Cancer survivor and “Iron Man” triathlete Ian Hanson spent his 43rd birthday cycling up Portugal’s highest road in thick fog and stinging rain wondering if he’d ever see his wife and cycling companions ever again, writes Trevor Ward.
It was the fourth day of a five-day, 400-mile charity bike from Lisbon to the Douro Valley, and the Leighton Buzzard Triathlon Club coach found himself at his lowest point as he neared the top of the Serra da Estrela mountain range.
“I was on my own, I couldn’t see anyone in front or behind me, I was soaked to the skin and I was thinking, ‘What a birthday this is!’”, he recalled at his home in Bell Close, Cublington.
But Ian is no stranger to adversity – in 1996 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent nine months of intensive chemotherapy before being given the all clear.
Doctors told him that if he hadn’t been as fit as he was – thanks to his love of cycling – his body wouldn’t have been able to endure the treatment.
Ian’s “near death” experience was “a wake-up call”, he says.
“At the time, I was the marketing and product manager for an electrical company, but after the cancer I found it difficult to go back and do the normal job thing and work in an office,” he said.
“I attended an Open Day for a personal trainer course at Milton Keynes college and decided I wanted to do something like that.”
But before that, Ian had other plans. “After the cancer, I felt indestructible.
“I decided that life was all about getting as many different experiences as possible,” he said.
He qualified as a triathlon coach, completing his first “Iron Man” event – 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26-mile run – last year.
He and his wife Kathryn, the captain of Leighton Buzzard Triathlon Club, also established their own personal training business (hans-on.co.uk). It was one of Ian’s clients who suggested the pair join him on a bike ride to raise funds for the PACE centre, a school in Aylesbury for physically handicapped children.
And that was how last month Ian found himself shivering on a remote Portuguese mountain road with no sign of Kathryn or the other 28 charity riders.
“By the time we reached the top the weather improved, and we were all reunited at the bottom of the next descent,” he recalled.
“It was a pretty miserable way to spend your birthday, but on the other hand Kathryn and I completed the ride and raised £2,000 for the charity.”
On Saturday, Ian and his band, The Spokes, will be playing a charity gig in aid of the PACE Centre at Wingrave Village Hall.
> If you’d like to donate to the charity, you can do so here: https://www.justgiving.com/pace/
PHOTOS: Matthew Stone