Thursday, 12 December 2013

Open water swim ..............heeeeeeeeeeelp!

After swimming for many years not competitively in the early years but did on the 23rd march 2003 complete the swimathon a 5000 metre pool swim in 1hr 57 min and 11 seconds , this was at the time of my enforced 7 year sabbatical of many sports due to my Ankylosing  spondylitis condition (if interested read  my first blog). In 2008 after discovering I could run again without much pain I entered the Bournemouth intl sprint  triathlon , well sort of  the swim was cancelled due to bad weather so it became a duathlon which I now know is normal practice in adverse weather.
This opened up a whole new world to me, introduction to endurance sports, once you're in it grabs you by the b####x good and proper, the list of distances/events/disciplines becomes endless and if you're like me " COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE" you really have entered a whole new world. After a couple of pool swim triathlons Bath and Arundel it was my time to join the BIGGER BOYS & GIRLS open water swimming!, as usual for me out come the books/ blogs/ internet research on open water swimming, wow this sounds proper!.
Speedo triathlon wetsuit gets purchased £345 ish, I was a bit green I might be wrong but think I may of had my pants taken down!!.
Looking at holidays for the summer
I liked the look of this, great part of the world , it was an open water swim, the bike leg wasn't up and down 10 times, and the run was very scenic, still things I look for when I enter triathlons today. Pointed this out to the "first lady" booked were on holiday.
Worked hard on my fitness over the next 3 or 4 months, read lots of books on open water swimming, my only problem is I had read them but not practiced what the books had preached, had not put on the wetsuit had not experienced the change in temperature of the sea had not joined the back or side of the pack, (I was never in contention to win it so why be up the front)!
As usual I had to be the last to visit the toilet pre race (nerves) we was 5 mins before the sound of the horn , for my age group race I found myself scampering across Swanage bay in full wetsuit nothing on my feet, nervous, excited, and extremely out of breath.
I remember looking across the bay and thinking to myself the bay is flat not a ripple in the water, no waves, why am I thinking im not going to make this, I do double at least in training every swim session I do,  I was entering the sprint it was 750 metres.
Out of breathe I was straight up the front of the pack brave as a lion!!! or was I?.
The horn sounded we were off, I never experienced anything like it, out of breath already from my run across the bay, there I was trying to get into my rhythm with every two strokes I was about to take in air, either a wailing arm or a wave caused by someone else's wash ,Ive heard it been described as like being in a washing machine, I think that's about right !  I had stopped for a  bit of breath stroke to take in air and settle myself down, this went on for a few minutes but my mind had gone, the confidence had drained from me, the self belief had disappeared  , I was a mess, I looked to the right there was canoe spotter and further to the right of my eye line was the RNLI, I had to do it I could no longer be in this situation, I wanted out, it still hurts me to admit it today but with a little wave the RNLI sped over and piped me aboard!!!!!!.
I've got to say I don't think I've ever felt that disappointed in myself, I've got no one else to blame I had read all about the difference in pool swimming and open water but totally ignored it , the mind set alone is totally different. tired in the pool or out of breathe you can hang onto the side, no such luxury
in the middle of the sea. Unless you  think you can win the triathlon stay away from the front, go to the back or the side, the front of the pack is for the "big boys! and they will stop at nothing if you get in there way, and why shouldn't they, if I was that good id be the same.
I  constantly read  books/ blogs/ twitter on everything triathlon endurance biography's etc .
Its quite comforting to know Jenson button a keen triathlete and 4 time ironman champion Chrissie Wellington have also suffered the dreaded open water swim fate.
There's plenty of open water swim sessions about have swim workshops and in the summer months I have been heading down to during the summer in the heart of believe it or not Stoke Newington 1
I really believe the Sunday mornings I trained with them last year  helped me through my Vitruvian finish last year .
Happy swimming

Stuart Blake

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Ankylosing Spondylitis my story

