A 64-year-old Clitheroe man has qualified for both the off-road and road duathlon at the European Triathlon Union (ETU) Age-Group Championships in Romania later this year despite undergoing treatment for aggressive and advanced prostate cancer for the past 11 months.
Earning qualification with an age-group silver medal at the National Standard Distance Age-Group Duathlon Championships near Leighton Buzzard, a "totally gobsmacked" Nick Dinsdale has shocked even his oncologist with his physical feats, completing a gruelling 10km run, a 28-mile hilly cycle, and a final 5km run in just three hours, five minutes, 37 seconds to earn a place on the podium.
Diagnosed with cancer at the end of March 2018, Nick - a member of the Ribble Valley Triathlon Club and Clitheroe Bike Club - completed the race after almost a year's worth of energy-sapping chemotherapy and performance-altering hormone therapy and says that he was stunned with the result on what was a particularly cold and windy day.
"I felt reasonably strong on the day of the nationals considering I was still on treatment," said Nick, who has continued training throughout treatment. "I'd rested up and I was in pretty good shape when I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, but the 10km was the furthest I'd run since last April. It was asking quite a lot, so I was totally gobsmacked with second place.
"When I was diagnosed with cancer, I never thought I'd have any chance," he said of the event, held at Ashridge Estate, a former retreat of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. "I was fortunate: a couple of good competitors in my age group didn't turn up but you've got to be in it to win it."
With his incredible story already having drawn attention from the British Triathlon Federation and Prostrate Cancer UK, Nick plans to continue racing through radiotherapy over the next two months ahead of the 2019 Târgu Mures ETU European Championships in Romania and the Alpe D’huez Duathlon in France this July and has said that keeping fit has been crucial to his recovery.
"I'm going to do what I can, when I can; exercise stimulates me and from a psychological point of view, it helps massively," said Nick, a former National Cyclo-Cross Championship winner. "I got the official confirmation I had cancer on a Monday and raced on the Sunday, finishing second in my age group and qualifying for the on-road ETU European Championships. A week after finishing chemotherapy in November last year, I also qualified for the off-road ETU European Championships."
Always a duathlete rather than a triathlete, Nick has always extolled the mental health benefits of setting small goals, and so was also inspired to take private swimming lessons at Stoneyhurst College so he could join his daughters in the West Lancs Triathlon at Edge Hill University.
"I didn't say anything, but I learned to swim whilst on chemo and entered the triathlon with them," said Nick, who works as sports therapist at NJD Sports Injury Centre with his daughter Nicola Dinsdale, herself a talented athlete who claimed gold in the Ibiza ETU Cross Triathlon European Championships in October last year. "I've never been a swimmer; it was hard work."
Despite having lost his older brother and then, unexpectedly, his mother to cancer in the last 15 months, Nick has refused to let his condition affect him and continues to champion the impact a positive mindset can have, saying: "When anybody's diagnosed initially, it's a real shock. I want to show that not only can you train and race with cancer provided you get approval from your consultant, but if you've got the right mindset, you can do well."
With one in eight men set to get prostate cancer, Nick has stressed the importance of perspective, adding: "If you're not careful, you get up every day and think cancer, cancer, cancer. I find short-term objectives give me a focus.
"Switch negative thoughts to positives."