1985. 32 years. That’s how long ago the dream started.
I’m a 15 year old watching my favourite show, “Wide World of Sports” and on comes this feature of a new sport in Hawaii called Ironman Triathlon. You swim, bike & run, one after each other, all on the same day. Right up my street
Fast forward 32 years and I am over weight, unfit and have done very little in terms of fitness. But I never lost sight of one day doing an Ironman. Subconsciously every decision I made in terms of where I lived and worked evolved around one day doing this event. I had to have;
- grass running track for recovery – cause one day I’ll do an ironman
- live by the sea for open water swimming – cause one day I’ll do an ironman
- hills and forest trails for running – cause one day I’ll do an ironman
- swimming pool near by – cause one day I’ll do an ironman
- quiet country lanes to cycle – cause one day I’ll do an ironman
Operations on a Double hernia and on my right knee to remove a 1/3 of my cartilage; plus now approaching my mid 40’s and I’m thinking the dream is fading away.
More excuses as well. In addition to the above requirements I also need a decent paying job to pay for all the gear, I need flexible hours to do the training and I need my children to be a little older so as I don’t impact too much on family life. 2016 saw these boxes finally ticked as well. So after a great 2 week holiday in August, drinking and eating what I wanted, no training and general relaxing I weighed myself.
207lbs (94kg). Right, enough was enough! I had no more excuses and time was running out.
1st Sept 2016 was day 1 of fulfilling the dream. Over the next 5 months I either swam, biked or ran at least 1 hour a day, 6 days a week. I joined Brighton Tri Club and gave myself 5 months to build a good base fitness, learn more about the sport and ready myself for the challenge ahead before I entered a race
I started losing the weight, my swim times got quicker, my distance on the bike got longer and slowly I increased the run, nervous of my previous knee surgery in May.
January 29th 2017. I bite the bullet. My hand was shaking as I pressed enter on the keypad to complete the payment section for the Maastricht Ironman in August. I’ve done it now. I’ve officially entered an Ironman and there was no going back now. Simply for the reason that the entry fee was over £500!!!! So what next?
This is where Mike stepped in. We devised a 26 week training plan that although seemed overwhelming, when it was broken down it could be achievable. I had no idea how my body would cope. But the plan was broken down into 3 sections.
1/ Base Phase - 9 weeks
2/Build Phase – 6 weeks
3/ Race Specific Phase - 9 weeks
A final 2 week taper period and that’s the 26 weeks done.
I learnt a saying years ago, “Plan your work then work your plan”. I did this and it worked a treat. Not only was I losing weight, I was getting stronger and stronger. I had no pain in my knee and yet I was running longer and further. Each week I progressively increased the mileage, all at a lower intensity, yet the key was consistency. Ensuring I was doing something everyday (allowing for 1 rest day a week) and taking my time to build up my strength and endurance. No rushing things.
Apart from the actual plan, Mike was also instrumental in getting my headspace right. We devised goals along the way but more importantly around the race itself. The number one goal was to get to the startline fit. Without that there was no race. Next was to visualise each component of the race and breaking each section down. This involved visualising all the “what ifs” and rather that reacting to situations, we devised action plans to response to whatever situation presented itself.
This transferred into the training sessions, practicing the “what ifs” so come race day there would be no surprises. I could deal with anything on the day and change action plans without stress or lack of focus.
Mikes help on the mental side was a welcomed balance to my scientific approach ofbeing constantly in touch with my Garmin and HR monitor. Although these “physical items” can be used as a good guide to performance, Mike allowed me to also concentrate on the “feel” of a session. By doing this I truly learnt what my body was capable of doing and also recognised when I was in “flow” state versus a distress state that is not sustainable. I even shelved the HR monitor altogether in the last 2 weeks of training and on race day itself, thus was my confidence in measuring my own cues.
So Race day. Mike and I never spoke of times. Well I did but Mike reassured me that once the work was done, the times would look after themselves. When I started the process I thought I was capable of achieving a sub 13hours which knowing the long journey ahead and the ultimate goal of getting to the startline fit, I was more than happy with. As the training progressed and I got stronger, I thought 12 hours could be a possibility. I would never know until the race itself what it will feel like on the run after 2.4m swim and an 112m bike ride. Individually my times were solid so I had allowed for a comfortable buffer time for the run not knowing what might happen. It was unchartered territory.
When I crossed that start line I was not nervous at all. Physically and mentally the plan had worked. I was so ready for this to the point that I did not rush the start. Same as in training, Steady progression throughout the day. Focus on technique, the strategy and allow for contingencies. The day went like a dream.
Almost a full hour quicker than I had expected. This simply blew my mind and was way beyond my dreams. At the age of 46, after just 11 months of dedicated, focussed training, not only had I completed it but I felt competitive and worthy of saying I am now a Triathlete. Not since I was at High School could I call myself and be justified in doing so; an athlete of any level.
The plan worked and the weekly call Mike and I had, refined the plan and kept everything steering on course. Mike helped me focus my energies in a way I have never done and allowed me to believe in what ever I put my mind too, I can achieve. It really did prove that the mind can overcome the matter!!!
Thanks Mike for a journey I’ll never forget!