Saturday, 30 August 2014

Dorney Lake and my first Triathlon with Arctic ONE

August the 23rd has soon come around. This was to be the day where I would take part in my first ever triathlon. A challenge set by all the lovely guys at Arctic ONE and something in which I was eager to have a go at. The venue, Dorney Lake, Eton,Bucks. 

For those of you following my adventures or journey, blog call it what you will, you'll know I'm quite an active person. Since becoming ill back in 95 (notice I say ill as I still have difficulty describing myself as disabled, disabled for me is when you can't do something/anything and it is a phrase or description that I feel can be quite stigmatising, just my opinion, sure other people may see it differently) Anyhoo I have had this recurring (don't know if you would call it a dream) lets just say a thought that I wanted to run. Although as a fit and healthy person I was never an athlete I just enjoyed trotting around. I regularly ran about whilst delivering letters and packages as a postman, something to which my old work colleagues would testify to.

I've had fantastic support since becoming an amputee with my cycling, through the likes of Brian Bartlett and Leftside Inc and of course Pace Rehabilitation. So I thought as my local Disability Service Centre couldn't or wouldn't help me out running prosthesis wise I would try a different avenue as a last ditch effort in doing what I wanted to do. This is when I approached the Challenged Athletes Foundation and this whole new exciting part of my life began. You see the Challenged Athletes Foundation approved my grant for a running blade. This was just the start I needed and from there I was very fortunate to get other people come along and support me as they heard about what I was trying to do. Really this is where all of you my readers and fans, maybe fans isn't the right word, it makes me sound as if it has all gone to my head... lol, But yeah because my blog has been quite successful and people appear to find it interesting well it has helped me promote myself. It has also been very therapeutic for me of course, in allowing me to write down just how I'm feeling and giving me time to reflect on all that has gone on.

Within a couple of days of me discovering I had been approved for a running blade Matt and Bex two of the trustees from Arctic ONE contacted me. Arctic One was launched in November 2011 to coincide with Matt Kirby running the Antarctic Half marathon and 'The Arctic ONE Foundation - Get Involved' became a charity in it's own right in October 2012. The Arctic ONE Foundation is however not all about raising money, No that is just part of it. Their mission is all about getting people of all abilities involved and active within their community and introducing them to new opportunities in sport. Matt and Bex both explained they were very eager to help me fund raise for the additional costs of getting the required components to build my running prosthesis. This is somewhere in the region of £8500. We chatted about what we could do for one another and basically this comes down to support. Arctic ONE do a superb job of arranging all sorts of events, such as duathlon's, triathlons and aqua events. As people donate they collect the funds and then support athletes right here in the UK. It's a bit like a smaller scaled down version of the Challenged Athletes Foundation and something we desperately need here in the UK. There are so many people with potential that just cannot afford to take part in sport and I don't mean just the elite athletes. Arctic ONE aims to help people of all abilities, able bodied or disabled. So this for me was a great opportunity to yes get much needed help in getting a very expensive running limb, something I just couldn't afford myself, however also hopefully putting that limb to good use and then going on to continue to support Arctic ONE raise more donations for similar people in their sporting endeavours.

As we spoke on the phone I informed Matt and Bex that I wanted to spread the word of Arctic ONE up in the North East, my region, as I feel we really lack input up here, there is just nothing going on. I'm hoping we can change that.

I'm very proud to be supported and working alongside Arctic ONE as their objectives are really important to me, having being diagnosed with a giant cell tumour, then losing my limb, and then of course being diagnosed with Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma a year after my amputation. This charity ticks all the boxes for me as it were and that's another reason I wanted to work alongside everyone at Arctic ONE. They promote positivity, determination, support and the fight against cancer.

Objectives include:

Establish and develop a series of events and challenges for both able bodied and disabled athletes.

Empower,motivate and inspire people through sport.

Provide adaptive equipment and financial support where possible to groups and individuals to help them achieve their sporting goals.

Establsih open "Tri-days" to reach, engage and encourage those with all abilities and disabilities to try a variety of sports and events with both training and coaching.

Support projects that contribute to the fight against cancer in terms of Research, treatment and cure.

Develop the possible link between physical exercise and active lifestyles leading to the prevention and survival from cancer related diseases.

