new 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I have largely withdrawn from triathlon social media because it just got, well, so tiresome.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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Words Count

Posted on June 28, 2017. Filed under: first time ironman, ironman edinburgh 70.3, new ironman tips, Ranty McRantface |

They call me ‘hell’
They call me ‘Stacey’
They call me ‘her’
They call me ‘Jane’
That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my name

And so said The Ting Tings. It’s annoying when someone gets your name wrong. Bloody annoying. And lazy. Bloody annoying, lazy and disrespectful.

Oh oh. Who let Ranty McRantface out of his cage?? Who cares? HE’S OUT NOW.

Lazy use of language does irritate me. But lazy language that misleads, either innocently or maliciously, really gets under my skin.

Should someone who cuts the course of London Marathon and only does 18 miles call themselves a marathon runner? Of course not.

Should someone who runs a half marathon call themselves a marathon runner? Duh. Don’t be daft.

The last time Ranty McRanty, was unleashed was a passionate defence of the universal use of the term ironman for anyone who had completed the iron distance in under 17 hours.

I was so ranty I concluded the post in bold, like a frothing at the mouth, swivel-eyed Daily Mail reader: “In my opinion anyone who has started an event and completed a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle and a 26.2 mile run within the cut off can call themselves an Ironman.  Hell, if they can do that they can call themselves whatever they want.  Anyone fancy telling a Celtman or a Norseman that they aren’t an Ironman?  Good luck with that.”

So, as an advocate of the universal use of the term ironman, when is an ironman not an ironman?  WHEN THEY ARE A FECKING HALF IRONMAN.

Yes. I am talking about the bizarre trend where people training for a half ironman have started saying they are training for an ironman. It’s maybe just my bubble because it is my local race, but a lot of first timers training for Ironman Edinburgh 70.3 have had some kind of seizure and completely bucked the nomenclature of distance triathlon. Presumably because it’s a “real” half ironman. “Real” grrrrrrr.

I refer you to the previous rant link for my ranty thoughts on branding and copyright. Suffice to say I don’t advocate copyright theft but neither do I appreciate brand protection of a historic event against awesome endurance athletes.

God knows the distance has enough names. Middle distance. 70.3. Half Ironman. 113. Why oh why, not just respect it for what it is?

20170618_150713

Even Edinburgh City Council seems to be confused by the distance.

It’s like conflating a pink grapefruit and a strawberry. Sure they are both fruit of a reddish hue, but that is where the similarity ends. They are both amazing in their own right, especially on a hot summer day – one as a garnish to a gin and tonic, and the other served with cream. But if you point to a pink grapefruit and call it a strawberry in Tesco someone will rightly slap your face and call a doctor. Respect things for what they are and use the proper words, because words count.

Personally I like the name 70.3. The name with which the race is, in fact, blessed. In the world of running, I always think that half marathon understates that distance. The 100m isn’t called a 16th of a mile.  The 5k isn’t called a half 10k.  Thirteen point one miles is a distance in it’s own right, a challenge in it’s own right, with incredible champions in it’s own right, right? Sure, it is mathematically half of a marathon but to anyone running it, it is the whole of their race.

And that is exactly the same deal as the 70.3. Or half ironman. Or middle distance. It is a whole 70.3 miles but it ain’t no 140.6 miles. Or Ironman. Or Lakesman. Or Outlaw. Or Celtman. Or Norseman. It is what it is. It’s an awesome distance. A massive challenge in it’s own right. Call it what it is.

I dunno if it’s shorthand, or laziness, or pretending to be an iron legend for social media attention and awe. But calling a 70.3 an ironman is disrespectful to the distance, the training, the history and those that have gone before at both distances.

Be proud of what you are doing. Be proud of what you have done. Respect the distance. Don’t make shit up.

Ranty McRantface over and out.

* plays out to The Ting Tings *

PS. I don’t think I’ll get along to volunteer or spectate (because training) but good luck to everyone competing and the organisers of Edinburgh 70.3. If you haven’t swum in the Forth yet, get in before the weekend – its great fun!

PPS. As ear worms go, it’s not a bad one.

