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Bob Holloway: last chance saloon...
Posted by: Bob Holloway
Posted on: Tuesday 3rd August 2010


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It has been a while since we heard from Bob Holloway, but he's back - possibly - or at the very least, in the last chance saloon...


The last chance saloon...

No trophies since 2005. One race in 2009. None so far in 2010. Detached retina operation in 2005. Cataract operation in 2007. Bi-lateral pulmonary embolism in 2009. 12kg overweight. Do you think somebody is trying to tell me something?

Perhaps it is time I threw in the proverbial towel and bowed to the inevitable. The ravages of time do catch up with us all eventually and as I'm not that very far away from getting my free bus pass, it wouldn't be difficult to retire gracefully and look back fondly on my achievements and the great times I have had with the sport and the people within it. So why oh why was it that three weeks ago I decided to have one last throw of the dice?

There is no doubt that my health scare last October had a seriously detrimental effect on my outlook to training and racing. This was despite being told by my consultant that my level of fitness and general health was one of the major contributing factors in me not being one of the unlucky 30% who don't survive an embolism. On every count, I should have been out there getting fit and not getting fat. But mentally, I had no motivation and although there were several attempts to resuscitate my triathlon career, this never got past two or three sessions before lethargy and apathy set in. In the end, it was all too easy to get on with life without triathlon.

I came off my warfarin treatment at the end of April and a few weeks later, I went through a series of blood tests to see if there was any underlying condition to explain the blood clotting. It was four weeks ago that I received a letter from the thrombillia clinic at St Peters in Chertsey to say that the blood tests were all normal. This was of course a major relief for me, but by the same token, there was also another part of me that really wanted to know what happened last year. Only then would I really have known if there were any limitations in what I could do in the future or steps I would need to take to avoid any repeat.

Time will tell whether the decision I made was a wise one or not, but at the end of the day, my optimistic outlook on life won over. And so it was that a few weeks ago, I headed out for a two mile run. It was painful. It hurt. I found it difficult to come to terms with how slow and awkward running had become. I was never a great swimmer or biker, but even in my early 50s, I could still knock out sub 18 minute 5 kms and train over all distances at sub-6 minute miling. Running then was effortless and immensely enjoyable. But not now. Suddenly, but not surprisingly, training has become a chore. But to be fair, I have never put enough training in over a long enough period since 2005 to get to that stage when training, in general terms, becomes a pleasure and not a pain.

My plan therefore is to keep up this regular training until at least the end of the year. By then, I should know whether there is any life left in the old triathlon dog. I'm saying this because there is a chance that the embolism may have caused permanent damage to the lungs. I was never blessed with a great VO2 max (measured at 52 at age 50), but I somehow managed to make the best of what I was handed out by my maker. Fingers crossed, there has been no damage, in which case, I should be able to see a steady improvement in my fitness levels over the ensuing months.

Mind you, the biggest difficulty I've faced so far, is unlearning all the training memories and accepting that I am literally starting from scratch. I was always a high intensity trainer based on high quality and low quantity with hardly any training weeks exceeding seven hours. And so it was that my first training session involved a two mile, lung bursting, eyeballs out, 90% heart rate max run! After a week of hurt, I quickly learnt my lesson and since then, all sessions have been based around comfortable, fat-burning heart rate levels. In particular, I've enjoyed getting back into the open water at Datchet lake, even though I struggled to swim further than 100m at my first attempt. But at least I was able to squeeze into my size F2.5 wetsuit – just!

In terms of racing, I am keeping my options open. I have no immediate plans to race in 2010, though if all goes well, I'm not ruling out the possibility of a late season duathlon or running event. But if that doesn't come to fruition, my aim will be to kick start the 2011 season with the early Thames Turbo Sprints followed by a low key Olympic distance in the early summer as a warm up for Windsor. By then, I'll have a much clearer picture of my endurance levels and whether it will be worth having another crack at the middle and long distance events. I still hanker after a sub-5 hour half ironman having missed out by just seven seconds at one of the HIMUK Sherborne races and I have still to pop my ironman cherry. Perhaps I never will – but it won't be for want of trying.

The story of Marc Jenkins who suffered a similar fate to mine and who has returned successfully to triathlon, will be a motivating force in my own come back, as will the recent success of the Swiss guy who won the marathon at the recent European athletics championships following an embolism and warfarin treatment. If they can do it, there's no reason why I can't. I still think I have a story to tell and that the final chapter on my triathlon career has yet to be written. And if I do have to bow out to the inevitable, I want to do so on a positive note, knowing that I gave it every chance.


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