Were my words to my Coach at the mile 2 mark on run of the recent half ironman I completed (and thank you to everyone who has sponsored me) and that was probably the most stupid thing I have said in a long time. Not since I once said 'it's OK I bark with Bankly's' have I felt such a muppet for such a long time.
Not surprisingly Pete’s response was ‘of course it hurts it’s a half ironman you plank, just keep going!’ but I have never known the level of desperation that I had sunk to at that point in the race. The overwhelming desire just to lie down, give up and call it a day verged on despair; in fact I think it was total despair. Even with what viral meningitis has thrown at me I have never reached the point of wanting to give up principally because when I was in the first few months of the attack I wasn’t conscious enough to worry.
Apparently sports psychologists explain this as the brain going into panic mode that you're about to do something stupid to your body and it wants you to stop and NOW! Now granted doing any one day endurance race is pretty daft and a half ironman is right up there but it did get me thinking about what we can endure when we literally put our minds to it.
When I was discharged from hospital. I could barely walk, couldn’t string a sentence together properly and apparently I asked my eldest daughter ‘which one are you’ because I couldn’t actually work out which of my two daughters she was. Scary stuff. Even more scary was being rushed back in three days later with collapsing veins and blood pressure that would make a vampire say ‘no thanks I can’t be bothered to work that hard’. As my neurologist put it ‘I was checking out of hotel life’.
Now that is desperation although to be honest I can’t remember much of it at all but I knew I wanted to keep going, wanted to get back to normal and wanted this horrible illness to catch the first bus out of my system. I soon learned that it was going to take time and indeed it took me ten years to be fit enough to do a half ironman but I have learned that no matter how desperate you feel you can do more than you think you can even if it takes ten years to do it. No one can take away your ability to say up yours viral meningitis and in my case plod through to complete something that even before I was ill I didn’t think I could do. When the illness first strikes time is something you want to pass quickly so you can get better but work with it and listen to your body and time will take care of itself.
I am blessed to have an excellent coach whose skills and talents as an athlete far and away outshine mine. He understands that things will always take longer for me, that I can’t always do the intense sessions he sets (but I do have a damn good go!) and that on the days when I'm tired and the headache is worse I have to rest otherwise I risk a Mollaret's attack. Its frustrating living with limitations but for those few hours when everything fell into place and I ignored the desperation and desire to stop; the ten years of struggle, hard work, plodding sessions and working with the limitations VM has left with me seemed to fall into insignificance. I was on the run of a half ironman and I was going to do it even if my brain had told me I couldn’t.
At this time of the year triathletes reflect on their season and look forward to what the next year might bring. How on earth do you top doing a half ironman? By doing two in 2013 and a full ironman in 2014 in support of the Meningitis Trust that’s how. If you have been struck by viral meningitis and you feel life will never be the same then take hope, no matter how desperate the situation seems there is hope and there is time. Hotel Life, I'm here to stay!