When we (I rarely think of this as my Ironman. I think of myself and Ais very much as a team) first set out to qualify for Kona back in 2011 we took on the guidance of a coach.
The first eight days under his guidance I did 28 hours of training which culminated in a sprint triathlon. I placed third overall and won my age group (it was a small race) I’d never done either of those things before and I felt like I’d just been let in on “the big secret”
If you want to get fast you just have to do a shit-ton of training. In the beginning it’s not as important what type of training you do so much as just doing a lot. When you go from an average of 6 hours a week to a 28 hour week just the massive overload will cause all of the adaptations you could hope for.
Either that or it’ll break you.
I’m still not 100% sure what he was trying to do that week, kill me and prove I couldn’t do it or he just did what I asked for and gave me a Kona persons program and I’d be responsible for the consequences.
The following months I was constantly swinging from one extreme to the other. I was training so hard I’d regularly push myself over the edge and not be able to get out of bed, never mind train.
When I lined up at the start of Ironman UK four months after we started on the journey I had no idea what would happen.
In my first 2 (and only other) Ironman races I had finished in the last 20% of the field. 1200th at Ironman France and just inside the top 1000 at Ironman Switzerland.
Now I somehow thought that with four months of the hardest training I’d ever done I’d suddenly move up into the top 50 and qualify for Kona. I pushed the fear and doubts aside and just set about doing what I could.
It was only as I came into T2 and found it almost empty that I actually believed for the first time I could and might actually do it. I went on to run myself up to 26th place in the age group race and 7th in my category. Only missing out on a Kona slot by one place and two minutes in the progress.
I continued to train and attempted again the following year and qualified. In my third attempt I qualified again.
I don’t tell this to impress. Rather to illustrate the most basic lesson I’ve learned in Ironman. If you do a massive amount of training you will get faster. That worked until I attempted to qualify last year. I tried to do what had worked a few years earlier but for some reason it just didn’t have the same effect as previous years.
That was reflected in my racing results in Ironman Mallorca and Brazil. But something has changed again this year. It (the training) is working again. I can feel the physical changes and adaptations that were missing last year even when I did the big hours and hard sessions. I can feel the strength coming on the bike.
I’m starting to feel good when I run and I feel reasonably ok in the pool (swimming is always the poor relation for me, sorry Patrick)
Aisling changed her approach to my program this year. Starting the early months with reduced volume with the aim of going into the final three months fit, strong and with very little fatigue.
The idea that I would then be ready to introduce long hard weeks. But irrationally it made me very nervous. I understood her reasoning and logic but I was afraid of going away from what had worked for me before, months and months of as much volume as I could handle. This was despite the fact that it seemed to have stopped working last year. It turns out Ais has been right (of course I should never have doubted her) and things are going pretty well.
Anyway on that note let’s get onto the weeks work.
Monday 28 :30 (1)
Run :30 5k easy
Sleep 9 hours. Good
Tuesday 29 3:45 (2)
Swim 1:25 4000m
Bike 2:20 59k
Sleep 8.5 hours. Good
Wednesday 30 1:20 (2)
Run 1:05 14k
Ais gave me two instructions for today’s run. The session was to run 6×1 mile repeats off two minutes recovery. I was to go full gas for the miles but not so full gas that I would fall apart. In other words push as hard as I could sustain so that all six intervals were done in the same time.
I then asked what time did she think I should be running the mile repeats in.
She thought for a moment and said “six minutes”
I panicked a little inside and nodded while I frantically tried to convert miles to kilometres. I then had to convert how fast I thought I could go in kilometres back into miles. Despite doing this a couple of times I seemed to be coming up with a different number to Ais.
A slower one.
Definitely not six minutes.
Maybe I’d done the math wrong I thought hopefully.
While I was redoing my mental arithmetic Ais added that the time per interval was less important than doing them all hard and all in the same time “after all your legs are tired and sore after the last weeks hard training, just go hard and don’t blow up”
I wasn’t sure if she could see the panic on my face and felt sorry for me or if she was just making sure I knew how to do the session.
Regardless I knew that I was now aiming for six minute repeats. That number became the target. Like a dare, or a challenge.
Tired, sore legs be damned. Not actually able to run that fast be damned. Afraid of going out too fast and falling apart be damned.
I’d do the session hard, I’d hit six minutes and I’d hit it six times.
It’s like I was six years old and I’d been told I wasn’t able to jump off a wall. I was not going to back down even if jumping off the wall might result in a broken leg. Or worse.
The next morning I woke up tired and did not want to run. I think that part of the reluctance was the fear of the impending session and the very real possibility of failure.
I spent almost an hour finding things I needed to do instead of getting out the door and in the end almost left it too late to fit the run in before work. Ais chased me out the door and I ran a couple of k’s easy to warm up before starting the session. I was going to do most of it on a flat lap in a local park. I told myself it was so that I could pace it properly but it was really because it was the fastest local lap and offered the best chance of hitting the times.
I started out at 3:45/km pace which is currently just faster than I can hold for 5k. I reasoned that the intervals are only 1.6k so that pace should be possible, I conveniently ignored the fact that the total of all the intervals would be 10k so I was running faster than I could hold for 5k and I intended to do that for double that distance. Maybe this wouldn’t go so well.
I managed the first one in the 6 minutes but the pace slipped on the next and then I proceeded to fall apart just like I’d been instructed not to while chasing a number instead of doing the session correctly.
Stupid, amateur mistake.
And Ais wasn’t impressed either.
Work 9 hours
Sleep 8 hours. Good
Thursday 31 2:35 (2)
Run :45 7k easy.
Bike 1:50 45k easy.
Work 8 hours
Sleep 8.5 hours. Good
Friday 1 :30 (1)
Run :30 5k
Work 10 hours
Sleep 8 hours. Good
Saturday 2nd 2:35 (1)
Run 2:35 31k
Inc 3x5k HIMP
Work 7 hours
Sleep 8.5 hours. Good
Sunday 3rd 5:20 (1)
Bike 5:20 152k 28.7kph easy ride. Stormy wet ride
Work 6 hours
Sleep 8 hours
Total 16:50 (10)
Swim 1:25 4000 (1)
Bike 9:30 256k (3)
Run 5:25 62k (5)
S&C :30 (1)