An unfit, injury-prone common man librarian’s journey from unfit to Ironman.


Little did I realise that life would never be the same again. The match was out of the box, the inferno was to come and I didn’t own any flame-retardant underwear.

 

I was the wrong side of 30, with a waist that was the wrong side of 40 inches. Not happy in my marriage, I was seeking solace in food.

 

It takes two people to make a marriage and two people to fail at one. I should have stood up for myself and tried to talk things through but I wasn’t man enough.

 

I started running again, only going out after dark when no one would be able to see me, conscious of the fact that I looked like the Michelin man.

 

We walked back up the hill and I … just as heavens opened and the traditional bank holiday downpour started.

 

Pirate spirit

“I think it’s largely down to the fact that rising to the Ironman challenge in the first place needs a positive, can-do attitude, so negative people don’t even bother to register an interest. And then, when people join in, it quickly becomes apparent from the forums that a strong sense of humour is required; mutual piss-taking is the order of the day. So people who take themselves too seriously or demand respect because they reckon they are ‘great triathletes’ soon lose interest. So we are left with a great bunch of people, with a huge can-do attitude who aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves and each other in the process. That’s what the pirates are all about.”

 

Julie Moss, 1982 Ironman World Champs

(Julie) Moss, who had been leading the women’s race, collapsed within 15 feet of the finishing line suffering from severe dehydration and exchaustion. She tried to stand but collapsed again, allowing Kathy McCartney to claim the victory. The world watched on as a determined Moss crawled along the road on her stomach, lifted her left hand, and placed it over the line before drifting into unconsciousness.
Every sport needs its defining moment in the thoughts of the viewing public. Football has “They think it’s all over, it is now”; cricket has the Bodyline series; the Grand Natinal horse race has Red Rum and Ironman has Julie Moss.

 

Swimming body position

I wasn’t holding my body correctly in the water, my head position was too high, I was kicking from the knee and not the hip… I could continue but this book would end up longer than War and Peace.
Changing my head position so most of it was underwater and concentrating on not lifting my head out of the water completely to breathe made it much easier. This, combined with John’s advice on making my body as long as possible, rolling from side to side with each arm stroke as if pulling myself along an invisible tightrope, worked wonders.

 

I couldn’t swim breaststroke. I would just sink due to a severe lack of coordination in my arms and legs. The frog-like kicking also hurt my dodgy knees.

 

Kicking from the hips

Holding on to a float and kicking my legs from the hip soon improved my kick. I kept hearing Peta’s advice: “Imagine you are sat on the sofa kicking a pair of socks off your feet. Legs straight, toes pointing flat and kick, kick, kick!”

 

Packing list

Swim: Wetsuit, goggles, ear plugs, swim hat, nose clip, swim trunks, body glide, heart rate monitor.
T1 & Bike: Cycling shoes, helmet, computer, gloves, bib shorts, Pirate vest, arm warmers, socks, talk, Vaseline, towel, 2x water bottle (one energy drink, one water), bento box with six energy gels, sliced and cling-filmed malt loaf, pump, saddle bag with 2x inner tube, puncture repair kit and tools, sunglasses, sun cream, rain jacket.
T2 & Run: Running shoes, Pirate shorts, Vaseline, plasters, socks, Garmin, cap, bottle belt, head torch.
Recovery: Rego drink, Nurofen gel, ibuprofen, freeze spray, blister plasters, long sleeve tee.