24 hours isn't enough time to get over yesterday's events at Ironman Wales - all I want is for the ground to swallow me up. Publicly talking about this year is the last thing I want to do, but I owe it to those who have always supported me and continue to do so, through the good times and the bad.
2015 was all about chasing races and points to qualify for the Ironman World Championships - a goal which I knew would be challenging, yet believed was achievable. Such a goal comes with one of only two outcomes: success or failure. I was determined it would be the former. 4th at Ironman Wales 2014 was a decent start, so I was excited for 2015. The season opener at Geelong 70.3 was a good test and I was pleased with my performance, with everything indicating the things were on track for two Ironman's in March. However, carrying illness into Ironman New Zealand led to a DNF, as well as withdrawal from Ironman Melbourne two weeks later. This is where the (self-inflicted) mistakes began.
Rather than take the time to regroup, get healthy and reassess the race schedule, I bounced from race to race, looking for the nearest opportunity to get qualification points. I didn't give myself enough time to carefully plan out the remainder of the season and get back to full fitness. Racing Ironman Taiwan in April was far too soon and a 6th place finish did little to significantly boost my points tally. Starved of points, I raced three weeks later at Ironman Australia, finishing 5th. I'd reached the maximum amount of three scoring Ironman's, but I needed to improve on my weakest result. Desperate to secure qualification before the first July cut-off, all sense went out the window with what came next.
Four weeks later I travelled 40+ hours from Australia to Brazil for the Latin American Ironman Championships. With extra points on offer, a strong field assembled, yet a good result would clinch qualification. Expecting my body to perform at its best for the third Ironman in seven weeks was naïve, stupid, and I own that. I was flat, had a poor swim, poor bike and poor run. Pride carried me to the finish line in 13th. In seven weeks I'd put my body through hell and it did what most would... it broke.
June brought my first injury in years, forcing time out from running. Weeks of inconsequential run volume and 10-15 minute treadmill runs was all I could handle. But I kept going - I believed the dream was still alive. For the first time all year I went back to basics. Ironman Japan fell on the last day of 2015 qualification, giving me an 8-week build. I was confident that was enough time to get where I needed to be. Finally I put together a great training block, slowly shaking the injury with the help of Star Physio. Physically I was mending, yet mentally I was breaking. The internal pressure I'd placed on myself to succeed was building... bubbling up and I was unable to control it. 24/7 all I could think about were points. There were nights where I couldn't sleep and felt nauseous because the fear of failure was creeping up on me. Failure would mean I'd let not just myself down, but my girlfriend, family and everyone who's believed in me and supported me. I wasn't going to let that happen. That fear kept me going, kept me motivated and kept me honest. I made it to Japan fit and healthy, with the best fitness I'd built all season. I was ready. One day to push my body farther than ever before and the goal would be met - I was supremely confident.
Flatting around mile 60 was a huge setback, yet I was calm, made the repair and got going again. When the second flat came at mile 85 my heart sank. I had spares for one repair, not two. In the middle of Japanese countryside I sat, with the realisation that the dream I'd chased all year wasn't just slipping away, it had already gone. Silent, still, emotionally shut-down, I waited for close to an hour for technical support, who switched wheels for me. My race was over, but I got back on my bike and pedalled softly back to transition. Tears rolled down my face as I finally appreciated what had happened.
To have the outcome taken out of my control was gut wrenching. Of all the races where back luck could strike, I wished it wasn't this one. Not on the day where 12 months of work would be determined as either a success or failure. That's what made it hard to take - not because it led to a DNF, but because it dictated what I'd done for the previous year, a year where I'd worked harder than ever before. There were no more chances.
I was down, but determined not to be out. The 2015 season was over, but I could still dictate how 2016 began. I signed up for Ironman Wales and made another across-the-globe trip to kick-start the 2016 campaign. When I flatted at mile 40 and saw the damage I felt sick. A 3/4 inch slice through the tyre wouldn't hold another inner tube (...I tried). Game over. 3 weeks after Japan I found myself in the same place, this time in Welsh countryside, contemplating the meaning of life. If it's a game of trials and tribulations, then I'm ready for some of the latter. Of course part of me wants to give up, walk away and play it safe in an alternate career. In the last few weeks (and especially the last 24 hours) I've thought about it. But I'll continue to take what's thrown at me, because I've got something to prove.
It's the hard times where you need people most, so to Kate, my family, friends, sponsors and supporters, thank you for being there.
*Being extremely particular about equipment selection, the flats at Ironman Japan and Ironman Wales weren't connected. Different tyres, inner tubes and rim tape were used at these races, all with minimal use.