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!!

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