In 2011 I gained selection to represent Great Britain at International level and was invited to train with the National squad at the altitude training camp of Font Romeu in the Pyrenees. An opportunity to mix things up with best athletes and coaches in the country and arguably the world. With one eye and an outside chance of qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics I was certain I was doing exactly what I was destined to do and at the same time, achieving my full potential and lifelong dream of becoming one of the fastest middle distance runners in the country and even possibly an Olympian in the process. After a successful season of personal bests and International honours I was in a good position to take the next step to world class level.
An unexpected diagnosis from the Team GB doctor and physio was that I could have a tear in the medial meniscus of my right knee. It was likely that the 80 mile weeks had taken its toll on my knees. After an MRI scan it was confirmed that to continue being able to run it would require surgery. This type of injury required micro fracture surgery which was not available on the NHS and would need funding from British Athletics to undergo the treatment privately. Over the period of 2 years I underwent 3 separate keyhole operations on both knees.
After successful operations I had to endure a 6 month steady rehabilitation program. The prospect of London 2012 was well and truly ruled out and at this stage just being able to get back into competitive running or sport in general wouldn’t be easy.
With a determined and positive approach to my current circumstances I decided to combine my rehabilitation program with going back to full time employment and living life as a normal person instead of the running machine I had turned myself into over the years. This helped me take my attention away from running and think about the more fundamental important things in life such as family, friends and lifestyle choices.
A year on I was back into running at club level and had maintained a good level of fitness from cross training, cycling, swimming and strength and conditioning. There did appear to be imbalances and muscle wastage on my right leg due to the injury. I gained valuable advice from a number of physios and experimented with a variety of strength training programs and techniques.
After a few years of battling with work commitments, house renovations, injuries and a slight lack of motivation I decided to take action on my desire to compete at a level which mirrored my true potential and decided to try my luck at triathlon. I’m sure that most normal people would have given up and stuck to sport as a recreational hobby by now but that just isn’t me. My first step was to enter a low key local triathlon to install my commitment to the cause. I had planned to enter the same Triathlon a year earlier but after being knocked over on my road bike when commuting to work I broke my wrist and sustained a number of minor bumps and bruises to my legs and back. After yet another setback I was still keen to make use of my running ability. From commuting into work every day my cycling was reasonably strong. Swimming on the other hand was fairly poor.
From previous experience I knew that working on weaknesses was important. The first step was joining my local Triathlon club and use the swimming sessions to my advantage by gaining valuable coaching and technical advice on my swimming ability or lack of it. After a few months training I saw my front crawl times over 400m go from around 10 minutes reduce to just outside 6 minutes with room for further improvements.
Before my first triathlon I was aware that it could be make or break as to whether it would go well enough for me to want to pursue the sport any further. I placed 2nd to an experienced and competitive triathlete which definitely sparked the start of a new bug for triathlon. Over the summer I participated in a few more competitive triathlons to try and gain more experience and build confidence. Apart from improving on my swimming times I also focused on perfecting my transition phases which is also an important part of triathlon which is completely foreign to running a 1500m track race!
One thing that hadn’t gone unnoticed from the previous triathlons is that all of the guys in front of me were riding carbon fibres road bikes. After doing some in depth research I convinced myself of the philosophy if you can’t beat then join them. Saying that, carbon fibre bikes are not cheap so my way around this was to purchase the components and build one myself…
With the summer triathlon races becoming sparing and concentration on training being more important I decided to enter the European Duathlon qualifier in Oulton Park Autodrome in Chester. With my swimming ability developing, the Duathlon event being run – Bike – run meant I didn’t have such a handicap holding me back and with a new carbon bike I was in with a chance of selection for the European champs in Spain. I started the race just outside the top ten and with 20 athletes eligible for selection I was in with shout. Half way round the 20km cycle route I felt the wind hitting the side of the bike frame and with my lack of experience I assumed something was wrong. For the sake of my own peace of mind I stepped off the bike to check everything was secure and I found nothing to be concerned about. Unfortunately by the time I was back on the track I had gone from 10th to outside the top 30. I finished the race in 29th and to my disappointment outside the qualifying places.
To my delight there was a last ditch opportunity to qualify in Bedford in the final of 3 qualifying races in 3 weeks’ time. I didn’t hesitate to enter. Even if it wasn’t to try and qualify it was an opportunity to do myself justice and finish a race without stopping. A dreadfully wet day saw some athletes drop out with hypothermia. Perhaps from my cross country days I didn’t let the weather phase me. I stayed in around 10th place from start to finish fluctuating in and out of the top ten to finish in dead 10th. This position was good enough for automatic qualification for the 2017 European Duathlon championships in Soria, Spain.
This achievement reminded me never to give up and never lose hope. My goal is to make the GB Triathlon team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Bruce Raeside is a TOTALOXYGEN ambassador.