Step up to the next level…

Posted: April 19, 2012 in Iron Man, Training, Triathlon

I have always been someone who wears my heart on my sleeve. I guess that is just my nature. With the 2012 season about to kick off for me in one month, I thought I would talk about the dilemma that faced me over the winter and my ‘hopes and dreams’ for the 2012 season.

Over the winter months, I had a big decision to make regarding my path within the sport of triathlon. My result in Challenge Copenhagen 2011 was just good enough to meet the requirements set out by British Triathlon for registering as a professional athlete. This meant I was faced with the following decision to make:
Option 1.
Continue racing as an “Age Grouper”…..
Option 2.
Take the Pro license and race as a “Professional”

In the process of trying to make this decision, I found myself looking back on my journey into the sport and ultimately this provided me with the answer……

History has a funny way of repeating itself.  Way back in 2002, in my ‘rugby days’, I was playing for Moseley Rugby Club in the National One Division (one league below The Premiership).  After a successful season with the club, I finished University and made the call not to continue my rugby any further.  I had been playing rugby since I was six and I had come so close to playing at the very top end of the sport (The Premiership).  To play at this level had been part of my ‘hopes and dreams’ since I was a child. Then, as my University degree came to an end, I did something that I still can’t believe, even thinking about it today (ten years later).  I walked away!

I could have continued to follow my dream of reaching the very top of the sport.  The thing was, in my heart of hearts I knew I was simply not good enough to make the next step up to the Premiership.  To play for Moseley was stretching my ability to its very limit – I knew that and accepted it.  To my surprise I was not disappointed but proud, to this day, of what I achieved.

So I left both the UK and rugby behind, to explore the world – the beginning of my journey into endurance sport…..

During my travels I re-discovered my passion for adventure and I found that the best way to explore the amazing places I visited was running.  I would just put on my trainers and run in no particular direction, just to see what was out there.  I would sometimes catch the attention of the local kids who would decide to join me for a bit.  They always wanted to know ‘where I was going’ and would find it hilarious when I turned around and ran back in the very same direction I had just come from.  And so I ‘ran’ my way around South America (Equador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil), New Zealand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Throughout my trip one run remains vividly fixed in my mind.  It was ten years ago but I can still remember it like it was yesterday.  It was in a place called Wanaka (New Zealand).  I had been on the road for a few days and after a nights rest in the town I headed out early for a run around the lake.  It was a horrible wet and cold morning but I figured I had nothing better to do.  The cloud was really low in the sky and it was the kind of morning when you feel like the sun has not really ever come up.  On my way around the lake I saw a path heading up into the cloud. I have always liked running uphill so I thought I would take the path for a little bit.  After about an hour I was still running.  Not sure why I had not turned around, just didn’t feel like it I guess.  I had reached the snow line and was running in ankle deep snow. Just as I was about to turn around I noticed that the sun was starting to shine through. I figured I would carry on just a bit more until the sun broke through. When I finally broke through the cloud I was hit by a view that will stay with me for the rest of my life.  A sea of bright white cloud with jagged mountain peaks rising out of the ‘sea’.  I could finally see the peak of the mountain I had been running up.  It was quite a way off but I could not help my self.  I was a man on a mission!  The last bit was a scrabble in waist deep snow but I was running on adrenaline and totally focused on reaching ‘my’ summit.  When I got to the top I sat there awestruck for an hour – I wish I could relay in words how amazing it felt.  I managed to find a picture online that kind of gives you an idea of the view…

Anyway, during my trip I ran my knee into the ground and when I got back from my travels it was well and truly shot. It must have taken me a good 2 years before I could properly run again 😦

In my frustration I took to the pool.  I have always loved the water, ever since I was a kid, but front crawl was never my strong point.  I would fight the water up and down the pool, trying to beat the water into submission – the water would ALWAYS win and I loved how utterly exhausted I could make myself in such a short period of time.

At some stage in 2004, a friend who was training for Ironman Switzerland, lent me a bike and we went out on a 3 hour training ride.  Being out on the road was awesome and almost immediately the idea on doing an Ironman started to form in my mind.  I entered Ironman Switzerland in 2005 still unable to run at that stage!  However, the miles on the bike helped build up the strength in my knee and I was able to start running again 🙂 OK I only managed to clock a max of 1hr running in the build up to Ironman Switzerland but it was enough – just.  I truly loved every single part of the process and the personal challenge it presented.  The raw emotion your go through when crossing that finish line is like nothing else.  Just stand at the finish line of an Ironman and you will see what I mean.

So that is me and my journey from semi-pro rugby player to the triathlete I am today.  If you told me in 2005 that I would have gone on to finish 13 Ironman distance races, almost die in a serious crash during an Ironman, clock a sub 9hr time and qualify for Kona I would have NEVER NEVER believed you.  The whole lot sounds totally crazy!

Back to ‘the decision’ at hand.  I have found myself in a very similar position to the one that faced back in 2002.  To this day, I don’t think I had what it took to make the step up to the next level, from National One to The Premiership. This may sound strange but it sort of feels like my performances to date put me in the ‘National One’ league.  In 2002 I walked away from Rugby thinking I had reached the very limit of my ability.  One thing my journey over the last few years has taught me, is just because you think have reached you limit, does not mean that you actually have.  I still find myself breaking PB’s I thought I never had a chance of beating and have just come back from a weeks training camp where I smash what I thought were my limits to pieces.

So this time around I am going to make the jump for ‘The Premiership’ – what happens after that….. well I will give it my everything and see where I land?  My first race as a pro athlete will be Challenge Copenhagen on August 12th 2012.  The very thought of it make me nervous and excited all at the same time.  A lot can go wrong in Ironman racing, I more than anyone should know that!  So I just hope it comes together and I am able to step up to the next level……

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Comments
  1. Kerry Jones says:

    Great news Chris – I hope it all come together for you xx

  2. Steve Lumley says:

    Good luck Chris 🙂

  3. Rich the Dean says:

    Hey Chris, well done with your achievements so far. 2012 will be a breeze! Good luck mate.

  4. Ben Langdon says:

    Wow, that’s an awesome decision and it was great reading the blog. Makes me want to get out there. Shame I’m a bit far for those early morning river swims now! Big year for you then! Speak soon, Ben

  5. Really enjoyed reading this … really hope it works out for you – we’ll be watching your progress!

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