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The One When Iron Nessie Did Ironman Austria

Posted on September 23, 2014. Filed under: Austria, bike, first time ironman, ironman, Ironman Austria, Klagenfurt, new ironman tips, race report, race review, run, swim |

You know when something is so overdue that you had forgotten that we were expecting it in the first place?  Well, that’s where I was with Nessie’s Ironman Austria race report.  She likes to take her time.

To cut a long story short Nessie, a veteran of waaaay too many marathons for one so young, saw me do an Ironman in 2011 and after pumping her gums about it for two years decided she wanted a piece of that.  Throughout the report she refers to me as IronCoach (and occasionally Stumpy on account of my freakishly short legs).  Possibly because I taught her to swim, maybe because I picked her up from the ground every time she fell off her bike, but most likely because every Monday night for 30 weeks I sent her a programme telling her how to organise her life and to MTFU.

Anyway, over to Nessie.  I would recommend a coffee and some cake.  Seriously a large thermos and a whole cake.  Anyway…….

 


 

Frank Shorter, 1972 Olympic Marathon Gold Medallist, said “At mile 20, I thought I was dead. At mile 22, I wished I was dead. At mile 24, I knew I was dead. At mile 26.2, I realized I had become too tough to kill.”  Well at mile 140.6 on Sunday 29th June, I felt like the love child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone when I heard the race announcer roar the 6 words that had occupied my every waking (and sleeping) moment for the last 12 months –

 “VANESSA JACOB. YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”.

As they’d say in Dublin – deadly buzz!

 

My Iron journey officially started at 4.08pm on Monday 1st July 2013 when I received the email confirming my entry to Ironman Austria 2014. It had unofficially started 2 years prior to that when my pal, Stumpy had completed Ironman Regensburg. As soon as he had been ordained into the Ironman Brotherhood I knew that I wanted some of that action. It was just a matter of finding the time and commitment to do it. When Stumpster said he had been granted permission to do another IM I knew that I was going to join him for the ride.

 

For the first 6 months post IM entry my days were occupied with pre-season training (a bit of swimming, a bit of cycling, a bit of running).  In January I received my training plan. In the profound words of Bad Boy Martin Lawrence, “this shit got real”. Literally.  The training plan I received had 3 sections

  1. Shit that is coming up
  2. Shit you need to do
  3. Shit you have done.

No one could ever accuse my IronCoach (Stumpy!) of sugar coating things.

 

Now I’m usually a fairly competitive person and have rarely entered a race prescribing to the notion that it’s the taking part that counts. I am also, however, not a total buffoon. I had done my homework and was painfully aware of the pitfalls that littered the Ironman race. When I signed up for Ironman Austria on 1st July 2013 I therefore only had one objective – to cross the finish line smiling and not foaming at the mouth requiring urgent medical attention.  I can say with absolute honesty that I had no interest or desire in achieving a target time for IM – the 17 hours the race organisers allowed was enough of a target for me!

 

My “Just get round” plan involved 3 swimming sessions, 3 cycling sessions and 3 running sessions a week. You didn’t have to be Stephen Hawkins to figure out that this meant that over 6 days (I was granted one rest day) I would have to do 3 training double headers… and then some. I wasn’t sure what was going to pack in first – my legs or my washing machine.

 

The 6 months between receiving the plan and boarding the plane to Salzburg passed in a whirlwind of training, eating, sleeping, and working. Over that time I spent

  • 77 hours swimming – approx. 231 kilometres or 9,240 lengths of a 25m pool – that’s a whole lots of budgie smugglers to dodge!
  • 120 hours cycling – approx. 3000 kilometres – 4 times the distance from Edinburgh to London
  • 73 hours running – approx. 770 kilometres – equivalent of over 18 marathons. Eddie Izzard eat your heart out

 

I discovered that the key to a successful IM campaign is not having the fastest bike or the lightest trainers; it’s having a support network to see you through the highs and lows. Balancing IM training with life is not an easy task but without an understanding other half it would be nigh on impossible. My other half backed me all the way (and even proposed halfway through the IM journey!). He never made me feel guilty for disappearing off for hours on end, decked head to toe in my finest lycra. Although I’ve since discovered that he may in fact have an Xbox addiction and my long periods of absence provided him the perfect opportunity to satisfy his gaming needs!!

