TRIATHLETE Ron Simpson says he probably won’t cry if he finishes the Australian Ironman at Port Macquarie this weekend, but after the journey he’s been on it’s hard to imagine he won’t.
The 55-year-old will be making his first attempt at the gruelling event, which consists of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run, after fighting a 10-year battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Simpson was struck down with the debilitating condition in 1997 following a combination of glandular fever, pneumonia and contracting a Ross River Fever-like virus, and it was two years before he could function at all.
“It was terrible and you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy,” Simpson said.
“One day I was in Lismore walking around and I couldn’t stand up. It just hit me like a tonne of bricks. One night I got out of bed and just collapsed on the floor.
“I couldn’t think or hold a conversation with anybody. The only way I could talk was to work out what I wanted to say before I got there. They call it brain fog.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get better and it was like living in a hole. If it wasn’t happening to me I wouldn’t believe it.”
After the first two years of suffering, Simpson returned to work and slowly began to get better, but it still took another eight long years before he had enough energy to start exercising again.
That was when wife, and great supporter, Beth encouraged him to come on a ride with her and the Hawkesbury Triathlon Club members.
Later that year he entered his first triathlon and has slowly built up the distances since.
“I was up at Port Macquarie a few years ago watching the Ironman with a friend and he said if you work hard enough anyone can do it so I decided to have a go, but the thought of it all is pretty terrifying,” Simpson said.
“There’s still an edge missing and you’re never 100 per cent [after Chronic Fatigue Syndrome].”
The Bligh Park resident was all set to take on the Australian Ironman last year before a cycling accident resulted in a broken collarbone and seven broken ribs as well as a punctured lung.
But after battling Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 10 years he wasn’t going to let those injuries stop him from making yet another comeback, and on Sunday he’s hoping to complete the course in less than 14 hours.
“The plan of attack is to get some clear space in the swim and average about 27km/h on the bike, but the run is a bit of a mystery because it depends on how the legs hold together. The aim is to run for two laps then see what I’ve got left,” he said.
“At the moment the swim is my best. I’m hoping to do the bike in seven hours and the run in four or five.”
And what will be running through Simpson’s mind if he makes it to the finish line?
“There was a time when I couldn’t walk around the block. If I get through this I might cry,” he said.