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I Am a Delicate Flower

By Scott Simpson

July 16, 2010

"My name is Scott, and I am a delicate flower."

There, I said it. Admitting it is half the battle, right?

OK, so after I was sick for a few days toward the end of May which necessitated a few days of zero / easy training I jumped back into heavy training. That lasted almost a week and then I was knocked down with more illness. My life came to a complete stop. And I thought to myself, "Jeez, Louise, my immune system is like a delicate flower."

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For much of the next two days, every time I stood up the room spun, I was hit with instant and overwhelming nausea, and within 45 seconds I was breaking out in a sweat. For much of the time, being vertical was impossible. Essentially I had a choice: lie down or fall down. Thus, I only got off the couch when absolutely necessary.

Making a slice of toast went like this: Get off the couch and walk to the kitchen holding the walls. Lie down on the floor to recover / alleviate the head spins, nausea, sweats that accompany verticalness. Wait 3-4 minutes for above symptoms to weaken. Stand up, remove loaf of bread and peanut butter from fridge. Lie down on the floor for 3-4 minutes until symptoms abate somewhat. Stand up, put slice of bread in toaster. Lie down on the floor for -- well you get the idea.

Although I slowly got better, I had a full week without any training -- or any other life. I then had another week and half before the bouts of nausea and head spins finally tapered off, but I managed to do some very easy workouts just to try to stem the loss of fitness. Having learned my lesson -- the one where I'm a delicate flower -- I did not throw myself into heavy training. I spent another week easing into hard training days with extra recovery days.

As such, I entered the Welland half ironman not tapered because I had just got back into training so was going to use the race as a training day. I swam hard the entire 2 kms and worked to stay on the toes of faster swimmers. It was hard work and about half way through there were a few moments when I wanted to back off the pace and let the swimmer go, but I heard myself saying, "Suck it up, Buttercup." And then I thought, "I'm 15 minutes into a 5-plus hour race -- it is far too early to have to start giving yourself pep talks!" But competitive heads prevailed and I continued swimming hard to hold the draft.

I had a good transition onto the bike and set off on the 90 km flat bike course. Lots of guys in my age group passed me -- my lack of fitness was showing but I was content just to be able to race. Then at 70 kms I got a flat tire so had change it which took perhaps 12-15 minutes before I was back in the saddle. That only lasted about 3 kms before it went flat too. But I had no more tubes so could only ride the rest of the way -- slowly -- on the rim.

By the time I got to the second transition I was near the back of the pack. But I looked forward to trying to catch as many people on the half marathon run as I could to keep it fun. I had to stop twice in the first few kms to try to adjust the insole of my racing flats to no avail: they were pinching my toes and causing me pain. Nevertheless, I kept trotting along, trying to ignore the pain of every step. By the time I got to the finish line I had big muther blisters and swollen toes on each foot. But, I was happy just to be able to race.

The following weekend I did another half-ironman, again without any taper, so I started the race a little bit tired. I had a mediocre swim, a poor bike because my bike fitness really sucks and lots of people passed me, and an acceptable run in which nobody passed me. It was the first day of the heat wave and many people started to struggle during the run. Surprisingly, I tolerated the heat well on that day and actually felt the best I had ever felt after a long race (read: not nauseous and vomiting) so that was encouraging, being a delicate flower and all.

So what have I learned from these repeated illnesses? My muscles, tendons and such can tolerate the heavy training. Likewise, my cardiovascular system can also handle the many hours of swim / bike / run training. Even my brain, which houses motivation, is ready, willing and able to deal with the physical and mental demands of ironman training. My immune system -- not so much. Quelle surprise, eh?

See Also
Ask a Question About Exercise at The Body's "Ask the Experts" Forums
Ten Things You Can Do to Improve Your Physical Fitness
More Personal Accounts on Exercise and HIV/AIDS
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HIV+ Triathlete: Til I Drop


Scott Simpson

Scott Simpson

Scott Simpson is an HIV+ triathlete, student and inspirational speaker avoiding real work so he can find more time to train and learn. A former party boy, Scott has gone from the fictional national drinking team to the real Canadian national triathlon team and is current provincial long course champion in his age group. Scott is also founder of, and inspiration for, the Race for Dignity, which is both an annual spinathon in Toronto and annual school campus events coordinated by Dignitas Youth chapters. Cumulatively, they have raised almost a million dollars for the medical humanitarian NGO Dignitas International, contributing to over 11,000 people living with HIV/AIDS gaining access to ARVs in Malawi. Scott is currently training for Ironman Louisville 2010.


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