I thought it was a reasonable expectation that having run a half marathon PB at the ripe young age of 54, I would get some time to rest and reflect on my achievement – but no. Just two days after clocking 1.41hrs at the Reading Half on 2 March, my five-month training program for Ironman UK started. No rest for the wicked!
I am tempted to say that it marked my first step on the road to Bolton, but in truth I have been on that road for some time. Mentally I have been heading that way since June 2011 when a friend of mine described his race at Ironman Lanzarote to me. I didn’t realise it then but the seed was sown.
The mental process has been a long one. It has taken almost three years to move from complete disbelief that such a thing is possible, to a gradual realisation that it can be done, to taking the plunge and entering one.
Physically I have been on the road to Bolton for at least a year. My 2013 season included two half iron distance races which were a deliberate toe in the water of long-distance triathlon. One was the Monster Middle, a completely flat 70.3 race in Cambridgeshire; the other was Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote which was anything but flat. If I needed confirmation that a full Ironman is what I want to do, Lanzarote provided it in bucket loads. I absolutely loved it.
I took my first proper step on the road to Bolton on 1 January of this year when I started a two-month base training program. It sounds almost alluring when you express it like that but the reality was less glamorous. It was really a progression of increasingly long runs and rides wearing virtually every item of kit I owned to ward off the cold. It was also great training for the unlikely event that Ironman UK is raced during a flood!
My base training ended with a treat, which was running the Reading Half. Believe me, when that shape on the horizon is a 140.6 mile endurance race with a 17-hour deadline, a spring half marathon is a treat!
But during all of this, Ironman UK seemed a long way off. Now it is 18 short weeks away and hurtling towards me at an alarming speed. Thankfully my training is now in full swing. Straight away I have noticed how quickly the volume has increased – last weekend was a 10-mile run and a 60-mile cycle sandwiched between 2k swim sessions and it only goes one way from here. So far I am keeping up with the demands of training and my long-suffering wife Cate is keeping up with the laundry burden of daily swim, bike, run sessions, but I think there are harder tests ahead for both of us.
I am very lucky to belong to Andover Triathlon Club where there is a group us of doing various Ironman races this year, so company on long rides, encouragement and words of advice from previous Ironman finishers are never far away. If David Cameron wants a proper example of “we are all in this together” he should come on our Saturday bike ride.
From total disbelief two and a half years ago, I am now genuinely excited about Bolton in July (a sentence I never expected to write!). But already I have found out what I suspected to be true; that the first challenge of the would be Ironman isn’t getting to the finish line; it’s summoning up the bottle to go to the start line. I hope I crossed that bridge a while ago and I can move full steam ahead preparing myself to get to the finish line.