16 weeks to go –– The 15-hour Ironman Training Week

Last week I said “If I manage to do it all, I’ll be clocking between 15 and 20 hours a week (like another job!).” This week I managed to hit the magic 15 hours, a new baseline for IM. And when I looked back I realised I’ve averaged 11 hours a week, for the previous 15 weeks, so despite my three week blip (when I raced a half Ironman, went on holiday, ran in the South Downs Relay and raced a sprint – then got ill), I’m on track with training and feeling good (if a little tired at times).

I started the week tired (again!) but finally rid of sore throats, cold sores, and migraines and back in normal good health.

On Monday I cycled to the office for an extra bit of time on the bike! I ran slowly in the evening as I was feeling a bit tired after Sunday’s long run. On Tuesday I had a shorter working day, and therefore less training time, and managed quick run to and from spin.  The shorter day was because I was fortunate enough to have a ticket to see Ed Sheeran singing and talking with Dermot O’Leary in the intimate setting of the London Irish Centre. The celeb-studded night finished at 1am and I drove home getting to bed at 330am.

I gave myself a self-employed lie-in til 9am and managed to train on the bike in the evening. On Thursday I was back on it! I joined Rachel and Caroline for a 2K swim at Pell’s open air pool on the summer solstice and ran back the 13 miles over the Downs home – then headed up to London in the night for a Driven Woman meeting and a dinner in Soho.

The Glorious Downs

On Friday I swam in the sea and cycled wearily in the evening and on Saturday I did the full three: swim, run, cycle… and Sunday was a swim and a cycle. I didn’t get out for a long ride but I did hit over 100 miles on the bike, and I swam three times and ran four times.

What you see when you’re cycling: World Cup

All in all a good week’s training. And a slightly boring blog post – because the reality is that Ironman training is quite boring when you do it properly. The key thing is to get out and do it all again the following week. And that’s what I’ve done. I’m now on day two of the 15 week countdown and have managed a run and a bike so far. We have a heatwave in the UK and I’m writing this blog outside. It’s very easy to forget just how much easier, running, swimming and cycling is in great weather! But, no iced cold beers for me with all this training going on… make mine an Erdinger!

Erdinger Massive: Alc-Free for me!

20 week countdown: week three, 17 weeks to go –– Best Laid Plans

Themes for week: Best Laid Plans (& Finding Your Tribe)

Another week done as I write this there’s 16 weeks to go, but now looking back to week three of 20.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The best laid plans of Fiona always change. But the key goals I set myself did stay intact – just some of the details went off course. I had written down last week that I had to hit double figures – that happened. I also had coach Dave remind me that I needed to get on my bike, and that happened, not quite for 10 hours, but I was happy with what I managed.

I was once again reminded of the importance of Finding My Tribe, i.e. of not giving myself any excuses to not train, this week I had a good week of training because I met Tori, Gill and Rachael and joined in sessions with Arena 80 AC and Bri Tri Club – and at the local gym for My Ride. In fact, I didn’t do any sessions by myself.

On Monday I swam in the sea with Tori – it was quite choppy.  Tori swam with no goggles or hat – she’s seriously hard! On Tuesday I ran with Gill (she was running to work)  who showed me a great new route over the Downs. I finally found my Downs loop (something I’ve been looking for since I moved to Brighton) and I felt great running 15 miles with relative ease (on a run that took in 1,673 ft elevation) but then immediately after, a 48-hour illness kicked in and I was on Lemsip for the rest of the day, and following two days!

On Wednesday I had planned to ride, but wasn’t sure about getting up early after feeling ill on Tuesday. So instead I met Tori for a lunchtime choppy swim (with lots of drinking of sea water and goggle fun!) and then persuaded by Rachael I made an impromptu decision to join in a club off-road run with Arena 80 AC (the run where a man asked the group of runners at Ditching if anyone had a light?).

My throat was red roar when I got home (not from smoking I might add). On Thursday I thought I’d need to take the day off but decided to try to do something as I hadn’t cycled yet and went to the gym’s My ride class. I thought a short sharp session might help me sweat out the lurgy. I managed to work hard but I don’t think flat out. I let myself just do that for Thursday.  On Friday I had planned to go to the Bri Tri My Ride and run after, but, another change of plan happened as I wasn’t up for the early morning start and felt I needed to shift the cold. But feeling better in the afternoon I arranged to meet Rachael and we ran off road on another great route, through the poppy fields. On Saturday, I finally felt ill-free.  Again I met Rachael and joined Arena 80 AC’s super series age-graded league at Worthing (we cycled there and back). It was great to be back at park run, especially as it was an anniversary run and Dame Kelly Holmes made an appearance.

