My Ironman Journey: 7 Great Things About Ironman

Today is exactly a year since I wrote that first blog post, with no idea where I was going to go on this Ironman Journey. But I’ve learnt some great lessons, had amazing experiences, gained some confidence in my ability to overcome obstacles, let go of negatives, as well really enjoying living right here, right now!

1. Hurdles can be overcome (expect the unexpected)

The two blog posts which describe my accidents, were my most read (should I take that personally?). The first accident on December 30th, left me scarred, toothless and in a lot of pain for New Year’s Eve. The next broken collar-bone happened 10 weeks before the event, leaving me questioning whether or not I’d actually race at all. I now have two plates in my shoulders, christened Eric and Ernie.

On race day, I had prepared very well, leaving nothing to chance, even practising taking off my TT wheels and removing the inner tube over and over,  (to date I’ve never had a puncture). I hadn’t prepared for or expected the sea to be so choppy and I hadn’t expected to get sea-sick. As I could feel the sickness rising, I was sure I had eaten something dodgy, even as I was flung about in the water it hadn’t occurred to me it could be the choppy sea. As I started to retch I realised how much water I’d swallowed (with race day adrenaline I hadn’t noticed). I stopped and retched, then got going again. I decided that no way this would end my race. (I later read on a Facebook group that I wasn’t alone, and one poor woman was removed by the lifeguard on her third sickness bout. And for future reference, long distance swimmers take sea sickness tablets).

Fiona Bugler coming out of the swim at Ironman Barcelona

2. Negatives are banished (it’s good to be grateful)

In training I think I may have stopped swimming if I got sick. I definitely would have stopped if I saw a jelly fish. But as we swam long I spotted lots of jelly fish and just looked at their tentacles, not feeling in the slightest bit scared. On the bike I was pleased to be comfortably going along at 18 then 17 mph, surrounded by other cyclists. But I was very aware that the retching and inability to keep nutrition down wasn’t going to help me. I just took on what I could, little bits, grateful for the bits that stayed in! On the second half I was overtaken continuously, but I didn’t let it bother me. I focussed on the fact that I knew I’d finish, and I was just grateful for every mile I went forward without a puncture or a mechanical. After a long transition (running back to the loo – so glad it was there!) before the run, and now very far back in the race, I still knew I’d make headway on the run. I chose not to look at my watch as I didn’t want to judge the pace. I went by feel. My stomach was sore and so I let Cliff Bar blocks to just sit in my mouth (rotting my teeth but getting energy in). I took water as even the thought of sugary drinks made me feel sick. But around 15 miles I took on some Coca Cola. A few minutes later I was loudly retching and what was left in my stomach exited. But, I reminded myself I can still take on water, and managed the marathon on three blocks and water for nutrition.

3. Comparison is Futile

For most amateur athletes, getting to the start line of an Ironman is an achievement in itself.  In Ironman racing and training many things can happen on the way, training is hard, sacrifices are made – and everyone’s journey is different. Even for the competitive athletes,  time is less of a focus,  as every course and every race is different, with different challenges. The longer the distance the more respect there  is for it and even when competitiveness is great there is far less concern about comparing to others, and there’s a mutual respect amongst the leading athletes. When I first set out on this journey a year ago I wondered if I could be competitive for my age, as it motivates me to compete. I was soon humbled by the task. The bike was harder to maser than I expected and with the arrival of Ernie and 10 weeks to go, it was a case of adapting and focussing on what I could do, not what I couldn’t. I put on the blinkers where times, other people and racing was concerned. I feel like I let go of comparing myself to others for good – and as for being competitive, I let go of that, too – for now!

4. The moment is the only place to be

Whether cycling on the turbo for five hours, or silently running in the rain and the dark on the third lap of the marathon on race day, a key lesson I learnt was to stay in the moment, in the mile I was in. As I approached my third lap a big chunk of the course was finishing and as I headed out for eight more miles, ‘You are an Ironman’ was ringing in my ears as fellow competitors entered the stadium to finish. It was dark, it was wet, the end of the path on the seafront seemed to never end… but I knew  it was just a case of taking the next step. The finish was ahead and I’d get there.

