There is something about airports and waiting for a flight that always inspires me to write and take the time. I suppose it is because of less distractions and you naturally begin to reflect. At first, I was quite frustrated at myself for not writing for so long, I really do love to write, to reflect and share. But then in a way it’s okay, I want to write when it feels right for me. When it feels like the time to put down thoughts, take the step back and share. Not be stuck to some routine or made-up deadlines.
It's been a strange year to say the least, a year where I went from completely directionless and lost to having such a strong target and ambition almost from nowhere. I went from MRI scans, doctor appointments constant second guessing to feeling fitter and stronger than ever, planning an approach to a World Championships and racing in some of the most incredible locations in the World. Naturally like most of us I feel I have taken some of it for granted, not stopped to appreciate how far I have come or where I’m going. But really that is the beauty of the process, once you are on that train you can’t really stop and jump off you have to just go along with the ride.
It's three weeks until the Ironman World Championships in Nice, a race I always had a hope of racing and being at, but it seemed like the boat had sailed earlier in the year. Despite qualifying before I’ve never been to an Ironman Worlds and Kona didn’t do much for me. However, with such a tough demanding course Nice suits me and my style of racing. Until June I really couldn’t run much beyond 15kms and certainly not at a fast pace, but I did feel I could give racing a go at Rapperswill 70.3 and see if I got through. This turned into one of my best 70.3 performances and a big confidence booster, sure the half marathon wasn’t my best, but it was enough. Enough to feel I could push on and possibly finish a marathon. The swim and bike shape were there, the physio was working well, and I wanted to roll the dice.
I lined up for Ironman Switzerland for the second year after the shortest preparation period I’ve done, hoping I could perform on the day and just finish such a beautiful race. I won’t go into details or the emotions but after around 9 hours 15 minutes in brutal 35+ degree heat I crossed the line completely empty, just over a 3-hour marathon and 5th in age group, 8th overall. A performance that meant more to me than many before, a performance that went beyond time, numbers, and goals. But it was almost a re-set, a moment to feel back, in control and where I wanted to be. To run down that finish line again having achieved what I set out to do, to enjoy the day and feel those emotions again is hard to explain. Moments like that go beyond racing, for me it’s something much deeper, possibly a search of meaning, of purpose and happiness.
Even writing this I’m not sure I let the performance or day sink it, I’m not sure I really could process it all and what it meant to me. In the build-up to Switzerland the most important thing for me was to enjoy the training, to not have pressure or expectation to enjoy the moments and not take it for granted. I wanted to enjoy the day, to go all in but remember the hard times that led to the start line. Sure, I wasn’t as fit as I wanted to be, but sometimes it’s about much more than that. Courage and strength can come from just standing on the beach looking at the sunrise over the Eiger feeling ready to start and willing to go all in.
After Switzerland I also managed to race Alpe Dhuez triathlon for the fifth time. Once again, a race that means a lot to me and inspires me to push myself to new limits and not take any of this for granted. I always feel a deep sense of happiness arriving back in the Alps, the fresh clean air, mountain views and perspective it always seems to give me. Again, I went into this race very relaxed, a chance to have a day out in the mountains, push hard and soak it all in. I even was enjoying the 20km downhill ride to race start in 7 degrees with some music in the ears and a smile on my face. These environments and races give me something that’s hard to describe I think many readings this will understand but those feels are hard to emulate.
The race itself went very well, I had one of those rare days where the legs could push, push and push some more. I was climbing better than ever, holding high numbers, and just felt super strong. I’m fortunate to race in the professional race and it was brilliant to be “in” the race for most of the day. I knew I was having a good day coming to the Alpe Dhuez climb and pushed hard before the run with the run still being a question mark. Off the bike the legs felt just as good, a super strong run one of the best of the day and home in 28th, a 15-minute PB and another feeling of being back.
After the race I sat for a while up the mountain on a chairlift watching the sunset. Honestly, I was quite emotional, I reflected on all the shit I had been through the dark times, the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with those moments. Yet here I was having finished another long-distance race, performed better than before and was enjoying it more than ever. I felt I was where I needed and wanted to be, that in a strange roundabout way maybe everything that had happened was okay, it was time to accept that and move on.
I also made a conscious decision, as much as I want to race well and perform in Nice I want to enjoy this build up and the race itself. I didn’t think I’d ever be there; I did not think I’d get into this shape and feel ready for a second ironman in one year. But here I am, a few weeks out, fit, healthy, strong, and happy. I had written off this year, sure I never quite gave up and maybe deep down I knew I would come back but it has taken time, highs, lows, questions and answers. I pride myself on my resilience but we all only have so much in our back pocket. I’m fortunate that some incredible people have kept me going, got me back into one piece and I’m thankful for them. But ultimately, I’m proud of myself for being where I am and I’m excited for what’s to come. I think life is going between moments of feeling exactly where you want to be and feeling lost, right now I’m in a good place and let’s see what comes next.