Winning a race to needing spinal surgery

A few months ago I was struggling with a bit of back pain. The only activities I could comfortably do were cycling and swimming. Running became difficult. So I rested a few weeks, headed out, and gave running a shot. It was safe to say, stick to riding and swimming for a while and see what happens.

Being the ‘competitive type’ that some people are labelled these days, I searched for an open water race close to where I live. A cute little organisation called SleekerSwim were holding a race in Lake Windermere. A small entry found its way across cyber space and then up popped my name on the ‘confirmed entrants’ list. They held two distances, a 2.3km and a 1.65km. Having only really raced and trained for 400m swims predominately associated with sprint triathlons, I favoured the 1.65km race.

A good solid 3 weeks of following a training program was on the cards which I followed religiously. The diet however, started to take a hit as I found my appetite and hunger increased massively. The offers on Nutella at Waitrose never really help either, especially with a recovering chocoholic. My 3 days sober from chocolate did not last long and the 750g tub was polished off in 4 days. Despite this, and a few boozy evenings, one being my Wedding day, I cracked on with the pool training.

Through all this, I had a few visits to the doctor, which turned into a visit or two to the hospital and eventually a spine specialist.  I receive some contradicting pieces of advice, but continue to train as best I can anyway.

Race day arrives and I didn’t really have any nerves because I knew it would be the last race of the season for me. I go through the typical signing on and getting a new swim cap and getting my number drawn on my hand. Back at the car I get my wetsuit on in record time, then walk down for race brief, then get in the surprising warmer than expected water in Windermere Lake. I say warmer than expected, it was still cold enough to take your breath away. One guy even opted out of wearing a wetsuit, nutter!


We get about 2 minutes to acclimatise before the race kicks off, and oh my days, it kicked off. The pace was faster than what I had trained for, so i had to bare in mind that some of these guys were out and out swimmers. It felt like a lifetime untill we reached the first boy and I could feel myself backing off a bit and tried to pace myself through the commotion of everyone. I eventually reached the second boy, which i was told was the midway point for those on the 1.65km race. So I take a tun back an had to double check with the canoeist marshal who reinforced me that I was at the right turning point. The reason I had to ask was because I happened to be at the front (something I’m not that used to).


So naturally I continue, but I began thinking ‘maybe I’m the only one doing the 1.65km’. Now that would be embarrassing, yet to my surprise people were turning at the boy and chasing me down. For whatever reason, I was unable to relax throughout the race. I normally swim bilaterally which means taking a breath after every three strokes. In this race I was breathing every two strokes, but I didn’t want to stop to relax as I had people behind me, so I swam on and put some distance into the 2nd place swimmer. I finished the 1.65km in 20 minutes which some people may think is ok, but I felt I had so much more to give if I was able to relax and find a rhythm. I would like to think, with that time, that I may be able to get 2km in under 30 minutes in order to put me in a good position for some of the olympic distance triathlons I’m planning for next year.

However, with all this swimming, and being unable to run, and having a bad back, I found out that I need spinal surgery. I go under a week Thursday and really unsure what to think or feel 😦

So, I may have to have a longer than expected off-season and a longer and harder than desired pre-season. Nevertheless, people have had worse and gone on to do more, so why not look to do a 70.3 ironman 🙂Image