Funny that….

My blogs aren’t as frequent as they used to be. Funny that…. It seems a while since I put pen to paper. I guess it’s not surprising really. Adding 3 days of work a week into my life since November doesn’t leave much time for reflection.

So I’m two races into 2017 and, while on paper, my results don’t look as impressive as people might have hoped or expected, all things considered I’m pretty damned proud. It’s been a challenging 6 months in so many ways. I have absolutely no regrets about going back to work. I love it. I gave myself my ‘sabbatical’ to be a full time athlete on the grounds that I didn’t want to ask ‘what if’ if I never gave it a go, I went back to work for exactly the same reasons. If I didn’t go back now it would become increasingly hard to go back into medicine. And I guess I realized, that if I missed this opportunity, a few years down the line I would probably regret not seizing the chance when I had it. I feel extremely lucky to have a job I love. It’s challenging emotionally but, at the same time, working in oncology makes me appreciate life and realise just how lucky I am. I’ve been looking after a couple of guys recently who are around my age, both cyclists, and both have horrible metastatic melanoma. Every time I resent dragging myself out of bed in the morning for early morning training before work, I think of them and remind myself I’m choosing to do this.

So I love work. Not too many people can say that. I’m lucky. But I’m not going to pretend it’s easy. I feel as though I’m juggling two big balls. And I’m only just keeping them afloat. Every now and then I very nearly drop one of them. I don’t think I’ve got the balance just yet. Maybe it’s not actually possible to get a sustainable balance. But I’m learning. Though there are times at work when actually, I wish I wasn’t just working 3 days. I definitely feel as though sometimes I’m not the doctor I’d like to be when I’m only there 3 days a week. How can you be when you see a patient on the ward on Wednesday, knowing that you’re not then going to see them until the following Monday? I very rarely resent work. In fact, every Sunday evening, particularly after a big training weekend, I actively look forward to it. I think I have more enthusiasm and passion for the job because I don’t work full time. But there are time when I feel like a slacker; when I feel like I’m passing the buck more than I’d like to, simply because there isn’t any choice if you’re only there 3 days a week. But equally, there are times when I wish I didn’t have to cram my training in either side of work, particularly when I miss a club session because clinic is still going at 7pm, and especially on the odd occasion I have to spend the whole weekend in the hospital.

But readers are probably far more interested in triathlon-ing than doctoring, so back to Ironman. The ramble started with ‘Am I proud of my results so far this year’. And the upshot is, yes I am. Immensely. Going back to work has added a lot to my life. But leaving Cambridge has taken away just as much. I’ve lost my on tap training partners and friends (one and the same). I had a magic recipe for triathlon in Cambridge and replicating this in Nottingham takes time. So, if I’m honest, I’d lost the love for triathlon a bit over the winter. There were lots of times when it felt more like a chore than a passion and there were lots of times when I questioned whether the sacrifices were worthwhile.

Gran Canaria wasn’t a great race for me. I was overtrained, over tired and just felt completely flat on the day. Unsurprisingly I got ill 2 days later. In contrast, in Lanzarote this weekend, I emptied the tank and my race did my current fitness justice. It wasn’t my best performance ever but it was the best I could have done on the day. I think on reflection, this for me was a bit like racing an Ironman in February would be when I was a full time athlete. I’m not yet fit enough to race as hard as I have in the past. But I gave it everything I had. The swim was a fight, as I expected. It took a lot of energy to get round the course pretty slowly, but I did what I could. I was biking pretty well, but it was taking more effort than it might do at other times. And I definitely didn’t start the run in a good shape. I’d not looked after myself on the bike and was overheated and under-fuelled. Actually, after 5 km, I was questioning whether or not I’d be able to finish it. Poor mum saw me at around 10 miles in, when I was just about to get passed for 4th, and yelled at me ‘you need to push’ (This goes against the grain completely for her by the way. She is the absolute antithesis of the pushy parent but has learnt that in Ironman, telling me how wonderful I am isn’t always helpful). Anyway, my response to her was simply ‘I am F**king pushing’. I just wasn’t going anywhere fast!

So going back to the original question. Hand on heart I’m just as proud of my 3rd place in Lanza as I have been of any win. It’s never been about winning for me. It’s about getting the best out of myself. And I did that on Saturday. It’s actually very special for me to see Lucy C showing just a glimpse of her potential. I first met her a couple of years ago and she could quite honestly hardly ride a bike. Since then I’ve got to know her and her partner Reece quite well, and they’re two of the loveliest people I’ve met in triathlon. Seeing her completely outclass me on a tough bike course like Lanza is something phenomenal. The whole way round, I was pushing and pushing on my Simplon (which I absolutely love by the way), hoping I’d have clawed back at least a minute or so. But she just kept putting time into me, whatever I tried! I was riding well, on a super fast bike, but it just wasn’t good enough. Lucy was simply immense and I would absolutely love to see her go all the way in the next few years (I’d still like her scalp just once more before she becomes world champ, though this may be a dream!)

Anyhow, ramblings are over. As you might have guessed, this has been written in a bit of a rush. I’m really excited about the next part of the season, with my tour of the UK races. Racing lots gets me fit so I’m hoping my strategy will lead me to a fitness peak to give me a good shot at defending my title at Ironman UK. The summer is here. The runs in the dark are finished. And I’m finding my feet in Nottingham. So it should be a fun few months. Congratulations to everyone who finished Ironman Lanzarote. There aren’t many races as tough as this! Crossing that finish line is a massive achievement. Thanks as always to my sponsors. Erdinger, Skechers, Simplon, Wattbike, Blue Seventy, CEP, Bloc, High 5, Casco, ISM, Lightweight, Skinfit, Meridian Foods. And of course to my parents who have quite literally travelled the world in the name of Ironman and really are world class supporters in every sense.

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