05: Hawaii, tumble turns, broken umbrellas and new records!

So it was all locked in. Ironman Wales 2016.

I didn’t do a terrific amount of training towards the end of 2015. I kept the three disciplines ticking over but not in a planned way or anything, just kept things moving.

I did however go on HONEYMOON!! We had a delayed trip because of work etc. But it was great. We went on a cruise holiday to Hawaii!! However I made an epic fail! I hadn’t known it at the time, but we arrived at Kailua Kona on day 5 of the cruise, which was amazing, what wasn’t amazing was that we missed the WORLD IRONMAN CHAMPIONSHIP that was in the day before!! How did I not realise this!! It was great, we pulled into the bay where the swim takes place and there were still heaps of athletes about, recovering and chilling. All these guys had to earn their place to get there by coming in the top 3 of their category in a qualifying race! To race here would be an absolute dream come true!! (I don’t have high expectations do I). 

So Katie said to me the only time we will ever be able to come back to Hawaii is if I qualify for the world champs!! 

Inside my head: It’s on.

We got home, settled back into things. Christmas came along and it all started to get a bit more serious from there.

I must have been a really good boy that year. I had this great book off Father Christmas!! I don’t know how he knew I was planning Ironman, but fair play to him, spot on! Don Fink – Be Iron Fit. I found this to be a brilliant book for both planning my training and putting perspective on my time constraints. The plans are really simply laid out and easy to follow, exactly what you need to get you to your first Ironman. Would highly recommend this book!!

Another present over that time was some new trainers. We had gone away for a Christmas weekend, we go away every year with Owen and Hannah, and this year we went to London. I found an excuse to pop into a running shop and came away with a pair of Brooks Ghost. I have found Brooks trainers to be a really good fit for me, so wanted to stick with them. Something I would strongly recommend would be a professional running analysis. If you find the right person then work with them. The first guy I ever met for a fit was absolutely amazing! He even knew different widths of feet to suit certain make of trainers! Fair play he loved and knew his running trainers. I have tried to track him down since, but the shop closed down and he was never to be seen again. Bugger. 

Here are my snazzy new trainers!! I fudging love ’em!!

So things were starting to take place. New year came around and I had finished reading my new book. I was full of enthusiasm and ready to get going!  

A quick holiday to Thailand with the family and then head down into my training.

A quick side note for new swimmers or triathletes or anyone interested in tumble turns. Below is a photo of the pool we had in our villa in Thailand. At first I was trying to be imaginative with my swim training, I wanted to get lengths in, but as you can see this was no pool for that. I had Katie hold my legs whilst I just practiced front crawl, I hooked my feet over the ladder (but that hurt), I was going to buy some rope to tie to my waist and attach it to the ladder, I gave up with lengths in the end. 

But what I did find extremely useful, was how perfect it was to learn and practice tumble turns. By the time I did a turn and two strokes it was time to do another turn!! I think my maximum was like 100 tumble turns!! So next time your on holiday, use it to practice these!

Back to training and the lead up to Ironman.

The 21st Feb was the official start to my 30 week program! I started using my calendar on my phone to input all my sessions, this worked great as I could then move them around as to suit my shift pattern in work. 

Just as I started my program I had a relapse in my insanity. I decided to sign up for the Cardiff Half Marathon World Championships. What. A. Numpty. I was a few weeks in and obviously thought I was the bees knees. The main reason to signing up was because  I wanted to race against Mo Farah! Because I was clearly at that level. Not. Anyway, I obviously didn’t realise at that point that there was no room in my plan to train specifically for a half marathon, so I just cracked on with the program in the hope that it will bring me a certain level of fitness to get me through a half marathon WITHOUT passing out on the finish line. 

Before this Half Marathon I did actually feel relatively fit. Well, compared to my last attempt anyway. I had done a fair few 1 hour runs (as per program). I decided to do one of my training runs at a pace that I was hoping to be able to hold, for those interested it was 6:50 min/miles. Now this felt fast and hard, but I did it. Typical me, I decided to go for it and try and get sub 1:30:00 for the half marathon. 

See me? I’m the one in red on the right, 3 back from the traffic light?

The day came and I wasn’t rested at all, as I was mid program, and this wasn’t part of it. But I was feeling good. Katie came with me and my brother turned up again!! This was better for him as it was a later start. Everything was looking ok apart from the weather!! It’s difficult to describe the weather that day. The wind was mental and we basically had a months worth of rain within 3 minutes, and those three minutes came when I was at mile 9!! I got so wet in those 3 minutes it felt like I had put on 3 stone, at a time that I could have really done with losing 3 stone. I was struggling. To give you an idea of the wind and weather. Here is my brother waiting for me.

