ironman tips

When The Bullshit Dries Up

Posted on July 22, 2017. Filed under: first time ironman, ironman, ironman tips, new ironman tips, Uncategorized |

I read a blog this morning. It was a Lakesman race report, a race I don’t know, by an author I don’t know. But I loved it.

I have largely withdrawn from triathlon social media because it just got, well, so tiresome. Whether it was “smashing” training sessions illustrated by a random picture of a Garmin screen without any context whatsoever, or phantasmical stories of magical products that made ambassadors as fast as the wind, there was something about the overwhelming whiff of bullshit that turned me off.

Whether a humble brag or a twank, there is something about the onanism of a triathlon training update on social media that makes me want to wash in dettol and boiling water.

On the other hand, however, I love race reports. Why? Because.

Because that is when the bullshit dries up. When you are called to account. Whether aiming for a podium or simply to finish within cut-off, there is no hiding place on the day. Stripped bare, with or without the Emperor’s new tri-clothes.

In my experience there are three kinds of race reports, particularly in long distance triathlon – the perfect race race report, the excuse based race report, and the discovery race report.

I love the first kind. Much in the same way I loved to read The Right Stuff or Trainspotting. I’ll never be strapped into a space rocket for launch or shoot up heroin, but at an intellectual level I am fascinated by a different way of life. The absolute epitome of the genre is Iron War, I’ll never overtake Dave Scott on Palani Hill but, boy, can I appreciate that race.

The second type amuse me. Those that take no responsibility for the outcome of their race – “a kraken emerged from the water and pulled me under just as I was about to be first out of the swim”. I maintain a list of the best excuses for a shit race, I also note those that learn nothing from the experience for future entertainment.

But the third type. Oh, the third type. They make the hairs stand on my arms. Bring a tear to my eye. An overwhelming sense of camaraderie with an author that I have never met and will never know.

Like the blog I read this morning they are visceral. An overwhelming sense of achievement but a recognition of the hardships on the journey from aspiration to accomplishment. The self confidence that comes from looking over the edge, accepting your own failings and saying “hell yeah, I got this”.

Ironman gouges a deep, raw tract in the soul and the best blogs are a humble re-telling of the brutality of those 140.6 miles. No gloss. No veneer. No excuses. Just straight-talk of a long day out; the campfire tale behind the thousand yard stare.

A story of a life-changing event. Experiences that will be carried forward in life – sacrifice, suffering, pain, overcoming, acceptance, humility, confidence.

Straight talk captivates me. Sucks me in. Moves me. Inspires me.

I’m glad I read that blog this morning. It reminded me why I love long distance races. It’s what happens when the bullshit dries up.

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Ironman Austria 2014 – Beyond The Finish Line

Posted on July 16, 2014. Filed under: Austria, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman tips, Klagenfurt, race report, race review |

Were the last 200 metres really 200 metres?  It mattered not to me.  The music got louder, the Venga Boys boomed as I approached.   The finish chute started well before the bleachers with a 90 degree right hand turn at the end.  As I ran up the blue carpet I high 5’d the crowd, shouting “THANK YOU” the whole way.  I can’t remember to who or why now but it wasn’t important. 0745_088947 Turning into the bleachers the noise was overwhelming, the lights blinding.  I could focus on nothing but not tripping over the ramp on the finish line.  All the sights became a blur, the music became a noise.  But it wasn’t a slow motion run like Steve Austin.  It was accelerated, an LP on 45, MY moment accelerating away from me but then I heard what I had waited a year to hear.   “DOUGIE FROM GREAT BRITAIN, YOU ARE AN IRONMAAAAAN”   Again.   I had finished a second Ironman.  I finished in thirteen hours fifty three minutes and twenty one seconds.  Slower than I hoped for but a PB of 1 hour and 5 minutes. 0745_093897 A volunteer put a medal over my head.  Job done.  Mission Accomplished.  Two time Ironman.   I stood and looked back at the finish line and a tall, distinguished looking volunteer put his hand on my shoulder and shook my hand “congratulations Ironman”.  Reading the race book the next day, I saw his picture.  He wasn’t a volunteer – he was the chief exec of Ironman Europe.  I will forget moments of the Ironman, and I will probably always be a sceptic of the WTC but I will always remember the warmth of my first congratulations.  THAT is how to be a leader.   Behind the bleachers , I saw Pam and Roar through a wire fence and got them beer and water from the athletes bar at the finish line.  They had as long a day as I had!   The night before as we debated travel plans I decided to let the sherpas have a fun day and volunteered to drive.  So unlike Regensburg where I sunk a pint on the finish line I would have to wait.  Let the waiting begin.   1865As I had approached the finish line I had noticed the sirens but only when I was walking towards the IronDome did I notice the steady flow of ambulances leaving the massage area.  The whole tent flashed with blue lights as an ambulance departed with some fallen Ironman every few minutes.  As I had felt, the heat had taken it’s toll.   In the Iron Dome I started to minesweep the food.  The first thing I came across was a pizza.  I bit it.  It expanded in my mouth like some kind of crazy foam, drawing the last drips of moisture out of my body.  I had to ram my fingers in my mouth to prize it out.  Then I had turkey and rice and a pint of coke.  I looked up at the big screen and the rain had started.  The rain was incredible, so incredible that I expect Noah was put on standby.   Wrapped in a foil blanket I picked up my change bag and proceeded to the shower.  As I stood in my foil blanket outside the shower portakabin two Irish chaps that I had seen many times around the course popped out.  “Well done Ironman”, was the mutual greeting.  Followed by “We are not designed for this fecking heat Dougie”.  Cue a lot of nodding of bright red baldy heads.   The shower block was like I imagine a Crimean field hospital.  At some point it was probably pristine but nearly 14 hours later it was Special.  Very Special indeed.  At some point, someone had used their foil blanket to separate them from the horrors on the floor.  By the time I got there it was like some kind of biohazard lasagne.  Everything that could be extracted from the body was trapped in those layers  – oozing, squidging below foot, smelling.  And the showers were blocked so in the tray was a diluted version of that bio sauce.  The showers were cold, freezing cold, but who cared?  I scraped the Lend canal, the road debris, the gels, the sweat and the flies from me.  And then I hopped (not really, I had just hobbled a marathon) from foot to foot as I attempted to get dressed without falling in the putrid muck.   Back in the Iron Dome I went to collect my t-shirt.  A volunteer started to hand me a large, winked and replaced it with an extra large.  It seems that after 13 hours I was still big boned. I met Michael and Nick, congratulated them and left them with their beers as I headed to another beer tent to meet Pam, Al and Roar and hear of Ness’s progress.  Because the weather had turned so foul I still had a foil blanket over my head so I could go anywhere without any challenge from security.  By now we had thunder and lightning so we watched the final hours of the Ironman from the beer tent, updating Iron Mobile on the ipad.  As soon as we knew Ness went through 40k, Al went out to the grandstand with a tiny lady brolly and we watched on the big screen in the tent.  We whooped as she came in but, heck, she didn’t half milk the finish chute experience.   I set off for the mile long walk to fetch the car still wrapped in my foil blanket.  It was about 30 minutes to midnight.  The run course was pitch black and it was difficult to spot the final, hobbling runners in the dark.  They were going to finish before cut-off so to each one I shouted “5 minutes and you’re home.  Good work Ironman”.  I saw one last running silhouette, under a bridge, just before I left the path.  A petite lady, on her own, in the pitch black.  “You’re nearly there.  You OK Ironman?”  Booming back from under the bridge “FUCK YEAH”.   Gulp.  Smokey.   Attempting to not drown from the bucketing rain helped me forget about my crippled feet but as I approached the car the adrenaline was wearing off and my purposeful stride degenerated to a hobble.  Ten minutes later, I had the whole sherpa crew in the car with Rory enjoying the sleep of a 3 year old Sherpa that had been dragged out of his bed at 4:45am.  But the athletics were not over.  Still, in the pissing rain, I had to recover my bike.  Unlike Regensburg three years before, when I had an “If I ever see that effing thing again……” moment, I had enjoyed the bike and could even contemplate future cycle trips.  However, I had to get the bike into the roof box.  I had to give Al instant tuition as the rain tumbled down on us how to remove the wheels and collapse the bike to fit in as I stumbled about like a stiff legged zombie.  It was a new record for loading the car.   Back in the driver’s seat and I took one look at Ness.  “Kebab and chips?”.  And there began 30 minutes of the saddest quest imagineable.    You cannot find anywhere to buy chips after midnight in Austria.  Or kebabs.  Austria’s dark secret.  The shame of a beer nation.  At that moment Austria slipped in my affections.  Back at the apartment we demolished a pizza, two large family sized packets of crisps and several beers.  And sometime after 2am we slept the sleep of Ironmen.  Uncomfortable, sun scorched and starving. 1871 Like every good Iron adventure the journey ended at the merchandise store on Monday morning. Hell, if you finish an Ironman you need the finisher’s kit to make sure everyone KNOWS ABOUT IT. 1809 And it’s not all about what happens out in the lake, in the canal or on the road.  Huge cheer for Pam, Al and Roar who were the best sherpas in Klagenfurt.  It turns out that all they need is beer, pizza, football and the Lego Movie.  Chapeau the sherpas.   And that’s that.  A few people have said that the Ironman Austria Odyssey has put them off Ironman.  I only write about the stuff that sticks in my mind, there are hours and hours of sublime “alone” time in the most beautiful countryside breathing fresh air.  Ironman day and the preparation for it is just the most special time.  Obviously it is tough.  If it was easy every one would switch off the X Factor, get off the sofa and do it.  But only the really mentally tough can manage it.  In my opinion, it is the ultimate self supported event for the ordinary Joe.  Ironman makes you your own hero.   The most common question I get asked is “Will you do another?”.  In the last two weeks of training the answer would have been a resounding “NO”.  Now it is “maybe”.  I have made peace with the Ironman; Regensburg left me frustrated that I didn’t do my best.  There is little that makes me feel as alive as I do when I am preparing for an extreme challenge.  So, while I have no urgent need to go long again, I am old enough and wise enough to never say never.   Hopefully in the next few days I can complete the Ironman Austria archive with Iron Nessie’s first time Ironman race report.  When I found her she couldn’t swim and still marvelled at the science of pneumatic tyres.  Now she is an Ironman.  However, English isn’t her first language so it might take a while.   It’s been a hell of a journey.  Again.  Ironman Austria, over and out.

