Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Ironed out to Ironman

Ironed out to Ironman

If people had never read my AS blog I probably would not have written another one but with 5000 hits,  my rheumatologist having the link on his website and a few people asking for me to send it to them for inspiration for loved ones who have been diagnosed with related conditions and AS here I go again! 

My first blog for those who have not read it is below:

[first blog link]

After finishing the Vitruvian (half ironman) in August 2013 I knew there was still fuel in the tank and the desire was still burning to become an Ironman. My spine was fine due to being suppressed by the clinical trial drug but my wrists have been my main concern.  I have been on steroids off and on and methotreyate but they still cause me considerable pain especially after long bike rides due to my gripping the handle bars.  I decided that there must be a way to counteract some of this pain and fitted aero bars which has helped considerably.  These are used by triathletes and help take the stress off my wrists.  

I entered Ironman Zurich in December 2013.  The training I estimated after taking into consideration looking after 3 kids, working nights, coaching my twin boys under 8s football team (which I absolutely love) 10-15 hours a week should just get me to the finish line. It was hard and very tiring but I loved it.  I train most days anyway and my weekly 10km run increased to 16km and bike rides ranged from 30-50km (even treated myself to bike shoes!).  I had, believe it or not, completed an half ironman in running trainers!  Lots of online research and motivation from YouTube ??? [link] I must have watched 100 times.  I was going to join a triathlon club but football training and matches to organise for the U8s team at weekends this was very difficult.  I had come this far training alone could I go the whole way on my own?

My wife and I travelled to Zurich 3 days before I was due to compete in the Ironman and the hotel which we were staying in was full of people racing on the Sunday.  I became friends with Greg & Simon both had done the long distance but not the Ironman brand.  Great fellas and we spent the three days back and forth to the event village.  I could tell that they were as nervous as me and this Ironman business meant a great deal to them and everyone taking part.  Years of preparation, training to build up an endurance level to complete the 140.6 miles in total.

Race Day

It was an early 4am start for breakfast.  You could see fear and excitement of the unknown in everyone’s eyes as they queued for breakfast.  2,600 people had entered and for the first time it was a 3 wave swim start with the elite starting first.  I had already planned to be at the back of the 2nd wave.  Why? Here is why:


That experience had prepared me for what was to come.  There wasn’t any room to swing a cat out there on the lake and it was very choppy.  I found a good rhythm but space in the water was minimal.  I was feeling very relaxed.  The swim took me 1hour 31 mins, which was 6 minutes better than my last 2 times of 3.8km.  The cut off time for the swim section was 2hours 20 mins.  I knew I was always going to make that cut off.


This is my Achilles heal.  I can’t seem to generate power and my average is around 14mph.  A quick calculation meant that the 10 hour swim/bike cut-off was going to be tight.  I passed a woman on a slight incline and I felt for her as her bike [        ].  It looked like all the years of training was over for the lady.  That’s the small margin we work towards a mechanical breakdown and there goes your race.

Just after I passed her I felt my front type pop.  With my slow bike time this looked it could be curtains for me too.  A marshal called the “bike doctor” but I had already started replacing the tube.  It was the first time ever in 2 years of riding my Scott speedster that this had ever happened.  30 minutes later I was up and running and back on the bike.  The 10 hour cut-off time was going to be really tight.  The Beast (a hill with a 4km climb) was everything they said it was going to be and Heartbreak (1km climb) wasn’t much better!  I was approached by a marshal informing me that they didn’t think I would make the cut-off time and to stop and accept a lift back.  I told him that I hadn’t travelled all this way to sit in the back of the van.  I think he got the message !  I am glad that I did as I completed the bike section with 15 mins to spare.


I had 6 hours in which to complete the marathon something that I had never done.  The longest distant I had ran in training was 18 miles and have taken part in three half marathons but I felt strong as an ox.  This meant a lot to me to finish an ironman. With my condition it is not an everyday occurrence plus I had bought my three children Ironman t-shirts and there was no way I would let them wear them if I hadn’t finished the race so off I ran.  I actually overtook people which is a first.  Fuelled by the desire, passion, emotion I felt sick. This was due to the vast amount of sick consumed in the energy drinks and gels which you consume to replenish fuel.

I knew I was on course for a finish and the final turn meant 3km to go.  I started to run/walk as I had been for the last 13ish miles.  I wasn’t bothered on the finished time I just wanted to finish.  The cut-off to finish was under 16 hours and I crossed the line completing the Ironman in 15 hours 55 mins and 45 seconds.  I had become an Ironman! My wife was in floods of tears only she knows my struggle with my AS, the mornings when I cannot even open the milk, my moods when I can’t train due to the fatigue associated with this condition.  She has stood by my side throughout and went back to work full time so I could go part-time as a London Cab Driver and look after the kids.  I do not know where my condition will take me but I will always be an IRONMAN!  Pictures below of the clinical trials team, Tommy my sports masseur and Ian Cowell my physio.

The boss, Professor Hassan Tahir, who has been the man responsible for my being able to physically complete my “nutty” races as he called it. 

What next?..... Marble Arch to Arch de Triumph cycle is a must, a quadrathalon (swim-kayak-bike-run), join RE Active race team if they will have me! A definite for next year condition allowing.

Of course there is always another Ironman - I would never rule it out (I DON’T THINK SO ITS TOO STRESSFUL said my wife!)

Here my end quotes:

I do it because I can
I can because I want to
I want to because you said I couldn’t !

Previous races:
Roding Valley Half Marathon
Wiggle Kilo to go 100 mile cycle
3.8km RG Active swim
3.8k Dartford Tunnel Triathlon 
2km    3 lakes swim 

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