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An unstoppable machine

Our latest blogger Clay Cowie gives an update on his mission to go from “fat man” to Ironman

It was at the turn of the New Year when I first suggested setting my goals for competing in an Ironman. It’s fair to say that most resolutions are usually in tatters by March. I’m, however, going from strength to strength, and for the first time in years I feel like an unstoppable machine.

My first blog went live in March (https://www.220triathlon.com/blog/clay-cowie/sea-lion-wetsuit) and I’ve covered a lot of ground since the New Year after setting myself this mammoth target, my focus seems to have changed from being all over the place with training and weight loss to a steely determination. I’ve found that I respond very well to a thought out strategy. I’ve set out a training plan that will last 18 weeks with a view to easing me in gently (Base Building) and working up to a level of fitness that would propel me into the tri season.

After all the planning I bought a brand new bike as a special New Year present to myself, dusted off the trainers and off I went. Undeniably I struggled and then struggled some more. At this point it was essential to have my family on board and their encouragement was without doubt priceless. I made the effort to start my swimming training by going very early in the morning to fit it in before work, I would return enthused by my efforts and talk at the breakfast table would always be about my training, so much so, that my eight year old son finds it so funny that I am going to be an ‘Ironman’ that he has now started calling himself the ‘Iron Board!’

To help my training I have joined a cycling club, they assured me that the ‘leisure’ ride on Saturday’s were more of a sightseeing expedition and would be a good starting point. I turned up feeling very nervous to find a car park full of Lance Armstrongs all chomping at the bit to let off some steam. 40 VERY HARD miles later I was a broken man. There was no let-up, no surrender and definitely no sightseeing. In some sadistic way I found myself back at the same meeting point the following week with the same ultra-thin cyclists doing as many hills as possible at a fast pace with still no sight-seeing. These Saturdays have been very tough, but somewhere within me I knew it was the right avenue to take, training with people who are good at what they do is daunting, but a great motivator and somewhere in my puffs and pants I started to learn a few tricks about technique and also helped me shift some weight.

My running miles have now increased to between 18-22 miles per week, I fit them in usually after work or at lunchtime, I still find my running the hardest discipline of the three. The positives are that my injured ankle from last year is much improved and the weight loss so far has help tremendously. I have read several running manuals and, of course, my 220 Triathlon magazine that talk about speed work. I have inserted this in my training plan and have found that my runs seem to leave me no longer feeling crushed after each session.

March is party time in my house with lots of family birthdays, this inevitably means lots of eating out and belly bulge. This year was different, we still ate out a lot and, yes, I did drool over the dessert list, but I remained strong and resisted any temptation. I found that I was mentally stronger to face my demons in food and the long running sessions and bike rides that have punished me so much was a great stimulator, that to sin, seemed pointless.

Last month I had my attention drawn to a 100+ mile bike ride in aid of charity. Devon’s coast to coast – Ilfracombe to Plymouth – a two-day event, with the opportunity to raise some money for Marie Curie and I thought it would be a nice test of my strength and endurance. I had a month to train and swapped my road bike for a mountain bike. I am delighted to say that not only did I complete the ride, but I remained in the top group of 6 for the whole time and finally finished third. Wow, it’s really hard to believe how far I have come.

To date I have lost 23lbs (1st9lb), I still recognise that I am million miles away from being anywhere near an Ironman, but this journey so far has seen me learn a few tricks about dealing with lane rage in a swimming pool, understanding a cycling club’s definition of a countryside expedition, and managing to run like Forest Gump, before the callipers fell off!

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