Ch. 19 – April, and the build to Tri-Force Training Camp 2019

Chapter nineteen in my blog “Fatman to Ironman” is going to be awesome…. It has to be. There is no time for anything else!…..

April started with a rest day, the sun was shining and everything was good in my world. I had started running again, gradually building the distance. I had also been on two “Out, out” bike rides as March came to a close.

I was officially out of injury rehab, and was back to multi sport discipline. I was in a good place mentally, visualising crossing the finish line in June and the medal being around my neck.

First of all I had to get ready for Tri Camp.

Billy contacted me at the end of March to check everything was ok? I had gone a bit quiet and he was concerned I might of had a set back.



Everything was fine! I had simply got my head down, and focussed on completing the remainder of training.


T-3 training weeks until Mallorca – Let’s do this.

Week 1

April’s training would start with a run on the Tuesday. I would rejoin my running club, and carry out my duties as a “Run leader” helping the C25k newbies progress from intervals of four minutes to the weeks session of 4 x 6 minutes. I would need to add some volume to my effort by running prior to, and after the event. I was going to need to manage my time and link the sessions tightly to stay warm. Paranoid about injury, the build to this was worrying. It reminded me of the pre race nerves, the butterflies in the belly. I needed to use those nerves in every session now.

Nerves are a good thing. They remind you of the effort you have put to getting yourself where you are, how much is at stake. How “Failure is only for those who give up!” I was not going to give up. I will finish this journey, and I will smash April!

“What makes something special is not just what you have to gain, but what you feel there is to lose.” – Andre Agassi

Shrewton Running Club C25k wk4

As a club we had to send notification of a change of venue. Our usual meet point was being used by the football club/fair. We agreed to meet at the next Village Hall, in Orcheston.

As it turns out this was ideal for me. I could now use this journey as my warm up and pre run. Things were starting to fall into place for me, finally.

The club were a bit twitchy on the night, hoping all the newbies had received the message. I was also a bit twitchy, had I planned my pre run correctly?

20 Newbie runners would make it, and I was given the task last minute, of running the session. I jumped at the opportunity, my job involves me being in front of an audience, helping people learn a new skill, achieve things they never thought possible. Tonight I could use those skills, along with my “Fatman to Ironman” experiences to help people embark on a journey of their own. How awesome is that?

Wednesday I was down for a swim/bike Brick session. I was nervous through the morning leading up to this session as it would be the first time since my knee injury that I would be straight out of the pool, and onto the Wattbike.

A bizarre turn of events led to me missing this. I had been suffering from a shortage of breath, a tight chest, which had been making me increasingly tired. I would go home after work and fall asleep on the sofa and miss the afternoon swim session.

Ok! Clearly I was more tired than I thought. My mindset was… Ok, I can skip the bike until the weekend and get the late swim session in still. Perhaps I will just have a nap, so I am ready.

I would then sleep from 1700 hrs, till 0430 hrs non stop. I didn’t make the swim!

Thursday makes the week even more bizarre! So I am now up before the Sparrow farts (0430 hrs) I might as well go for my lunchtime run now?

Yep, at 0500 hrs, -1 degrees and a developing storm, I found myself leaving the comforts of home to plod the dark pavements of “Midsummer Shrewton”. The week previous I had enjoyed the lighter mornings, as we exited from winter and into spring. Some Numpty decided that “Daylight Saving” would once again screw me around, as it does twice a year.

My “favourite” route was now not so much fun, the plod through the dark graveyard was accelerated, only to be slowed by the climb of a flight of stairs, the “shadowy” country lanes, eerily silent as the birds clearly thought “Bugger this” and remained in bed.

However, before I knew it I had ran my first fifteen minutes (non stop) in probably 3 months. I would finish the run at 30 minutes having had a brief walk interval. Not quite to plan but content nonetheless.

Wednesday had been a write-off but Thursday could be something special?

⭐️ Tri Club

Despite getting my run in very early on in the day, I didn’t approach the swim session with the same confidence. Whilst I was eager for the session to start. I was hunting for an easy option. The last thing I wanted was a set back in the swim. I was still exceptionally tired, despite all the sleep I had had. I advised my coach Katie “Narna” McBain that I was a bit “Out of sorts” and would see how it went.

I wasn’t quite first in this time. Lane 1, the elite bods, beat me down the ladder. Clearly the start of the race season is imminent. However, I was first to kick off the wall, as I entered the warm up. Only to be stopped midway through my first 50m.

