It is four weeks and two days to Ironman Wales. I have a dreadful lurch of anxiety/nausea every time I think about it at the moment and am torn between being so ready for this all to be over, and panicking that time is galloping by too quickly. We are essentially in our peak training phase at the moment (at least I very much hope we are because if we don’t start tapering soon I will keel over) which has coincided with the last of the school holidays and the mad dash to get everything ready again for the new school year.
Last week we spent our annual week at Firbush – Edinburgh University’s residential outdoor activity centre, on the banks of beautiful Loch Tay. During term time this is mostly used by the university for student residentials, but during the summer they open it up for family holiday weeks. I spent many a happy (if slightly muddy, cold and wet) family summer holiday there as a child, and we now go with our family, and regularly meet the same marvellous group of other families each time we return. My sister and her family now come too, and this year Viv and Gareth (our friends and Ironman competing buddies) came too. Usually we spend the week windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, SUP-ing, with some land based activities thrown in too, but this year while the children and other attendees frolicked on the water we needed to include a heavy duty dose of training. Certainly when I saw my training plan for the week, after being initially gripped with anxiety, at least, I thought, I was more likely to get through it as we weren’t trying to fit it around work.
And indeed what a beautiful setting. Our first day there involved a 165km hilly (1900m climbing) cycle through (most of) Perthshire. This was my longest cycle ever, but at least I was in good company and we had chosen the day with the best weather forecast. My main concerns about the really long cycle were a) having too sore a bum to continue, b) not taking in enough nutrition, c) simply not being able to finish and d) dying of exhaustion. And whilst I was very much the slowest and rate limiting factor in our group of four (me, Viv, Paul and our friend from Firbush Mike), we made it through the cycle in relatively good time (just over 7 hours) and most importantly got back in time for dinner. Psychologically this cycle was hugely important as it was almost the distance of IMW, and the concerns I mentioned above were not realised. The next day I managed a wee windsurf in the morning before a half marathon run and open water swim in the loch in the afternoon.
And so the week progressed in that fashion. In between trying to spend at least a bit of time with Jamie and Holly (who actually were quite happy not to see us at all), squeeze in some water sports (Paul mostly sailed – I prefer windsurfing), I had another half marathon, two more longish cycles and almost daily open water swims to complete. But having company for the vast majority of these activities certainly made it much easier and we returned home, tired but happy, with a feeling of achievement that we’d survived our peak training week relatively intact.
Until that is, we opened our training plans for this week. In the rather optimistic hope that perhaps the worst was behind us, I boldly made an appointment to have my hair cut and highlighted (I’m not sure whether it’s my age or the anxiety of IMW but the number of grey hairs I now have has increased alarmingly this year) on Wednesday. How very foolish. The start of the week consisted of the usual 6.30am circuits class and evening P3 run session on Monday and Tuesday night GTC swim. As we stood chatting waiting to get into the pool, one of my fellow club mates (who shall remain nameless) told me he had read my blog and found it very helpful. Having completed his first standard distance triathlon last month, he similarly found himself much impaired by needing the toilet for much of the latter part of the race. But he has another race in a fortnight, and having read about my experience in Lewis, is going to adopt the ‘pee-in-the-water-before-you-start’ approach which we both confidently feel will help enormously. I wasn’t sure that my ramblings on this blog have particularly aided anyone thinking of doing an Ironman, but at least now it seems someone may have picked up at least one tip. I feel my work here is done.
By Tuesday night I was already feeling quite weary and hoping that we might have a nice easy-ish swim session. But no. Obviously is was time trial night, a session feared by all members when we have to swim against the clock to mark our progress (or lack there-of). I think also some of my weariness was knowing what I had in store for the rest of the week. On Wednesday, after my early hair appointment I had to do my big ‘brick’ (bike to run) session – a 50km cycle followed by a 30km run. Jamie kindly joined me for the cycle (last day of the holidays), a soggy affair due to the constant rain, but I then set off for my lonely long run, with nothing but the rain for company (and some marvellous music thanks to my fancy new wireless Beats headphones – I do think it’s important to reward myself with treats every so often). The first 20km were great – I felt strong and confident and thought for the first time that I might actually be able to run the marathon in Wales (previously I had thought it would just be a case of hobbling round, trying to beat the sweeper bus). At 20-25km I slowed and acknowledged that actually yes it was likely I would need to walk some of the marathon after all, and during the last 5km I thought I was in fact going to die, and there was no chance I’d make it to the end.
The open water swim that was supposed to follow this brick session was ditched in favour of last-night-of-the-holidays-dinner at Massimos, our local Italian restaurant, as requested by the children, but as a result I had to get up at 5am to join the early morning GTC open water swim session the next morning. I can’t lie – I did not love this. Swimming 2km in a murky canal at 6.30am is frankly not normal and unlikely to be repeated (by me anyway). That was yesterday. Getting through work the last two days has been a struggle and tonight after my Ayr clinic Paul and I popped out for our ‘easy’ 8km run. Tomorrow we have an early session with Yoga Jess before heading back to Loch Tay to take part in the ‘Tay-K it to the limit’ 3km swim which is part of the Aberfeldy multi-sport festival weekend. Sunday morning is our club junior aquathlon where I rather scarily now run the finish line team (not a chipped race so quite stressful) and then I finish off with a 75km cycle in the afternoon.
I had a text conversation with Crawford about my nutrition during my brick session after which he sent some suggestions to try before the next ‘big session’. There followed a great wave of anxiety, but he quickly qualified this by saying I don’t have any more sessions with such a long run. I sincerely hope this is true, and maybe (fingers crossed) now the taper will start. If not I’m thinking of taking a pillow into work and trying to have a secret nap under my desk at lunchtime when no one is looking. But the countdown is on and we are nearly there………..