How I qualified for Kona, despite being hit by a car during the race

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25.07.18 at 11:19 am

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“The swim went well, before I was hit by a car at mile 60 of the bike leg, sending me sprawling over his bonnet and onto the road.”

For the last 7 months I’ve been focusing all my efforts on just one race; Ironman UK. I’ve never put so much energy and time into one event; it was pretty much all-consuming and occupied my thoughts on a daily basis. I was balancing training alongside a full-time job, therefore it was really important that I made the most of every second I had available outside of work. Planning in advance was compulsory if I wanted to get myself into the best shape possible, and qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona.

I used to be a man without a plan. Making it up as I went along with no real structure, which meant training consisted of what I enjoyed the most; running. This would’ve been great if I was trying to be a good runner, but the fact that I was now focusing on triathlon meant that I just wasn’t getting the results that I wanted.

Hooking up with a coach has been instrumental in my year on year improvement in the sport. For the first year I worked with Dan Holmes, from Profile PT, before this season forming a relationship with Paul Burton, who took the title of ‘Sporting Director’. We sat down and decided that my swim and bike needed significant improvement if I want to achieve my goals and objectives, and so set about following a plan to make that happen.

Joe with his sporting director Paul Burton

The winter and spring consisted of plenty of hard turbo sessions in my spare room; not glamorous, but necessary to start building up the strength required for the Ironman bike leg. The sessions followed a logical progression, adding in duration or further intensity each week. All endurance athletes will be able to relate to the satisfactory feeling of progressing week on week and being able to see and feel the positive effects on your fitness. Once the weather improved and I was able to get outside I couldn’t believe the change in my riding; I was hitting numbers I couldn’t have dreamed of 6 months ago.

Swimming is my arch enemy. We’ve never really seen eye to eye, but I’d like to think we’ve now got a mutual agreement in place. If I put in enough hard work and effort, the sea/lake/river will allow me a safe passage to T1. Again, this would never be possible without a plan. Regular sessions with Ray at Swim Canary Wharf (http://www.swimcanarywharf.com/) to work on my stroke and efficiency  in the water alongside many, many hours of swimming drills and vomit-inducing 100m intervals have helped me become slightly more competitive in the water. Notice I use the word slightly here.

With 12 weeks to go Paul and I drew up a battle plan, with a block of 3 weeks training followed by a week of easier recovery work. Glancing over the schedule, every other session looked absolutely terrifying, and I wondered how I’d even get through week 1. However, I knew trusting in the plan and ticking off one workout at a time would get me into the best shape possible.

Sometimes, as an age-grouper, real life gets in the way and it’s not possible to nail each and every week. I think it’s important not to go chasing missed sessions and dig yourself into a hole fatigue wise; just trust that the work you’re doing over the weeks and months will get you over the line.

Coming into race week, I felt more prepared than ever before. The training doesn’t stop with the physical side of things though. In events such as an Ironman, the mental preparation is arguably just as important. I spent time in the last few days going through my ‘weak point plan’; a few key things I was going to go through in my head when times got particularly challenging. I also knew at some point during the day, my body was going to ask me some serious questions around why I was putting myself through this and telling me to stop; I needed to be ready with some answers.

Race day dawned and I felt more relaxed then I ever had before; no doubt down to the fact that I’d put my faith in a plan and done everything I possibly could to have a good race. I won’t subject you to a full race-report (this can be read over on my blog), but it was a roller coaster of a day. The swim went well, before I was hit by a car at mile 60 of the bike leg, sending me sprawling over his bonnet and onto the road.

At that point, I thought it was race over, as I lay on the floor thinking that at the very least my bike must be completely mangled. Miraculously, it still appeared to be one piece, with the bigger problem being that my left leg was in a fair bit of pain and I had some nasty road rash to show for it. I owed it to myself to at least try and get to the end of the bike course, so ignoring the protestations of the passers by trying to give me some medical assistance, I hopped back on and tried to get riding again.

Joe in the medical tent after being hit by a car

It wasn’t pretty, but I made it on to the run, shocked to learn I’d ridden myself into 2nd in my age group, and into a potential qualifying spot for the World Championships. Any thoughts of pulling the plug went out the window, even though I was running with a bit of a limp. It was just going to be a case of hanging on for 26 miles, and trusting that the plan had worked, even if I did only have one fully functioning leg.

The support from my friends and family on the run course was absolutely immense, and I doubt I’d have got through without seeing them out there and hearing their shouts of encouragement. Coming into the final mile, I had fallen to 3rd, but I was pretty sure this was going to be enough to qualify for Kona. Coming into the finishing chute, I was overwhelmed with emotion as I realised that all the hard work and smart training had paid off; I was going to Hawaii!

One week on and the result still hasn’t really sunk in. A few years ago I was just starting out in triathlon, hoping to just finish an Olympic distance race within the time cut-offs. I’ve now qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. Following and executing a perfect plan has allowed me to achieve my dreams, and much more than I ever thought would be possible.

 

Joe crossing the Ironman UK finish line, successfully qualifying for Kona

 


 

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