Harry Wiltshire talks recovery and Kona hopes…

Writing just before last weekend’s Ironman race in Sweden where he placed fifth, the British athlete updates us on his recovery from injury

Harry Wiltshire on the bike leg of Ironman Sweden. Credit: FinisherPix.com

“After writing my last blog post which described crashing after hitting a speed bump during the bike leg of Ironman Nice [see here] I took a trip to casualty, where they CT scanned my back. If a doctor tells you “I don’t want you to be alarmed”, you can be fairly sure that they are going to say something alarming. They told me I had broken my back, sustaining fractures to the transverse process of L1 to L4.

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I was told that the doctors needed to be sure that the fractures were stable, so It was important I stay very still and wait for an MRI. I stayed very, very still… Luckily the MRI didn’t show anything moving about that might lodge itself in my spinal cord. I was told there was little that I could do to make it worse and that working within the pain threshold, I could continue training.

Bike and kit was quickly sorted. John at Crosstracks who I totally trust with all things bike-related had organised a quote for repairs before I had left the hospital and Triathlonguard approved it almost immediately. Thanks to them my bike was back on the road within 10 days of my accident and everything was fixed within 3 miles of my house.

The next thing was to put the body back together, something that was a slightly longer process. Week one involved 20 min aqua jog, 20 min swim, 20 min sauna, hot shower, home for a spin on the turbo and then back to the pool to repeat. It was painful, but by keeping moving I got mobility back quickly.

This little episode had not done my Kona qualification attempt any favours either. The points I had hoped to secure in Nice disappeared as I took off from that speed bump and it was only a week until my backup race at Ironman Bolton. Having travelled to New Zealand to try and qualify it seemed silly not to attempt a race 90 minutes from my front door.

Two of us broke away in the swim at Bolton and got a good gap. Swimming certainly wasn’t pain free. I was very glad we weren’t allowed to dive in as I couldn’t, but functionally I was able to do what I needed to lead out.

At the top of the first climb I heard a shout of 8 minutes to the chasers and thought that I might actually be able to collect some points. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, my back locked up and I couldn’t get any power on the bike. By 90k I had been passed by eight athletes and wasn’t going anywhere quickly. That meant it was back to transition after one lap rather than two and back to the drawing board. Pulling out of a race is a horrible feeling.

Since Bolton I have had lots of very painful physio and a good block of training. It had always been in the back of my mind that a trip to Ironman Japan on the final day of qualifying might be the last ditch qualification attempt. Not finishing in Bolton meant Japan was on.

Results elsewhere meant that I would have to win in Japan to be sure of a spot, that seemed a big risk.

I am writing this post from Sweden where there is an Ironman tomorrow. I am planning to have a race. If all goes really well then there won’t be any pressure in Japan next weekend. If all goes well I can have two solid results and qualify, if tomorrow doesn’t go well, then I will have to go and win in Japan.

The last few weeks I have trained consistently and I feel fit to race. I’ve had incredible support from friends and sponsors to get me back into one piece and give me the chance to be on the Kona start line. Who will race in Hawaii will be decided in the next week… I don’t want to let anyone down.”

Since writing this update, we heard from Harry post-race as he boarded the plane to Japan: “The crazy points chase continues! My fifth place at Sweden and various other results over the weekend – such as Dan Hawksworth’s fantastic result at the North American champs – mean I need a podium to get a slot. I can’t walk yet, but it is a long time till I race again on Sunday… Better go and get that flight!”

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Harry finishes Ironman Sweden to take fifth place.
Pic: FinisherPix.com