THE ENTIRE IRONMAN AUSTRIA ARCHIVE  

Auf Wiedersehen Pet

Ich Liebe Dich, Österreich

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Swim

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Bike

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Run

Ironman Austria 2014 – Beyond The Finish Line

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Ironman Austria 2014 – The Run

Posted on July 12, 2014. Filed under: Austria, first time ironman, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman nutrition, ironman regensburg, ironman tips, Klagenfurt, marathon, race report, race review, run |

When it comes to the Ironman, run is often a euphemism.  “A euphemism for what?”, you may ask – because it is indeed a foot race after a swim and a cycle.  Well, it is a euphemism for a never ending, shart stained, dehydrated hobble-waddle.  But that might put people off so we soften the description.

Let me share some important statistics with you:

Number of people who say “I will swim and ride conservatively and then smash the run because I am a runner” – trillions

Number of people planning to smash the run who actually succeeded  – absolutely feck all

Percentage of those that looked over the abyss but still crossed the line humbled and stripped of most of their dignity – 100%

These statistics are more directional than strictly actually factual but, more seriously, there are two types of runner in the world – those that have done the Ironman marathon and those that think they know what it is like to run 26.2miles in the sun just after cycling 112miles and swimming 2.4miles.  Without spoiling the surprise too much I can exclusively reveal that it’s just not fun except, perhaps, if you are winning at Kona.  Your legs feel like all the spring has been taken out of them; your stomach feels like a bucket filled with a heady cocktail of left over chip fat and all the fizzy drinks from MacDonalds; and your whole body feels like you have been put in a sauna wrapped in tinfoil.  It’s only really a question of whether you feel like that at mile 1 or at mile 26.

And the really tough part is that once you have done an Ironman marathon you can’t unknow what it feels like so, although I finished the bike feeling strong, I had a sense of impending trepidation (or more accurately doom) about this particular jog.  I picked up my run bag, sat in the changing tent and started the taut, laborious process of of bending down to loosen my cycling shoes.  While I could get my hands roughly to my feet I was tantalisingly short of the buckle.  Thereafter followed a process not unlike trying to touch my nose with my elbow.  Or more accurately trying to identify my arse from my elbow.  But removing my cycling shoes was quite important to me as running a marathon in cleats was likely to be uncomfortable.  After what seemed like an eternity bent double, bouncing my top half towards my feet a volunteer saw me contorting like the work experience guy at Cirque du Soleil and with two finger presses released me from my shackles.

Something unexpected slipped from my sock – my right foot had a bluish tinge and was quite swollen.  An elephant foot.  It was unexpected as it felt fine and I had no indication on the bike anything was wrong but, hey, a bit of colour on my celtic white feet just added some glamour.

As I started on my preparations I looked up and noticed a lady had strayed into the male changing tent – she had either got lost or had some really odd fetishes.  As she loosened her cycling shoes this particularly hairy, Spanish Ron Jeremy lookalike next to her dropped his tri suit and began the thorough process of applying vaseline to his entire body finishing with some particularly noisy slopping around his wee fella.  Whether either of them noticed the other will remain in the sanctity of the changing tent.  The Somme of the Ironman.