After taking part in Arctic ONE's Hawrdidge Duathlon, as a tag team, with Scott Richardson of Pace being my wingman and doing the run section and myself doing the ride section on my Fat Bike I decided come the triathlon I'm going to have to get a skinnier bike, Oh and learn to swim. Yeah that's right I hadn't swam in like 20 years, thought's of "Omg what have I got myself into" coming into my head. Never the less I like a challenge. Funnily enough and this may sound weird to an able bodied person, but the biggest challenge for me was not so much the swimming, no it was the going from the changing room, without my leg on, hopping on elbow crutches and knowing that people were inevitably starring at the one legged bloke at the side of the pool. This is when it really did hit me "Glenn you kind of are disabled", then as an after thought, that internal dialogue, it's like "dude screw that you are here aren't you, just get in the water and try not to drown". Something I have learnt over time is that 9 times out of 10 strangers aren't really all that concerned about you, nope it's just that we humans perceive ourselves to be self important, well lets face it everyone does. Now going to the swimming pool is no big deal. Yeah I need a little bit of help, sometimes my friend John who has been absolutely fantastic, will come along to pop my leg in the first aid room for safe storage then join me for a swim. On the times he can't come, Ern (my dad) will come along just to give me a hand with my gear. Ern doesn't come in the pool as he can't swim. Next challenge getting Ern in Druridge Bay, hey maybe he can help look for my lost camera lol.

I would say I have had roughly 3 to 4 months to prepare for my triathlon. I'll be honest and tell you I haven't really done much extra in my daily fitness routine. My body is not exactly a temple, my muscles toned and powerful. I'm more like the leaning tower of Pisa, especially with only one leg on, or some might even say a derelict building in some need of some restoration. I have tried to keep up a swimming routine of once per week, even achieving completing over a mile on my fourth or fifth visit to the pool, something I was very proud of. My boss and friend at work Dan spurred me on as I told him "today I'm going to try to do 50 lengths", "why not do 64" he said "and that will be a mile". I actually did 70, yes I had a small break half way through and it wasn't fast, but I felt good. 

I then acquired a wetsuit from Start Fitness in Newcastle, getting some great advice from one of the sales team. Nick was awesome, allowing me to take the wetsuit home and try it on. Then when I returned to the store saying "it's too small I can't get it on" helping me get it on in store and saying "if it's tight in the store it fits, if it's feels comfortable it's too big". Of course he was right. Although I hate putting the suit on, once in the water it fits fine and keeps me remarkably warm. Next step was my first Open water swim. Again Dan was there to support me here and I met both him and his family up at Druridge Bay and we had what was initially a scary start for me, but I soon became relaxed and took on board some great advice from Dan who watched my swimming style and gave me pointers. A few more trips to Druridge  stood me in good stead for my event at Dorney Lake.

As the swimming was going well I got around to thinking about a road bike. I didn't want to buy a Time Trials bike as I figured it would be a bit redundant. After all I wasn't going to be doing a triathlon every other week, where as I could just hop on a normal road bike and head off and do a few miles when or if I fancied it. So my search for a reasonably priced, good spec'd bike commenced. I'm a pain for knowing what I like and what I don't and trying to find a bike in my price range was a nightmare. Eventually I came across a company named Bike Swanky and after speaking to Paul one of the Co-owners and him being very enthusiastic about what I was doing and offering me sponsorship on a bike in return for some positive PR for Bike Swanky we struck upon a deal. It's worked out well actually as I bought a road bike and got the opportunity to get a new mountain bike in a sponsorship deal. Sweet you can never have too many bikes, though Ern would disagree as we are running out of space to store them.

As I wasn't sure what size bike I needed and Bike Swanky couldn't get the colour De Rosa Idol I wanted before September as it wasn't released, they were very kind in offering me one of their demo model De Rosa Idol's to take part in my triathlon, so a huge thank you to all the guys at Bike Swanky. Oh and also a massive thanks to Craig Stevenson at Performance Sports Consultants who did my bike fit. Bike Swanky directed me to Craig and what a first class service he provides.

Just about ready to set off
Well as you can see, or should I say read this is turning out to be an epic blog, well I wanted to give you an overall background and I was away for two days. I wasn't alone of course, no part of my or should I say our gang (which is increasing in number, must think of a cool gang name) was with me. My dad who is always at my side whilst doing stuff like this to offer his never ending support and I had invited my friends  John and Ade to come along. John was going to be my handler during the tri event. Para-athletes take part in different categories and depending on your level of disability you are allowed a certain number of people to assist you. This can be for getting in and out of the water or with equipment. Ade I had asked a few weeks earlier about the possibility of coming along and taking some shots of the day. I mentioned this to Matt and he was really excited. Very pleased Ade could make it as after all it was my first event like this and it's always nice to have something to look back on.

