So here I am, sitting on the plane to Kona. Excited, somewhat apprehensive but ultimately immensely proud of where I’ve got to as a triathlete. Looking back I know I’ve done absolutely everything I could to get myself as fit and fast as possible. And I don’t think anyone can ask more than that. To some extent, I’d even go so far as to say the result on race day is irrelevant. I wanted to give myself a chance as a full time athlete to see how good I could be. The process is as important as the outcome. And knowing that I wouldn’t change a thing in the build up is a pretty good place to be mentally. Last weekend I turned a 50-mile time trial into a brick. As I was running, ‘MY’ Kona song (Inifinity,Guru Josh project came on my ipod). I had tears of pride running down my face as I was running. I think perhaps for the first time ever I truly appreciated how far I’ve come. Whatever happens on race day I’m immensely proud of my hard work, persistence, patience and perseverance over the last 9 years that have allowed me, without really ever thinking about it, to turn myself into a world class athlete.
I’m proud but I’m also incredibly grateful. Triathlon has given me a wonderfully supportive group of friends and training partners and I’ve been allowed the opportunity to temporarily pursue an alternative career path that is really just my hobby. Triathlon has taught me so much more than just swim, bike and run. Anyone who thinks Ironman isn’t a metaphor for life just has to look at my friend and number one training partner James Gill, who finally, on his 6th attempt in 2 years, qualified for Kona last weekend in Wales. That achievement represents so much more than the physical performance. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by friends who challenge me, support me, take the piss out of me, keep training fun and keep me grounded. I’m proof that you don’t need to be part of a professional triathlon squad to be good. All you need is some supportive friends who buy into your goal and keep you smiling and I’m so grateful to my swim squad buddies (both COCSC, particularly coach Simon, and the Abbey crew – swimming over the last year has become fun, not a chore), my hot watt buddies, my running buddies and my bike buddies – especially James. You guys know who you are and I hope you realise how much I appreciate your support and camaraderie. No result will change that.
Being a full time athlete is a pretty selfish pursuit at times. It’s all encompassing and one of the things I struggle most with is the fact that the focus of every day is about me. On occasion I miss the sense of satisfaction that comes from working as a doctor and doing something useful. There have definitely been times over the last few weeks when I would have much rather gone into work in an oncology clinic than dragged myself out on another long ride or run. But ultimately, I know I choose to be doing what I’m doing. I’m hurting because I want to be hurting and I’m doing it by choice. Cancer patients don’t have that choice and reminding myself of that on the sessions I don’t want to be doing is a big motivator.
With that in mind, I’m extremely honoured to recently have become an ambassador for the TeenageCancer Trust. The Teenage Cancer Trust does wonderful work supporting young people with cancer and I am privileged to have been given the opportunity to use triathlon to do something a bit more useful than just making myself fast. We’re making a formal announcement shortly but for now, consider saving the date of 12 June 2016 for next year’s Staffordshire Ironman 70.3. I will be working with the Teenage Cancer Trust to put together an exciting programme that will guarantee a place as well as some training assistance and kit, but perhaps most importantly the joy of being able to use your own personal triathlon challenge to help provide support to young people with cancer.
In the meantime I’m going to try to make the most of my time out in Hawaii and I really hope I can put together a performance that makes me want to dance down the finish chute.