I started the 2013/14 season with three goals and some trepidation as to how to achieve them. Now, as we celebrate the end of the season, I can look back and reflect on how it has unfolded.
Back surgery
Up until now, I haven’t talked about the back surgery I had in May last year.
I underwent a lumber discectomy for a herniated disc pressing on my sciatic nerve, which was causing crippling pain. The operation was a complete success, but my exercise was limited until the beginning of August. My first race of the season was only six weeks later.
The Sunshine Coast Half Ironman came up far too early. I had six weeks to train and was struck down with a foot injury just two weeks before the race.
My swim time was around what I expected – 45 minutes for 1.9k – but transition from swim to bike was a disaster. I struggled to get my breathing under control and had a lot of trouble removing my wetsuit resulting in a transition of over ten minutes.
The bike leg started out strong but the lack of preparation showed the longer I went on resulting in a 3hr 38min bike leg. Unfortunately, the combination of a slow swim, slow transition and bike leg meant I didn’t make the cutoff time to start the run.
In hindsight, the result was reflective of my preparation for the race but it did give me a good hit out and a guide to where I was in relation to the full Ironman races that were my main goal.
The Coach
After the Sunshine Coast race, Leanne and I decided to look for a coach to guide us through our Ironman journey.
Toby Somerville was recommended to us by a number of people and turned out to be the right choice. Toby designed programs that were achievable but pushed us to our limits until Melbourne Ironman. After Melbourne, our programs were less demanding but well targeted.
For me a measure of a good coach is their ability to extract PB’s without over taxing the athlete, particularly an athlete with COPD. Toby has certainly been able to do that.
Looking back at what has transpired over the last ten months, I feel proud and relieved – proud of what my mind has convinced my body it can achieve although at times mind and body didn’t see eye to eye; relieved that my body got through it in good order.
The one thing always in the back of my mind when I’m pushing my body this much is how it will cope in the days after the race. Recovery after Melbourne and Cairns was much better than my first race at Port Macquarie, so I guess my body is coping well.
Third goal
As well as showing people with lung disease that exercise can make a big difference to your quality of life, my main priority in doing Ironman has always been to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation through Donate Life.
Judging by the response I’ve had from people through this blog and while out training or racing, I’ve been able to go some way in achieving this goal.
What’s next
A well-earned rest, at least for a few weeks – my body deserves it.
So far, we have two races penciled in: the Harvey Bay 100 in November and the Raby Bay sprint in December. As for Ironman: three down and one to go to realise my dream of completing all four Ironman races in Australia.
Two standout moments
One was hearing about a daughter in the UK who read my blog and told her Dad about it. He had a lung disease and credited my blog forgetting him off his scooter and on to a walking frame to exercise.
The other was a young boy with chronic asthma telling his Mum he wanted to do an Ironman after seeing what I’d achieved .
This makes it all worthwhile.

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