On Sunday there had been a plan to do the London to Brighton Bike ride with my sister Clare, but we couldn’t quite sort the number situation, so I cycled with Bri Tri on the route without the hill and somehow got funnelled into the finish of the London to Brighton when I went to meet my sister. I promise I didn’t raise my hands as I crossed the finish line, or take a medal or even bottle of water! Well done to my sister, Clare, who conquered Ditchling and the race on very little sleep and long working hours.

I’m still off the booze. Not sure I’m feeling the benefits as I’ve had cold sores, sore throat, and migraines, but as I write this, I’m optimistic that I’ll stick with the no boozing and that I will start to see the benefits.

This week I was reminded by Coach Dave, that ‘It’s time to get back to basics with some consistent training over the coming weeks,’ as he reminded me ‘you’re still very much in the base building phase of your Ironman training.’

The scary base plan

Consistent training is scary! Here’s the rough plan which I’ll work with week by week. It’s hard core and if I manage to do it all, I’ll be clocking between 15 and 20 hours a week (like another job!).

Swimming – use the SwimSmooth Ironman plan which includes one technique session, one fresh and fruity and one longer swim. (three hours)

Cycling – as much as possible totalling around 10 hours per week. The longer this is delayed the harder it is going to be to do well in Barcelona.

Running – four or five runs a week including one long run, one medium run with some target pace and two or three recovery runs. (up to 6 hours)

I’ve got three full weeks, and one half a week before I head to Galway to the Tribesman Middle Distance Race. Can I do this sort of training? Watch this space!

 

 

 

 

20 week countdown: week two, 18 weeks to go. Race Season!

Monday June 3rd to Sunday June 10th – ending with the Eastbourne Triathlon (sprint)

When I train for marathons I think in 20-week blocks. This is it, I’m in the block, which means being consistent and disciplined about sticking to the training. But it’s Rae Season – which is great for racing yourself fit, but can play havoc with endurance training as it’s tiring! As  my friend Julia says it’s no good pulling up the potatoes to see if they’ve grown. There’s been highs and lows in the recent races I’ve taken part in, but good or bad, they are not my main goal, and as this week ends, I’m reminded that I must keep the bigger goal in mind.

The last three weeks have been enjoyable but jumping into race season may have caused me to fall off my training bandwagon, with less hours in the bank and two weeks where I had three days off – and I only trained four days. I have completed three races in the last month, a middle distance triathlon, The South Downs Relay, and a sprint triathlon. I’ve also been out of my routine by having a holiday. That should mean I’m rested but I always find holidays and training don’t work (not saying I’m going to stop going on holiday!).

No booze – I lose?

Back to the week that’s just gone (I’m writing this on Monday). So the week started with a migraine on Monday (another one), and finished with cold sores at the weekend. I’ve been a little run down. Ironically, I did stick to my no alcohol pledge from June 1st – and felt worse than ever. I felt extremely tired, headachey and lacking in motivation and took Monday and Tuesday off training.

Back to it

On Wednesday I was back on it, and started the day well with a ‘refreshing’ (i.e. quite cold) swim in the sea. Myself and Rachael managed two loops of the bouys and around 1250M. After meeting coach Dave at lunchtime, I made myself get on the bike and went for a solo pootle up to the Downs and on the seafront, clocking up 20 miles on the bike in the evening. Having two days off had been necessary as I hadn’t been feeling great, but it does play havoc with your weekly hour log!

On Thursday I did a very easy seafront 11-miler, and on Friday at 645am I went to My Ride, the Bri Tri Watt Bike session. Simon didn’t push us too hard and most of us there were taking part in the Eastbourne Tri on Sunday. On Saturday I had to leave my house early to get to a family christening London, and drove for around five hours there and back, leaving at 830ish and getting home for 9pm. I was exhausted when I got home and seriously doubting the chances of getting myself ready for and getting up early enough to do the Eastbourne Tri.