 

Besides a wee sniffle I got through my 6 month training plan injury and ailment free. But as I entered my 14 day tapering phase disaster struck – I picked up a serious case of the lurgy/manflu/ebola. Feck.  Cue desperation measures and 2 weeks of quarantine in my flat inhaling large quantities of lemsip, night nurse, day nurse, paracetamol, menthol crystals, Vicks vaporub etc etc. Thankfully I started to feel better the day before we were due to travel and by the time we had plane, trained and automobiled it to Klagenfurt I was showing clear signs of recovery and no longer at risk of decimating an entire rainforest with my tissue consumption.

 

When we arrived in Klagenfurt to hook up with IronCoach, Pam and Rory I was certain I would be on that start line.  But I was even more certain that I would have to play it safe and stick to the game plan if I was to meet my IM objective of finishing without needing the help of a medical professional.

 

The day before race day was a hectic one. We had to register, attend the pre race briefing, have our first open water swim (of the year!!), collect my bike (one of the best decisions of my IM journey was to transport my bike to Austria with ShipMyTri bike – an outstanding service!!), pack transition bags and then rack bike and transition bags. All the while eating and drinking like it was our last day on earth. We left the apartments at 8.30am and got back at 5.30pm. Then it was time to pack bags for the morning, call the parentals to reassure the lurgy had passed and I was feeling ok, eat dinner and get to bed. Not quite the leisurely day I had in mind.

 

On race day the alarm went off at 3.45am – It wasn’t tiredness that plagued me when I arose; it was absolute mind numbing, arse clenching fear. After 12 months of preparation, D day was here and for the millionth time since signing up for IM I asked myself “what have I gotten myself  into?”.

 

Brief text conversation ensued with IronCoach:

IronCoach – “You up?”

Me – “Yup”

IronCoach – “Fuck”

Me – “Double fuck”

 

It was reassuring to hear my pal was also feeling the fear.

 

I launched myself into pre-race preparation. Quick shower, liberal application of sun cream, kit on, bag checked (Garmin, energy bars, water bottles,  tri top, tri shorts all present ),  bowl of porridge, jam sandwich, litre of water, bag checked (again). Time to go.

 

Into the car. Out of the car. Into T1. Out of T1. Into wetsuit.

 

I staggered through those early hours on 29th June in a trance and bar Rory serenading us with “Let It Go” in the car and my bursting into tears as we said our goodbyes at the start line, I really don’t remember that much of it.

 

The swim was my biggest fear of the day – I am no Michael Phelps. In fact I’m not even Michelle De Bruin (nee Smith) before the performance enhancing substances. Think Eddie the Eel…… with armbands and a rubber ring. As I stood on the beach of the Worthersee at 6.59am that morning, surrounded by my fellow nutters all rubber suited and latex capped up, the iron demons were at their loudest – “This is madness. 140.6 miles is a long way to go in car, let alone on 2 legs. Just hop the barriers and go have some bratwurst and beer etc etc”.

 

But then I remembered the game plan and IronCoach’s words of wisdom – hang back, avoid the human washing machine, take it easy but keep moving forward, get out of the water and you’re on the home stretch. (I had decided early on that if I was to get through IM I would need to take it in bite sized chunks on the day so I conveniently forgot about the 180km bike ride and marathon that awaited me on the other side of the swim!!).

 

The 10 second warning rang out. Calm and silence descended. And then the starter cannons went off – it was time to man up.

 

I had positioned myself at the very back of the pack on the beach (I was practically in the car park) so that I could take my sweet ass time setting off on the swim. As my fellow ironman pledges catapulted themselves into the stramash I tentatively tip toed in. Now I had fully prepared myself to be the last person into the water (and also out of the water –  my target swim time was 2 hours 19 mins 59 secs), so I was a little shocked to see I wasn’t the only person who looked like they were out for an early morning paddle. Seeing other people hang back really helped to calm my nerves – I wasn’t going to be on my own out there.