Lane 3 and 4 were busy tonight, my coach, Katie wasted no time in seizing an opportunity. I was plucked from the comfort zone of lane 3 and plonked into the unknown world of lane 2, one lane away from the elite bods. Eek…. This was not what I had planned when asking my coach for an “easy” option. Katie, clearly knowing how to push my buttons and seeing right through all the flannel, told me I was more than capable and to “crack on”! If I was finding it too tough we could change things then. I had only recently been promoted, I was being promoted again. Twice in 4 weeks!!.

Right! Let’s do this!!

Never one to shake off a challenge, I set about completing my 6 x 50 warm up. I was pleased to be keeping pace, but mindful that this was only the warm up. I became confused, as I stopped on each 50, the others were plodding on? A quick check of the session card…. I was now supposed to be doing 100s as a warm up. This was indeed a step up! “Ok! I best chuck a few more in” as I now needed to catch the others in the lane before they moved into the drills.

Whilst I kept pace in the warm up, the drills were different. These guys had honed their skills, I was still developing mine. I did manage to stay sort of near them, but my effort was clearly going to need some work.

We entered the main set in no time at all. I was surprised at how fresh I felt. The tiredness had gone, washed away by the excitement of my promotion. Fuelled by endorphins, I powered into the pace build intervals. The intervals were longer distances than previous Tri Club Sessions, the recovery shorter. Not only was I keeping pace with these guys, I was confident I could go harder. However, being only halfway through an hour session, I chose to hold back and see how I felt at the end.

As we paced, and outpaced each other through the repetition builds of 100m, 75m and 50m, I caught glimpses of the elite bods doing the same session. Their effortless glide, and full length of pull was awesome, as my mouth filled with their passing wake. Those guys are quick! In the past this experience would have led to me climbing back under the rope into the next lane. Not tonight! This is training. No one will care in the “Washing machine” start of my Half Ironman Swim. I will need to use every experience. Good and bad.

The best compliment of the night came from Lee Salter. Standing at the end of the lane in a rest interval. He said “You will be in this lane before you know it” Boom! That was awesome, and for at least a few minutes my pace increased, as I tried to keep pace with his lane. Perhaps not yet Lee! But maybe you are right…. Soon.

Tri-Club – Best swim ever

I had the best Tri Club Swim ever, and this despite not being “Up for it”. I also had to “transition” and change my goggles as the strap got broken halfway through.

An inspired decision from Coach Katie “Narna” McBain and one that will help me immeasurably going forward.

On Friday my management at work had become concerned for my welfare, and asked me to get checked out by the doctor. I was also concerned. My breathing was slightly laboured, but my tiredness was not normal. They wanted to be sure, and so did I.

This was not good news from a training perspective. There was a high probability that the doctor would advise “Rest” and work would expect same. Not good at all… I was due to be on the bike after work, a key session prior to the weekend long ride. I had not been on a long “Out” bike ride since October! I did not want any bad news from the doctor.

The biggest inconvenience was that a late visit to the doctor meant limited daylight for the ride….. Another Turbo?

Fortunately the weather in the UK was not as it would be in Mallorca, and the Turbo was actually the better option.

My doctor has an exceptional talent of making me feel at ease, extracting the facts. He got the whole story, including my desire to train. In any case we were now on first name terms, I even had a reserved slot in the Surgery car park. I had been there so much recently. (TIC)

After a fairly brief examination, the all clear was given, I was fitter than I had been for twenty years. The Doc advised that my body was likely in the process of fighting a virus. Any increase in symptoms, chest related, I was to see him again, immediately. Confused, I quizzed him further. In short, the “Fatman” got sick a lot quicker, and easier. The “Ironman” was fighting it off.

I could train💪, and in doing so, I looked like I had gotten out of a lake. The Turbo is unforgiving.

The Tri Gods are beginning to lose the battle.

I entered the weekend with a heightened sense of belief and confidence. I decided to catch up on the missed swim from Wednesday, and do it as a “brick” session with the run planned for Saturday.

Salisbury/River Avon

Spoilt for choice with pools with good running routes I elected to swim in Salisbury, and run along the river Avon.

The swim was a straight forward 2x 700m with a warm up and cool down either side. It was meant to be a hard effort for the 700s, so I was unsure how much would be left in the tank for the run.

The swim was completed on the 40 minute mark. I now wanted to apply the 3 minute rule, and be out on my feet quickly. No time to shower, just chuck on a running top, hop into my shoes and get cracking.

As ever, I set off too quickly, fortunately I now had my Garmin to wind me back in. I settled for a steady 7 min km pace, as I worked through a run walk pyramid. Sweating wildly.

