Tuesday 5 August 2014

Well I wasn't expecting that!

When I started this Blog I always had in mind that this post-race post title would just be the race finish time in all its glory.  Nothing more, nothing less.   So reading an alternative title may have some of you not close to me (who don't already know) immediately assuming a problem of sorts. Well, what a problem!!
It's been over a week since the event to this post.  There is a reason!

Official Outlaw 2014 results read:

Entrant #616  Will Farrell

Swim split           1:19:39
Transition ONE          7:20
Bike split             6:08:12
Transition TWO        8:35

Result:  DNF


So what happened?  Sit down and read this in your lunch break.  This is going to be epic!

Although during the two week taper I'd been going through the highs and lows emotionally, for the weekend of the event I was really buzzing and looking forward to it.  Not one bit of nerves.  I had my race kit laid out on the table during the week before, packed the car calmly on the Friday.  No panic about leaving anything (rare for me).  The car journey up to Nottingham was relaxed and uneventful.
We arrived at the National Waters ports Centre around 11:00 and took a gentle stroll around the complex to check out what was going on.  Everything was easy.
I met up with a couple of club-mates also taking part and we trundled off to the mandatory Race Briefing.  Now given that the temperature was mid to high 20's, being stuffed in a tent with a few hundred other competitors was the only low point of the day.  The briefing effectively covered everything that we'd been sent in various emails and info packs leading up to the race.  one or two minor things new, but for that hour we were all sitting in a sauna that we could all do without.
Briefing out of the way and we all headed our separate ways for the rest of the day.  Mine was just to relax and soak in the experience.  I racked my bike, filled the various transition bags and I was fit to go.

Race Day

..... began at 4:00 with breakfast and the 20 minute journey to the venue.  Still no nerves.  Really ready to go.
I checked over the kit one more time and I was ready. 
The buzz as competitors gradually donned their wetsuits and made their way to the waterside.  The lake seemed to create this magnetic draw towards it like a vacuum created especially for wetsuits.  There was a massive sense of expectation.  The lemmings blindly jumping from the jetty into the morning bath.  I was not first in!!  As I pawed the pleasantly warm water, I remember thinking that the sight looks like a surreal for of fair-ground 'Hook-a-Duck' with millions of mini heads bobbing up and down.

Team mates Sal and Garry beckoned me in and I took the plunge.  The draw of the water took me to a position about 10 meters from the front of the pack and in a little space.  Perfect.  As the count-down to Start drew close the kayak marshals were rounding up the adventurous amongst us forcing them back towards the start line.  This meant that the space around me was diminishing and I became surrounded by swimmers.  Holy shit! Just as I thought I was in the clear, I'd found my way to be about 2 meters from the front and slap bang in the middle of the pack.
The ring-master in the Mic called out to the count-down and we all joined in, seemingly like it was happening to someone else .... Five, Four, Three, Two, One And we're off .....

Now, I was absolutely expecting the bar-brawl of a swim for the first 10 minutes or so.  It seems a common theme with mass-start swims.  Don't get me wrong.  Nobody goes out of their way to lump you in the cheek-bone but it's simple logistics.  You can't get everyone through a course without a little 'contact', but bloody Jesus!  The position that I had myself in at the start was a massive factor.  It was ridiculous.  I has people literally swimming UP my back and forcing me to almost swim completely upright.  Similarly, I remember taking a stroke with my left arm and hitting something.  While taking a breath at the same time I saw some poor bugger with my elbow stuck to the end of his nose.  Sorry mate!  
I had assumed that this will ease off by 500m, but oh no.  There were some swimming with their eyes completely closed!  There was plenty of room, but people persisted in trying to use me as a bloody spring-board for their own gain. Yes, I do admit it.  I don't usually kick very hard when swimming, but I kicked a little harder when this happened.  Sue me!
By the time you hit the turn-round point at 1900m (ish) you'd expect a bit of 'time' to negotiate the buoys at the far end of the lake, but oh no!  We were still 4 / 5 abreast.  I took a wide line!
All of this meant that establishing a nice consistent rhythm just didn't happen.  I was looking forward to conservative but purposeful swim just like the lake training had gone.  Dream on!!
So the result, On the way back in I was resigned to the fact that the swim was only a means to an end (the bike), so I tried as much as possible to catch the feet of anyone (most people) passing me and see it home.  I didn't know my swim time until the Tuesday afternoon.  1 hour 19 minutes and 39 seconds.  Now I had advertised a 1:30 swim, but was actually aiming for 1:20, so naturally over the moon with the time.  Bang on!  just need to concentrate on a bit of outright speed to try and avoid the maul next time (!). 
I was however, feeling well and not at all tired.  I had not expected this.

Transition ONE from the swim to bike when very well.  First name-check of the day to the ATC crew that had arrived and where right by the swim exit - Step up Captain Lee G.  Nice :) Me - Nice and calm through the change.  No dramas.

