The real triathlon

My ironman training hit a bit of a bump at the end of March, a couple of weeks where I didn’t hit my training sessions and to be honest lost the motivation to much training at all. Training for something like this requires such commitment and personal investment from both a time and mental perspective that if you don’t get everything right in your week from a non training perspective then it makes it very hard to get the training piece right.

There is another triathlon, even more important than swim/bike/run, that must be in balance if you want to be able to hit the paces and distances that your plan dictates. That triathlon is family/work/training and as I’ve discovered you can only do the last one well if the first two disciplines leave you with the mental and physical energy you need. I’m trying to do 11-12 hours of training a week at the moment and I’ve learnt that as Monday evening ticks around again and I head for my swim session that this triathlon has to line up well if I’m going to get my 3 runs, 3 bikes and 2 swims completed. There is some leeway in the week for moving sessions around but not much and only 1 rest day to play with. Not easy but then neither is an Ironman!

Work

I don’t have a physically demanding job but I do manage people and that can be very mentally draining at times, which is ok if you just want to go for a nice run after work to clear your head but not so much when you need to do a 1 hour turbo session and then get up at 5.20am then next day for a 1 hour run.

Family life

I have 3 small children (2, 4 and 6) so the family aspect of this triathlon can definitely be physically and mentally draining. As any parent knows you can feel utterly exhausted as you collapse into the sofa in the evening once all your children are finally asleep and the house is tidy. My wife and I have a great partnership and know that we both need our time to train (she’s training for a sprint triathlon currently) so we find a way to fit it in but that doesn’t of course mean the quality is there.

At the end of March those first two disciplines required a lot of my energy, work was hard going with some challenges in the team including being down 1 manager while I hire a replacement for someone that left. I drove home from work most days feeling mentally spent and when I reflect likely stressed as well. Not something that happens to me very often as I think I’m actually quite a resilient person and able to let go of work as I walk out the door. But I felt drained and I know my wife will confirm I was pretty darn grumpy too.

From a family perspective life was as busy as ever but manageable, then my father in law was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer and our world was thrown into turmoil. Truly shocking news out of the blue it came with the need to answer some very practical questions about care. I won’t go into the details other than to say it’s probably no surprise that I lacked the mental capacity to keep to my plan; I still trained just eased back and tried to avoid burning myself out.

Training reality

I’m now into week 24 of my 30 week plan and if I look at my training log on Strava I’m not where I hoped to be or where my plan says I should be. But that’s ok. I’d love to be able to dedicate 13 hours a week to training every week, train when is best for me and enjoy long weekend rides and runs but the reality is I have a family and work life that have to take priority. Triathlon training after all is something I do in my spare time for ‘fun’ (only in a triathlon club can you say that and not get weird looks), training and taking on these challenges is something I love and enjoy but while I may not be completing the plan perfectly I am being the best triathlete I can be and that is really what it’s all about isn’t it?

The next 6 weeks is all about getting the most out of my training time that I can and then hitting that start line with a smile on my face ready to take on this mighty challenge.

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