For the thirteenth chapter in my blog “Fatman to Ironman” I will describe how having successfully completed my second “A” race for 2018. I would go into my first ever “Off season” and then into winter training.
Having completed The Cotswold Triathlon I was left with mixed emotions. An enormous feeling of achievement, satisfaction and above all, pride. However, I had been working towards this goal since May. Now I had no goals. It’s a bizarre feeling, a kind of post race depression. One that I had felt before…. After completing my first ever triathlon, The Durrington Triathlon.
Uh oh! What was I going to do next?
I hadn’t given up on the Marathon in my 40th Year! It probably seems a while since you have read about that barmy, bonkers idea? I have made a pact with my friend and Osteopath, Caroline, and I intend to stick to it. More about that later.
My first “Off season”
I had been given the opportunity to take a rest, an “Off season” from Billy (TriForce) . He offered it as a suggestion, but I think he was encouraging me to take a break. I would take two weeks completely out of it. Just active recovery, walking my dog or gentle casual cycling. I owed Sue some quality time, and I owed my body a break.
At work (during theses two weeks of rest) I would be staring at a collection of books given to me when I was first training for sprint (Pool based) Tri. These books were given to me by a colleague new to the College I worked for, Mick Stone. He had recently left the Army as a keen triathlete, and British Army Team member. He missed the sport, the Army had allowed him to embrace. As a civilian he had decided not to carry on with the sport, and was “retiring” from it. He had heard of my journey and gave me, amongst other things, a vast collection of training material. Sadly his bike was too big for me. I would of loved to have bought that.
These books were Ironman training books. Mick was keen to do one of these, one day, but never got the chance. Before that day I had never heard of Ironman, except the Marvel Comic guy, played by Robert Downey Jr. I certainly hadn’t heard of endurance distance triathlon. I thanked him for the kind offer and returned the favour with biscuits, as is currency within military establishments. I would stare at those books throughout the summer of 2018, without opening one of them. The idea of me being able to do one of those? Ridiculous. Mick saw something in me when he gave me those books.
During my “Off season” I became curious and started to have a read. A seed had indeed been sewn by Mick, and it was beginning to grow.
As I read these books I remembered my Marathon at 40 plan. Subconsciously I was prioritising my goals. Realistically, I was going to have to leave it till my 41st year, 2019. I was ok with this, 2018 had been pretty awesome. Besides which I now had an aggravated and overused Achilles on my right leg.
As I was reading the Ironman books, I started researching Olympic distance events. I thought this ought to be my next step. I found some really good events in the area but never really felt it was going to be enough of a challenge. I now wanted to enter an endurance distance triathlon.
I hoped Billy would talk me out of it. Alas, not “Nothing is impossible” Billy Harris. He was just as excited as me, perhaps more so. Do you think I could do it? “Absolutely” was his response. “I have no doubt about it”. “We will need to build your run, but your Swim and bike have come along nicely”
We needed to be absolutely sure that this was the direction for me. So Billy suggested I pop down to Weymouth for the Ironman 70.3 (2018). His partner Fenella Langridge was racing in the pro wave. There was also going to be a few other athletes I was beginning to be aquatinted with. Fenella had been very supportive of me during my early swimming days, and in my Aquathlon. I felt I owed it to her to offer some support back.
Ironman 70.3 Weymouth 2018
Sue and I headed down to Weymouth early Sunday 24th September 2018. We were with Fran (Fenella’s mum, and her partner Moss (James)
Sat Nav took us on an unusual route, and the drive was somewhat longer than it should have been. All the time I had this Ironman idea in my head. Sue didn’t know what I was thinking about. I needed to be sure I was going to do it, before I told her my plans.
We got to the pro swim wave just as Fenella was exiting the swim. She is an awesome swimmer. “Go Fenella” I screamed as she ran up the carpet from the sea towards T1.
It was a biblically wet and cold day. In the short few minutes of walking from the car park to the swim area. We were soaked, and frozen to the core. We had prepared, and had warm gear… Nonetheless, on this occasion, no amount of protective clothing would have been enough. Sue was not overly impressed and Otis, my dog, was trembling through cold.
I was inspired and buzzing with all the excitement.
We headed back toward Transition 1 (T1). I wanted to experience as much as I could. T1 was now welcoming the age groupers, as they got out of the sea. I would be doing that soon!!! So many bikes and such a large transition. Yes!!!! Nothing had put me off yet.
Fenella was long gone on her bike leg now, and wouldn’t be back for some time. We were tracking her, and the other athletes on our phones.
Many athletes would not complete the bike leg, through hypothermia, or simply being too cold to function, or shift gear. It was an epic display of British weather.
We found a Travel Lodge, and got inside to get Sue a cup of coffee. Due to the appalling weather there were a lot of very damp, very cold spectators in there that day. But notably there was not a single person complaining. Everyone was enjoying the atmosphere and spectacle that I was experiencing. Ironman was continuing to sell it’s self to me.
This is where I would meet more of my fellow TriForce athletes, and in particular the relay team for the day. Kent Langridge, (Fenella’s brother) had already completed the swim leg.
Team Tri Force would go on to win the relay, and Fenella would cross the line 3rd. Her 5th podium place in her first year as a pro.
I was inspired and buzzing through all the excitement.
The weather had not put me off. In fact, quite the opposite. I saw so many different levels of athletes achieve their dream that day. I wanted my piece of the pie.