I popped in a gel, changed my socks and shoes, lubed, put a bottle of water over my head, handed my bag to a volunteer who gave me a sweaty hug and I set off to SMASH the marathon.  Except I didn’t.  I squealed like a puppy that had been stood on.  My right foot had a blinding pain that shot right up my leg.  Another step.  Same pain.  Bugger – this wasn’t in the SMASH IT plan.  I’m not sure I can describe the pain but basically mid foot, on the out side of my foot the last three toes and the sole of my foot felt like they were somewhere between an inferno and a bruise.  I assumed I had swimming goggles or something in my shoe so I took it off but there was nothing there.  Something was wrong with my foot.  This was going to feel like a long 26,2 miles.

Leaving T2 I reset my ailing Garmin and changed the display so at least I could see time and distance in the 4mm of screen that was visible.  This meant that I could stick with my tried and tested 4min run, 1 min walk strategy.  I did a kind of awkward walk/limp for the first 4 minutes which took me out of transition, over the bridge at swim exit and into the park.  At the end of 4 minutes there was no chance I would walk as the well beered crowd was three deep – pretty much the first group of people we had seen since the swim exit.  Every time you contemplated a walk the crowd went wild so I pushed on.  With a kind of one legged, limp, walk, hop I was already developing the fear that my Ironman shuffle was going to develop into the sideways run so often seen in the latter stages of an Ironman.  I suspect that I looked like someone who has tripped and then pretends to run as they look over their shoulder.  I was that awkward.  About this time I also discovered that it was unadulterated agony to turn right.  Which left me in a bit of a pickle as the course was a double figure of eight WITH EVERY TURN BEING A RIGHT HANDER.

In 2011 I rattled like a pharmacy as I ran, stocked up with all manner of helpful narcotics (immodium, ibuprofen and salt tablets) but for 2014 I had made the conscious decision to run “clean”.  That seemed a twat of a decision in that particular moment.  I am pretty sure some pain relief would have made the ungainly gait more bearable but, hey ho, no-one ever died of a sore foot (googles sore foot fatalities).

The 4:1 strategy worked a treat for the first 10k.  Just before 3k, I ran across Michael  (@smoker2ironman) walking. I knew he had started 15 minutes before so he must have been suffering.  I walked with him for a minute – his knee was bothering him and he was weighing up the DNF with the intake of voltarol.  I could have mugged him for his voltarol at that point but he needed it more than me.  I gave some painfully gibbered words of encouragement and then jogged on.

The first part of the figure of eight was hard work.  It was a really exposed flat section out to Krumpendorf and, when I started, some of the speedies were on their last lap.  This meant that it was harder than it needed to be with lots of jostling and maneuvering on a really narrow path.  As we arrived in Krumpendorf there was a short grass section that went down to a lakeside lido.  It was short and semi-circular and, you’ve guessed it, continual right hand turns.  I died a thousand deaths as this was at the start of a 4 minute run interval.  The thought of gnawing my foot off with my teeth crossed my mind.  I swore inside my head like a sailor at the folly of not packing a couple of ibuprofen.

Somewhere around the top of the Krumpendorf loop I started to run out of steam.  I am Scottish.  Despite the factor 50 I had run an hour without any shelter in a temperature somewhere above 25c.  I had actually dessicated.  I was sweating salt crystals.  I was literally at the point where my own tongue was uncomfortable in my mouth and my head felt like it had been microwaved while wrapped in a damp towel.  At the aid station exiting Krumpendorf I started Operation Desperate Measures.  4 sponges over my head, two tucked in my try top, 4 cups of water, a slice of watermelon and two handfuls of ice.  I walked until I could feel my core temperature start to come down.  As the ice cubes started to slip through my fingers I shoved them in my shorts.  From that point on I just survived between aid stations.

Back into the park area the crowd were getting really unruly as beer and sun took it’s toll.  My walks were now always coinciding with a group of English lads who now knew my name and shouted increasingly “motivational” encouragement every time I passed.  The shout of “come on Pirate” were receiving less and less enthusiastic “arrrrgggghs” as more and more moisture leaked out of me.

0745_057597The run out to Klagenfurt old town was again completely exposed and I found a line just along a high wall that provided some shelter as I watched my shoulders turn from blue to white to magnolia to scarlet.  In the old town everytime we rang a bell in an arch money was given to charity.  Three times in one pass I jumped to get that fecking bell.  At the turn there was another sharp right hander through a square that was set up with a huge screen for the evening world cup games.  The crowd were fun but still on the right side “Magaluf bar crawl”.  I got the bell again on the return and noticed a photographer. I mentally checked my face and was happy to realise that I was still smiling.

By now the strategy was run 90 seconds, walk 60 seconds and always walk the aid station.  Thankfully my stomach was fine (compare that with the Ironman Regensburg run) but my feet continued to get sorer and hotter.  I managed to stay one step ahead of the dehydration as the day finally started to cool.

I knew mentally that hitting the half marathon would be significant and, from the first lap through the park area, I knew exactly where the half marathon point was.  As I returned to the Iron Dome area alongside the Lend canal in the relative shelter of the trees I became aware of the casualties.  There were a number of sideways runners, a man that ran like he had developed piles the size of watermelons and the chap nonchalantly face down in a grass verge.  Like he was dead.  But he wasn’t.  Yet.

Just before half way I saw Pam and Roar in the park and gave them the thumbs up.  Feedback afterwards was that I looked WAAAAAAY better than Regensburg.  I went through the half marathon just under 2 hours 40 minutes which was considerably better than I thought it might be as the liquid leeched out of my body earlier in the lap.  But now it was just one more lap to go.  5 hours was gone, the finish was in the bag even if I crawled it, the last 21km would just be about moving forwards while smiling.

About three kilometres into the second lap I saw shady goings on up ahead.  A tall hairy yeti skulked out of the woods.  Not spectacular in itself but that particular yeti had come past me very fast on the bike about three hours before.

Me: “What’s up Nick?”

Nick: “Everytime I run I shit myself”

Me: “Hey, it could be worse.  Come on run with me for a bit”

Nick: “I’ll give it a go”

Nick’s innards: *gurgle, splutter, backfire*

Nick: “maybe I’ll just walk”.

0745_077027Gastro trouble is never far away in the Ironman and that afternoon I learnt something I didn’t know about the Ironman run.  In Regensburg we did 10km laps  so you only saw the few people you were running with but in Klagenfurt there was often two and sometime three way traffic.  And what became apparent with all that traffic was the noise.  The noise of The Farts.  I remember seeing a sign at Kona last year “Never trust a fart in an Ironman”; well I can testify that the whole of Klagenfurt were putting their trust in the sphincter.  It was like everyone had squeaky shoes, like McCartney had given up on Hey Jude and was conducting a perpetual dulcet Frog Chorus.  Whatever the Ironman run is, I can confirm that it IS NOT pretty.  Or fragrant.

