Home » Ironman training for beginners. The HIGH’s and LOW’S

Ironman training for beginners. The HIGH’s and LOW’S

Ironman Training – I am not the poster child for someone who should attempt an Ironman.

I drink too much, have bad eating habits and haven’t been on a push bike in more years than I can count. Actually, it was 14 years ago in China when I rode a rented bike back from the pub, crashed on the way, and woke up the next morning with blood on my sheets.

So committing myself by paying £500 to attempt an Ironman is a stretch to put it mildly.

Ironman training

Ironman Training
I have finished 3 marathons and run twice a week (for the past 1.5 years). That is pretty much it. Instead of attempting a local triathlon, I’ve decided to go for broke and train for the biggest event. It will challenge and frustrate me, make me doubt myself but after years of procrastination, my 43rd year is when I’ll hear those words that every person on the start line wants to hear at the end…”Iain Shiels, you are an Ironman!”.

So I bought a bike, a try vest (short and long), gloves because I’ll begin my training when it is the coldest obviously, can’t make it easy on myself, Garmin watch and hired a trainer who I start with in January. I’m excited and nervous to begin, mainly because I know once I start I have to keep going until I cross the finishing line. I’ll have to train daily, before and after work, in the rain and cold, eat during ungodly hours, and pedal on an indoor bike for hours without actually going anywhere. Since I bought my bike, it has sat in my house in pristine condition as a homage to real cyclists everywhere. All the gear and no idea!

I chose Bolton in the UK as the course for one reason. That being I Googled the easiest UK course for a rookie and Bolton came up three times, so I booked it. Then I started seeing comments regarding how tough the bike course was; ‘a beast’ is what one guy called it, someone else called it ‘one of the toughest bike courses around’. Um…pardon? No, that can’t be right! Apparently is it.

So there you have it. Total triathlon novice who has obviously forgotten about the last six miles on each marathon, ready to tick off one of the biggest endurance events. Piece of cake I say confidently. No problems…ahem.

So by my reckoning, I have until December 31st to live my old life. Eat and drink what I want, skip training runs, skip meals, and keep my bike in pristine condition. But after that my life for seven months changes with Ironman training. I’ll be off the booze, refuelling my body with the right foods, early mornings and early to bed, but I feel like I’m ready. This YouTube clip sums how I envision the first 7 months of 2020 to be

So stay tuned and log on to follow my goal achievements, weekly plans, injury updates, plus generally the highs and lows of a rookie on a course he has little experience being on until now.

20 December 2019
It’s officially 11 days until Ironman training begins, although I’ve kept my running up. True to my word, I’ve used this time to drink as much red wine as possible, eat what I wanted, and not feel bad about skipping training sessions.

I also met my trainer. A Scottish bloke called Douglas Stewart who runs https://www.tmrcoaching.com. By my reckoning, if I have any hope of getting across the finishing line, I need a training plan and sound advice on those tricky questions. He charges EUR55 per month and will set me out a weekly Ironman training plan, offer refuelling advice, and monitor and tweak the plan as I go. He seems like a sound bloke and I hope my poker face didn’t drop when he said I would be training 7 days a week (bar rest week).

I’ve used the build up to Ironman training to amass equipment slowly as opposed to being hit with a huge bill at once. Mostly I’ve bought second hand as I’m a big fan or repurposing, also I’m cheap.

It has been an expensive exercise but so far I have either spent, or committed to spending GBP1800.00. I imagine the event will cost in the region of GBP2000 for a UK IM event, and that is doing it on the cheap.
– Bike GBP500
– Entry ticket GBP500
– Tri-vest GBP30
– Garmin watch GBP130 (which I absolutely love)
– Gym and pool membership (7 months) GBP210
– Winter running/bike kit GBP35
– 7 months of professional training GBP385
– Bike shoes and the bits and bobs that go with it

I feel like I’m ready to just begin. I spent years telling myself that an Ironman event was too hard for me to finish, so I’m keen to prove to myself that I actually can. 2020 will be the year to challenge myself. Stay tuned to follow my training in the first half of the next decade. Merry Christmas.

