Tuesday, 5 August 2014

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 to my blog  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 so  here we go again! 

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

http://7blake.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/ankylosing-spondylitis-my-story.html 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. Triathlon is really four disciplines the swim / bike / run i am  not particularly that great at but the fourth Mental strength is where i excel add to that belief  & desire and the cocktail is potent !    My spine was fine due to being suppressed by the clinical trial drug, i am now two and a half years into my five year stretch ! My wrists have been my main concern.  I have been on steroids off and on and methotrexate 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 ( used by time trialists ) which has helped considerably to  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 Buckhurst Hill Black  (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 30-70 miles  (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 


I must have watched this  100 times.  I was going to join a triathlon club but football training and matches to organize for the U8s team at weekends  was very difficult.  I had also  come this far training alone could I go the whole way on my own?

My wife and I traveled 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 triathlon  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 , 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  2.5 mile swim 

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, if you thought you could complete the swim in under 1 hour 10 mins join the 2nd wave and over 1 hour 10 mins the 3rd wave   I had already planned to be at the back of the 3 rd  wave.  Why? Refer to open water swim blog


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 1 hour 31 mins, which was 6 minutes longer  than my last 2   3.8km swims   The cut off time for the swim section was 2 hours 20 mins ( at which time you are pulled from the race )  I knew I was always going to make that cut off with ease 

Bike 112 mile

This is my Achilles heal.  I can’t seem to generate power and my average speed  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 was upside down on its saddle and the poor girl was in floods of tears  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 bang 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  hill  (1km climb) wasn't much better!  I was approached by a marshal informing me that he  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  traveled all this way to sit in the back of his  van (or words to that  effect!!!!!)   I think he got the message !  I am glad that I did as I completed the bike section with 15 mins to spare.

Marathon 26.2 mile

I had 6 hours in which to complete the marathon something that I had never done.  The longest distance  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.  Fueled  with  desire, passion, emotion but  felt slightly sick due to the vast amount of sugar you have to  consume from  energy drinks and gels  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 about my  finished time I just wanted to finish.  The cut-off to finish was under 16 hours and I crossed the line completing  Ironman  Zurich  in 15 hours 55 mins and 45 seconds.  I had become an Ironman! My wife was in floods of tears only she knows the  struggle i have  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 work  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!  

Triathletes come in all shapes and sizes and most people seem to picture us as 6 foot plus eleven and a half  stoners with a 6 pack , ive had numerous people look me up and down and you can tell there thinking  you an Ironman yeh right. they're looking in the wrong place look into my eyes !!!! that i believe is where races are won (or in my case finished!)   i am just under 5 11 and out of season about 14 stone although for this race i got down to 13 "2"

Pictures below are  of the clinical trials team, Tommy my sports masseur and Ian Cowell my physio who have all helped me get to the finish line.

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

What next?..... Marble Arch to Arch de Triumph cycle is a must i am  50 next year and i was training for this when i had a major flare up in 2011 so ive got unfinished business with this , a  quadrathalon (swim-kayak-bike-run) is also on my list and the dart 10 km swim i missed out this year the race sold out in under an hour 

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

I do love a quote think this one fits 

I do it because I can

i can because i want to 

i want to because you said i couldn't 

Training races leading up to Ironman Zurich  
Roding Valley Half Marathon
Wiggle Kilo to go 100 mile cycle
3.8km RG Active swim
3.8k  big south east swim 
2km RG ACTIVE  3 lakes swim




As i said the marshals tried to convince me i hadn't made the cut off time for the bike they would of probably wanted to take my timing chip of me but i had already planned to finish the race whatever there was never going to be a cut off time for me .I may of not got the t shirt or the medal but i was always going to finish what i had gone to Zurich to start.

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