On Sunday 11/9/16 my long held dream to become an Ironman came true.
I first became fascinated by the Ironman event at the age of 16 when I watched it on sky sports one saturday morning. I remember being in awe of those athletes and wondering how on earth they were able to get that fit. It seemed superhuman and practically impossible to me. The seed was sown.
Fast forward to 2012 and I bought my first road bike with the intention of building towards the ironman event. I started with the shorter distance Olympic triathlons and in September 2013 after a long summer of training I entered and finished the London Triathlon with a time of 2hr52mins.
I still contend to this day, that never has an amateur athlete made so many mistakes in just 3 short hours! The swim was a disaster, I started too fast and built up an oxygen dent within the first 200m, which lead to me having to hold onto a stewards canoe to keep myself from drowning. Eventually I recovered and finished the swim and moved on exhausted to the bike leg. At this time I was so into the Paleo diet that I insisted on training and racing without carbs, and so water and scoop of coconut oil were all that I had as fuel. Any olympic triathlete with experience will know that this is a very tough way to complete a fast race that largely relies on anaerobic conditioning and fast fuel sources. On this day it was cold, windy and wet but I decided to race in the usual lycra and shivered my way around the next hour, until speeding around the LAST corner of the bike route I rode over an oil patch and crashed out. It was a heavy impact and I got scooped up by the paramedics and put in a tent. The shock of a sudden fall and the fact that I was already freezing cold meant that I couldn’t stop shivering but eventually pulled myself together and jogged into transition. The next disaster was discovering that the quick release clip of my bike shoe had snapped off in the crash, so the shoe was clamped to my foot and took around 5 minutes of near shoulder and ankle dislocation manoeuvres to get it off! My race concluded after 50 extra minutes of hobbling on a bruised and bleeding hip. Still, I finished and I was very happy but it had been A LOT harder and more involved that I had anticipated.
Somehow this was all just fuel on the fire and I kept training and progressing. The longer I spent on the bike the more apparent it became that the spinal fractures I had acquired in a snowboard accident in 2009 were a big problem. It got the point that 1 hour of bike training had to be followed by 1 hour lying on the floor for my back to stop spasming. ‘How ironic’ I hear you say, the chiropractor gets back problems! Yet at this point I had already spent nearly 3 years attempting to resolved my spinal injury with chiropractic care, rehab, acupuncture, massage, low level laser and nothing was providing results. I was stuck, and the frustration of being stuck lead me to seek out more revolutionary approaches, and without that drive i never would have discovered the revolutionary chiropractic technique Advanced Biostructural Correction (ABC).
What followed was 2 years of dedicated corrective care on my spine that fully resolved the injuries woes I was having. Not only that, my flexibility improved, posture, energy, robustness, breathing, running, biking, digestion, endurance and many other aspects of health we dramatically enhanced as well. My ambition to ride a bike pain free lead to significantly enhanced health and a transformation in the way that I approach chiropractic. I learned this amazing technique and now use it as the method of choice at SpineCentral benefiting 1000’s of patients over the last 2 years and also inspiring a handful of other chiropractors to join the future of structural health care by adopting it in their practices.
One of the core truths I live my life by is that every crisis contains a blessing. If it hadn’t been for the spinal fractures and my fascination with triathlons my health, business and career would be in a very different place today.
The next challenge that I faced was the inevitable injuries that come when you step up the distances in running and swimming. Very few people have naturally good technique in these sports and so when you take average ability and apply hundreds of thousands of repetitions the problems will rise to the surface.
I over came these with weekly coaching and training in Pose Running Technique and Total Immersion Swimming Technique. This was the fun side to training for me, I love learning new skills and I love the feeling of progress that comes with gradual mastery over my body. It took nearly 2 years to get each to the required level but it was worth every pound and hour that I invested.
Then came the final 12 months of training, the first 6 of which were largely strength and conditioning to make sure my joints, muscles and tendons had the ability to handle the load. I am forever grateful to my personal trainer who guided me through that process because without it I seriously doubt I would have finished the race. The second 6 months were a gradual increase in aerobic conditioning across the 3 sports. I found the training the easy part. The hard part was the recovery. Managing 10-15 hours of exercise with a busy career and finding the time to rest, recover and rebuild is a real challenge. It felt a lot like walking a tight rope. One extra mm could tip me over the end towards injury or burnout. This is why the sport is addictive though, there are so many moving parts to master as you go. It is anything but boring!
The race itself went off without a hitch. The last remaining surprise to me was the pre-race anxiety which began about 2 weeks before and just escalated as race day got closer. Whilst there was nothing to really be anxious about, the feelings were real. Perhaps it was fear of failure, or fear of pain, or of just not being prepared and wasting all these months of effort, I never did quite put my finger on it but the moment the gun went off, those feeling disappeared and I settled into it.
