So I’ve reached the halfway point of my 30-week ironman training regime. By now, in theory, that mud-covered bloke from the photo should be half an Ironman.
And it’s certainly true that my lower half now frequently feels like it’s made of iron. Running sessions, for instance, often begin with me stumbling down the street looking like C3PO – especially if I’m running straight off the bike.
But, in general, it’s going pretty well. I definitely don’t feel like I’m in the shape of my life, but then I don’t think you can really expect to when you’re training six days out of seven and around 14 hours a week. In fact, my guess would be that it’s only when the training tapers down in the final few weeks that you start feeling strongest – just in time to properly do yourself in.
But I’m averaging five runs, four bikes and three swims a week, and I’ve only missed a handful of sessions, either because of niggles that needed resting or because of illness. On balance, I’d say I’m already feeling slightly stronger than I did before the Vitruvian middle-distance last September.
Crucially, I’ve also learnt not to beat myself up when I do miss things –although I’m still clinging on to my astonishing ability to seek out nonsense on the Internet when things go wrong. Last week, I caught a cold. This is virtually inevitable when you spend two hours a day on the moving hospital ward that is a British train carriage. But, instead of worrying about the fact that I couldn’t swim for a week, I simply did what any idiot would do – I googled ‘Training with a cold’. Over and over again. Without learning a single thing I didn’t already know.
Aside from all that, I’m also happy that spring is pretty much here, which hopefully means I won’t need to spend any more hours cycling in sub-zero temperatures. (I’m still indebted to the barmaid who saved me with a free flask of tea halfway around one particularly chilly ear-freezer of a ride.)
And I can’t wait for the open-water swimming season to release me from the pool, or for the 4hr+ bike rides and the 2hr+ runs to begin, because it’s those that will really give me the belief that I can do this.
The nutrition side of things still needs improving, because my commute means I often train after work and then end up eating dinner at 10pm. But I’m managing to get a better balance of carbs and protein, as well as getting more healthy snacks down me.
And I’m genuinely surprised at a lot of what I’ve been able to achieve already. A few years ago, I struggled to run more than twice a week. Now, by keeping an eye on my heart rate and mixing a generally easier pace with harder efforts, I’ve run 15 of the last 20 days.
Likewise the turbo sessions are starting to pay off on the road. I’ve discovered that – with a little help from Metallica – it’s possible to elevate your heart rate to 190bpm from the discomfort of your living room. And, in the pool a couple of weeks back, I managed a 3,000m time I wouldn’t have believed possible a couple of years ago.
There’s plenty I’m worried about, of course, but I’ve covered that in previous blogs. And having read Chrissie Wellington’s autobiography earlier this month, right now I’m all about focusing on pushing boundaries, rather than building them up.
I’ll only know what I can really achieve as the hours go up and up of course. And I know that it’s going to be tough. But I’m still enjoying it, and I’m still feeling positive.
So here’s to the second-half. Because that big day, slowly but surely, is getting ever nearer…