It is 4 weeks since I started my Ironman training program. I am a whole month closer to the big day – but I don’t feel a whole month more prepared even though I have stuck to the plan pretty well.
The most noticeable thing has been the increase in volume from base training. I am routinely running 10 miles, swimming 2.5k and I have ridden 60 miles twice in the last few weeks – two rides of the same distance but with contrasting results.
The first one was with a group from my tri club. We left early from Andover and headed south into the New Forest. At about 45 miles I started to struggle, falling off the back of the group whenever we went uphill. I was glad to get home but was dispirited that I hadn’t coped better. The 112-mile Ironman bike leg seemed a world away. It was a wake-up call.
Two weeks later I did the same distance again, this time with my club mate Nick Wall. It wasn’t until we started talking about it that it occurred to me that my previous experience may have been a nutrition issue and not a fitness one. The symptoms were all there; three hours in and I had no energy, I started getting arsey with myself and unlike me, I got to a point where I wasn’t bothered about dropping off the back. My motivation had evaporated. In retrospect, I think I was a few miles from cycling into a great big wall. The scary thing is that I was totally unaware of it at the time.
This time I was more careful to drink and snack regularly. Eating and drinking on a bike is as much about concentrating and remembering to do it as it is about the science of carbs and calories. I had taken plenty of nutrition with me two weeks earlier – bananas, flapjacks, gels and energy drink. I had just failed to complete the crucial step of putting it in my mouth!
Properly fuelled I had a great ride. 60 miles passed in about 3.45hrs, an average of about 16.5mph, and I felt good all the way. I even managed to run a mile at the end of the ride, but my jelly legs made me feel I was running like a chicken.
Week three was one of those weeks where life got in the way – in a nice way. Matilda’s school choir went on a 5-day singing tour of Malta. Cate and I saw a great opportunity for some time away together and so imaginatively we decided to go away to…..Malta!
We watched the choir sing mass on the first day and then had the afternoon to ourselves. When Cate went for a siesta I spotted the opportunity for a swim. In my mind I was imagining the hotel pool to be an 8-lane Olympic pool. What I walked into was a spa pool shaped something like a cloud with several islands dotted around sprouting palm trees. The pool was empty with just half a dozen couples lying around it on sun loungers relaxing. This wasn’t go to be easy.
Buttocks noticeably clenched as I stripped down to swim jammers and put on my goggles. I chickened out of putting on my Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote swim cap – I think that would have been too much for them. I felt as welcome as bird flu.
Eventually I got in and started warming up only for almost everyone there to get in with me. But frustratingly, none of them wanted to swim. All they wanted to do was bask, lying on their backs inert.
Somehow I managed to bash out a 2km swim set of cloud-shaped laps, swimming round or under basking bodies. I am sure one day that will prove to be good triathlon training.
The next day I managed to get a 7.5 miles run in, running a beautiful scenic loop that traced the perimeter wall of the old town of Valletta. I liked it so much that I went out again the next day before breakfast for a gentle 40-minute recovery run.
So we returned home with everyone happy. We had seen Matilda perform twice, I had done some training and Cate and I had spent some quality time together sight seeing and enjoying several of those lovely long lunches and dinners where there is no time pressure.
I am now into week five, an active recovery week. No really long run or bike this week which is very welcome. I am feeling the effects of my efforts in the first four weeks and I need to recharge because the volume is about to crank up a notch. But I am not complaining, with 16 weeks to go I am enjoying it and still very excited about 20 July.
I met an old friend of mine, Diana Nye, in London today to talk about business over a cup of tea. In my mental contacts folder Diana is filed under “Friend” and “Talented Businesswoman”. Diana’s first question was about my running. I told her about my Ironman plans. To cut a long story short, once the conversation turned to her, I discovered that not only has Diana done four Ironman races, she did one of them in 11.30hours. Diana is now filed under “Friend”, “Talented Businesswoman” and “Gifted Ironman”.