Pushing on for 30km I saw a scarlet heided paddy coming towards me.  Nessie was out on the run.  Cue an exceptionally sweaty, coke and gel stained hug.  We stood and caught up for the first time in 10 hours.  In the middle of a tight path, attracting grumpiness from the shuffling men on the death march, farting their way home.

At the top end of the Krumpendorf loop I needed a pee.  I could have gone into a bush.  I could have held onto it.  I could have peed my tri-shorts while I ran.  But no, I went into a portaloo.  I can truly say I have never seen anything quite like it.  As I nod at the trough I often like to rest my head on the wall.  I am just shy of 6 foot and THIS WAS NOT AN OPTION.  What hell had occurred in here?  How did someone’s bowels get sprayed quite so high up a wall?  As I stared at the small urinal feature in the portaloo I tried to pretend there weren’t two GIANT jobbies on the toilet seat but I couldn’t. I wretched constantly for my whole visit and even if there was a huge family sized packet of ibuprofen, hell even morphine, in there I wouldn’t have touched it.  If I ever pee myself in public I will trace the public john phobia back to Trap 2 in Krumpendorf.

0745_089822Back in the park I saw Pam and Roar again and heard that Ness was on her way back in from Klagenfurt.  I pushed on and about a kilometre later saw her in the other direction – “Nearly there paddy, you’ve got this now”.  Just before the old town some young chap on roughly the same walk/run plan as me.  Eventually we agreed to go it together.  From this point on, about 7km to go, we mainly walked.  We both probably could have run more but some social connection was important to us.  We chatted about anything and everything – he was from Ottawa, the airline had lost all his kit and his wife was also doing the race – we saw her during our march.

In the old town square the football was in full swing.  But plenty of the crowds backs were turned to the screen.  They had rearranged the beer hall bench to create a channel for the runners.  A drunken guard of honour.  The Gauntlet.  But by now the crowd were calling us Ironman, there was no doubt any more.  The thoughts of a smash and grab on the pharmacy were passing.  The grin got wider.

With 2km to go I suggested we run it in.  The final kilometre sign was a lying bastard. I estimate that is was about 8 miles long with  40 right hand turns, an underpass and the only uphill on the course.  Pirate Happy Chap cheered me from her balcony.  The lights shone, I passed under a gantry, I high 5’d a million people, I turned into the finishing chute, I ran until I wanted to vom.

“Dougie, from Great Britain, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”.  2 years and 11 months later it was as sweet as the first time.

0745_087833

And just when you thought it was all over there is one more episode to make the Ironman Austria Odyssey complete.  And that will answer the age old question – what happens when you finish an Ironman.

Until then, have a beer and embrace the fact that you can fart without fear.

THE ENTIRE IRONMAN AUSTRIA ARCHIVE

 Auf Wiedersehen Pet

Ich Liebe Dich, Österreich

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Swim

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Bike

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Run

Ironman Austria 2014 – Beyond the Finish Line

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Ironman Austria 2014 – The Bike

Posted on July 8, 2014. Filed under: Austria, bike, cycle, first time ironman, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman nutrition, ironman tips, new ironman tips, nutrition, race report, race review |

Take a gel.  Grab a gulp of clean, fresh water.  Put on some comfy shorts.  It’s time for 112 miles of Austrian bike ride.

I used 1,700 words to describe a 67 minute swim where my head was largely in the water.  On that basis I will need 10,147 words to describe the basic cycle before I even start talking about the scenery.  (Joking!).  (Probably not joking).

Firstly, let me come back to the swim.  I got a lot of feedback that people were deterred from Austria by the description of the swim.  DON’T BE.  Sure, ANY Ironman swim is tough, a beach start particularly so.  The mass beach start is an absolute spectacle but it is not a huge amount of fun.  And the canal would be thrown out of The Hunger Games for brutality.  There are no cuddles once you are in the water.  But, tactically I made an error that put me in the middle of the bosh for a prolonged period.  You can avoid it altogether and hopefully if IronNessie writes a race report she’ll explain how she totally avoided the stramash.  It is completely possible and I coached her how little time you lose if you choose your start strategy carefully.  Unfortunately I am too dim to heed my own advice.

20140629_054718

The Aero Pump Arrangement

Anyway, I walked through the long transition zone, stripping off my wetsuit, picking up my bike bag, re-lubing, carefully drying my feet and putting my shoes on.  I had to loosen my helmet to put it on and then again when I was on the bike which seemed really weird at the time but, with hindsight, I suspect that whatever had happened in the swim had caused some temporary swelling.  There was certainly an unusual pain in my head, neck and shoulders for the first 50km or so and after that I can’t really remember any discomfort.  Post race the helmet was loose again so who knows?  I fetched my bike, walked out of transition and headed out for 180km (112miles) on the road.

Now, the bike course was the main reason that I chose Ironman Austria in the first place – it is famously quick.  Ness’s calculations and the race briefing were that there was 35km of ascending and 55km of descent or flat on the course.  However, the more I researched it the clearer it became that while it was quick it was certainly not easy.  Austria is kind of standard ascent for an Ironman but what makes the difference is long, straight, smooth descents.    It was surprisingly difficult to get ascent data for training – from various sources I saw 1200m, 1400m, the race briefing said 1600m and my own dying Garmin said 1814m.  I think the correct answer is somewhere between 1600 and 1800 but it certainly didn’t feel like it.  But this was not new news.  By the time I put my toes in the Wörthersee I was very familiar with the profile of the course and my training had sought out similar hills in preparation.

I always worry about the bike.  It is so important to overall performance in the Ironman but it is my weakest and newest sport so typically I feck something up royally.  The biggest and most surprising news about Ironman Austria was that I didn’t.  As soon as I got on the bike it felt different from 2011; I was comfortable; I knew what I was doing; I was confident.  More importantly the whole ride was on Plan B and it worked perfectly.  Plan B was required for 2 reasons – firstly, my Garmin was absolutely jiggered so I had to go on feel rather than data and secondly, I knew I couldn’t stomach Powerbar in the heat so I immediately switched to bananas.  Everything had been tested – not as thoroughly as Plan A – but IT JUST WORKED.

0745_043225Coming out of T1 the congestion was incredible and the referees, sensibly, ignored the drafting distances.  Pretty quickly, I was down on the aerobars and pushing 40km/h on the flat without puffing too hard.  And for the first 50k or so I would describe the going as gently undulating.  With the fogged up garmin I could see current speed and lapsed distance rotating every 10 seconds or so.  Cadence and heartrate, which I had used for training were completely obscured, and total race time was absolutely waterlogged.  So, trusting the plan, and letting the day develop as intended I didn’t even ask anyone the race time – I just focused on how I felt and tried to constantly ride *just* within myself.

