They say the mark of a Champion is not how well they perform but how they deal with adversity.
I learned this over the winter of 2018/19. All my plans to strengthen my cycling and swimming were undermined by 2 debilitating bouts of bronchitis – despite all the time I spend cold water swimming!
This meant I didn’t feel back to 100% health until the end of March. With less than 3 months before leaving for the Championships in Romania I was nowhere near as fit as I had hoped to be coming out of winter.
However, if there is one thing the past 4 years have taught me it’s to take one day at a time doing what is possible looking forward, not back. So I got back into training and prioritised this over everything else. I went out cycling whatever the weather and ground out the lengths in the pool to improve my swim technique.
Slowly my times improved but then my shoulder began giving me trouble. This relates to chronic bursitis combined with the muscular effort needed to swim and my position on the bike. During my regular sessions with Beth she tackled this problem as well keeping all my other muscles in good working order. I noticed how little attention my back needed as my overall fitness improved.
I also booked in for 6 weeks of Love your Core classes with Deborah to complement the strength and conditioning work I was doing in the gym. I had done these classes before but this time coped much better with the exercises.
I began to feel my competitive fitness returning during May and entered 4 competitions as preparation. It wasn’t until the last one on the 2nd June that I was able to complete the full race distance of the Aquabike competition (2k swim followed by 80k bike). This gave me a lot of confidence and I worked really hard in the last few weeks before setting off for Transylvania, knowing that I could have done no more in the time available.
Once there, I saw that the swim course was one loop of a beautiful lake and the bike course was 4 laps of 20k by the Lakeside with only 2 hard climbs per lap. This suited me very well. I had entered a night time “Dracula” swim for fun, not realising it was also a serious race, and won a gold medal unexpectedly! However, I injured my toe getting out of the water which was a worry. On the day of the Competition, 7th July, it was still swollen, bruised and painful but I strapped it to its adjacent toes, shoved my cycling shoe on and off I went.
My biggest enemy turned out to be not the injury, or my shoulder but the heat! It was 28 degrees but felt much hotter on the hills where there was little or no breeze. The swim went well but on the bike I really started to struggle on lap 3, gasping and pouring water over my head. Then a miracle happened – the wind got up, clouds formed and the sweetest rain fell to cool me down. Rejuvenated, I finished strongly in my best time ever and was crowned European Aquabike Champion in my age group (65-69).
The feeling as I heard my name called out and took my place on the top step of the podium made all the hard work worthwhile. When I look back to 2014 and how much pain I was in on a daily basis, I could not have imagined I would achieve a childhood dream of representing my country and winning 2 Gold medals just a few years later.
I am now healthier and fitter than when I was in my twenties and plan to maintain this for the rest of my life. With the help of Deborah and Beth, I will. In my opinion, the treatment offered by Restoring Health should be available on the NHS!