Ironman Flordia 2017 – Race Report

First off apologies… you’re probably sick of hearing about this sodding Ironman! My facebook feed was alight with congratulatory messages snapped pics and an amazing outpouring of love and support from friends, family, fellow triathletes, squad members and well-wishers, it was simply overwhelming and wonderful all at the same time. So please know that these messages all helped to make this experience very special for me. I am also not going to leave this thank you to the end of the report –  You cannot do a race like this without support, I wouldn’t be at the start line without the encouragement and love from my wife who knows when training isn’t going well and pulls you through it, she doesn’t mind when the alarm goes off at 4:30am so you can get a 3 hour ride in before work, she is the one that worries when I am out on the Cayman roads and doesn’t really sleep till I get back in, anyone who has done this sort of thing will tell you it’s impossible without their support of your endeavor, so this is for her. In addition I have also had a great training partner in Danny we have both had dark times in training and helped each other through and we are part of a collection of athletes (Breakaway Squad) that train together and motivate each other, it’s an amazing group of positive people and Generali have also sponsored some of us with great kits which you will see me wearing during the event so big thanks to them. The one other person who made this possible was coach Kim Schwabaumber (Fuelyourpassion.com)  a multi time Ironman podium finisher, nutritionist and all round fab coach. No matter what your ability I strongly believe that having a coach for this type of event that understands your strengths and weaknesses, holds you accountable for the plan and gives expert and experienced advice is invaluable it certainly helped me achieve the training I needed and the experience I wanted out of this event. Kim Thank you.

Ironman Florida,

Our event was in Panama beach Florida normally more synonymous with spring breakers evidenced by the plethora of amusements and bars most of which were beginning to wind down for the off season, only to be engulfed by the Ironman machine. IM Florida has been in Panama beach for nearly 20 years and the residents and volunteers have had plenty of events for which to practice! They managed to operate a slick well planned event and the greatest thing of all the weather played ball! No storms, no great wind just some nice heat, which to be fair we are pretty used to!

Bag and bike survived the various planes train and automobiles to get to the event and although American Airlines managed to break bags and do some superficial damage to the bikes it was nothing that was going to stop us!

Coach had told me I needed to get some medication to have on me during the race which mainly prevents stomach upset etc… things like gas X, Tums and Imodium, So you can imagine the cashiers face at the local “Piggly Wiggly” general store when two guys dressed mainly in lycra deposit tubs of Vaseline, and various stomach meds on the counter….. I say no more….Piggly w

Medical

Having achieved the All World athlete status from the various 70.3 races last year it was great to be able to use this perk to skip the hour long line at check in, it really made us feel that little bit special akin to getting invited to board in group 1 on American! Check in was a breeze so now it was time to chill. Having been fighting off man flu for the last few days I wanted to dive into the ocean and flush out the travel and test the water conditions etc…. so Danny and I donned the wetsuits and went down to the beach. Pretty much the only time its ok to get into an elevator with another man dressed in rubber…..

The sea was cold, I was very glad it was going to be a wetsuit legal race! Once you got going the coolness of the water was quite refreshing and you didn’t really notice the temp! Dip done, time to chill. Trying to chill the night before an ironman is akin to asking a 7 year old not to think about Christmas on Christmas Eve! It’s a mixture of emotions and OCD overdrive! The excited anticipation made my stomach want to remove anything it consumed within around 30 minutes great for pre-race weight loss bad for the mind thinking “ oh my god what if it’s like this tomorrow!”…. I packed, repacked and tinkered with my nutrition and race notes, thank god we had to check in our gear bags the day before as that didn’t allow for last minute messing around with stuff. I tried to be as calm and methodical as possible to eventually stop messing. The last thing I did was write out my fuel plan on the bike so I could tape it to my handlebars, this turned out to be the single most important thing I could have done.

Handlebars

The worst part of an Ironman is the night before, well actually it’s the 6 months worth of training, but the night before is an excruciating wait. You just want to get on and do it! Having had a pre race meal of chicken and pasta salad we all retired to our respective rooms. I elected to sleep in the spare room so that I would not keep Kym awake with my inability to sleep after all it was going to be a long day for our support crew as well! I needn’t have worried to be honest as I actually got to sleep pretty quickly and didn’t wake up until the alarm roused me. DC and I were pretty calm had some breakfast managed to “loose a bit more weight” which is every athletes dream start! And we headed out. The girls we going to meet us at the swim start an hour later.

Having deposited the nutrition bottles on the bike and dumped our special needs bags we proceeded to the beach start which took longer than expected and we were only just ready as they were playing the star spangled banner. Whilst it’s not my national anthem it always sets a great tone to a sporting event in the US and I enjoy the atmosphere of it. A kiss for the important people, Kym, and the cannon sounded…the race had begun. It was a self-seeded start meaning that you lined up around the time that you think you will do the swim in. To be fair I think athletes did do this realistically as I didn’t have to swim over any slow swimmers nor was I swam over. I seeded myself in the 1hr 10-1hr 20 section. Even though I thought I could go quicker you just never know what happens on the day. I was jumping up and down to the music as we headed down the start chute, hi fiving spectators all in an effort to calm the nerves reduce the heart rate and allow myself to enjoy the moment after all 6 months’ worth of training had led to this.