 

After 5/10 mins of wading into the water it was time to start swimming…. Or drown. Heart pounding, I dunked my head. Did I have a moment of absolute panic? Yes! But the amazing thing – it was literally that.  A moment.

 

The water was actually quite pleasant (compared to some of the arctic puddles I’ve experienced in Scotland over the last few years) and cold shock did not strike.Some breast stroke to bring down the heart rate and regulate my breathing, and I was off.  The 5 minute “head start” I’d given the rest of the field paid off and for the most part I had clear water ahead. Along that stretch out to the first turn buoy I witnessed some interesting swimming styles – one chap appeared to be doing breast stroke arms with front crawl legs. I do wonder if he made it out of the water.

 

Pull, breath, sight, repeat.

 

Before I knew it I had hit the second turn buoy, (without any kicks to the head) and was on my way to the canal….. Or so I thought. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite make out where the canal opening was, so that particular segment of the swim involved around 300 metres more than the race officials actually required.  Not to worry I made it eventually and readied myself for “the fastest swim of my life” that had been promised on the race briefing. Yeah, right! As promised the water was shallow. But it was not fast. In fact for the first time that day I found myself in a bit of a melee. It appeared everyone was struggling to swim in a straight line and I had to reposition myself a number of times to avoid flaying limbs. All the while trying to expel the twigs and leafs that were trying to invade my lungs.

 

10603645_10151965569243039_8516843335594483099_nThe spectators were out in full force along the canal and as it was so narrow they had a great view of the action. As we passed under the first bridge over the canal I heard Al and Pam shouting my name – no idea how they spotted me in the scrum of white caps but it did my heart no end of good!

 

Pull, breath, sight, repeat.

 

I saw the turn to the swim exit and could have cried with relief. I’d survived the swim – woooohoooooo!!!!

 

THE BIKE

 

I had opted to swim “Garmin-less” so when I was unceremoniously dragged out of the canal I had no idea how long I’d been in the water for. Quick check of the clock as I trotted Bambi like to T1 told me it was 2 hours since the Pro’s set off – wooohooo that meant I’d exited the water in 1hr 45. Incredibly pedestrian time but I was delighted, I had until 5.15pm now to get round the bike course.

 

T1 was a leisurely affair for me. As well as forgoing the Garmin I had also opted to wear a swimsuit under my wetsuit – I thought the day was going to be long enough without having to set off on 180km bike ride in wet tri gear. Great on paper but in reality the whole drying/changing process took quite some time (even with the help of the T1 wetsuit strippers). Add to that an extended portaloo stop as the effects of the swim nerves kicked in and I was 16 mins 52 secs in transition. I’m sure most triathletes would have me disbarred from the sport for that but I was one third of the way toward becoming an Ironman and feeling on top of the world.

 

Now unlike the other 2,915 Ironman pledges I had decided not to upgrade my entry level road bike in any way – in retrospect I should have at least gotten some tri bars. I felt like I had shown up to a Harley Davidson meet on a BMX….. with spoky dokeys.  My steed is called Bob.  I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, or the guy with a full aero helmet straddling a carbon beast, but I’ll admit that seeing the sweet rides getting racked at transition had intimidated me (and brought out my green eyed monster).  They filled me with fear for the bike course. I had told everyone in the run up to IM that if got through the swim I knew I could make round the bike and run courses – it was time to test my mettle.

 

Bob was found with relative ease (another added bonus of hanging back in the swim – most folk have already set out on the bike by the time you finish!!) and I was on my way to the mount line. The race announcer was in full flight by now and as I clipped in to set off he bellowed “And next is Vanessa Jacob from Ireland” – Needless to say I felt like a champ. A quick thumbs up and smile for the camera as I passed Al, Pam and Roar and I was off.

 

The game plan for the bike was pretty straight forward – eat/drink every 20 mins and keep a steady pace of 20 to 25 kph. Could I have gone faster? Yes. Was I willing to take the chance of bonking and feckin up my chances on the marathon? No.

