I contracted my fair share of nasties during the time I spent travelling to far flung, and decidedly unsanitary, places around the world. I have had rabid dog bites, infected leech wounds, and more bouts of Giardia than Mohammed Ali had in the boxing ring. I have learnt to read my body pretty well and listen to the signals that it gives me. Spending half my waking hours with my backside attached to a toilet (toilet is maybe not the most accurate description. Hole in the ground, encased within porta potty style structure might be more accurate) whilst in Nepal was enough to signal the repeated Return of the Giardia Parasite (sounds like a low budget remake of a Star Wars film) but sometimes the feelings of ill health are less palpable. The day before Kona was one of these. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I knew something wasn’t quite ‘right’. I felt off. My throat was sore, my head heavy and I had a general feeling of malaise and lethargy. Hardly an ideal platform on which to fight a 9hour, 140.6mile battle on the lava fields.
Since my DNS at Kona I have had various blood tests. One for the anti-doping authorities, and a few more to check for anything that might explain my continued feeling of ill health. With all those needles I felt a bit like a pin cushion but the results have been worth it. I have my answer. According to the doctors I have (or have had) a heavyweight fighters sized bout of the following: bacterial strep throat, bacterial pneumonia and to top it all off a little mosquito spread blighter by the name of West Nile Virus (I am not sure of the origins of the name, although Boulder is west of the said river). For the symptoms to manifest themselves the day before the biggest race of my life was clearly sub optimal timing, however it is not altogether surprising. Preparing for Kona takes a huge physical and mental toll on your body and, hence, makes you increasingly vulnerable to contracting various illnesses. However disappointing and heart wrenching it was not to start the race I know I made the right decision for me.
I am now popping bullet-sized antiobiotics like they are Halloween treats, and am focusing on getting myself healthy in time to toe the line at Ironman Arizona on 21 November. So, there you have it. Contrary to the many (some laughable and some more insidious) rumours, I am not pregnant, I didn’t have a nervous breakdown, and nor did I deliberately try to avoid the rigorous drug testing procedures. I simply got sick. Yes I am human. I get ill, I fall off my bike, I succumb to giardia and I attract West Nile derived mosquitoes. But I am also a fighter who is passionate about the sport, and although I no longer hold the title of world champion, I will use this experience to make me stronger and more determined – and I will continue to champion the sport of triathlon, and the causes I care about, in any way I can. In the words of the lesser known, but decidedly catchy 1990s musical masterpiece “Tubthumping” (which, incidentally, had nothing to do with tubs or thumping) “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you aint never gonna keep me down”.