This week I took another small step in the learning process of Ironman training. As if I needed reminding, I learned that when it comes to Ironman, normal rules don’t apply – but more about that later.
First I had a mojo problem to get on top of. The week started well with a Club swim session – a gathering that I always enjoy. Lots of chat and banter amongst good friends mixed in with an hour of hard work helped to cheer me up. But by the time I got to the track for our Club’s weekly coached running session on Monday, I had slipped back into my rut. My legs were heavy and I moaned my way through a session of 8 x 600m at about 800m pace.
The turnaround started on Tuesday when someone posted in the fantastic “Ironman Journey” group on Facebook that they had hit a huge motivational brick wall. Their words could have been mine exactly. What followed was like a “Spartacus” moment as literally dozens of people, all training for Ironman, posted their confessions. Everyone was suffering from the same thing. But as important to me was some of the Ironman veterans in the group reassuring everyone that it was perfectly normal to experience a low at some point in training.
I don’t know if it was the reassurance that I wasn’t alone or the rest day I took on Tuesday, but when I woke up on Wednesday morning the world was a different place.
I did a great high intensity 90-minute bike ride in the evening looking for hills and working hard and I followed that with my long run on Thursday. It was a shorter run this week of 8.5 miles to give my legs a bit of a break, but it was such a nice day and I was enjoying the run so much that I ran straight past the road home and tacked an extra loop on to make it a round ten miles. It seems my mojo had returned. To prove it I tagged along on a trip to the lake that evening which I had planned to skip. It was a beautiful evening and I had a great time swimming 2.3km with a group of friends from the Club.
Friday was the big one – the 80-mile cycle that I had bounced from the previous week blaming the weather. This week I was really up for it and was out of the house at 8.30am on a beautiful sunny morning carrying my bodyweight in energy bars and gels and a pair of legs which were slightly heavy from the previous day’s run.
After a tour of lots of pretty villages south of Andover, I stopped at about halfway in the small market town of Stockbridge to buy some water and top up the nutrition with a chocolate twist from the Co-op’s pastry counter – as you do! The only other interruption to my ride were two puncture stops during the second half. The roads around us are terrible at the moment.
I got home in just over five hours of riding time (excluding puncture stops and lunch) having covered 83 miles (132km) with 3,500 feet of ascent. A moving average speed of 16.5mph (26.4kph). For a training ride with ten weeks left, that will do nicely. Then came an important Ironman lesson.
What I wanted to do when I got home was to lie on the lawn in the sun with a large bottle of ice-cold water. What I knew I should really do was to pull on my running shoes and run for a mile straight off the bike and so I did.
It should have been no surprise to me that, as 83 miles is the furthest I have ever cycled, that one-mile run was going to be a challenge. It was a small taste of what starting the run in an Ironman might be like. Let’s not quibble about the fact that the ride was 30 miles short of the Ironman distance or that my run was only one of the required twenty-six miles, it was a struggle.
When I think of running a Marathon, I think about things like pacing strategy, splits and other important stuff. Forget all of that! From now on I am working on a “get round strategy” which starts with ignoring the pace on my watch. Whatever the strategy, run, shuffle or walk, it will have one aim which is to get me to the finish line, come what may.
Tim Lebbon, a member of the “Ironman Journey” Facebook group put it perfectly in a post last week:
“One of the best bits of advice I had was: It’s not a marathon, it’s an Ironman run.”
When I read the post, I thought I knew what he meant. Having done my 83 mile bike and 1 mile run, I now know exactly what he means. It may be one of the best bits of advice I get too.
In other news, endurance racing madness reaches an all-time high at Andover Triathlon Club over the next two weeks as my friend and club mate Jason Briley takes on Enduroman, a double iron distance race (4.8 mile swim, 232 mile bike and 52 mile run).
Because part of the race is through the night, the course is designed to keep everyone close by for safety reasons. So the run course is 50 times round a loop of just over a mile – psychological as well as physical torture!
To keep himself motivated, Jase has had all of his mantras and motivational catchphrases printed on card and laminated and plans to collect one at the start of each loop of the run to see him round the next mile. A brilliant idea!
I’d wish him luck, but he doesn’t need luck. His cheery chirpy exterior belies a core of steel. Enduroman doesn’t stand a chance!