As I dove in to the cool waters, the nerves eased the breathing slowed and I fell into a rhythm remarkably quickly. This surprised me as in other swim events it has taken me a good 10 minutes to find that sweet spot in the breathing. I think the cold water helped and that I wasn’t caught up in a swimming melee as I was straight out into some good open water with a small draft pack ahead. The sun was just coming up so it was dark below, pretty eerie but also very serene, as I rounded the buoy at the top of the course around a half mile out to sea I stole a glance back at the chasing pack and realized I was swimming well and certainly up there with the top 10% of the swimmers. Knowing I was heading back to shore I allowed myself to ease into a slightly quicker stroke count as current pushed us back toward the shore. A quick mental body check, all good, apart from a small chaff around the neckline of the wetsuit, dam I must have missed that part with the vaseline. As I exited the water to go over the first timing matt to complete the first loop I was looking out for Kym but could not see her amongst the crowds of spectators, just as I reentered the water I was sure I heard her and took a final look back I didn’t see her but the video she took of me confirmed I had heard her! I glanced at my watch 31 minutes for the first 1.2 miles I was happy with that it put me on a good swim time if I could maintain so that was the plan for loop 2. About half way through loop 2 I caught up with some of the slower swimmers still on their first loop while this is actually a great motivator (You know you’re having a good swim) it’s actually quite difficult to navigate as you do swim into people at some pace. A lot of the time slower swimmers are slow because their sighting ability is all off meaning that they are not swimming in a straight line from point A to point B and on several occasions I had to move people by the leg to point them in the right direction! On other occasions I did literally swim over a couple of people but it was only by accident as the water didn’t allow for me to see them really until it was too late. I maintained pace and exited the water in 1 hour and 6 minutes a really great swim that I was delighted about as I had never considered going sub 1:10. This put me in a great mood going into transition and I had said to myself take your time get dry and do your thing. I lay down on a matt so the “wetsuit striper” (LOL) could take my suit off, this was a mistake as it allowed sand to get on my back and ultimately end up in places that will cause me grief later….. A tip that Danny gave me was to empty my transition bag completely on the floor before you event start to change kit so that you know you took everything you’re going to need on the bike. Again the volunteers here were amazing packing everything for you once you had finished with it. I changed into dry cycling gear ensure my nutrition was in the pockets and headed out. All told I had been in transition just 8 minutes. As I was leaving I saw Danny coming in so I knew he had also had a good start.

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The sun was starting to come up the wind had a chill but my breathing was good and a quick check of the heart rate showed 130 beats per minute. So my coach wanted me to do between 125 and 135 BPM which is kind of where the heart had been in training and I had manage to maintain a good average of 20+ mph which would result in around a 5 hour 30 minute bike time for the 112 miles. I was not to overcook the bike as this would throw off my run and the fuel plan so stick to the plan was all I repeated for the entirety of the bike portion! I had to do this because I felt good and thought I should go quicker but this is fatal in this kind of race because feeling good in hour five does not equate to feeling good in hour 10. The bike is about measured control, eating/fueling and hydrating for the beast that follows. Sure I could ride a 5 hour bike if the bike was all I was doing but a sub 6 hour bike is always considered a good result on an ironman course. The other thing coach Kim had insisted on was this “You must pee at least twice on the bike”. The reason for this I that it tells you that you are hydrated, if you don’t pee in 6  hours you’re going to suffer on the run as most likely your dehydrated. I had the fuel plan taped to my handlebars having to drink 50 ounces of fluid in the first hour (basically to cover the swim deficit) and then all the various times I had to eat. I can’t tell you how happy I was when at around the 40 mile mark I felt that tug on the bladder that says if you want to go you can. Now that’s easier said than done when you’re cycling along at 20 mph and you don’t want to stop because your mate is behind you and you’re still competitive with each other! Plus you don’t want him to go by and you not know whether he is behind or in front! Also I have never, ever pee’d whist cycling along before! I’m sure the veterans amongst you have got this down to a fine art but for me it was going to be a first and hopefully last occurrence.  As you all know cycling gear is quite tight and tends to hold your gentleman’s package up out of the way of the saddle, however this is not the most beneficial position to start a steady flow so I needed to rearrange a little, cue much hilarious hip swinging and short pulling to try and get my misters to dress to the right… I had made sure no one was around me during this but I dread the thought that someone was videoing this half mile stretch of road out in the Florida outback! Needless to say I managed it and the only person in the world who would be happy about this was the coach but to be fair I was also quit impressed with myself to! I did have to verbally apologise to my bike though. The road wound its course for another few hours and when I came upon 100 miles I thought Danny must be nearly with me now as I knew he was aiming for a slightly quicker bike time than I and sure enough I could spy him about half a mile down the road. As he came alongside he said his feet were hurting but as mine were a little numb as well I thought this was just par for the course. It turned out this would really hurt Danny’s run in a little while. At this point I was happy the swim had gone well, we were on the last few miles of the bike and I was cycling along with my training buddy about to complete the bike in 5 hours 32 minutes which was bang on plan. I had fueled as ordered and felt pretty good coming off the bike.

