The road to Ironman Part II

Monday 17th September 2018 (9.56am)

As the months went by I was able to tick off the events which I had planned in my calendar. First up was the Big Vitality Half marathon in London which I was invited to do. Unfortunately this did not get off to a great start as in March thick snow began too fall. Having booked my train and accommodation, I had to cancel late on due to no trains departing. 

Not being the only one to be disappointed by the snow, London Marathon Events made the decision to award medals to those who completed the distance within 7 days and evidence it on Strava. A few days later as the snow meted I completed my London half marathon around the streets of Barry and Penarth. Medal number 1 of the year received. 

My Ironman training continued, using the events as training sessions for variety and to monitor progress. As I started into April, the focus of my training changed and became more run orientated as I prepared for the London marathon.  I knew that I was both physically fitter and mentally stronger than when I completed the marathon in 2017. Never expecting to run it again I was given the opportunity and not one to say ‘no’ I jumped at the chance. 

In the lead up to the event I was invited to the 2018 launch of the London marathon at the Michel Roux restaurant in Parliament Square. Whilst talking to the organisers of the London marathon a seed was planted in my head to go for the London classics medal which consists of the marathon, a 2 mile swim of the Serpentine and Ride London (100 miles). I will be swimming the Serpentine on Saturday and plan to ride London next year.

The day of the London marathon was hot and I knew I had to play it sensibly. I had no particular time in mind but based on current fitness levels I knew I would be able to finish around the 4 hour mark. The punishing heat bouncing off the tarmac meant that I had to slow my pace down. I had to remember that this was a training run. I had been having treatment for plantar fasciitis for the last 5 months and it was not worth the risk to push it above a comfortable level. I finished in 4 hours 31 with the body still in one piece. Medal number 2 in the bag.

On returning from London I began working with a new coach. The sea temperature now deemed acceptable (by who I don’t know) for swimming meant that it was time to get in and get used to the unpredictable conditions which the current and waves chuck at you. I was not new to competitive sea swimming having completed Tenby Long course 2.4 mile swim for the last two years. All I had to do was control the sea sickness and I knew that I would be ok. 

The first swim of 2018 was a shock to the system. Whilst it was a lovely sunny day in early May, the sea temperature was baltic. I had the worse case of head freeze ever and I was unable to move my hands and feet which I am convinced turned to ice. Not one to moan (much) I enjoyed my swim out at Jacksons bay, Barry. It was good to be back in the wetsuit putting all of my pool sessions into practice. I was also beginning to have faith in my sea sick tabs!

Late May, I needed a break and decided to go abroad for a week. My head was ‘going off on one’ and things felt pretty crap. It was also the only time which I could get away before Ironman. I took my trainers with me and did a few runs in the hot morning sun. The holiday was what I needed to refresh the body mentally. Physically the rest was good for me and on returning I knew that the hard work was about to begin.

On June 3rd I had my first triathlon of the year. It was sprint distance with the aim of enjoying it, practicing transition, trying out new kit and getting through it in one piece. All of which I managed.

I began swimming at the age of 3 or 4 and did so competitively until the age of about 14. Other sports then took over causing me to completely abandon swimming. When I decided to do my first Tenby Long course swim in 2016, I knew that I had to get back in the pool. The first few sessions were hard  (I was much faster when I was 8) and I lacked any sort of structure to my training. I was out of touch with drills and I had no idea what my technique was like. I did see improvements with distance and time so I thought that I must be doing ok.

It was only when I started working with a coach at the end of last year did things start to click into place. I finally had structure and progressive drills and techniques to work on. In June I had my stroke analysed in the endless pool (pool treadmill). Thankfully, I only had to make some minor adjustments to improve my efficiency. My subsequent pool and sea swims enabled me to practice and refine what I had learnt. It made me think about my stroke and body position which I am still working on today. Improvements can always be made.

Next up was a new bike. I decided to go for an aero road bike with tri bars. Not a necessity but the body position and comfort which it offered would be a massive help when riding 112 miles. The bike was put to good use the following week at Cardiff triathlon (Olympic distance) and a few weeks later Velothon Wales (87 miles).

The big test for me was to be Tenby Long Course weekend in July. The swim would be the same as Ironman and the bike distance would be the same 112 miles but a slight change of route. I decided to run the half marathon rather than full as I did not want to put the knees though another marathon when there was no need to. It was the swim and bike I wanted to crack.

I got off to a really good start on the Friday evening with the swim, knocking over 10 minutes off my time from last year. I felt confident in the water. I was happy with my stoke and I knew I had extra in the tank in terms of my fitness.

I have tried the 112 mile bike route on two previous attempts but the hard hilly course has got the better of me so I only ended up doing the 66 miles. I was not going to be beaten this year. I knew I had it in me after hours and hours of structured training on the Wattbike and work out on the roads. It was a tough day in the saddle but having thought about and practiced nutrition I completed it. This was a biggy for me as it gave me the much needed confidence going into Ironman. My physical fitness and mental strength evident. These two events gave me an indicator as to where I was and what we needed to work on. The final event of the weekend, the half marathon went without incident giving my a hat-trick of medals.

The final event before Ironman was the Barry Island 10k. A chilled out fun event saw me collect my 9th medal of 2018.

The road to Ironman part III to follow

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