Slaying the Dragon by Ash Evans

We are stood on cold wet sand from heavy rain the previous night and penned in amongst other nervous looking men and women in neoprene and pink swim hats, goggles in their hands ready to start their attempt at slaying the Welsh dragon that is Ironman Wales. The Welsh National anthem sounded out and the crowd erupted around us, if felt like we were heading into battle and then they played it on the speakers, my anthem, Ironman’s anthem, the first lyrics pretty much some up my feelings on that beach. That anthem is ACDC’s Thunderstruck. If you have been to an ironman event I can almost guarantee you will hear it. I most cried on right there on that beach in Tenby, it had suddenly become real. I was going to attempt to become an Ironman. What on earth am I doing here? Lets Rewind. Two years before a conversation in the office at work lead to me to focus on this goal, Matt Austin and Darren Scutt wanted to complete a half Ironman distance. I decided at that point in the back of my brain I would become an ironman in 2 years, just how and when I didn’t know? I made a plan I would tackle a Half ironman (outlaw half) 1st year -> Marathon (York Marathon) end of 1st year -> Ironman (Weymouth) 2nd year. I hadn’t realised how much of a journey this would be of self-discovery and how life just likes to throw you curve balls for the hell of it. The deviations started immediately at the Scunthorpe and District running club end of year awards, they awarded me the ballot prize of a place for London marathon 2016, I had never run a marathon and hadn’t intended to do one until after the Outlaw half. Entry opened for Outlaw half, in minutes the places were gone, I’d missed it! Here comes the second deviation, Ironman’s Staffordshire 70.3 opened. I wasn’t missing this 2nd chance, I entered and dragged the Matt and Darren in for the ride. November 2015 Started following a coached plan for the Staffs and London, it didn’t start well I missed lots of sessions on training peaks as life was getting in the way and there were not enough hours in the day. I increased my hours in the day be getting up earlier and those little red blocks started to change to green. April arrived all to quickly London Marathon happened and in very brief, I had a good race hit the wall hard at 19 miles and came away with a sub 4 hour on the first go. The plan was working. Fast forward, Six weeks out from with Staffordshire 70.3 on the horizon as my first goal point and half way toward becoming an ironman. I had been doing to the local Duathlon training races with Scunthorpe triathlon club for a while by this point. In the May I had a normal training race and I had been adding extra training to the plan with improvements coming thick and fast, Grantham triathlon on the weekend coming. Everything was going well! It was at this point in the duathlon on the 2nd run back in that I tripped over and a slight pain appeared in my lower back. I assumed over training. Unbeknownst to me what I had just done was partially slipped a disc in my back. The dull pain continued for days so I popped some ibuprofen and raced Grantham Triathlon. It was 2.5k into the run as I dropped off a curb I became concerned. There were my feet below me I could see them moving, but I could not feel the pounding of the tarmac. I didn’t dare slow the finish came and I lay on the floor my back was in spasm, I went to bed and the next day I was crippled and unable to get out of bed. Sarah helped me from the bed I was broken. I went to go see an osteopath on recommendation from Darren. The osteopath confirmed the partial slipped disc in my back, righted it, no running for a week only gentle other exercises. I also had gained a limp, the second session the following week a quick tug and click and the limp was gone, gentle exercise allowed, but no big distances, swimming was allowed. I eased off the training and at each session with the oestopath making me better, for the last 2 weeks up to Staffordshire I prayed I would be ok. On the last session and one last click it felt like the disc slip had never happened. Staffordshire 70.3 arrived but I did not do a race report after… Why? Darren Scutt’s race report summed it up and I was proud of him, I didn’t want to steal his limelight and it had meant so much to him (it is worth a read) and true my journey wasn’t finished . In very short run down here is my Staffordshire experience I had great lake swim, it was wet for the entire bike start to finish but no wind. The run was a partial off road run (which I hate) it was hard but I loved the entire race with a strong finish of 05:43.01 sub 6 hours. I was happy! Fast forward to October 2016 I ran York marathon in a time of 3:47.12 hitting the wall at 20 miles and blanking the rest of the race but I was getting faster! I started to plan the next part of the journey waiting for Ironman Weymouth to open, but there seemed to be a problem, it still wasn’t open? I waited but all the comments seemed to be it wasn’t going ahead. I looked for another event toward the end of the year and there it was Ironman Wales. I knew Wales would be hilly, I knew the weather has its moments there. Do I want to enter this? I hit the regist er button. I immediately regretted that decision as I it sunk in the difficultly of the course and ironindex ranking of 2nd toughest and my biking wasn’t the best. I needed a new plan to improve my biking, I decided the best way to keep myself motivated was to enter longer sportives. Tour of the peak in Derbyshire was booked to tackle some hills and was I coerced into Coast to Coast in a day. The final event to book was the long course weekend on the same course as Ironman Wales (except the run) but over 3 days what a great recce chance! I wanted a coach that had the ironman experience under their belt enter offthatcouch’s Steve Clark to guide the plan. Again this planning didn’t start well, work and life in general getting in the way. I started to get on track and at the end of January 2017 disaster also the week of the Lincsquad awards. In a circuits session I did a burpee (squat jump) and a small twinge in my back. The next morning I had pain in my back, I got up, blacked out and collapsed in a heap naked on the floor unable to move. I thought in that moment this there is no way back from this. Sarah called an ambulance and lots of gas and air from the paramedics and into the ambulance and off to hospital they examined me. I bet you cant guess… yes a slipped disc and they gave me some very strong pain killers and said it will heal in 6-8 weeks of no exercise. Back to the oestopath who set me on my way to recovery. I collected my ‘Most improved’ award at the Lincsquad award ceremony with a hobble, the irony, thank you everyone that voted for me though!! So the oestopath told me ‘you can swim that is all’. 4 clicking and popping sessions and 2 weeks of only swimming, a 6-8 week injury sorted in 4 weeks. Back to training! Massive congratulations were heralded as I found out I was to be a father from Sarah, the due date? August 30th, Ironman Wales date? September 10th it’ll be fine… oh and we decided to move house so started living at my parents. Skip forward to June 2017 my health is good, I am the fittest I have ever been, there have been many group long rides and I just feel good. Tour of the peak is done and here come the two biggest ‘training’ events coast to coast in a day and 2 weeks later long course weekend and I am still at my parents and Sarah is getting steadily more pregnant. These events are my marker if I can do these I can ‘Slay the dragon’ in Wales for real in September. Coast to coast caught me out a little because I thought I was going to be in a group, it turned out I end up riding with no-one for the first 50 miles and hit a dark place. Rich Robinson appear and rode with/shielded me for the next 65 miles which pulled me through (thanks Rich!) and the last part on my own I found my strength was on the descents and maintaining inertia was a lesson for the future. The pace was hard the distance was tough and I felt like I had earned my stripes 10:12:09 pleased. Next up was long course weekend, Friday is the 2.4mile sea swim, Saturday is the 112


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