There are only 3 weeks to go until The Bastion now. Well, 2 weeks and 6 days now. 2 weekends. 2 full weeks without an ironman at the end. How has this come around so fast?! It was only January yesterday, surely? But here we are – TWENTY DAYS TO GO!
On Sunday, I did my last big training session. I spent pretty much all day training (7 hours 20 minutes) and covered 102 miles, to finish off a week in which I did 23 hours of training. I nearly cried on Sunday when I got back from my run – I’d done it! For months I’d been flicking to the page with that week’s training on and quaking in my boots about how I’d manage it, but I did, and I’m so, so pleased. I’ve done hours and hours of training over the past 6 months and now it’s downhill to race day. Hurray!
It’s not been super easy though, this ironing lark. It’s funny – I’d recommend triathlon to anyone. I’d recommend doing a marathon to anyone. But an ironman – nope, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It takes over your life and you have to be ready for it. You can’t be swept up in the furore surrounding the event like you can with a marathon, and just sign up – it’s just not the same.
I really don’t want to sound arrogant, or like I know exactly what I’m talking about – I’ve not finished the thing yet! – but… I do think I’ve succeeded in completing the training happily and fully for a few reasons, and they might help you decide whether you’re ready to do 140.6.
In 2014 I did a half distance ironman. Before that, I’d not really done triathlons, and hadn’t ever trained for one. Throwing myself into training for a half gave me a real flavour of what doing a full might be like – double training days, early morning swims, long back to back bike and run sessions and the sheer length of the race. I loved doing the half, and wanted more, but it really was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life – imaging doing double that again was mind blowing.
Doing the half really did set me up for what it would be like to train and complete a full distance event though, and I think helped me get ready to train this time around.
I didn’t sign up to a full the following year though. Maybe I’m too cautious, but I wanted to make sure I could do the distances on their own before diving into trying them back to back. I’m not a keen cyclist, and so I signed up and trained for a long distance cycle event and agreed to do the bike leg in the relay of The Bastion with my friends Katie and Laura. I swam a 5K event in the spring and ran the Snowdon marathon in the autumn. Training and completing each of these individually gave me the confidence to feel ready for signing up to a full.
It was a good time
After I finished uni things were quite up and down, as is the case for most people. For a time didn’t know where I was going to live, what job I was going to do and everything was just up in the air. I didn’t know what my hours or commute were going to be like in the long term, or if I’d be doing the kind of thing that would allow me to fit in the training I’d want to do for an ironman. Then in the summer last year, everything came together – we bought a house, I got a permanent job that I loved and suddenly felt really settled. It really felt like the right time to be able to balance life and an ironman.
I felt mentally ready
With everything away from sport falling into place, I knew I could – and wanted to handle – doing an ironman. In my head it was the thing I wanted out of 2016. I had my eyes on that prize, knew what I needed to do to get there and was ready to commit all the time and energy I had to getting to it. The house was finished, I was settled in work and felt in exactly the right headspace to really commit.
I was supported
You can’t underestimate the need for those around you to be behind what you’re doing. The fact that I’d worked in the same place for two years already definitely helped: everyone there has been really understanding and unfazed by the constant pile of kit, food and air of chlorine and tiredness that surround my desk every day.
I’m not going to make Mark’s head any bigger, but he’s been an absolute superstar throughout my training. He’s cycled beside me in the pouring rain weekend, after weekend, has kept the house in some sort of order, cooked endless meals, done endless rounds of washing, given me endless cuddles and just been generally amazing. I owe him big time.
I wish I knew a way to really thank my friends for how ace they’ve been throughout this whole thing too. They are always on the end of the phone whenever it’s got too much no matter where I am or they are in the world and understand how much this means to me. Many of them will be there at the event, and I’m more grateful for that than they will ever realise.
I think you need a support network around you that understand what you’re doing and care that you do it. When I was staying at my (incredibly supportive and brilliant) mum and dad’s in May, I was moaning about going for a run and my dad just said ‘you’re going to go, because you want to be an ironperson, and you’ll be an ironperson, we all know that’. And I did and he was right, I do want to be an ironperson. My dad’s favourite saying the world comes from the first Harry Potter book:
it’s our choices, Harry, that make us who we truly are, far more than our abilities
and this has been ringing in my ears every time I want to bail on a session (or anything in life, actually), so thanks, Dad. And J.K Rowling.
It was THE goal
Every single thing I’ve done this year, and since January last year, really, has been for The Bastion. I unexpectedly PB’d at the Brighton marathon in April, but that was – honestly – just a by-product of training for this. I ran with zero time pressure whatsoever, and I truly believe that helped me in the race. When you have big goals, its important to break them down and not try and do everything all at once, that can only end in tears. Next year I’ll want to target something else, I’m sure. But this year was just this. Only ironing.
What I’m trying to get across is that ironing is a huge undertaking, and it’s not easy; not something to sign into on a whim. I’ve no doubt that anyone can do an ironman, it’s just whether you want to enough, and that all your circumstances are right that will enable you to in the end.
I probably won’t write anything now until after the race. Thank you for following my adventures in ironing. Keep everything crossed for dry weather, clear roads and a calm lake on the 10th July.