5. Triathlon is a great leveler

Swim, bike, run athletes come in all shapes and sizes with different stories, and with very different strengths from cardio, to strength and power, to mental fortitude. There’s no one size fits all and if you’re good in one sport it doesn’t mean you’ll be good in all. For me running had been my strength, but I had to learn that running in an Ironman, unless you a very accomplished swimmer and cyclist too, is just not the same as running a ‘normal’ marathon. At 70.3 I ran very similar pace to a normal half marathon, but this didn’t follow through at double the distance. The key thing I discovered was my running style and biomechanics were the positives, not my pace. In the race, I didn’t look at my watch once. I simply focussed on finishing and retaining a good upright posture. I was still overtaking lots of people on the run, but I did eventually start to walk which was more psychological than anything. I’d got so far behind on the bike and it was very dark and wet and so I just decided finishing was all that mattered – and it was.

6. It brings out the best in people

I remember when I first ran the London Marathon it confirmed my belief that humanity in the main are good. When 35,000 runners and two to three times that in supporters get together to reach a common positive goal the energy is great. At the start of race day I felt excited not nervous and loved singing along to Sweet Caroline with the other competitors as we stood in the rain on the beach looking at the very big waves. The friendly and smiling faces of the volunteers who manned the bike route food stations were always a boost. And at the end of the race, as I ran that last lap in the dark on race day I was grateful to be high-fived by a smiling elderly Spanish couple standing by the side of the course in the dark and the rain at gone 9pm on a Friday night. And as the other runners walked/ran, some talked, some didn’t – the collective support was tangible.

7. The Joy of the Finish line: You are an Ironman

Whether it’s eight or 15 hours, there’s something special about an Ironman finish. All the things that could have, or may have gone wrong, are behind you. Having held in emotions for 13 hours, I was very pleased to let them go. I had expected to cry, but I didn’t, I laughed. An Irish woman cheering me on shouted, ‘I can feel it!’ I laughed even more. I couldn’t wait to see my children and Chris. As I reached the finish carpet I saw them cheering and smiling – as excited as me. They told me after they’d loved watching people come in, break-dancing, proposing marriage, and wearing high heels. I just stuck my hands in the air and cheered … I think my picture says it all.

Fiona Bugler from Endurance Women

 

 

 

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9 weeks to go: Turbo, long run, and a proper sea swim

I’ve adapted my plan and with the help of the Turbo and Zwift, I’m still keeping the Ironman goal in mind.

I’m trying to focus on what I am doing – and not what I’m not doing/or haven’t done. The positives are plenty this week.  I’m really glad to be back swimming properly, albeit slowly.  I’ve also managed some running sling-free but had to keep the sling on for a long off-road run, and I’m covering some ground on the Turbo, ticking off eight sweaty spin hours this week.

The week has gone very quickly and today’s post is a shorter one. I last blogged midway through this week, having already completed Monday and Tuesday’s turbo sessions using Zwift and I’d got back in the pool and sort of swum for 750M.

On Wednesday morning I got straight on the bike and did Marianne’s session, switching between the heavier gear and 65RPM and easier gear and 85RPM. This was followed by the prescribed brick run, which was 10K easy, moderate, harder in 10 minute blocks (roughly). I finished the last block with a sub 7.30 mile, which felt like progress with my sling (I was in and out of the sling). Thursday was a day off, but Ciara and I went for a late session at the pool, and I did fit in an easy swim and managed 600M full crawl stroke and another 600 or so of drills.

Getting Turbo Tough

By Friday I was ready to go again and did my planned long bike ride (I’d swapped from long run to long bike due to the weather), followed by an hour brick run. The ride was on the turbo and was broken up as one  hour continous, then 10 minutes on a Zwift route which I abandoned as I found it very dull, followed finally by an uninterrupted 2’10 sweet spot training session with long bouts in the tuck position on my TT bike.

Innsbruck, a tiny corner of my living room… who cares it’s a workout!

On Saturday, I was back on the bike again! See below… Trying to convince myself it was fun. After the ride I went for a sea swim, and it was blissful to be able to swim continuously for 1500M. I didn’t have a wetsuit because the logistics of getting it on and off, well, I didn’t want to go there, so I was in my Zone 3 two-piece. After 35 minutes I was feeling cold, but, it was a double celebration as I had wanted to see what I could do without (well almost without) a wetsuit. After Saturday’s training I had a lovely lunch at the Hospital Club with my very old friend, Sarah (i.e. we’ve been friends a long time, she’s not a pensioner). My shoulder ached a lot as I made my way though the crowds of Covent Garden, and I was happy to have an early night on Saturday.

Sunday was long run day! And it was a slow start. The good thing is I had my sister and niece coming to visit, so I had a deadline. But I did manage a good hour of procrastination.