Into the run transition and once again I stripped off and put on fresh clothes to begin what is my nemesis. As you will have seen from previous blogs running is not my strongest sport so this was going to be where I would fight my demons and have what we call the dark moments! My feet ached and my back was stiff so I just walked out of transition talking to Dany trying to pep ourselves up. He was quieter than normal and I felt that maybe he was in more pain than he was letting on at that point. We walked and then gently jogged together. I think we were both excited at that point to be reunited with our other halves who were waiting about a half mile up the road. We had picked this point as it was close to the apartment and we would run passed them 3 times before seeing them at the finish. It is so so uplifting to see loved ones along the course and they were even more excited to see us! Some great video of us going passed them for the first time and Danny had found his feet (or so I thought) a he continued off on a quicker pace than I was going to maintain so we left each other to our own run race. This was probably the hardest moment for me as I looked at my watch around 3 miles into the run and the enormity of what still lay ahead hit me. I remember thinking this is going to take me hours (About 5 more at this stage) and you have that tiny bit of self-doubt, the sun was beating down and it was around 2:30 in the afternoon. Self-actualization comes into play here, positive mental thought. I think this is what the Ironman really tests. It test’s one ability to be mentally tough, you can be as fit as you want to be but if you haven’t trained the mind to push through pain and self-doubt then it always going to be a struggle. I actually said to myself it doesn’t matter how long this takes you can do it even if you have to walk you are going to be an ironman.  I thought of a picture I had taken at the Athlete’s briefing it was a simple picture of a wristband they give to first time athletes attempting the accolade it simply says “Ironman – I will become one”.

I will become one

When I said I would do this it was because I wanted to challenge myself, I like the endurance aspect of it and what I have learnt about how far you can push your body if the mind is willing is incredible. I am not the best or fastest athlete out there but I do have sheer bloody mindedness that doesn’t allow me to stop! This is the culmination of a road to wellness that started 3 years ago. If you take up triathlon this is also the race everyone asks you have you done? Everyone has their own journey but they are all incredibly individual. So these thoughts pulled me from the dark place and I started to look round thank the volunteers soak up the atmosphere from the crazy, lovely supports and enjoy it! Really enjoy it! Before long I was coming up on mile 6 (just 20 more to go!) and I realized that Danny hadn’t run past me yet so I couldn’t be far behind him, a minute or so later I saw him coming towards me he was walking with the first signs of a limp, as we passed he said he was done he looked very forlorn so I said keep walking and I’ll catch up. I sped up to the turn and caught him up shortly after. His feet had still not recovered from the bike and he was suffering cramps because of it.  I suggested we walk run for a few miles and tried to lift his spirit with some banter about carrying him over the finish line etc… but inwardly I knew he was in for a long day as we were only at around mile 9 on the run here. Eventually Danny said to me he couldn’t run anymore and that I should run my race. I told him I would only carry on if he promised to finish to which he agreed. I knew he had to go passed Kym and his wife Dawn so I could pre warn them of his plight so they could encourage him on also. As I carried on I was gutted for my friend who is a stronger runner than I and trained as I did. It’s a long time to be in pain. I truly hopped he would finish.

As I came towards Kym and Dawn around mile 13 I could feel myself getting choked up I am not sure why but I think it was the realization that I only had 13 more miles to go and that I was feeling good, I loved that they had been tracking us for hours and the ironman dream could become reality in just a few more hours! I managed to tell them Danny wasn’t in a good way but I also didn’t want to lose my rhythm so I continued on and around to go and do the loop over again. Luckily the sun was going down and the heat was abating so this was all positive stuff for me! I passed Danny again we high fived and told him to get through it. I knew Kym and Dawn would also talk him into persevering which the video evidence also gave great light to! I caught up with another runner a little further down the road his name was Alex and this was his 5th Ironman. He was from New Jersey amd worked IT, he was a big guy like me and we chose to run and walk together for a few miles chatting about ironman the charity he was running for and various other bits about life. We attracted a few other walk run peeps and had a little community of us for a few miles it really helped. Most of them were on their first loop and were impressed that I was on the last leg it was great motivation and wonderful that everyone was encouraging for everyone else. It’s the only sport where if you’re not going to win it everyone just wants you to finish! Its dark now and mile 20 came up which was a real wow moment for me just 6 miles to go, I left our little community as I was moving quicker now as the realization crept in that my stomach was fine, my fuel plan had worked and now I could let go and just go for the finish. Around mile 23 you could heard the crowds and announcer at the finish but those 3 miles go slower than the first 23!! I started empting my pockets of unneeded gels and medical stuff, took my sunglasses from my head and put them in my pocket. I was excited to see Kym just as much as the finish line to share the realisaion that it was going to happen. I turned the final corner and the finishers chute was before me it’s about 800 meters long with people all along the side railing cheering, the big finishing gantry illuminated by massive lights and a huge TV screen. They are willing you along all the way and about half way down I heard Kym scream CCCCHHHHRRRRIIISSSS it was the best feeling I turned to her and just screamed back as the video showed, then the immortal words anyone who has started this race dreams of hearing. “Chris Bailey – You are an Ironman!!!”

