Echelon team member, Annie Brooks competes in first IRONMAN World Championships

Echelon team member, Annie Brooks competes in first IRONMAN World Championships

I'm still in shock that I just completed the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona Hawaii. A hard day out tackling one of the hardest races on the triathlon calendar, dealing with the unpredictable conditions of the wind and the heat, and of course, whatever lay in front of you during the race.

I'd been given an ambassador athlete bib by IRONMAN to attend this triathlon, as a female age group triathlete and one that has a neurological condition in the form of epilepsy. As you can imagine, not only would this be a hard day out for anyone, but doing it whilst juggling this condition was really going to test me.

I'd not got really into fitness until after my later-life diagnosis in 2012, before that I didn't really do very much apart from the occasional aerobics class. I began by taking part in a triathlon to raise money for an epilepsy charity, and it is safe to say I was hooked ever since. Triathlon for me brings almost a mindful meditation, because nothing else can enter my head, other than what I'm doing in the present.

In the run up to the event I'd been training both indoors and outdoors, when I'd have seizures, I'd turn to indoor training on my Echelon Connect or Stride, to help me achieve my training in a safer environment. It was always hard to find balance with completing workouts but having plenty of rest and recovery too.

Before I knew it, race day had arrived. I was about to do the hardest thing I've ever done, swim 2.4 miles in the sea, ride 112 miles in the heat and wind and run 26.2 miles along to the famous Energy Lab and back. I was determined and my ultimate goal was to simply cross that finish line. Time didn't matter because I had no frame of reference, it was about completing not competing.

The thing about any race we train for we can never predict race day. That could be anything from change in weather and the conditions, but also things that might pop up along the way. My day became a problem solving exercise because I'd had some big issue along the way. I had two flat tires and my brake went. I could have given up (especially after the second flat), or I could try to push on and do the best I could. I changed my first inner tube, got going but then it went again. You know that sinking feeling we get sometimes? That happened then! I'm sure you can imagine how I was feeling, but it was here I realised my brake had completely gone as well and you definitely need a working brake! Was I going to have to pull out the race, I thought.

Luckily bike support came along to help me, but I'd lost over 30 minutes, so I was playing chase the clock to ensure I got to the various cut off times and get back, so I had plenty of time for the marathon. Thankfully with some hard riding, I managed to make the cut off and was on to the run, but because I'd been holding on harder to the side where the brake was working, I'd lost feeling in my hand and it had swollen, so you can probably imagine trying to tie my trainers up was proving difficult!

Regardless, I was through and on the run, I was going to do this I thought. Keeping this run extremely steady and completely ignoring my original faster pace I'd planned for, simply because I didn't want to run hard and blow my chances of a finish line altogether. This is when I always say you need to smile, hi-5 and thank people, and it made my run better but also my race experience even better.

I could hear the echoes of the YMCA along the Alii Drive, it was the finish line. There were loads of finishers walking the opposite direction as I was running in, but I didn't care, I'd had my own race battle and I was still getting this done despite all of it. That finish line was incredible, the atmosphere was electric, hi-5's, waves, cheers. I couldn't believe it. I'd done it. I'd completed the IRONMAN World Championships and even better, absolutely no epilepsy issues, just those other hurdles I had to over come.

As I sit and write this post and after this incredible journey I've been on, I need to say a few things to those on their own fitness journey or about to do a race. It's not just about being physically fit, we often need mental resilience, granted, we don't need it always, but when things feel hard, or you don't think you can push through, you need that emergency cord. We all have that strength to push on inside us, we just need to bring it to life sometimes. You know you can do it, you want to do it and because of that mindset, you will do it.

A huge thank you to the incredible support of the Echelon team who have supported me on this once in a lifetime journey.