When I started this journey. I had no idea where it would lead or how much it would change my life. I mean I signed up for a triathlon to raise some money for charity to help keep me motivated during my attempt to quit smoking.
But since that fateful decision to quit smoking (for the second time) some 600 days ago. My life has changed dramatically.
This week sees me complete another step on my journey. Ironman Austria. An Ironman is a long distance triathlon where each competitor completes a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run within 17 hours.
Now for a little bit of history. In 1978 (the year of the original Ironman in Oahu in Hawaii, 15 brave men attempted something that had never been attempted before. They attempted to complete the Waikiki Rough Water swim (2.4 miles) followed by the around Oahu bike course (112 miles and originally a two day event) followed by the Honolulu marathon. Those 15 people changed the face of long distance triathlon and they are part of the reason I am now in Austria.
Had it not been for them. There wouldn't be Ironman. And I wouldn't be sat here about to attempt a race that will undoubtedly be tough.
Why Austria? In truth I have no idea. I signed up for this race before I'd raced Outlaw last year. Outlaw is a UK iron distance event and the 15 hours and 19 minutes it took me to complete in the 34 degree heat last July were not in the least bit pleasant. But Outlaw isn't an Ironman. Yes I know it's the same distances but it doesn't come with the same mystique or fabled crowd support of the machine that is the WTC (organisers of Ironman).
I wanted to complete an Ironman. A fully fledged no questions asked Ironman. And for some reason I picked Austria. Austria has a swim in Lake Woerthersee (which is bloody beautiful) followed by a ride around Carinthia (again beautiful) with 1900m of climbing and a run through Klagenfurt.
For those new to me. I was an overweight, exercise phobic, cigarette smoking, couch potato at the start of this journey. Now I am a less overweight, non smoking, exercise addicted triathlete who is about to complete an Ironman. In my youth I had to have a pin out in my hip aged 14 which would lead to severe arthritis aged 30 (or so the doctors said) and this is the reason I am going long so early into my journey. If I end up with arthritis I want to have done an Ironman. Just like I wanted to represent my country.
In truth I am not strong enough to be competitive at such a long distance. Carrying the excess timber slows me down on the bike and hurts when I run. But I will do my damnedest to get round so that I can say I have.
When I signed up for this race in Austria I hadn't been tested at Blizard Towers. In my initial lactate threshold. It turned out I'm not cut out for long stuff. I'm more cut out for faster shorter stuff like sprints due to the muscle build up in my body. But one thing I'm not is a quitter (apart from cigarettes) and I had signed up so I would train for it.
So train I did. Until I saw the fact that the BTF needed people to represent them in the European Triathlon Union Aquathlon Champs in Cologne. This was a way for me to represent my country and I grasped it with both hands.
With the support of Blizard Physiotherapy we altered my training plan to get me in the best shape I could be for a race that was a 1k swim and a 5k run. This meant dropping a lot of the longer stuff and working on my speed. With their help I set new PBs for the 5k run and entered the race in good shape. I should have dropped out of Austria when this chance arrived but I didn't. Stupid or stubborn?
So after the end of May I had 4 weeks to prep my body for a possible 17 hour endurance event.
Again with the help of Blizard Physiotherapy and a lot of much needed nagging from #runboss Dave I trained hard completing a 90mile bike and 17mile run at threshold heart rates in the last 4 weeks.
Aside from the niggling rib injury from falling off my turbo (which prevents me getting aero on my TT bike) things were going swimmingly until after my 17 mile run over a week ago. Where, as a result of under training I have injured my knee. For most of the last week I have been unable to walk but things are easing in my knee with rest.
I can now walk without pain. I can swim without pain and I can bike and climb on the bike without pain.
I know I will get to the end of the bike ride on Sunday and I fully intend to start the run. However if there is any pain that I can't manage with painkillers I will pull out. It is only one race and I won't risk severe injury for one race even if it is one I have been signed up to for over a year. There are other races after all.
I'm now all registered and it is just a case of playing the waiting game until I start my race at 06:45 (05:45 in the UK) on Sunday apart from dropping my bike off on Saturday. If you want to track me you can do on the Ironman Live website. My race number is 0289. Here's hoping I make it to the finish line.
Thank for reading