This was supposed to be about my first triathlon, but it kind of went a little of course and I will have to write that next, this is a little different. Last year I wrote a blog piece that turned into a sort of mission statement, I was full of motivation. I then achieved my target of 50 miles at World’s Toughest Mudder, and I’d decided I was going to make 2018 my best year yet, and then life happened.
The company I was working for collapsed leaving me jobless and with a massive debt after working for them for months without being paid, my relationship ended abruptly, and I got injured. One of these things would have been a bit of a setback but all three at once rocked me badly. I’ve always had struggles against depression and loneliness but with the help of friends and the healing powers of running I’ve still got through it. This time, however, the Black Dog came at me hard (why a dog though, like, seriously, it’s unfair to dogs, dogs are fantastic!).
I did what I usually do, I spoke to friends and family. Let them know I was feeling down and leaned on them all for support, but in the end, I just felt like I was moaning all the time and didn’t want them to get sick of talking to me. I couldn’t go running, and my best friend had started training hard for the first time and was now running all the time and signing up to lots of races that I could no longer do, so that made things even worse.
I started comfort eating and drinking by myself, so I went from chubby to just downright fat which made me feel like a failure. Despite never previously having properly understood how people felt bad enough to contemplate suicide, I eventually hit the point of understanding. I knew my life wasn’t that bad, sure I was in debt, but I own a house, yes I’m no longer in a relationship, but I have some amazing friends I can spend time with, so what if I can’t run I can do plenty of other stuff, I’m still healthy.
None of this mattered. When I was younger I used to cut myself, not for attention or anything, I didn’t want anyone to know, I did it to have a sense of control over the pain/depression I was feeling. I stopped when I was 18 and hadn’t done it since. Aged 33 I gave it another shot. It didn’t help, and for the first time, I thought about giving up entirely. Luckily there was a part of me that stopped me, I’m not sure what it was, but something said to try something else.
I ended up phoning a helpline (I didn’t even think people used them), but I spoke to CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and do you know what, it helped. It was great to talk to someone who didn’t know me, could tell me that I wasn’t going insane to be feeling the way I was, that the only thing I needed to do was make sure I didn’t give up.
Did you know suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45?! Nor did I and that is ridiculous. 84 men a week take their own lives, I will not be one of those 84. It was like something had clicked in my brain, only a tiny change, and I still didn’t feel great, but the dog was back on its lead (Back to the “why dogs?” think, couldn’t we use wasps? Dogs are awesome, wasps are assholes!).
I started to take some action. After seeing a photo of myself walking around a Spartan Race at the end of April and being horrified at the sight of myself, I decided to start with my diet. I’ve always lacked self-confidence and have never been confident with my body. I’m one of the guys struggling to get changed as fast as possible behind a towel when I’m in the gym changing rooms, and the thought of running an OCR topless gives me the shivers, so to get myself to a size and shape I can be happy with would be amazing.
I got myself a nutritionist to finally help get myself back on track. I’m a lazy cook; I would rather eat a pizza or something raw than prepare and cook a meal. I told him this, and he gave me some speedy and easy meals as part of my plan so that even I could stick to it. I then went down to Stride UK in Brighton and had my running analysed. They were excellent, and with their help, I followed a basic program to get me back to jogging without pain.
I started to run again, only once or twice a week, but slowly the weight started coming off. I noticed that as I got lighter, running got easier, and I was getting faster (this shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was). I was now feeling a lot better about myself, and I was genuinely happy.
For some reason despite having an ongoing back problem which is aggravated by exercise involving lifting weights over my head (and also by swimming which makes this a really really bad idea), not being a confident cyclist at all, and not being able to run more than 5km without stopping, I thought it would be a good idea to sign up to a triathlon.
In 2019 I’d like to do an Ironman, but I’m not sure whether I would either enjoy a triathlon or if my body would hold up, so to test this I thought I’d ease myself in with Ironman 70.3 in Weymouth, which was in 5 weeks time. The advice I had previously been given was to train for at least six months before taking it on as you can’t wing it. I’m good at winging things though and I wanted to do something now while I was still motivated so I went against all the good advice I had been given and signed up.
I probably didn’t need to write this and could have just written about Weymouth 70.3, but I think it’s worth talking about. Men tend not to mention the struggles they are going through as it’s often seen as a sign of weakness when it isn’t.
A special little shout out to Nick, Hatti and Paul in the Okhane family who I have spoken to at various times this year and they have all been excellent at listening, giving advice and generally being great friends. Love you all. I’ve turned things around now, I’ve gone from 13st in May down to 10.5st now. I’m running quicker than ever, and for the first time in as long as I can remember (possibly ever) I’m happy in my skin, and I’m proud of myself for getting here.
I’ve been in a battle for the first five months of 2018, a struggle that I’ve now won. I’m not under any illusion that the war is over, but I feel better equipped to fight it. I’ve caught that wasp under a pint glass, and I’m planning on leaving it there! (See how much better it is using a wasp instead of a dog, a dog would never fit under a pint glass)