But I had to do it. Chris had been and got my number and registered for me. Sally from Bri Tri had taken the time to drop off her tri suit to me. I hate letting people down (top tip to avoid missing training/racing, make sure you have promised somebody you’ll be there. It makes wriggling out of it much harder). On top of that my week’s training had been pathetic, and hello, I reminded myself, you are doing an Ironman. And racing, well, I love racing!

Here’s my race report. As I said I was happy to have a great race, but now it’s time to get my potatoes back in the ground and get them to grow. I need to say in double figures when it comes to hours until taper time – so that’s 14 weeks of 10 hours as the baseline. It is written now! It must come to pass.

I’ll be telling you about Driven Woman soon…. Coming to Brighton soon!

 

 

 

 

The Eastbourne Triahtlon

On  Sunday morning, I opened my eyes and quickly closed them again. I was feeling emotional – am I still exhausted I wondered? Do I  really need to get up and race the Eastbourne Triathlon? I need sleep. I’m tired.

When I got home on Saturday night, and when that alarm had gone off on Sunday morning, every bit of me did not want to race.  Coach Dave has got me to record my heart rate variability using the app, HRV4 Training when I wake up in the morning. On Sunday I was so tired that I went into a deep sleep for the minute the HR recorded (for the record 43), and woke with a start when it finished.

But after letting the snooze button ‘snooze me’ for 30 minutes and battling with myself I finally got up at 515am and got out. And guess what – it wasn’t that bad – in fact it was good. It turned out that it was residual tiredness. The dregs of a tired week. I’m very glad I didn’t listen to the negative, emotional me, because once I was up and driving on the empty roads, I felt completely fine. It was a beautiful, bright sunny day – and I was so glad not to be missing this part of the day.

No Nerves

I wasn’t at all nervous as I’ve been performing very averagely recently so had zero expectations, and it was just a sprint. Note, in 2013 when I was a much fitter and faster marathon runner, I did my first sprint triathlon and I remember finding it very, very challenging – Note to self, this is progress.

I arrived in Eastbourne before 630am and when we got to the start it was fantastic to see so many old friends and familiar faces, from my two old clubs, Bodyworks XTC and Tri Tempo in what until August last year was my home town for 13 years.

The Swim

I met Gill, a fellow Bri Tri member at the start. Excitement kicked in as we gathered at the water’s edge. Gill and I ran/walked into the water together and for a minute were swimming along side each other. I could see we were heading in the same direction and I decided rather than swim over Gill (which it felt like I was going to)  I’d move away. That was the last I saw of Gill on the swim (she swam 19 and I was 20 minutes). We’d been warned that the current was going to be strong and Chris who had practised the day before, and been to Gary’s session (channel swimmer and all-round swimming king), showed me the best route to the take. I think I took it! But of course I hadn’t switched on my watch so I don’t know what pace I went at, or what distance I covered. However, I did find my ‘off to the left and then back to the bouy route’ (avoiding fighting the current) had somehow got me back in the group who had got ahead of me at the start. The sea was reasonably choppy and a bit unpredictable, but when I saw the sun shining on the water I had one of those moments, when I thought, I just love this!

As I got out of the water I was reassured to see not unhealthy, reasonably fit looking men around me which was a sign I wasn’t totally useless! I also noticed the watch wasn’t on and decided to tell Gary (guru Gary) who probably wondered what the hell I was saying . I ran to transition and wasn’t super slow (but still need to get faster). Then it was time to put the watch on and get onto the bike route.

The Bike

The bike route is a familiar one for me, from running and cycling in Eastbourne. But I think my recent climbs up Ditchling Beacon combined with my pimped up bike (now sporting Chris’s gears/brakes, flash new wheels and seat) meant that what I had always thought was a killer hill, didn’t feel hard at all! In fact at one point I had to look up to double check I was still on the hill. Again, note to self, progress.

The short ride felt good, again I loved the surroundings (I’ll never get bored of the South Downs): the white cliffs, the green fields, and the Sunday morning stillness. I didn’t look at my watch once. I loved the downhills and nearly hit 40 miles per hour as I hurtled down the empty road to East Dean (for me that’s fast).  It was great to see Scott, fellow comms officer from Bri Tri marshalling in the lonely spot (I’d also spotted Rachael, Mark and Grace – good turn out on the volunteer and racing from from my new club). As we headed back up the loop towards Beachy Head and the seafront we had a little headwind, but nothing too taxing. I enjoyed the bike and was pleased to cycle this challenging route five minutes faster than last year (okay I had just come back from a fracture – but still progress).