Procrastination… Guilty, but reading Eat that Frog (check it out)

The Long Run

The run was hard work. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone long, or off-road, and it’s true with running, if you do’t use it, you lose it! My shoulder was achy so sling-free wasn’t really an option. I’d decided to go off-road, and hadn’t really thought about the one-armed affect when negotiating flint paths, and hills. In the woods, I was looking down at branches and potential trip hazards and as I hadn’t seen where I was going, I got properly lost. The map looked like one you’d see on Bear Grill’s The Island, when the contestants take completely the wrong route in search of the sea!

 

We’re going on a bear hunt!

I also did a cow-avoidance diversion (regular for me on long runs). They were assembled in the middle of a path in the field to Ditchling. Some mountain bikers ahead had gone right through them, so I braced myself. I stopped running as I got close and I even said hello! But one of them was ‘staring me out’ and I decided to say goodbye and then take the longer, steeper route in the field. I need to deal with my cow phobia. The run continued on the South Downs Way, the lovely bit between Ditchling Beacon and Devil’s Dyke. However, on reaching the A23 path, and the hills to take me the Dyke, I decided to take the flatter path to home as my shoulder was fed up wit the hills. So the last five miles of my run were alongside a motorway – I genuinely wouldn’t have been surprised if someone reported mad woman seen alongside motorway with sling on the news. However, I reminded myself that the mentally challenging sessions (turob, motorway runs) are all good mind-training for the day long IM coming up in eight weeks time!

Losing my marbles (and Tri accessories)

I’m writing this at the start of Week eight. Virtually every day I have to spend 20 minutes searching for some missing piece of equipment (goggles, floats, cossie, heart rate monitor, watch etc.). Today, the missing piece is the long bit that attaches the Chill Swim bag to me! And so another week starts….

 

10 Weeks To Go: Triathlon Training After Surgery

Sunday 29th July to Tuesday August 7th: the 10 and some of nine week countdown: Triathlon Training After Surgery starts on the Turbo

I left off the last blog post on Saturday – it feels like a long nine days, but lots of progress has been made.  I was still wearing the horrible post-op dressing, and only sleeping on one side, propped up by pillows. Now I’m dressing-free (well I’m wearing a plaster because the scar is ugly!) and able to sleep on whatever side I like.

 

A week is a long time in recovery

I kicked off triathlon training after surgery with a turbo bike on Sunday and a turbo, brick session on the treadmill (with sling) on Monday.  On Tuesday I endured a painful (and slow) 11-mile seafront run with my sling. It’s amazing how much work the other arm was doing! On Wednesday I combined picking up my son from work with another sling-run. It was hot, I was not.  But it was a few more miles ticked off. On Wednesday night Chris brought the Tacx Turbo trainer over  – a new way to train.

On Thursday morning I spent at least an hour reviving my old Apple Mac with its big screen, downloading Zwift and turning the wheels on the bike to get set up for Turbo training at home.  A full day in London with lots of walking and hot tube travel put paid to training and I had a day off.

On Friday I felt deflated and down! I trained on the turbo for 1 hour 37 minutes, leaning on my sweaty pillow, but faffed about trying to get connections for a lot longer. With the help of Facebook Friends (thank you to The Tri Store’s all-round guru, Simon Underwood) I realised I had over-used my Bluetooth connections – and I needed to calibrate my bike with Zwift and Tacx. Zwift will not connect to my Garmin Heart Rate monitor, my Garmin Edge and the Tacx. Someone else suggested I bin Barcelona and start again next year – and on Friday that’s what I felt like doing.

Tech Trouble (not good for an inpatient woman)

I’m not patient! Saturday morning was also frustrating in terms of connections and set up, but I stuck with it and  did two hours on the turbo broken up as a 45-minute FTP test, two other stop/start blocks and in the evening a 30-minute spin.

With Pride on in Brighton I wanted to watch the parade so decided to combine a walk/sling run with watching the parade (amazing). I weaved my way through the crowds, stopping and starting, and got very hot. And on a whim decided to try the sea. The lifeguard looked after my phone and I got into the sea in my running gear, not sure what to expect. It was blissful, I felt the healing qualities immediately and decided to have a go at one-armed swimming, then breast-stroke, then a few full strokes. I ran home and did my final spin and felt happy to have got three hours training ticked off for the day. It was disjointed, it wasn’t partially high quality, but it felt like progress.

On Sunday, best-laid plans went out the window again in the morning and Chris and I lazed in the garden drinking coffee. We finally got out in the afternoon and managed a 10K at around 9.15 pace, which felt better than my slog of earlier in the week. I ran some of this sling-free, but when the aching started I put it back on. After this, we had another sea swim, a little further this time, and a few more full strokes. And after this we saw Chic playing at the final Pride event in my local park! Brilliant!