 

I thought I would be an emotional wreck but instead I just smiled, I had nothing left I was walked through the finish area by yet another amazing volunteer I had my picture taken, and then fell into the embrace of a massive hug from kym who I think was just as amazed and astonished as I was, she screamed at me “you broke 13 hours! Amazing Amazing everyone’s been tracking its been amazing OH my god!!!!……” As I said at the start of this, only those close to you know what you sacrificed to do this, they know what it means and they also know when you exceeded your own expectations. Wow.

A beer in hand and a dry top we waited to see if Danny had beat his pain, we didn’t have to wait long till his name was also hallowed as an Ironman. Now the celebration began in earnest.

Thank you to all who followed on the what’s app group and on Facebook. The support for Danny and I was incredible and it only reinforces that we have some amazing family and friends. Big Love.

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OMG I couldn’t believe this until I read to the end!

I’m sorry about the title but I love the way most FB posts get you to read an article by implying there is something earth shatteringly good in the text or video link. Alas I’m not sure if the below fits that category but I do hope you will read on…!

The last few months have been a bit of a blur!

I feel I have a mild case of anxiety and trying to figure out why!

Pretty sure my overreliance on coffee does not help this anxiety. So tried going without. Made it a week.

I learnt some pretty cool stuff over the past couple of months so lets give you, dear reader, a little recap. Maybe you can help answer the “what next” question.

January: Had Dad come and stay for a few weeks. He left in much better shape than when he arrived. We put him through Bailey boot camp in an attempt to try and improve his walking and overall wellbeing. Noticed him chocking on his food a few times. He entered his first running race the valentines mile, he did great! He’s not himself though and I’m worried about him. Sad when he left.

February: Some good work wins and Kym and I engineered a new service line to add to her personal training offering. My work constantly keeps me challenged, its exciting that there is so much opportunity but frustrating at the speed of which the market moves.

March: Headed back to the UK for a funeral, for my Grandmother who lived a very full life passing away at the age of 92. Her story is as epic as any person who has lived through the war years and raised a wonderful family. She was scared of being on her own more than she was of dying. Her husband of 60+ years passed away a few years before. I don’t think she ever recovered. Family was her life. She would have been proud to see how many people turned up to give her a good send off.

Travelled to LA for CoEd/Rotary to speak at various rotary clubs throughout the week, spent most of my time sat in traffic. Met some amazing people, did a 100mile bike ride with the LA wheelmen along the pacific coast highway, met a friend in Santa Monica who ticked a bucket list item for me by showing me round Beverley Hills in his 1956 Porsche speedster, people thought we were famous! He topped the week off by getting us courtside seats to the Lakers game! I’ve no idea how he managed it by Ryan Khan you are a star!

 

April: Raced in the Haines City Florida 70.3 Ironman – Achieved a PB even though I took the foot off the gas towards the end! Much to my coaches’ frustration, and mine!

IM finish
IM70.3 Florida Finish

Experienced the Boston Marathon first hand while supporting Kym. I was certainly more nervous than her. This was her biggest bucket list item. As a runner this is their mecca, after the bombings it became even more the marathon that everyone wanted to run. You have to qualify and Kym did. All she wanted to do now was have a great race. People told her she wouldn’t PB because of the hills. I had faith she would. She kept us guessing though and at the moment of the last split coming in on the app tracker we were following I knew she had done it! I was on the phone to her parents who were also tracking, we had a telephonic celebration when her final time came in. I couldn’t get close to the finish line to see her but I was there all the way! We had arranged a meeting spot outside the lingerie store “La Perla” – we thought it funny! I waited what seemed like ages for her to appear and when she did we both cried. The relief, the congrats, the overwhelming sense of achievement I had for her and simply the love. She talked about the race with such excitement and I loved hearing about it, I will also run this race but this time was hers. Everyone who has run a Boston Marathon has a “Boston” story behind it. We have ours and we have our ending. Until the next one.

 

May: Had my uncle come stay with us for 2 weeks, it was awesome to see him enjoy the island to its fullest and re kindle his love for diving. Got to know him better. Good times.

Delivered the largest HR Conference in the Caribbean, Released an Album (Now that’s what I call HR 1 available on ITunes) met some Hollywood stars, and came first in my category in the Grand Cayman May Classic cycle series.

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Delivered a 43 page client report and wrote 2, 80 page proposals in response to RFP’s. Helped the wife launch her new business line which has got off to a great start with her new clients.

