Oxman DNF – Ironmaori –– Surgery – Hopefully not starting from scratch
When I wrote the first blog on the Journey back to fitness, I never thought it would get to be at least 4 parts in a series. It’s now over four weeks since my rib surgery and while my brain was initially on the fuzzy side (mostly down to the drugs they give you) am am beginning to bounce back, so I thought I would just go over the last few weeks as it was quite a fun filled ride.
Oxman ½ Ironman DNF (did not finish)
I am not sure I have ever entered a race with a plan to not finish. This race was a week before Ironman so while it would have been lunacy to race the whole thing there was an opportunity to practice race conditions for the swim and test out my bike in full race trim to get a sense of where I was at.
Race Day and it was just miserable and pouring down with rain or easing to the kind of drizzle that just soaks you. I turned up at the race venue and looking at the conditions I just left the bike in the back of the car. The thought process was – I can still get a decent swim but going riding in those conditions would most likely end in either a crash in the wet conditions or getting cold and sick.
It was strange just doing the swim and pulling out of the race but two things. 1 - It was the smart thing to do, 2 – The swim gave me a good idea or how the rib would cope in a race the following week.
Yes, it was a little frustrating not getting out on the bike for a blast with my race wheels however, I am happy that I was making smart choices especially a week out from my big race.
I had no idea how this was going to go. I was hoping the rib would not be too much of a hinderance and while the last block of my training had been consistent, I was not sure where I really was at. My first objective was to get to the finish line and if I could go under 11 hours that would be decent all things considered with a rough plan of swimming sub 1-hour, biking 5hours 30 – 5 hours 45 (based on my build up anything under 6hours would be ok) and I had no idea about the run but I thought 4 hours would be a good target but the run was going to be ugly. So that was kind of where I thought I was at.
Before I go into the race, I just want to clarify that yes, I could feel the broken rib a little. Not massively and only a little in the swim and then about 30km into the run when my form had gone but honestly everything else was miserable at this stage so I could manage it. Honestly it was more of a hinderance while working and if I tried to do any speed or core strength work. Realistically it was like carrying an ongoing niggly injury hat you can manage but is not ideal.
The Race. I am not sure what to say other than – Wow
There was a bit of confusion at the start and most of us were still walking down to the start when - oh shit we are off. It meant a sprint down to the water and into it. Once I got into the water, I immediately managed to calm myself down and settle in after the excitement and the mad dash into the water.
300 meters in and I was leading the race. Photo courtesy of Ironmaori
Halfway round the first lap of three I realized that I was leading the race. It was like ok – I was not expecting this but it’s a great way to protect the rib from contact. Lap 2 of the 3-lap swim and I must have a weird shaped head or something as I cannot seem to keep a swim cap on my head and they always seem to start to fall off. In the end I swam over to a surf live saver and discarded it. Then it was a case of being careful as I was now lapping the back of the field.
First out the water – that was a pretty cool moment as the swim had been controlled and I was feeling pretty good. The official timing had it at 59mins 20ish but I clocked it at 57:20. I honestly think that the official timing actually started late due to the confusion at the start. However, it is never about the time and more about that fact that I was not tanked from the swim, and I felt like I could have kept going. I always say a good swim is getting to the end feeling fresh – Job Done
First out the water - That was a pretty cool moment. Photo courtesy of Ironmaori
Putting everything into context of the build-up I had, and the simple fact that I am a 54year old age group athlete, to come out the water in first place and to be leading a race was very special.
As I got onto the bike and began building up speed the lead vehicle pulled out to lead the way. I had a silly grin on my face as I rode through town behind the lead car – I was living the dream. The bike course was basically three 60km laps and each lap had a few out and backs which meant you could see where you were in the race.
Cycling is my weakest of the three disciplines so I knew the fast guys were going to catch me so I was just focused on enjoying it while I could and trying to be controlled despite the excitement of leading a race. At the fist out and back section I realized I still had a reasonable lead and when I saw my buddy Andrew, I was pointing at the lead vehicle and going “check this out”
Heading out on the bike in the lead of the race. Photo courtesy of Ironmaori
At the end of the first of three laps, I was still in the lead which was hilarious coming back into town, blasting past my wife and kids as I followed the lead car. I finally got caught 75km into the race and it was a relief as who knew there was pressure when you are in the lead. From that point it was just a case of riding to plan and keeping on top of my nutrition.
I knew I was well on track, and I came off the bike with a new bike PB for an Ironman. 5hours 15minutes and some change with an average speed of 34.5km an hour.
