sure I took time to soak in the atmosphere and remember the moment that I had worked so hard to get to. I loved every minute of the swim and came out feeling full of energy. The lake was beautiful, especially with the sun rising.

Onto the bike, the sun really came out and the heat soared. 38 degrees was the recorded high! Support on the course was amazing and having my family and friends there made it even more special. I struggled at several parts but was determined to give it my all and make it in one piece to the run. My energy levels flagged as I suffered with stomach problems and was forcing down food and fluids. After a few stops on the bike, my times were slowing and the heat continued to increase. Crowds, DJs, music and the lively aid stations kept me going as well as the beautiful scenery. Despite being in a lot of pain, I managed to appreciate the view! I’m doing an Ironman, I kept telling myself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The marathon was by far the most difficult part of the day. My stomach issues worsened and exhaustion set in. I got to the point where I could only tolerate small sips of water and energy drink. There were moments when I didn’t think I would make the 17 hour cut off. I could barely walk in a straight line and started hallucinating that there were worms everywhere – not nice! Once completely dark, motivation on the street was challenging and my focus had to be on moving forward and nothing else. Inside me were two voices, one telling me to stop, lie down, give in to the pain my body was suffering. The second drove me forward, told me to be brave, be patient, stay strong and finish what I set out to do. That voice came from two years of fighting, trying, hurting and achieving.

I will never forget those last few moments. The last km of the run was so hard physically but mentally I built myself up for the moment I had been waiting for. I started to run again, fought against anything that told me to stop. I was determined to run down the finishing chute whatever it took. Despite being emotional at other point in the day, at this time I wasn’t. I was quietly set on one thing and one thing only, finishing. At the realisation that this was going to happen drew closer, I felt unbelievably relieved. Not sad, not happy, not overwhelmed, just so glad to be there. The reception at the finish, in the dark, was something else. On my mind was my friends and family waiting for me, plus everyone at home that were tracking my progress. As I heard the Baywatch theme tune, I ran to the finish, stopping to have the picture that I will treasure forever. I had made it! Two years, almost to the day since I had open heart surgery and I am an IRONMAN!

Thank you to all of my friends and family for their support over the last 2 years. Certain friends have really been there for me during training. Thanks to my coach for helping me achieve what we set out to do – finish! My lovely Twitter friends, never failing to pick me up when I doubted myself and always there to give you a pat on the back.

The support I have received has been incredible. Emails I have got from people who needed some inspiration to try for their own challenge really touched me. I have come across so many stories of those who have overcome adversity and I am inspired to give something back to all those who have helped me. Maybe a book, who knows?

So, what’s next? The experience left me inspired, exhilarating and wanting more! I loved the training, have made some great friends and truly enjoyed the journey. Now I know what my body is capable of, I can trust it more and explore the possibilities of pushing further. Another Ironman is on the cards, of that you can be sure! Whilst this may be the end of my heart surgery to Ironman journey, it definitely the start of another! For now, I am enjoying the memories of the best day of my life!

 

 

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!

Heart Surgery to Ironman – Spring Training

20 May

Following a training week in Lanzarote and a hospital visit, my confidence was a bit battered in March. Training resumed with an element of uncertainty and trepidation. All my workouts were low intensity and I religiously monitored my heart rate. My body needed time to recover from a tough time whilst away and I still continued to get the odd twinges of chest pain as warning. I had to get to grips with the new reminder that I am not invincible (I thought I was!) and sometimes the body rules over the head.

With time ticking by, there wasn’t much chance to dawdle through training and soon I was back up to the big miles and no longer feeling any ill effects. Ensuring I was eating well and kept properly hydrated helped. The issue of not getting enough sleep as a result of fitting a busy work schedule with around 8 swim/bike/run sessions a week needed to be addressed. Ironman takes a lot of your time and if your life is already busy, something has to give. In my life, this is two things: a social life and sleep! Many have told me that this upsets the balance but I made the choice to enter the race, knowing that this would be the situation.

Milestones between March and May included a 84 mile sportive in the New Forest where I achieved my fastest ever bike, a 90 mile ride and a beautiful lake swim. My swim has improved and I am gaining confidence both in the pool and in open water.

Tough times included a particularly hideous 60 mile bike followed by a 6 mile run. The weather has not been great for the lead up to the race and this session was no exception. As the rain poured down, I found myself in a dark place and really struggled to keep going. Half way through the run along the prom, I had to walk as my legs were screaming and my energy was near zero! A dizzy wobble took me up a hill on the home straight but the tears had already started!

What keeps me motivated in times like this? The ultimate goal is the main motivation, whether to get up at 5am, out the door in the rain or during a tough training session. If I am really struggling, I imagine being back in a hospital bed, wired up to many machines and remember the frustration at not being able to exercise. Since the summer of 2010 when I was first able to get back on the treadmill, I haven’t stopped training, thinking about and planning for Ironman. That’s nearly 2 years of obsession!

I count myself as very lucky that I can continue with this dream, especially as there are many that can’t. The sad news of Claire Squires passing away at the London marathon brought the country to attention. Similarly, the footballer Fabrice Muamba who had a cardiac arrest and the world champion swimmer Alexander Dale Oen who died after a heart attack aged just 26 have highlighted the sad reality of undiagnosed heart defects or conditions. News that a member of the Ironheartracing team died after a 100 mile bike ride hit me hard. He was a successful coach and had completed many endurance challenges included Ironman after his heart surgery. The reminder that life is often short and the future unpredictable can be depressing but I try to see things with the perspective that whilst you are here, you might as well make the most of it. Although my surgery was nearly two years ago, those scars are still there and survival is what drives me forward.

As of today, there are 6 weeks to go until the big day. What I have left to do is sort out a newly sore shin, get back some run fitness, get some long runs in, continue to get strong on the bike and conquer 100 miles. I also need to swim the full 3.8k Ironman swim distance. With flights and hotel sorted, I have plenty of faffing with kit to do and to make a decision about the bike to use on the day.

Everything is starting to feel very real, very scary and most of all, SO exciting!!