To Race or not to Race?

The decision as to whether I race or not won’t be made until August 23rd. At the moment almost normal services have resumed, but this is an Ironman and my bike training is lacking. I’m trying to ignore looking at what others are doing or have done on Strava and the like. I don’t need reminding that volume is low, but at the same time, I’m still enjoying doing what I can do, and the small conquests along the way.  The timing of my accident was bad. August and September were/are set to be the peak training for Barcelona. This is when I expected to be doing 20-hour weeks, but with the turbo for bike training, that’s a little harder (but not impossible) to achieve.

Zwift – We Have Contact (& a custom top)

I’m now halfway through the nine-week countdown. The week has started better. Chris set up Zwift with Ant so now bluetooth picks up my heart rate monitor. I’ve also calibrated my bike to Zwift. And I’ve managed two good sessions over the last two days and another swim, this time in the pool with my pull-bouy and float. I messed about for 28 minutes and covered around 750M.

I’ve unlocked the Zwift vest… I’m a bumble bee

My brilliant cousin, Patricia, from Sligo Kinesiology, in Ireland sent me some Kinesiology exercises to do, and I’ve got some resistance work (squats, lunges, core work) prescribed by Marianne – and in the day I’m mainly sling-free. I’m on the turbo without my sweaty pillow and think I’ll be back on the road again soon, in the tuck position on my time trial bike.

So for now I’m blocking out and not listening to the naysayers and being inspired by those who are just doing it.

Well done Joanne

The brilliant Joanne Smith, completed her first Ironman this weekend, with a number of health issues in the background, far more complicated than a broken bone.  Well done Joanne, inspirational – and I hope to share her story soon.

The journey continues…

Bad bandaging!

 

 

 

11 Weeks To Go: Post Broken Collar-bone

The week is a blur of sleepiness, quite a bit of pain around my broken collar-bone, working in my living room, eating junk food and marking little victories on the road to recovery.

As I recover from my second broken collar-bone, and write this blog I’ve discovered my life without training could be very different. For one my routine is gone and not training makes me lethargic. I’m an hour into procrastinating about going for a run. It’s not the injury that’s stopping me. It’s lack of routine, and a bit of tiredness. But I’m making plans and from next week will kick-off with an adapted training plant that will be mind-numbingly boring* and based at the gym.

Pain Threshold Almost Reached

The week started painfully! I couldn’t remember the pain being so intense last time I broke my collar-bone. But if I got in the wrong position it was taking my breath away.  I was on nil by mouth, on stand-by, ready to hot-foot to the hospital for the operation to fix the break. The call came around 845am and I was told the op would be on Tuesday. I was delighted. I hadn’t expected it to be so quick. And I was able to enjoy my morning tea!

The rest of Monday morning was spent drinking coffee in the garden with Chris and trying to get myself into a position where I could type and reply to emails. Ironically, it was easier when I broke my right collar-bone. I only really managed a few emails and wrote the story up for this blog.

 

Ready for the op – clad in green compression to match my top!

After the op – coffee and chocolate before leaving the hospital!

On Tuesday Chris dropped me at the hospital for 730am. I was very glad that I didn’t have to wait another night for the plate. It was all straightforward, and as I posted on Facebook, after the morphine and general anaesthetic, my manic post op babbling in the Recovery Room was all about triathlon. In between laughing a lot I felt 100 per cent sure I was in transition and had the marathon to run, and told the staff what was happening! The woman attending to me found it very funny.

Once I was ‘back in the room’ I drank lots of tea, water, ate half a sandwich and enjoyed the biccies and a Costa Coffee choc-thing on the way out. I tried to concentrate to work, when I got home but was mainly out of it.

Slowly does it!

Wednesday started slowly. I managed a couple of work emails, but the morphine had worn off so I pumped myself full of codeine. Feeling stir-crazy, I had to get out of the house by lunchtime, so decided to go for a walk (with sling). A mile into the walk and I suddenly remembered I had a Tesco shop arriving, so ended up running and even measured the last half a mile for Strava! (11 min mile pace!). A blurry sort of working afternoon followed once I’d put the shopping away.

Energy Levels Up (& Down)

On Thursday I woke up early and managed to get a good four hours work done, then got ready to go to London for a meeting. It seemed energy levels were restored. I managed London and the tube (thankfully off-peak) on the hottest day of the year with my sling and spaced out on codeine/paracetamol and nurofen, and had a great meeting.

