In the last twelve months I have done three half Ironman races, but it wasn’t until the third of them that I delivered the performance that I felt I was capable of. I am sure that this is because with each attempt I have learned something which makes me better prepared for next time. Everyone is the same – the more we do something, the more experience we get and the better we are able to do it.
I am trying very hard to carry this sane logic over to my Ironman preparation. The question I am asked most often by friends is “How long do you think it will you take you to finish your Ironman?”
My answer is that I don’t know and I don’t want to set a target time. At this point, if you watch closely you can see my nose get just a little bit longer!
This reluctance isn’t because I am not keen to do my best or because I am not competitive – I am. The reason is simple – I have never done an Ironman, I have no experience and I have nothing to base a target time on, so it would be complete guesswork. We can all add together our likely swim, bike and run times over the distance, but surely no first-timer can begin to accurately appreciate what the cumulative effect of the extreme distances will be.
I think it would be a real shame to experience the elation of reaching the finish line of an Ironman for the first time – a huge achievement in its own right – only to feel you have failed because you didn’t hit some arbitrary target time which you had pretty much guessed.
If I reach the finish line I will be thrilled; if I cross the line at a proud cruise I will be delighted and if I am smiling at the same time then that will be the icing on the cake, but no target time.
In other news, with Ironman UK just four weeks away, I am now at the action end of my training program and my training volume will reach a peak over the next few weeks. This means some really long sessions.
My friend Nick Wall is doing Ironman France in Nice next weekend and a couple of weekends ago he was bringing his training to a climax with a long bike ride which he kindly let me tag along on. The Nice Ironman bike course is basically uphill for 70km and downhill for 110, so we were in search of hills and boy did we find some. We climbed the six biggest hills in North Hampshire, two of them twice and used the ride between each one to recover. It was five hours in the saddle covering between 70-80 miles and climbing over 6,000 feet. Did I mention the 20 minutes in the pub at halfway! Great fun but absolutely exhausting.
In general my training is pretty much where I want it to be. I have gradually increased volume and distances over the last 16 weeks and feel ready for one last push. I had a few days off running a week ago with a mild strain that I could probably have run through – but I have come too far to take that risk this close to race day. Fingers crossed that is now behind me.
The week ahead is where I bring it all to the boil – in volume terms it will be my biggest week at 16 hours. The last four days of the week go: 3.75k open water swim, 14-mile run, rest, 100 mile cycle with one mile run off the bike. After that I am going to be as prepared as I can be which means I will then switch into Ironman first-timer mode and start telling everyone how under prepared I feel!
And finally…….. congratulations to my club mate Jason Briley who completed his Double Ironman in 36 hours and 39 minutes – nutter! And good luck to teammates Nick Wall, Pete Holt and Liz Mayon-White who line up for Ironman France in a week.