Dad got diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

June:

So it’s June and the above was only a highlight of what a 6 months it has been. It’s been incredible, amazing highs and some earth shattering lows. But that’s life. We know the next six months already has a conference in New Orleans, A half Marathon in Chicago, A full Marathon in the UK combined with a special someone’s 70th, Rotary presentations in Idaho, and a full Ironman in Panama city. All whilst holding down a day job, trying to be a good President of the HR society and stressing about family. Its no wonder the speech by Grace Byers at our conference really resonated with me. She opened with “I am enough”. It’s an amazing story and mantra which helps you to ground and take a breath, you can see the speech on the CISHRP facebook page. I’m all for YOLO, but when you try to be all things to all people it can be completely exhausting. Therefore I am going to say “no” a little more, I am going to take a breath. This doesn’t mean I will work any less hard it just means I have to be smarter with my time, and apportion it to those that appreciate it.

So now lets tackles those next six months!

Get out of your head – Plus IronMan Miami 70.3 Race report :)

It’s 4:45am – I am bent over the sink in our room at the Intercontinental hotel Bayside Miami, our window looks over the swim course for the ironman 70.3 Miami which is due to start in about 2hrs time. A little voice in my head is saying “go back to bed, You have nothing to prove, seriously this isn’t just a man cold it’s a proper flu, you have no voice, this is stupid…”. The past 24hrs had been spent on a plane traveling from Cayman to Miami then into the hotel to build the bike all while convincing myself I was not getting sick. I even took the Mrs B out for dinner in South Beach whilst attempting to get someone to make me a good hot toddy (Still to find a bar tender who can replicate an Irish mothers hot toddy, one conversation resulted in me trying to explain what a kettle was to a young waitress when I asked her how she boiled water and she replied in the coffee machine!). So I have now been awake most of the night as a) I can’t breath as my nose is all blocked and b) have the beginnings of what I assume is Ebola, or the plague or something equally evil that has decided to infect me on the one day of the year I need to feel at my best. Now any endurance sports types out there reading this will acknowledge that it is the one thing we all dread, even more than a twisted ankle or pulled muscle, getting sick is just not in the plan. I mean why should we be sick, we are healthy people, eating good food and exercising like it’s a reason to exist. We become hypochondriacs, moan about every single malady that could strike us down, we all have witches brews and secret potions that we are convinced only we know about but that they will cure anything… so we are the greatest at convincing ourselves we are not sick because we have not put in all that time, training and expense to let something like the bubonic plague stop us from competing on race day.

So now you have it 4:45am I have bubonic plague.

Ok it’s a man cold but I feel like sh!t. My training over the last few weeks hasn’t been great either. I’ve not stuck to the plan, mainly because I have been traveling on business and had to fit runs in where I can. It’s that plane travel that’s made me sick, I know it! Clean recycled air my arse.

I take a look at myself in the mirror and say to myself “well I will start and if I can’t finish at least I know I did all I could. Mrs B was equally doubtful. The morning was cool and calm, a little breeze and the water temp for the swim was 83 degrees. I met up with Jon, Chris and Stuart as we headed into transition to set up our bikes and prepare for the hours ahead. All of us were quiet going through our own routines; me trying not to cough was the main thing! Once we had set up our stations I went back up to the hotel room for another check of myself, more ablutions and vaseline application to parts you shouldn’t apply to in public…Stuart and I were in the same swim wave, which was nice to have a familiar face to talk to pre race and ease the nerves which were plentiful. Stu was in pique form and looking forward to an amazing time, which I hoped he would get. My goals were simple. Try and finish! If I can finish, beat time from last year of 6hrs 8 mins, if I feel great do sub 6 hours. We jumped into the water and it was soooo much better than last year, for starters not a jellyfish in sight just me and some pretty clear water. We had 30 seconds before the starter fired the horn for our wave start and I took the time to look back upon the spectators some 5000 people lining she seafront cheering on their nearest and dearest. It always makes me smile because its one of the best sides of humanity to see. Encouragement, support, love.

With the sound of the horn I flicked the button on my watch and my race had started. I moved into some open water to the right of the swim channel found a nice rhythmical pace with few interruptions from other swimmers. The swim gives you a chance to think, reflect and talk yourself into the bike portion of the race, it also cleared out my sinuses brilliantly which I hadn’t expected and so my breathing became easy and lungs felt strong. This gave me a real lift and the hope that I might do this today after all! But this is mile 1 of 70 so lets not get too carried away. Once you hit the final buoy on the swim course and you can see in the distance those magical stairs that will take you out of the water and on to the bike its like being caught in a black hole it just sucks you in, you stay on course and for me there was no congestion as I exited the water. I took a look at my watch. 40 mins – sh!t – I had swam the same course in 32 mins last year that’s 8 minutes off the pace – immediately my head went into negative mode – “you must be sick, don’t worry just take it easy now…” but my rational side kicked in, “no way” I said to myself “ that felt good” & “my watch must be out” just keep going.

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I ran up to transition putting the swim behind me and focusing on my favorite part of the race, a 90 kilometer bike ride. The Miami bike course is pretty much out and back so you get to see the pros on the other side of the course and it always gives me a boost to see how far I am behind them etc. Especially as they started first! I flicked my watch to the second setting for bike and off I went spending only 3 minutes precious time in transition.

