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My sports background & experience
I compete in triathlons (swim, cycle, run races). Since starting in 1996 I have managed to steadily improve my performance. I compete annually in the national triathlon race series and the national championships.
In 2001, I won a silver medal in my age-group at the British Triathlon Association National Sprint Championships. In 2002, I qualified to represent Great Britain in the ITU Age Group Triathlon World Championships in Mexico. It was great to be part of the national team at the World Championships, to compete with the world's best and to exceed my goals.
After a couple of years of doing different races (e.g., Half-Ironman triathlons), in 2005, I qualified to represent Ireland at to the Triathlon World Championships in Hawaii in October. This was a great race and a great place to have a holiday afterwards! After watching the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Hawaii I set my sights on competing in my first Ironman in 2006 (read about how this threw-up some unexpected challenges below).
I continue to race and qualified to race for Ireland in the European Triathlon Championships in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, I finished 11th in my age-group in Athlone Ireland. In June 2011, I travelled to Pontevedra, Spain and again finished 11th. After my Ironman experience it has been good to get race fit again and to get back to international competition, despite having some physical/medical limitations and with having a very busy year with my sports psychology work.
2006 Ironman survival story
On the 2nd July 2006 I crossed the start line at Ironman Switzerland. I knew the day would be tough with a 3.8 K (2.4 mile) swim, 180 K (112 mile) bike, and 42 K (26 mile) marathon run. The day was hot, reported to have reached 36 degrees C. I finished in 11 hours 41 minutes which I was happy with. I reached 5 out of my 7 goals for the day. The only ones I missed were a sub-4 hour marathon and my dream goal of finishing the race in less than 11 hours.
But the day's test didn't end on crossing the finish line. The stomach cramps I experienced for the last 3.5 hours of the bike affected what nutrients I could absorb. Despite pouring water on my head at every opportunity on the marathon I developed heat stroke. On finishing the race, I threw-up 9 times and was escorted to the medical tent. There I received 3 i/v drips which appear to have combined with my poor absorption of nutrients in the race to cause dangerously low levels of salts and electrolytes in my body. The next thing I knew, I was being told by a nurse that I'm in hospital, in the intensive care unit, it is 36 hours after the race finished, and I'm on a ventilator which they will take me off in a few hours. My finishing medal was hanging up on one of the drip stands and the nurse is saying: "You're an Ironman."
Investigations and recovery
I spent 6 days in hospital recoverying, being tested and trying to prove that my lungs were strong enough that I could breathe enough to be discharged. I had gone from being the fittest I had ever been, to being on a hospital's lung ward trying to prove that I didn't need to be on oxygen. Oh, how things had changed!
I was then flown home with a doctor and an oxygen tank to help me breathe in the thinner air on the plane. Once home, I ended-up having 4 months off work while I inched myself back to a reasonable level of functioning. For several weeks this only involved going for brief walks.
It took 2.5 years of tests and hospital appointments before a clear (ish) picture emerged of what went on and what problems I have been left with. At one point medics thought that I had a heart problem that required me to be fitted with a defibrillator. However, I postponed this operation with less than a week to go as not all medics agreed with this diagnosis and the surgery. The clearest position is that I have a bad response to heat - my body doesn't cool itself sufficiently to stop my core temperature increasing to dangerous levels when exercising. This means that when it is a hot summers day I should not run for more than 20 minutes, or the result could be, well, fatal.
I have published my Ironman survival story in the Sports Injury Bulletin and it has appeared on Channel Five's Diet Doctors TV series.
Before I took up triathlon I enjoyed a number of other sports, including football, rugby, judo, squash and tennis. I first participated in sport at the age of seven and appreciate what sport has given me over the years.
Qualifications and professional membership
I have a:
- Doctorate in Clinical Psychology
- Diploma in Sports Psychology
- Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- BSc (Hons) in Psychology
- I'm Chartered & listed in the Register of Chartered Psychologists*
- I'm a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS)
- I'm a member of the BPS Division of Sport & Exercise Psychology
- I subscribe to the BPS Code of Conduct
- I began working in sports psychology in 1998
- I have worked as a psychologist in the NHS since 1995
- I endeavour to keep up-to-date with sports psychology developments
Why you should choose a Chartered Psychologist
According to the British Psychological Society*:
'Chartered status is an insurance policy that the psychologist you employ or consult is properly qualified.
Anyone can call themselves a psychologist. As psychology and psychological services expanded, concern grew that there were people practising psychological techniques and calling themselves psychologists who had no proper qualifications.'
A Chartered Psychologist is listed on the BPS Register of Chartered Psychologists.
'It means that the individual:
- Has successfully completed a first qualification in psychology (i.e., university degree)
- Has undergone a further course or period of supervised training in psychology
- Has agreed to abide by a code of conduct and is subject to a disciplinary procedure
- Has been judged fit to practice psychology without supervision'
*From: Information on the Register of Chartered Psychologists, British Psychological Society, August 2001.
How do people become sports psychologists?
There are many routes into sports psychology. If you want to learn about how to become one then please visit the following websites for advice:
Effective · Tailor-made · Professional
Dr Victor Thompson