So since getting my diagnosis and having a lot of people tell me about things I won’t be able to do I decided to draw a line in the sand and say F**K you I’m not listening. Having joined a gym and got into it I remember one morning seeing a video of tough mudder and turning to Chrisi and saying “That looks cool” next thing I know I had been signed up to the half (5 miles). I didn’t really train apart from the gym and on the day really struggled with it walking the whole course and getting stressed everytime a group passed me, But I crossed the finish line. I was instantly hooked and the following year did the 10 mile one and trained and still did alright from it getting to the 5 mile point and laughing at it. I’ll blog separately about tough mudder but this ones about my tribe.
At the end I had the what’s next bug and had been thinking triathlon for a while. EVO was my local club and a lot of them trained at my gym but it felt really intimidating asking them. Everybody looked super fit and the thought of an overweight person who can’t run for biscuits and falls over a lot when he does is probably not what they are looking for.
I decided to go it alone and research everything and worked out a training plan where I was going to train for the 3 disciplines and every weekend do a little mini triathlon in the gym, Swim, Bike, Run. Easy, NOT! I can bike, I’m s**t at running, oh and I can’t swim.
I taught myself swimming first which involved watching a lot of YouTube videos with the end result being me wind milling my arms at full speed for one length and then getting my breath back and doing it again. I even got asked by the lifeguard if I’m ok as it looks like I’m have trouble breathing. I took some lessons and 10 sessions later I was not perfect but I had a better idea of what I’m doing and how to breath properly but wasn’t doing anything near the distance I needed for an event.
Now onto the running, basically the MS kicks in quite quickly, the right foot starts dragging, I trip up or even worse my legs just say nahhhhhhhhh If anybody reading has 2 left feet, I have a set of immaculate left footed trainers as all the right ones are knackered, your welcome to them.
The bike I had no problem with and will always be good at that, I’m happy with the power I put out and while not the fastest I can keep going. But I was getting nowhere trying to do it alone and eventually I sent Kev from EVO the email explaining everything and very soon after sending it had a phone call to come and try it out. I don’t do thinks by half’s so just signed up as a full member and took the plunge.
My first session was track running with Phil, one word, SCARY, the warmup was a lap of the track, easy its only 400m, how wrong I was, I managed a little bit then had to walk then run, then walk. I was already telling myself this is a bad idea and that’s only the warmup. The first part was drills which I managed but also kept reaching for the inhaler every set and the drop foot kept kicking in.
Then it was the 400m running track, could I make it the whole way round, NO, I made it about 100m and had to walk, my lungs were screaming and I had to then wait 5 mins to recover and start again. Phil was very calming in all of this and pretty much said “Do what you can but be calm and don’t stress, your doing a lot more than somebody sitting at home watching tv”. This went on for the session with each lap managing to run a little bit further then walk to the finish. It got to the last laps of the night.
One Steve-ism I have was I have an outdoor pair of trainers which at the time were my old heavy tough mudder trainers and my superlight clean indoors gym trainers that were to never be worn outside till they had been downgraded. I thought F**K it you can do this and christened the indoor pair to the outdoor track, Bang I managed a whole lap and collapsed at the finish line. After a few minutes Phil then said to everybody if we want to do one more and I got up and did it again.
At the end of the session I checked my Garmin and I had run through the session 3.5km, That’s the furthest I had ever run, ever and I was hooked, The pain I had gone through, but the sense of accomplishment from doing it was unreal and the journey home I had a massive smile on my face.
My next session was strength and conditioning with Rich, to this day this is hands down my favourite EVO session but my first one I just thought it was weightlifting which I was pretty good at. Ermmmmmm no, it was weightlifting for some of it, then 30 seconds rest and onto the next station, oh this one is a cardio exercise, then 30 seconds rest, then weights. I had the shit beaten out of me for an hour but I loved it. Every muscle in my body was on fire but it was telling me this is the work your gonna have to put in if you want this Steve.
My final session of the week was swimming with Pablo and Phil, What I should of read was it was for “beginners and improvers”, not “people who wind mill as fast as they can and do one length at a time”. The other thing that totally threw me too was it’s a bigger pool and I kept stopping 5 meters short every length. The other people in the session were really good too and it sort of forced me to swim faster to not be in the way but this just led me to be tired half way into a length.
This went on for a few weeks with me loving training and things improved very gradually. I was still totally crap but slowing being less crap. EVO announced they were doing a Go Tri event in Wycombe, Swim 266m, bike 10km, run 3km. Perfect, my first triathlon even though it’s a tiny one. The swim was in a pool but I decided to swim in a wetsuit as I’m gonna have to start learning may as well be now. The bike wasn’t gonna be a problem and the run Chrisi was gonna do it with me. It got to the day and I was a bag of nerves especially as the kids races were first and were all absolutely beasting it. About 30 mins before the start I quietly went and put my wetsuit on and got my head so in the zone it was go time no turning back. I waited for the spin bikes to be free and chose my ride and clipped my shoes into the pedals as I had heard this saves time in transition and had everything laid out ready for the run. As there were only 15 spin bikes only 15 people could go in a wave. What I didn’t notice is where I had clipped my shoes onto the bike somebody else had put their trainers by my bike. 16 people in the pool 15 bikes. I was so in the zone now it was no turning back and I got in the pool ready.
There was a delay starting where they had noticed 16 swimmers and 15 bikes and I was the one asked to come out the water and go in the next wave. I had already lit the blue touch paper in my head and it was go time but the firework didn’t ignite. I had to get out the water, wait 30 mins then start again and the little confidence I had of doing this had fizzled out.
I waited but was shaken and my head was a mess, as soon as that bike was clear I set it up again, set my shoes and got in the water. It wasn’t long before the starters whistle and we started swimming, within 1 length everyone but 2 people had shot ahead of me, I managed to make it to 1 length 7 more to go. I paused for a bit and set off again, 6 more, 5 more. I was then getting asthmatic so started swimming with my head out the water. By this point I was definitely last but remember people cheering as I got out, I jogged to the bike but was wobbly. Now get wetsuit off, get on the bike, easy, nope, I could not get it off as it was wet and despite practising at home it just stuck to my body. After a bit of a wrestling match I then went to slip my feet easily into the shoes I had pre clipped into the bike. Fail number 2 that just makes it harder I snapped them off and sat on the floor and put them on my wet feet.
The bike part I smashed it once I was going and it was over in no time, onto the run. Get trainers on, start running, my legs however wanted to pretend they had been down Weatherspoons and downed 12 pints. They call this jelly leg and it hit me hard, Me and Chrisi took it steady and run walked a lot of it. The drop foot started kicking in and I was getting grumpy and frustrated. Phil was on the turning point near the finish line and I remember him shouting at me “one more lap and you’re a triathlete” that was all I needed to hear and I got second wind come on Steve you got this. I finally got over that line and just lay on the floor, I had no breath left but I had done it, everybody in my wave had finished but I had done it I was a triathlete and I loved it.
I had found my tribe, all crazy as hell, determined, stubborn but most of all encouraging to anybody who wanted to be like them.