There must be something that happens to me post swim. I always sweat afterwards, a lot. Only now I was running straight after, receiving some very odd, and concerned looks from people trying to enjoy an afternoon stroll. With this sweaty mess panting past them.

I got to the last interval of the pyramid and was spent. Completely empty. I walked my way back to the car. Under no doubts that I had been working out for over an hour.

I had just ran my first 5k for some time. Not a staggeringly fast time, but considering it was a brick run after a 2k Swim, and only 3 weeks out of injury, I gave myself a pat on the back.

I would be back as soon as I could, to do the session again.

Week 1 closed with my first “Long” ride of the year. I needed to be out for 1:45:00hr if I could manage it. A step up from the last two out and back rides, this would be a loop. I contemplated a couple of routes. As you have read, I live in a valley, so whichever way I chose to go I would be climbing. I was buzzing off the success of Saturday’s Brick session, and decided to take a hillier option.

The weather was ideal, probably 12/13 degrees, Sunny, with a breeze. I knew I was going to need this breeze to help regulate my body temperature. The first hill took me out of the village, a long steady climb followed by some “free speed” as you descend the other side. I used all of my gears and all of my will power. But I did it.

Looking back down the hill

The next hill was not so kind. Last year I was climbing it no trouble at all. Today, I would be reminded that I had been injured for eight weeks, and that there was work to be done. I had to stop! As I did my chin became a stream of sweat as my helmet released all over my face, the salt burning my eyes.

After a few minutes I set off again, in the lowest of gears and barely moving. Eventually I would reach the top and be thankful of the returning breeze. I will go back and smash that hill.

The worse was yet to come. A series of hills all linked together, would come straight after having to stop at a blind junction. Starting a hill climb from a stand still. Fortunately, these hills come after quite a long, rapid decent. I would be cooled by the passing breeze, and fresh from the “free speed”

I have never completed this hill series without having to stop. Today was no different. This time, wise to the helmet sweat release thing.

I stood for a few moments taking in the delights of the countryside. Enjoying where I was in life. It was early spring and the lambs were out. I took a few photographs with my phone and allowed my heart to relax.

The determination came back as I re-mounted my bike, I dug in for a final push. The descent the other side was awesome, Big Gear, and down on the drops. I was exhausted! But I wanted to see how fast I could go. Passing 65 kph was fast enough, there was a bend approaching. Probably the fastest I have ever been on a bike.

It was a tough ride. But I will go back stronger, perhaps even getting right round non stop?

I would finish the ride looping my village a few times to cool down. Proud of how quickly I was getting my fitness back. When I eventually stopped, my Garmin watch congratulated me with a “Hill climb” award. Not often I swear at inanimate objects but today, it felt necessary.

I now needed to rest. I had completed a tough week of training. Overcoming a breathing issue, juggling my training around sleep, and being promoted again in the pool. No wonder the ride was tough.

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant – Robert Louis Stevenson

Week 2

After a well earned rest day I hit Tuesday full of positivity. It was the Clubs C25k day, the newbies were now on week 5. I was excited to be helping them out, whilst building on my return from injury.

I sat down with my fellow “Run Leaders, prior to the event, and agreed on a loop out, and around the village. The days weather had been quite wet, and I prepared for the run accordingly, layering up.

Typically, after a brief warm up, and run interval of my own, I got to the session in time for the skies to clear. Now overdressed, I was in for a sweaty session.

I was excited to be asked to help run the session. The newbies received a good warm up, and then ran a solid 3 x 8  minutes. They were going to smash the goal of completing a Parkrun in 4 weeks time. I was now worried…. Could I? I finished my run off with a further run interval, and in doing so, would also be clocking up another 5k run. The sweat dripping down the sleeves of my rain jacket in the process.

The following day, I woke up feeling a bit rough, probably just a chill from being so sweaty and out in the cold air of an early spring evening. I was down for an outside bike session followed by a swim later on. I really wasn’t feeling the “Love” in the morning and suggested to Billy I might bin the swim and do the bike on the indoor trainer (Turbo). My logic here was “The last thing I need is a set back in the swim”, I have experienced this before! It can take me weeks to get over the psychology of a bad swim. Billy agreed and we adjusted the days training.

In the end I decided to get “Out” on the bike and actually put in a respectable effort for 51 minutes as an out and back ride. I knew how important it was to build some strength into my legs ready for Mallorca, as good as the Turbo is, it doesn’t replicate the skills required for the road. Feeling content that I had completed some meaningful training I went home for an early night, I needed to be awake for the “Sparrows fart” and an early run on the Thursday.