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Once out on the bike course I got my first shock, what felt like a hurricane of a headwind was severely hindering my forward momentum, I was looking at my speed and only maintaining around 30kph(19mph) considering I would normally average around 34-36Kph this was not amusing. You see the longer you spend on the bike the more energy you consume and I had only planned to spend 2hrs 35mins on the bike and had fueled for such. This pace would set me back 30 or so minutes which would mean I would have to grab another drink from an aid station which I didn’t want to do. So again plenty of time to think, watch your heart rate don’t over do it and remember that this headwind will become a tail wind for the return journey. So that’s what I banked on, a hurricane force tailwind on the way back, but with wind and weather you just don’t know till you turn! I don’t get passed by many other athletes on the bike section as its probably my strongest discipline, it doesn’t mean I’m the fastest but it does mean that people have to be going some and be able to maintain it to go past. I took solace in the fact that this was still holding true, other athletes were not over taking me which meant they were finding this headwind tough as well. When the turn around finally came it was with a euphoric roar that I immediately felt the release of the wind and a metaphorical shove in the back.

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It was pure joy and another much needed lift, as I was sure I could not have carried on or finished if that wind had persisted. I looked down at my speed now 45kph (27mph) wow if I could just maintain this all the way back it will be awesome. Alas the wind didn’t give as much gusto as I had hoped but it still allowed for a solid 38kph average on the way back. I sailed into the bike transition full of hope that I might get through this. Just 13.1 miles of running torture, just 4 times over that bitch of a bridge that separates downtown Miami from South Beach. You got this.

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That phrase you got this lasted until mile 4 when it turned into – You stop this now! My joints ached, my lungs burnt I was hot and quite miserable. I knew that I couldn’t stop there as I still had to get back over the bridge so I just said to myself Kym (Mrs B) is waiting at the halfway point just get to her she will make it all better. I don’t quite know how Kym was going to make it all better, but I knew that seeing Kym had to be the point of my decision. So I plodded on for 2 more miles. I saw Stu he was looking strong and on his final loop which gave me a lift. I don’t mean to sound cheesy but I do get joy out of seeing other people achieve what they want to, I know how much effort they put in. Each have their own demons, each has their own level of skill. Stu’s level is Jedi master compared to mine but either way he trains hard to achieve what he does and therefore deserves the success he achieves. I also wanted to see my other friends out on the course Jon who did this race with me last year and Chris S who has done 3 full Ironmen one of them with Jon and has certainly been another inspiration on my road to fitness as Chris battled some serious illness of his own and came through it stronger and more determined. Jon then came past in the opposite direction as he headed out on his first loop (They started about an hour after us as they are old men so were put in the geriatric wave at the back 😉 I’ll be in there age group next year, Jon didn’t notice me till I called his name, he was focused and looked really strong, I shouted he smiled and we both had said all that was needed.

As I neared where I knew kym would be I started frantically looking for her but I needn’t have worried she saw me way before I saw her and I saw the relief on her face and excitement that I was nearly done along with that look only your wife can give you. That look that says, your mad, but I get it and I love you keep going! That’s all I needed to turn round and do the 6 mile loop over that sodding bridge again. I got emotional as she ran by me for a few seconds wishing me well and asking how I was, it was difficult to talk, I think I said I’m done, I’ve nothing left. I told her I was going to the turnaround point and would be back in a sec, she crossed the road so she would be on the right side for my run back out.. During the 400 meter run to the turnaround point through the thickest of the spectators and well wishers I took stock. OK legs do you hurt? A little but we are not done yet, OK Hips, do you hurt? Yes but we are not done yet? Lungs how you doing – we are still working – It was at that point I remembered the 40% rule – when you think your done your really only 40% done, I was prepared to argue that I was about 80% done at this point but it would have wasted energy. I saw kym again then and received the lift I needed to get the last bit of this thing done. I set out on the final loop. It goes a bit blurry here lots of walking/running lots of self pep talks a bit of coughing and then as I was coming back over the long uphill part of the bridge I received a hug. It was Chris S, he must have seen me walking up the bridge and caught me up. His day wasn’t faring much better than mine plus he was still on his first loop. We walked briefly and I suggested we run back down the bridge we did but I didn’t want my slow pace to affect his if anything he had given me a boost and a distraction from my own internal monologue that got me going again. I have 15 minutes to break the 6 hour mark! Well reality kicked in I was prob moving at about the 12 min mile pace so I wasn’t going to make that, but I could beat my time from last year if I just keep moving! So following Chris’ lift I did, I urged him on at his pace and carried on at my renewed pace. It carried me into the final mile at around 5 hours 56 minutes crossing the line in 6 hours 6 minutes! A new PB Miami time for me.

