Thank you everyone that logged on over the weekend and tried to track me on Ironman live only to realise that I wasn’t living up to my mantra of “keep moving forward”. I couldn’t on account of being in hospital, but before we go into details let’s go through my weekend.
I went down to Bolton with my good friend Chris Wild to register in the marque at the Reebok stadium. I was calm on the outside but buzzing on the inside as the volunteer placed the Ironman competitor bracelet on my wrist. Things suddenly felt real.
We had a look in the store and I bought Charlotte a cow bell to shake at Daddy on Sunday. Despite there being some cool race merchandise something inside told me not to buy anything before I heard those immortal words on Sunday night as I crossed the line “Andrew, you are an Ironman.”
I also met up with Viking who’d picked up Charlottes race pack for her IronKids race. It was great to see him. I had a good feeling about the weekend ahead.
Today was a very busy day but mostly it was about our 3yr old dynamo Charlotte. The weather was horrible but the enthusiasm of almost 3000 kids as they ran through the streets of Bolton was heart warming to see. Charlotte was running in the ‘nursery’ age group so Daddy got to run the 500 metres with her. That’s like a marathon to a 3yr old. I was expecting her to stop after a minute and ask for a carry but she amazed me by running without stopping. The mayoress gave her her medal and she beamed when she had it around her neck. She was still beaming when she joined me for a pre-arranged TV interview at the finish with the producers of the Channel 4 ironman show. She took it all in her stride and I was so proud of her.
Saturday was also about racking and handing bags in here there and what felt like everywhere but you can’t fault Ironman for organisation. What could have been a colossal pain in the arse was a smooth operation thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers. I got recognised a lot as I wandered around in my COLT hoody, even the guy who handed out the race chips recognised me. Still very weird, don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.
That night I stayed at Chris Wilds house as it was much closer than my house, which was a help and I slept soundly.
I was up at 3.20am, if Ironman wasn’t hard enough you have to get up at the crack of Dawn. Some lovely porridge courtesy of MasterChef Wild and it was time to go.
We arrived at the Reebok (transition2) to catch a bus to the swim start. Met the first person of the day to tell me “it’s all your fault Holgs” – it wasn’t the last time I’d hear it, that came in an ambulance later.
Hugs off COLT legend and landlord of COLT Alley Phil Watson and his mate Rob who would go on to have a storming day. From there I joined a huge toilet queue and then it was 5.45. Got my wetsuit on and headed to the start. “It’s all your fault Holgs” came the familiar voice of my mate Gary Hill, a top bloke who was about to have the hardest day of his life to achieve a dream which at times he doubted was possible. With him was club mate Annette who despite a stomach bug would go on to great things that day. She really is a remarkable woman. I took it all in, spoke to others who blamed me and looked at the nervous faces and I loved ever glorious second of it. It was intoxicating. This was OUR day.
Into the water for the first of two laps of Pennington Flash. The water was a lovely temperature, only spoiled by the excess weeds in the shallows that must have felt to the nervous newcomer like a thousand hands pulling them into the depths of Hades. I moved slowly but purposely towards the deep water start line, keeping towards the right. The national anthem played and then The hooter sounded and 2000 warriors moved forward in a splashing roar of intent. It was the usual tangle of limbs at first but then it settled down, there was free water, there was space. Was this really an Ironman?
Before I knew it the pontoon was under my feet and I was on my way back to the start for lap two. 39 minutes, I was chuffed, I was feeling strong and my watched showed I was on form.
The second lap was much slower because after the final turn bouy it was like 300m of constant assault. I got battered, kicked, punched and even head butted as someone swam head first into me. It was carnage and I was glad to get out of the water.
My calves both cramped as I tried to stand and I had to be pulled to my feet. Never suffered with that before but once I started running to T1 my legs woke up. High fives with COLT mates as I ran past.
I’d done 1.25 and felt easy. I smiled as I ran into the crowded change tent. 10 minutes later I ran out completely changed and full of hope for the challenge ahead of me. As I reached my bike the TV camera man was there to capture my words “loved the swim, hard bit over with, can’t wait for this!”
I got to the mount line in a crowd, I got on and rode. Seconds later my garmin beeped to say it had picked up a satellite and the clock started ticking. Looking down for a second this made me smile. We crossed the bridge onto the tree lined park approach, I took great care with the first couple of speed bumps unlike others who were dangerously flying over them. I approached the third and then it was a blur, suddenly I was staring at a fast approaching wall of Tarmac as I sailed with force over the handlebars. Crack. I heard the sickening sound as I landed on my shoulder. I tried to move but pain pinned me down. Slowly I brought my bloody right arm across my body to feel my left shoulder. There was no mistaking the golf ball sized lump that that had appeared. It was Game Over, my Ironman dream gone for now.
Several wonderful ladies from NEWT tri club got me to the side of the road and out of the way of the bikes whiz zing past. They looked after me as I sat there crying, a horrible mixture of pain, shock, frustration and disbelief. I can’t thank them enough. They said that a fellow competitor hit a speed bump and his gels etc shot off his bike, taking down my bike. A complete freak accident!
They even rang Em and my Dad who were just about to set off to watch the bike. Plans instantly changed. I sobbed and apologised to Em for letting them down. She cried with me. They would come and find me in hospital later.
After what seemed like an eternity I was seen by medics and loaded into the ambulance. The ambulance crew were brilliant, one of them had read my books and completed the Outlaw half this year in a cracking time. The pain was unbearable as they cut my COLT top from my road rash covered body. The gas and air kept me from screaming as they applied a sling to my useless left arm.
I was taken to Wigan hospital where I was treated. I was amazed when Viking turned up and sat with me for several hours. He would go on to pick bags up for me in Bolton whilst club mates got my bike. When something like this happens you really know who you friends are. We had a good chat although I have no idea what I said in pain killer stupor.
I’d badly damaged my shoulder and would need to see a surgeon on my return to Lancaster.
I got home and lay on the bed taking messages and calls from concerned friends whilst tracking others online. It was surreal lying there in pain knowing that I should have been running a marathon at that point. I smiled when Gary finished, he was the last COLT home and I couldn’t help but call him to offer my congrats. We’d been thru good and bad together on this journey and it felt like the right thing to do.
I tried to sleep but couldn’t, I don’t expect I’ll be sleeping comfortably for a while.
I saw the surgeon today, it wasn’t the news I was hoping for. I’ve tried to stay positive since Sunday but I had the wind punched out of me this afternoon. I’ve fractured my AC joint ( point where arm, collarbone and shoulder meet). It’s in the worst possible place, too thin and fragile to pin like they did with Mark Cavendish recently. I’ll be in a sling for a few weeks and have been told I will be in pain and have limited mobility for up to six months. Add in the fact that because of the location of the break my collarbone will now permanently be dislocated, popping and grating at will then it’s not a good outlook especially when it comes to swimming. That could be up to 12 months if ever. Ever is a long time! I’m gutted but have perspective, I’m alive and mostly well. I have more in my life than a lot of people dream of, family and friends won’t let me wallow. The messages I’ve received since Sunday show that.
So I’m going to rest, recoup and read on how to get stronger, how I can overcome this weakness, how I can start moving forward again. Seeing all the delight in my friends finishers photos is driving me on. I’ll defy the odds and comeback stronger.
I owe Ironman at least one more dance.
(Ps : sorry for any mistakes, this is typed with one finger on my iPad in a pain killer haze)