The drive down to the venue in Eton Berkshire, well lets just say it is long, very long, especially when you get stuck in traffic. I'm not a huge fan of travelling, it's boring and I get uncomfortable. I have to say though the journey down was ok as we were all pretty up beat and having a bit of a laugh and carry on. I was particularly chuffed to bits when I received a message from one of my good friends Al. He had posted a message and all it read was Glenn.m4a as a downloadable file. I furiously messed on with my phone trying to receive a signal so I could download this mystery file. I then got it and was over the moon as I plugged my phone into the car audio system so everyone could hear the message. What an absolutely lovely bloke John Foster is. John is one of the Radio presenters of BBC Radio Tees, who have been fantastic in their support of me.

Here is the clip

A huge shout out to BBC Radio Tees and John Foster, thank you so much. Oh and to Al Roberts. Al actually emailed John and John went on to record the personal message especially for me. It's the little things that people do to show they care, that always have the biggest impact. I feel very lucky to have met and made such good friends over the last few years.

One of our favourite games as we drove down was criticising other peoples driving, done in a rather posh accent (Lee you will know what I'm on about..."What are you boys doing") and referring to the odd scumbag as they carried out some reckless manoeuvres. Six and a half hours it took us to get down, "omg I can't feel my leg, well of course not it's false you plonker", "Oh aye". I have to say that new rotator the DSC provided worked canny. I can turn my foot to get it out of the way on long journey's, just have to remember to put it straight when I get out of the car "do'h"

At the hotel, whopppeee, ride down was looooong!
We booked in to our reserved rooms at the Copthorne, Oh what you know the rooms given were Rooms 104 and funnily enough room 101. Ade any myself taking room 101 (I'm still contemplating what I would get rid of in room 101 lol) We all had a quick moment to chill then headed over to meet up with Matt and Bex over at Dorney Lake. Just wanting to say "Hi" and get a feel for the venue. It also gave Ade an opportunity to see where he could get some good vantage points for tomorrows shots. After spending a little time having a look around we said our fair wells until the following day and headed back, popping in at a local supermarket to grab some snacks. Again we chilled in one of the rooms together then went downstairs to have a bit chat in the bar. By this point I think everyone was a bit tired from the drive down, so it was an early night as we had agreed to get up early to catch breakfast at 7am.

Enjoying a pint in the hotel
At Dorney Lake, Eton
Mmmmm breakfast. I was gutted as I was starving, but knew I couldn't load up my plate with sausages,bacon,scrambled eggs, well you get the picture a full English. No for me it was a miniature English, Oh there was croissants and all sorts of other stuff too. I knew if I ate to much I might sink and even the small bit I had was lying heavy on my tummy. Time to grab all of our gear, including two bikes as I was returning Matt's which he had very kindly loaned to me to have a go on. I checked us out of the hotel and we headed over to Dorney Lake.

When we got there we got all the required stuff together and headed over to the registration tent. I was extremely surprised at just how many people spoke to me, as if they knew me and the warm welcome from everyone was brilliant. Ade immediately went about setting up his photography equipment and headed off taking various shots. Ern, John and I went inside the registration tent and I registered and got my event number, "Mmmmm" is this a sign I thought, firstly room 101 and now my event number "13". All  stickers, registration number and wrist bands affixed we had a short wait before both John and I went over and into the transition area. Ern wandered around with his camera and watched the other competitors as they set off.

The registration tent and table opposite with all of Arctic ONE's goodies
My friend Michelle had sent down some lush home made cakes
John gave me a hand set up my gear, both of us trying to figure out the best way for quick transitions between getting out of the water and to the bike, then from the bike to the run, or in my case the walk. (This was the only section I was dreading as without a running blade I knew it was going to take me like what seemed forever to get around the 2.5km and I would be sore by the end of it)

Pretty much as soon as I got my wetsuit on with a bit of assistance from John it was my turn to enter into my first tri. Lots of people including Matt had been asking me "do you feel nervous"  to which I replied "no not really". I think this is because in my own head the only person I was up against was myself. I knew if I gave it my all and did the best I could then that was good enough. I also know I'm a canny determined guy and there was no way I was going to let either myself or more importantly all those lovely people who had supported me down. As I entered the water assisted by 2 helpers my arms around their shoulders I thought "dear me this is a bit caad'er (colder) than Druridge Bay". My next thoughts as I swam to the start opposite the large buoy in deeper water was of all the advice I had been given from people like Bex, her friend Amy, Dan at work and of course Matt on that very morning. Matt saying don't head off sprinting, take your time and if you feel you have a bit left in you save it for the last 100 meters. All excellent advice and thanks guys for getting me this far.