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So I started this with “get out of your head”. I was in and out of my own head so many times during that race, I was ill, I know I was but it didn’t stop me. We spend so much time deliberating in our head whether we should do something or not that very often we choose not through procrastination. I said I would do 3 Ironman 70.3 events this year. I said I would get enough points to qualify as an all world athlete. I said I would get down to 250lbs by the end of the year. Well 2 out of 3 isn’t bad and the year is not over!

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Don’t let your head get in the way of a good idea. As Nike says – Just Do It!

 

 

NB: The swim course was slow as the tidal current was against us so everyone was slow! Phew! And my bike 2hrs 36 mins – we don’t talk about the run 😉

Small goals can turn into big things – 640 Challenge!

I have heard the saying from small acorns come large oak tress and understood its meaning but never did I think I could plant those acorns or that one I planted would grow into something far reaching.

A short while ago I embarked on a life style change that would reduce my weight. Its not that I was massively unhealthy I just enjoyed my food and wine a little too much. Because of that my exercise revolved around walking to restaurants!

I found myself in Macys in downtown Miami circa end of 2013, I needed some new work trousers and as I went through the rack I picked off the trusted pair of 42 Long. For a good time I had always fluctuated between a 40-42 inch waist. At 6ft 4 I didn’t think there was anything wrong with this. It didn’t hold me back, or so I thought.

It wasn’t until I entered the changing room and realized that these 42 inch waist trousers were at least 2 inches to small! OMG how had this happened…. Now most men will not admit they are unhappy about there weight, it a girls thing, but it was at that exact moment when I realized that “Macys” no longer did trousers in my size, that my true feelings about myself came to fruition. I hated being “big” I had been deluding myself about being tall and healthy, all my family are big, I just don’t have time to exercise etc etc etc… My own sense of self confidence was getting lower and lower because I wasn’t happy about the way I was starting to look. You would see it in photos and simply say, right I will start the gym on Monday. You never did.

Although most men will not talk about their own demons in regards weight I believe we are truly just as susceptible to conformity of body image as women, we read the male version of the magazines and social media influence of the “beach bod, men’s health cover” so we always think we are fat too! Notice that’s the first time I have used the word fat. It’s a horrid word as its connotations are so negative and the stereotypical perception of a fat person is that they are lazy or stupid. This is a huge error in judgment; I work long hours and don’t think I’m stupid I had just lost a sense of “healthy” balance in my life. You just don’t notice until you notice (If that makes sense!). My snoring problem was out of hand, my energy levels were low and my metabolism had slowed right down. All precursors to depression and further weight gain. Only an individual can stop the unhealthy living and they do need support when they really mean to take control.

My Macy’s moment was my point of self realization that I had to take control, I had avoided the scales for months but I needed to see what I had become. Nearly 320lbs.

Wow 320lbs heart attack central aged 35.

Now there are thousands of inspiring stories out there of amazing people who have taken control and dropped weight and many of them have kept it off. Those that have I guarantee made a life style change. That’s what I did.

However, I had to admit what I had become, not just to me but to my wife and friend’s. I had to tell them what I wanted to achieve over the next few years. I wanted some quick wins for motivation but I needed long term goals. I wanted to enjoy life, diet exercise had to be enjoyable it had to become part of my daily routines without thought. It couldn’t be a battle. As food or the easy option would win!

We did a few things straight away:

  • Cleared out the cupboards at home of junk food – if its not there I cant eat it
  • Lots of fresh fruit prepared in bowls in the fridge to snack on when the cravings came.
  • Enter an 800m swimming race (Swimming is great all over exercise with little impact on joins)
  • Whilst I hate running enter a 5k race as the feeling of completing a goal would be worth it
  • Stop drinking alcohol during the week!

The first 800m swim was only 2 weeks after we did this but along with a few friends I did it, was slow, but it was great to take part and start a little training. The first 5k was a few months away and I needed to get off the couch!

I couldn’t run more than about 400 meters without starting to struggle which really made me realize how unfit I was. I can’t say how demotivating it is when you really struggle to do something when everyone around you looks like its no effort at all. That’s why I give massive credit to anyone out there putting one foot in front of the other regardless of their shape or size because you know what, they motivated themselves to do it mainly to benefit them, not for anyone else just for them. Anyways I get off track….

These swims and 5ks were the stat of things and I needed to enter myself into events to help me stay motivated and have a small goal to achieve. It also helped that a few friends did these events with me (obviously they were quicker but that didn’t matter). You will learn that the people who take part in running clubs or tri-athlon training or any endurance sport that they do it to compete with themselves, to better their own times so they are genuinely happy for you to achieve any of your own goals! You don’t have to beat anyone else, but you do have to beat yourself! There is always a reason not to get some exercise, so give yourself a reason make it enjoyable!

