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“I am an Ironman…”

by / Tuesday, 29 November 2011 / Published in Uncategorized

Last November it seemed like a great idea. I had done a really tough ½ Ironman a few weeks earlier and had no ill-effects so it seemed that 2011 was the perfect time to do ‘the big one’ before the next ‘big one’ of getting married in 2012! I had a fairly lazy Christmas, though the thought of what was coming did keep me motivated to do a few training runs and cycles, even in the snow! I started building up during January & Feb and my 20 week plan kicked off at the start of March. A nice time to start proper as you can look forward to some warmer weather and brighter evenings, but miss the worst of the winter. A successful appearance on Dragons Den in mid January meant that i was going to have a very hectic 6 months setting up a business and completing an Ironman, but looking back i wouldn’t have changed it for the world (though i wouldn’t have said that at the time).

My plan built up steadily from 8hrs per week to a maximum of 18hrs 5 weeks before the race. 3 weeks building and 1 week recovery, i feel the best way to do it. It was a solid plan, allowed for flexibility which i needed with work and had a good variety of sessions. Whilst i didnt follow it as closely as i would have liked, i was confident and relaxed coming up to race day that i had done enough and was delighted when i got to ‘taper time’ a few weeks before the race. The hardest part was certainly the long cycles, but after the first 5hr cycle, psychologically it was a lot easier and i completed them easily without music and just 1 stop. You use so much time getting your nutrition right and gauging average speed/distances etc that the time flies by, the hardest part is setting the time aside to start with (bye bye weekends). It was lovely to get out of the pool, even in chilly April to get some serious Open Water distances done, the pool just gets so boring! Running is my thing, so variety was the key to keep me motivated and build up the miles. All in all i was delighted to be arriving in Bolton confident and injury free, and couldn’t wait to get the bloody thing done!

The day before was a pain having to set-up different transitions, race briefing, getting nutrition sorted so the whole day was gone. Was a scorcher as well so i was praying Sunday would be a bit cloudier. Great buzz amongst other competitors and lots of Ironman virgins so i wasn’t on my own. The swim looked calm, drove the bike course and relaxed about the big hill that everyone was worried about and memorised the run course. Good pasta dinner and hit the bed early. I should mention that it was my birthday and certainly the quietest one ever! Planned on making up for it after the event though 🙂

4am start – a lot later than some, but i was confident it gave me plenty of time for 6am start and gave me bit if extra sleep as well. Nice healthy breakfast of porridge (not so bad after all), bread and bananas. Got to race venue just after 5, made sure my bike was ok and got the wetsuit on. Pretty surreal at 5.30 on Sunday morning standing with 1,500 people, waiting to get into a lake… but if there’s one thing ive learnt about Ironman, its don’t think about it too much, JUST GET STUCK IN! Had a good swim, finished 1hr7mins, ahead of schedule and that relaxed me for the bike (amazingly a shorter time than a horrific ½ Ironman swim the year before). Thankfully the day was dry but cloudy, with not much wind, near perfect conditions and i completed the bike in just over 6hrs. At this stage i was ahead of schedule so i had a nice break of 12 minutes (someone asked me had i taken a nap), but i just wanted to relax, stretch, take on some food and take a break. During the marathon i was buzzing, felt like i had loads of energy and hit the 20mile mark well under 3hrs. Then whilst i didnt hit a wall, i did hit severe leg cramps that made the last 4 miles very tough, but hey its an Ironman its not supposed to be easy! Delighted to finish well under the 12hr mark and relatively free from injury/pain. Those fish and fingers went down easily, though my stomach wasnt great after all the energy bars/gels, flat-coke, biscuits etc that i had been throwing into me to try and avoid further leg cramps (too late by then). Big smile on my face and delighted to hear “You are an Ironman”!

I heartily recommend doing one, but if you are new to triathlons, build up the distance over a few years and you’ll enjoy it more. Ive always enjoyed long distance so it gave me a head start, but the day wasn’t the hardest part, it was the 6 months beforehand and it takes over your life so you need a lot of willpower and a very understanding family! I did the race for charity and raised over £1,600 which gets people interested in what you are doing, keeps you motivated and means you’ve achieved something even more worthwhilel. After the race people were already talking about their next one, but i had put everything into it and felt that i didnt need to rush back. ½ Iron distances are much more ‘enjoyable’ and don’t take over your life whilst there are loads of short distance locations that i still want to do. I have no doubt that Ironman distance races will continue to get much more popular and people will feel like they have to do bigger distances, so maybe a double-Ironman distance is somewhere in my future, but not the foreseeable future!

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