There are two main climbs on the course – Faaker See and Rupertiberg.  From the altitude map Faaker See looked 6.5km long but in reality other than a short spike at the start it was unremarkable.  Rupertiberg looked pretty benign – short (2km) but stiff (150m); but became my absolute nemesis as it climbed over three sharp rises with an aid station perched at the top.  As I read in previous race reports lap 1 was a cruise and then Rupertiberg really nipped on lap 2.  If my Garmin had the decency to record my heart rate this would have been the only time I red lined.

0745_040728One of the things I found remarkable about the Ironman Austria bike course was how quiet it was.  There were long stretches when all I could hear was the the tweeting of birds and the click of many, many, many freewheels.  In Regensburg, the course felt like a constant party but in Austria with the exception of Klagenfurt and one other town in the course there was a lot of quiet time.  Sure there were people on Rupertiberg on the first lap (and an exceptionally irritating, borderline sexpest DJ – “GO IRONGIRL, GO IRONGIRL”) but the weather must have deterred the advertised “Tour de France” style crowds.

Also remarkable were The Randoms.  Often on a random stretch of hill were a couple of random people on camp chairs, off their tits on beer and schnappes, blowing whistles and horns with no obvious means of getting to or from the apparently random place they were at.  To be honest they seemed bemused by the bikes going past them so it may have been their standard Sunday afternoon and we were just getting in the way.

I had been thinking about Ness’s swim, hoping that she had followed advice and stayed out of trouble.  After the smaller loop of the bike course there is a brief section of two way traffic and pretty miraculously I heard my name shouted in the dulcet paddy tones.  I looked up and she looked well; I was happy that she was out of the water and I estimated that she was about an hour behind me.  If she could hold that pace on the bike I knew she would beat cut off.

I can’t really remember the order of events now.  At some point, I think towards the end of lap 1, it rained.  And it properly rained heavily.  There were police and marshalls in the towns on the descents slowing us down.  One building was covered in red crash matresses against the wall.  Some aero-alpha-clown decided to overtake a long line approaching that sharp right hand greasy turn, locked his brakes and just about took me out.  He probably saved 3 seconds.  I damn near lost 3 kilos.

Subsequently, I discovered that I went through 92km in 3:09.  I didn’t know it at the time but that was on target pace for my original plan of 6:30 and my final estimate of 6:40.  I also finished lap 1 in Regensburg in a similar time so I’m kinda glad I didn’t know as I unraveled rapidly after the halfway point in Regensburg and thinking about that would have been wasted energy.

0745_047442My nutrition plan was metronomic – at each aid station I launched both bidons, I took on 3 pieces of banana, a fresh bottle of Powerbar and a fresh bottle of water.  Between aid stations which was about 40 minutes I aimed to finish the banana, the Powerbar and as much water as I needed, drinking to thirst.  I can honestly say that I never suffered any GI problems at all and I even needed to pee on the bike.  (If you like gruesome detail – in Regensburg I peed in the lake and then didn’t pee again until Monday lunchtime.  And that included a lot of beer consumption.  Dehydrated doesn’t begin to describe it.).

Lap 2 was more of the same – short, sharp uphills, long flats and straight downhills.  The scenery was nothing short of stunning apart, of course, from the gaudy triathletes.  Now, at race briefing they said there were lots of toilet facilities on the course.  I have no reason to doubt this but if it was true they were stealth portaloos, camouflaged by the CIA.  Pretty much round every bend was some musclebound chap indulging in some dirty protest, stripped to the waist launching a golden stream into the undergrowth.  Every woodland area had half a dozen bikes dumped in front of it.  But not everyone was so frivolous with time.  One particular pointy helmet bellend, not wasting a moment to protect his flimsy dignity, took the time to balance his billion euro bike against a road sign, squat and take a dump by the road side while assuming an aero position sideways on to the incoming traffic on the grass verge.  From the side he looked like he was riding a tiny, invisible bicycle in his pointy helmet and half a tri suit…….until you noticed the exhaust discharge.

Just before Rupertiberg for the last time I felt like my hands and triceps were cramping so I stopped for the first time in about 5 hours and wolfed down two salt tablets.  As I stood there at the side of the road the overwhelming urge to pee came over me.  Following the lead of the aero-shitter I would not waste one excess second on mere ablutions – so I did it right there – over my bike frame, bidons and into my shoes.  “No worries”, I thought, “that can be my dirty secret”.  At which “DOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE” as Nick shot past.  I shook my urine soaked feet, squirted a full bottle of water over my lower half and bike and set off again in distant pursuit.  About two kilometres down the road Nick, obviously inspired, had cycled right up to the edge of the woods and was leaving a trace of his own sugar spiked DNA on the Carinthian countryside.  This was far from the last time that I witnessed Nick dealing with matters of a sanitary nature.  I should mention that, ballast expelled, he overtook me again.  Just a bit of toilet jockeying for position.

At the summit of Rupertiberg I could turn my attention to the run for the first time.  Unusually, I felt good.  While the thought of a marathon wasn’t thrilling, it didn’t make me involuntarily vom all over my pee stained bike.  A quick body scan suggested everything was in working order – back was tight but not sore, a twangy nerve on my right hip was twanging but not crippling, knees felt as supple as 42 year old knees ever feel.  Although I wasn’t sure of race time or progress, I certainly felt like a 5 hour marathon was do-able.

On the descent of Rupertiberg and the final 35km the wind picked up.  The last 5km into T2 were brutal against an unrelenting headwind.  For the first time I was in the small ring and really struggling to push forwards against the wind.  For each push of the pedal I swore – quite the most foul profanities I could think of.  I’m not sure whether it helped forward momentum but it was cathartic.  About 1km out I saw Pam for the first time and sat up off the bars to wave.  Disaster almost struck approaching T2 as the dismount line was immediately around a blind corner and the marshalls were looking bemused at the triathletes concertinaing into each other as they rounded the corner.  A bit of frantic, maybe even panicked waving would not have gone amiss.

Al was right at the bike dismount and, having seen Ness at the end of lap 1, shouted that she was about 90 minutes behind.  I didn’t know my own speed at  this time but it felt like she was going to make bike cut-off with time to spare.  My mind was calm.

6 hours and 33 minutes.  50 minutes faster than Regensburg and bang in between my expectations set last October and two weeks before the race.  Happy as a pig in shit but blissfully unaware until after the race.

Again, I walked through transition, deposited my bike in the rack, popped into the portaloo, grabbed my run bag and readied myself for the run.  As you should, because it will be properly epic.

