In my head I had been picturing my ironman swim as a semi-leisurely couple of laps of the lake and I was focussing my training on making sure I could manage the distance comfortably… this weekends swim session made me realise just how wrong I was.
I was really excited about a proper swimming lesson with a coach and was hoping to learn some new techniques.. I am not a brilliant swimmer so I need all of the help I can get! We got in the water and ran through a couple of cool drills to learn about drifting and picking up our speed (you’d be surprised how hard it is to swim with your eyes closed in the middle of a length and still keep on breathing!) and then it was time for the swim around the buoy challenge. During my time swimming around the dock in London and also at the Blue Lagoon I had never had much problem swimming around a buoy, I never really learned to sight I just followed everyone else, and I couldn’t front crawl at the time so it wasn’t really a problem. However when there are 20+ people in a 25 yard pool all swimming for the same point it is very different to a cruise around the dock. There were arms, legs, and feet EVERYWHERE. I was swallowing water, coughing and spluttering, and making up new swimming stokes left right and centre.
This was definitely a wake-up call for me because I had never thought about the beginning of the swim when it is frantic and stressful like that… and after a few times of the drill I think I learned how to deal with that situation as a slower swimmer so here are my top tips (that I gained from the guys at Parker Performance):
Practice freestyle swimming with your head out of the water. It will give you a HUGE advantage if you find yourself stuck in a situation like that.
Dont panic. If you need to switch to breast stroke for a few strokes to get your breath back just do it and pick back up when you feel ready.
You can apologise all you want but nobody can hear you so you’d be better off saving your breath
Definitely practice being in this environment before you consider racing. If I hadn’t experienced this session and it had happened on race day I am not sure I could have pulled it back.
Next week I am focussing primarily on running as the marathon approaches but hopefully I will also be able to get another ride and a couple of swims in. I know for a fact I will be alternating between heads up and heads down sets because it really is a crucial skill to master.
This week was a funny old one… Ive not been in the pool once due to a hip injury I have been struggling with for a while now, I missed my long run again due to said injury (although it was only supposed to be a fast half and I’ve given up on speed now remember), and then I almost missed my brick but decided at the last minute to just go out and do it. This week I was supposed to do a 56 mile bike ride and a 10km run so I looked at the map and found a place called Hell, Michigan, that was about 25 miles away and set off on my way. Spoiler alert… I didn’t make it to Hell, but thats because google maps tried sending me on a dirt road for the last 3 miles and my little road bike just wasn’t built for that kind of surface.
Mentally however, I probably came closer than 3 miles to Hell. On the face of it it was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and it was almost warm enough for shorts… but (and I didn’t realise this until I was a couple of miles into my journey) it was also extremely windy which makes for less than ideal cycling conditions, and I found myself asking “why am I doing this?”. At first I didn’t have an answer, I don’t have anything to prove to myself anyone by doing an Iron man and I certainly wasn’t enjoying the ride, but then I hit the Border-to-Border trail. The B2B will be a 35 mile bike/walking trail connecting the county I am now living in when it is eventually completed. Right now there are only sections complete, one of which is in Ann Arbor but yesterday I discovered another in Huron Mills Metropark. This trail was a bit like Richmond park but with less deer and more water, and it was BEAUTIFUL. It was here that I realised that if I wasn’t training, I wouldn’t have discovered this hidden gem just 10-15 miles from my home, and I came to the conclusion that I am doing this because I can. Will I do another full Iron distance triathlon? Probably not… the training is just too time consuming, but I will finish this one, and that is all that counts.
Yesterday marked a year to the day since I ran my first ever marathon in Barcelona, and today marks two years since I ran what still stands as my half marathon PB at Silverstone. A reminder of these two things probably couldn’t have come at a better time for me as I put in my first real long run in my prep for London as seeing pictures of myself as both made me remember that I don’t have anything to prove. Yes I want to improve my time but as I heard on the podcast I was listening to during my run on Sunday not every race is going to be a PB.
Training for a second marathon is definitely very different to the first and its hard not to compare how training is going now against what it was like last time. For example, my most recent 20-miler was slower than when I was training for Barcelona (although not as slow as strava would have you believe due to some inefficient watch pausing on my part), and it definitely felt harder so I came home feeling a bit disheartened on Sunday but have I mentioned its cold here and that running in the cold is hard? Its no surprise that I found this weeks run more difficult that putting in a downhill plod one balmy March day like the last time I ran this distance.
My goal in London is to come in under 3hrs 30 minutes (I was 3:35 in Barcelona). This would give me a qualifying time for Chicago and maybe even Boston, but seeing the photo of my at the finish line reminded that all I wanted to do in Barcelona was finish. No watch, no time pressures, no racing, just get to the finish line, and I am certain that I will finish at London with my friends and family there to support me. Last year, I didn’t know if I had it in me to complete the course, this year I know without fail I will cross that finish line, maybe not with a sub 3:30 time, but I will definitely finish, and somewhere in my training schedule I forgot that completing a marathon is a huge achievement and that is all that really matters.
After last weeks brick workout, I spent some time reading over my plan and realised that I am actually almost 3 weeks ahead of where I should be in my triathlon plan, but slightly behind in my marathon training plan, especially with my long runs. This means I didn’t even have to do the ridiculous freezing cold ride I did last weekend… but thats a different matter.
To fix this I decided I would put in a 16 mile run on Saturday to get myself back on track, however I only managed just short of 13… and I wouldn’t have even got that far if it wasn’t for a new found friend. This weekend I experienced the worst part of Michigan’s winter, the ice!! Running in the cold is hard enough but about 10 miles into my run on Saturday morning I hit a patch of thick ice and then the pavement in quick succession. I fell so quickly that my knees and face hit the floor at the same time… my arms didn’t even try to get involved. Now normally an incident like this would have sent me home in tears (I wasn’t seriously hurt but I did end up with a few scrapes and bruises and a hole in my favourite leggings), but luckily for me I had made a new friend over the course of the run and he pulled me up and we kept on going. Pretty impressive since he went down about 1.5 seconds before I did. He also gave me a lift home from the run cutting off my last 3 miles which given the cold and my sore knees I was totally grateful for.
I did notice that I found the run really tough, and I don’t know if its because I am out of shape, or not used to running in the extreme cold. If anybody has any advice about this please let me know but I am hoping that 13 miles in the freezing cold = 16 in regular temperatures?? If anyone can advise me on how true this is, or how to get over it, please drop a comment below because either way I am going to have to man the hell up and put in some serious miles next weekend to get myself back on track!