Trot out to the bike and to locate the trusty steed.  Another small trot to the bike mount line and away I go.  The first 100m took us right past the second group of fans - My family and friends who were there bright and early.  Splendid.  Hello Friends :)  
The bike route took us for a lap of the lake first - effectively tracing the swim route (except out of the water you understand).  I was very careful not to speed off like a Burk on the bike, making sure that I had everything, and settled in, got the legs working and all that jazz.  I was surprised that so many riders were taking it soooo slow on that lap.  Was I doing something wrong?

The bike leg took us on three loops - The first Eastern loop towards Newark, then onto a Northern loop towards Mansfield, then back onto the Eastern loop and home.
I'd arranged with the Missus and friends for them to drive to Car Colsten and camp-out there for the day as we'd be passing through four times.  In the event, as I headed towards this village, she and another mate in the car behind convened at a round-about  a few miles before there.  Lots of hand gestures and shouting (all of the good kind) and I was given that little boost in moral.  I was on my way ......
The Eastern loop was something over 30 miles long and reasonably flat.  Some rolling undulations and a few dead flat sections.  Nothing difficult, but I knew that come the second time round the winds would be picking up.  Put this out of your mind Will, out of your mind!  
During the first loop, I'm trundling along merrily minding my own business.  Guys were passing me - obviously very strong bikers and I'm not bothered.  This bodes well for my mental state later.  I am similarly passing others.  Each one I pass I admire for the obvious pace of their swim!!  Some I consider offering words of encouragement.  You have to be careful.  Some don't want to hear.  It may sound patronising,  others will happily enter a full-on conversation, like Kylie.  Yes, not only was I doing an Iron Distance race, I actually met Kylie ..... from Manchester!   Have a good race Kylie!
Some others sneak up on you, like team-mate Garry.  I'm having a little think about something or other, and Garry peddles up to me .. 'Morning'.  Would you believe it!  I knew that we'd be similar in time and all that, but the coincidence of riding side by side in a sea of ATC Blue - ATC.  Then, Who'd of thought it, We both then cycle up to Ben - ATC member.   Three of us on the course, at the same time, just about to take Car Calston for the second time.  Photo opportunity me thinks :)  Ben H leads the way followed by myself, then Garry-Garry Curly

Just after that we naturally split, with G peddling on and Ben falling a little back (he was to saunter past me on the only hill of the course later).  
The rest of the course provided plenty of opportunity to wave to groups of on-lookers and well-wishers as we passed through various villages.  This really took away the sense of having to ride for 6+ hours.  Time just flew.
I made sure that I was drinking plenty (temperature was going to get to 25ish degrees by the end of the ride), taking on the energy gels that I had planned and tried to take solid food.  A couple of time that I'd tried to burp I'd been reunited with some of the drink I'd recently swallowed.  Stay down there!  Because of this I wasn't really keen on taking solids just yet.  I did manage a bar or two of the Honey Crunch bars that I carried, but ate nowhere near the qty of food I though and should have.  I ended up carrying more than necessary.  Even-though, I ended the bike leg feeling exactly the same as out of the water - really quite ....... good!

The wind seemed to take its toll on the legs and at about 95 miles the thighs were shouting enough. Each time I stood on the pedals to stretch a little, or tried to power up even the smallest of climbs, there was just a little twinge of cramp.  Nothing bad, just the thighs saying Hello, letting me know they were there, in the 'negotiation' stage before going on strike completely.  Pace really dropped in the last 5 miles as the route headed back towards the Water Sports Centre and into a head wind.  Ah well.  I'd long since decided that this would be the first and last long distance race and I'm sticking to MTBing, and the time was not important at all.
The sight of the Centre entrance was fantastic.  Crowds lining the road and clapping, cheering and waving.  A real highlight of the day.  Free-wheeling to Transition where, just like a Pro, volunteers took the bike off you as you tried to remember how to run to the Transition tent.  Plenty more cheering from ATC on the side-lines.  Job's a good'un.  Bring on the run!  I can even remember thinking how my legs were yelling NO not five minutes ago, but now felt bloody great.  Not heavy, full of energy, ready to run.  Wow!

Transition from bike to run was again just controlled.  No panic.  Just calm preparation.  Ben caught and passed me through he tent and as he exited he turned and we exchanged best wished for the run.  Couldn't have gone any better.

