Where to start though? I suppose its worth going back to the beginning for me. A couple of years ago, it was decided that we would “go for it again” and sought out a location in southern Italy starting with “Lo” to allow us to stick with the LoSt! theme. All set to go until I managed to twist my knee again, tear a meniscus and have an operation a month or so before the planned departure in 2015. I stepped aside and then the team decided to defer the trip by a year – not asked for but much appreciated really.
In the summer of 2015, after an early morning run on the annual family jaunt to La Manga in Spain in July, I then received a text from my neighbour John asking me to join him and Joe in Lanzarote in 2016 to do an Ironman. Initial response was “Er, no. Too busy, football team to coach, kids to ferry around, work to do, hair to wash, grass to cut etc etc”. 5 minutes later, and realising that the date of the event was 21 May 2016, the day before my 50th, I had parted with my €500 entry fee and the deed was done.
It only took me until October to tell Lizzie what I’d done. When I did come clean, she was pleased that my confession was Ironman rather than affair related! My devious plan had worked.
All I had to do now was get fit enough to do an Ironman in May and follow that up with a 1,500km cycle less than 3 weeks later in June. Dodgy calves aside and a day by day “intermediate” Ironman plan in place, I somehow made it. A big thank you to Lizzie and the kids for bearing with me over the long winter months of getting up at 5.30/6am to train in the rain, wind, cold and occasional snow.
I was a bundle of laughs and “great” (mostly sober) company from October to May. In bed most nights before the kids and, in my spare time, becoming somewhat obsessive about kit, training, diet, travel arrangements, route maps for LoSt!, pulling together web sites, starting a blog and at the same time running a football team (btw we lost the league on the last day of the season and lost in the Regional Cup final – my fault as was away most of the last month of the season having a mid life crisis) and trying to keep the day job on the track. I know I am a grumpy old git at the best of times but things were now getting extreme!
All of this is in the past now … its done! The Ironman was completed (although I fear there is some unfinished business there) and LoSt! has been survived.
LoSt! was much tougher than any of us had imagined (see the rubber ring that awaited my return to the office). My route planning added around 10-15 miles per day more than the last trip. Doesn’t sound much but at our speed that was an extra hour each day. Add to that the traumas of punctures (too many to list), terrible roads in the south of Italy and horrific weather at some stages on all but one of the days, and before you know it each day became a 12+ hour marathon. Late arrivals at hotels, late showers and late dinners (and of course too much wine), followed by another early start the next day started to take its toll along the way.
Nonetheless, not one person uttered the inevitable words of “I can’t go on”. We had “I’m happy to go on”, “we need to go on”, “shall we go on?” and even “Go on England!” in San Remo – but nobody uttered the fabled “I can’t go on”. This is a group of likely lads who somehow ground it out and managed to get through the toughest of weeks with a creditable lack of complaints.
Don’t get me wrong, we all had our moments but what goes on tour stays on tour and when all was said and done we kissed and made up in our own special ways. It takes a special group of people to be able to do that when you are tired and emotional.
Thank you to Simon the organiser – he likes to lead from the front in spirit if not always on the bike. Congratulations to Rory – a tour virgin who joined the group for the first few days and acted beyond his years – the lay-byes of Perugia completed his education. Marc, his dry wit and his sense of humour always on hand to lighten the mood and his quiet persistence inspirational. James leading from the front and always there with a helping hand (literally) for those in need. Giles, eager to please, honest in his efforts and always keen to push himself to the next level (I loved our post puncture catch up ride together) – a great addition to the team. Finally, Colin whose culinary efforts surpassed themselves again and without whose map reading skills and driving we couldn’t have even started or completed the trip – we are eternally grateful for insurance.
As a reflection, I’m not sure how the above goes. I do know however that the impact of shared experiences like this are difficult to explain to those watching (or reading) from the outside. They are just that though, shared experiences that provide the launch pad for whatever comes next in life.
What I really hope though is that in completing an Ironman and the LoSt! trip and, at the same time, having reached the magic 50 number, my kids don’t think of me as an old (and grumpy) duffer and that Lizzie is glad that the “great Keith” that she once knew hasn’t really disappeared for ever.
Most importantly, however, it has been fantastic to get the opportunity to make a small contribution to the success of the amazing #Wellchild charity that we have been supporting as part of our efforts. Thank you all for your beyond generous pledges through our JustGiving site or directly to the team.
Until the next time!