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Ich Liebe Dich, Österreich

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Swim

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Bike

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Run

Ironman Austria 2014 – Beyond the Finish Line

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Ironman Austria 2014 – The Swim

Posted on July 7, 2014. Filed under: first time ironman, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman regensburg, ironman swim, ironman tips, race report, race review, swim |

Toes grasping at cool sand, a priest reads a blessing “may the lord see you all return home safely today” or some other holy chuff.  F’sakes.  The rather jolly Austrian national anthem draws to a close.  2,500 stand shoulder to shoulder cocooned in rubber suits, latex on heads, making imaginery final micro-adjustments to well loved goggles.  It should be a ludicrous sight but we are immersed in the moment; the final seconds before a long training journey is put into practice.  The announcer calls 10 seconds to go and the silent stoicism is broken as 2,500 rubber clad gimps turn to the stranger next to them, tap them on the back, shake hands, offer a hug and wish each other, and no-one in  particular, good luck in any of 50 languages.  We face forwards, the cannon booms, red and white fireworks explode over the still, milky blue Wörthersee in an ethereal Austrian flag.  En masse, without words, 2,500 people step forwards.  Ironman Austria is GO.

Of course, Ironman morning doesn’t start on the beach.  It starts hours before.  Days before even.  There is a theme with Ironman Austria that I won’t labour.  It is a fantastic race, deservedly considered one of the best in the world  but it is all, well, it is all very vague.  There appears to be a huge amount of assumed knowledge and, as the site is vast, that results in a huge amount of unnecessary walking.  There is no signage, there are huge crowds and nobody really knows what is going on.  So bike racking on Saturday afternoon (I was given two different racking times) through to the swim start there was just a general level of confusion.  It just didn’t have the slickness that I would expect for such a huge event.

Anyway, with that minor gripe aside me, Nessie and the Sherpas – Al, Pam and Roar ate pasta on Saturday evening and the grown up Sherpas drank beer.  Due to the general vagueness we decided to go early and as in Regensburg 3 years ago I took control.  “The car will be leaving at 5am.  Don’t assume I’m joking”.  And so we retired and I pretended that I was going to sleep in the 6 hours before my alarm went off.  I guess I did, but not nearly as much as I didn’t.

At 4am I went into auto pilot.  Up, porridge, last check of bags.  Shower, P50, lube, optimistically spray some Lynx, suit up, warm layer on top.  4:45 wake up Pam. 4:55 lift Roar from his bed.  5:03  Give Ness the 3 minutes late death stare.  5:03:30 the car departs.  5:04 Roar starts singing “let it go” by repeating let it go in increasingly unintelligible octaves until the car windows shatter.  5:15 Parked.

Ness and I went to T1 to ready the bikes and “perfectly prepared IronNess” asked me if I would come to her bike and pump up her tyres.  Dumbass.  As I aero-tape my pump to the frame I met Michael (@smoker2ironman), a long time twitter buddy who happened to have a handy track pump so we chatted as I inflated and then he introduced me to Nick (@thehisknibs) the other man that had been along for the twitter ride since we signed up.  But, after talking about it for 3 years I wanted to spend the last hour with my real life buddy.IMG_20140703_190544

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So, as I found Ness in the ladies section she was already to go, but with flat tyres.  We had been assured that there would be mechanics and loads of track pumps in T1 so I never took mine but with all the Austrian vaguery loads may have translated into absolutely none.  Anyway, in what I thought was very un-Ironman behaviour I asked three people to borrow pumps before a passing chap eventually did.  The whole time the pumps that had spurned me sat next to me unused.  Iron ladies can be rude.

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Anyway, we refound the sherpas and the next 30mins were a blur of (more confusion), rubber suits, lube and my banana in a wetsuit jape.  And then it was time to head to the Strandbad to start the longest day.  As we turned, Roar shouted “RAINBOW” and, right enough, in clear blue skies over the Strandbad building was a double sided rainbow.  As if the Wörthersee was not beautiful enough it was framed in the most perfect rainbow to welcome us to the swim start, only my bicycle turning into a unicorn would have been more magical.  We followed the stream of rubber clad morphs towards the Ironman arch, wading through spectators experiencing general, well, confusion.  And then we popped through security in a blur of paparazzi and we were on the water front.  I had stressed to Ness that getting in the water for a quick warm up was critical.  But we couldn’t get to the water.  We wasted minutes squeezing through the crowd, all similarly dry and confused until eventually we were told we had to leave the secure area to get to the warm up area.  OK. 10 mins to go.  The crush was unbelievable and there was no chance we could get out, warmed up and back in. So, I looked at Ness and said “you’re going to have to trust me on this one”.  We headed to the cold showers and had 5 mins getting chilled down and wet and made it back just in time for the 3 minute countdown.

“You’ve got this buddy.  Hang back, take it easy, keep moving forwards”.  Hug.  Steamy goggles.  Separate ways.

Cue dumbass decision #1.

I woke up on Ironman morning knowing that I needed a perfect swim to hit my 1 hour target.  I am an experienced (some would say grizzled veteran) swimmer so this should have been basic stuff.  I was doing 400m repeats in the pool comfortably coming in at 1:02 pace and on Saturday I did 2700m bang on 1:03 pace.  If the Lend canal was as quick as everyone said for the last kilometre I could do 1:00.  But it was tight, and the last thing I needed was a schoolboy tactical error.

IMG_20140706_074239The only explanation I can offer for lining up on the beach 5 back from the front just to the left of the centre pier is that I was flustered by the warm up confusion.  I had intended to be front row towards the left pier.  In the final 30 seconds I took 4 large sideways steps but never moved forward. In the picture I am at the top of the balloon  shadow.  Yip, where ALL the people are.  Then BOOM, the cannon set unstoppable forward motion in progress.

It was 5 steps into the water.  I was in the most congested part of the lake.  I was up to my neck wading before there was any point in taking my feet off the bottom.  Even then there was only space to swim at a 45 degree angle.  And then BANG.

I’m not sure what happened.  I have no recollection of the swim for the first 1200m or so and after that it was a case of remembering “water side down” as my brain rattled in my head.  I had no facial bruising so I don’t think I took a kick in the face but i was tender on my neck and shoulders for days and I struggled to look forwards on the bike.  My best guess from forensic bruise poking was that a hand came down on the back of my neck.  I have no idea whether I swam the first straight or whether I was just carried by the draft but my first clear recollection is pretty much hitting the first turn buoy.  And that recollection was that my timing chip felt loose on my ankle – I have no idea what kind of mauling we took on that start but I struggle to remove a timing chip at the best of times so it was a rough old swim start.  The back straight had loads of space (or I was off course) but as we turned for home I was completely blinded by the sun as expected.  The thing about the Lend canal is that it sounds big but really we would probably call it a waterlogged ditch so even without the rising sun it was a practically invisible target.  The swim down the home straight to the mouth of the canal was the ultimate zig zag swim as the buoys seemed off course and some flags that seemed to obviously mark the canal were the decorations on some bloke’s decking.