I exited the tent looking for the Slappers (name for the volunteers that slapped the Sun Tan lotion on competitors).  Great.  Well covered.
I started the first lap of the lake with a very gentle trot.  Again, planned so that I didn't go off like a dick and over-heat myself.  I needn't have worried.  I made it about 100 meters and I started to get sharp pains across the Left Hand Moob.  What?  How?  Why?  What the ...?  It felt like a pain similar to you get with a 'stitch' down your side sometimes when running.  Maybe if I held it, it would clear?  I continued to trot very slowly passed the gathered crowd just the other side of the lake.  Wife & Kid, Mum & Dad, Bros & Sisters, Friends, ATC members all cheering with much heart (unlike me).  Things were not looking good.  The pain was there.  Breathing was starting to get difficult.  I immediately knew that if it didn't clear QUICK, it was over.  I trotted past Club Captain - he didn't know of my pain and offered words of encouragement and support.  I know what he was saying would be invaluable should I continue, but alas, I could not do anything to counter the effort needed to even breath, let alone do this for another four+ hours.  Half-way down the lake length (about a mile in) and I was walking.  Something I was desperate not to do for the hole marathon.  The pain would ease, and if I walked for long enough, would go completely.  The second I tried to pick the pace up, it would spring back and hit me hard.  I thought about seeking help form a medical guy at the far end of the lake.  He was sitting by his Mountain Bike.  His first aid kit was smaller than the one in my car, so no, I'll continue.
More run / walk and I approached the Grandstand.  I am going to bloody run past here!  I did.  It hurt.  Ben's wife, Ruth received the prize for the day for having the most amazing Banshee Wail of supporting cries .... 'Come On Wiiiiiiiiiiiilllllllllll'  Their kids received massive High Five's  Thanks guys.  200 meters later and I know the Medical Tent was coming.  I thought about using the adjacent cold shower the organisers had laid on to try and cool down a bit - see if it clears, but no.  I had managed one lap and there was probably another 23 miles to go.  I was not in a position to try, and it wasn't worth the risk.  Sry guys.  I'm done.

I took a step in to the tent and the medical were a little surprised to see me.  It's the tent that all finishers filter through at the end of the day.  Nobody had finished yet and unfortunately it was not to be me! 

Now, It took a few minutes to decide to pull me for the event, but it was as quick as ripping off the timing chip.  One radio call to Race Control '#616 is out' and there you go.  Outlaw 2014 is over. 
I honestly felt find quite quickly, but was happy for the Docs to do their thing and check me out.
I can't say the experience was over though......

I can't thank the Medical staff or organisers enough.  They contacted the Wife and Daughter, bringing them around immediately.                  

Due to the type of event and heat of the day, they referred me to the local Hospital, QMC for additional checks.

They weren't happy with the ECG results..... Oh!  More tests - Blood this time.
Turns out the ECG results were unusual for most people, but OK for an Endurance Athlete (yes, I was actually called an Athlete).  Happy days, but ....
They weren't happy with the 'numbers' in the second blood tests - numbers only fractionally high, but suggest a possible minor heart attack .... Oh!
More blood tests 6 hours later to see if the numbers 'stablise', but by this time, it's a night in hospital.  Ok, not too much of a problem.  My mate Charlie was able to pick up the bike from Transition and cart it home (his place) for me.  Wife and Daughter were by my side.

So, another blood test at 1 in the morning and home right.  Wrong.  Results show almost certainly not mini heater attack.  Cool.  But, some number or other indicated possible narrowing of the artery.....  Oh! More tests, this time, an Echocardiograph scan of the heart.  Fine.  No problem, but can't be done until tomorrow. OK, another night it is then.
Echo on Tuesday showed Arteries probably Ok, but did show that I have a hole in the heart .... Oh! So, Angiogram it is then!
That evening I was transferred to City Hospital in Nottingham and thank God a side-room with private loo.  Guys, you have no idea what a relief!
So, just a quick 30 minute procedure and I'm done.  No.  Minor procedure = bottom of the List.  three further days in hospital waiting and I have the Angiogram, on Friday evening.  All is good.  Arteries 100%, Zero heart damage.  TFFT.  Down in Theatre the Consultant offers a final word and confirms that apart got the Hole in Heart issue, I'm as fit and well as anyone he's seen.

I felt like a real Bed Blocker.  42 yr old in a Cardiac Ward .... OMG.  I must have been the youngest in there by 25 yrs!  at 05:59 on Sunday morning I was in the best shape I think I had ever been in, both physically and mentally.  Days later and I was being discussed in terms of Heart Attack, Blocked Arteries, Angina, life-long drug dependency.  Holy Shit Batman!
If the Docs had said that training and Triathlon were not an option for the future then I think that I'd have been happy with that provided the long-term prognosis was manageable. 
Thank ..... something or other for the only words I wanted at the end - no damage to the heart and continue training.  Sweet!

The Docs and Nurses were first class, insisting I'm there for a good reason despite my feeling good.  
I received fantastic care, and a real nice cup of tea and slice of toast at 06:00 every morning.  I could get used to that.

Well, I was released without charge on Saturday AM with instructions to take it easy for a couple of weeks as I have had a minor procedure, and drugs for a month.

Time to contemplate a new hobby?  Guitar maybe?  Sod that.  I'm entering next year.  I've got a Marathon to do!

Until then, best keep my end of the bargain and make a start on this new Kitchen :)


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