This week (September 10th to September 16th 2018) I wanted to tell you about Ironman training and share some surprises, some facts, and some lessons I’ve learnt over the last seven days from a typical week of Ironman Training…
1. Your immune system gets… confused
I mentioned in last week’s post that I was flagging and on Lemsip-alert, a familiar feeling from my marathon running days. On the day we left for Barcelona, I had the achy, slightly shivery, tired feeling, familiar with the onset of a cold, or as I’ve come to recognise over years of endurance training, a slight imbalance, a tip over the edge, familiar when I train harder. It lingered in Barcleona, but I managed to train. For a week I’d wake up thinking, there’s no way I’ll train today, then I’d be fine, then ill, then fine. (I’m pleased to report I’m currently fine!)
2. Tired all the time (TAT)
I’ve been so tired this week. I had two days off, one for travel, one for exhaustion. I ran on Wednesday night, but it was more like crawling at the end, I could barely put one foot in front of the other, and my body felt like lead I was clocking 11 minute miles and just willing myself to get home. This was closely linked to the point above. But, as I know these feelings pass. By Sunday 9-minute miles for 16 felt totally fine after a bike ride and a big training day on Saturday.
3. Welcome a Rollercoaster of emotions
Ironman training makes me happy, and it makes me sad, angry and chilled, competitive and couldn’t give a sh**e (more of the latter as the weeks have gone by – it’s really about finishing now). Like my immune system my emotional barometer is on freefall one day and the sun is shining the next. No it’s not the menopause – it really is training. One session I’m screaming venom about cycling thinking of nothing but impending doom and going over the handlebars; the next session I’m loving the feeling of the smooth roads, and the sunshine and enjoying that Autumnal feeling of expectation and excitement being just round the corner.
4. It takes up the whole bloody weekend
I’m getting to the point of longing for a Saturday morning when I do a park run, have a croissant and a coffee – and have time to clean the house – and even doing the washing! And maybe even go shopping for winter clothes… I’m getting carried away now. After all, I’ve spent all my money on… whiskey and beer? diamonds and pearls? No – on bikes, races, training, tools, gas canisters, socks, butt shield (yep), nutrition, and lock laces.
5. Enough Already?
You know the 2018 life-coach/counsellor/guru mantra, ‘You are enough’. But with Ironman training, I can sometimes feel like I’m just not doing enough, damn it! There’s always someone knocking out 17, 20, 30 hours a week, as well as working full-time, rustling up whole-food wonders on instagram, and being successful in minimalist and immaculate homes. Meanwhile I rush in and swig a lager (followed by an Erdinger) and hungrily scoff a bag or two of marmite crisps. The dreaded Social media can give you the comparison-wobbles – but as I know, only if you let it! The truth is, enough is really enough… more isn’t always better, and we are all different. Different lives, families, work and different bodies and capabilities. And no one really cares anyway.
6. It makes you hungry, ‘hangry’ & not hungry all in one day!
After a weekend training and surviving for hours on bloks and drinks, Mondays are usually ‘eating all day’ day. On Saturday morning I ate a bagel and a banana and was out the door by 830am and didn’t finish training until about 530pm. The session was a bike ride with a coffee/half a bacon sarnie stop, some protein bars, and a hydration drink; this was followed by a 10K run, with some pre-run chocolate, and then Cliff bar bloks; then a sea swim. We were hungry and talked about food all through training, and quickly consumed post-training coffee and cake, then crisps and a beer and prawn crackers. By the time it came to eating the ‘proper meal’ at around 9pm I didn’t know if I was hungry or not, and only managed half my rice and chicken. The following day on the short ride/long run we ate blocks and drank water from the public toilet taps (forgot the camelback). We ravenously ate M&S egg and tomato sandwiches and crisps, snacked more on chocolate. I fluctuated between starving and too tired to feel hungry. I ordered a pizza, it didn’t arrive, again by the time it did come (without cheese horror) I was eating for the sake of it. Monday is eating day!
7. It’s a great way to end the week
When the long swim, the long ride and the long bike are complete, the feeling is one of accomplishment. The messy house, the sunburnt nose, and wild hair, the very tardy nails and exhaustion don’t matter. I’m starting to feel fitter.
8. It includes a lot of cycling
I knew doing an Ironman was going to include a lot of cycling. I hadn’t appreciated how much – and how six hours on the bike was going to impact on my social life! I haven’t done enough (but enough for me – see point five). I’ve broken two collarbones, I’ve loathed the bike, and loved it, and I’ve learnt loads about the roads and good/bad driving. I read somewhere that an Ironman is bike race with a swim and a run added on. I tend to agree.
9. Marathons will never be the same again
As anyone who has read my blog will know, I love running. But, my body was starting to give me warning signs, more niggles, stiffness, aches and pains. I would run 50-70 miles per week and always tried to do 60 miles a week for six weeks before tapering for three weeks. For the Ironman I’ve done about 25 miles a week. I will never complain about a long run again, six hours on a bike is a lot harder than three hours on the run (I think mainly because I’m not very patient). Is a marathon going to seem easy after this? One thing is for sure my body is thanking me. Swimming strengthens the core and keeps me flexible, and it’s good for the mind and soul. Cycling makes me strong. On Saturday I did feel strong running. The triathletes were right, cycling does help your running (well, I’ll have to see what I do park run in come November).
10. I’ll miss Ironman training when it’s gone…
With all my moaning and groaning, my anxiety and negativity (there’s been a lot), I have also had an equal measure of loving it – all. I’m proud of myself for getting back on the bike and learning two new sports. I’m now part of Zwift and wear long lycra shorts – I’ve even got a ‘twat hat’, and I wake up on Monday morning with bike oil on my legs! Bring it on… well almost, it’s an Ironman, I’m not tapering yet, there’s another week of hard training to go before that happens.