The journey to IRONMAN Wales

It does not seem like it has been 12 months since I watched my brother complete IRONMAN Wales 2016.

Watching the sun rise over Tenby and listening to 2000 people singing the national anthem I decided there and then that IMW2017 was for me! I’d never done a triathlon before, my swimming was pretty pants, but I had 12 months to train right?? That was loads of time wasn’t it..? Besides, I couldn’t have my brother have one over on me, not that we are a competitive family or anything…. (ha)!!

So; September 2017 and taper week is upon me. Funnily enough, I have been willing the taper to arrive as my training has gradually built up so that each session has been getting harder and longer! But now that it is here, I don’t want it!! For it means race day is less than 7 days away! And I don’t care how many lengths of the pool you have swum, or how many miles you have cycled, or how many hill reps you have done, can you ever be ready for a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and full marathon?? All within 17 hours….??

In these moments of self-doubt (and blind panic), there is much comfort to be drawn from looking back over my workouts in TrainingPeaks and knowing that I have put hard work in. Thanks to PedalCover Insurance and Chris Hine at Matt Bottrill Coaching, I have benefitted from some top-notch expertise. This has really paid off for my cycling. On 1st August I entered the Sportzmad 10mi TT on the R10/9 course at St Athan. I was completely shocked to not only finish as 1st female in a time of 24:58, but to smash my pb by 1:30!!

Unfortunately, my body couldn’t quite keep up with the programme and some sort of tendonitis in the knee prevented me from running through all of August. Therefore, August has been all about the bike and the swim! With 4 weeks of structured and focussed sessions, my training has progressed steadily. As a last minute idea, I entered a 10 mile TT on the R10/27 course at Abergavenny, which was the first ever TT I did back in March (26:28). Once again, I did achieve a new pb (24:27) but I was disappointed in my time! Even in the middle of a hard training block, with tired legs, I still had expectations – how times had changed in the last 6 months!!
I had the mad idea of cycling home to Pembrokeshire from Abergavenny via Brecon and Carmarthen. With a strong westerly headwind all the way and with legs already shot from the race, it was one hell of a struggle. I’d also forgotten just how hilly the Brecon Beacons were! I ran out of food at Brecon, and when I saw the train station at Carmarthen, I rolled onto the platform and bought a ticket for the next train to Narberth!

But the hard sessions are the ones which count. And Chris has no shortage of hard sessions to dish out. One particular toughie was a strength session, with the following instructions:
20 mins Level 2 Warm Up
60 mins Climb. IM Pace. Focus on strength, doing this in Time Trial position
25 mins Easy
40 mins Alternating every 5 mins between IM watts and 70.3 watts
35 mins Easy Level 1-2 recovery
I do love a challenge and I took on 60 minutes of climbing with gusto. My local hills of choice were Caerphilly mountain twice via Rhiwbina Hill and Forest Road, and Van Road to Rudry. Then a quick scoot around the lanes to Bassaleg and 40 hard minutes along the flats back to Cardiff. By the time I rolled into town I headed straight to the nearest coffee establishment to order the biggest cappuccino available!

I was entered into the National Club Triathlon Relay Races which were held at Holme Pierrepoint on the August Bank Holiday weekend. Back in May, it seemed like a good idea, but this close to Ironman, the sprint distances didn’t really fit in with the training. But it was at least a chance to let the hair down and have some fun. It would also be my second run since 1st August, as my knee was finally complaint-free. I took the opportunity to call into Loughborough on the way up to meet Chris and he did another video analysis of my swim.

I have been a bit demoralised with my swimming as I religiously complete the prescribed sessions yet don’t really notice much change. Its not like cycling or running where you crack out a couple of hill reps, some long mileage and boom, it gets easier! Swimming is ALL about technique. The video analysis confirmed that my stroke has progressed with a better catch position and a less banana-like banana body!! There is however still much to work on; namely my stupid feet which have a mind of their own. Oh well. At least I can look forward to a winter of drills, drills, drills.

So. The relays. A brief summary: a very slow swim (we wont mention the time); a decent bike split (av. 24.3mph). And a new 5k Pb (watch time 19:13). And lots and lots of fun. Since the relays weekend, I have been back to running with enthusiasm and I am reassured to find out that I have picked up where I left off…. But, with my longest run being 13.1 miles back at LCW I July, and only 1 bike/brick run under my bike (last Sunday!!), I will start the marathon on Sunday with some trepidation.

Writing this, only 4 days away from race day is a struggle, as my mind has a tendency to veer from one thought to another. Focus is difficult! I have more time than usual as I am not doing the normal 3 hour rides, so have taken to baking this week: I’ve made chocolate orange cake, coffee and walnut cake, and carrot cake. I have also eaten a lot of said cake so lets just say that the carb-loading is going well.

I don’t know why I am quite so nervous; I know I can swim 3.8km – I did it at LCW. I know I can cycle 180km – it cant be harder than that damn ride from Abergavenny. And I can certainly shuffle around a marathon. 12months ago, I would have been happy to get round IMW and finish before midnight. But I am having too much fun with the triathlon world; thanks to the wonderful people at Cardiff Triathletes who are always on hand to offer support, encouragement, advice and great banter. And the training from Chris Hine at Matt Bottrill, thanks to Pedal Cover Insurance, has really helped me get some focus and consistency in all 3 disciplines and I am reaping the rewards every week. And the Pedal Cover bib shorts and cycle jersey were my first ever proper lycra kit so I even feel like a ‘proper’ cyclist now. So when I line up on the beach on Sunday, knowing that half of the Cardiff Tri lot are in full fancy-dress ready to cheer me one, and that friends and family in other parts of the world are following No. 357 on the IMTracker App, it’s not just about the momentous race in front of me. Its also about the journey to get here, and to bring all of that blood, sweat and tears together on a single day to make it count. The Pedal Cover competition has given me a fantastic opportunity and as a good friend said to me yesterday “Dare to believe….”