IMG_20140628_183524Even 5m from the tightly gripped mouth of the canal I was unclear of the route in and then, without warning, there were rocks in my face and scraping my feet in the shallows.  I pulled my head up and cramped my hamstrings.  The rest of the swim was done with poker straight legs.

Now, here I take issue.  At the race briefing Paul Kaye prepared us for the “fastest swim of our lives”.  Personally, I experienced the most brutal swim of my life.  Or the most twig and leaf mouthed swim of my life.  But not fast.  Like the famous fish in a barrel we were squashed into bugger all space.  As a waterpolo and rugby player I can hold my own in a stramash but this was fierce.  Al even witnessed two chaps take it personally and stand up in the waist deep water for a square go.  Literally hundreds of alpha boys and girls clawing and grasping in a shallow, grubby canal for an extra millimetre.  Not fast, not fun but definitely a unique spectator viewpoint of an Ironman swim.

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Realising that my Garmin is as useful as a packet of bacon crisps for an OW swim

A sharp right turn of slack water.  And then we were out.  Volunteers hauling us up the steep bank and on our way to our bikes.  As I am normally a little, ahem, confused as I look for my bike after a swim I made the decision to walk the long transition.  Glancing down at my garmin I had no idea how long I had swum as the screen was completely fogged up.  But, ultimately, it was a disappointing 1:07 versus my downside time of 1:02.  However, with a throbbing head and shoulders I was just glad to make it onto the bike.

It was 21 centigrade at 8:10am. I am Scottish.  The suffering was starting.   The day was on.

THE ENTIRE IRONMAN AUSTRIA ARCHIVE

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Ich Liebe Dich, Österreich

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Swim

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Bike

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Run

Ironman Austria 2014 – Beyond the Finish Line

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Auf Wiedersehen Pet

Posted on June 22, 2014. Filed under: Austria, brain training, first time ironman, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman tips, Klagenfurt, motivation, new ironman tips |

Whether Neville, Dennis and Oz took the DFDS ferry from North Shields to Ijmuiden en route to Dusseldorf is lost to the mists of time and a fading memory.  But, as I chugged on my first beer in 35 days, I was definitely humming Living Alright as we effortlessly glided down the Tyne and into the North Sea.

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I’ve been quiet.  It surprises some people, but it’s not that unusual for me. Although far from an introvert,  I am an introverted thinker and the closer to an event I get, the greater need I have to sort stuff out in my own head.  I don’t need affirmation from others that I’m doing well – not because I am arrogant or ungrateful – but mainly because it embarrasses me and makes me feel awkward.  Well meaning support is wonderful to receive; but training data that corroborates my intuition is a more powerful motivator for me. I need to have a confidence in myself that comes from quiet introspection.

A bit deep for me on a Saturday evening on a ferry to Europe?  Maybe.  Nah, not really.  Just a preamble to what I worked out while I was thinking.

I have let my 13 hour goal go.  “WHAT?”, you exclaim, “choker, quitter, underachiever, surrenderer, DEFEATIST”.   Again, not really.  My goal is still to achieve 13 hours or faster but the purpose and the benefit of the goal has passed now.   I needed that goal to focus a year of training,  to provide my north star from the day I signed up for Ironman Austria.  I needed that goal to get up at the crack of dawn, to suffer on freezing cold nights in the garage, hell – I needed that goal to force me to wear lycra in public.   But I don’t,  definitely don’t, need it to get me round the Ironman course as fast as I can.

Contrary to popular stereotypes I am not a tight Scotsman and this is no declaration that I am aiming to get my money’s worth from the Ironman by loitering out on the course, munching gels, for 17 hours.  I am still going out there to finish as quickly as possible but with the caveat that I enjoy the day.

I have a year’s preparation in the bag.  The cake is cooked.   The only thing that is left within my control is race day execution.  The only thing that can derail my race day execution is being dumb.  The main reason I would be dumb is over-attachment to an objective. I know in myself that I can be unhealthily competitive – that served me well when all I had to do was sprint 50 metres of freestyle or butterfly – it gave me an edge to win.  In an event that lasts longer than the average working day it is my fast track access ticket to the med tent (and I picked several of these dribbling, hallucinating alpha uber athlete folks up off the floor in Regensburg).  I need to focus on cool, steady progress until at least 20k into the run and, by then, the die will be cast and my brain can go totally primal, batshit crazy and swing from the trees like a baboon.  But until then it needs to be controlled and measured.

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My relationship to sport has changed over the years.   I have bucketloads of medals, trophies and national jerseys to prove the early years and, in the past, nothing would have turned me on quite like a sub 10 hour Ironman and a Kona slot. But, in my 30s I set a course that was heading speedily to an indolent and corpulent, premature checkout.

I have vices, mainly beer and burgers – like a Scottish Elvis, and I discovered that if I ran I could get away with my vices.  But crucially, I needed focus.  Therefore, I see it like this – I love to live life, training allows me to live life to the full, and Ironman provides the focus and desire to train.  People often comment that I smile the whole way round an event and always chat to and thank the volunteers.  Enjoying the event is crucial to me because that is the catalyst in a whole virtuous circle that keeps me fit, healthy and strong.  It’s just a hobby I love.  It took me a long time to realise what sporting success looks like for me as I get older and mellower; but it sits very comfortably with me now.

But the main reason I can be so at peace with letting the 13 hour goal go easily is the most important one.  I am a role model to someone very important.  I have a curious little three year old who watches and emulates my every move.  If I smile when I compete, he will too.  He knows about the hard work – he has seen me suffer in the turbo in the garage in deep mid winter, but I want him to see sport as fun.  If I go full chimp and chase a time that is slipping through my fingers then that little boy gets to see daddy on a drip with his eyes rolling about in his head and his tongue hanging out.  And that’s just not being a positive role model.  When he does Ironkids at Bolton in a few weeks I would love to see him do it with humility and grace, grinning like a loon and enjoy himself to the max, following the example his daddy sets.

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I’ve done the training,  I know how to execute the race, I’ve hit all the distance and pace milestones in practice.  I just need to do that once more and stay smart. It might not be the most exciting race strategy but it is smart, safe and proven.  And that is all I really want from Ironman.

7 days to go.  My arse cheeks are now in a permanent state of clench.

