I'm a triathlete, there I've said it, and I've been a triathlete for 20 years this year. My neurologist said it was my fitness that was the major contributory factor in surving a near fatal attack of viral meningitis in 2002. For five years I couldn't do any hard physical exercise on medical advice to allow the surface damage on my brain and related side effects to settle down.
When I came back to it boy was I unfit but in 2007 I set off back down the road of doing what most people think is completely barking. So what's the plan now then? Well after years of doing what could be described as not terribly hard triathlons (if there is such a thing) I've decided that its about time I had a go at something a tad more difficult. Well when I say a tad more difficult what I actually mean is chuffing heck more difficult.
I've signed up for a Half Ironman.....pause for effect.............now if you don't know what a Half Ironman is let me enlighten:
It involves a 1.1 mile open water swim then 56 miles on a bike rounded off by a half marathon. So why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing?
Let me explain. Nine years ago there was some doubt that I would survive the night and that kind of changes the way you think about things. It being viral meningitis the list of after effects I have been left with looks like someone has randomly pulled out pages of a medical dictionary (my previous blog post 'Oh No It's Angry Dad gives more detail) but I'm not going to let it get me down. I spent five years of doing nothing more than just gentle swimming, a bit jogging and not much else wondering if I would ever be doing triathlons again. At the end of the five years, my neurologist told me, if the after effects hadn't gone then I would be stuck with them. If you're stuck with them you can either sit at home, get miserable and wish it hadn't happened or you can just do what you can to ignore them.
I've tried sitting at home getting miserable and wishing it hadn't happened and to be honest it isn't much fun whereas swimming in a river, cycling for hours on end and then running a half marathon is so much more fun. No really it is, no really really it really is fun oh who the heck am I kidding, it hurts and hurts and hurts but it has taught me to manage pain so much better.
I've learned how to 'pain gate' which basically means not thinking about the pain, just think about something else instead. If you saw Freddie Starr on I'm a Celebrity eating all sorts of awful 'food' he was able to do it because in his head he was elsewhere. I tried it in the London Triathlon this year on the run having swum in the Victoria Dock and cycled up and down the Lea Valley Way for nigh on an hour. As I pounded the concrete up and down from the Excel Centre alongside the Albert Dock I could see people suffering and walking and to be honest I didn't know why. In my head I was on holiday in Majorca and I knocked 6 minutes of my personal best.
I was also smiling like a man possessed because smiling releases endorphins so there am I a grinning idiot, pounding along looking like I'm on another planet wearing lycra, running shoes and smelling like the VIctoria Dock.
Next year on August 19th I'm going to be pounding along in lycra smelling like, and I kid you not, the River Ouse finishing a Half Ironman. Half an Ironman is of course F man and maybe one day I will be a full one you know the FE Man but until then I'm practising thinking about not doing it in order to be able to do it and to stick two fingers up at meningitis not to mention raising money for the Meningitis Trust.
I'm living proof that meningitis need not be the end of everything but can often be the start of something so much more fulfilling. You know I would live life every day like it was my last but to be honest I'm too busy thinking about something else!