I have never actually trained properly for anything. When I decided to run a marathon it took me over a year and I just went on lots of long, slow, plodding runs, trying to gradually increase my distances. After quite a few months and in the middle of my fourth half marathon (I still remember this clearly – it was in the middle of Bellahouston Park) I suddenly got an acute severe pain on the outside of my right knee. I thought someone had shot me in the knee, and when it became clear that was not in fact the case, I thought I must have ruptured something, or perhaps needed an emergency knee replacement. It transpired I had developed ilio-tibial band syndrome – a common problem in runners, and it was to become my nemesis for the next six months. I eventually sought help from a bio-mechanical specialist, and one of the first questions he asked was ‘how are you training’ which I thought was a little bit odd as clearly as I was preparing for a marathon I was doing lots of running. What he meant was what was I doing in the way of strength and conditioning, and of course the answer was nothing.
Since then, I have been increasingly aware that the best way to train, and indeed avoid injury is to incorporate strength and conditioning exercises into our training. But trying to get enough swimming, running and cycling in, let alone making time for races (and of course that’s not to mention going to work and actually occasionally interacting with the children) has meant that other than the odd bit of yoga, our strength and conditioning has never really had any attention. We’ve just about got away with it up until now as the distances we’ve been covering have been short enough to avoid injuries. However, a couple of months ago we took part in the Kyles 10 Miles race (a hilly 10 mile run around Ardlamont Point in Argyle and Bute) and 9 miles in, my ITB suddenly went again for the first time in years. And then my achilles tendonitis from the West Highland Way has essentially meant I’ve not been able to run for two months. Currently I’m thinking if I even get to the start of the Ironman marathon (which I massively doubt) it will be a miracle if I even make it half way round.
I do almost no regular cycling. Paul cycles to work almost every day and so has a baseline cycling fitness that far surpasses mine. Since I started doing triathlons I’ve been on the same trusty hand-me-down bike that a lovely friend donated to me for the Skye cycle, but I have had to invest in an actual carbon bike which is beautiful (more of that to come in kit section). It even has Tri-bars which I find slightly terrifying. Previously my cycling training has consisted of GTC spin sessions over the winter when I can get to them (typically a couple a month) and then whatever cycling I do in actual races during race season. This probably explains why I can barely get up a hill, although at least I can now clip in which is a relatively new skill. So the extremely hilly 180km cycle in the Ironman fills me with terror.
And finally the swim. In some ways this is the area we have spent most time on. I did some swimming as a child which comprised my dad taking me and my two sisters once a week to the local pool. We weren’t bad, indeed tried out for a local club and were accepted, however when I discovered the requirements for 6am training sessions I quickly declined (there has been no period in my life when I have found early mornings acceptable). With the help of the excellent swim coaches at GTC we have gone from hardly managing a length of proper front crawl to now going significant distances, but again, Paul has leapfrogged me by miles (he had hardly swum before joining the club) and is now a very good, fast swimmer, I remain, whilst technically much improved and able to swim far longer distances, a right old slowcoach who at the moment won’t be out the water before lunchtime if I continue at this pace until the Ironman.
And so it was dawning on me that perhaps, although I knew I clearly needed to up my amount of training considerably if there was even a hope of me finishing an Ironman (and finishing it in the allowed time, which remains my biggest anxiety, other than death from exhaustion), in fact my biggest barrier might be not getting to the start line at all if I did the wrong training. Just as I had come to the conclusion that probably what I needed was a personal coach to lead me through this enormous uphill task, I was presented with Fiona, like an angel from above, who I think has literally been sent to save me. And I’m going to talk more of her in my next post.