The Run

Being a sprint I was back in transition quickly and off on the run. The run takes you up to the top of the South Downs again – with a rather lovely climb up the side of Jubilee Hill. I’m not fast on the hills but the run didn’t phase me at all. It was getting hotter now, and feeling a little humid. At the top, I did have to have a word with myself as I realised I had slowed down way too much, and reminded myself, this event is short, to concentrate and I think I said out loud ‘pull your finger out’. So I worked hard on the downhill and though not particularly fast, it was a satisfactory run and I felt good at the finish, and as Dale shouted out 100m to go, I decided to have a little sprint (the glory bit).

I love a podium

It was a real bonus and a lift to my spirits to get second place vet and sixth woman in the ‘normal’ race, or 9th if you count the top three vets. But what lifted me more was how I felt good, I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel pressure, and I remembered why I do this. When I  left Eastbourne  last year, it was with some sadness and on Sunday I was reminded what a jewel it is – and the race somehow personified Eastbourne’s best bits, a fantastic backdrop for anyone wanting to challenge themselves as an endurance woman.

I recognised that my unintended taper for the previous three weeks were partly the reason for feeling refreshed and physically good, but I needed a kick-start to my Ironman training because in the middle of last week, I was not feeling the Ironman love.  But thanks to rest, friends and of course, Eastbourne, I’m back in love with this thing and ready for a summer of IM loving!

20 week countdown: week one

May 28th to Sunday June 2nd: ending with The South Downs Relay

I started this training blog with a 52-week countdown, then 40 and here I am with 20 weeks to go. This feels real! I’m writing this retrospectively, but week one of 20 started on the UK Bank Holiday, and my holiday in Portugal with my kids and friend from school, Celia (she’s lived in the US for half her life now but we’re still as connected now as we were from seven to 25 when she left). The focus for the end of the week was the South Downs Relay.

Fiona and Celia – endurance women 50 going on 5

Cycling was not really going to be an option on holiday so I’d already decided to relax about this and focus on the run and swim.

I didn’t achieve my goal of 4K in the sea, but did manage 2.3K which was fantastic. I loved the clear water with the fish swimming beneath me. I was pleased to get two 10-mile runs on beautiful coastal routes completed over the holiday, as well as some easier, shorter runs.

When people thought the world was flat,  Sagres, which is the last stop before America, was once though to be the end point of the world. If it were, it would have been a good spot to finish. It’s an ideal spot for triathlon training too, and even though I didn’t cycle, I appreciated the long, quiet stretches of road and if I’d had running company I might have ventured a it further along the trails weaving their way through the national park.

Homeward Bound

On Thursday morning I had one last lovely run in Portugal and we flew home late afternoon. So on Friday morning I was back home and woke up early, and decided to go to My Ride. With the South Downs Relay, a 100 mile run across the Downs, as part of a team of six, meant I kept the pace and heart rate low and was pleased to see just eight hours recovery on my Garmin.

The South Downs Relay

With a 530am start looming on Saturday I went to bed early on Friday, but woke up, wide awake at 230am! I decided it wouldn’t affect me as I’ve raced tired lots of times before.

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It did affect me! I was knackered and one minute a mile slower than I’d hoped/expected. However, as I type this on Tuesday June 5th feeling slightly ill, I think might have been harbouring a few bugs. But this was a team event, and my under performance didn’t deter from what was really a fantastic day of running, as part of a great team from Brighton Triathlon Club. This unique, invitation-only event, is very special to me. I’ve taken part five times now (in the past I ran with Hailsham Harriers) and it felt so good to see so many familiar faces – and to be inspired by older runners still able to record super fast time (most notably my running club, Arena 80’s Women’s team, all over 40 and won in super fast time).

For me the South Downs Relay marked the end of my messing about on the bike period and it’s time to really focus on the bike from now on! My road bike has been ‘pimped up’ by the guys at the Tri Store, Eastbourne, with new saddle, gears and bakes, courtesy of Chris and I’ve been measured for a Time Trial bike. I can’t avoid it any more. On your bike Fiona, on your bike!

Kona Mum on a Mission

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Celia Boothman, 42, runs a personal triathlon and nutrition service and is based in Wales. The mum of two boys, Devon, 11 and Milo, eight, qualified for Kona after completing IronMan Wales in 2016. Despite coming off her bike in Kona, the iron woman soldiered on and completed the world champ race in 11.09. She continues to race, train and coach others and is soon launching training weekends for other triathletes.