So the first 9 miles were actually ok. Very similar to all of the other runs I had been doing with my program. However, fatigue kicked me right up arse at that mile 9. Ouch. I was slowing more and more. I didn’t know if I was on track or not. I was losing focus and all sorts. I started to worry about passing out on the line, having thoughts I wasn’t going to even  make it that far. I wasn’t in a great place. Then I heard this voice!! It wasn’t god, but it was a bearded man.

“You don’t want me passing you mate, I’m your worst enemy!”

It was a pacer with a huge flag sticking in the air saying “1:30”.

It was either sink or swim. I was just past mile 10 at this point, and said to myself. “Just over 2 miles of pain” “pain is temporary, pride is forever” “my brother and Katie are waiting, they have come all this way, I can do this”. So I swam. I kept my head down. Controlled my breathing, embraced the pain, and squeezed every last bit I had. 

And boy I’m glad I did!

By the skin of my teeth I got it!! I went sub 1:30:00!! Something I never thought I would actually be able to do!! 

I was freezing and in pain, but I was chuffing like a raspberry muffin. Woohoo!!

So a few days later and after some rest, the program was back on track. Something wasn’t right. I had put my shoes on to go to work and felt this really strange pain on the top of my foot. Cut a long story short, I had acquired a stress fracture to my foot, most likely from pushing it too much in the Cardiff Half. Anyway, luckily I was pain free whilst swimming and cycling, so I just eased off the running. After three weeks I felt good, and I was back to it!

The Don Fink plan advises two races in the lead up program, so I decided to sign up for Llanelli sprint (to get the season started) and Cotswold 113 (a half ironman distance triathlon). 

Llanelli Sprint Triathlon came early in the year. One of the first races on the calendar – 15th May. My fitness was improving week by week. My training volume had increased a fair amount and I knew I had already done a sprint distance triathlon. I thought this would be a good opportunity to push myself a little. I had a training ride arranged for two days before the race, it was due to be my longest ride to date. A 50 mile ride. Go easy I thought. Anyway, the guy I had met to go with clearly had other ideas and I ended up going up over Brecon and coming back having done 74 miles, and my legs were toast!! Just the type of taper I needed before my race. I will be more sensible one day, I promise. Llanelli sprint is an awesome race. It’s a 750m dock swim, a flat  30km cycle and a 5km coastal path run. 

Come race day and the weather was gorgeous! Blue skies, no wind. Perfect. The race went really well. I felt an improvement in all three diciplines and came home feeling good!! “I’m getting somewhere” I thought.

Me on my new bike, with my new trisuit on! Shit was getting serious.

Me and my good friend Laura. I had convinced her to do a triathlon “because she will love it”, she is yet to thank me.  

A short rest and back to the program. Things were working well. I was getting my swims in when I was working an early shift. My early shift starts at 9am, so I would drive up to bridgend at 6:30 to avoid the rush hour traffic, get in the pool for 7:15, so my swim set, which at this point was anywhere up to 120 lengths!! Physically I obviously found this difficult, but keeping count is by far the hardest part!! 

Welcome Garmin 920XT. My new training watch came at a good time!! This thing comes with me everywhere!! It tracks all my runs, rides and swims!! It even counts my lengths for me!! Legend!! As you can see, it makes me happy. 

My rides were getting longer and longer week by week. Motivation seemed to come and go. There were times when I was loving it, chomping at the bit, other times my alarm would go off at 6am and I would press snooze 3/4 times. Trying to make an excuse in my head to not have to do my session for the day. It crazy how the mind works, but it really is the biggest challenge in all this. We all have the ability to train and do an ironman. It’s whether we have the mental discipline!! I didn’t always win those rounds, there were times my head was getting the better of me and I was failing. It’s a lonely place when it happens but you pick yourself up, you get your shit together, you have a quiet word to yourself,  you push your limits, you hit new goals, new personal best’s and the rewards flood back to you in the form of endorphins, and boy they feel great!! 

So by now my weekly training hours was hovering around 10 hour weeks. Split over 6 days. One rest day a week. Most days would be double session days. Food was really starting to become a significant part of my life!! I was eating up to 5000 calories a day to fuel my activities. Boy I was going through food and I was going through toilet paper like it was going out of fashion!! Expensive this triathlon lark!! 

Here is a great tip for anyone wanting a long and loving marriage. Take up Ironman triathlon, because I have only seen Katie for three days in the past year as I’m always out training! We are going to last years at this rate! The honeymoon period isn’t even over yet!! 

Oh and to top it off, I have a lovely break away booked up for us. A gorgeous spa resort in the Cotswolds. Conveniently, I’m sure there is a half ironman race up there that weekend. Haha. Watch this space.

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