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How to be an ironman: not halfway.

I’m deep into ironman training now.  The training hours are ramping up, the starts are getting earlier and the finishes are getting later. The food is getting bigger and more frequent. The showers are taking over my life.

I’m still enjoying it – mostly.  I’ve been solidly training for 9 weeks now and at the stage if I were training for a marathon where I’d be over halfway there. Nearly at the biggest miles, nearly at tapering, nearly at race day.   But with this… not so much.  With this beast, it’s only March, which means there are still many, many weeks and a bit to go and it still feels like an awful lot.  I sometimes just want to pack it all in and run away and hide under the duvet.

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I sometimes wear the Bastion buff I got for doing the bike leg last year to remind myself why I’m going out the door when I could be watching Pointless and drinking tea with my unicorn slippers on.

But of course I don’t, because I love this, it’s the best.  Physically, I’ve never felt harder, better, faster, stronger and I’m mostly excited when I get to a session, to see how it goes.   I love talking about training to anybody who will listen and I love the constant ache in my legs and I love how I’m getting swimmers’ arms and a hint of a 6 pack (lolz as if).

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Strong jumper game pre-half marathon. There’s a 6 pack under there and also shorts, promise!

I ran the Cambridge half marathon at the end of February, and it went better than I could have hoped.  I was aiming for 1.36 – a number plucked out of the air really, just based on going faster than I did at Brighton last year and ended with, yep, 1.36.  I was really thrilled, as I’d not been training to be speedy at all, nor tapered.  I’d ridden 40 odd miles the day before and so to be able to hold on through the race was great and I was very proud of my little legs. I was proud of my mental strength too: it really started to hurt at about 10 miles, but I held on and held pace.  I had a brilliant weekend too, spending time with my friends and running somewhere different.  It was a really good mental break for me: to spend the weekend laughing and relaxing and racing. It was a great race to be a part of: really well organised and friendly, and the route was, on the whole, really pretty and flat.

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I always knew that training for an ironman was going to be physically tiring, but what I hadn’t really banked on was how exhausting it was going to be mentally.  I spend a lot of time thinking about swimming, cycling and running – how I’m going to fit the sessions in, what I need to do in them, how it might go, debriefing in my head afterwards, what I’m going to eat before and after, what I’m going to do with my sweaty clothes, should I wash my hair (always no),  how can I be home with plenty of time to hang out with Mark. It’s the amount of planning: planning how I can sort X, Y and Z and then do the running I want to.  What probably doesn’t help is that I’m now in East Asia for the next 4 weeks with work, and am having to think doubly hard about how things are going to fit… and where I’m going to train in the first place… it’s just all a bit exhausting for my poor brain.

I landed in Seoul today, and have done a brick and some lifting and feeling pretty relaxed. The pool is 20m long and the treadmills work.  The bikes are going to give me saddle sores but you can’t have everything.  When I get back, I’ve got the Brighton marathon, followed by London… which’ll be interesting as is a decision I’m starting to regret a bit.  But let’s see what these little legs* can do, ay?

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*someone commented in a race once that I “move fast on those little legs” which kinda pissed me off, but they are really short so I’ll just embrace it and move faster.

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4 thoughts on “How to be an ironman: not halfway.

  1. It’s full on isn’t it? The mental piece is the bit I struggle with when marathon training so tend to only do a 10 week plan now but you clearly can’t do the same for an ironman unless you have a ridiculous base to start with. I hope the excitement with training keeps going for you.

  2. Ahhh I haven’t done an Ironman but remember the mental element from triathlon training – looking forward to that beginning again this summer! I’m also doing Brighton marathon – you will be much faster than me but I will keep an eye out for you on the outs and backs!

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