We're following Mara and her journey from beginner to Ironman - it's a balancing act!
November to January have been are a blur; a good way kind of blur. So much has happened since my last post in December up until now. I’ve never been so acquainted with the feeling of tiredness and my legs - oh my legs - are having a party; swimming, cycling, running, they just don’t know when to stop moving. Mara, welcome to Ironman training.
Since my last post, my training entered a new phase between late December and January. Just when I was getting comfortable in certain sessions, Jon (my coach) upped my training: swimming distance increased, swimming drills were put in to improve my technique, the long bike rides started to make an appearance and long runs were finally starting to feel like long runs.
At this point, I played a dangerous game of trying to juggle a billion things at once
At this point, I played a dangerous game of trying to juggle a billion things at once - I thought I could do it. But it meant having a few weeks surviving on 5 hours sleep each day. And a dangerous game it was: I ended up with a chest infection, struggling to breathe, and had to miss training for just under a week. As a personal trainer, I’m very aware of the importance of rest, recovery and sleep, but it’s something I found hard to apply to my own self in those few weeks. That time off training shook me up and I realised, how I really needed to practice what I preach more than ever.
I’m often a little tired these days - but I’m really trying to practice rest and recovery a lot more: if I’m feeling tired in the morning, instead of waking up at 5am for training, I’ll sleep in a little bit extra and do my training session after work. It’s a luxury that I’m lucky to have - a lot of others training for Ironman have 4:30am of 5am starts on a much more regular basis. Getting used to 5am starts is something I am still not used to. It’s probably the one thing I’m looking forward to stop doing after July! Will these early starts get any easier?
One thing that is starting to feel easier, is swimming. The first time I used the 50m pool, I spent 30 minutes in the changing room, trying to muster up the courage to get into the pool. When I eventually got into the pool, I spent 10 minutes in the water, mustering up the courage to swim. Now, if anything, I’m usually spending about 10 minutes getting into the water because it is just so cold. So cold. I am such a wuss when it comes to the cold.
My bum no longer sinks when I swim front crawl and I’m paying more attention to engaging my core. I’ve also started doing neck mobility exercises and since the end of January, and I can finally breathe bilaterally when I swim. When they say practice makes perfect, it seems that swimming 3 times a week is paying off: more than anything, I’m starting to feel comfortable in the water. I’m itching to try open water swimming.
Training has highlighted some of the inconsistencies with my own strength - my legs are strong as steel, but my upper body strength, oh boy now this is a whole different story. I’ve always wanted to join a Crossfit box, so in January, I started doing Crossfit at Crossfit Dawn for my strength training. I love it because I get that heart-thumping high intensity fix that I don’t always get with my swim-bike-run training. These sessions will equally help me to develop mental strength, which I’ll need when the tough gets going during the Ironman race.
Cycling is becoming my nemesis. I’m working on improving my cycling pace. In January, I started to do my work commute a few times a week by bike. I was originally going to cycle 5 days a week, in my bid to save money by getting rid of my monthly train fare, but that’s not happened yet and I’m still doing some commutes by tube! Baby steps, baby steps. This will happen.
People often message me on social media telling me I’m doing great with training, but truth be told, cycling is really frustrating me. These months are not all plain sailing. I’m finding that my wattbike sessions are providing much better results than my outdoor bike sessions, which is causing some hair-pulling moments for me. I can cycle the distances but doing it in the times I want - it’s not happening. I’m still also yet to buy cleats and road shoes. I was supposed to get this done in early February, but with two consecutive weekend events on my race calendar, I was advised it was better to get them afterwards. So, this time in March, fingers crossed you’ll be reading all about how I’ve found cycling in cleats!
My events and race calendar leading up to Ironman started in January with the Evans Ride It 86km London Road Sportive and the 10km Winter Run and Velopark Duathlon in February. Having never done a sportive before, I had absolutely no idea what to expect at the evans Ride It event. I had been worried that I’d get lost because it wasn’t closed off from traffic and if it would be signposted well. Thankfully, except for one point where I took the wrong the turning (and quickly realised), the event was very well signposted and the feed stations were like mini feasts of all your favourite snacks. It was my birthday that day, so eating chocolate cake, flapjacks, bananas and sweets felt even more meaningful. I’ve signed up for a few other Evans Ride It events in the lead up to Ironman, and can’t wait for them. If you think a cycling event is only for those with those fancy bikes and cycling shoes, I hope I’ve proven you wrong. Bertie is an entry level road bike, and together with my lace up trainers, we powered through the course.