Category Archives: #training

Christmas presents and Ironman are not the best combination..

Christmas Day 2017 and a present that all endurance athletes dream about. Your long suffering partner, who has suffered, supported you, cooked you breakfasts after 6 hour weekend training sessions, has understood your fantastical belief you are an equal to the Brownlee brothers -the unbelievable happens… no she doesn’t dump you because you are seriously talking about training on Xmas day. No, she buys you a race entry and one on the Cote D’Azur…. Blessed….

With every upside, there are obviously bumps in the road. Initially, the French insistence on a ‘ Medical Examination’ to prove fitness should be no problem, unless of course, your organisational skills mean you leave it to the last minute. Of course, our British doctors are slightly perplexed and unsure about this, so several hours of negotiation that Dominic Raab might find handy produce a letter proving I am breathing and walking, which then of course the dog eats…

Anyway, we make it to France… clearly the French requirement for fitness is to prove you can smoke 20 Gauloise in 30 mins (smoking is on the French curriculum). With my Drs note, and British optimism, I head to the race briefing full of confidence. Full distance Ironman under the belt, training gone to plan -half distance should be a walk in the park right?

Normal briefing, safety, sportsmanship, no drafting, mention of 1800m of climbing on the bike..I am no mountaineer. There are some steep hills in Bedfordshire…I paraphrase Sir Alex Ferguson when I say that the arse cheeks were somewhat looser than normal.

Race day – early start, usual nerves coupled with excitement. Swimming – I like a sea swim, but 800 m is a long way out in the sea and a bit choppy but all in all happy -the warm Mediterranean when the sun is rising is idyllic.

T1 to the bike -food on board, minor problem dropped chip….Now had I realised how big that mountain was, first 10k gentle introduction next 30k…how to describe? This was the flyweight against Anthony Joshua… at one point 10k straight climbing at an average gradient of 7.5 – 8%. My legs were spinning as fast as gravity was acting against…I think Michael Jackson could have space walked uphill faster.

The relentless grind up and up, punctuated by signs of 4K to go to the summit, 3k was both depressing and pleasing. Counting the metres to the top with the goal of breath in the lungs and relief for the legs was just about keeping me going.

Eventually, the summit. Relief? Well the downhill meant the legs could recover but there was nothing in them to power the downhill, they were empty. Then as little reminder of why the event is so punishing, another short uphill, which may have only been a 400m climb but there it was laughing at us all.

The second half of the bike, is a blur. Relief and some speed but the heat of the Mediterranean sun blessing us all the way back into Nice. The pedals were moving and the legs still not quite responding of what was asked. Nearly T2 and back to the relationship….

Having dropped the chip in T1 meant the inability for interested parties to track me on the bike course…normally not a problem if you are roughly on target but given the gruelling bike course, targets went out of the window fairly rapidly and poor Debbie was seriously worrying about my well being. Eg whether I was actually alive.

By now the Mediterranean sun was at its highest and hottest 31 degrees and run along the iconic Promenade des Anglais was not quite as welcoming as expected. Despite the heat, the crowds and volunteers were amazing. Supportive and always smiling, they were the extra fuel to get us round. The feeling of camaraderie and togetherness always there and as we entered the last mile the view of that iconic carpet and tones of the announcer, welcomed us home. Hot, exhausted, a lit broken and relieved to be back in the Ironman family…..

Nice – you were daunting but amazing – au revoir!


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The Countdown begins…

The recent silence on the blogging front is probably due to one thing – training…Well the combination of work, training and complete lack of time generally. So with 8 weeks to go would I recommend this whole process again? What are the benefits of bascially dedicating one part of your life to a fairly solitary existence? After all all of the disciplines are individual. Yes you can train with others but…well lets just say there is more banter in a goldfish bowl…

On reflection, this has been double edged, solitary, a bit selfish yes, but it does show what you can achieve if you focus and are disciplined. There have been sacrifices, the odd trip to the pub and the weekend lie in are luxuries that I dream of.  Indeed, when I am out on  parole after August, maybe these small luxuries will be returned, or maybe I will become addicted to training, lose all of my marbles, relationships and end up an Ironman bore…(some might say this happened), although fortunately the relationship is still going strong.

