The Long Course Weekend was highly anticipated by myself for many reasons…firstly it ALWAYS delivers the best atmosphere with a truly well organised event. It’s an annual favourite of both myself and Lucy (Gossage) for good reason! Secondly I’ve been out of action for nearly 8 months now – the majority of that time was spent feeling utterly rubbish, not knowing what was wrong with me and facing the prospect that my triathlon days were over. It was a tough time. A few months ago I set my sights on making it to the LCW – I needed a goal and flat-out racing didn’t seem realistic but breaking it up over 3 days in a fun environment did. I told Tom (my coach) and we set about doing some really cautious training – managing my heart rate, listening to my body and backing off when I had to, but gradually building up my fitness. There were days I felt so dreadful, and honestly my efforts those days seemed pathetic. Meredith Kessler aptly calls these WEB sessions – Why Even Bother? Ha I LOVE that! But I ticked them off and my motivation was that I had to keep moving forward or I would not be ready for the LCW.
Fast forward to one month ago and I finally discover the reason behind nearly a year of declining performance and worsening health…Lyme Disease!! This in conjunction with an intestinal fluke, Candida, Mercury & Aluminium toxicity plus my on-going struggle with Leaky Gut Syndrome…no wonder I felt so rubbish!!! AT LAST I had some answers but the future was still foggy – no clear cut/quick fix treatment for the Lyme and possibly months ahead of feeling worse before I felt better. I made the call to opt against antibiotics as that really would tip my leaky gut into the abyss. I started herbal treatments and a natural chelating agent (I am going to blog again about this with many more details about Lyme, heavy metal toxicity and the chelating recipe!). I had no choice but to press on and see how my body would react. To my delight I am responding very quickly – I’m training more and coping, it’s amazing. I feel…well I’m starting to feel vaguely ‘normal’ again and my goodness how lovely normal is!!
At this point I must give credit to the big things that got me through what seemed like a career ending setback. Thanks to my friends and most importantly to my incredible family, especially my long suffering twin sister and her husband who housed me and fed me for 6months (and I eat a lot of expensive organic food!). They put up with my lowest points when on a daily basis tears would come unbidden and I was pretty much incapable of anything productive (except eating!). Also I honour God. I simply can’t imagine navigating life without faith in something bigger, in more then what this world offers. Without my hope for eternity I would be crushed by things like illness/injury and the prospect of my triathlon career being over. Yes I was low, but I was never crushed and I give God all the credit for that.
So there I was at the start of the swim, heart in my throat, with 2200 athletes about to take to the water. I went to the front but didn’t have the courage to start in the middle with Goss and the others so I stood to the right side. The horn blew, the fire-works went off and we all plunged in. The water was chilly but there was hardly any swell and the current was in our favour. I did my best to get on feet and stay out of trouble and to my surprise came out sub an hour with a swim PB of 57min42. My sessions at the Wahoo Pool in Johannesburg (www.wahoo.co.za) with Cyndi and her fab ‘mums group’ have helped my technique and its given me a massive confidence boost in this my weakest discipline.
Day 2 and the 180km bike course on the cards. I’ll be honest this was the part of the weekend I was most doubtful about. I simply haven’t done the miles in training, my longest ride being 110k. In years past I have ridden this course with the ‘Cambridge Crew’ a bunch of strong guys who trained with Goss before she moved back to Nottingham. I love riding with them, it’s a fast but safe peloton, so I took my road bike and we agreed a 9am start. *(The bike ride is part of the Wales Sportive and hence drafting is legal). However I found out late on Saturday night that I had to start from the ramp at 8am. I tried to negotiate with the event organisers about a later start, but it couldn’t be moved. They look after me so well and I needed to fulfil my part so I messaged everyone to stick to their plan (I knew the group couldn’t get there earlier) and went to bed expecting to ride 180k on my own on my road bike.
But here comes the best bit of the weekend for me…Goss woke up at 7.15am saw my message, inhaled her breakfast and rode up to the start line at 8am telling me that we could ride a 2-up! What a friend! So off we set, Goss riding like a beast for the first hour and me sitting on her wheel wondering how it is that Britain’s best long course triathlete was my domestique for the day! After an hour we were joined by Craig and James from WhittleFit. They were on TT bikes and we sat behind them with Goss getting a bit of a reprieve. Thirty miles later our group split as James had to fetch a dropped water bottle. From then on Goss sat on the front, riding within her heart rate, pulling like a train and letting me save my legs for the marathon the next day. I had a proper go at the Queen of the Mountain Stage up Saundersfoot and regained bragging rights for that title.
We were blessed with great weather and it remains one of my favourite rides to date. Goss heads to UK Ironman in superb form – after sitting on her wheel for 180k I woudn’t want to race her this weekend! Go get ‘em Goss, I’ll be cheering. **I wrote this blog a few days after the LCW but waited a week to get the photos to add. Goss has since smashed UKIM for her 7th Ironman win…I called it!
Day3 and my first marathon- GULP! I had a 16minute buffer in the lead and I knew I could pace it and just get round. Of course you never know about cramps etc and I said a prayer that it wouldn’t be too much for me and result in an injury. I planned to run steady at 4min40/km to get to the 21k mark in 1hr37 and hopefully maintain that pace for a 3hr15 split. It’s a brutal course – literally steep up or down hills and hardly any flat. Not the easiest to pace evenly, but I found a great rhythm and pretty much held it.
As I ran towards the 21k start I heard it…”Paaaarys! Paaaarys! Paaaarys!” Goss and the gang chanting my name. I could have out-run Mo Farah at that point!! For much of the marathon I ran alongside a guy called Christian from South Derbyshire RC, and his presence was a big help. So too was my wonderful bike marshal, Mike, who had done heaps of all the toughest Ironman races including Norseman, Celtman and Wales Ironman five times, we chatted lots and he was awesome! The friendly TV bike crew were alongside me for much of the run and this helped as it reminded me that my objective was to win this event and to win it well.
Passing 25k took me into new territory as I have never run longer then this before. At 30km the pain was pretty bad, the hills taking their toll and I had to pull on my mental strategies not to crack. As usual scripture was my companion in these dark moments and I recited my race verse for the weekend- Ephesians 6vs10 “Stay strong in the Lord and in His mighty power”. Stay strong Parys! It helped me pull energy from within and by the time I was on the outskirts of the Tenby the crowd did the rest. I’m told there were 8500 people taking part in the event and nearly 35 000 visitors to Tenby that weekend. Well it certainly felt like it when I ran the last 500m to the finish – words wont do it justice. What a passionate crowd and what an incredible vibe. The memory will stay with me for some time to come.
If the marathon finish was amazing the presentation was out of this world. The top 3 male and female finishers walk the final hundred meters of red carpet through a ‘guard of honour’ of all the LCW finishers. Music played, ticker-tape and ribbons rained from the sky and something like 20 000 people cheered- I felt like I had won the world champs! It was all the more special because I had imagined this very moment during the darker times of my illness. I can’t recommend the weekend more highly – as a training event for the experienced athlete or as a confidence boost for your first ironman. So sign up and I hope to see you there next year!
And what next for me? I am in the process of confirming a half distance race next month. Following that I can’t help but return to Tenby and have a go at my first Ironman, but now without getting an overnight sleep in T1 and T2!! Ironman Wales is the target – I simply can’t wait!! Thanks for following me. Stay tuned and God Bless.