They're all at it (blogging that is!!!! so I'm going to have a go !)
Ill liken it to being  stabbed although I stress the word  liken!
That was the last football match Ive ever played. I couldn't run because of the pain which lasted 7 years, id had numerous MRI scans over the years but this one showed I had a slipped disc which I had subsequently had  operated on in 2000.
Before that Id had nerve tests, physio,  been to see chiropractors osteopaths, had pain injections, epidurals ,blood tests I also had taken myself off to new direction Pilate's in Buckhurst Hill after reading lots of text about the benefits for people suffering from spinal complaints or injuries as well as well as strengthening core muscles which can help in a multitude of sports something I still do to this day.
I've had some interesting comments and theory's over the years from health professionals and doctors.
one told me I should be drinking 3 litres of water a day ( bet he doesn't drive a cab for a living).
Another asked what I thought I had?
Another told me I should try swimming something Ive been doing regularly for the last 20 years, and also he couldn't give me a new neck .
The pain had reached 9/10 on my pain chart it was unreal  , I couldn't look to my right at junctions whilst driving it was that stiff.
In 2010 the pain had reached my chest I had gone to a&e around midnight on a Friday night complaining of chest pains, I was connected to an ECG MONITOR WITHIN THE HALF HOUR, although the pain was now 10/10 it showed no heart problems and I was
"released without charge"!!
The neck pain wasn't getting any better especially first thing in the morning, it all came to a head in August 2011 I had ridden 75 miles on the Sunday by the Thursday I couldn't get out of bed I stayed there pretty much till the Monday, my right  knee was almost double  the size of the  left one . I managed to get an appointment to see my doctor early on the Monday morning and was keen for me too see a rheumatologist , as long as you don't send me to see the one you sent me to  see last time I said, she scrolled through computer and she found a letter dating back to 2009, on reading the letter it was discovered he had diagnosed me with suspected Ankylosing Spondylitis, "what's that I replied" why wasn't I told of this?
I asked to see another RHUEMATOLOGIST one on the list had PROF before his name!!!!!
He sounds like the man for me I thought , I'm rambling on a bit but after talking to Prof Hassan Tahir he almost confirmed there and then I had AS albeit further blood test and a gene test for hla b27, which im told 96% OF AS sufferers have this gene. At this point he asked if id like to go on a clinical trial which im still doing to this day.
6 months later after a course of steroids lots of rest lots of good direction from the PROF!! THE PAIN HAD SUBSIDED, I started doing some light spinning on my bike, then a light mountain bike ride 5 months later I returned to triathlon.
Since that day I've competed in numerous swim/run/bike events and on 31/08/13 at 13.15 pm I crossed the line at Rutland water Leicestershire after 6 hrs 45 min 14 seconds at the Vitruvian triathlon a half ironman or middle distance triathlon involving a
1900m swim
85km bike
21 km run
its definitely been a  marathon not a sprint after diagnosis but with a lot of training some fantastic care and advise from Prof Hussan Tahir and Noel thatcher my trusted physio /adviser and all round good guy with a few medals!!!!!!!!!not forgetting the clinical trials unit at whipps cross hospital and the  bucket load of self belief I have,
I never gave up on my dream, a lot of AS sufferers because of the severity of there condition would be unable to do what I do, its a silent crippling condition with no visible signs.
I speak to Hassan Tahir regularly about my condition and the sports and challenges I take on its always taken with a puff of the cheeks a raised eye brow and normally met with "NUTTER"
did my goals end there in Rutland water " NO CHANCE" the thought of a full ironman never leaves my head, ive entered Ironman Zurich 2014 its a  3.8km swim 180 km bike & 42 km run   I have to balance my condition with my goals ill run it by the PROF! later this month at the clinical trials unit.
My condition will get no better so the clocks ticking and the severity of it is obviously un known .
Ill leave you with one of my favourite sports quotes

 "our greatest glory is not in falling but rising
every time we fall"