What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

Posted: October 9, 2010 in Challenge Series, Iron Man, Triathlon

Challenge Barcelona, Calella, Spain.

Standing at the start of the Challenge Barcelona (Ironman distance triathlon race) on Sunday I took a step back from it all and watched the sun rise.  It was a pretty emotional moment for me.  Four months ago I was in a Hospital bed on Gran Caneria having suffered a brain haemorrhage and fractured vertebrae from a bike crash while racing Ironman Lanzarote.  That now seems like another lifetime away, or a bad dream.  In the months after the crash my mind seemed to be stuck in race mode and was unable to let go.  I have been totally focussed on racing again will little room for much else.  The reality of this meant that I have been my own worst enemy, and was forgetting what really mattered, enjoying every second of living and the people around me.

Standing at the start on Sunday it all seemed to make sense.  Sure I was going to give absolutely everything I had in the race today, but the red mist that had been clouding my mind for the last 4 months was finally lifting.  I was just appreciating the view and chatting to the people around me.

The Challenge series operates a multi wave starting system.  The Pro’s had gone off 30 minutes ahead and I was in the 4th wave of the day (Male 30-35).

The start was pretty chilled and I got clear water from the off.  I was just behind the lead swimmer but could not stay on his feet for long.  The rest of the swim I was on my own and came out of the water 2nd.  Not a bad start.

Out on the bike and I was riding my new toy, the Giant SL O time trial bike.  This is a speed machine and a pleasure to ride.  I was on my own for the first two laps with nothing but the tarmac and great views to keep me company.  I would get the odd glance of the pro wave that set off 30 minutes before me.  The guys were all operating in a peloton style with a draft legal (ish) 7m gap between riders.  It must make a big difference when travelling around 25mph to be riding in this way, even with the 7m gap between them.  Unfortunately, this was not something I was able to take advantage of and the 39km/hr average speed I was holding for the first two laps slowed to 38km/hr on my final lap.  My legs were feeling the pace and I was unsure if the run was going to go to plan.  As usual, I was still hopeful I would be able to hold the 3hr marathon pace that I was aiming for.  I came off the bike in 4hrs 46mins and 3rd in my Category.  The multi wave start nature of this race meant that was all I knew at this point.

In T2 I changed tops, put on my tri top and arm coolers both soaked in energicer.  It felt amazing and the cooling effect was immediate.  Heading out onto the run I took my time to get going and built the speed up slowly.  The run course was four laps and the race plan had been to hold 4:30-4:40mins/km pace for the first two laps and build the pace up over the last two laps if I was feeling good.  This pace should have been very easily achievable for me.  However, it quickly became apparent that I was not running well.  I made the decision early doors to back the pace off to 4:50-5:00min/km pace.

It was tough going out on the run and the heat of the day was building.  At the middle aid station Carli (my girlfriend) was waiting with ice cubes!  Amazing!!!  I put ice cubes inside my arm coolers on my forearms.  The effect was unbelievable.  I could actually feel the ice cooling my veins and in turn my entire body.  While my legs were pretty shot, the cooling allowed me to at least hold my current pace.  Using this cooling technique, I managed to hold the 4:50-5:00min/km pace for the first three laps.  On the final lap I was giving everything I had but there was just nothing left in the tank.  I think it must have slowed to around 5:15min/km pace and it was all I could do to hold that.  The run time was going to be in the 3hr 30mins region.  Way off what I had been hoping for.  But that is the nature of Ironman racing and I was just pleased I had been able to hold it all together and maintain the roughly the same pace throughout.

Running down the finish chute this time was a blur of emotion.  This was so much more to me than just finishing another Ironman.  It was putting to rest the crash in Lanzarote and all the shit that followed.  I was close to tears.  I can’t really explain what this meant to me.  I had no idea how I had done in the race, and if I am truly honest I don’t think it really mattered.

Just in case anyone is interested, the results finally emerged the next morning.  I finished in 9hrs 26mins, 3rd in my age group, 8th non-pro and 35th overall.  I had been hoping to break 9hrs so not quite what I had aimed for.  There is always next time though 😉

I even got a trophy for coming 3rd in my age group. It now sits to the right of our mantelpiece, reminding me every day how lucky I am to still be here.

  1. dan bullock says:

    a staggering return to form in just a few months…..


  2. kerry Jones says:

    Brilliant Chris just Brilliant !!

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