What have I learnt? Well,  on a serious note, its pretty amazing what you can do when have focus, a clear goal and a bit of determination. I am probably as fit or fitter than when I was professional tennis coach, 20 odd years ago. It has been an exhilarating, exhausting but ultimately satisfying experience. Sleep is now my friend. No night awake worrying about work, kids money – too exhausted. Sleep overcomes all, as soon as your head hits that pillow.

On a lighter note, the ironman is a financial drain like no other. The marketing machine is slick, like a drug dealer selling heroin. The more you have the more you crave. Equipment, merchandise, anything. I am sure that if branded hair bands were marketed as something that makes female athletes go faster, they would sell like hotcakes, at exorbitant margins. Us athletes are willing prey…. In fact I think becoming a heroin addict might be cheaper 😉 This is a joke for any one worried about my mental state.

As the autumn beckons, I dream of the weekend lie in. No more 6am bike rides (well there might be some) but maybe not 6am. The question is what will take the place of this relentless schedule of training. Well, I do hope that I will continue some focus towards training, as I do feel better than ever. However, this is a fairly solitary and selfish discipline. Some attention will go back to those who have supported this endeavour.

A little more social interaction will be welcome. Whilst cycling with others or running is ok. The banter isn’t exactly mustard. There is only so much interest I can take in your resting heart rate or what your cadence is (yawn). I even bore myself sometimes.

In all would I recommend this to someone else. Of course, but given that I am not an elite or professional athlete, don’t take it too seriously or it could absorb your life… And by the way your friends and family aren’t necessarily as interested in split times, VO2 max or in fact anything else to do with your training. Treat these people well….

While you are here. I am doing to raise money for this fantastic charity.. Thanks for reading.

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Feeling weirdly relaxed – (Still scared though)

We have made it through the long winter, the sun has shone, early weekends have meant long bike rides in solitude and loving the tranquility and beauty of our great countryside….Life affirming and exciting, if a little chilly. Apparently, not as chilly as the lake.

In previous missives I have shared my fears about the bike, having only recently graduated from a Raleigh Grifter with various decorations on the wheels that really don’t help triathletes in anyway and the general fears about such an event. However, bizarrely, maybe after reassuring words from my coach and perhaps gaining a greater perspective a feeling of calm has descended. Perhaps ancient buddhism is right. Learn to accept the challenges, focus on the now and probably more realistically, learn to breathe properly. This is clearly a clear way of prevention of panic attacks and hyperventilating.

There is a serious point in here – the training and concentration do induce a sense of well being and calm. Of course, there are worries and fears, but I am not sure this is specific to attempting an Ironman. I could easily trot out cliches about ‘controlling what you can control’ and other such meaningless mantras, but in essence having a focus and enjoying what you do is far better than worrying about what you cant do or what might not be right.

This is not an attempt to stop striving for improvement, far from it, but it is an attempt to stop trying to achieve perfection. As specialists in Continuous Improvement will tell you, the clue is in the title…. The journey will not be linear. Some weeks, some days will feel better or worse than others because that’s life. However, it is important to acknowledge, and even celebrate getting out for that run swim or ride, or even a walk. The tough ones are probably the most valuable for so many reasons. In addition, listen to your coach, not every session has to be hard. There is a method and purpose to easy sessions. Maybe this is something to dwell upon in life. Beating ourselves up for the smallest error or taking it easy, is no way to live. Enjoy the fact we have down time. This is perhaps when we get better at things.

Spectating at the London Marathon this weekend was just the tonic – watching different folk with all sorts of different goals, and reasons for running puts everything in perspective and does remind me that the human spirit is fundamentally, strong, good hearted and resilient. That is something to aim for…And helps keep the training in perspective.

I am sure the fears and the panic, will rear their heads again. I will be open to that and enjoy the process. After all being scared can be helpful some of the time…Right?

If you can please give to this amazing charity

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Spring does make a difference….