In the evening, family came to visit and we had pizza and even a beer and went to bed around 1230am! I decided not to run/walk or do anything as I had walked a fair bit around London.-Friday was a planned day off from work with my cousin Eamonn, his wife Mary and their son Kaiden visiting. Coach Marianne and I met to discuss plans and rehab exercises I’m going to do. I ruled out the next 100-mile TT Race on August 12th! I also had to pull out of a standard and sprint event.

Knowing if I was not self-employed I would have been given a sick-note I enjoyed mooching around the kids splash park, and the amusements – even having a go on the fruit machine – my alter ego, living on the edge in a different way!

Pikey me! What life might be like if I didn’t do triathlon

By Friday night I hit a zombie-like exhaustion. I’d had a whole day of just nurofen and the pain was much better, I had also realised that it helped to ice my sore neck (muscles aching either from the fall or from being in the tuck position on the TT bike!). I had thought I might run in the evening, but not a chance!

Procrastinating before running

So here I am today. Without my usual significant two to three-hour block of training to do, after dropping the kids to work (oh, yes another landmark, driving), I was able to crack on with work and managed to do four hours before picking up my son. And now, after procrastinating on social media, and then choosing to write this to stop procrastinating, I’m putting on my sling and heading out for a run. There really is no excuse and part of my recovery is getting back in the groove.

Mind over matter

Just back from my first proper ‘sling’ run. This is all psychological. I was feeling heavy, lethargic etc. And I was a bit cautious – and that’s how I ran, plodding along at 10.15 pace. But could I have done more today? I The general anaesthetic was on Tuesday and I haven’t had a painkiller today, so I think there’s no accident-related reason for lethargy. I was cautious as I didn’t want to lose my balance (wearing a sling to stop vibrations around the still repairing collar-bone) and fall again, but then I reasoned that I only broke my collar-bone because I flew off my bike, out of my cleats at around 20 mph, I was jogging along today at over 10-minute mile pace. The mind plays a big part in training – but overall I was really pleased to get out today.

Time on my hands!

And so, here I am having finished my weekly update, early. I have found 10 hours this week that would normally be spent training. But the plan tomorrow is to train as normal, starting with a run and I hope to get to the gym for some turbo, too. As I’ve written before I think it’s a good idea to stick to the routine and keep hours to dedicated training when injured, but just do something a little different.

*Boring is good for training the mind in Ironman and I said to Marianne I see turbo training as an opportunity to get some bike strength.

 

 

 

Week two of 40: New Goals

Monday 8th January to Sunday 14th

Week two of 40 weeks of Ironman Training with the focus still on recovery and building fitness for the first shorter term goal of getting fit enough to run the Brighton Marathon.

Week two was about getting started again, and getting some goals in place.  My collar-bone feels very stiff and I’m guessing it’s how should feel when the bone starts fusing back, but it’s making me feel a bit more cautious about  doing longer or faster running.

I didn’t quite manage the 10 hours plan! I did train for 5.5 hours. I think 10 is probably too lofty a goal at this stage.  The good things were the weight gain, dropped off and I’m not fast, but I’m not too unfit as I was able to get out and about and join My Ride classes and do some easy ‘sling-running’.

Sling Runner

Week two included getting my tooth fixed, and losing the top-dressing on my clavicle and I’m moving about and mostly normal! I went to the physio at Studio 57 too early (typical me –inpatient) but have booked another appointment for week three.

So what did I do? I ran four times, and got on the stationary bike three times. As always adjustments have been made. Midweek, I thought I might get a long run done at the weekend, but after seeing the physio and feeling more tired than I expected, I procrastinated my way out of it and just ran 10K easy on Sunday.

I was told that even though I feel fine, I have to wear the sling still to protect the healing I cannot see and avoid too much vibration. I was told by a friend who’s also a radiologist that when you break a bone and it’s in plaster you have to stop, but a collar-bone, with a plate that feels fine, still needs to be treated with care. I did listen.

It’s not brilliant going ‘sling-running’, but it’s not awful either. It’s annoying but I feel more confident on my feet now and I don’t think I’m compromising my running gait too much. To make myself feel I’m still moving forward I did however, set myself a goal. You can read about my Marathon Goal here.

Parkrun

Volunteering at park run was a real positive and something I would like to do more of, injured or not. Such a great event. All life unfolding in front of me as I stood at the boulders, watching the two per cent of the population who can be bothered to get up and get out on a Saturday morning – fastest and the slowest putting in the same amount effort, feeling the same pain – it was truly inspiring.

This is a quickly composed post (possibly riddled with typos)as work has suddenly got very busy – and as a self-employed content consultant I’m going with it and planning to run around 40 miles and do some My Ride Bike training sessions. I  will update next week.