I clearly needed the rest, as I did not wake up with the birds. I did however, wake up feeling a lot fresher for having had a decent recovery. I wasn’t disappointed I had overslept, I felt confident I could brick my run session together with the bike when I got home from work. This would be at the sacrifice of my Tri Club night. I was still concerned with my tiredness nonetheless.

I weighed the options up through the day knowing the focus should now be towards the run and the bike. I was conflicted! I knew I could get in the pool and have a tough, but good session. I was not so confident with the bike and the run. I discussed things with my coach Billy and he set me two options.

In short…. Swim and run, or bike and run

In the end, I would chose what must have been the more difficult of options, the bike/run brick session.

The Bike/Turbo

I got home from work later than expected and quickly set about getting all my gear ready. I wanted to be able to practice transition a bit too. Therefore I needed all my run stuff near me as I got off the bike (Turbo) I also needed to think about hydration through the bike, so I could deal with the 50 mins Run/walk intervals.

Everything was set up and I started the training session for the bike leg on my Garmin. 10 mins easy effort at RPE4 (Rate of Perceived Exertion) then into 20 mins Hard at RPE 8.

Halfway through I was sweating, a lot. The outdoor bike keeps you cool as the wind passes over your body. Today I was on the indoor trainer, and the fan was merely assisting the warm air around my body. I was three quarters the way through my water/electrolyte mix and willing the clock round. I was maintaining 100 RPM in the big wheel, beginning to fade.

2 mins to go and I had nothing left, I needed to ease off, the run had crept into my mind. As soon as I unclipped my shoes I had to get my top off and towel down. I was dripping and straight away, my new, clean running shirt was sticking to my body as I wrestled it over my shoulders. I finished off the remainder of my water and got out onto the run happy, that whilst my transition was smooth, it could be quicker.

The run

I set off on the run at a steady pace. I hadn’t felt the immediate feeling of transition for a while, I needed to build into this. Besides it was a 20 minute interval and I was determined not to bail and walk. Within the first five minutes I was as sweaty, if not more so, than when I had left the bike behind in the comforts of my pain cave.

The route quickly took me onto the edge of Salisbury Plain, and into the cool shade of the few trees that are there. This was a welcome relief, despite it not being a particularly warm day.

As I got to 19:48 mins I was entering a flat part of the route that looped back toward my village, I was just about done. Dig in, you’ve got this, as I gritted my teeth. I was thankful of the 5 mins walk interval. I was hot, sweaty, and my heart was pounding in my ears. Seemingly after the shortest 5 mins ever, my Garmin was alerting me of the end of the interval. Ok, I’ve got this!

The next run interval was only ten minutes, but needed to be at a slight increase of effort. It took me through an old favourite, and down to the riverside. The increase in pace was taking its toll as I stopped to cross the road. I was determined to finish as planned. As I left the riverside a short, steady incline would zap all positivity out of my mind, I ground to a halt just shy of 9 minutes, my quads felt solid from the bike, I needed this walk to help loosen them up.

I knew I had been training for over an hour now, the bike seemed like ages ago. Despite looking like I had just been swimming, I was feeling a bit better, my heart rate was back to a more aerobic pace. “Beep” Beep” Beep” etc. as my Garmin reminded me it was time to run. However, this time I was running back in the direction of home, knowing I was about to finish a 50 minute run/walk straight after a 30 minute bike.

Thursday had been a good day

Friday was uneventful at work, however I would not be home in time to get a decent ride out in the remaining hours of daylight. The option of a back to back turbo was inevitable. I considered riding in the dark and weighed up the risks….. It’s Turbo time again.

Billy sent me a “Tester” I wasn’t expecting anything easy. This indeed was a test!

More a test of mental strength than physical. Although the last 15 mins were rather moist.

I was required to build my HR (heart rate) up every 5 mins. Starting from 100 bpm, an easy warm up. Then increase resistance either through the Turbo or through the gears on the bike. All the time keeping a constant cadence of 85 rpm. I finished the set 45 minutes later with a river of sweat coming off my chin, soaked from head to toe. The cool down was ragged to say the least.IMG_2232

Boom, I needed a tough session, one that would put me in the right mind-set for Mallorca. Of course, I still had the weekend to complete but now I was starting to feel strong, and ready.