The dark days of winter are behind us, no longer indoor drudgery of indoor bike sessions and rising early in the dark for that early morning swim.

With 5 months to go until Copenhagen, there is light. My mood has changed with the ability to get outside. Long bike rides….. Now I say this, so far I’ve managed a few and of course this has been great with some pitfalls.

The obligatory tumble because I forgot to unclip in time, middle of the road with two other cyclists. Of course, they were gracious enough not to laugh but cartoon time was clearly with us. Everything in slow motion, my legs moving to get free in mid air, well they weren’t because they were stuck to the bike. Luckily only ego and pride bruised, a standard lesson for all cyclists.

Then the glories of early morning bike rides. Early spring sunshine illuminating the countryside, just the noise of the wheels whirring and  tyres collecting the miles. However, no one told me, it’s bloody cold on the bike. Within, 40 mins hands and toes solid blocks of ice, with still 30 miles left. Eskimos would be better suited to this training.

However, there is still the exhilaration of being on the open road until you discover the real state of Britains roads. I think I know what it was like to ride a Penny Farthing. Bones shaken and rattled, like I have in a good blender. The pot holes are deeper than craters and your body anticipates tbe judders with Pavlovian ryhthm.

The fresh air and exhilaration does counterbalance this and being in the sunshine and fresh air stiffens the sinews. Those early swims are getting easier and it seems the indoor training of the winter does pay off. I could go into the detail of Heart Rates and my speeds but that seems pointless, nerdy and overblown. After all, I’m not going to win tbe Ironman, I’m there to enjoy and for once in my years of running and competing, stay in the moment and savour this endeavour. After all, I could beat myself up about a minute or two here but what will that achieve. I’m healthy and have some great people around me… and tbe cause I’m raising money for does make a difference to families with greater challenges than I’m facing…..

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It’s not all toil and drudgery

The 6 month countdown begins to Copehagen. The days are getting a bit warmer and lighter and real training begins. All so far so normal. My previous blogs have explored my fears, worries and overall anxiety about the size of the challenge ahead…So a change of tack this week. Nearly all of this is one of the most positive experiences for many reasons (selfishly) and very funny.

Thankfully, I have supportive partner, why? Because if I was single there would’ve no hope of ever attracting a partner. The sheer monotony of my conversation, obsession with Heart Rates, distances my bike, my body etc….Donald Trump’s narcissism is amateur by comparison. Our need to sleep at least 8 hours a day does tend to quash romantic life….I was sharing a pizza recently with a fellow IronMan wannabe, whilst we were discussing the minutiae of transitions, interval training and average speeds on the bike, his girlfriend had finished Tolstoy’s War and Peace, in the original language. She is no linguist but the ennui drover her to fluency.

Joking aside, even if I could not compete in August for any reason,there are so many lessons to reflect on.Firstly, this is a good lesson in changing mindset.If you had asked me6 months if I couldfind5 or 6 hours a week to train (I am not including weekends here),I would have looked at you like you had arrived from Mars and told me that we have a reality TV star for President and that the most popular politician in England is female and Scottish;). In reality,  the shift isn’t radica a little focus, some forward planning and sticking to a plan – hardly rocket science but who said I was?

I am now fitter and healthier  than I have been for many a year.That includes running several marathons in the last 10 years. Cross training is really much better for you and I do just respect my body that little bit more – despite chocolate biscuits. I sleep well and generally eat the right things because I feel like it. Not some new age faddish diets, or ridiculous supplements or even inhalers, but freshly prepared home cooked food with plenty of fruit and veg.

I sleep better – no longer is a glass of wine the natural anaesthetic. I am properly tired, not exhausted just tired.

Would I evangelise about the experience and become all west coast evangelical about the experience? Of course not I am English first of all and this would be impolite. Secondly, I think we’ve had enough of Americans telling us how we need to live our lives. Not keen on that thanks. But all I will say is that change does not have to be radical.Small changes can make a real difference to fitness, health or anything. Overall, it is personal – therefore not something to be imposed on others

No wonder us English never make great evangelicals – far too self deprecating! Thanks for reading….

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