We are two weeks away from the Lakesman and training definitely jumped up a notch over the past seven days. It was my biggest ever training week, even with a long overdue rest day, and with so much swimming, cycling and running, nutrition has been as issue.
To be brutally honest, I am someone who has had a troubled relationship with food. For two years I was bulimic, and since my ongoing recovery began I've managed things by exercising a lot, eating a fairly limited range of foods, and a strict routine around meal times.
Clearly this is still not "normal" behaviour (whatever that is!), but compared to my darkest point in 2014 I've come a long way and for me it works. However since launching this triathlon adventure it has definitely presented some challenges.
Firstly, the weekly volume of training has almost doubled, from 8-10 hours when running and cycle commuting, to now 16-20 hours - on top of my full time job. Secondly, the length of time some of the sessions take, mainly the long rides, has scuppered my regular meal times and routines. And finally as someone who trains fasted or "low" ie before eating anything, having to fuel before and during exercise is something I've had to mentally adapt to.
It's been a big challenge with a loss of routine and structure. For the first few weeks I was okay, but as the week's have gone on and the intensity and volume of training has ramped up, as with most people taking on an ironman, I've found myself feeling hungry all the time and exhausted.
After my last 100 mile, where I thought I'd nailed it, I got a one-line email the next day from Chrissie simply saying "We REALLY need to talk about your nutrition" - I think that's what you call officially getting rumbled!
We had a really frank and honest hour-long phone call about my attitude to nutrition. I've always known what I should be eating and when, but the mental side has been the challenge, but Chrissie, with her background and as the world record holder for the ironman, it was just what I needed to hear.
I only managed to get one swim in this week due to a busy weekend, so on Wednesday I cycled to Shepperton before work and managed another 3850m ironman distance swim, still trying to practice kicking.
It took me 96 minutes, so there's no doubt it's going to be my weakest leg of the triathlon, but at least it's in a better than it was a month ago. And the biggest swimming "gain" this week was mastering the art of weeing whilst swimming! I weed my little heart out. Every second counts!
Having moved last week's long ride from Sunday to Monday it was definitely a long cycling week!
We woke up at 5:00am on Bank Holiday Monday (as one does) and with Chrissie's words firmly in my mind I doubled my fuelling. I had two toasted bagels with jam for breakfast, and then an Eat Natural bar every hour for the first four hours, then switching to peanut butter sachets and jelly babies.
Coralie had mapped us a 100 mile "flat" route out through Slough, Maidenhead, Bisham, Oxfordshire to Henley, then back through Windsor. However when we saw the "Welcome to The Chilterns" sign we knew it was going to be a tad lumpy!
Some of the climbs were pretty tough, particularly this beauty shortly before arriving in Henley. Coralie made her feelings well known at the top...
I'm a big believer in completing the full distance of your race in training - whether that be a 10k or marathon or ironman. Clearly the intensity is lower, but I think it's great for building confidence, so I cycled the full 112 mile ironman distance. .
I really tried to ramp up the pace and in the last few miles my legs did feel a little bit wobbly. However this peanut butter sachet I ate at the 100 mile mark was EXQUISITE. Honestly I cannot describe the feelings of how good it tasted in all its salty goodness. And given how humid it was before the storms, I think I got through seven 500ml bottles of Lucozade in total and that probably still wasn't enough.
I got back to the flat having finished the ride in 6:35, and then headed out for a four mile run. By this time it was roasting and I definitely did not fancy it, but I'm really glad I did as it gave the chance to practice running off the bike. My legs felt a bit weird but the pace was pretty comfortable and even. It was one of the toughest training days of my life but immensely satisfying!
I had planned another 100 mile ride today, but Chrissie suggested it would be better to do slightly less and instead incorporate another run. We both thought it would be beneficial to ride solo in preparation for the Lakesman, so Coralie headed out to Windsor and I made my way to Surrey.
I couldn't get the hang of the fancy Garmin sat nav she kindly leant me, so after 40 minutes I turned it off and made up a route through Cobham, Woking and lots of villages.
The one thing I always learn cycling in Surrey is 1) All the houses are massive and therefore 2) I will never be able to live there!
The nutrition was perfect again, and I averaged a lot faster speed than the Monday (largely due to dodging the Chilterns!) so I was delighted to complete the 80 mile ride in 4:16. I then went out for a 5 mile run around the recently redeveloped Gunnersbury Park which was looking spectacular - my legs felt even better off the bike this time, so it was a confidence boosting way to round off the week.
My chocolate ankle has been a bit wobbly this week so I've taken it relatively easy. Aside from the two brick runs on Monday and today, I managed 10k on Thursday and then yesterday I was back out on tour at Leicester Victoria parkrun.
We had arranged to meet up with all the awesome parkrun social media ambassadors who are spread across the UK, and Leicester was the pin in the map between us all. It meant a 5:00am alarm and a 4.5 hour round-trip in the car.
I'm not just saying this because I work there, but parkrun genuinely does attract so many people from different backgrounds, different running or walking abilities, and all ages, and one thing everyone has in common in my experience is they are all really nice people! And the team who help us manage parkrun social media are absolutely no exception and we spent a couple of hours chatting over post-parkrun breakfast.
The run itself was good - my ankle was strapped up heavily but felt surprisingly okay, so I ran at a steady pace. It was parkrun #47 for me and another letter of the alphabet crossed-off.
The course was a three-lapper with a few "slopes" so I was pleased to run a relatively comfortable 18:04 for the 5k. It was certainly more comfortable than seeing how close the Eel Pie ice cream van was to the Thames this week! What a maverick.
Having come through a tough week, there is now only a fortnight left until we'll be taking on the Lakesman. I've started thinking about target times but I'll take about that more next time.
As with all the training so far, I don't really have a plan for my taper, but I'd imagine I'll scale back on the running to keep my ankle fresh, and I'll try to squeeze in some last minute swimming/weeing. If anyone has any tips for ironman tapering, please do let me know!
Thanks for reading. Tom.