Rachel Joyce Overcomes Setbacks To Rise Near The Top Of Ironman

  • By Holly Bennett
  • Published Dec 6, 2013
  • Updated Feb 18, 2014 at 12:15 AM UTC
Photo: Endura Pix | Michael Raushendorfer

Setbacks At The Start

Joyce isn’t one for excuses, so we probed to learn the full history of challenges she’s faced.

Joyce: Just as I decided to turn pro [2008] I herniated a disc in my back, causing sciatica. I had to work standing up, couldn’t really train and was in discomfort all the time. The treatment I was getting didn’t help, so that went on for six months until finally an epidural cortisone injection hit the mark. This actually tied in with getting quinsy — probably the beginning of my tonsil woes — and I was in hospital for three days and lost 10 pounds. Next I had the usual lower-leg injuries suffered by swimmers taking up running. Finally, my comeback race was Ironman 70.3 U.K. I raced badly and discovered two days later that I had shingles.

In 2010 I had an accident in T1 at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, resulting in my bike chainring slicing through my foot and three tendons. I spent a week in hospital, had two operations and was in a cast and on crutches for six weeks. After the rehab I threw myself into training and was maybe a little overzealous. I did a few races but felt absolutely flat — it got to the point where I could barely turn the pedals. I felt so low I thought I was depressed but a blood test showed I was severely anemic. In the six weeks leading into Kona I was still trying to build up my iron stores, and my weekly training didn’t exceed 15 hours. I came fifth in Kona, putting that down to a smart training plan from my then coach Matt Dixon and a commitment by me to believe I could do it.

On to 2012, when I spent a total of 65 days on antibiotics due to my rotten tonsils and was hospitalized twice because of them getting so swollen they restricted my breathing. They flared up again before Kona. I didn’t even notice they were infected, so the infection reached my bronchioles and on Wednesday of race week I had a temperature of 102 and a hacking cough. I had a tonsillectomy in November, and it has only been this year that I realized just how lousy I felt for so much of 2012.

RELATED: Joyce Trains Ahead Of Kona

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