Me getting ready. I hate these new goggles
Andy just finished his swim and on his way out

Andy being assisted out of the water
  The swim went well, yeah it wasn't particularly quick. I was really annoyed partly with myself and partly with my goggles. Myself because I should have just gone out and bought another new pair of goggles in the first place and with the ones I had on because they let in water again. I haven't got the best sense of direction and add this to the fact that my goggles had let in water well it was like swimming blind. Good job there was a very nice chap in front of me in a kayak leading the way and watching out for my safety. The main thing is I got around safe and sound and into the transition area where John helped me off with my wetsuit and got my Bartlett Tendon ready for me to put on. I gave my stump a bit of a quick rub then popped my silicon Ossur X5 liner on. This proved quite difficult as my hands kept slipping over the liner as they were wet. I got there in the end and I made my way to the exit of the transition, got over the line and mounted my bike. Sweet I managed to get clipped in first time and reached under my saddle for the lever to raise my seat post and I was off.

The ride section wasn't to bad as I headed down the road, managing to maintain a nice steady pace. "Funny how my mouth feels so dry after coming out of a lake" I thought as I rode along. I had a drinks bottle attached to the frame of my bike, but I didn't want to reach down for it as it was quite breezy and I am still not quite used to riding a road bike. If I take one hand off the bars I tend to wobble a bit, "nope I'll air on caution and get a drink when I stop". I was to do 10km's on the bike, this was 2 laps. On the home straight wow was it tough the head wind felt really strong as I rode alongside the lake. On more lap to do. "I definitely need to work more on road riding as it's totally different to mountain biking", funny the thoughts that go through your mind as your in the saddle. "Dig in Glenn". Around I go for my second lap, my thighs burning a bit now. The home straight is no easier and I find rather than upping a gear I'm actually dropping as I fight against the wind. As I approach the transition I get off and try to get to my changing area as quick as possible. Bartlett Tendon off, crappy everyday leg on. Time to suck it up. I've had to put an extra stump sock on in the transition area as my socket isn't the best fit.

On the road bike
Pulling into the transition area

  I'm of walking and doing the occasional double skip now and again, trying to go as fast as I can. I know this is going to be slow, however again my thoughts come back to why I am doing this, it's about the taking part and when I get my running blade I will be able to look back and see how far I have come. Everyone has to start somewhere right?  Within about 1/2km I know I'm blistered. I continue on and even keep at a nice steady pace, my goal is the finish line. Plenty of time to worry about a sore ass later. Before I know it it's all over and I am receiving lovely words of encouragement and support. A very kind lady hands me my finishers medal and that's it, all that hard work over in what seems an instant.

Matt keeping an eye on things
The timing guy and Matt
A Finishers Medal ...Cool
Errrr where's the Start?
Arctic ONE
Ern and Me

 Matt surprised me when I got home. I received a lovely message from him saying I now have a big fan base "down here" after attending the Arctic ONE events. This is great news, not just because it makes me feel good, but because it is helping to promote all the great work that Arctic ONE is doing. I have a real sense of pride. Though in typical Glenn fashion it also leaves me feeling "What now" and my mind is furiously thinking up new challenges and adventures.

I mean come on I have to do something to keep you all entertained right?

Don't worry more in the pipeline they just take a bit of organising. Please remember you can still donate to either 

Arctic ONE Virgin Just Giving Page

or at my own page at

Glenn's Virgin Just Giving Page

It just shows sometimes if you dream hard enough,  and reach far enough and say to people "hey this is what I would like to do, do you think you can help me" that there are people out there willing to give you that lift up and help you achieve and it's to these people I owe so much. Too many to mention and not enough words to express my appreciation. I only hope I can give back even a fraction of your generosity and support in helping other people. 

Home safe n sound wow it was an epic journey back 7 hours
 Thanks to Ern and John for the photo's. I didn't get any as I can't swim, ride and walk quickly whilst taking photo's lol

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