Fail First

Goal: Qualify for Ironman World Championships

Result: Fail (for now)

11 months ago I crossed the finish line of Ironman Western Australia knowing things needed to change. I’d finished in 9:58, about 20 minutes away from qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, but that 20 minutes felt like a million miles. Up until 20km into the marathon (which follows a 3.8km swim and a 180km bike) things were all going to plan, but then my body went into shut down, my legs slowed to a shuffle and I even said aloud “I don’t want to go to Kona”. And there it is, the reality of the mental battle of endurance sports, there is never that moment you train for, the moment you come face to face with pain and surge through it, instead it’s siege warfare. It grinds you into submission, to the point at which you just don’t care anymore, at least until you’ve crossed the finish line and you suddenly wish you could have dug deeper.

So that was that, let’s try again next year I told myself, but let’s try harder.

First step, get a coach. Clayton Fettell entered the ranks to bring order to the chaos of my previous training plan. Structure and consistency, 15 hour training weeks become the norm, early mornings don’t get easier but the sessions get done, most of the time. Chloe get’s used to it, then she gets into it, then she starts smashing it. Suddenly it’s October and we’re both up at 5am every morning, sharing the turbo trainer, sharing training tips, sharing concerns about niggles and soreness and the highs and lows of that days training.

15 hour weeks become 24 hour weeks, 10km swimming, 400km cycling, 80km running. Infra-red saunas for recovery, meal prep every night, stretch, roll, sleep. Routine is key and consistency is king. Momentum is building, heart rates are dropping, pace is quickening, body fat disappearing. Well some of it.

1 month out from Ironman Western Australia 2019. A shot at making it to the big dance. Time for a practice race. Noosa, Olympic distance, warm the legs up. Huge waves and a monster rip changes swim course to a beach run, 1km swim and another beach run before heading out on the bike. Hard sand on soft feet, danger. Get on bike and feel great, steady watts and head down, PB ride averaging 41km/h. Get off bike and left foot hurts. Trainers on, time to go full gas. Hold on foot really hurts. Keep running you can do it. Lots of pain but cross finish line, now can’t walk. Get back to Sydney straight to A&E for an X-Ray. Fractured 3rd metatarsal. Recovery, 6-8 weeks.

And that’s that. For the best part of 9 months this race has been on my mind every day, each week provides a new challenge, what social event do I need to try and not drink too much at, what session is going to be hard to fit in, what equipment do I need to buy, what nutrition do I need to practice with. It’s not just a case of going for a ride, run or swim, it’s 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle of a white room. Ok maybe not quite that hard but still.

Everyone is sympathetic, but most don’t know the full extent of what was invested in it, I’d written 9,500 works of the 10,000 word dissertation and then the computer crashed. “It’s all part of the journey” I’ll say to people, which is true but it doesn’t mean it isn’t f**king annoying.

And then you quickly get perspective, you read the story of Claire Danson, who was dominating her age group at triathlons only to have an accident and be paralysed from the waist down. Or a colleague’s husband who had a random seizure at home and a scan found a brain tumour. Or a mate’s brother who feels a lump and finds out it’s testicular cancer. The list goes on…

Success takes focus but sometimes that focus makes you lose sight of the bigger things in life. Failure brings those things sharply back into sight. I live in the most beautiful place on earth and I have a new fiancée. Life couldn’t be better.

Bones heal, I’ll be back. But for now I’m going to lose focus, grow some leg hair and have a beer.

Leave a comment