You will hear people say this, and you will have a twinge of doubt about how true it is, but the race is actually fun. It is the cherry on top of the long process of getting there. I enjoyed every minute of it, from the darkest moments of pain and exhaustion to the feelings of pride and elation that come as you round the final corner. You truly experience the entire range of emotions throughout the day and share them with 1000’s of other nutters along the way. It is a special experience.
So after 13hr 23 minutes it was over. Done and dusted. The multiple year journey and dream concluded. What is left are lessons and memories. Here are some of the best lessons I learned throughout this adventure which I’d love to share with you:
1. YOU CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING WITH A BELIEF BACKED UP BY ACTION
The Ironman slogan is ‘anything is possible’. There is nothing like the completion of a seemingly impossible task to make that a reality for you. The truth is that nothing gets achieved unless you first believe you can do it and then back it up with a lot of work. The bigger the goal the more action that is required. But the process of walking to the shops or completing the ironman is really the same thing. Its just one goal is a lot larger and will demand a lot more from you.
2. IT JUST TAKES TIME
This was the dominating thought going through my mind during my long training runs and rides and on race day itself. As long as you keep moving forward in the right direction, its only a matter of time. Just settle into your rhythm and allow the process to unfold. It can be extremely disheartening to look at your watch and realise there are 8 more hours of pain ahead of you. Yet if you just embrace the moment and give into the process, time passes and you will progress.
3. FOCUS ONLY ON THE NEXT BOUEY
The way that you stay focussed on the present and moving forward is to focus on just the next bouey in the water, or the next mile marker on the run. Chunk it down and don’t think too far ahead or you loose your rhythm and start to doubt yourself. Whatever it is you are striving towards in life, chunk it down into manageable pieces and just get after the next piece, the next bouey, forget about the rest and handle just the work in front of you now. This is how you build momentum. This is how complete huge projects.
4. THE UNEXPECTED WILL HAPPEN
This is something a few experienced Ironmen told me to anticipate on race day. Something out of the ordinary will happen, do not let it throw you off track, just course correct and continue. As I ran over the start line I heard a man shout ‘dammit, my goggles just broke’ and he was holding his goggles with a broken strap in his hand. Im not sure what he did but I can guarantee he didn’t expect that! When I first got on the bike my left shoe would not clip into the peddle, it took me nearly 10 km’s of riding to figure out why and correct the problem. This is life, you will be tested as you are being tested. Stay focussed on your goal. regardless of what the world throws your way.
5. SOAK UP THE JUICINESS
There are times in the race and times in life when everything is going well. Take a moment to feel grateful for those times. The world is set up such that they won’t last, the next challenge and dark chapter is just around the corner. Being able to enjoy and soak up the good times is just as important as learning to fight your way through the tough times. Both are crucial skills required to keep you sane and effective in the race of life.
6. THE REAL REWARD IS THE JOURNEY
We’ve all heard this one. Its good to be reminded of it however. The whole point of choosing big goals is to forge yourself into the kind of person who can achieve them. In ironman you need to develop strength, technique, endurance, nutrition, rehab and self care skills. These are amazingly useful to you in health and life. The commitment to the training plan develops skills of persistence and perseverance. The process of pushing the pain envelope further and further helps you to realise that there is power on the other side, that is where the growth is. The goal was never the point. The goal was set to put the wheels in motion to take you through the process of growth. Next time you set your goals bare that in mind, they must be big enough for you to have to become a different person in order to achieve them. Make them too easy and nothing will change for you.
7. YOU THINK YOU NEED TO BE PAIN-FREE AND FIT, BUT WHAT YOU REALLY NEED IS TO BE HEALTHY
Everyday as a Chiropractor I meet people who are suffering. Something has gone wrong in their body and they are looking for relief. Yet in my mind, I know that what they are really laking is health. They are lacking an internal robustness. Their natural ability to adapt and bounce back has been softened from years of stress and poor lifestyle choices. Yet we don’t think that in the moment of suffering, we just want relief. I found myself falling into this trap a few times during my journey, after a 6 hour training ride surcumming to the urge to eat sugary treats, bacon sandwiches or too much coffee since it was easier than cooking a quality meal. Yet in order to be able to get up and repeat the same efforts the following week you need to recover well and recover fast. This means you need to give your body the highest quality foods that you can find, you need to be stricter than usual, you need to prioritise sleep and meditation, massage, chiropractic, supplementation, stretching and foam rolling. In fact, the greater the stress and demands that you place on yourself the more extreme you need to go with your efforts to stay healthy. The equation has to balance out or else you will burn out. The greatest gift that you own is your health, maintaining it no matter what is a critical piece of the puzzle when striving towards your goals.
Live In Alignment,
Wellness Chiropractor, Coach, Mentor
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