I remember chatting to Simon De Burgh (Tri Force coach and nutritionalist) at the finish line, as he was cheering his guys on. I casually asked “Do you think I should do one of these” Hoping he would come back with a cautious…. Maybe try an Olympic distance first! He never hesitated with his response, “Absolutely”
That was the moment I signed up for my first ever Ironman event. I would go home that night, warm up and dry out. The next day I would be hitting “enter”
Keeping it a secret
I would keep the fact I had entered an Ironman event a secret for over a month. Only Sue and Billy would know I had committed.
I felt at the time I didn’t want the pressure of everyone knowing. Billy agreed.
In reality I needed time for it to sink in. There were many, many OMG moments during the next four weeks. Added to this, I am rubbish at keeping secrets. I am perhaps one of the most open books you will ever meet.
The pressure of keeping it a secret gradually became worse than the fact I had entered the event in the first place.
During this period I recalled how many times my Coach Katie “Narna” McBain (STAR) had suggested I write my blog.
I had never even read a blog before now, and quickly researched this fascinating world.
I read a blog by fellow TriForce athlete, Lori Westcott and her “Why” a kind of…. Why do I do this blog. It inspired me. I also read a Blog by another TriForce athlete Matt “Badger” Heath. Again I was inspired.
I had a story to write, and Katie “Narna” McBain had been right all along.
I used to consider myself an amateur poet many years ago. Never having the courage of my convictions to print any of the material I wrote, I eventually gave up. Poetry had been a very useful therapy. When times were hard I would write. It was also a brilliant tool for reflection, when times were good, I would also write.
I hadn’t done this for many years. Indeed I did have a story inside, and I now needed to tell it.
Writing blogs is also a useful way of using one of the few skills my school offered, that I actually enjoyed.
1/2 marathon ideas
Over the course of my first two seasons in sport (2017/2018) I had entered three 1/2 marathon events. One I wanted to run with my brother, Andre and the other two were supposed to be with Roxy Foster, from my running club (Shrewton Running). Roxy was running her first ever half marathon and I had promised to do it with her. Sadly, I was injured and could only be there as a volunteer. The following year she would Pb by 20 minutes, and all I could do was cheer her on from the side of the road. I should of been out there with her.
Sadly all three half Marathon events were cancelled, through injury. However, in each case I would volunteer as a marshal. I was intending to use these events as a step towards a full marathon. But as you have read, I am delaying that barmy bonkers plan for a while.
Having accepted I couldn’t run my events, I chose to marshal for the organisers instead. Marshalling is great fun, and when injured allows you to feel “involved” it also allows you too see so many more aspects of the race. The joy, or pain in peoples faces. Everyone goes through so many emotions on race day. Everyone is on a journey and I love being part of it.
Marshalling is another factor that encouraged me to hit “enter”. Every time I marshalled I was inspired by everyone’s efforts. Whether it be a 5k Parkrun, or a Half Marathon. You could see the elation in the faces of the families, the emotions of the runners as they successfully completed their dream. I missed that feeling.
Bizarrely, being unable to run these events was another factor I considered when hitting “enter”. What better time to do my first half marathon…. In my first Ironman event! That is how my mind works I guess. I see a set back, (a negative) as a challenge…… How can I turn this negative into one big positive? Yep! thats my rationale.
I had worked out where my journey was going.
I sat down with Billy to work out my next training block. My “Off season” was about to end and we needed to start thinking about 2019. It was going to be huge!
Billy advised me that we were going to strengthen my body in preparation for what the disciplines of triathlon expose it to. Especially now I was upping my game into middle distance.
I had never thought the gym was going to make me faster or leaner. I was never really looking to be ripped. Billy changed my approach to the gym that day. This was all about injury prevention. Being smart with my training. It would also burn off a few pounds. I began to look at the gym as a kind of pre-recovery. Something I could be doing whilst I was unable to run.
We would back off the intensity of the bike and swim, and keep them aerobic. Another skill I am developing (Learning to train within heart rate zones) I agreed that we needed to allow my Achilles time to heal, and would not run at all. Although I would have to get over my fear of the Cross Trainer in the gym.
I would also be introduced to the Turbo (Indoor Trainer) for the bike. However, I still loved the WattBike and would get on that whenever I could instead of the turbo.
A fellow member of my running club (Shrewton Running) Ritchie Appleton, had given me his old turbo. He had upgraded to a Smart Turbo, and had immersed himself into the world of Zwift.
The turbo is a lonely place. It beats being out on the bike in the cold wet winters of the Uk. But only just. Sat stationary on the saddle for long periods of time can become a bit tedious. My man cave had now become a pain cave! And I was loving it.
I knew I had it coming! I thought we had avoided creating a big issue by adapting my training prior to the Cotswold Triathlon. In hindsight, I lacked any history of strength and conditioning training at all. I had been doing some basics, calf raises and stretches etc. But my tendons and ligaments were struggling to keep up with what I was demanding from them. The doctor would immediately diagnose the issue and insisted I keep off it. Apparently I wasn’t far away from a complete rupture. This time I was listening. The pain from an Achilles flare up is unbearable.
Clearly I was going to have to embrace the gym for the first time in my life. I did not want to experience the kind of pain an Achilles flare up can give you again.
Thank you for reading the latest chapter in my blog.
Please take the time to read the previous chapters in my journey. Chapters 1-13 have been a lot of fun to write, and I welcome your comments and opinions.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill.
For the next chapter in my blog I will describe my first ever proper use of a gym. Now with a purpose, I now had a new goal.
Previous chapters in my Journey “Fatman – Ironman”
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