Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome Andy Holgate of the great state of Britain to the EMT editorial team. Andy will be writing a weekly column each weekend about his continuing journey from everyman to Ironman. Today he starts with a brief tale of testicle shrinking proportions.
The freezing cold water enveloped me, stabbing at my exposed body like a hundred knives. My testicles took their self-preservation seriously and retracted towards internal safety somewhere in the vicinity of my gasping lungs. Adrenaline flooded every inch of my body and I started thrashing wildly, forgetting all that I had learnt about swimming technique. Not surprisingly I winded myself.
Knackered, only about fifty metres from the start I ground to a halt. Gasping for breath, treading water, taking a few seconds to dispel the panic. Telling myself to get a grip, quitting was not an option and besides the hardest part was over with. I’d jumped blindly into the cold, dark water and wasn’t dead.
Reaching out with my right hand, throwing my left arm above me I plunged forward. Learning my lesson, I counted out a rhythm with my arms. One, two, three, breathe…..one, two, three, breathe. The panic subsided, moving through the water my lungs didn’t seem to be working so hard any more. I took that to be a good sign.
Rounding the final buoy I smiled, there was only fifty metres to go. I would soon be on dry land, an altogether more appealing prospect than where I currently was. Within a few minutes the water became too shallow to swim in, with each stroke my hand was dredging up what I hoped was silt.
Planning to surge out of the water with speed and power I stood up. The world started spinning, feeling drunk I splashed embarrassingly backwards into the water. Instantly jumping back to my feet I suffered the same fate, plunging forward this time. Taking stock, I slowly and methodically unfolded my crumpled body until I could stand up straight. Feeling like a toddler taking its first step I gingerly tried to move my legs. Thankfully the blood that had deserted them, causing my clumsy ballet, had returned and I finally scrambled out of the water.
And so begin my journey into the world of triathlon.
That was 2006, I did my first triathlon after being “dared” into it by a work colleague. Little did I know as I panicked and splashed my way through that first 350m open water swim that it wouldn’t be the ‘one shot deal’ that I’d signed up for. I finished the sprint triathlon and was hooked, like a young boy taken to his first football game, I wanted more.
The problem was I was clueless. I couldn’t really swim, I didn’t own a road bike, and my dodgy knees were not cut out for running. A sensible person wouldn’t even have entertained what I did next. I entered an Ironman. I had eleven months. I took adult swimming sessions, bought a used bike and ignored my grumbling knees. Oh yeah and along the way persuaded three friends to come and do the Ironman as part of my Bachelor weekend. I got married seven days later to my “Iron-Widow” Emma.
I’ve now raced in various countries, at all distances, and completed three Ironman races. I’m still useless at swimming, I can’t ride up hills and my running will never scare anyone. Essentially I’m an average Joe, who enjoys pushing myself to see just how much I can get away with.
Triathlon however has changed my life. I was upwards of 118 kilos when I started this journey, I couldn’t run a block without being winded. And here I am, an Ironman. I guess what I’m trying to say is if I can do it then anyone can do it. So aim big, work hard and you’ll get there.
I’ll be blogging weekly here as I chart my progress towards 2012 when I’ll be doing two Ironman races in the space of 5 weeks, just to see if I can. Ironman Lanzarote will be followed by the Outlaw here in the UK. It’s going to be fun.
Andy Holgate is the bestselling author of “Can’t Swim, Can’t Ride, Can’t Run: From Common Man to Ironman.” He lives in England, competes in triathlon and enjoys life to the full with his family.