My name is Phil Johnson, and I'm an ex-overweight and under-fit fat lad born and bred in the beautiful and historic City of York - North Yorkshire, UK.
I was never a sporty child, with no interest in the usual things like Football and Rugby. I most certainly did not excel in team sports. At Primary School I couldn't hit the ball during Cricket and Rounders for going cross-eyed, and at Secondary School I was always last to be picked for Football and Rugby due to my 100% lack of understanding for the game and my significant inability to kick a ball in the direction I was supposed to kick it.
Upon leaving school I decided I wanted to join the Royal Marines, earn my Green Beret, and be a professional badass. I studied Public Services and started to learn about the benefits of regular exercise, and took part in Circuit Training, Weight Training and Running. We also did a lot of hiking, which is where I gained my first qualification, becoming a Basic Expedition Leader.
Whilst I was still at college I became aware that due to a family Kidney condition - Polycystic Kidney Disease (or PKD for short) - I would be unable to join the military. I was also advised that other front line public services were also highly likely out of the question. As a result I left college and began working full time for the Co-operative Food (or Yorkshire Co-op as it was 'back in the day') and became a full time Supervisor, then Assistant Manager, and then Store Manager, where I preceded to work ungodly hours, lack regular meals and instead substitute with endless sandwiches, crisps and chocolate to get me through long and hard shifts.
When I turned 30 I was the heaviest I had ever been - almost 17 stone. I did little or no exercise what so ever and suffered with agonizing indigestion constantly. I visited a renal specialist at the Hospital once a year for my usual 'lose some weight' lecture, and then spent the rest of the year paying no attention to it.
It was around this time that my eldest brother, who also suffers from the same condition, suffered renal failure, and had been placed on to dialysis. Luckily for him he was fortunate enough to receive a kidney transplant after only one year. If you aren't on the Organ Donor Register, then please do sign up if you can, you may just save a life one day. At this point I realised that if I didn't do something about my own health, this could be me, far quicker than I could ever imagine. And that was my tipping point.
From there I signed up to my first ever race - the Run for All York 10K. I started training approximately 6 weeks before which consisted of a grand total of about 3 half hour runs. That was good for me! I finished in 1:05:06. I was happy, and felt good for completing it. The subsequent race photos also made me cringe at the size I had reached!
The following year I decided that the only way I was going to loose weight and improve my health was if I had a target. I immediately signed up for the Yorkshire Marathon. Then immediately regretted it! Luckily for me my middle Brother, with 26 years in the Army, signed up with me for support. We trained together when we could, and he ran every step of the Marathon with me. I had a few injuries along the way, but I'd signed up, I'd paid for it, so I was most certainly going to bloody finish it! Disaster struck 5 days out from the big day when I came down with a chest infection. I still ran, and actually felt OK during the race. It was after that I really suffered.
I spent a couple of months recovering, but that year, despite the challenges, had set a fire inside of me. I signed up for the next year, and the year after too! However, I felt I needed something more. I'd not run for years and I'd been able to conquer a marathon. I'd not ridden a bike for years but due to a change in work locations I'd purchased a road bike and started to cycle. What was next? I hadn't swum for 18 years!...
The following day I joined York Triathlon Club. If I could manage not to drown then my first Triathlon was on the cards! Encouraged by my best friend (the type of encouragement that always gets you in to a lot of trouble) I started to train with the club at their swim sessions and gradually learned to swim freestyle (front crawl), and took part in my first Sprint Triathlon in Skipton. That day saw the worst weather the region had experienced for years - 60 mph winds, hail that took your skin off, and temperatures that shriveled things and made them impossible to find. I completed it. I hated every minute of it. I signed up for another!
I spent a couple of years building up through the Sprint and Olympic distances, then had a shot at a Half-Ironman distance event - the Sundowner. I did little to no preparation for it and suffered immensely, but finished in just short of 7 hours. So, if I could finish a half then surely I could do a full? right?
I immediately signed up for the 2017 installment of Ironman UK - Bolton. I followed a structured beginners training program, literally to the letter, and looked after myself the best I could. I managed to get through the full year with no injury what so ever, and completed my ultimate test of endurance and mental fortitude in 15:04:59, just 5 minutes over my target 15 hours. I was ecstatic! I did not stop smiling from beginning to end, despite having my goggles ripped off in the swim and bonking so unbelievably bad on the bike I thought it was the end of me.
A change in jobs (and experiencing a Mon-Fri 9-5 for the first time) meant that I had been able to train properly. My diet improved, I was able to keep a schedule, and had a lot of support from family, friends and colleagues (who I know must have been sick of me constantly moaning about how tired and/or hungry I was). Weighing in at 13 stone and dropping from XXL to Large clothing I was half the man I used to be!
So, what do you do when you've achieved your ultimate goal - that test of fitness and toughness that only a few years before you thought was impossible? Well, clearly you immediately sign up again in a bid to beat your time!! And so... Ironman UK 2018 awaits!
When I'm not training, racing or enjoying the amazing countryside and fresh air I fill my days as a General Manager for a Signs & Engraving Company, and am currently the Chairman of York Triathlon Club. My partner, Rachael, has spent the last six years faithfully following me around race-after-race, holding kit, listening to me winge, and generally being supportive. She's since had enough and started to race too! And, to keep things romantic she is now the Membership Secretary for the club! Our hot dates now consist of committee meetings and our holidays are now collectively known as 'Training Camps'.
This blog is not about my journey. I've already been on it for some time now. It is instead about my mistakes, my successes, my learning's, my general experiences, and it is about the awesome people I meet along the way. Hopefully you may just find one thing that benefits you. If you do, then I have achieved my goal. If you haven't started your journey yet, and I manage to somehow inspire you to take that first step, then that is a result beyond my wildest dreams, and I hope you will share your experiences with me!