Welcome to the second and what I hope will be the final season of Look Sharp in Lycra. A brief recap for those of you who are new to the blog, or have been as inactive here as I’ve been for the majority of the last six months! Here’s where we left off back in July 2015 …
I’m taking part in Ironman South Africa on 10 April. I don’t know exactly why I’m doing it, but I like a challenge. It involves swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles, and running a marathon, all within strict time limits and in any case within 17 hours. Plus two other challenges (more of those later), making five in total.
I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, going back to when I first saw Ironman when I was living in South Africa. That’s when I knew I wanted to do it. Nearly four years ago (yikes, that long!) I cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats with my mate Dave Bickley. Last April I ran my first ever marathon. And last September, I completed a 5km swim in Bray Lake, accompanied by my swimming coach Tanya Bartram, who also helped me practice with an earlier 1 mile effort at the Great East Swim near Ipswich.
After that, I got on with life satisfied that I could do all of these things as long as they were separated by a few months, got my nose back to the grindstone, and started eating and drinking my way towards a happy Christmas.
Then on 1 January 2016 I realised I was overweight and had just under 100 days left to prepare for what was going to be a very difficult challenge! You can read elsewhere on this blog about how much I think this is a mental challenge, but at the end of the day a considerable amount of physical effort is needed too. I needed to put some in, and pronto. Here’s what I did.
First, I set myself a weight loss target, to get myself down from 85.4kg (about 13st 6lbs) to 76kg (about 12st 0lb) by the time of the Ironman. I plotted it on a graph, with the average weight loss shown by the dotted blue line, and my actual weight by the solid blue line.
With the first month (January) gone, I’m still ahead of target, despite a few fluctuations along the way. I’m down to around 81kg now.
I also plotted a training programme I’d made up myself based on the number of miles I thought I should swim (blue), cycle (green), and run (red) each week. It’s not very scientific and I should probably have a proper plan. But it’s a start. The dark colours are the target, the lighter counterparts show how I’m actually doing. I update it every day.
With a month gone, it’s obvious I’m already (literally) miles behind, especially with the big towers of dark green showing I’m not hitting anywhere near my 100 miles a week cycling target – a big concern.
I’m happy with my swimming, despite finding myself the slowest swimmer in the fast lane after a two year absence. I’m not swimming far enough, but I’m getting my speed up and I can do a mile in about 35 mins now, so should be good for the 2hr target I’ve set myself to have completed the 2.4 mile Ironman swim (though swimming in the sea is a different kettle of fish, and that 2hrs also needs to include transition time to be starting the bike leg).
I’m happy with my running, again despite not putting in much distance yet. I’ve been running short distances but quite often, with a fair bit of interval training that’s bringing my average pace up from around 11-12 mins/mile to around 10 mins/mile: I just need to increase the distances at that speed now. I’ve been helped greatly by our fabulous Runners-next-the-Sea running group (pic below), organised by Kevin and Evette, which meets every Monday. It’s amazing how much help a properly qualified running coach can give you, and even though our group is very informal, the fun we’ve had and the lessons we’ve learned have gone a long way to making me feel confident about the run for Ironman. I’m sure I could run a marathon comfortably within 5hrs now (I did London in 4hrs, 55 mins), but that’s obviously going to be a lot harder after a long swim and bike ride earlier in the day.
Which brings me back to cycling, the part for which ironically I am most under-prepared, given that cycling had been my ‘thing’ for the last few years. There is little to be gained by maxing out on swim training (it’s the shortest part of Ironman by some way); and there are good reasons not to overtrain for the running leg (greater wear and tear and increased risk of injury). But training for cycling is all-important: for most people it’s the longest part of the day, a 10% increase in speed will deliver big time savings, and it’s great for stamina. So I must get some miles on the bike very soon.
Swimming. Cycling. Running. Those are three of the five challenges I mentioned at the outset. The fourth is nutrition, and I need help here. You don’t need to worry about nutrition too much when you’re practising disciplines separately, but you really do need to know what works for you – and what doesn’t – before the big day comes. For an Ironman you need to take in some 8,000 calories in a day, while you are on the move; you have to digest them, and you have to keep them down. If you’re reading this and can help, please let me know. I do have some ideas, but I’d welcome yours.
And the fifth challenge? Well, that’s fundraising. I successfully managed to raise £2,765 including Gift Aid for my efforts last year. I’ve kept the fundraising page open to take in Ironman too, and I’m now looking to get another £1,300 in donations to get past the £4,000 barrier in total. Please give generously: it’s going to the Pattenmakers Charitable Foundation who will distribute it to a number of good causes.
That’s it for your Season 2 opener. Now we’re all back up to speed, I’ll be posting more regularly as the 10 April deadline draws ever closer. Thanks for reading this, and thanks for your support.