It’s a good thing Celia says one of her strengths is keeping calm under pressure. After addicated training programme in the build up to the race of her life, the Kona World Triathlon Championships, she crashed her bike, and was flung over the handlebars. But never one to give, up Celia went on to finish the race and gained second place GB athlete in the 40 to 45 age group.

Based in Ironman Wales country, Celia runs a personal triathlon and nutrition service from her family home.  ‘I focus on performance and nutrition for long and short course triathletes,’ she says. ‘I love working with people who enjoy being outdoors, who love to train and are available to train and have a no fuss attitude to performance.’  Services she offers included one to one coaching, online training and nutrition packages as well as rural training weekends with a focus on great food, and optimum nutrition.

‘I was an active, outdoorsy child and I still love being outside,’ she says. Running is a strength, (she ran a 3.31 in an IronMan marathon), ‘I’ve run from a very early age, managing to get into the cross country team and race against the boys. I loved mud and racing,’ she says. Even though she always a competent runner, Celia had to work harder to master cycling, but time trials and time on the bike helped her reach a high standard, including winning the Welsh National 100 Mile time trial in 2014.’

In her younger years, Celia worked as an outdoor instructor in North Wales, which is where she learnt to perfect her ability to keep calm under pressure and stay in the moment. ‘Once climbing I was with a guy who couldn’t complete a traverse on the route that we were on. I had no choice but to go ahead and take over. I think keeping calm and just looking what had to be done in that moment really helped,’ she says. After doing a degree in textiles, Celia settled on a career in teaching before going to marry and have children.

‘In 2005, now married with two kids we decided to move to Wales – and this marked the start of my new life. I’d always run to keep fit but the time came to join a running club, but the average age was a fair bit older.  So looking for friendships with like-minded people I went along to the triathlon club as I’d heard there were younger members there. My triathlon career started with a super sprint and as time went by, I gradually built up the distance and did more racing. My first proper focussed race was the Anglesey Sandman in 2012 (olympic distance) – it was televised and I won it. I started to realise I was quite good at this and decided to follow a plan for the Slateman olympic distance race, another tough race. A half ironman followed this and by 2014, I was ready to take on my first Ironman.

‘For the first IronMan, I was self-coached, tapping into resources such as Joe Friel’s Training Bible and Your Best Triathlon books. I love to learn and have passion for reading books and podcasts. It took discipline to train by myself but I do quite like to train alone and with young children I had to fit it in when I could. I worked strategies to manage my time around family life, for example, getting up very early to go swimming. However, I didn’t burn the candle at both ends and made sure I was always in bed by 930pm. When training for Kona in 2017 I typically trained around 14 hours per week, but I did hit 25 on one occasion. 

‘The key to successfully completing training was always good planning,’ she says. ‘I’ll always have kit ready the night before if I’m getting up early. Often, I’d use dead travel time to train, for example I’d get my husband to drop me off on the way to or from a day out.’

As well as loving to learn, and train, Celia loves to cook and over the years she’s become more interested in nutrition. ‘Getting fuel right for triathlon training, particularly Ironman is so important. Like my training I always plan the family’s meals and try to keep it simple and healthy and ensure we always have a balanced meal such as a roast, stews with loads of veg, and we eat a lot of veggie meals. We shop at the supermarket, the farmer’s market and we have our vegetables delivered,’ she adds. ‘I used to watch my mother cooking and it’s something I love to do.’ But when it comes to training I do have to eat on the go and will choose peanut butter and rice cakes, left-over meat or oily fish with some pitta bread – but I won’t choose junk.’

I always like to have a goal and I believe that when I’m coaching someone they should have a goal but also love what they’re doing, and do it because they want to, not because someone else has told them they should. Training to be a coach was the natural progression. ‘I started off with the British Triathlon Level 2 coaching then followed this with other personal training qualifications. I launched Love the Rain in 2014,’ she says. Why Love the Rain? ‘I love being outdoors, I love being in the elements – if you love the rain you love life.’

As a coach Celia’s focus is on performance and nutrition for long and short course triathletes. She provides online training and nutrition packages and rural training weekends with a focus on great food, and optimum nutrition. Find out about her services here and download a free IronMan Training Schedule, here. http://ltrcoaching.co.uk/.