The second weekend in April was mixed. My run on the Saturday was a simple run/walk effort that just never felt easy at any stage. “I guess you just get days like this?” I thought to myself as I began my struggle against reality. The reality being my legs were fatigued from the Turbo session the day before. I needed to get used to this feeling, as its exactly the same as the feeling you get after getting off the bike in T2 (Transition 2) I paced the first 20 mins really steady before trying to ramp the pace gently.

I did finish the run bagging another 5k, but I hoped the Sunday would be more fruitful. I was due to be out on the bike for a 2-3 hour ride. A crucial ride, the last long effort before I would pack all my gear and head for the sun.

Sundays long bike

Having spent the morning with a leisurely breakfast, it soon became time to get out on the bike. It was one of those unpredictable days we get in April in the UK, the kind when it is 10 degrees cooler than the day before, with a biting headwind. The kind of weather you don’t want when going out on your first long bike ride for some time.

I prepared well, knowing I had a belly full of food. I concentrated on hydration for the bike and good clothes, layering up accordingly. After a quick step outside I realised a rain jacket and gloves were also going to be required. What I didn’t do was think about my feet!

I had decided on a 50k loop around the southern part of Salisbury Plain. A lovely scenic route, a mix of sharp hills, descents and steady climbs. A route I had done a few times last year, therefore expecting to be a bit of a challenge. What I wasn’t expecting was that 15k into the route, as the headwinds began to bite (especially through the descents) that my toes would be exposed to the through breeze in my shoes. Shoes not designed for what was effectively a winter breeze.

I now started to get the negative chimp in my head, telling me to turn around and just call it a day, 30k would be ok? I refused to give in, although it was a viable option. Before long I was beyond the halfway point and able to stop at a restaurant for a coffee. I sat outside for a while just waiting to get some feeling back in my toes, I phoned my wife, Sue to let her know I was ok. She sensed from my voice that things were not great, I half heartedly joked about needing a lift home. This too was a viable option.

I convinced myself that I was passed the hump, I could do it, I was on the home stretch.

I took a few steps back and forth to get some blood flow around my toes, whilst scrunching them around in my shoes. I took on an energy gel, and a quick photo of my surroundings. Yep you’ve got this! Crack on you fanny.

It took me a few minutes to feel the love again, a few hill climbs to feel warm and from nowhere, a sudden burst of enthusiasm, as I near crawled the last ascent. I got onto the drops and started to get some speed on. The lure of a promised hot cup of coffee when I got home, perhaps? More likely the energy gel had found the spot. I still had bloody cold feet though.IMG_2233

A warm bath later, and the bike was forgiven. Lesson learnt. Either stay on the Turbo next time or wrap up your feet.

 T-1 week – The Suitcase is out!

The week flew by, everything was in place and all I needed to do was tick off the remainder of my sessions.

I would start the last week before Mallorca as I had all the others in April. I would join my running clubs newbies in their quest to run their first ever 5k. I ran before, and after their session and struggled throughout. I needed to add volume to my run and was struggling. The newbies are going to smash it. I, on the other hand, have much work to do before I can call it run-fun.

I ticked off the swim I missed on the Wednesday and followed it up with a straight forward out and back ride on the bike.

Thursday started at the crack of dawn with an early run, I was down to do it at work but not being keen on the hygiene of the showers a 0500hrs run would be fine. Besides my colleagues were fed up with hearing about my journey. I would quietly crack on and hope to be awake enough for Tri Club in the evening.

Saturdays ride would put some real doubts in my mind. The weather was now warmer than in Mallorca as I climbed the same hills from the week before. The sweat came earlier and the need to hydrate. The hills had grown and the negative chimp was back.IMG_2234

I eventually gave in after 40 mins of battle and stood roadside, exhausted and bewildered at the same time. Neither keen to continue riding up nor keen on heading back. Either option was going to be tough.

I manually cycled my pedal with my hand to get in a lower gear and got back in the saddle determined to get up that damn hill.

I did, eventually and somehow found the feel of a slight down hill and free speed encouraging. The worst was behind me and I’d actually done better than before. I wasn’t up to the levels I was last year. But there was definite progress. I got on the drops and enjoyed the easier home straight.

That should set me up for the last run prior to getting on a plane?

My last run before Tri Camp – Salisbury Parkrun

Thank you for reading the latest chapter in my blog.

Please take the time to read the previous chapters in my journey. Chapters 1-18 have been a lot of fun to write, and I welcome your comments and opinions.

For the next chapter in my blog I will describe my experience with TriForce in Mallorca. My first ever Tri-Camp.


Previous chapters in my Journey “Fatman – Ironman”


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