 

The first 30km of the bike course was pretty uneventful. Breathe, eat, drink, repeat (while silently chanting “please don’t get a puncture, please don’t get a puncture”). As IronCoach has said in his outrageously long race report, large segments of the bike course weren’t particularly well supported so when I did see a random Austrian perched on a deckchair, necking a brewski I gave them my biggest grin and thumbs up. This elicited a cheer of “zuper, zuper!!!” and “HOP, HOP, HOP” every time. Hearing those words never got boring.

 

On the road out to Faaker See there was a two way stretch where we crossed paths with pledges heading out towards Rupertiberg. There I spotted IC in his jaunty yellow pirate outfit – a shout of “Dougie” and he saw me. “You ok?”, “Yep”, “You?”, “Yep” was the sum total of the conversation. He was looking strong and looked to be on track to shave a chunk of time off his last IM time. Then it was onto the Faaker See with me.

 

IM Austria boasts a largely flat and downhill course with 2 significant climbs –the first at Faaker See and the second at Rupertiberg. Race briefing had confirmed my hopes/dreams that each loop consisted of approx. 55km flat/descent and 35km climbing. Totes manageable….. at least on the first lap. Second lap was far more challenging particularly as then the heavens opened, the thunder roared and I looked like a drowned rat for what wouldn’t be the last time that day!

 

10632742_10151965570193039_4236030404538668150_nThe first real ascent was fairly unremarkable – short sharp climb, followed by a longer, shallower drag for about 6km. At the top, however, waited a wee treat in the form of a bottle of Coke – the ironman equivalent of crack cocaine.

 

I had caught up to a pack of riders about 20km into the first loop and rode with them for most of the lap. I found myself in an intriguing game of cat and mouse – I would pass them on the uphills, they would zoom by me on the downhills shouting “wwwweeeeeeeeeeee”. This baffled me – on the ascents I overtook them with relative ease yet on the descents they flew by me. I would only find out after IM that gravity was playing a huge part in their glee…. Now I’m not in any way a small girl but a few dozen Greggs sausage rolls would have considerably upped my pace downhill (that and a set of tri bars).

 

About 25km after Faaker See we hit Rupertiberg –somehow  I had blanked the image of the course profile map from my mind and was a little shocked to arrive at the bottom of it to discover that it consisted of not 1, nor 2 but 3 short vertical climbs. Feck. A very slow ascent ensued but I finished it feeling breathless and not in need of a stretcher. Result.  Another bottle of coke grabbed from one of the feed station attendants and I was on my way back to transition to repeat the loop again.

 

A check of the watch – loop one done in 3hrs 35 mins. Again unlikely to get a call up to represent Ireland at the next Olympics but bang on target pace and legs were still feeling strong.

 

Eat, drink, breath, repeat. (Interspersed with chants of “almost there”, “please don’t get a puncture” and singing “Eye of the Tiger”)

 

Needless to say there were some low moments on that second lap when the Iron demons started to whisper in my ear. However they were no match for 6 months of training, an all-consuming need to get my grubby paws on that all important finishers medal and a paddy off her head on “iso” and coca cola.

 

As I cycled down the final stretch into T2 I spotted Pam, bouncing up and down shouting “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE”. Then as I dismounted I saw Al being restrained by marshals from jumping the barriers and doing the triathlon equivalent of a pitch invasion. “NESSSSSSSSSSS YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!!!”. Hahahahaha.  It would appear we had all fooled ourselves into thinking an actual real life 26.2 mile marathon was IM code for a 5km run.

 

I wobbled into T2 (think bambi again but this time on ice….. in a pair of manolos) to dump Bob and assess what damage 7.5 hours sitting on a bike had done. Arms, legs, back, shoulders, feet…… all stiff but no real pain. Result.

 

My hands however were a different matter entirely. Cyclist’s palsy had struck at about 120km, resulting in a loss of all power in my left hand (for the last 60km I had to operate the left shifter with my right hand….which was slightly inconvenient. Given the next/final part of the journey to IM involved running I figured the hand wasn’t going to be a problem. Unless of course I ended up crawling at some stage and let’s face it if it came to that a sore hand was likely to be the least of my problems.

