All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.
Participation in triathlon and long distance endurance events almost always hurts, especially when you are participating for 10 hours or more. And training can sometimes be pretty miserable too because of the rubbish weather that we have for a lot of the year in the UK. For the next 6 months or so I’ll probably be training mostly in the dark or in the rain, and it will almost certainly be cold.
When your training schedule dictates that you need to swim more than 100,000 lengths of the pool over the next 12 months it can become pretty repetitive and monotonous as well, and I sometimes think about the other things that I could be doing, such as reading a book, or cutting the grass, or even going out and having a beer. In other words, leading a normal life.
But in recent weeks things have been far from normal, even by my standards. At the end of July I took part in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games cycling around the Olympic stadium, made up to represent a dove as the Arctic Monkeys played 'Come Together'. A couple of weeks later I participated alongside Jenson Button in his own triathlon which raised in excess of £50,000 for Help The Heroes. The following day I flew out to California and completed the Santa Barbara long course triathlon which was a little over my natural distance. And as if that didn't feel hard enough we then drove to Palm Springs, in the middle of the desert, for a swimming event in which I finished last. Two days later I am in a different desert and it takes me more than 10 hours to run 50km across Death Valley. Before the event I’d foolishly estimated my finishing time would be approximately 5 hours. But it would appear that luck was on my side as the locals told me that the temperatures were down for that time of the year. It was only 111 degrees!
And a fantastic summer of sport came to an end last weekend when I was lucky enough once again to be taking part in the London triathlon. When I stand on the start line of any event and put myself to the wind I have the most satisfying sense of satisfaction and any inconveniences, real or imagined, are forgotten about in an instant. I know why I do these things and I wouldn't change a thing. After all, who wants to be normal?
I’d finished second in my age group in Santa Barbara, in an event that was not considered to be my strongest distance, but I’d targeted London as my main race of 2012 and it had been my main motivation to train hard throughout the winter of 2011, and had given me the determination to overcome the illnesses and injuries.
I was the first triathlete in the water and took my place at the front of the start line. At the sound of the klaxon my head went down and I went for it as hard as I could, leading our wave out of the water and back into transition.
I pushed myself harder on the bike than I have ever done anything before in my entire life.I kept telling myself that this is the reason that I train so hard and this is what I do and this is who I am. I am a triathlete and I am living the dream.
I was out of the saddle for most of the bike leg, powering up the hills and dancing on the pedals before coming back into the transition area in the Excel Centre with a 90 second lead. I thought my heart and lungs were going to explode and coming off the bike my legs felt wobbly and I could taste the lactic acid in my mouth. But I slowed momentarily, regained my composure and caught my breath and then off I went again, biting my lip and running as hard as I possibly could. Since foot surgery in May I have been running better than at any point in the last two years and I was disappointed later to discover that I didn't have the fastest run split in my category, but the lead that I’d built up during the swim and the bike legs were enough to win the age group.
I have been trying to win the age group category at this race for the last 3 years, and my participation marked the accumulation of over 4 years of training of 2-3 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year.
A couple of days later and just about every part of my body still hurts and after a difficult start to the year with injuries and illnesses the thought has crossed my mind that now would be a good time to retire, albeit competitively, from the sport. But I don't let go of things too easily and I'll run later today, and tomorrow I'll be in the swimming pool wearing the Michael Phelps goggles that were given to me after I had finished the triathlon.
It is ironic that this whole thing started after I'd read a newspaper interview with Michael Phelps in late 2007. Back then I had no idea who he was; I weighed 16 stone, couldn't swim and could hardly walk.But the newspaper headline that attracted my attention was entitled 'Dare To Dream'
I have had so many fantastic times and have received so many accolades since that day and it has been a fantastic journey and one I wouldn't have missed for the world. I have come to recognise that if you have the ambition and you dare to dream big, and you are prepared to work extremely hard, then almost anything is possible.