Fast forward to January 2015 – I have lost over 50lbs and embarked on the Guatemala trip as previously written about. Once I returned I kept thinking about how I could continue to support this project. I am not super wealthy with unlimited resources (far from it) so what could I do that would raise awareness and possibly raise funds for this project. I started tinkering with the idea that I could run a marathon, its been done a hundred times before but it would also give me a reason to run and continue training plus tick something I thought impossible off the bucket list. Then I thought I could do a half ironman, after all I like the swimming and the biking part of it! I organized a charity bike ride in 2014 which raised $10k for the local hospice care charity so I thought I could do that again. Then someone suggested cycling the blue ridge parkway. I had no idea what the was but it sounded fun – it turned out to be 470 miles from North Carolina to Virginia with the Appalachian mountains in between! Throw in the Cayman marathon for good measure. Each of these things were happening at great time intervals, literally once a month from august until December. So an idea started formulating…. It turns out the distance of all the events combined is 640 miles the exact distance from Grand Cayman (Home) to Guatemala…. Quite some coincidence…. So there you have it the small goals this year have turned into the 640 Challenge (www.facebook.com/640challenge).

So I get to continue a training plan, keep healthy, loose a bit more weight and raise money for a good cause. I also linked a local literacy cause “LiFE” literacy is for everyone, to be a joint benefactor of funds raised along with the Guatemala Literacy Project which links both ends of the challenge. To date we are near the $10,000 raised mark and with the prospect of “Pedal to the Point” race raising and additional $10k we are going strong. You can follow the fundraising here: https://www.razoo.com/story/640challenge

So the first challenge was the 470 mile bike ride and I have written a little write up of the experience below. In short is was brutal!

However I hope this missive gives food for thought that the small goals we set ourselves can and have led into something much bigger than I could have imagined – I have been on TV and radio locally promoting the cause, I have had people for all over the world offer support and donate. Two of the best things of all – these great causes get some needed funds and I get to feel great about my fitness and the journey this is taking me on Cayman, Miami, Chicago, Virginia, North Carolina, Charlotte, Guatemala – (editors note I self fund all the events so all monies donated go directly to the causes).

640 Challenge Part 1 – Blue Ridge Parkway 470 miles in 4.5 days!!!!

“Well it was a ride of two halves the first 236 miles while tough were enjoyable as my bike was working fine. Then the gods of destruction decided it was going way to well and that the challenge needed to be harder. Nevermind the fact that we were already spending 10 hours a day in the saddle, forget that some of the climbs went on for 15 miles! Really it didnt matter that we were covering over 10,000 feet of elevation in every ride… so just to make it interesting the rear hub in my wheel (Which is a new ceramic hub) failed, the bearings went… no matter we have a spare wheel. Unfortunately the cassette on the spare wheel was only a 26 compared to the 30 I did have. (the cassettes were not compatible to change over…) so now hills were slightly harder…. then the cycling gods decided that it was still too easy so around mile marker 236 the chain decided to twist itself around and rip off my rear deraliure. Never seen that happen, but without changing the whole groupset which is not a roadside repair, my bike was done. Enter, top gear style, the spare bike. whilst a nice “specialized”  bike it was unfortunately a 54. A tad small for me. So with the seat post extended and the front stem at its max we managed to get some sort of fit. as you can imagine by the time we had set that bike up put my pedals on it etc.. we had spent nearly an hour at the side of the road. that day I still had 80+ mile to complete. I was cycling alone, uphill, slowly and now had saddle sore, neck issues and hurty knees! That day took nearly 13 hours to complete. I then got a chest infection from being so hot and cold all the time. the next morning was agony to get up and I had 115 miles and 4 pretty epic climbs to get through!  somehow and I really don’t know how I managed it in around 10 hours which everyone one surprised about. If it hadn’t have been for the charity it would have been game over! Feeling like death warmed up I retreated straight for a hot bath and cream application to places we cant mention. Im not kidding when I say everything hurt, the bike fit was so bad it put pressure in all the wrong places! Knees especially bad. 

The final day was 75 miles and the 3 highest peak of the blue ridge. I was crying at breakfast as i felt so bad with my cold/chest couldn’t bare to put my bum on the saddle or even think of cycling uphill! Then one of the guys changed my saddle for a brooks saddle, it would put pressure in different places so I thought it was worth a try. Well I can only say that saddle was the comfiest thing I have ever sat on, pure joy! it lifted the spirits and the same chap (Piers Dryden of Ogier) rode the first 30 miles with me at my snails pace and got me over the first two peaks. I started to feel allot better knowing I only had one more climb then 20 miles of downhill so I told him to go on and that I would be fine now. He was a legend, I pulled myself up the last 10 mile climb with an average gradient of 10%. Then settled in for 20 miles of downhill!! I hit 54mph!  past the finish and collapsed. 

Feeling quite euphoric at the end of it I really didn’t relish the actual accomplishment until i was wrapped up in blankets in the back of the bus.  Your brain will give up 10000 times before your body will. There were times I was very close. If my bike had held up it would have been easier but still gruelling. When your not used to hills they become demons!”

Part 2 640challenge – Chicago Marathon 11th October….eeeeekkkkk

470 miles in 4 days complete!
470 miles in 4 days complete!
Carolina State line Pic
State line in the 640Challenge Top!
chirs running SS
Training at a local running event
Before my self realisation moment.....
Before my self realisation moment….. 300+lbs