As I mentioned before, I’ve been working over the winter with the most marvellous Fiona, who has overseen predominantly my strength and conditioning plan, but also helped me with the early stages of my overall training plan. A more inspirational person you will struggle to find, and I can’t begin to put into words how much help she has given me thus far. Fiona has been working with me quite unbelievably for free, as she is working towards a new qualification in strength and conditioning training, and I have been her (very lucky) subject. But this project is drawing to a close, and in fact the strength training needs to scale back very soon, to make way for increasing time spent on the other disciplines I need to concentrate on. In addition, although Fiona is a fabulous personal trainer, she is not specifically an Ironman coach, and with all these separate factors, we decided it would be an idea for me to take on an experienced Ironman coach (I need all the help I can get).
And so Paul and I both in fact have signed up with Crawford Whyte of Project 3 coaching. I’ve actually mentioned Crawford before because we go to his circuits class at dawn on Monday mornings. I would never describe myself as being in peak form, but certainly my performance that early on a Monday morning is never startling, so I am delighted (and surprised) that Crawford has actually agreed to take me on. Crawford is a full time coach and leads the Scottish Triathlon Academy. As well as coaching in his own company, Project 3, he also takes a number of sessions at Glasgow Triathlon Club. Oh, and he coaches our very own Marc Austin, 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games bronze medal winner. He’s managed to get a number of athletes through Ironman-distance events so seems like an excellent choice to help me to my Ironman goal. Except now I’m thrown into another pit of anxiety in case I am a step too far, and the first person to fail to reach their goal, despite his excellent input.
We met up last month when he came for our introductory chat. It would take about an hour he said, and we would go over where I was just now and work towards creating a training plan. The poor man was at my house for nearly 3 hours – I think only then did he realise the gravity of the project he was taking on. We started for real after I came back from the USA – in fact my first morning back, with awful jet lag and not really knowing what day it was, we went straight from his circuits class to the swimming pool where he came in the water with me to have a proper look at my technique. This was really useful and built on our swim smooth day, where Crawford had been a co-coach. It also helped Crawford see which areas of my swimming need particular attention (in fairness I think it all needs particular attention but at least we can concentrate on what is especially bad).
I now have a very specific and custom-made training plan, designed specifically for me, focusing on my strengths and weaknesses (just weaknesses really), which is updated every week. Crawford inputs my weekly instructions to my Training Peaks account (see Training Apps) and then can monitor my performance through that same account. And although the training remains relentless, I feel that a lot of the pressure has been taken off me by essentially not worrying constantly about ‘should I be doing more’ or ‘how far should I be running at the moment’ type self-doubts. The plan incorporates, where possible, existing training sessions I was doing with the club which is great as they are super and I really enjoy training with my club mates. With all of this though, I do feel like I have turned into some sort of Pavlovian dog, responding without question to commands –
‘run up that hill!’
‘do it again!’
‘swim ten lengths, half just using one arm, then some with your hands as fists, then breathe every 5 strokes, then on your back, then on your side………’
I also have some new interim goals. One thing that most people training for an Ironman take on is a Half Ironman event in the run up. My worry is that if I do this, it would scare the shit out of me which would then create a real psychological barrier for the actual race. Crawford was quite happy to accept this cop out, but felt I would need to do some other endurance event in my training instead. A marathon apparently would be excellent. (A marathon!! This might be punishment for refusing to do a Half Ironman). Around May would be ideal. (I’m sorry what?! This May?? As in 2019??). Yes this May. And of course the closest marathon in May is Edinburgh. And having vowed never to do a marathon again after my one and only previous marathon, which yes, was in Edinburgh, when I cried for most of the last few miles to the finish, I am now signed up for the Edinburgh Marathon in May. It is 10 weeks away. Last time, I trained for about 18 months (albeit badly) and was nearly last. I haven’t run more than 10 miles for years (actually I think since the marathon) and it’s the week after the Caledonia Etape. Fuck. But apparently it’s all going to be fine. And actually, with Crawford on board, I’m hoping it will.