 

I won’t go into details on the chaffing, let’s just say there was a lot.

 

I then got down to official T2 business – visit to the portaloo, fresh socks, cycling shoes swapped for trainers, helmet replaced with cap, generous application of sun cream (the afternoons biblical storm had been replaced by the mercury hitting somewhere north of 25 degrees and blazing sunshine), bottle of water necked and reassurances from the marshals that I now had over 7 hours to drag my sorry irish ass around 42.2km.

 

THE RUN

 

1453425_10151965570333039_1179726102484402620_nAl was waiting at the transition exit to dish out hugs and check that I was still compos mentis.  As I suspected regular updates were being sent back to Ireland on my mental and physical state. My mam and dad were glued to a pc anxiously awaiting news that I had crossed the finish line – they had a VERY long day.

 

The run course was 2 (quite narrow) laps of a (kind of) figure of 8 – taking in the park which housed the Iron Village, Krumpendorf (a municipality apparently – I think that’s Austrian for small housing estate but can’t be sure!), the Lend Canal and Klagenfurt town centre. It was packed with spectators and the atmosphere was electric – hardly surprising given 99% of the spectators had been on the sauce since breakfast. After the relative solitude of the last 7.5 hours on the bike this was exactly what I needed to carry me to the finish line.

 

I’d soon discover however that the downside of this 2 lap, figure of 8 formation was that you passed within touching distance of the finish FOUR times before you got to head into the lights. This for me was to be one of the hardest things about the run segment of Ironman Austria.

 

Now the game plan for the marathon was to start with a walk, then after a mile or so follow a run (jog)/walk strategy (4 mins on, 1 min off) for as long as I could. Unfortunately my brain went bat shit crazy with the buzz of the course and I foolishly started to run straight out of transition. About 800m into the 42.2km I  face planted. A full on comedy, flat on the face, looking like an arse, face plant.  And for the second time that day I found myself being unceremoniously dragged to my feet as 2 of my fellow IM pledges came to my rescue. “You ok??”, “Yep think so”, “Well GO GO GO GO!!!.

 

Sense returned and I settled into the planned walk/run strategy.  I hit up the first aid station and guzzled water, iso and coke in an attempt to combat the searing heat and inevitable dehydration. There was a dazzling array of fruit, energy bars and saltines on offer but my tummy was starting to revolt from being subjected to cliff bars and soreen since 7am so I politely declined the grub.

 

I’ve heard and read a lot about the “Death March” and like most stuff on the tinternet I had chalked it up as exaggerated Ironman folk lore.

 

It.  Is.  Not.

 

It was absolute carnage out on the course. Sure the pro’s/age groupers were bounding gazelle like to the finish line but the rest of the field were shuffling like cast offs from the Walking Dead.  Pledges who had lapped me on the bike were now sitting road side dribbling on their expensive tri suits. It was clear that this last leg was about survival and I quickly realised that if I was to avoid slipping into the Ironman abyss I was going to need something to distract me from the miles that lay ahead of me. So I started chatting to my fellow competitors.

 

I met Marie from London who was on her 2nd attempt at becoming an Ironman (she had collapsed at mile 21 of the run the year before. She had gone out too fast and didn’t focus on nutrition – take note). She was really hurting and I would find out later that she unfortunately didn’t make it to the finish line this time either. I then met a guy from Cork, who owned a bar in Klagenfurt and invited me to a post- race lock in.  Then another Paddy, a Brummie and an Israeli.  I realise now that this reads like the opening line of a bad joke.

 

About 10km in I saw IronCoach. We stopped for a hug and a chat – and a telling off from some of the grumpier pledges that we were standing in their way. I offered to hug them too but they were too preoccupied with finding the next portaloo.

 

1908426_10151965570498039_8139347546460581133_nWe both then waddled off on our separate ways with calls of “see you soon”. Oh the naivety – I had another 4 hours to go! I then met another chap who I recognized from out on the bike. “Nice flower!!” – I hadn’t started to hallucinate; he had a pink chrysanthemum stuck into his cap.  We settled into a comfortable pace and ended up “running” the rest of the course together.

