At the Tri-Alliance end of season function in May, I was surprised and incredibly humbled to be awarded the prestigious John Cornish Memorial Scholarship for 2018-19. Despite never having the privilege of meeting JC, I’ve heard great stories about his passion, dedication and fun-loving nature, and I have a massive respect for his legacy. I’ve always looked up to each of the prior recipients and have learned something from each and every one of them. So I’m very proud to be included in their ranks.
When I started my triathlon journey, it was a way to keep fit over summer between hockey seasons. I struggled to swim even 25m without stopping, and a bike was something you jumped on to go to a local café, so finishing that first Corporate Triathlon (400/10/4) was a huge achievement and I was hooked.
I discovered Tri-Alliance while ‘participating’ at St Kilda in my 3rd triathlon, where I started in a late wave but seemed to be finishing even later. Running on the gravel past the St Kilda Cenotaph, huffing and puffing and struggling on my own, a group of TA supporters were encouraging and cheering me on to the finishing chute. I’d never met these people before nor had I spoken to any club, but I decided that if this was “The Tri-Alliance Way”, well then I’m in.
I never imagined almost 6 years later, that with Tri-Alliance’s help, I’d be competing in full-distance Ironman races and making so many amazing life-long friends along the way.
The year leading up to Ironman number 8 though, was fraught with challenges. Starting 2018 with two hospital visits with what turned out to be a dehydration-induced kidney stone, things only deteriorated. The loss of my mum, my brother in hospital in an induced coma, a couple of my relatives suffering serious mental health issues, and another staying with us semi-permanently, was coupled with the loss of our 16yo fur-child, Bailey. And then to top it all off, I had a serious bike accident and ended up back in hospital ultimately with a permanent 11cm titanium plate and 9 pins in my shoulder.
Although I was unlucky to get a flat down a steep hill, I realise how incredibly lucky I was to escape with just a shattered clavicle and some scrapes and bruises. It could have been so, so much worse.
But the same Tri-Alliance spirit that triggered me to sign on with TA, then kept me going throughout my recovery. From incredible support at the scene of the accident, to visits with care packages, offers of renovation help around the house, coaches staying in constant contact, house visits, messages, phone calls … and then on my return making sure I was safe again on the road.
For me, this was further reinforcement of the John Cornish and Tri-Alliance family ethos, and a sharp reminder of what I valued most. I desperately missed just being able to train and laugh (and suffer) alongside my training buddies, and I missed the simple acts of swimming, riding and running. My desire to return to the sport and the club I love gave me renewed passion, and provided my two physios with the unfamiliar task of telling their patient to slow down and hold back a bit until the next visit.
My recovery was a great opportunity to work on other weaknesses: lots of stair climbs, gym time and most importantly, nutritional advice. For 7 Ironman races, despite trying new approaches every time, I suffered from severe dehydration and stomach shutdown and could never fully enjoy or capitalise on my run potential. A referral from Ollie to a group of researchers at Monash University was a game changer, and gave me a focus for the 3 months leading into my NZ Ironman race. Between Greg, my physios, Megs and Monash, we were able to blend together a full Ironman build in time for Taupo, along with additional strength work, rehab and some very specific but uncomfortable stomach training for certain sessions.
Despite not being back to full strength and fitness, the mental break and nutritional training, in particular, paid off and I was ecstatic to achieve a NZ course PB and drop 30mins off my run time. To overcome a difficult 2018 and resolve long term nutritional issues made Ironman 8 the most fun and rewarding – yet!
Thanks a million to Ollie and Greg and the amazing Tri-Alliance family (and of course my wonderful wife Megs), who’ve provided nothing but support through good times and bad. I’m very proud to be a member of this great club and to be recognised with this scholarship. I look forward to doing all I can to honour JC’s legacy at Ironman Barcelona in October, and in 2020, NZ Coast to Coast, Ironman Port Macquarie and all going well, Ironman Busselton.