I don't consider Andy just an athlete of mine but rather one of my best friends. When I think back on my life and the friends I have made, from around the world because of sport, it blows my mind! What's even more touching now a day is seeing how through our KIS family, we are now connecting athletes from different sides of the world who are bonding much like Andy and I did when we met back in 2003. I was living in Colorado Springs pursuing the short course triathlon dream while working at the Runners Roost. Andy was chasing his own Olympic dreams while competing in the steeplechase. He was being trained by legendary UK runner, Gary Staines, who with his wife Linda, own the Runners Roost. Through Gary, who, like Andy has become one of my best friends, we were introduced. It's been nearly 15 years since we first met and trained together. I had the honor of being in Andy's wedding back in 2010, watched from a far the birth of his two children, and admired his brilliant work as a carpenter.
Years passed and we kept in touch virtually but hadn't seen each other in several years...Then last year, unexpectedly, Andy and I happened to be at Challenge Roth together. I was there supporting Carrie and he was there supporting some friends from the UK. Everyone has a friend that you may not see very often, but when you do, it's as if you see each other every day. Andy and I's friendship is just like this! We spent much of the day racing around the forest playing support, laughing at each other like we were still in our early 20s. Then the next day Andy texts me and says he signed up for the race in 2017.
Now mind you, Andy was not a triathlete 12 month ago. He had taken up cycling since retiring from Professional Running, he had splashed about in the pool, and had not run much at all in the previous 12 months. But I knew given his massive amount of natural ability that if he was patient, Ironman would suit him perfectly! When we discussed a time goal, my advice was to enter to start with the sub 9 hour group as I had a hunch he would be riding like demon come race day and if his body held up, he would be very close to 9 hours.
So sometime around Christmas I began helping Andy with his training. I watched him balance his life with two kids, wife, own business, and now lronman training. It was truly inspiring to see the progression as the weeks and months ticked by. But like most of us training for a long-distance triathlon, there were set backs. Andy is blessed with a massive engine, born for endurance sports but like a fancy sports car. The body is fragile. We bobbed and weaved our way through the training, but a few weeks ago in his first 70.3 race he blew his calf, while leading the race. Knowing Andy like I know him, I figured he'd be gutted as I could tell that as the big event in Roth approached, his confidence was growing more and more, which came higher expectations. We got him back up and running rather quickly but then 2 weeks before the race, his calf went again. This sent us into complete protection mode, pretty much no running till race day. Lucky for Andy, his other good mate, Louis, is a Physio, so thankfully he was able to get Andy to the start line with a 50% healthy leg.
With pretty much no running for 2 weeks and a dodgy leg I tried to pull any expectations off the table but I figured an hour swim, 4:40ish on the bike, get to 21kms of the run and all bets are off. But first we had to have the nutrition talk as when I asked him what he was using in training he said, "Um, water and a gel or two"..... A big part of what I love about working with an athlete like Andy is that he's got the old school running mentality, he's not a modern-day triathlete. No talk of super speed bearings, aero clothing, latex tubes, ridiculous oversized pulleys, or the latest fad diet. I put up the pins, he knocks up down, and come race simply get on with it. He 'Keeps It Simple' and I love it!
So Sunday afternoon with my long run done, I sat in our little apartment in the Swiss Alps quietly working on training plans, every so often checking on the tracker. Just under an hour swim, 4:42 bike, first 10kms of the run, too fast! Slow down Andy, your calf can't handle that pace. But I'm starting to get a little excited...I message his wife Naomi asking if she has seen him. Is he gonna go 8:40? 8:45? 8:50? He made it to 21kms and then the tracker stopped. I didn't need to check anymore, his calf went and I knew it. I carried on doing some work, checking in with Naomi from time to time as she was at the finish waiting. Slowly but surely Andy hobbled his way home to a 9:18 for his Iron Distance debut. Pretty unbelievable in my opinion! As I sat and watched him come across the line, my eyes welled up while a smirk came across my face...What a brave performance Andy! I'm proud of you and should be proud of yourself! Thank you for allowing me to be a part of you and your families Iron Journey!