28/12/2019 Lessons in swimming
Growing up in New Zealand I was always in the water and if anyone told me I couldn’t swim I would have laughed. Turns out whilst I can swim, my lane swimming breathing isn’t great which was a huge surprise to me. How did I find this out? I went to the beach when the water was choppy and tried to swim from one beach to another. By the time I realised how out of breath I was, I was half way between both beaches with lungs full of carbon dioxide. I left the beach feeling very stupid but also aware that I needed to walk before I crawled, plus practice my breathing in a controlled pool environment. Slap my naughty wrists. My coach Doug is going to join me for a session and give me the guidance that I absolutely didn’t need, but turns out actually do. Without getting my breathing right, I would be tired before I even got on the bike. I believe this it what you call a rookie mistake!

Lessons in biking
My first time out on a bike in 14 years, not to mention a bike with gears I fell off and hurt my finger. Hardly life threatening but what it did illustrate beyond any shadow of doubt, was that my confidence on a bike in the ‘real world’ (i.e. away from the safety of a gym) was low, my knowledge of how to use gears was non-existent, and when I buy clip-in shoes I’m in for a tough learning curve. The first time didn’t go well but as expected but am trying not to let it knock my confidence too much.
Lesson learnt – get up earlier and hit the roads before the rest of London wakes up.

The coach
I’ve only been receiving weekly updates from Doug the coach since the beginning of January and already see the benefits. Sound bloke, knows what he is talking about and has the accolades to back it up. I’m the type of person who needs a solid plan to work to and whilst its early days, is ticking the boxes. Ever the rebel, I’ve cheated a couple of his programme plans so far, although am aware that I’m only cheating myself and will pay for it on the big day.

Learning to swim all over again
I learnt to swim at 7 years old in a pool. I learnt how to lane swim also in a pool at the age of 43. My arm movements were ok, my breathing was poor and my legs worked far too hard. I previously breathed on every third stroke and one great each side, I now breathe every second stroke and always the same side. It means I can exhale through my nose, not get so out of breath, and swim for longer. What a revelation. I’m working hard to keep my legs straight and kick slowly up and down, instead of looking like one of the cut scenes from the Jaws movies. It already feels more controlled and sustainable.

I hadn’t expected to train daily but I also accepted it quickly. Foolishly I didn’t expect just how tired I would be ALL the time. I’m a morning person so tend to bash out my training before work, but by 9pm I am shattered and ready for bed. It’s tough to get home at 6.30, eat, watch t.v for a bit and then say to my partner that I’m falling asleep and off to bed. I learnt that drinking alcohol made training tough the next day (hardly a light bulb moment) but it also meant that I wasn’t firing on all cylinders for the rest of the week whilst my body took time to recover.

The training plan
If I had ever questioned paying EUR55 per month for a trainer, that thought is long gone. Why? Because Doug knows what he’s doing, how to get me around the course, and as much as I would rather stay in bed sometimes, he will get me around it without any injury. Basically, he is worth every penny and has me training in a way that I wouldn’t otherwise. I have been training for 1 month and 1 week and Doug is slowly increasing sessions and gauging my abilities with each discipline. There is a temptation to go out and push myself to see how I cope with longer rides or swims, but he’s the expert so I’m trying to play by the rules. Here is a snapshot of my next weeks training plan, obviously he builds in endurance tests on the bike, runs and in the pool:
Monday – 50 min weight training (core) / 1094 yards in the pool with speed tests
Tuesday – 40 minute bike threshold test / 10 minute running afterwards to get used to the sensation
Wednesday – 1422 yards pool swim with drills
Thursday – 1hr weight training (core) / 45 minute run
Friday – 984 yards in the pool (sprint)
Saturday – 1.5 hrs cycle and 10 minute run afterwards
Sunday – 1.10 hours run


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