I was not expecting that at all and came off the bike in 4th place overall
Blasting past my family in the lead of the race - a very special moment. Photo courtesy of Ironmaori
This was always going to be a journey into the unknown. I stared out controlled and just settled in. 20km in and I had moved 3rd position but from there on my lack of run volume meant that I was in the hurt box and suffering. About 30km in I was caught by another athlete and dropped to 4th in the men’s race. The lead female also blasted past me and to be honest she was flying and i just gave her the "your doing awesome speech". From there to the finish, it was pretty ugly and a case of just hanging on.
Early in the run as I am still smiling. Photo courtesy of Ironmaori
So 10 hours 22 minutes for 4th Male, 1st In my age group. That was beyond what I thought I could achieve and while the 4hr 1min marathon was not my greatest ever run, in context I was very happy and it was where I thought I was at.
At this race you are allowed to come down the finish chute with your family and that was a special moment.
Crossing the finish line with my family was cool as they are part of the journey.
Photo Courtesy of Ironmaori
So that was special. Honestly, for me while the result was awesome it was more about executing a good race and trying to be the best version of self on the day.
I have to say it was a cool race. For a first-time event the team at Ironmaori did a great job. I get that I am not the target demographic for this race as it is more targeted at first timers and helping people to change their lives through sport and exercise. I love what this race represents, and while yes, I was at the front end of the field it was great to see such a diverse group of athletes just out there living the dream.
Ironman is hard and while I am very casual about that aspect of it, I also know how hard it is. While yes, I was that guy lapping people in the swim and on the bike, I was also the guy going past people and trying to encourage them. From pausing in the swim to encourage a coached athlete as I passed him to the lady who had stopped and as I went past, and I called out “you’re doing awesome – just keep going”. On the bike the nice thing was when I could see people’s names on their race number, as I could use it to encourage them as I went past.
Hindsight is an interesting thing and while I will wonder on the what if I had not been dealing with a broken rib. Being objective yes, I would potentially have gone faster however I am not sure it would have been massively faster. Life is what it is and you just have to go with what you have. There is a really great line in a Cure song “A wish if only is a wish too late”. It’s about accepting life in the moment and enjoying that. And man did I enjoy that race.
Pretty happy to win my age group. Photo courtesy of Ironmaori
The Ironman was on the Saturday and then on the following Wednesday I was in having surgery to fix that broken rib that had not healed. I guess the frustrating thing is that I had only just got back to being fit and I knew I was going to be back to ground zero. However, while I was able to do an Ironman the reality is I was feeling the rib most days and while it might not seem like it based on the race result it was hindering me at work and doing the things I love. Last winter I had to stop Cyclocross racing as it was too much load on the rib. Hopefully I will be back into that this coming winter.
It does suck that you go in to surgery feeling great and wake up feeling like shit. That first hour or two post-surgery is always a hazy dream like experience and then later after a nap I was talking to my wife, and it was a case of did I hear it correctly, but did they fix two ribs?
Yep, it turns out that while they were fixing the rib (8th Rib) they discovered that the 9th rib had been broken and was not that great, so they fixed that as well.
It did justify that surgery was the right call and possibly explained some of the discomfort.
Surgery done - now it's time to think about the journey back to recovery part 5
Hopefully not starting from scratch.
One observation is that while yes, I was a little smacked around from the Ironman I think being fit has helped with the recovery.
The plan post operation is that the first 6 weeks is a case of doing very little as the screws they used need to bond to the bone (you can actually see the screws in the Xray). The first 3 months the surgeon has suggested no heavy lifting or upper body work as that gives the bones a chance to heal and will give me the best chance of a successful outcome.
If you know me and are wondering how I am going to cope? The priority is getting back to work as I have a physical job that requires lots of upper body movement. Now that I am a few weeks post-surgery I am starting to put together a plan so that I can carefully build but also that when I can start what I would call proper exercising, I am not starting from ground zero.
I have already started light aqua jogging as well as some very light spinning my legs in the indoor bike trainer. It's a small start and while I am being super careful it is part of the journey and I just need to be patient.
I should be back at work my mid to late January. Honestly I am already looking forward to catching up with my clients and getting back to normal. I am that I may need to ease back into work so please be patient if I do not have many appointments available initially.
So that was the last few weeks and while it has meant a quiet Christmas, I still got to enjoy the day with my family which it’s all about.
I have also entered Ironmaori for December, so I now have a goal to motivate me to get back into it.
So onwards and upwards from here.
Leave a Reply.
Husband, father, athlete coach and either really busy or really tired :)