Swimming 1.2 miles in open water when you're scared of open water? Sounds good to me. Oh, and follow that by immediately leaping onto your bike and cycling 56 miles. Piece of cake. Ah, did I mention you fall off your bike and run for 13.1 miles at the end? Where do I sign...
And so I found myself signed up to a half ironman distance triathlon in November 2016, giving me 7 months to train before the event in May 2017. I had done a couple of sprint triathlons previously, and one standard distance triathlon, but nothing on this scale before. My triathlon journey began in 2015 - please see blog page Ashington Triathlon for information on this event.
This event was an enormous deal to me. It was the culmination of several years of gradually increasing amounts of exercise, beginning with turbo cycle sessions at a local class. From there I completed my first triathlon, but I always felt like I needed a bigger challenge. I wanted to raise money for, and awareness of, the Birth Trauma Association, which is a fantastic organisation that concentrates on supporting women, and their families, who have suffered from traumatic births. Sadly I was unaware of this support when I needed it most, and only became aware of it when I was searching for a worthy charity for my event. I set up a just giving page, went public and then there was no going back.
Although I had mentioned on social media in vague posts that I had suffered some sort of birth trauma, most people did not know that I had a stoma, or that it was the result of a difficult child birth. It was huge leap for me to go public, and to divulge in such detail what had happened, but I realised that in order to raise money, you have to bare your soul a bit.
I started training in earnest straight away, anxious that the challenge was too big for me to successfully complete in time, and to give myself the best possible chance of success. Turbo training session on my bike at 5:30am became the norm, my breath misting the air as the garage doesn't have heating and is fecking baltic in the winter. I was working full-time, my husband was working away and of course I also had the small matter of a 5 year old to look after too. I had enormous help and support from my family with childcare, for which I am eternally grateful.
The Birth Trauma Association event vest arrives. A seminal moment in my journey from trauma to recovery.
Open water swimming begins in a disgusting duck shit filled lake. Yuck. Weeds touching my legs. NO.
To the start, 5:30am race day. I was literally and figuratively crapping myself. Luckily I have a bag for that...
The end. 7 hours of torture, with a torn adductor from training, cramp in my legs. I crossed the line sobbing and emotional. I couldn't believe I had done it. I just broke down, so overwhelmed by the last few years, and euphoric at how far I had come. It was always much more than a triathlon to me, it was proof to myself that I could still do amazing things, that I could push myself and achieve things I thought were impossible. That moment as I crossed the line will live with me forever.