Way, way, way back in the winter of 2015, I decided 2016 was the year I was going to 'Go Long'. I'd completed a half Ironman in the summer of 2015 which I'd enjoyed but found hard and was looking for another challenge. For 2016 I had three races I wanted to complete, the South Downs Way 50 Ultra Marathon, Stafford IM70.3 and the Outlaw Iron distance Triathlon in Nottingham.
Knowing I had three pretty big races in the year and that I would be fitting training in around work I realised I would need some help to make sure I got enough training done for me to feel I'd done myself justice. I contacted Mike and over a healthy salad we talked about my goals, ambitions, past races and limitations on my training time. That process was really helpful - I hadn't really thought about what I wanted out of the three races other than to complete them. Mike and I agreed some layered goals that started with 'Finish' then 'Finish with a smile on my face' and got more interesting from there.
Mike wrote up a training plan that went into great depth which is typical of his detail focussed approach. The Outlaw was my A race which meant that the training plan had to be adapted to accommodate taper and recovery for the other races. We mapped out the training periods and Mike made things nice and simple for me. To start with, just focus on a set number of swims, bikes and runs a week. Each session was shorter than I was used to, by design. Previously I'd go out on such long training runs that I would then needs days to recover. Consistency was key in this training plan and letting consistency do the work for me became my mantra.
Mike and I had a weekly phone call to check in on how training was going and to agree a plan for the coming week. We scheduled training sessions around other commitments and tried to use club sessions where possible. Mike would add my training sessions to the Train Xhale online system so I always knew what I needed to do and could upload my completed sessions so Mike knew I was on plan.
The Ultra marathon went off without a hitch and I started ramping up training volume in the lead up to the 70.3 at Stafford. That wasn't my A race and Mike and I talked about not getting too carried away and racing hard. I needed to be able to get back to training quickly afterwards so couldn't empty the tank and risk picking up an injury. Without pushing hard I managed to PB that race by 20 mins which was a big confidence boost. Knowing I was fitter than the year before and hadn't felt fatigued or consumed by training was proof that the plan was working.
Now everything was focussed on Outlaw. The training volume picked up gradually but only in the last big training block did I start to feel tired. There were two weeks where I couldn't wait for a rest day. I knew I'd signed up for a big event and making sacrifices came with the territory so I kept at it and got the miles under my belt. A few weeks before the race, Mike and I talked about strategy for each of the the three disciplines, nutrition and focussing on what I could control.
We spoke again the day before race day and went over some final details. I'd had a two week taper to make sure I was rested for race day and really wanted to get on with the race. The 3:30 alarm went off on race day and I got on with all the normal preparations making sure I stuck to the nutrition plan. I felt confident although apprehensive about what the day would bring.
As 1500 triathletes nervously bobbed around in the warm water of the rowing lake, I thought about the training I'd done and knew I was as ready as I could be. The race really took care of itself. I was 5 mins faster in the swim than I expected. The bike leg went well and I made sure I stuck with the plan and ate and drank what I needed to, when I should. A mechanical issue slowed me down a little but I finished just under the prediction I had made. I felt strong going into the run and thought about getting into my running stride quickly as Mike had always coached me to. I kept an even pace for the first 30k then started to slow a bit finishing the run in 4:20. I didn't have a target in mind for the run as I had no idea how I'd feel after 6 hours on the bike so it was really pleasing to finish like this.
There is no way I would have finished this race in 11:40 without Mike's coaching. The consistent training plan Mike built for me worked as did the weekly check in's and online training diary. Completing an Ironman or any challenge like this requires a lot of commitment and hard work which Mike obviously can't do for you but if you're prepared to do the work, Mike will guide your training so that you can get the best out of yourself. I'd have no hesitation recommending Mike to anyone taking on a challenge or series of challenges like this.
I'm really proud of my race medal but when I look back at the training diary, I'm equally proud of the work Mike and I put into the training that made it possible.