On July 29th 2018, I completed my first Ironman distance triathlon. It has been an incredible experience from start to finish. I am fortunate to have a way of working that allows me to choose when and how I work. It’s meant I could pretend I was a pro athlete and live that lifestyle for a full 12 months and see just what I could achieve. I have run to a reasonable level for as long as I can remember and have over the last few years, enjoyed developing my cycling legs. 12 months ago however, I couldn’t swim the length of the local swimming pool so the prospect of doing a 2.4 mile swim in open water, has been pretty daunting. With dogged perseverance and lots of tuition ….. I did it on race day in 1 hour 30 mins and 13 seconds. My stretch goal was 1 hour 30 so I am really chuffed!
The 112 mile bike section was hard. On the build up to the event, all the concerns were about heat and hydration due to the amazing run of hot weather we’d had. 24 hours before the start, the dry weather broke with gale force winds and torrential rain that lasted ALL the following day! Priorities changed with organisers being more concerned with anchoring their marquees than erecting run through showers for the competitors. I had a TT (time trial) set up on my bike with a solid rear disc wheel which helps with aerodynamics in calm weather. I had a spare ‘normal’ wheel in case the wind was too high …… but unfortunately I packed the wrong spare wheel. It didn’t fit properly so I had to ride the disc which is like a sail in a cross wind. It was really scary. This slowed me down some what but I still completed the bike course in 5 hours 51 minutes and 27 seconds. The stretch goal was 6 hours so I was blown away with this. No pun intended.
As I came into the second transition on the bike, I had mixed emotions. Elation that 2 out of the 3 chunks were complete, but also fear of what lay ahead…..the Marathon! My coach said this is a run of 2 parts. A 20 miler, then a 6.2 mile run and he was completely right. I stuck to pace and flowed well until around 16 miles. Then it became increasingly messy. I was fully hydrated and stocked up with sugars and salt. I didn’t ‘hit the wall’ or ‘bonk’ which is where you run out of fuel …… it was just pain. Shorter triathlons are equally hard and the pain at higher intensities is like a pick axe to your thighs. This was different; a slow insidious agonising toothache that takes over your body starting in your feet and calves, then your thighs until every inch of your body is telling you to stop. This is where the ‘iron mindset’ kicks in. My stretch goal for the marathon was 4 hours and it slipped to a 4 hour 13 minutes and 20 second time. With transitions (changing from swim gear to bike gear, then the bike to the run) I finished in under 12 hours which I can’t quite believe. 11 hours 48 minutes and 45 seconds.
Doing a full distance Ironman triathlon is not for the faint hearted. There are no short cuts. You have to put in the hours. You need to have laser focus. You have to feed your body and you need to learn how to train 7 days a week and allow your body to recover …. that’s why you benefit from the knowledge of a coach. My program was put together by the amazing Matt Turnbull and I had loads of input on the swimming front from Dewi Winkle, Morgan Williams and the local staff at Tadcaster Swimming Pool. I had fantastic input on my running from Dr Tom Hughes as well as the ongoing daily support from my wife Lindsey, family and friends who all helped me keep on track when times got tough. A massive thank you to my mate Ady who without fails checked in to see if I was ok when I needed it most.
“3 swims per week, 3 bike sessions per week, 3 runs per week as well as a Pilates session and 2 strength and conditioning sets usually meant training twice per day. I had 610 scheduled sessions and completed 606 of them…..4 missed due to injury, illness or travel. This is what’s meant by the ‘iron mindset’.”
More on nutrition another time but suffice to say I am super happy to have my not so secret weapons from the Forever Living range, notably Q10, Argi+, Aloe Vera and Ultra Lite. Getting the right nutrition in your body at the correct time is what some refer to as the 4th discipline in triathlon. Race organisers provide the basic fluid, salt and sugar options. I managed to organise a way of getting the extra benefit of my specific supplements on four occasions in the day which I am sure had a massive impact.
I can safely say I will not be doing another full distance Ironman event. The training takes too much time and at the age of 48, there are so many other things I want to do while I am still in peak fitness. Having learnt a new skill in swimming however, I am determined to keep this going and improve it some more. The half Iron distance (70.3) will I think be the goal for next year.
This event was dedicated to Jill Jackson, a brave, clever uncomplaining woman who happens to be my mother in law. She lost her life to cancer a week into my Ironman campaign. My amazing wife and father in law nursed her to the end at home and I wanted to raise money for one of the many cancer charities. I also wanted to show my kids that great things are possible with hard work and determination. If you set big goals and have a compelling reason to achieve them, you may achieve more than you ever thought possible. Hear more in this interview by blogger Ruth Goodwin in her series called ‘One size fits one.’
Click here to listen to – Non swimmer to Ironman in 12 months.