This is a guest blog from Team Oxygenaddict member Lee Richards. It's a great story of overcoming obstacles and injury in training, and how, even if your event preparation and training don't go as smoothly as you would have liked, you can still complete an Ironman. He's got a fantastic positive attitude, and this was the key to getting him to the start line. It became even more important in getting him to the finish line after a gust of wind took him and his bike off the road and into the rocks after only 30km. Refusing to have his Ironman dream taken from him, he dug deep and battled on to success. Here's his story.
10 years ago a lad at school joked to me calling me an Ironman, 1 year ago I suddenly realised it was something I should do for real. I’ve never been a triathlete too worried about time. Difficulty I was always thought was my challenge. If I was to struggle at something it may as well be really hard to do. A few searches around the net lead me to see Ironman Lanzarote would be very good for the difficulty level with plenty of hills on the cycle to make it more fun. One day working from home May 2015 I got a little giddy with the credit card and jumped in at the deep end. Ironman Lanzarote 2016 would be my target.
I had done many endurance events before, Scottish Coast to Coast and Wasdale Tri to name a few of the more challenging. Lanzarote however would be a different challenge trying to maintain a good pace for so long whilst coping with 26C heat.
Preparation for the event couldn’t have been much worse. Winter training planned to be military hill walking events complete with weighted bergen… this however became my undoing. Many hours spent carrying 50lbs on the back whilst running resulted in 10 weeks of rest from January (IT Band). This coupled with planned family/friends holidays for my lifetime big event really put the pressure on.
A very understanding physio assisted in frequent treatments and recommendations to get me as close to fit as possible prior to the big day. Fitness and determination could only get me so far if I couldn't walk with a dodgy IT band. Mid march I was finally given permission to begin light training giving roughly 8 weeks for training.
As a comfort to the lack of fitness the race was put on a pedestal with every waking minute spent planning and preparing. Anything I could think of that might be one less thing to worry about on the day. Holiday insurance, kit lists, race routes, profiles, new kit, even a race plan printed out and wrapped around my tri bars with the profile and when to eat was included. Not being a bike mechanic my main worry was taking my bike to bits to fit in my box for the flight. Even more worrying was having to ride it after I personally had put it back together.
In the final month I managed to fit in the full distances for Ironman split into much smaller chunks over a 6 day period. This was a massive confidence boost coming back from where I had been only weeks earlier. The final hurdle was attempting the swim distance in a wetsuit.. this took 2 attempts. Attempt 1 the water was 10 degrees and it was snowing… abandoned. Attempt 2 finally success, sunshine and a slow swim finishing just short of my required distance by 100 metres. I only realised after I got in the car otherwise I would have got back in the water (honest).
Finally Lanzarote was here - the journey uneventful, the hotel beautiful. The days before the event spent registering (across the other side of the island) and a full bus tour of the cycle route so the oldies could understand just how crazy I was to be doing it. Hotel breakfasts bountiful with everything you would wish for. Time to plan for race day. Fruit, yoghurt, porridge, toast and eggs all made the list to test out before the big day.
3am on race day the hotel kindly put on a special breakfast for the athletes (yes that includes me unbelievalbly). Not that keen to get up so early I went for a more leisurely 4:30am start only to find non of the special planned food were available. No porridge, no eggs but fresh pasta was available… no thanks. Muesli and some toast were now the flavour of the day.
Steady walk down to the start with my every supportive fiance helped calm the race nerves. Bike tyres pumped back up food attached to the bike it was now time to test a years worth of preparation.
Taking a steady starting position in the back right lead to swimming 500 metres further than required but I don’t think I would have caught the leader even going closest to the boys haha. No kicking no bustling just a peaceful 95 minute swim watching the various fish daring to come say hello.
Transition a challenge with so much sand lead to steady time. The temp and wind now both getting higher this was going to be tough.
25km into the cycle down a particularly rocky El Golfo pass I decided to make the day even harder. Travelling off a nice left hand curve at the best part of 30 mph I was fighting the wind. The wind gave in and promptly disappeared leaving me and the bike to disappear quickly off the road into the rocks. Hands, arm and knee all bleeding enough to make a mess with witnesses my race could have been over. Promptly bouncing back up and giving the bike a once over the cycle continued before shock could set in. This was the first time I had fallen at speed but all appeared to be intact albeit it painfully in tact.
The slow swim gave me many people to chase and on the bigger climbs motivation was aided by passing many a flat preferring cyclist. Constant support from crazy supporters roadside got louder as soon as they could see the damage from the fall. Race officials offered medics every 10km or so (after noticing my injuries at 50km :) ). All attempts refused due to losing enough time already, magic water did the trick enough to get by ahead of the halfway cut off time by over an hour.
The rest of the cycle uneventful with the exception of a 5km section with road quality to match the poorest UK road. An average of 10mph on the TT bars was the best I could hope for not being able to hold the handlebars due to the fall.
T2 was welcomed with a parental telling off from a marshall making me go to the medic for a cleanup. Brief delay over just the matter of a marathon to go. At least now I could pass the family members here to support. Growing cheers helping the tired legs. Mental strength and daylight fading an on and off power walk helping to the fancy finish line in a pb slowest marathon. Who cares - I was now an Ironman and proud to be there.
A few days rest and check ups for the bike (and me) reveal a cracked frame damage costs TBC. Perhaps someones was looking down on me that day. I might have put in as much training as possible but I know I couldn’t have got through it all without the wonderful support of my family and fiancé (and also team and coach of course). They put up with and support me through all the scared and uncertain times of injury, along with the proud successful times. That support is priceless and appreciated from the bottom of my heart. I am now an Ironman, and looking for my next challenge…
If you're ready to step up and take on a new challenge like Lee has this season, sign up for Team Oxygenaddict coaching. An event specific training plan tailored to how much time you have available, coaching advice and team support in our private facebook group, and inside our private members area you have access to educational podcasts, webinars, video clips and coaching articles.