 

As I made my way out to Klagenfurt for the first time I saw Pam and Roar again. Rory was playing a blinder – it was now nearly 7.30pm (he’d been up since 4.30am) and he was still dishing out hugs and kisses.

 

I plodded on chatting to my new pal Mike and before I knew we had rung the charity bell in the town centre and were headed back to the park to start round 2.

 

The crowds on that first lap were incredible.  They were going wild – waving cowbells, flags and pints of Stiegl. They cheered us as if we were Olympic Athletes, and any acknowledgement of their support sent them into a frenzy. “Go Ironlady Go!!!!”.( FACT – 2,916 athletes registered for IM Austria. Only 374 of them were women.) There was a large Irish contingent in the crowd (we’re everywhere) and one particular group became my personal cheering squad on the run – traditional irish phrases of encouragement were bellowed every time they saw me “G’wan ye good thing” and “Keep her lit”.

 

The course started to quieten down on my second lap as the speedier pledges started to make their way to the finishers chute. The finish line party sounded in full swing as I went by for the third time! 13 miles to go – reassurances from the diehard spectators that “the hard part was over” and that “almost there”!! At least I think that’s what they were saying – they had started to slur their words at this stage.

 

It was then that the tummy cramps, chaffing, sore feet etc. became harder to ignore and the timed run/walk strategy was abandoned. Walking was no longer dictated by the chirp of the Garmin timer, our crumbling bodies were now firmly in control of when we would run and when we would walk. It’s said that the body will do what the mind tells it – well after almost 14 hours of activity my body was starting to revolt.

 

The portaloos also took a turn for the worst then. Inevitable I suppose considering they were servicing almost 3000 athletes with the triathlon equivalent of “delhi belly”.

 

As the sun started to set the heat finally started to abate. Wooohhoos all round….. for about 20 mins. And then the heavens opened again and we were subjected to yet another bout of thunder, lightning and pissings of rain. Ironman started to lose it’s glamour in those last 10 miles as we squelched along in the darkness babbling mindlessly to distract ourselves from the task in hand. It was here that IM camaraderie really kicked in – at one stage there was a group of 5 of us grinding out the miles. Comments of “Sure what else would you be doing on a Sunday?”, “That goddamn bar better still be open when I get there”, “Has chaffing ever been fatal?” etc etc.

 

I really only have 2 gripes with IM Austria – the first is the lack of lighting along the run course. Cut off is midnight so common sense should tell you that many pledges are going to still be out on the course when night falls. A few torches wouldn’t have gone astray. My second gripe is that the last competitor does not get the same treatment as the first. As were headed back towards the hallowed finish line aid stations were being packed up – there was still over 2 hours left on the race clock and the pledges still out on the course needed refreshments more than anyone had all day at that stage.

 

As we power walked up the canal we finally started to hear the music booming from the finish line. At 2km to go were finally “almost there”. The adrenaline started pumping again and we broke into a trot.

 

10635699_10151965570118039_5841724345701894527_n1km to go and the pace picked up.

 

500m to go. Narrowly avoided disaster as Mike had a rush of blood to the head and started to run off in the wrong direction – he clearly felt he hadn’t put enough miles in that day.

 

200m to go . Something incredible happened. A friend and former colleague of mine passed away in 2010 following a stroke. Linda was 46. I’ve done a lot of fundraising for the Stroke Association in her memory over the last couple of years (shameless plug https://www.justgiving.com/VJacob/ ) and whenever I race I always think of her. Well at 200m to go they started playing her favourite song. I like to think she’d orchestrated that especially for me.

 

100m to go. I’m turning into the finishers chute.

 

20m to go. I’m now bouncing like a lunatic. It’s fair to say I thoroughly milked my final metres.

 

No more metres to go. “VANESSA JACOB. YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”. Absolutely feckin brilliant!!!!

 

A friend sent a quote to me shortly before Ironman. Mohammed Ali said “ I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ Well, now  I am a champion.

 

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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.

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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.

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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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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