23rd April 2017
Three months have passed since my last blog post and a there has been a veritable plethora of training taking place! The cold days of winter have given way to the sunny optimism of spring and those long frozen cycles on the static turbo trainer in the garage, needing to wear two pairs of socks to keep the toes warm, have been replaced with meandering cycles through the lanes of Britain. It is nice to get outside on the bike again, taking in the rural beauty of our country and regular long sessions have given me some confidence going into the last 3 months of training.
So far in 2017 I have travlled over 1250 miles by bike, swim and run, enough to travel from Lands End to John O'Groats. It adds up to somewhere around 8 hours per week, which is definitely on the light side of the training recommendations for an Ironman but the most time I can make available with work and family commitments. I feel I'm doing all I can to be ready, especially considering I got married and had a family holiday already this year, and our son Jacob is only 9 months old, with everything he brings to our lives! In the run-up to the Ironman on 16th July I have booked a few races to build up to the full distance.
The 120km Tour of Cambridge bike ride, a couple of shorter triathlons including a half-iron distance, some open water swimming events, and this coming weekend, the Milton Keynes Marathon. I am considering cycling to the start line for improved training but the thought of cycling 30 miles back again afterwards means I will probably give it miss. How crazy is this challenge that it leads me to consider doing something as daft as cycling 30 miles to start a marathon?! A full marathon takes a lot out of us, requiring a good couple of weeks of recovery, so it will be the last time I cover that distance before the Ironman.
The full swim distance will be no problem, it's the full 112 mile cycle which unsettles me the most. Not least because of a leg and hip injury that has been beginning to affect me on the bike. It's a long-standing problem that has been getting steadily worse recently and I have been seeking advice and treatment from my Physiotherapy and Osteopathy colleagues. Just like a painter and decorator doesn't always attend to the decoration of their own home, though, it has been a challenge to knuckle down consistently to the required exercises that I spend all day giving to others, especially when time is so tight.
he calf injury that hampered my running earlier in the year eventually passed but it was a useful reminder of how long such a muscle pain can last and how carefully one must return to full activities. In September, I tore one of the deeper calf muscles, the soleus, and it was only by the end of February that pain-free running was possible. In the meantime, it had to be managed very carefully, slowly building up from alternative run/walk intervals through very low intensity running to finally being able to add intervals of faster running. In my experience, the calf muscles seem to need constant low-level stimulation, so since recovery I have been careful to run at least every 3 days and to back off the intensity if I felt any echoes of pain.
Finally I have been reflecting on just how had this challenge will be mentally. At times, on a long run or bike session, when the going gets tough or the road seems to slope ever upwards, it can be easy to feel disheartened and like the whole crazy idea is an impossibility. Coming back to the present footstep, pedal run or swim stroke, focusing on the technique or even exploring the sensations of body and mind directly, I have found to be a vital skill in resetting this mild panic - focussing on the unfolding process, not the looming mountain of the overall goal. Confidence naturally ebbs and flows, and seeing it in training, and working through it, is incredibly useful - and in that I think there is something to take into daily life, an ability to roll with the easier and more difficult times.
Three months to go!