Who needs a race?

Completing any endurance challenge is as much about being strong in the mind as strong in the body. You have to go into the race with the mind set that you can do it, you can complete the challenge. Even if that requires you to lie to yourself a little about the reality of how prepared you are or even how capable you are. All through training for this triathlon I’ve been telling myself that it’s ok that my first triathlon will be a half ironman, that I’ve done plenty of big challenges now so my body knows how to get through it.

But I’ll be honest Mr ‘I’ve done 2 ultra marathons so a triathlon will be easy’ freaked out and panicked. Often happens as you approach the end of a training plan but still not something to ignore a month out from race day. Which is how I ended up standing next to the lake last week with my brother and 2 of his mates ready to do our own Olympic distance triathlon.

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When it starts to get real

I’m at that point in my training where race day is looming and the doubts are setting in, 6 weeks to go until my first ever triathlon and all I can think is I haven’t done enough cycling. Or running. Or swimming. Although I am probably more worried about the cycling, I can do the distance but not sure on speed, whereas my run target time is way below my PB so should hopefully be reasonably comfortable. But is that going to matter if I slowly grind to a halt on the ride? Argghhhhh!

Turbo trainer in the garden to fit it all in

I try to remind myself that I’ve done as much as my training budget will allow, sure I probably could have pushed harder in some sessions but by and large I’ve ticked off every session I planned and have made a huge change to my swimming and cycling fitness. But still, reality bites sometimes doesn’t it? That’s ok as long as I get a grip before race day arrives, you can’t go into these kind of endurance events with doubts can you? You have to be confident (and realistic of course) in your abilities.

Do I sound like I believe myself?

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Maximising your training budget

Chrissie Wellington wrote a great blog post a few months ago called Juggling Balls all about how to fit training for a triathlon around your work and personal lives. We all know that we have to manage around the other priorities in our lives and as much as we’d like to train whenever we want few of us have that luxury, but hearing a former pro triathlete talk through the decisions she’d had to make really resonated with me (incidentally it’s rare to find someone who is both a top athlete and a good writer so do recommend you have a read of her blog).

Being mentally committed to your training is so important and reading her blog made me face up to the realities of my training and what realistic goals I should be setting myself for my half Ironman in August. When a challenge feels too big it’s easy to avoid facing up to the reality of the training you need to do and not set good goals.

Chinese philosophers came up with Yin and Yang to symbolise the 2 opposite forces in our lives but when it comes to training there are (quite aptly) 3 competing forces you have to balance; work, family and training. All 3 pull you in different directions and you need to find a way to balance them if you are to be successful and I generally find it’s hard to achieve what you want in one area without also achieving in the others.

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What lies beneath

On the long and bumpy journey towards being a triathlete I have officially passed a major milestone; my first open water swim. Incidentally I did consider calling this post Free Willy, making a somewhat tenuous connection between me swimming free and the movie where the whale famously was set free, but decided that might give the impression I’d joined a naturist open water swimming club. Let’s be honest the lake is cold enough without exposing that part of your anatomy to it also.

But discussions about willy’s aside I have to say open water swimming is bloody awesome. I’ve always loved being around water, I think it’s where I’m most at peace and I spent a good chunk of my teenage years fishing on various lakes and rivers. I hoped it would feel like trail running does; free and natural which is why I run on trails and not roads, but I was a little nervous that I would hate it and it would put a big dent into my triathlon aspirations.

We got down to the lake at 6.30am, the sun was just coming up and it was peaceful apart from the other 6 swimmers who were already out splashing around the lake. Wetsuits and swimming hats were pulled on (it’s really not a glamorous sport is it?!) and we gingerly waded out into the lake. It was cold enough to take your breath away a little and make your face ache for the first few minutes but actually once you’re moving it was fine.

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Priorities

If you looked at my training on Strava over the last few weeks you would never know I’m training for a half iron man in June. In fact writing that actually makes me a little nervous because I really am not doing the training that I’d hoped to at this point in time. Every athlete has to make training decisions based on their own priorities and for most of February the priority for me has not been my training.

On Sunday I had the chance to head out at 6am for a run with no pressure to get back to get ready for work. But instead I chose to stay in bed and have a cuddle with my children when they woke up (which wasn’t long after!). As a dad who runs sometimes those are the priorities you have to make. We’ve been a house of sickness for at least 2 weeks now, which included a trip to A&E on Friday night with one of them, so grabbing some time to relax as a family and take things easy was definitely needed.

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