This challenge was to help raise awareness and funds for The Hypermobility Syndromes Association. The challenge was simple but took a lot of dedication and metal toughness. All I had to do was a 70.3 (half Iron distance) triathlon, but twice a weekend for six months!
Inspired by James Lawrence (The Iron Cowboy), who completed 50 full Ironman triathlon in 50 days, I wanted to have a challenge that pushed me but would also fit in around my job. This was a test of my mental and physical endurance, so I teamed up with Solent University Applied Sports Science department who took great care of me throughout the training and and all the events, in return for real world data. No stone was left unturned from sports psychology, vo2 max testing and power outputs. I had a great team that looked after me and I couldn’t have completed the 52 events without them. I had so many people and companies supporting me for this mammoth task. Without their kindness this charity challenge would have cost so much to complete. I have always said I was just the front-man and these people were the ones keeping me going. You can’t do things like this alone, they are true heroes.
I applied to the Guinness Book Of Records before starting the challenge, they came back to me agreeing that it could be a record attempt; however the stipulations were so tight and would have cost us more than we had targeted to raise. The main requirement was for each event to be an official event, unfortunately these races only tend to happen on Sundays in the UK, so we would have had to travel all over Europe to tick this off. The decision was made that the record wasn’t important and to focus on the task at hand.
The 1st April came round and event one was go, this would be one of the many unofficial events. The unofficial events were good as it gave many people the chance to join me for part or all of the event. I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who either swam, cycled or ran with me over the 52 events. This support was key in keeping me going throughout the challenge. Anyway back to event one, unfortunately I had picked up a cold and just wanted to start off slowly, the swim was solid and I was feeling good as I met with a friend who joined me for a two lapped route on the bike. The bike was going well but I felt the miles on lap two, I soon realised that my taper had been too long and I was paying for it. However the cycle was soon over and it was on to the run. I was aiming to work within a heart rate zone that I had been training with, but due to my cold it meant I was having to walk much more than I wanted or felt like I needed too, it was annoying but I knew why. The following day was almost a carbon copy of event one and I felt like I was letting down a mate who joined me for the run, with the start stop nature of the run.
I started to settle into the pace of things over the following few weekends before starting to feel really comfortable around weekend 5. During this time I was now in the lake for swimming and had started my official events. There were good and bad days, but I had to focus on the good parts of every event and not dwell on the bad bits. The runs always seem to be slower than I had planned for but this was a challenge of endurance and not about lighting up timing screens. My body was taking a battering every weekend but the recovery plans we had put in place were working well and I was always ready to go every Saturday morning. The worst day was Wednesday, as this seemed to be the day my body didn’t want to play, I was always so tired.
The other side to a challenge like this is promoting it, I was fine doing the events but felt out of my comfort zone when it came to newspaper and radio interviews. They got easier the further I progressed along the challenge and we had fantastic coverage in newspapers, magazines and online triathlon sites. Then came my biggest test, a television interview! It’s not like I was going to be on prime time television but the nerves really kicked in. The finished interview can be viewed on this website (videos section) if you wish to see the very wooden performance from myself!
The events were flying by and the end was getting really close, when 3 weekends before the end I had my first real injury. I had upset the tendons in my ankle, after lots of discussions the decision was taken to tape it up (physio tape, best thing ever) and do the entire weekend in the gym!! In total that’s 2.4 miles in the pool, 112 miles on the Wattbike and 26.2 miles on a treadmill, I hate running on a treadmill! That seemed like the longest weekend ever, I watched people come and go while I pushed through managing the injury and being sensible (I don’t do sensible). The following week I was still strapped up but the pain was much less. The end was in sight and there was no way I wasn’t going to finish.
My final weekend was just amazing. I had a new, I would say, spring in my step, but after fifty 70.3 triathlons there wasn’t much spring left, let’s call it confidence. The support I had received throughout the events multiplied over the weekend, so many people swam, cycled and ran with me over those last two events; it was amazing. My emotions were all over the place come event 52, I was glad, but also sad it was almost over. My final run was loops of Hedge End and onlookers must have thought I was Forrest Gump with the amount of people I had with me. I turned the corner towards the Ageas Bowl for the final time to see family and friends awaiting to cheer me home, I took my little girls hand and ran across the finish line to a round of applause; such an amazing feeling.
A few weeks later we had a celebration evening and again people came out in force. In total with the challenge and the evening they had helped us raise over £5000 for the Hypermobility Syndromes Association. Our aim was simple to help raise money and awareness, the money raised has gone to help raise awareness by educating GP’s. We will of course keep working with the HMSA in the future to keep raising awareness and funds.
I met and made many new friends throughout the challenge, from the students at the university to my now new club mates of my second claim triathlon club. I can’t thank everyone who supported me throughout my challenge enough. Thanks to everyone who donated, you have help make a massive difference.