THE ENTIRE IRONMAN AUSTRIA ARCHIVE

 Auf Wiedersehen Pet

Ich Liebe Dich, Österreich

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Swim

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Bike

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Run

Ironman Austria 2014 – Beyond the Finish Line

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What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then – Tips For First Ironman

Posted on June 9, 2014. Filed under: FAQ, first time ironman, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman nutrition, ironman regensburg, ironman tips, new ironman tips, outlaw ironman, race review, regensburg, triathlon |

Ironman is tough.  It took me to the brink.  It pushed me further than I ever thought was possible.  It changed my life.  It made me believe anything is possible.

Ironman is like few other events.  It gets under your skin.  It occupies your thoughts.  It makes you do (even more) irrational things.

You only cross an Ironman finishing line for the first time once.  And between that unique moment and the second finish line there are literally hours and hours to contemplate what you would/could/should do differently.  In three weeks I won’t be a first time Ironman any more so I wanted to capture the thoughts that have rattled around my head during hours in the pool and on the road.  This isn’t a useful read for a 10 hour ironman but is just the stuff that I know now that I wish I had known before my first Ironman.

So, where to start?

 

ANYONE CAN DO IT

Ironman doesn’t require any kind of special magic gene.  Loads of people have done Ironman as their first triathlon and have done it within a year of deciding to do it.

However, you can’t blag it.  You can definitely blag a 5k, a 10k, a half ironman and I have even, quite uncomfortably, blagged a marathon.  However, if you try to do the Ironman without training for it you will either end up on the sweeper truck or in the medical tent with your tongue hanging out your head and a probe in your ass.  Ironman is tough; but very do-able.  Support and knowledge is easy to come by; you just need to provide the motivation and the time.

The most important thing it to have a plan.  Plans are easy enough to  come by, Don Fink’s Iron Fit is imperfect but a starting point – devour it, diary it and live it.  If you have a good base it takes 30 weeks to get ready, the plan isn’t rigid, but you need to be consistent.

 

CONSISTENCY AND QUALITY

The key thing about training for Ironman is consistency.  Boom and bust training shipwrecks many a fledgling Ironman campaign.  The basics are pretty simple – long stuff is easy and essential; shorter stuff is harder; make sure you can tell the difference between hard and easy; have easy and hard days; then RECOVER.

Also, you are not training for a standalone marathon or a Tour de France stage so make your long stuff of a length you can RECOVER from AND maintain CONSISTENCY.  There really isn’t any need to run 20 miles and your consistency will suffer if you do.

You need to train most weeks, most days, you need to eat pretty well and you also need to be able to schedule some time off.  But, most importantly, it is SUPPOSED TO BE FUN, so when real life inevitably gets in the way don’t melt down, don’t panic, just trust the plan and roll on.  The plan works.

 

THE SWIM IS IMPORTANT

In Andreas Raelert’s world record Ironman time of 7:41 the swim took 10% of total race time. In Ironman cut-off times the swim is only 14% of time.  So, the swim is relatively unimportant, right?

Not really – the swim is the entry question for Ironman.  Even if you are an expert bike/runner two hours in the water is going to screw up your nutrition, your legs and your mind before you start the day.  And, more importantly, if you miss cut-off the day is over before you get on your bike.  So you ignore the swim at your peril.

As a lifelong competitive swimmer I have two thoughts on swimming that are not always popular.  Firstly, I agree with controversial Ironman (and swim) coach Brett Sutton, for most prospective Ironmen you need to swim miles.  3800 metres is a hell of a long way and a lot of people train less than 2,000m sets with drills in them.  You wouldn’t skip your long run or ride so don’t mess with the swim – do the distance and do it regularly.  And secondly, while open water is brilliant fun, it is often a wasted training opportunity unless you are incredibly disciplined.  It is essential to acclimatise and get used to the wetsuit but for most beginners pool time is much more valuable and a better use of time.

And while the swim is important it is ALL about the bike.

 

20110806-223111.jpgIT’S ALL ABOUT THE ENGINE

I kinda like the roots of Ironman.  In 1978 when 15 guys did the first Ironman they cycled in tennis shoes and denim shorts and drank beer when they ran out of water.  Now triathlon magazines are the modern day snake oil salesmen and ooze with £1000 magic products that promise to turn middle age, overweight weekend warriors into iron legends.  They don’t

Magic products have only ever ended in disappointment for me – either they are completely shite and get filed in the Magic Product Cupboard or they are OK but don’t really deliver the promised “marginal gains” and I am frustrated at my gullibility.  Yet again.  In fact, losing a few kilos and training smarter would have been significantly more effective!

You need a bike, a wetsuit, and trainers to do an Ironman.  You can accessorise with goggles and cycling shoes etc but the basics are very simple.  In this Ironman campaign I have only bought new aerobars (because my “cool ones” were completely the wrong shape for my mangled and re-pinned wrists) and new tyres (because the old ones were threadbare).  I confess I have been tempted by 60mm carbon wheels and aero helmets that would make me look like a bellend but, to be brutally honest, they have no place on a chubby cyclist’s bike.  The quality of the training and the engine you build are what it is ALL about.

Looking back I have spent money on three things that I think have made a big genuine difference.  I think that will be my next blog post!

 

NUTRITION MEANS FOOD (NOT PRODUCT)

I’m not sure I fully understand why people doing exercise eat as much as they do.  I have a feeling that glossy marketing has temporarily trumped good science.  I got lured into this in Ironman 1; although normally very analytical, marketing got to me and unravelled my common sense – I ate more than I needed and I ate packaged sports nutrition products that I didn’t really need.

The great thing about some sports nutrition is that it is portable.  The bad thing is that it is basically sugar packaged in different glossy portable packages.  Sports nutrition is great for racing; but I would imagine scientifically (real science not marketing science) that it is pretty fecking awful to your body, your teeth and your hormones to eat it at any other time.

For Ironman 2 I have been running up to two hours only on water and riding for three hours on water and bananas or soreen malt loaf.  I feel 100% better for it.  I will use gels and bars when I race because they are portable.  My pre-event preparation will be porridge with banana and my post event recovery drink will be Austrian beer.  After several years of testing the catering plan the basic principle of keep it simple just works for me.

 

photo1THE TATTOO

I remember reading about Ironman for the first time and was fascinated by the concept of getting a tattoo to mark an achievement.  Everyone has a view on getting branded – for what it’s worth I got one two days after I became an Ironman. I love it.

However, the concept appears to be a minefield so here is my tuppence worth…..

Is it OK to get an M Dot if you didn’t do an Ironman branded race?  Hell yeah, if you travelled 140.6miles in under 17 hours you ink whatever you want on your body.

Is it OK to get an M Dot if you did a 70.3, middle distance or half Ironman?  Hell no.  See previous answer.

 

That’s it.  I’m still learning every single day.  Maybe after I complete my second Ironman I’ll have new insight.

 

Less than three weeks to go.  Bugger.

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