Its probably worth putting in a little background on where this all started.
I’m Neil, and at the time of this tale starting was 42 and for many years, had been a heavy smoker. By heavy, I mean, peaked at 40 a day. Not only is that on the far right side of the scale marked ‘lethal’, but was also a £15 a day habit… that’s £5.5k per annum. Yep. Fuck.
I knew it was crazy, and had tried repeatedly to quit. Yet, I had made it to 2 days numerous times, a week a few times, and once to 3 months. But every time, there was eventual failure. The pressure of feeling low, and the disconnect from the group of ‘friends’ in the smoking shelter at work sucked me back in.
Fear, as the old adage goes, is a great motivator, and the long term worries of being a smoker were being supplemented with a lack of sleep. The lack of sleep being caused by a combination of (albeit mild) chest pains, and worrying about the chest pains. This couldn’t be normal could it?
Obviously, I needed to try quitting again, and to find a substitute addiction, although, in true Trait 1 style, I didn’t take the time to even realise this, let alone carefully pick the right one.
This time, after a few days, I went for a jog around the block. I had read extensively about the recovery timelines from smoking, and in particular about lung recovery and reduced blood pressure, and arterial blockage, and exercise was a constant theme. So I exercised. Or something resembling it. Or more accurately, something resembling a minor undocumented star in the process of its final destruction, glowing with a red colour rarely seen outside of observatories.
Remember Trait 1?… yep, in at the deep end. I bought running clothes, I bought running shoes, I downloaded running apps, and I ran. I died every time, but I ran. I needed a cigarette, so I ran.
2 weeks ticked by, 2 months ticked by. I ran.
Afraid of the 3 month point, my previous high-water mark, I applied my obsessive genes properly, and signed up to the Runners World forum, and joined in. There a community of likeminded individuals existed, a virtual support group if you like.
And I ran.
I threw away my running shoes, and had a proper gait assessment done, and bought a decent pair. And I ran.
It still hurt. Every run was agony. I limped. Every muscle in my both leg were injured at the same time. Some just sore, some a bit more. And I ran.
It makes me laugh when I look back now, as I was hitting 6 miles a week, and was incredibly proud of myself. Nowadays, that’s a gentle midweek run on its own.
3 months ticked by, and I ran. And I got cocky.
Never being one to take the easy path, I had strayed from the RW ‘beginners forum’ into other worldly lands, like the ‘training forum’ and for a laugh peeked at the ‘triathlon forum’.
And there they were.
It was like a choir of angels singing to me, basked in a golden yellow halo. It was like a homecoming. Here were a group of people, oddballs, normal, every shape and size, and spread around the country, and they did crazy stuff. I mean C.R.A.Z.Y stuff. And even better, like music for the soul of an extrovert of my standard, they did it dressed in ridiculous yellow Lycra, with a huge black skull and cross bones on it. Bloody marvellous. They were the legendary pirates.
So I joined in. Here was my ‘smoking shelter’ social group.
One week later, and I’ve signed up for a half Ironman triathlon, the Vitruvian. My first ever tri, and it’ll be a 1900m swim, a 56 mile bike, and a half marathon to finish.
2 weeks later, and before I’ve even started training for the half, I’ve signed up for Ironman Regensburg. a 3.8km swim, a 112 mile bike and a marathon. Fucking idiot.
So where did it go from here?
Via a bike shop to invest in my first ever road bike, and nice shiny Specialized Allez 16 speed, and various Internet emporiums to buy goodies like a wetsuit, as well as essential pirate clothing.
9 months after quitting, I stood at the start line of the 2010 Virtuvian half IronMan, with my good friend Alan (more on him later) acting as Sherpa. Or more accurately, I stood, ankle deep, in the edge of Rutland water, freezing cold while they delayed the start, waiting for the fog to clear enough for the competitors to see the first buoy. I breast stroked my way round, biked for my life and ran/walked the final leg. I finished in 6:15, a time that made me happy. I was happy because the pirates had contrived to get me pissed the night before…. not rip roaring pissed, just a bit merry…. not ideal prep, and one that my weak, malformed will-power failed to handle. Sadly, it also caught me unawares, and before I knew it, I had a packet of fags and was happily consuming them. So, my first ever triathlon, a distance that many would consider a bit daft for your first effort, and my prep was built upon getting drunk and starting smoking again the night before. Nice.
And that was that for a while. My wagon had no wheels.
The Ironman at Regensburg came and went. I didn’t toe the line. I rediscovered long lost friendships in the smoking shelter at work.